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#LoveLost#FirstLove

Saturday, September 14th, 2019

My sincere apologies for not getting this posted sooner. As many of you know we spent September 2-10 on our trip to Alaska. We arrived home after midnight on the 10th and I played catch-up the rest of the week. But tomorrow is Sunday and I have to be ready to go! I am…in principle. Now all I have to do is get my head and heart in the game. 🙂

I start a new series this week which I am calling Postcards. It will be a seven week series on the 7 churches of Revelation and the letters, i.e. postcards Jesus sent to each of them. Ryan did a great job of introducing God’s idea of the church last week as a lead-in to this series. I’m glad I have someone like him who is so dependable and able to present God’s Word. He’s a good one. 🙂

This week I have titled the sermon “To the Loveless Church.” The city of Ephesus had so much going for it as being one of the greatest cities to live in at that time. Economically. Culturally. Historically. Religiously (even though it was pagan).

The church at Ephesus had a lot going for it also. As you read Revelation 2:1-7 you can’t help but be struck by the commendation heaped upon them: their work, toil and patient endurance; they didn’t tolerate evil men; they hated the works of the Nicolaitans; and their motivation was spot on.

B…..U……T…..

The condemnation far outweighed the commendation. It is very clear. They left their first love. While they had all the outward show of being alive, they were dead inside. Their love for Jesus had grown cold. Their motivation should have been what Paul wrote: “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one died for all, therefore all have died.” (2 Corinthians 5:14). It wasn’t, and therefore they were told in no uncertain terms “to repent or else.” Unfortunately, the “or else” happened and there is no longer a church in Ephesus.

Fighting this battle for “first place” is an ongoing one.  I hope to challenge all of us to renew our first love for Jesus.  I plan to play this song to help emphasize my point.

#Consumers#WeAreGoingElsewhere#Discouraging

Wednesday, August 14th, 2019

I think every pastor on the planet has at one time or another experienced someone coming to them and saying, “We are leaving and going to another church. Church XYZ has a program that is better suited for our kids. They have more things to do.” I have been on the other end of that stick and it doesn’t feel very good. It hurts even more when the decision has already been made and their mind is made up even before talking with me about it.

That is not happening right now. It has and I’m sure it will again. When someone leaves because of doctrinal reasons (they like Bill Johnson and Bethel Redding, for example, and my preaching is nowhere close to his heresy) I’m okay with that. It recently happened and I now see God sparing us from a very divisive issue. When someone leaves because they are moving over 45 minutes away (as someone very close to me did two years ago), it hurts, but I understand. I just won’t talk to him anymore (except when we get together to go out to eat). 🙂  I can get behind both of those reasons.

If a family leaves because I don’t see things as narrow as they do and leave accusing me of being liberal and compromising on issues like homosexuality, pornography, sexual conduct, abortion, and other issues, I can see there is something else underlying it. It is also so not true.

But for someone to simply pack up and leave because another church offers something we don’t, that hurts.  I don’t use the “su**s” word but I sure want to.  I’m confused. Flabbergasted. It’s like all the time and effort put into their family, their marriage, their lives means absolutely nothing.

Church-going is seen more like a shopping event than a worship event. We have become a nation of consumers, content on shopping around for the best bargain, the one (ready for it?) “that meets my needs the best.” That is certainly the one thing the seeker movement has taught us: have your felt needs met-go to the church that best meets your needs.  I’ll be honest: I despise shopping at the mall. I know everything is there under one roof. 100 different clothing stores. 30 different shoe stores. All the mobile phone kiosks. Toy stores. Lingerie stores.  Jewelry stores. (I mean, let’s face it. How many different pieces of jewelry can there be and how can one diamond store be more “real” than another?) Even a food court for your choice of food.  What the mall offers is all these stores under one roof, offering tons of the same items, still over-priced.

