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#Density#OopsDestiny

Friday, February 26th, 2021

In my favorite movie, Back to the Future, there is a scene where George McFly gets up the courage to ask Lorraine to the “Enchantment Under the Sea” dance. He is not very good with words or women and his first foray is telling Lorraine “You are my density.” When she shows her confusion, he restates it by saying, “I’m George, George McFly, and I’m your density. I mean, your destiny.”

There are two things which are certain…or so we hear: “Death and taxes.” I’m pretty sure that is an accurate statement. The death rate is 1/1. And I’m pretty certain taxes are not going away any time soon. Death is a predator that tracks us all down. We can’t outrun it no matter how much kale we eat, how many medicines we take, how many vitamins we shove down our throat every day, how many diets we try, how many botox injections we get or plastic surgeries we have performed, or how much we work out. Death comes to call and it is time to leave.

But death doesn’t have to have the final say. It is a fact of life, but what it says when we are gone is determined by the One who holds the keys to death and hell.  So death leaves us with two pictures: death will either render life meaningless or it will render life meaningful.

My sermon is from Ecclesiastes 9:1-10.  I’d love to have you join us in person or online. But most of all I’d appreciate your prayers.

#TheHole#Emptiness#Life

Friday, February 19th, 2021

Augustine is credited with saying, “Our hearts are restless, O God, until they find their rest in you.” (Edited by me since the original was in King James English).  Just take a look around and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize his statement is true. Solomon has shown us over and over in Ecclesiastes that those things which we pursue will never satisfy. But just when you think he might be done, Solomon moves on to another empty pursuit. This week he will cover riches and honor.

Have you ever researched lottery winners? While there are some success stories of people who stayed humble and are still living in their modest home and living a modest lifestyle, or got a financial advisor to handle their finances,  there are also those who splurged on a new home and new toys and then lost it all to bankruptcy and divorce or in trouble with the law. They would be perfect examples of Solomon’s conclusion: all is empty.

My sermon this Sunday is from Eccl.5:8-6:12. I’ve titled it The Hole because that seems to me what Solomon is saying. But all is not lost! Just as Solomon talks about The Hole we can find ourselves in by chasing after empty things, we can also have the hole filled.  William Butler Yeats once said, “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.” Translated into Grandi language that says: “When things fall apart (as they will), nothing can hold life together.” I would disagree with Mr. Yeats because of the ONE who holds all of life together.  To help me make my point I’m going to share the story of Becket Cook, which comes from his book, Change of Affection. Becket was a practicing gay man who had an encounter with Christ and even though he had the world and all its “things,” he gave it up to follow Jesus. It is a thrilling story.

I’m recovering from gall bladder and hernia surgery as many of you know.  Ryan has a copy of my sermon just in case I can’t go, but Lord willing, I will be preaching this Sunday. I’d appreciate your prayers for health and a solid communication of the truth…by me or Ryan. Thanks.

#Worship#Religion

Friday, February 12th, 2021

Several years ago Victoria Osteen, the wife of entrepreneur, Joel Osteen, was recorded “preaching” and saying the following: “When we obey God, we’re not doing it for God…we’re doing it for ourselves because God takes pleasure when we’re happy…When you come to church, when you worship Him, you’re not doing it for God really, you’re doing it for yourself.”  I have seen that video clip and am still dumbfounded by it. What I have not seen since it was shared on social media is that clip of her saying that being paired with a scene from the film, Billy Madison where a man says, “What you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard.”

When we hear a religious figure say out loud that we do not worship God for God, we know that is patently absurd. The Westminster Shorter Catechism says the exact opposite of what Mrs. Osteen and others of her ilk say. It says, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Sadly, much of contemporary Christianity has changed that to “God’s chief end is to glorify man and enjoy him forever.”

One pastor said, “It is possible to go to church and hear little about God and much about you.”

How can a person argue with that when it is staring us in the face?  “I didn’t get anything out of church today.” “What a waste of time today was. The music was too slow and the sermon didn’t touch me at all. I got nothing out of being in church.” What a difference it would make if we flipped that and asked, “What did I give God today? Did I give Him my full-on worship? Did I listen intently to the message as it was delivered from God’s Word? Was my heart into worship today?”

My sermon Sunday will tackle some of these thoughts as I use Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 to talk about Religion Investigated. I would love it if you would watch the live stream if you are unable to come.  If you are I look forward to seeing you in person.  And, as always, I appreciate your prayers.

#Pitfalls#Platforms

Friday, February 5th, 2021

I think I speak for all of us when I say this: it would be nice if, as we go through life, that things would hum on all cylinders. But you know as well as I do that is just not feasible. Life has its roadblocks, side roads we are forced to take, and landmines waiting for us to step on. But on the flip side life is also filled with incredible opportunities and experiences and adventures just waiting for us to take part in!  As I see it we can choose whether to fall victim to the pitfalls of life or we can use the platforms to rise.

