Restoration

Written by cycleguy on October 30th, 2014

I am not one who believes in luck or coincidence. So…what do you make of my last post and the subject of this week’s sermon? In all honesty, it did not cross my mind until I sat down to write this post.

RESTORATION

Hmmmm now is it coincidence? I seriously doubt it. I see it as more of a divine incident. :)

Far too many followers of Christ have no clue about Grace and the liberty it offers in the “daily living out” of their faith. Therefore, those who “rag” on the church and followers of Jesus have a legitimate gripe. Sometimes. There are sincere followers trying to flesh out their faith, to make it real to the world in which they live.

On November 5.1864 Charles Sumner summed up the issue of slavery with these words:

Where Slavery is, there Liberty cannot be; and where Liberty is, there Slavery cannot be.

Many people are still bound to the old way of doing things and believing. It is particularly seen in relation to sin and restoration. God is in the reclamation and restoration business. It is no more evident than in Jesus’ closest allies- Peter to be more exact. If anyone messed up it was Peter. Not once. Not twice. Not even three times, although his most famous involved three denials. No…his whole time with Jesus seemed to be one mess after another.

Pretty much most of you know the story of Peter’s denial in Luke 22. We are also pretty familiar with his restoration on the sea shore in John 21. What a great example of extended grace!!

I’m excited to be preaching this Sunday on my favorite subject. I would certainly appreciate your prayers for this weekend.

Simple question: are you extending grace these days to someone? Do you need to? Do you know someone whom you would like to see restored to fellowship with Jesus? 

 

Redemption

Written by cycleguy on October 30th, 2014

Take a look at my header. I think it is a foregone conclusion that I am a cyclist. :)

I sometimes write about cycling. My efforts. My muscle aches. My accident. Most often relating cycling to life.

I make no apologies for being a Lance Armstrong fan when he was winning his record-setting 7 Tour de France victories. I defended him when accused of using EPO (a blood doping scam). I was disappointed he was guilty. I was pleased when he finally admitted it. I was not happy he received a lifetime ban when all the other users were given maximum two year suspensions and some even less. He doped in an era of dopers. (I know someone will be a smart aleck and say, “What does that make him?”). There is no question he was manipulative, a bully, and a cheat. Yes, he lied. Yes, he tried to cover it up.

I wonder if any of us are any different?

No…I have never used EPO…or any drug for that matter. I have mentioned here before I have never had a smoke, a drink, or taken any drug (unless you consider the caffeine in Diet Dr Pepper a drug). I don’t even drink coffee (can’t stand the taste).  But…

But this thing with Lance was, IMHO, over the top. Why? Because he is me. A flawed human being. It is called sin.

But there is a  bright side to his story. I just read an article yesterday with the subtitle: “Possibility for Armstrong redemption.” Long story short, his recent testimony to the Cycling Independent Reform Commission may pave the way for the ban to  be dropped. Here is the statement:

“I think that there is potential for redemption for him and anyone, really. I think it all depends on what [Armstrong] said to the commission and if he was prepared to talk about his or other people’s involvement and whether he’s genuinely contrite and deserving of redemption,” Cookson said. “I think it has to be said that what Lance did, not that he was the only one or only one involved, but it all depends on what Lance said to the commission and what they come up with. … we have to acknowledge and approve of any redemption in the sentence in the sanctions that he got.”
Several things stand out to me. First, “there is potential for redemption for him and anyone, really.” I’m glad there is more than a potential for redemption with God. There is the promise of that. Second, genuine contrition (repentance) is a necessity. Forgiveness is possible to all and for all who come with a repentant heart. Third, it is available even though I am not “deserving of redemption.” God operates differently than man. That is called Grace.
For Lance: a lifetime ban was too much. I hope it is overturned and he is gifted with redemption.
For me: I’m glad my ban was overturned by the actions of a Man (a Savior) on a cross and redemption is mine.
 

Relevance

Written by cycleguy on October 28th, 2014

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Relevance will always be an issue or a question…depending on your side of the fence.

There will be those who say the church has to stay relevant and individual believers must stay relevant. That can lead to all sorts of broad interpretations. So we will hear of pastors who smoke, drink, chew and all sorts of others things in an attempt to stay “relevant.”

