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Marked

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

When I was in college I read a little book called The Mark of a Christian by Francis Schaeffer. It had to be the only book I read and understood by that intelligent man. I tried to use it as my required reading for one of my classes but its 20-30 some pages did not not meet the professor’s criteria for a worthy book. I don’t know why do you?  🙂

The mark of a Christian, according to Schaeffer is the same mark Jesus talked about in John 13:34-35: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

This week I’m going to delve further into the second part of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

  • Becoming a follower of Jesus produces a desire to obey…there is a submissive will.
  • Becoming a follower of Jesus produces an ability to love…there is a caring heart.

The commandment to love is not a new one. Even the OT tells us to love. But Romans 13:8-10 shows us it needs to go further. So this week my emphasis will be a new kind of love. I’d appreciate your prayers for me and the church. Thanks ahead of time.

Branded!

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

There are a few TV shows or movies I will stop to watch if I am walking through the room when they are on. When I first started watching Back to the Future we had taped it on a free weekend. My friend and his son came to visit and I think that movie played on the round the whole weekend. No sooner was it over than we rewound the tape (it was a VHS) and started watching it again.  I’m sort of the same way with the old B & W Perry Mason shows. I am a sucker for the old shows, even though I know Perry is going to win. Never a doubt even though things look awful gloomy from time to time for his client.  I still like courtroom dramas.

A big part of the beginning of I John 2 is the importance of an Advocate who goes to the “bench” on our behalf.  The word Advocate translates the Greek word which means “one who comes alongside” and denotes in legal settings the defender or counselor who comes to aid his clients. It is the same word translated “Helper” or “Comforter” in John 14.  Jesus is the perfect Advocate since the Judge is His Father and they are always in perfect harmony.

Another word used in I John 2 is the word propitiation. A big word most will have trouble saying right, let alone knowing what it means.  It means appeasement or satisfaction. John tells us that Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross satisfied the demands of God’s justice.

There is more to write but will stop there. If you care to listen, the podcast of the sermon is on the church’s website. I welcome your thoughts if you do listen.

Just as a heads up: I am posting this early because Jo and I will be leaving today (Wednesday) for the St. Louis area and return late Friday afternoon. Two of our young men play basketball for Maryville University and we are taking some time away and watching them. Sort of like killing two birds with one stone. So, except for approving a comment, I will be very scarce here and on your blogs as well. Have a great weekend!

TESTS

Sunday, February 5th, 2017

I disliked taking tests. Maybe dislike is the wrong word. Maybe hated is a better one. 🙂 Actually, I didn’t mind the essay kind. I could “blow off” and hope I said enough to make my point. I didn’t mind multiple choice because somewhere along the line I might remember and get the right answer. I disliked strongly (how about that choice of words) the True/False kind.

One of the biggest struggles I run into among fellow Christ-followers is the assurance of salvation. Too many are always questioning “Am I saved?” “If I die today would I go to heaven?” “How can I know?” While I personally have questions about what is called Eternal Security, I don’t believe a follower of Christ ever has a reason to doubt their salvation. Based on what you ask? Well, Sunday I gave two tests to ask as you seek to figure out not only your own, but who might be preaching a strange gospel. Here are two from I John:

  • Belief in God and the certainty of sin. [1:5-6,8,10]  False teachers and doctrinal errors are spread when there is uncertainty about God and sin. John tells us “God is Light.” He also tells us “in Him is no darkness at all.” Ever since the Fall man has tried to excuse sin. We call it a “mistake” or a “failure” or a “disorder, illness, or addiction.” Call sin what it is…sin.
  • Belief in forgiveness of sin and confession. [1:7b,9] That verse 9 stands like a rock for me. We can deny it. We can argue. But we cannot erase that verse from the pages of Holy Writ. What is written is written. Way too many followers of Jesus live in the past and think they cannot be forgiven. The tense used for forgive is one which not only shows past forgiveness but specifically present forgiveness. And since my tomorrow is actually today, forgiveness is always there.

I’m sure you can think of more. But these are huge to the freedom of every follower of Jesus. What do they say to you?

Branded!

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017

Kicking and screaming. Loud noises. Hot and sweaty. Searing flesh.

Obviously you probably figured out with that description and the title I am not describing a child being disciplined or being asked to do something he doesn’t want to do. Branding cattle or sheep was an absolute essential in the days we call the Wild West. The brand identified whose sheep or cattle or horses they were.