To do that we need to adjust our thinking. When I was an Associate/Youth Pastor right out of college, the church I was on staff with needed to do some renovating and expanding.  I was young and naive and so I just assumed the folks with the money would be the ones who would buy the bonds we were selling. We were to go to their house and explain the process and why we were doing this and ask them if they would like to buy a bond of a certain amount to invest in the future of the church as well as their own. I’ll never forget what the company’s rep told us: “It is common to think the family with the big house, multiple cars and good jobs will buy the bonds. Think again. Most of their money is tied up and leveraged to the hilt. It will the grandparents, the moms and pops, the lonely widow, or someone who does not appear to have many earthly goods who will buy the bonds.”  He was so right. 

A change in thinking was in order. We find our thinking changing as we mature. We find it changing as we are confronted with reality.  We find it changing as we are facing life challenges.  Those changes will be either pitfalls or platforms. 

My sermon is from Eccl.3:16-4:16 this week.  I’d like to invite you to join me either in person or online. If you can do neither, prayer would be much appreciated!

#TimeTravel#NoDeLorean

Friday, January 29th, 2021

There is an old saying, well at least where I come from, made up of 3 words: “Who’da thunk it?” In the middle of the raging 60s with riots and protests; flags and intimate apparel being burned; struggles over right and wrong-God wrote a pop song. Okay, not Him specifically, but one was written. Very few have probably heard the song unless they listen to oldies music. You have heard the song sung by the Byrds called Turn, Turn, Turn. All but six of the words of that song come directly from Ecclesiastes 3. And that is why the writer of that song, Pete Seeger, sends portions of his royalties to Israel. That song basically tells us that no matter how bad things get or are going to get, good times are coming.

I think all of us are aware of time. We wear watches to keep it readily available. We carry our phones for the clock (least some of us say that is why). 🙂 We live our lives based on the daily time frame of 24 hours. Even though Chicago asked people if they really know what time it was we live by the clock. Funny, now that I’m older and can discern some things better, I found out Robert Lamm (the writer of that song) was trying to stress the importance of taking time to appreciate the small pleasures in life instead of rushing from one place to another against the clock. That is certainly true. Not even Huey Lewis’ song Back in Time could give us what we really need: the right perspective of time.

My sermon this week is from that passage in Ecclesiastes 3: 1-15 and I’m calling it Time Travel. I’m taking a rather simple approach this week: Time has no meaning without God and Time has meaning with God. I’d love for you to join us, either in person or by live stream. I’m looking forward to preaching this week. I’d appreciate your prayers for me, for us, this week.

#EmptyPursuit

Friday, January 22nd, 2021

There is probably not a person within the sound of my written voice who has not heard of or seen It’s a Wonderful Life, the movie where Jimmy Stewart plays the beloved but very confused George Bailey. George has dreams of “shaking the dust of this town of his feet and seeing the world.” Bedford Falls is not part of his dream. Therefore, the idea of living in a drafty old house, with little money, with one woman and a boatload of kids is not his idea of fun. He once told his dad, “I couldn’t stand being cooped up for the rest of my life in shabby little office. I want to do something big, something important.”  Then, of course, he apologized to his father for the putdown.

The story has resonated all these years  for several reasons, two of which are: 1) George assumes that if importance is to be gained in this life, he must travel to a patch of earth somewhere other than where he is to find it; and 2) he believes once he finds it he will become a satisfied and happy man.

My sermon this week is from Ecclesiastes 2: 18-26. I’ve given it the title of “Work, Eat, Drink, and What?” as I plan to show Solomon’s pursuits are only winding up to be a house of cards. His pursuit of wisdom and pleasure were dead ends. That is what he tells us. Now he is going tackle the other 3 “biggies.”

After last week’s side road and sermon on Life is Sacred, this almost seems somewhat anti-climatic. But this Scripture packs a powerful punch our society and we as Christ-followers need to hear.  As always, I would request your prayers for Sunday.  For the first time in 5 weeks I am planning on standing so physical stamina (as I recover from Covid) is needed. Thanks from the bottom of my heart.

#Life#Sacred#SpeakUp

Friday, January 15th, 2021

Every once in a while a pastor has to-by design or by expository preaching through a book-come across a subject which is uncomfortable or controversial.  I think people are much more forgiving if you are preaching through a book and come across an uncomfortable subject, like say…tithing.  But when a pastor gets on his soapbox or high horse and screams and challenges any opposite view that is when listeners get “antsy.”

This Sunday has the potential to be one of the latter. Way back in September when I doing a series called “Q&A” one of the questions was going to be “What About Abortion?”  I scrapped it because the time was not right (for several reasons). I then chose to not preach about it before the election lest someone think I was hyping a particular political position and was against a certain candidate.