When it comes to the church, people lose sight of the “why” of going. They miss the “I am being fed by a man of God who uses the Word of God uncompromisingly.” Too often we determine our like or dislike by the music; the lights/camera/action; the activities going on; the entertainment value; and so on. Christ, and glorifying Him, is not king; the consumer/customer is. What does he/she need?

Granted, “feel good” positive thinking messages (I can’t call them sermons) should have us looking elsewhere. Entertainment-driven “worship events” should tire us. An endless calendar which gives us no time for family should be a yellow flag. But to leave just to leave, to feel better, to play sports or whatever, is just wrong.  Ironically, the desire for more selections and variety is what has helped create the megachurch.

Those are my thoughts. What are yours?

#Safe#Hope#Jesus

Monday, August 5th, 2019

We live in a multicultural world.  That not only applies to our ethnicity but also to our religious bent. It goes without saying that there are as many religions it seems as people in this land.  That, of course, is not true. But it sure seems like it!

I stand on one premise, one foundation. Salvation is found in no one else except Jesus Christ. No Buddha, prophet, swami, or so-called arrogant teacher (translate: cult)  is the one who is worthy of worship and worthy of gaining the attention that Jesus is to be given. Jesus Himself said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life and NO ONE comes to Father but by me.”  Peter told the religious leaders who tried to shut him up that “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)  Frankly, one can argue with that all they want but it won’t change the words written down.

There are all kinds of voices these days trying to tell us there are many ways to God.  There are some who deny Jesus is the Son of God so it stands to reason they would deny that. Some who want to say “there are many roads to God.” Again, to say that denies the truth of Scripture. Of course, there are those who say Buddha, Mohammed, and other religious figures are the way. Nope. The cults want us to buy into Joseph Smith, Charles Taze Russell (JW), Ellen G. White (SDA),  Mary Baker Eddy (Christian Scientist), or even whack job L. Ron Hubbard (Scientology).

I once read a story of the ship Endurance which was trapped and crushed in the ice off the coast of the Antarctic. The group of explorers led by Ernest Shackleton, had one last chance. Shackleton and five others pushed off from Elephant Island leaving the hopes of the 22 left behind in their hands. Their goal was to make it to South Georgia Island, a trip of 800 miles. If they failed, they would die. Four months later, Shackleton returned. His first words were, “Are you all well?” And the call came back, “All safe! All well!”

There will come a day when every man, woman, boy and girl will face the Father. The only question to be answered  is, “Do you know Jesus?” If your answer is Yes then you will hear “Well done, good and faithful servant.” All will be safe. All will be well.

BUT ONLY IF YOU KNOW JESUS not some pretender to His throne. And not if you think you can travel a different road and reach the same place. Tragically, the Father will also tell many, “Depart from me. I don’t know you.”

#Celebrities#Pastors

Monday, July 22nd, 2019

I’m thinking it is not a coincidence that I would be reading Costi Hinn’s new book God, Greed, and the Prosperity Gospel the same time I would read a chapter in Skye Jethani’s book Immeasurable that goes by the title of Celebrity.  He begins his chapter with these words:

Celebrity pastors are not a new phenomenon, nor is our human tendency to exalt our leaders to unsustainable heights. What is new is the number of celebrity pastors and the speed with which they are being created and corrupted.

Skye places some of the blame on what he called the EIC (Evangelical Industrial Complex). He compares it too what outgoing President Eisenhower said about the military industrial complex (MIC).  His belief was those industries that were created to end the war would now push the country to start many more. His words were strangely prophetic.  The connection between the EIC and MIC is one of comparison. No, the EIC is not a military complex, BUT it is a force to be reckoned with.

