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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!

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.

66

Monday, January 30th, 2017

Yeah…I committed the unpardonable sin.

I told the age of a woman. Remember those admonitions? “Never ask a woman how old she is.”  Besides, it has been my experience most of them will “lie” and say “29” or “39” or some such silly number. Especially when they have a 20 something child.

Specifically I told the age of my wife…today…she turns 66. I have a staff meeting this morning and she will sleep in a little but this afternoon she wants me to take her to see Hidden Figures at our local theater (we are crashing a homeschool private showing to do so). She saw it Saturday with some friends and asked if I would take her to see it again. Following that we will be meeting Tami for supper at Texas Roadhouse (unless she changes her mind…which I understand is a woman’s prerogative).

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We had a great day yesterday. The leadership has been telling the people they had an important announcement to make for several weeks now. I understand now it made some people rather nervous. At the gym this morning one of the guys (who was unable to be there) asked me about the announcement. When I asked him what he thought it was, he said, “Usually one of two things. Either the building program is getting started or you are leaving.” I told him I wasn’t going anywhere. We did announce the money has all come in for not only the youth addition but we will also be able to pay off the mortgage. We will, by God’s grace, be totally debt free! That was a reason to rejoice and clap…and we did!

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Woke up this morning to cold weather and a dusting of snow. We can’t complain though. Plus I’d rather have a dusting any day than have to shovel for hours. Have a great week! I’ll be back!!

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.

Fifth

Sunday, January 1st, 2017

Hard to believe 2017 is over 7 hours old already. Being that today is “my one day to work”  🙂  I went to bed at 9:35 last night. No amount of celebrating or celebration could keep me up until 12. Strangely enough, I was. I woke up from a fitful sleep about 11:30 so I decided to go to my Cave and read. I grabbed my Bible and journal and started catching up on the reading which had taken a back seat over the past few days. (And yes, pastors do that also. We are not always on the ball). So…while I had no intention of welcoming in the New Year…I did. I have this sneaking suspicion that less than four hours of sleep is going to catch up with me. Let’s just hope it isn’t while I’m preaching or praying. That could be bad!

The banner gives a good picture of my theme for 2017.  “I am Fifth.” Gayle Sayers, a Chicago Bears running back from the ’60s-70s, wrote a book called I Am Third, where he talked about his friendship with Brian Piccolo-a white teammate who was also dying of cancer. His guiding life lesson was “God is first; Others are second; I am third.” As I scanned by library back on July 5th, I ran across the book The Fifth Gospel by Bobby Conway. I decided to use the title with a twist and spend 2017 preaching about being the gospel to others.

Two quotes stand out to me:

“Where one man reads the Bible, a hundred read you and me.” D.L.Moody

“Preach the gospel; when in doubt, use words.”

After introducing the idea this month, I plan to preach on I John. After that the plan is Philippians and/or James.  If you are part of OVCF, I do hope you will join me in this journey. If not, but you still want to join in, you can listen by podcast on the church’s website. Have a great 2017.

Reason

Sunday, November 27th, 2016

Daniel Hamlin and his family are five of the neatest people you will ever meet. They came to OVCF just a tad over a year ago in a search for something different than what he/they had grown up in. They were also concerned for their three children (one a teen and another real close and an adorable young girl). So he actually first heard of OVCF from living in the community about all his life, but when Daniel started searching with earnest his father told him about us. Daniel checked out the church website and then a few podcasts. Something resonated in him and a “chance” encounter with him at a local restaurant (we were supposed to eat somewhere else) led to him coming to OVCF. They have not left (that’s a good thing…a very good thing). He is a fine young man who wants to seek God with all his heart and wants to lead his family that way also. The following is what he posted on FB after helping with the Thanksgiving Dinner the church puts on annually.

Today, our church provided Thanksgiving meals to the community.  At one point my family was tasked with delivering 5 meals to a local low-income motel.  As we stepped out of the car I realized that we were probably not relatable to those who were receiving the food.  I had grabbed my LL Bean jacket, the boys were wearing Nike shoes and shorts (yes, shorts in November), we were a clean cut family.  One lady asked us to come in to her apartment.  After passing through the blanket that draped the door we enter her cluttered, dark apartment.  She had no kitchen table and had an aged container of Ramen noodles sitting on the stove.  We delivered her the prepared meal and she became emotional, expressing thanks for the food.  Amy asked her if she had any Christmas needs and she responded that she would like prayer for her son who suffers from scoliosis.

As I reflect back on this, it brings new appreciation for the Incarnation.  Just as I felt that our appearance would make us not relatable to those we were serving, if Jesus had come to earth in all of his power and glory we would not be able to relate to him.  Instead, he came to earth as a baby, grew up as a man, was tested, tempted, beaten, suffered loss and eventually killed.  I’m thankful that because of God’s grace and his love for us, Christ made himself relatable by becoming human.

