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Two-wayStreet

Friday, July 21st, 2017

One is hard-pressed these days to listen to the news. If you do, hardly a day goes by when you don’t hear about someone shooting up a place because of mistreatment or hidden anger/resentment.  Often you might hear how “highly respectable” or “a member of the local church” someone is only to hear they went on a shooting spree and took countless lives,  then often turning the gun on themselves.  Just recently you might remember reading about a man who went to a softball practice of one of the political parties and had a shooting spree.

Ephesians 4:31 tells us, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.” Sounds simple enough, but as we all know, life isn’t that easy.

One of the hardest things to do is to receive grace and then to turn around and give it. There is a story Jesus told in Matthew 18 of that principle. A man was forgiven of a humongous debt, one which he could never repay. But then he went out and demanded payment from a fellow slave who owed him pennies. When he couldn’t pay him at that instant, he threw him in jail. (BTW: how does that work anyway? “I’m going to throw you in jail until you pay me what you owe.”).

Grace received…grace given. A two-way street. If I may borrow a statement from Kyle Idleman’s book Grace is Greater:

Stop thinking about what’s been done to you, and start thinking about what’s been done for you.

Comfort

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

Confession: if you haven’t already figured it out yet, I am sometimes an emotional writer. I sometimes write what is on my heart-filtered and unfiltered depending on subject matter.

This is one of those posts.  If you are looking for a “Smile. Be happy” post then I’m going to say you won’t find it. However, I do hope you will read to the end.

As many of you know, I have back surgery scheduled for this coming Monday. Until then, I have to live with occasional intense pain. I have given up riding my bike because it was no longer fun. It hurt too much whenever I hit a bump or missed seeing a small hole in the road. I woke up this morning and within 10 seconds made the decision not to go to the Y (where I do upper body work) because of the pain. Even putting on my shorts would have been a nightmare, let alone my shoes.

I was whining. I was crying. I was definitely feeling sorry for myself. Wallowing in self-pity. Then I read this from New Morning Mercies (NMM) by Paul David Tripp:

God puts me in hard moments when I cry out for His comfort so that my heart becomes tender to those near me who need the same comfort.

Strange that 20 minutes or so earlier I was whining and feeling sorry for myself. But Tripp wasn’t done.

The hard moments are not just for my growth in grace, but for my call to be a tool of that same grace in the life of another sufferer. In difficulty God is softening my heart and sharpening my edges so that I may be ready to make the comfort of the invisible Father visible in the life of the weary pilgrim He has placed in my pathway.”

The Scripture reference was 2 Corinthians 1: 3-6.  If you get a moment, take a peak at it.

So I need to change my attitude. Stop complaining about the pain. Stop crying and belly-aching and start trusting and seeing it as a ministry opportunity (now or future).  I’ll be honest. I’m not there yet. Least not at this moment.  I can only pray that time will come soon.

Thanks for listening. (And yes, I shared this with my small band of brothers who are working through NMM with me).

LetItGo!

Thursday, July 13th, 2017

My apologies if the title of this post got you singing that nauseous song from a Disney animated move of a couple years ago. I know I will have a gag reflex if I hear it just one. more. time.

My title for Sunday’s message is “Let It Go!” but it certainly has nothing to do with a Disney movie. It does, however, have everything to do with finding freedom from shame and regret.

So what is the difference between shame and guilt?

We feel guilty for what we do.

We feel shame for what we are.

In other words, a person feels guilty because he did something wrong. A person feels shame because he is something wrong. The shame equation is this: one wrong act = one bad person.

The tragedy is we never know in which direction shame will push a person. John Wilkes Booth believed in slavery, but he did not lift a finger to save it. The South had lost the war it fought to save slavery, and he had been too much of a coward to do anything for the cause. His cowardice shamed him. “I despise myself,” he said and went out looking for a way to escape his shame. You know the rest of that story.

Even biblical stories abound. One man flatly denied Jesus; one flatly betrayed Him. Both regretted what they did. Judas regretted it and then went out and hung himself. Peter regretted it but then repented and found forgiveness and healing.

There you have it. Some of my thoughts for Sunday…those which form the basic premise for the message. Oh, I am using Psalm 51:1-2,7-12 as my go to Scripture. Thanks for praying for me.