So…what is the EIC?  It is (for lack of a better term) a conglomeration of companies that forego the ministry aspect, very often the “truth” aspect, for what I will call the “money aspect.” Much like an athlete at the top of his game receives offers galore for endorsements, etc, so the EIC does the same to authors, pastors, and churches.  Conferences do the same thing. Rather than ask someone who is conscientious about his lifestyle and his presentation of the gospel, the new young guy who is hip, vocal, a social media genius, and most of all charismatic, is invited. Who cares if his doctrine is skewed? Who cares if he is in the Prosperity (Un)gospel/name-it-claim-it garbage world? He’s popular. He’s funny. His church is growing (for dubious reasons).  He’s a draw.  It doesn’t matter. “Get him!” (or in these days even a “her”).  So we have a pastor who wants to shock his church by playing a very anti-God song for Easter. We have a woman “pastrix” (or whatever you would call her) who is vulgar and supportive of the LBGTQ+ agenda being given a book contract and notoriety. We have pastors who ask their people to sacrifice living in million dollar mansions. Say what? The danger of elevating immature leaders and not having any accountability is real.  There is a reason Paul tells Timothy a leader should not be a new convert.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, there are faithful pastors laboring daily to love their people; to shepherd their flock; to prepare good, solid, gospel sermons week in and week out (not hiring a team of writers or plagiarizing); and to labor without gaining press.  They are unconcerned with being known or running their church like a CEO.  He loves. He laughs.  He cries. He visits. He counsels. He marries and buries those whom loves and labors among. IMHO they are the ones who deserve the applause. But then again, they are not really interested in that sort of recognition. The church they serve and the Father they love and serve is gratitude enough. I should know. I used to once crave the recognition. Now? My church family and my Father’s “Well done” is all I need.

I wrote this last Thursday and scheduled it for today because I will be in Sandusky, Ohio about all week with Jo making all the final preparations for vacating her sister’s apartment and bringing some things home in a U-Haul on the 29th.  I’d like to know what you think about today’s post, so even though I won’t have internet, my phone does have access my blogs.

#Shepherd#Platform#Integrity

Wednesday, June 19th, 2019

In Psalm 78:72 it says of David “With upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with skillful hands.”  Some translations use the word “integrity” for upright.  This verse is talking about David’s approach toward the people of Israel. David served the people as their shepherd with integrity. That verse has always been at the forefront of my brain ever since I read it years ago.  It serves as a challenge to me to shepherd the people i serve with integrity.

Maybe that is why I have not cared whether I became “known” or not.  Oh…wait a minute. That’s not true. There was a time I cared a lot…an awful lot. I would hear of friends of mine who were preaching at large churches or conducting meetings in other churches and the “J” word would kick in. (That would be “J”ealousy for those who are unsure).  But then I began to think about time and schedule. I began to be involved in watching my daughters play ball. I wondered about sermon prep. When did they have the time to do that while jetsetting all over the globe? (Then I found out many of them have assistants who do all the research and sometimes even write the sermons).  I thought about the one thing I really like to do as an aside (cycle) and wondered when could I do that? Certainly not on a plane or in a hotel (stationary bikes are another word for B-O-O-O-R-I-N-G!).  Perhaps the biggest revelation in all this was “finding” the verse from Psalm 78. When would I have the time to be a shepherd?  Now, if I wanted to be a CEO-type  then, by all means, have at it! But I wasn’t called to be a CEO. I was called to be a pastor, a shepherd. The day I realized that was the day I quit worrying about what others thought; how big I could get; how “known” I could be; and became satisfied with being a shepherd of the church God gave me to serve.  Amazing how the perspective changes.  My worst enemy (ME) was put to death that day.

I’d rather be found faithful shepherding my sheep in an obscure, out-of-the-way little town than be serving an image of myself being applauded.  I’d rather be here than anywhere else.

#Different#WildandWooly#AllOkay

Monday, June 17th, 2019

If you read my post June 16-Weekend Extra from my other blog, you will know the general basis for this post.  Saturday afternoon and evening we had storms rumble through our area. Okay so they did more than just rumble. Some touched down. Yeah, we were “blessed” with the presence of tornadoes. The town proper of Spencer was spared but some of the outlying areas were not so fortunate. A little town a few miles southwest of Spencer called Freedom had a tornado touch down but fortunately it was not deadly. Downed power lines and mangled trees was about all I think. Several others touched down as well. One did some major damage to some barns and houses and a power substation (REMC). The substation which supplies power to the church building. Our house provider is Duke Energy and they had our power back on around 3:00 am Sunday morning.

