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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!

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.