DAD

Friday, June 16th, 2017

If you look at my new header one of the descriptions of myself is “father.”  I have two of the above pictured “hangy down things.” (It has a red string that allows it to hang).  They were gifts from Tami and Janna in 1986. Tami would have been 11 and Janna almost 7. They hang in my office on a file cabinet where I can see them and be reminded of the blessing of being a dad.

It has always been important to me to be a dad. I don’t mean this to sound crude, but anyone can be a father. But being a dad? Lifetime challenge. Being a dad shows it is more than a biological necessity. I didn’t have a good role model, so a lot of mine was trial and error. But I would rather err on the tried-it-but-it-didn’t work side, than on the side that never tried or did anything. I did make mistakes, but I had two very forgiving and loving daughters who chose to love their dad.

This week’s sermon focuses on “The Man God Uses.”  It is actually very practical. I’m not out to put dads into a tailspin caused by the overwhelming guilt of failure.  Here are the qualities I plan to emphasize Sunday:

Holiness

A Pure Heart

A Contrite Heart

Reverence and Awe toward God

Faithfulness

“For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, looking for men who are fully committed to Him.” 2 Chron.16:9

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY TO ALL YOU GUYS!!

Your prayers would be much appreciated for Sunday. And in case you missed the last post…today (June 16th) is my 44th anniversary to a wonderful woman.

Candid

Friday, June 9th, 2017

One of the hardest things to do is recognize that all is not as it seems. For example, if you follow a Christian singer around you will eventually find some inconsistency. When I was younger I used to idolize sports figures. It was devastating when I read or heard of their off-the-field antics. I cringe whenever I think of my rudeness and, sometimes crudeness, and how I brought reproach on the Name of Christ.

Hearing the truth is not always fun. That is especially true when hearing it about a church. It is even more “crunchy” when it involves leaders in the church. 3 John, the passage for this weekend, is just such a letter. It might be easy to say, “Hey 2 out of 3 are good ones!” and that’s a pretty good average, but John is not thrilled at all with the prospect. There are three men mentioned in this book and their names and attitudes form a natural outline.  Here is my outline for this week:

  • Candid Truth about Gaius’ Faithfulness
  • Candid Truth about Diotrephes’ Preeminence
  • Candid Truth about Demetrius’ Testimony

Three men. Three teaching opportunities for John. A 3-point sermon for me. 🙂  Your prayers are appreciated this week. This sermon concludes my series on “Branded!” 1-2-3 John. It has been a challenge. For podcast info you can go here and then use the left side bar.  Next week: The Man God Uses then I begin a summer series on Grace.

Limits

Friday, June 2nd, 2017

Because I live in Spencer, IN near the White River, I am familiar with boundaries. Part of our town flooded in January of 2005. More of our town and and homes were flooded in June of 2008 when the so-called “100 year flood” hit us. Most recently we saw the White River crest over 22″ (which is about 8 inches over flood stage).  Many of you may be old enough to remember the devastation of 1993 when the Mississippi overflowed its banks in a huge way.

Boundaries are good. No, make that essential. We may not like them. We may have trouble tolerating them and accepting them, but sometimes they are absolutely essential. Think young people. How many bristle at boundaries put on them by their parents only to yearn for the freedom from the limits of “parental confinement”?

2 John is about limits…about living life with limits. I decided to extend the Branded series two more weeks to include 2 John and 3 John. Then I’ll preach a sermon for Father’s Day called The Man God Uses. Then I’ll preach a summer series on Grace. If you are close by, I invite you to come visit. If you are a part of OVCF, I’ll see you here. If you would like to listen you can do so by podcast on the church’s website.  (Yeah…sounds like a commercial). 🙂 But it really isn’t! Just an invitation to join us.

Faith

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

 

“Is it real or Memorex?” Remember that line from the commercial? For the uninitiated, Memorex was a brand of cassette tape (‘course some may not even know what that is) they said was like listening to music live.

Real or not real? The same is true about faith. There is genuine faith and there is fake. Here’s a story about faith.

Legend has it that a man was lost in the desert, just dying for a drink of water. He stumbled upon an old shack and found a bit of shade. Just a few feet away was what looked like a rusty pump. He grabbed the handle and began to pump it up and down. Nothing came out. Disappointed he staggered back, but it was then he noticed a jug. He wiped away the dust and dirt and read a message that said, “You have to prime the pump with all the water in this jug. P.S.: Be sure to fill the jug again.”

