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Celebration!

Friday, October 20th, 2017

Who doesn’t like a good celebration? Or for that matter, who doesn’t like a good reason to have one?

This Sunday, OVCF will celebrate our 13th anniversary. We have not gone overboard with it. That will be saved for #15 I suspect. Our plan is simple: have one service that morning. Follow that with a pitch-in dinner hopefully using the shelter (if the weather cooperates). Eat until we can’t eats no more!

Ryan and I will be presenting our Mission and Vision. We tag team well and it makes for a nice break. They don’t have to listen to me ramble on. Nor do they have to listen to Ryan do the same. I’ll talk about the Mission (To Connect People to Jesus) and the first two points of our Vision: 1) To be passionate pursuers of Jesus, and 2) To be models of truth and love.  Ryan will pick it up from there and talk about 3) To be involved in the community. He has a Power Point presentation of the teens helping at IDES in Indy just last week.

Then we will answer a few questions the people posed to us about your future building and our current construction. All in the purpose of update and accountability.

Looks to be a great day! I’d appreciate your prayers for us as we celebrate what God has been, is doing, and will do.

Politics

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017

I’m not big on politics. Frankly they turn my stomach. I simply refuse to preach politics from the pulpit. I won’t endorse any candidate from the pulpit and seldom say much on a more personal level of discussion. But while the following article from Chuck Swindoll might be speaking of politics to start, it switches gears quickly and speaks about an even more insidious cancer which eats away at pastors, churches, and people in general. Here’s Chuck:

I see it every night on the news. The politics of backslapping and handshaking and making sure “so-and-so” isn’t turned off—it’s maddening! (We call it “smoke-blowing” here in Texas.)

At the end of the political rainbow the pot of gold is “favorable public opinion.” Period.

If we’re not careful, we can let politics work its way into our churches. And even worse, into our pulpits. In fact, the pastorate is a breeding ground for this sort of thing—maybe more than most professions.

I love the way the apostle Paul keeps our motives clean and focus sharp:

For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts. (1 Thessalonians 2:4–5 NLT)

People-pleasing is a very tempting allurement, especially for people in ministry, because most of what we do gets done through people.

When needing volunteer positions filled—whether . . .

  • In the nursery
  • For a Sunday school class
  • Among the ushers
  • In our music ministry

It’s easy to massage our words and say more than we mean . . . or say something other than what we mean. (That’s called a lie.) The pastor must resist the temptation to flatter. We must refuse to play both sides against the middle.

Don’t go there. Why? Because once you start, it’s hard to stop.

When a pastor is a people-pleaser, he sits on the fence so as not to offend anyone. He remains neutral when he should NOT be playing it safe.

He tells people what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear.

That’s not pastoring . . . that’s politics.

Look at the apostle’s words one more time. I find myself both challenged and refreshed by Paul’s transparency:

Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts.

—Chuck

I spent way too many years as a people-pleaser, i.e. playing the political game. As I got older I realized that was a losing game. So today, while I try to be sensitive to people and their feelings, I also realize sometimes “politicians” can be the biggest hindrance to the church being the church.

Are you a people-pleaser? Is your pastor one? Are you part of the reason he is? Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

JesusContinued

Thursday, September 28th, 2017

Francis Chan once wrote:

We all see problems in the church. We don’t need another book to point them out. We need the faith to believe that the solution is really quite simple: the Holy Spirit.

What he says is absolutely true. While no follower of Christ would deny His existence, I’m willing to bet there are millions of church-goers across our nation who have no clue who the Holy Spirit is, nor could they confidently say they have experienced His presence in their life.

We set ourselves up for this you know? The benchmark of success in churches has waffled-no make that bee-lined- from purpose and lives being changed to attendance and sometimes the offering. Far more than we would like to admit many churches adopted the “entertainment” mentality of the 80s-90s, i.e. entertain the people or they will get bored with church and go to the one that does it best. We became a church nation of church hoppers looking for the next, best fix.