Phil Cooke, in his book, Unique, defines a brand as “what do people think of when they think of you, your product or your organization?” Each church establishes its brand, i.e. what it is known for. Preaching. Youth program. Generosity. Outreach to the community. Love. So much more.

As an individual follower of Jesus, I am branded. If you are a Christ-follower you are too. The question is this: “what do people think of when they think of me/you?” Is there a checklist to see how we are doing in that area?

Actually there is. “Branded”, my sermon series from I John which starts this Sunday, has 5 marks/brands which should be the makeup of every follower of Christ. They are marks I will be visiting as we make our way through this fantastic book.

LOVE DEEPLY

OBEY FAITHFULLY

LIVE AUTHENTICALLY

KNOW COMPLETELY

BELIEVE CONFIDENTLY

I can’t take credit for thinking those up. James MacDonald gets kudos for that. I’m excited to be preaching this book. I have never done it before. So I thank you for your prayers ahead of time.

Weakness

Thursday, January 26th, 2017

Weak is the new strong. That is just one of the opposite-opposite statements we find in the Bible which seemingly contradict each other. Here are a few more:

  • Love your enemies
  • The way to be exalted is to be humble
  • To truly live you have to die
  • Jesus gave His life, not for good people but for sinful, ungodly people who don’t deserve it.

To be strong, you have to be weak. That sure sounds strange in our society doesn’t it? We of the power grabs and climbing the ladder (while using our coworkers as stepping stones). So hearing the word weakness almost throws us into a convulsion, or at best a spasm.

Paul said it well in 2 Cor. 12:9-10: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

We all have weaknesses and limitations. That’s normal. As humans we are finite, imperfect, sinful people. Those are limitations. But weaknesses are different. We all have them; just different ones.  The lesson for us though is that in spite of our weaknesses, God’s grace stands there ready at a moment’s notice. The equally interesting thing is that God not only wants to display His grace in Paul’s life, He also wants to display His power in Paul’s weakness.

Truth: the weaker we become, the greater God’s power is released in us. That is the idea I want to capture this coming Sunday. Will you please pray for us this Sunday?

The leadership is also making an announcement this week concerning the future of OVCF. If you, my readers, are interested in knowing what I said, you can tune into the podcast.

Fools

Sunday, January 22nd, 2017

It is not a compliment to be called a fool. Not in biblical days. Not in the 1800s. Certainly not today. It is a term of derision. In fact, the word “fool” is on the level of idiot, nincompoop, and dunce. Far from a compliment, it is seen as a put-down. Interesting fact which I am sure many of you know: the word fool in the Greek is actually the word moronic. Yeah, you read that right. No need to tell you what word we get from that.

In verses 9-14 of I Corinthians 4 Paul uses four words to describe the followers of Christ:

  1. Spectacles– When a Roman general entered the city as a conquering hero, he came first. His army came next. The captors brought up the rear and they were spectacles to the watching and jeering throng.
  2. Fools- The early followers of Jesus often lived in the lowest level of society. While others wanted glory, honor and recognition, the followers of Jesus gave that up.
  3. Sufferers– While others lived like kings, they often lived like paupers. The life of following Jesus was a life of suffering. The word labor used in verse 12 means toil, which literally means “working our fingers to the bone, to the point of exhaustion.”
  4. Scum– Refuse. This refers to the scrapings from the bottom of a pan which are scraped off and thrown away.

The point? God is embracing the ridiculous. That is the point of my message this weekend. God embraces the ridiculous, the crazy people. I’m going to give some examples this week in a post or two of “crazy people.” Meanwhile, would you please pray for the Word to hit home this weekend?

Idols

Thursday, January 12th, 2017

In Numbers 21 there is a story of the people of Israel and a serpent. They had begun to grumble against God and Moses, complaining they brought them out of Egypt into the wilderness to die. Their complaining got so bad God sent fiery serpents among them and when they bit the people they died. Suddenly complaining about being in the wilderness was not such a big thing anymore. The remedy for all of this mayhem was for Moses to make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole. Anyone who looked on it would live. Sounds all well and good.

E.X.C.E.P.T!