There will also be those who question relevance. How up-to-date should a church/individual be? Clothing? Type of worship? Approach during the worship? That too can lead to broad interpretations as we have smoke machines, sometimes music w/ questionable lyrics, guest speakers from heretical groups…all in an effort to stay “contemporary.”

Matt uses the word “contextualization” instead of relevance. His explanation is when you use language of a culture, you are contextualizing. When you deliver age-appropriate messages from the pulpit and the children’s ministry, you are contextualizing. When you wear a suit rather than a tunic, you are contextualizing. His point? Everybody does it.

However, as has often been said, the end does not justify the means. I personally believe this is where we need to “right the ship.” In an effort to be “all things to all men” we have become “nothing to anybody.” I am not saying the church should be stuck in the Dark Ages or Renaissance era. But there has to be a distinction. I do like what Matt does when he shows how it works.

Over-contextualization- affirm too much of the surrounding culture and we lose our distinction.

Under-contextualization- affirm too little of the surrounding culture and we lose our clarity and connection.

Contextualization- contend for both the message and the mission.

As so many have found out, it is a slippery slope, one easy to take a ride on. But also one hard to get off of.

The Jesus-centered church is a church that holds firm to the message of the gospel while strategically affirming cultural practices. They become like the ones they want to reach, but they also hold to the truth, which gives them something with which to reach the culture. (p.209)

How do you see relevance? Does your church do a pretty good job of reaching those around you?

 

Anniversary

Written by cycleguy on October 27th, 2014

If you read this post, you will know the church I pastor celebrated its 10th anniversary this past Sunday. I chose to post my review of Allen’s short book because I figured I would need the time to process the big day, but also that I needed the time…period.

I would need time to process the really big day.

I would need the time just to take a breather.

Sunday bloomed absolutely beautiful! We could not have asked for a more picturesque day. Sunny. Very little breeze. Low 70s. Perfect cycling anniversary weather. :)

It is hard to put into words what one considers a “perfect day.” Okay…not perfect because I did miss seeing a few folks (one of whom was supposed to come and eat lunch with me). ;)

The worship team sang a perfect combination of uptempo (“Happy Day” and “Greater”) songs mixed with two hymns (“Crown Him With Many Crowns” and “I Stand Amazed in the Presence”) and two other worship songs.

People appreciated the backward look of our 10 year history. I had a chance to intersperse some humor in it.

Ryan and I also shared our Mission and Vision for the future. Ryan did a super job.

I had the honor of presenting our building expansion plans since the head of the Building Team does not like to speak in front of crowds. That went over well. I believe the people really appreciated the leadership’s proposal that we not borrow money for the expansion, especially since it would put us in the $6000/month mortgage range.

Ryan, the techgeek, has the podcast on the church’s site and has painstakingly synched my speaking with the building proposal. He said that should be ready around Wednesday.

After that…EAT! Many of us went to the picnic shelter to enjoy the weather and our fellowship. Some old and young played basketball and even had the gall to ask me to play. As if….

I know many of you are not the least bit interested in what we did, but thanks for taking the time to pray for us. If you are interested, you can check out the church’s website for both.

I finished my speech with these words from the Apostle Paul in Gal.6:14: “May I never boast except in the cross of Christ.” That is as it should be.

How was your weekend?

 

Homeless

Written by cycleguy on October 26th, 2014

I live in a small town in the middle of Indiana. Population: about 3500 with the county around 22,000. Quite a bit different from the big cities like Indy, Louisville, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, and others. As a result, it is easy to close the eyes and say, “Whew! Glad that is not an issue here.” However, no matter how small the city or town; no matter how large the city or town; there is a homeless and hungry situation to be dealt with. I have recently been chosen to be on the board of the Owen County Chamber of Commerce and I guarantee at the next meeting I will ask.

I have my friend Allen Madding to thank for bringing more awareness to me. I mean, I have been aware of the homeless and hungry. One can hardly read the paper or watch the news without having the eyes opened to its reality. I have read of people living under bridges in cardboard boxes, make-shift dwellings, and/or tents. Just within the past year or two the largest city close to Spencer, Bloomington, had hundreds of tent people stake out in a park. Being homeless in Spring, Summer and Fall is one thing. Being homeless in the Winter is just bone-chilling to me.