Who got lost? The Holy Spirit. What go lost? Well, in the words of Bono (whose music I’m not really a fan of) but with whom I can agree on this: “Religion is what happens when the Spirit has left the building.” We can preach without Him. We can have discussions about the Holy Spirit and not have a clue of His powerful effect on a person’s life. And, of course, there are those who can make wild claims of the Holy Spirit’s work and be totally empty or lying or a heretic.

This Sunday, as part of the “Hills” series, I am preaching on the Holy Spirit, or as J.D.Greear calls Him: “Jesus, Continued.” His thought, which I will be focusing on, is “The Spirit inside you is better than the Jesus beside you.”  I’d appreciate your prayers for me and for the folks who listen.

Invasion

Friday, September 15th, 2017

Mention history and ask for examples of invasions and one is likely to hear about Normandy, an invasion so horrific the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan and other movies like Band of Brothers cannot do it justice (although they tried).  over 150,000 troops were committed to the initial invasion, employing 6900 vessels, 4100 landing craft, and 12,000 airplanes flying 14,000 sorties. The death tool was astronomical.

History is filled with invasions like that. In one sense, the great invasions of history are analogous to the way in which God chose to deal with the enemy’s rule over the earth. He invaded, but not with guns and ammo and an army trained and armed to the teeth. Instead, He chose a different kind of invasion. One of the HILLS of our faith is God became flesh and lived among us in the person of Jesus Christ (Christmas). Then He lived a sinless life only to find Himself being led to a cross where He would die for the sin of the world and then raise from the dead (Easter).

That is one of our Core Beliefs, a HILL we will die on defending. Your prayers are much appreciated

Lighthouse

Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

Meet Nina and the Lighthouse at Presque Isle. Presque Isle Light is one of three lighthouses on Lake Erie. It is located on the northern shore of Presque Isle State Park.  It stands 68′ tall, was constructed in 1872 and became automated in 1962. For more information about this lighthouse go hereThis site here also gives some really interesting insight into the lighthouse.

I spent five years pastoring a church in Sandusky, Ohio so I made frequent trips to the lighthouse at Marblehead, OH. If captains and sailors could speak today I’m sure they could tell fantastic stories of Marblehead, Presque Isle and others. Countless lives were saved and ships averted disaster because of the light from the lighthouse. It used to be manned by individuals. What a lonely job that must have been! But what an essential job it was also.

The importance of the lighthouse cannot be diminished in any way. Its light shined through all kinds of weather. I used to drive to Marblehead in the middle of January just to see the ice build up and to see how far out it went. You could see Kelly’s Island from the lighthouse and there were times it was shut down and only a plane could get people off the island. I don’t know how many lighthouses are still working and shining its light, especially with the more sophisticated equipment on ships these days.

Nina is Dave’s daughter. Dave wrote about the death of his friend, Lynn. Nina was riding on a tandem with him when the accident happened. The Presque Isle lighthouse was Lynn’s favorite. Part of Dave and Nina’s therapy was going to the lighthouse and having the above picture taken. Therapy comes in all sizes, shapes, and colors. Below is also some of Nina’s therapy and her tribute to Lynn. I wanted to use this during the week I was having my surgery and had guest writers but it was unavailable. Nina drew this from a postcard and drew it all freehand. I’d say quite a gift!

The spiritual application is easy. Jesus once said, “I am the Light of the World.” Elsewhere the Bible says, “People who live in darkness have seen a great light.” I’ll close this long post with this song. If you have trouble with the lyrics (which you shouldn’t) click on Show More below the video.

Change

Sunday, August 13th, 2017

I’ve written about change a lot. As a pastor, the church is often being challenged to change. Status quo just doesn’t work any more. This is not a slam against churches which prefer hymns as opposed to more contemporary worship. This is not a slam against churches which prefer King Jimmy versus the ESV or some more easily understood translation.