The church building was another story. When I got there yesterday (Sunday) at 3:45 it was pitch black. I am writing this at 5:25 am on Monday and as far as I know it it is still pitch black. I’m at home so I have power. I’ll check it when I am done working on my sermon. But my purpose of this post is to tell you about our Sunday worship.

OVCF and its leaders have always “prided” themselves in their ability to adapt. Now, as I say that, I am not referring to the attractional church idea of adapting to culture. We have tried to stay “fluid” in our thinking about ways to do things. That was on full display yesterday. I contacted a few folks (Youth pastor, secretary, and Worship Team leaders) and told them about not having any power and can we do an Unplugged service. EVERYTHING, and I mean everything, was unplugged. No lights. No A/C. No plugged in instruments. No cordless mic to speak with. No fans. Well…you get the idea. Diana, the church secretary, sent out a mass email and posted it on the church’s FB page about the time change: one service at 10:45 instead of two (9 and 10:45). Then we waited and wondered if anyone would show up. Over 100 people showed up! Some had lost power for a short period of time. Some had lost it for most of the night. Some still had none. But they came.  We opened blinds for light. The front doors were left open. We put some lanterns in the bathrooms. We did the same in the children’s wing. Those teachers and kids were troopers. We sang. We had communion. We gave. I preached (the weak link in the whole morning). We prayed. We laughed (especially when someone’s phone went off with an emergency signal for flash flooding).  I referenced believers in other countries who meet like this every week due to economics or due to government interference.

It was a good day. I was proud of the folks who make up OVCF. I am honored to be their pastor.  I thank them for their willingness to adapt (in a good way). And I thank God for showing us we don’t bells and whistles to worship Him. All we need are hearts open to Him and willing to meet Him anywhere, anytime, and in any circumstance.

#LoneRanger#DIY

Thursday, May 23rd, 2019

On my other blog, Living in the Shadow, I touched on this idea of being a Lone Ranger or a Do-It-Yourselfer (DIY). Since that is more of a devotional blog I had to limit what I said and how I applied it. I’d like to expand on my thoughts here.  Perhaps you might like to read my devotion here and then come back with an idea of where my head is.

As a pastor, it is easy to get the “heady” idea-both personally and given by others-that I (any pastor) is a solver of all sorts of problems. When I was talking about going into the ministry when I was in high school, I can still remember my mom turning in the car and saying, “Just remember, honey, to do it for the right reason.” You see, back then the pastor was “the parson” and looked up to by about everyone. The business community respected them. The schools looked to them for help.  No question the people in the church sought him out for help in about every area of life. As I see it, pride was a constant enemy to guard against.  But, of course, it is no longer that way. For the most part it is because of our changing world. But some of it is our own fault.  Pride did become an issue. As well as several other nefarious acts.

As I have gotten older I have realized more and more that the Lone Ranger with the silver bullet was not wise. For years I thought I could do my work on my own, by myself. Experience AND AGE has taught me differently. In spite of myself, I have come to see God is so much bigger than I had given Him credit for and can actually work better if I get out of the way! 🙂 🙂  We often hear people talking (myself included) about how we often put God in a box. Well, I have come to the conclusion that is what I often did. Not on purpose mind you, but I have to now admit that. I had narrowed Him by my own attitude.

