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Hills

Saturday, September 9th, 2017

There is an old saying which is often used to stress a point:

Now that is a hill I will die on.

The negative of that is “That is not a hill I want to die on.”

Point being: what is stated is so important or not so important that I want to spend my time defending it or not defending it. Another way to put it is to consider its importance and whether you want to take a stand for it.

My next sermon series is called HILLS because there are certain TRUTHS I will take a stand for.  In 2003, Philip Johnson, a law professor at the University of California was awarded the “Daniel of the Year” award for his efforts to dismantle the Darwinist empire that dominates culture. In 1991 he sparked an enormous controversy by publishing a book called Darwin on Trial. In the years following that book, his attacks on Darwinism continued. Why?

The fundamental question is whether God is real or imaginary. The underlying thinking of Darwinism is the assumption that God is out of the picture.

My first HILL is entitled “In the Beginning.” My purpose is not to debate the existence or non-existence of God, but to begin with the first 4 words in the Bible: “In the beginning God.”  One of our Core Beliefs is found here. I’ll spend the morning looking at two main thoughts found in Romans 11: 33-36:

  • Five Foundational Truths
  • Three Unequaled Qualities

If you care to listen, the podcast will be on the church’s website. Meanwhile, I’d appreciate you praying for me and the church. And pray for the folks affected by both hurricanes.

Bellyaching

Thursday, August 10th, 2017

This is not a post about waking up in the middle of the night with your belly aching.

I’m not sure how common it was in your neck of the woods but in the part of Pennsylvania I grew up in (near Pittsburgh), it was common to hear someone say, “Oh quit your bellyaching!” I’m sure you are smart enough to know they were telling the person to quit complaining and griping.

Seems to me that particular vice comes easily too easily to some people. When it is all sifted and sorted through, bellyaching is nothing more than a snarky attitude about life. It isn’t a new problem either. The people of Israel had a handle fully on that plow. You can see it Numbers 11 and Deuteronomy 1: 19-36. The latter is a pretty well known story of how the Israelites had a chance to move into the Promised Land but allowed the complaining and griping to drown out the reassurance of Joshua and Caleb that they could take that land.

Complaining has no boundaries or class of people it is limited to. Rich and poor. White or black (or any color). Believer or non-believer. You name it; you will find complaining.

Sunday’s sermon continues the series on Grace as I look at this very common trait among people who have been shown grace. Your prayers would be appreciated. By the way: are you a bellyacher? A complainer? Oh yeah…and for your listening pleasure I am showing this video to start the sermon. It’s called a Throwback. Enjoy!!

Revenge??

Friday, August 4th, 2017

My sermon this Sunday is entitled Don’t Get Mad. Get Even?????

Filled with question marks for a reason.

You may have heard the story of the man who was bit by a dog which was later found to be rabid. The man had contracted rabies and this was a time when nothing much could be done after rabies had set in. The doctor told him everything possible would be done to make him comfortable, but his advice was for the man to get his affairs in order as soon as possible.

The dying man sank back in depression and shock, but finally rallied enough strength for a pen and paper. He began writing furiously.

About an hour later the doctor returned and the man’s pen was still flowing. The doctor said, “I’m glad to see you are taking my advice. Are you working on your will?”

“This ain’t no will, Doc,” the man said. “It’s a list of people I plan on bitin’ before I die.”

We may chuckle at that somewhat fanciful illustration, but I suspect there is something in all of us that can probably relate to that story.  Did you know there is a website called “ThePayBack.com” where it boasts about helping you get revenge? Seriously.

But here is the $1 million question: is that really the answer? Really? No matter how much or in what way we have been hurt. I am of the opinion the answer is no. Never has been and never will be. “Don’t get mad. Get even” is a lousy philosophy.

In the OT we have a living, breathing example of vengeance withheld, actually averted when everything justified it (at least in the perpetrator’s mind). Check out I Samuel 25 for the story.  Prayers for this weekend would be much appreciated. Thanks ahead of time.

Goodbye!

Friday, July 28th, 2017

When we are born two things happen: One, we start to die. Two, we start to grow. Seems incongruous, I know, but it is true. It is the latter I want to take a look at.

Growing up is part of life. I can’t even begin to count the number of times I heard, “Oh…grow up!” or the number of times I have used that same phrase. In Ephesians 4: 15-16,26-32 Paul tells us to grow up and as he does he tells us to get rid of certain things. What gives?  So that we will no longer be infants we need to get rid of bitterness, rage, anger, clamor and slander (to name a few). The subtraction method allows for the addition to take place. As we say goodbye, we can add to make our lives more productive.

Forgiveness is a huge part of moving on. “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Is.43:18-19)  It is the enemy’s plan to use your hurts to hold you back. He wants to put boundaries on your life based on your fear of getting hurt again. Total freedom means not allowing past hurts to direct our lives, tarnish our relationships and shape our personalities.

My sermon Sunday will be a real test. Physically of my ability to bounce back from surgery. Spiritually of our ability to overcome the ugliness of unforgiveness. Prayers would be appreciated on both fronts this weekend. Thanks..

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.