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Types

Sunday, June 11th, 2017

I am a leader. I have not always understood that. I have not always embraced that. And I most certainly have not always lived like it.

BUT I AM A LEADER

The important question to answer right now is this: What kind? Sunday’s sermon from 3 John has got me thinking about my leadership type/style.

First, I am not a hard-driver. I strive for relaxation in the office. I will not/cannot/won’t ride herd on the other two in the office. It just isn’t me. John Maxwell I’m not. Been there. Tried that. Failed that test. We laugh a lot. A LOT. Our staff meetings might be suddenly interrupted by a “video reference,” most likely by Ryan or Diana bringing up a scene from Big Bang Theory. I am more prone to music videos or YouTube.

Second, I am not wired tightly. I know that. I haven’t studied the Type A/Type B personalities. God has not made me wired like a guitar or tighter than a drum. I am who I am. I repeat: I would not do well in the Maxwell School of Leadership.

The three men mentioned in 3 John had different leadership styles…obviously. Gaius had an open heart and home. Diotrephes had a “Messiah complex.” Demetrius had a good reputation. Churches are not perfect. It is made up of humans. {Go figure} The early church had the same issues churches today have: Leadership. Love. Power. Conflicts. All imperfect. But God can still use the church…and does.

What kind of leader are you?

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.

Wars

Sunday, May 21st, 2017

Some wars are justified; some are not. (not a political statement so stay away from there). Church history gives us plenty of ammunition for proof. The Reformation is a perfect example of that.

Down through the years, music has been a battleground. I was hoping it was over but recently one of our college students came home and I asked him about the bruhaha about the music that he got involved in. Seems the college president made the comment that the only “real” Christian music was southern gospel and hymns and he challenged the students to give up their “devil” music (my summary not exact words).

UGH!

I like and respect Chuck Swindoll and read a great article by him last week on music. I’d like to share it with you in its entirety and hear your thoughts. It is entitled Sing New Songs…With Old Truths:

Without wanting to be misunderstood, let me say unashamedly that I love the grand old hymns. Throughout my Christian life, I have treasured their historic statements of the church’s faith, having committed many of them to memory.

They have been my dearest companions in dark hours of loneliness and discouragement and my greatest encouragers in times of celebration and adoration.

And while I’m the first to admit that while there’s nothing holy about a hymnal per se, hymns remain an important part of our Christian heritage. Why?

Because the theology of hymns is far too rich and beneficial to lose. The hymn writers were wordsmiths and musicians (seldom the same person) who wove theology and melody together into splendid compositions.

They gave us words for worship and marvelous music. One of the benefits of music—whatever style you choose—is that it helps cement truth in our brains stronger than memorizing words alone.

We remember words easier with a tune attached. Hymns bring to mind deep and practical truths, not only for times of worship but also for times of trial and distress.

I have always loved the old hymns, and I always will . . . because the truths they express are timeless.

However, let me quickly add that the canon isn’t closed on music for worship. In addition to hymns, each new generation will continue to compose fresh choruses of worship and new songs of praise . . . and that is as it should be—it’s biblical!

Fresh and Creative

Those churches who believe we should only have hymns have forgotten the words of David, the sweet psalmist of Israel, who wrote:

I will sing a new song to You, O God;
Upon a harp of ten strings I will sing praises to You. (Psalm 144:9, emphasis added)

The prophet Isaiah and the apostle John later used similar words (Isaiah 42:10; Revelation 5:9). The worship of our Creator should stay fresh and creative.

There is everything right about singing new songs. But we must be certain that the songs we compose and sing express sound doctrine and not human-centered philosophy.

Simply claiming, “The Lord gave me this song,” doesn’t qualify it for public worship. Even Christians in the first century were urged to “test” the words they heard (1 John 4:1–6).

Furthermore, a good melody should never override our critical thinking. Lyrics take on significance only when they are filtered through the inerrant text of the Holy Scriptures.

The music can be new . . . but the truths the music proclaims must not be.

I second his thoughts. I love the new music. But I tire of the repetition which many of them have. I can think of a few right now which turn my stomach just thinking about them.

But I would love to hear your thoughts.

 

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.

Whichone?

Tuesday, April 11th, 2017

“Joy to the World the Lord is come…”

Christmas song or Easter song?