You can see how God handled that in Numbers 11 and by checking out my devotion. But what is interesting to me is Joshua’s reaction.  He had been with Moses since childhood and saw God’s involvement as a threat to Moses’ leadership. Moses gently corrected him. Joshua saw God as acting outside the system he was used to. But God was expanding Moses’ influence and Joshua’s perception and world. I like the quote I read by Skye Jethani in his book, Immeasurable. He writes:

Rather than operate like the wind, we’d prefer the Spirit operate like an electric fan that we can control to perpetually blow in the same direction. (p.90)

I’m not an advocate of “willy-nilly-Spirit-work” but he has a point. Sometimes God just doesn’t operate like we would like Him to. “The wind blows where it wants” is also true of the work of the Spirit. What Joshua needed to realize, and I do as well, is that God will do what He wants with or without my input or help.

I need to get out of His way. I also need to realize I am not a Lone Ranger; I need others to help do the work. Moses had 70 others (Numbers 11). Joshua had to get with the program. May I, may you, be humble enough to submit to His agenda.

#Enemies

Monday, May 20th, 2019

Before we moved here to Spencer, we lived in Castalia, OH, just outside Sandusky. You know…the home of Cedar Point. We originally moved to Castalia after my ministry in Terre Haute was finished and we sold our house a whole lot quicker than the realtor thought. So we moved in with Jo’s mom who was still living in the house she and Jo’s late father had rented. Castalia was known for having a Cold Creek Festival every year that surprisingly for a little burg was well-attended. It’s other claim to fame was the Cold Creek, a pond and its tributaries that never froze. Of course, when you have that you have a nuisance that develops. Geese. Canadian Geese. Geese of all kinds. Geese that take over the pond. Geese that take over the streets (there was a $1500 fine if you killed one). And geese that left their “gifts” (poop) everywhere. They didn’t care where.

I hated (despised) those animals and I say that without apologies to PETA or any other animal rights group who figures animals are as precious as humans (but think nothing of killing an unborn baby in a womb. Oh, but don’t touch those eagle eggs). Now…understand I’m not for cruelty toward animals but this nonsense has to stop somewhere. Okay. Off soapbox.

I disliked those animals and their deposits. My neighbor tried everything, even remote control trucks to run them off his property. He finally got the town to stop allowing them to be fed at the pond and to remove the food machines. Then he got them to pass an ordinance to get rid of a whole bunch of them, especially ducklings by taking them away.

They were mean animals. They thought nothing of putting their head down and charging. I have heard of people being attacked and hurt badly by their attacks. But after driving the lawnmower over their gifts or stepping in them in the yard, one can only take so much. Fortunately, what I have to worry about here mostly is deer, skunks, and birds flying overhead (hence I always close my sunroof when parked).

A number of years ago (mid ’80s) when Frank Peretti came out with his two hit novels, This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness, the idea of spiritual warfare “hit the fan.” His books were entertaining reading but people forgot they were fiction. Just fiction. But people acted like they were real. Demons were under every rock and behind every cold, body ache, mishap, and every other bad thing.

The real truth is spiritual warfare is a real thing. A serious thing. It is important that we acknowledge our enemy is real and is “out for blood” and wants nothing more than to destroy us. We have proof of his devastation. Just look around at our world.  He is also reeking havoc in the church. It’s time we acknowledge his “realness” and then say, “The battle is God’s.” Let’s enlist His help.

#ReadThis

Tuesday, May 14th, 2019

We are so different…she and I.

I’m white. She is not.

I’m a man. She is not.

I’m tall. She is not.

I have no hair. She has tons of it. 🙂

I like rock music. I’m guessing she does not.

I’m a lifetime heterosexual. She was a lesbian.

I write for fun. She writes for her livelihood.

But one thing we have in common. We both believe in the power of redemption that comes from the Cross of Jesus Christ and His sacrificial death on that cross.

Gay Girl, Good God: The Story of Who I Was, and Who God Has Always Been

I have to admit my first thought about reading this book since its release several months ago was I don’t want to read or hear of another “I-was-born-this-way-so-don’t-ask-me-to-change” book.  But after reading review after review I decided to take the plunge and buy it. Then I had to read it after a few weeks on my shelf. (In fairness, I was reading another book at the time).