Instead, I want us to take a look at the “why” change is so difficult-for churches-but specifically individuals. I’m seeing this first hand to be honest. My recent back surgery is filled with “Don’ts.” Don’t bend over at the waist. Don’t exercise. Don’t ride a bike. Don’t twist and bend. For 30 days they are asking telling ordering me not to do certain things. Do you know how hard it is to change some ingrained habits? I even went so far as to call them and ask if I could go to the Y since I was bored not being able to exercise. But then my hip and calf started aching so I answered the question myself: I wasn’t ready. So I went for a longer walk than I had before. Yeah…it was too far. I guess they know more than I do?

Change is hard, in all things. What makes change so hard, I think, is the fear of failure. What happens if…? We fear becoming a failure or being seen as one. That is a lie though. Failing to make a change does not make us a failure. That is not who we are. Failure is not getting back up after falling down. We need to stop believing the lie we can’t change. Our enemy wants us to stay entrenched in concrete. The last thing he wants to see is us moving in the power of the Spirit as we allow Him to change us.

I’ve been working on a tentative sermon schedule for 2018 under the working theme of “Accept the Challenge.” Can you guess what one of the series might be on?  🙂

I may be incommunicado for a couple of days. Jo & I are heading to Ohio for Monday and Tuesday. Our grandson, Braden, starts school on Wednesday. He was supposed to come Labor Day weekend to visit but that has changed and if we want to see him before Thanksgiving or Christmas, this is the time.

ME

Monday, July 31st, 2017

I was all set to add to my thoughts on forgiveness from this post when I had a change of thoughts heart.  I read something that sort of made me think a little too deeply for a Monday morning.  This morning in New Morning Mercies, Paul Tripp wrote this:

Grace not only forgives me, but enables me to live for something hugely bigger than myself. Why go back to my little kingdom of one? {Note: I change to the personal “me” or “my” when I write in my journal. He uses “you.”}

That phrase “kingdom of one” brought me back to a book I started reading over the weekend called More: How to Move from Activity for God to Intimacy with God by Greg L. Hawkins. Greg is one of the teaching pastors at Oak Hills Church where he joins Max Lucado and Randy Frazee.  I just happened to read last night about what Greg calls the “Kingdom of Me.” To summarize Greg says, “Many of us live in a box. It’s a small box known as the Kingdom of Me. We control what happens there.” However, he goes on to show how that box is awful small.

My thoughts ran like this: I spend a lot of time promoting the kingdom of Me. Such a tiny, small kingdom. The Pharisees promoted their tiny kingdom based on performance, personal power and acclaim. Mine isn’t so much personal power but I can say performance rears its ugly head, as does a little bit of acclaim from time to time (you know…I’d like to be known in the community type of acclaim).  Funny (not the ha ha kind): the phrase which going through my head was “Help me, Lord! Rescue me from me!”

So…how big is your kingdom?

Freedom!

Thursday, June 29th, 2017

One of the best scenes of Braveheart is when Mel Gibson’s character, William Wallace, is having the life ooze out of him and just before he dies he yells, “Freedom!”

Freedom is something we all want. Next week we will be celebrating our country’s Independence Day. Many in the throes of prison or an addiction will cry out for freedom. But what about those chained to a system or a mindset who will cry out for freedom? Will they find it?

I read this recently:

“Other than the name of Jesus, it may be the most important word in all the Bible: GRACE. Grace in the person and work-the life, death and resurrection-of Jesus is what made the difference. If you’re God’s child, stop hiding behind your tree of shame.”  (Tripp-New Morning Mercies-June 29).

This Sunday I’m preaching on Freedom!  I’ll be using John 8 (the woman caught in adultery) and I Cor. 7: 21-13. My focus? Grace frees; the law enslaves. Living in grace is radically exciting; living in law is morbidly exhausting. The follower of Christ can live in freedom-freedom from law, from rules, regulations, and other life-killing bacteria. The purpose of grace is to give freedom.

I’d appreciate your prayers. Meanwhile, have a Happy 4th!!

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.