My friend, Allen, has written a book called Shaken Awake. It is a short but powerful book of 52 pages. Allen sets a scenario for the book by telling of a man who dies (freezes to death) on the doorstep of Peachtree Street Church. He segues into a snow storm which grips Atlanta unawares, causing all sorts of havoc with citizens of all makes and models. The story is interspersed with the response of  Peachtree church which is like so many churches of our day: “dead” and about to close its doors with no outreach at all. Peachtree responds by opening its doors and becoming a shelter.

Allen closes his book by discussing the homeless and hungry situation gripping our country (for obvious reasons). But he also gives some organizations which are trying to be part of the solution. Allen knows whereof he speaks. After a mission trip to Venezuela, he and his wife made themselves more familiar with the homeless/hunger situation where they lived and then did something about it by starting a non-profit called Feed the Hungry Forsyth, Inc. After moving to St. Pete due to a job downsizing, he has become involved with a non-profit called Feed St. Pete.

I am not ashamed to admit some wet eyelids as I read the story. But wet eyelids ain’t worth squat if they don’t lead to action. I plan to investigate what is and can be done here. And you? I suggest you go to Allen’s website and ask for a copy  of his book or visit Amazon on Wednesday and order it there.

Do you have a homeless/hunger situation where you live? Are you doing anything about it?

 

Celebration

Written by cycleguy on October 23rd, 2014

Celebrations are a good thing.

Celebrations of anniversaries are a good thing.

Celebrations of a church anniversary is a good thing.

This Sunday the church I pastor is celebrating its 10th anniversary. Truthfully, it is about 2 weeks late due to Fall Break (which takes a ton of people away) being during the actual day of celebration (the 14th). We made the right decision to hold off our celebration because the past two Sundays saw a lot of folks out of town because Fall Break encompassed them both.

OVCF was started by some people who were tired of church as usual. They wanted to be free to to be free. If something wanted to be tried, try it. If it works, good; if not, admit it and move on, but don’t be afraid to try something new.  Over the past 10 years we have done that a lot. I came here in November of 2005 so just over a year had passed when I became the pastor. We’ve tried to focus on people not programs. We have been through a lot in the ten years, not all of it good, but God has been with us through thick and thin. I’m not going to repeat all of it here. If you are interested (I bet you are waiting with baited breath), you can catch the podcast of the message on the church website after worship this Sunday.

I realize there are plenty of pastors who wouldn’t change places with anyone. I was one who would UNTIL NOW. I told someone the other day one of the reasons I regret getting older is I am so enjoying the ministry now I wish I was younger. But then again, maybe my age is allowing me to sort through some things and figure out what is important and what is not.

I HAVE NEVER ENJOYED A MINISTRY MORE IN MY 40 YEARS THAN I HAVE THIS ONE.

Sunday I get to speak to the greatest people on the planet: the people (besides my own family and some lifelong friends) whom I love more than anyone else.  I have never questioned whether I am to be here nor whether God wanted me to leave. Even though my family lives far away, there is a contentment which comes from knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt you are in the right place, for the right reason, and for the RIGHT PERSON.

Sunday will be special. A crowded facility (we are having one service). I fully anticipate an up-tempo and Christ-honoring worship time. I will be taking a look back at where we have been and then Ryan and I will be talking about the future here and here. I will be presenting the Building Team’s recommendation for expansion, then all of it followed by some of the best eating in the country. Oh yeah!

Thanks for your prayers for me….for us. Lord willing, there will be 10 more years of praising the King in Spencer.

 

Failure

Written by cycleguy on October 22nd, 2014

I have received a few “Fs” in my career. Mostly in high school and they always had something to do with Math. Math and I were never, never, NEVER close friends. Still aren’t to this day. Algebra. Geometry. Trig. Chemistry. Anything that has anything at all to do with math was considered anathema to me. I hated failure but there were just some things I was never able to grasp.

And in case you didn’t know it…math was one of those things. :)

But failure comes in all sizes, shapes, and colors. It is not just a grade on a card or test. It is relationships. It is career. It is sports. It is building maintenance (I don’t do so well with that either).