And that, my friends, is the reason for the season.

I would say Daniel has it right. Not only that…do you see any doubt he will be able to lead his family well? I don’t.

Worth

Thursday, November 17th, 2016

captured

A lot of people talk about worshiping God but really have no clue what exactly it is. Too much of what is called worship is actually self-worship. We sing songs that do not elevate the Father but ourselves. Proclaiming God’s worth, lifting Him up for adoration, is the goal of worship. Worship is not about us feeling good. It is not about “this is what I want” unless it is craving the presence of God so you can adore Him.

I’m presenting the following thoughts from Isaiah 58 this Sunday:

  1. Let worship not be about you. [Verse 3]. We cannot have everything we want. God is not a hobby- Someone we run to when we want to waste a little time or when things get really bad.
  2. Let worship be with an attitude of peace. [Verse 4]. The Israelites were fasting but were fighting while doing it. Some of the nastiest fights are not on a foreign battlefield but in the church parking lot.
  3. Let worship be more than a surface act. [Verse 5]. Anyone can raise their hands, shed tears, sing and look sincere. But God is not concerned with externals. Worship must be from the heart.
  4. Let worship be all about freedom. [Verse 6-7]. Freedom from chains of the past. Freedom from chains of the present. Freedom from chains of the future. Freedom from legalism. Freedom from bondage.
  5. Let worship be focused on Christ. God made us so we would reflect His glory back to Him. His purpose for our life is not to make us happy; it is to display Him.
  6. Let worship bring results. [Verse 8]. We were never meant to go through worship and not be changed. A person who says, “I didn’t get anything out of that today” is saying as much about their heart as they are the worship event.

I would appreciate your prayers as I try to bring some clarity to this idea of God’s worth. Thanks.

Involvement

Sunday, October 30th, 2016

I interrupted my posts from last week to interject one about Sunday’s sermon.  I’d like to finish that series of posts with this one. For the purpose of review you can see the others:

Mission

Vision #1

Vision #2

#3: To be involved in our community.

It is easy-as a church and as individuals-to bury our head in the sand or to put our hands over our eyes and say, “It doesn’t happen here. If so, I don’t want to know.” The church needs to stop hiding behind its walls and stained glass windows (which we don’t have) and get involved. Change won’t happen unless we do. We will bemoan the fact “our town is going to hell in a hand-basket” but really have no right to say that unless or until we do something to stem the tide.

Speaking for OVCF, we have no desire to be one of those churches.

It used to be (and I’m ashamed to admit this) but my world was secluded to the church and church people I was called to shepherd. I did very little, and cared very little, for those outside the church walls. How ugly is that? Then I harped on the people to invite their friends and neighbors. I look back now and say, “Why? Why would I invite anyone to hear me?”

Everything changed when I moved here…gradually. I fell in love with the people of the church first, and by proxy, the town. But then I started making myself available in the community. I’m a member of the Chamber of Commerce board and other ventures. We have an annual Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas breakfast where we serve the community free. I’ve recently taken a deep interest in human trafficking and will be talking to a local judge who is spearheading the task force as to what we can do. Next Sunday, the 6th, OVCF will be partnering with two other churches in the community to do our Day or Service. The church building is a registered Safe Place venue.

I could tell you so much more. Huh, maybe I will in the next post. GET INVOLVED. DON’T HIDE BEHIND WALLS.

Models

Thursday, October 27th, 2016

The other two installments of will bring you more completely up to date and put you in line with this post.

MISSION: TO CONNECT PEOPLE TO JESUS

VISION #1: WE DESIRE TO BE PASSIONATE PURSUERS OF JESUS.

VISION #2: WE DESIRE TO BE MODELS OF TRUTH AND LOVE

This one can get a little dicey. We have to run a fine line between acceptance of the individual and approval of sin. The church is being slammed hard in this area. You know that as well as I do. We are being asked to compromise biblical values in order to be more inclusive. We are being seen as judgmental or (dare I say it?) homophobic because we take a stand against what we believe to be an unbiblical and unacceptable lifestyle.

The fine line we walk is between compassion and compromise.

Sadly, the church today is known more for what it is against than it stands for. Rather than being a card carrying member of the placard-waving Westwood clan, perhaps we would do well to be known for what we are for.

  • We stand for the acceptance and approval of each person as one who matters to God. (There. Now you know what I think of the Black Lives Matter/White Lives Matter/Hispanic Lives Matter stuff. WE ALL MATTER and are loved by the Heavenly Father).
  • We stand for building a stronger family.
  • We stand for the decrease and abuse of drugs, alcohol and children.
  • We stand for putting in safety measures to stop the easy access to pornography.
  • We stand for young people and helping them get out of human trafficking.

Models of truth and love. Easy to say; not so easy to do. What say you?