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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.

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.”