Written in 1719 by Isaac Watts, he never intended it to be sung as a Christmas song. But it has become one of the most well-loved Christmas songs we sing. But as we are often guilty of doing, we skip over some of the stanzas. If we don’t skip over them we skim them. Hence, we might miss the third stanza of this hymn:

No more let sins and sorrows grow,

Nor thorns infest the ground;

He comes to make his blessings flow

Far as the curse is found,

Far as the curse is found,

Far as, far as the curse is found.

The mission of Jesus was not to come as a baby. That “started” it. But the mission of Jesus was to wipe out the curse of sin, death, hell and the grave. He came to unleash His power and grace in an unprecedented act of love. He came to restore our relationship with the Father which sin had broken.

What a tremendous truth to ponder as we enter this time of the year. Or if I may borrow the words to a song which has nothing to do with this topic: “the most wonderful time of the year.”

Rescued

Thursday, April 6th, 2017

Many are familiar with the statue of Christ that stands tall in the Corcovado Mountains in Rio de Janeiro. It is 98 feet tall and stands on a base that is 26 feet tall. The arms stretch 92 feet wide. The statue has gone through several renovations due to lightning strikes and the ravages of time since its building from 1922-1031. It is now listed in The New Seven Wonders of the World.

To many people the cross is a symbol of rescue, leading the lost souls, shipwrecked by the ravages of life, to new life and hope. To others it stands as a beacon of something better, something which stands the test of time. To those who follow Jesus it is that and so much more. Everyone is invited to the cross, the place where God and humanity meet, where peace and wholeness can be found.

While studying for last week’s sermon, I had decided to title it “The Look of Love.” As I looked at the calendar I realized this coming weekend was Palm Sunday, so I decided  to work up a little 3 part mini-series focused around the cross and resurrection. This week’s message is entitled “The Act of Love” and I’m going to be using Isaiah 52:13- 53:12 as my Scripture. When I look at the cross through the lens of Isaiah 53 I see Jesus saying three things:

“I Did This For You”

“I Knew This Was Coming”

“I Did All That Was Needed”

You have just now seen the three points of my message for Sunday. 🙂

Love sets us apart from others. But our love has an example set for us to follow. This passage in Isaiah is that bold example.

LawBreaking

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

My sermon for Sunday is entitled Breaking the Law.  I sort of wonder how many of you did what my secretary did: start singing the song by that title. She said her husband definitely would. For those not familiar with it, think Judas Priest. Yeah…I know…heathen. 🙂

My sermon Sunday is about a subject not too many like to talk about these days: SIN. I mean, we have a whole genre of “feel good, be happy” TV evangelists whose whole gig is not to stir the waters but to make the audience feel good.  One of them has made the public comment that he does not talk about sin. Say what?

I have a T-shirt from a ministry I support (Hole in My Heart). The saying is, “All fall short.” “All are loved.” We all sin. No exceptions. John is clear in his letter about the widespread effect of sin. But his point is that a follower of Christ does not keep on sinning just because he can. There needs to be a change. Check out I John 3: 4-10 for the Scripture and you will see what I will be preaching on Sunday.  I’d appreciate your prayers for me and the church Sunday. Thanks.

One more thing…and this comes in the form of shameless promotion. Please check out my daughter, Tami’s, blog for a way to help her accomplish a goal she has for this Fall. You can go here to see that blog. Thanks.

 

Black/White

Thursday, March 2nd, 2017

After a two week hiatus caused by this, I plan to be back in the pulpit this Sunday. I have to admit that I am a tad bit excited.

Growing up and watching TV, it was easy to tell the good guys from the bad guys…for the most part. The good guys wore white hats; the bad guys wore black ones. For every Roy Rogers and Lone Ranger there was a Billy the Kid or Jesse James.

The Bible shows clearly there is an epic battle going on between the forces of evil and forces of good. From its earliest pages, the Evil One and all who function in his kingdom have constantly opposed God’s plan. For every Abel there is a Cain. For every Tabernacle there is a Tower of Babel. For every Joseph there is a Judas. For every Job there is a Peter.

My Scripture this Sunday is I John 2:18-27. It has been called  The antichrists vs the Christians. I’m calling it the black hats vs the white hats. Another way to put it is the fake vs the genuine.

I’m looking forward to preaching this Sunday after that two-week hiatus. I’m not really sure about my physical stamina nor how my voice will hold up (I picked up a cold in the hospital and with broken ribs it is hard to cough hard). So…some prayers about that would also be much appreciated.  Thanks. And thanks to all for your kind words during my healing. Please keep the prayers coming!