Failure dogs many of us. Some have risen above it. Some (many) have not. Their whole life seems to be one failure after another in their eyes. While some people have the “Midas touch,” others have the slush touch.

My daughter, Tami, had a link to an article on her FB page and Jo told me about it. I asked Tami to send it to me and after reading it I thought it would be good to share with you. It is sort of long so you will need a few minutes…but it is a few minutes well worth your time.

Here is the link to the article by Jennifer Dukes Lee. If you have a few moments, please read it. Then I would love to hear you comments when you come back here.

 

Existence

Written by cycleguy on October 21st, 2014

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The Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If we are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. C.S. Lewis 

So begins the chapter in Matthew’s book curiously titled “Jesus-Centered Flower Committee.” I have to admit I raised an eyebrow or two with that title wondering what in the world he was getting into. Honestly, the first couple pages didn’t reveal to me what he was talking about either. It wasn’t until I was about six pages in that I began to catch what Matt was referring to. Of all things it was found in a story about Van Halen. When Van Halen was in their hey day they traveled with nine semis of equipment. So it was absolutely essential the venue where they were to perform be prepared. So they had a rider in their contract: a bowl of M&Ms with NO brown ones. David Lee Roth wrote that if he walked into a dressing room before a show and noticed brown M&Ms, he immediately ordered a line check. It spoke to them of a venue not prepared for their show.

Attention to details. Small details tell a lot. Many churches pay no attention to details…big or small. The lack of preparation is glaring. I realize there can be a fine line between obsessiveness and excellence, but preparation is a necessity. “Flying by the seat of our pants’ is not a good practice for a church to get into. It can often become a substitute word for laziness.

My take: when people come to OVCF to worship or to visit, I do want things to run smoothly. Glitches happen, but a regular habit of things happening does not bode well. Musicians who have not practiced and think all they have to do is show up is not preparation, nor is it giving the best you have. A pastor who says on a weekly basis “I didn’t have time to study so…” or “I don’t study I wait for God to reveal the sermon to me” is saying, “I am lazy and don’t want to study so I’m taking the blame God way out.” Sorry that doesn’t fly with me. That is also MHO.

The flip side of this is the necessity for allowing the Spirit to move and work. We can be programmed to death and on such a tight schedule that if the Holy Spirit did show up He would have to make an appointment.

What is your take on this? Where is the line between too much prep and not enough?

 

ToughLove

Written by cycleguy on October 21st, 2014

I had a whirlwind day yesterday. It started out to sane (whatever that means) but then became hectic. Study time (sane). Staff meeting (start of the hectic). Impromptu meeting with some moms over a home school choir question. Interruptions from visitors. Lunch with Jo (brief respite). Assorted mini-meetings then a trip to visit someone. (major hectic). Phone calls. Bed.

It was that visit with someone which has led me to do this short post with a question. It is over something we call Tough Love. We see it often.

A wife with her husband (or visa versa).

A parent with a child.

A teacher with a student.

A pastor with a parishioner.

A friend with a friend.

A coach with a player

Tough love is defined (my definition) as taking the hard course when there seems to be no other recourse. It is when one person has to take a tough stance against the foolishness of another. Against the laziness of another. Against the blatant rebellion of another.

I’m sure you have heard of it. I’m sure you have probably used it or had it used on you. But here is my question:

When does tough love need to be practiced? When is that line developed which should not be crossed? In other words, how much should a parent take? When does the spouse demonstrate tough love? Get my point?

So the question is for you. I encouraged a tough love approach in my visit. It is long overdo. And here is something else to consider: the person who is practicing tough love needs to know it may backfire.

So, if you don’t mind, how about answering the questions highlighted above. Thanks.

 

Funny

Written by cycleguy on October 19th, 2014

Have you ever had something just strike your funny bone and you well…laughed or chuckled out loud. I read/saw something the other day that did exactly that.  Please take a moment and check this out.

Is that not a hoot? Can you imagine the looks the car drivers had on their faces?

Not much redeeming value in this post. Sometimes you just gotta break away and out of the norm for a time of refreshing.

Hope your day is a good one and laughter is on your lips and your face.

And just in case…yes I do have a weird sense of humor. Just ask Jo and my daughters. For that matter, ask just about anyone who knows me. I think even my grandson knows.