Here is why I held off: I do not believe abortion is a political issue, nor should it be. I believe it is a Biblical issue, a moral issue.  I heard a podcast this past week where Alisa Childers was interviewing John Cooper, the lead singer of the Christian rock band, Skillet. John said the same thing-that it was a Biblical issue.  Anyway, when I started working on the Ecclesiastes series Life Matters, it seemed to fall in line that now was the time.  Couple that with this Sunday being “Sanctity of Life” Sunday and it was like the perfect storm.

I have no intention of being judgmental or to froth at the mouth out of contempt for those who perform or have had, campaign for or even encouraged an abortion. There is enough guilt thrown at them without me adding to it.  My approach is going to be simple and straightforward: How pro-life is the Bible? and How does God see the unborn? A massive amount of Scripture will be used with the final emphasis on Psalm 139: 13-18.

Each week I invite you to join me/us in our worship. We will be live this week with both services being offered in person and live stream.  So I do invite you to join us at 9 & 10:45. However, the best and greatest thing you can do is P.R.A.Y. I want the message of the Bible to come through loud and clear, that the cacophony of voices will be silenced, and God will be heard. Thanks ahead of time.

#Wisdom#Pleasure#Empty

Friday, January 8th, 2021

Henry David Thoreau once said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.”

I’m guessing he is not too far from the truth.

In the 80s, the rock group Foreigner had a song that haunted many and if given to reality and truth, still does. The song’s big refrain was “I want to know what love is/I want you to show me.” I’m pretty certain the writer of Ecclesiastes never heard of Foreigner, but that song has every human being’s name on it. You see, no matter who we are; no matter how old we are; no matter our language, time or place; we all want to know what love is and that we are.

My sermon Sunday is the second installment on my two month series on Ecclesiastes. In Eccl. 1:12-2:11 Solomon shows the emptiness of chasing wisdom and pleasure.  We will be virtual again this week due to our desire to keep our people safe, and even though our governor has said nothing about churches, our County is in the Red which is 25 or less in one place. Given the strike of Covid on our congregation, that may be a stretch to even reach that. But we are playing it safe.  I’d love to have you join me online at 10:45 at the church’s FB page or YouTube channel.

I found the perfect song for this week and I’m guaranteeing it will surprise you. Check it out here

#SameOldSameOld

Saturday, January 2nd, 2021

I often heard a quote in the past so I decided to look up its origin. Seems like it is credited to Edmund Burke and a Spanish philospher, George Santayana (no that is not Santana). Winston Churchill changed it somewhat in his 1948 speech before the British Commons. The essence of that quote-even though its wording has been changed somewhat is this: “Those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.”  I suspect most of us would agree with that statement. How many times have we been admonished on a personal level to “learn from your mistakes?”

In 2008 the Penn State University football team was embroiled in a public scandal of the conduct of its players. Former Lion, Matt Millen, in an attempt to put it in its biblical context said, “If people out there are thinking that this is new, let me just give you a little bit of Scripture. Ecclesiastes. Nothing is done what hasn’t been done before.”

As I read and reread Ecclesiastes I can’t miss that lesson. Nor this one: satisfaction is not found in things we can taste, touch, or feel, things we can experience. Satisfaction is found in only one place: a life surrendered to Jesus Christ.

My study for the next two months will be on this somewhat obscure book found following Proverbs in the OT.  We will learn through studying Ecclesiastes that everything is vanity and whatever we think we have here on earth will amount to nothing in the end. Join me please for the next two months as we study this intriguing book on Sunday mornings.  Due to the influx of the China virus in our congregation (by those who attend and those who have stayed home), we will be virtual at least one more week…possibly a couple more until we are sure it is under control. If you go to the church’s website you will find the links to both the church’s FB page and YouTube link. If you can’t join us, please pray for us.

#Positive#WastingLife

Saturday, December 26th, 2020

It seems no matter how hard one tried there seemed to be no way to avoid the China virus. I am no exception. Nor is Jo. Nor is Tami. Nor is Diana or her husband, Jim. Nor is Ryan and his wife, Hope. It hit like a landslide and there was nothing any of us could do about it. It wasn’t just us. Some of our friends as well. So we have been quarantined since Monday and if we finally get symptom free our breakout day will be Wednesday or Thursday. Jo, Tami and I were tested Monday.  So, needless to say, in-church is not meeting Sunday. We are doing all virtual. Since Ryan, Jo and I are all positive it will be just us three in the morning. Your prayers would be appreciated.

As for the sermon? Well, it is the end of truth. That sounds bad since truth will never die. It is the end of the year long theme of “Truth!” Sunday’s sermon will be Back to the Future. I subtitled it “Don’t Waste Your Life.” It will be a quick look over this past year and a challenge for 2021. I’ll share some of my thoughts in another post or two.

I’ll also unveil my theme for next year with a new banner thanks to my techgeek, Ryan. What a gem of a friend God gave me! 

You can watch Sunday’s sermon via live stream on the church’s FB page or YouTube. I hope you will join me. The links are on the church’s website.