“He (King Hezekiah) removed the high places and broke the pillars and cut down the Asherah. And he broke pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it (and it was called Nehushtan).”  2 Kings 18:4

That which was for a good purpose turned out to become something bad. The serpent had become an idol.

We may not have those kinds of idols but we do have them. An idol is a representation of what we honor, esteem, pay allegiance to, or worship. Idols tell us we can’t live without them.

My sermon this week is #3 in the series “I Am Fifth.” I’m calling it “Who’s Your Daddy?” because of the subject of idols. It is a tough sermon to preach since it hits all of us (especially me). I’m going to take a post or two next week to cover this subject in a little more detail. Stay tuned!

RockSteady

Thursday, August 25th, 2016

LifeAsAnAdventure2

I have spent the summer preaching on different psalms under the banner of “Life is an Adventure!” This Sunday is the last of the Psalms series. I tried to avoid many of the familiar ones for the simple reason of bringing something new to the table. I really wanted the people of OVCF to experience something new. I think I have accomplished that for the most part.

So I asked myself what Psalm could I close with that would be fairly (if not totally) new, but at the same time give some encouragement that would correspond with getting back into the school and work routine. As I was having my personal devotional time I read Psalm 112. As I read it I thought, “Man, there is some good stuff there!” Then the wheels started turning and I feel like I found a good way to end my study of Psalms.

I approached this passage with a question: “if this (name something specific) was taken away from me, what would I do?” Asked another way it would be this: “What is really important in my pursuit of a full life of adventure?”  This chapter begins with the challenge of making the right choice as to whom you will follow. Then it gives three characteristics of the man/woman who chooses to be a person who is rock solid.

If you have a few minutes, I’d like to ask you to pray for me and the folks who will be here Sunday. Thanks.

Confidence

Thursday, August 11th, 2016

LifeAsAnAdventure2

A lot of people misunderstand confidence because sometimes it can be seen either as arrogance/cockiness/something similar to that or it can be seen/used as a cover-up for feelings of inferiority.

I’d like you to consider it another way: as the opposite of fear.

I could regale you with quotes on “fear” like…

  • “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” (FDR).
  • “Nothing is terrible except fear.” Henry David Thoreau
  • “There is only thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” Paul Coelho

There are more. One source I used listed over 3000 quotes.

Fear-and its corresponding panic-is a very real stumblingblock for many followers of Christ. Sometimes fear gets so great it paralyzes us from even doing our daily tasks. David was not excluded from feeling fear, but he also knew where to find the help and strength to deal with that fear.

This Sunday’s message is from Psalm 27.  I don’t want to say much here but do you see an excellent truth we need to remember? It does not say, “He gives light” or “He provides strength.” David writes, “He is my light” and “He is my salvation.” (Some translations use “strength”)

I’ll give you this for the weekend: “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.” Proverbs 18:10.

Thanks for your prayers this weekend. I’m praying for chains of fear to  be broken.

Discrepancies?

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016

Sunday I spoke from Psalm 13. If you would indulge me I’d like to share some of my thoughts with you. But first, please read verses 1-2 and then jump down to verses 5-6 and read them.  The following is the study I led the folks through:

  1. In verse 2b David says his enemies were triumphing (exalting) over him. At the same time in verse 5b he rejoices in his salvation (God is delivering him). How do you explain that?
  2. In verse 2a David says he wrestled with many thoughts and had sorrow in his heart every day. But in verse 6a David said he sang with joy at the same time. How do you explain that?
  3. David says in verse 1 that God hid His face from him, and yet at the same time in verse 6b, David says God was good to him (dealt bountifully with him).  How do you explain that?
  4. If God truly forgot David as he says in verse 1a, then how did God at the same time truly love David with a steadfast love? How do you explain that?

Looks like a serious series of discrepancies doesn’t it? I think the answer is found in the differences between David’s feelings and David’s beliefs. David felt like God has forgotten him, while at the same time he really believed God’s love for him was unceasing.

Question: How often have you/I allowed our feelings to dictate how we act? We have allowed our feelings to beat us up, to carry us places we don’t need to go. Truth: when our feelings are stronger than our beliefs we will find ourselves blown away by circumstances and events out of our control.

Always remember this: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22 We need to remember who God is. His character never changes.

I am indebted to Wisdom Hunter by Randall Arthur for some of these thoughts and the insight to “stir” my brain.