I. AM. SO. GLAD. I. READ. THIS. BOOK!! I would highly recommend it to everyone. JHP’s way of saying things shows her “wordsmith” talents. I don’t need to be a fan of her style of poetry or music to like the way she says things in this book. Straight-forward.  Non-compromising in her stance. Honest in her discussion of her past (molestation, abuse, drug use and lesbianism). I was impressed when on page 37 she said, “It is important to note that sexual abuse is not what made me gay. Nor did fatherlessness. They only exaggerated and helped direct the path for what was already there-which is sin.”  No blame. No “I was born gay.” Just a note at the bottom of the page stating sin was the culprit. Thank you JHP for that truth.

I tire of those who hate gays. No…make that I distance myself from them. I don’t hate gays; I just don’t believe their lifestyle choice is biblical. I firmly believe same sex action is sin. But hating the person is not Christ-like nor is it ever going to reach someone with the message of the love of Christ.  Just the exact opposite.  Our little community has a very vocal homosexual community. It boasts of having one of the best attended PRIDE festivals in the state, maybe the country. Tolerance they ask for only goes so far until you disagree with them. Recent vandalism against their property was uncalled for. But they are still people. Still people like thousands of others in our community and around the world who need Jesus.  Thanks to JHP’s book, I not only have a better attitude toward them, but I also have a book I can put in their inquiring minds and hands that will show them Jesus’ love.

My plan is to include some of her quotes in another post since this one has already gone on so long. I’d like to think you will look forward to that post. 🙂

I’d highly suggest you buy and read this book. Then pray for opportunities to pass it along or to put it into practice.

#GoodFeeling

Monday, May 6th, 2019

I don’t know about you but seldom does a good feeling or contentment hit like it does when I have done something for someone else. But this post is not about me; it is about others.

Ever since 2009, the church I pastor (OVCF) has been having what I call a Day of Service (DoS). We started simple with one in the Fall of 2009. The church was struggling. We had gone through an ugly staff dismissal. We had seen our youth group drop like a rock due to kids graduating and going to college. We had experienced what every church hates: a small group use their time together to kick someone in the teeth (that would be me). I chose not to respond and we lost that whole group except for the elder and his wife who chose to stand up for me. Our attendance had fallen from close to 200 to about 120-130. I chose to challenge our people to take our eyes of ourselves and reach out. We had a phenomenal day.

Ever since then we have chosen to a DoS to people in our community. We expanded by asking another church to join us. Except for a few minor doctrinal points (they are Calvinists and I am not), we get along well. They also wanted to do something so we joined forces. We expanded the DoS to twice a year (Spring and Fall) with an emphasis on different projects. The Spring projects are larger involving small businesses like Horse Angels (a horse rescue place), Humane Society, a rescue dog kennel, as well local people who need help. In the Fall we change oil for those who need it free of charge. We also do the bulk of our local work for the people during this DoS.  Last year in the Spring we invited the Chamber of Commerce to join us. They also helped with the Fall event and then this Spring’s event.

That event was yesterday (Sunday). We were a bit more energetic in our approach. Our list included Horse Angels, the Cunningham dog rescue kennels; Humane Society, MyPath (a local effort to get a walking path going), Uplands Peak (a vegan farm animal rescue work); Roadside clean up; Spencer lawn and home help; and Gosport (a local town) clean-up.  We had some good cooperation from both churches and the Chamber. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, especially considering we have had nothing but rain the past year. (Okay slight exaggeration but close).  🙂

I was really proud of the 40+ people who represented OVCF during that 3 hour period. I drove around and they were working hard. Cleaning out dog pens. Mucking long overdue horse stall (and yes, the smell was as bad as you can imagine). Helping mulch. Entertain animals. Clean up litter from the side of roads. (Why can’t people throw things away, but not outside?).

All in all it was a good day. Thanks to all who helped make this a good DoS. And most of all, I pray Jesus was glorified.