Sure enough he popped the cork and the jug was filled with water. Does he trust the message or does he drink the water?  After some pondering, he poured all the water into the pump, then grabbed the handle and began to pump it up and down. First, a little dribble as the pump squeaked. Then suddenly fresh cool water came gushing out in a torrent. He had more water than he dreamed! He drank deeply then filled his canteen. He then filled the jug for the next traveler. He left an extra note with it: “Believe me, it really works. You have to give it all away before you can get anything back.”

That is the nature of faith. Faith will be my topic Sunday during our worship. I’d appreciate your prayers.

Choosing

Thursday, May 4th, 2017

Choosing to love. Three easy words to say. Three tough words to do.

Simple truth: choosing to love is tough to do. Let’s face it. Loving one another is not always easy. Granted, there are people who are easy to love. Tommy James once sang a song with the words “You’re so easy to love” and some people are.

Oh…but then there are those who just take about every last ounce of civility in you. 🙂 They are so hard to love, so hard to care about, so hard to find a sympathetic bone for.

But love is a choice we make. No matter what some people say no man is an island. The words to the old song are simply not true: “I am a rock, I am an island…and a rock feels no pain and island never cries.”  As we used to say, “Liar, liar, pants on fire.” Try as we may…give off the air we want…we all need someone else.

The ironic thing is choosing to love takes a toll because it requires something from us. My sermon this Sunday is about choosing to love.  With the lead-in of “I choose to love…” I want to show two ways that choosing to love is beneficial:

Because love reveals God’s character

Because love reveals to Whom I belong

Join me Sunday  if you live around here. If not, the sermon is on podcast on the church’s website. If you can do neither, how about praying for me and the church this weekend. That may be best of all. Thanks.

Testing!Testing!

Thursday, April 27th, 2017

Mention the word discernment and I’m guessing 7 out of 10 in a word association game will say, “Judgemental.”  Along with that word will also come two others closely on its heel: hypocritical and arrogant.  We have been somewhat conditioned to believe that being discerning is another synonym for being judgemental. Truthfully, some of what passes for discernment is nothing more than judgementalism, giving people an opportunity to pass off their pet teaching as “the only way.”

The real tragedy is these “discernments” are most often based on externals. The way you dress. The way you wear your hair. How close-cropped the guys’ hair is. Stuff which is an aside and never made an issue as to whether someone is a follower of Christ or not. In this week’s sermon from I John 4:1-6, I’ll be examining this whole idea of discernment. In reality, every follower of Christ has the responsibility to “test the spirits.” Even a cursory glance at the Scripture will show outward adornment has absolutely no place in a person’s discernment. Paul told Timothy, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.” 2 Timothy 4:3.

My plan for Sunday is to not only give a basis for discernment but to also offer some guidelines to consider. If you are close by I invite you to come by and visit. For those of you who read this from parts unknown, I welcome your prayers.

Assurance

Thursday, April 20th, 2017

Have you heard the story of a man who made an appointment with a psychologist? When the doctor asked him what had prompted the visit, the man said, “I’m suffering from an inferiority complex.” The psychologist took a couple of weeks and put the man through an intensive series of tests. The man waited while the tests were tabulated and the appropriate correlations made. Finally, the office called and the man went in to discover the results. The doctor walked in and said to him, “I have some interesting results. You do not have an inferiority complex. You really are inferior!”

Inferiority is not limited to those outside of Christ. It is not relegated to those who are “head” cases. It is not relegated to those who were beaten down as they grew up and think very little of themselves as a result. Inferiority blurs every line; covers every age group; crosses economic status, job, sex, and race. No one group can claim to be exempt.

Many followers of Christ are haunted by doubt. Assurance in their relationship with God and their daily walk is lacking. The passage I will be preaching on this week, I John 3: 19-24, really hits this issue hard.  We often need the reassurance that all is well in our relationship with God and it is not dependent on, nor does it hinge on our goodness. Doubts will come, some more and stronger than others. But that is no reason to doubt our salvation.

Do you have assurance of your salvation? Or do you live in constant doubt or fear?