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#Dead#Alive#YouChoose

Sunday, October 13th, 2019

As I wrote that title I couldn’t help but think of Bon Jovi’s song Dead or Alive. My sermon this morning was on the postcard to the church at Sardis. I called it “To the Dead Church.”  One of the ideas I tried to stress was that we need to see this letter as more than one sent to a church body, but we also need to apply it to ourselves as individuals.  One of the thoughts during the message was asking the question When is a church dead? The answers are jarring, but I also want to apply them to us as individuals. So, I’m going to put the four answers I gave to that question and then allow you to make the personal application. I have already done that as I prepared; misery loves company so join me! 🙂  When is a church dead?

#1- When it is content to rest on its past laurels.  Many churches have banners and plaques throughout their building which testify of their past. It’s like little Johnny who was being shown through the church building by his father when they came upon a plaque with names. He asked his dad what that was for and his father said, “They are the names of the men and women who died in the service.” He asked, “Which one-morning or evening?” We chuckle but sadly that is way too often true. (Nowadays it is first or second not morning or evening).

#2- When it is more concerned with form than spiritual reality. We make sure we fit into a mold. The pastor can’t speak too long we have things to do, places to go. Besides, we want to beat the other churches to lunch.  This can be especially harrowing in a small town where options are limited. We make sure we have communion, take offering, sing all hymns or no hymns, offer an invitation. Seriously? That shows a church is alive?

#3- When it focuses more on social ills and politics than changing people’s hearts and minds through the life-changing message of Jesus. There is nothing wrong with being socially aware and conscious, but the church does not exist to change the environment. We exist to carry the message of the God’s life-changing message.

#4- When it is more concerned with material things than spiritual things. “Nuff said. When we hired Ryan one of my first words to him were “People over programs.” We have reminded ourselves of that often. Another: “People over buildings.”  We had a dream of an adult worship center but it was cost-prohibitive.  I was so proud of our leadership when they said, “No” to the building and put things on hold.  God made it possible to pay off our mortgage early as well as build the youth addition debt-free.  We are now in the dreaming stage again and will remember the adage: “People over buildings.”

I think you can see how those can apply to individuals. But it is one thing to see; it another to do. Let’s do it! Let’s not be caught in the “Sardis cycle.”

 

#Dead#Zombies

Friday, October 11th, 2019

First, let me put you at ease. This is not a post about zombies. Not only do I think it is silly, but I have never watched even a moment of the TV show when it was on, nor will I while it is in reruns. As for New Death Experiences (NDEs) I have my own opinion which shall remain mine at this point. I have never been a horror movie fan so to talk about the macabre and living among the dead has never “yanked my chain.” I have enough trouble with reality. I don’t need people confusing the issue with other junk.

I have been a pastor long enough; I have been alive long enough, to know when death is either imminent or soon to take place. There are certain characteristics which manifest themselves. I suspect if we took the time to compare we would see some of the characteristics of death could be seen in some churches as well. There are all kinds of churches in various stages of “aliveness.” Some are vibrant; some are lukewarm; some are barely hanging on; and some are dead (but may not even know it).

This week’s postcard is written to the church at Sardis, the church I am calling the Dead Church. Revelation 3:1-6 gives us that letter and Jesus minces no words of judgment on them.  It is never easy hearing that you or your church may be dead.  I don’t want to sound harsh or judgmental but only kind and loving as I present the possibility that it could happen to us if we aren’t open to Christ’s leading. Please pray for me this weekend.

#Tolerance#Intolerance

Friday, October 4th, 2019

I’ve been absent from this blog since last week. I always said I would only post if I had something to say. While I have a lot to say (ask anyone around here), not all of it is significant. Least that is what Jo tells me. 🙂  Life has been sort of crazy busy for me and writing did take a back seat this week. Maybe someday…SOMEDAY…life will slow down. It sort of will the next few weeks. But I’ll tell that story in another post.

This post is about this weekend’s upcoming sermon: To the Tolerant Church. After last week’s time away for a wedding in St. Louis (it went well and we had a great weekend), it will be good to be back in the pulpit. My sermon is on the church at Thyatira from Revelation 2:18-29.  In many ways the church at Thyatira and the church at Pergamum has some things in common with the biggest being that they were both guilty of compromise. Thyatira, more specifically, was guilty of tolerance of evil.

When I think of this church I think so much of what is going on in the church today. Afraid of what others will think we have become tolerant of blatant evil and sin. We are afraid of being falsely accused of being unloving, of having some phobia, that we are giving in to our culture’s “demand” that we accept it all. The church at Thyatira was guilty of allowing Jezebel to thrive in their midst. I’ll be discussing who this “woman” might be.

Tolerance is the bane of the church today. Least I am convinced of that.  It will not be an easy sermon to preach. I’d appreciate your prayers for this Sunday. Thanks.

#Persecution

Friday, September 20th, 2019

Persecution has dogged the tracks of the church ever since its beginning. From the first recorded “defense” by Peter and John in Acts 4 to the first imprisonment in Acts 5 to the all out attacks of the Sanhedrin and Saul in the early chapters of Acts, persecution has been part of being a follower of Christ. And I don’t believe it is going to “let up” in the ensuing years. Things are beginning to “amp up” toward the church and Christianity in our day.

The postcard written to the church in Smyrna relates to their persecution because of their faith. But the truth is persecution does not destroy the church; it makes it strong. Jesus promised persecution: “In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)  He also said, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” (John 15:20)  The church at Smyrna is one of the two churches where nothing negative is said about them. In this case, persecution did make them stronger not weaker.

I’d appreciate your prayers as I preach this weekend. I’ve been fighting some head junk all week plus my Saturday will be spent at our table at the Apple Butter Festival (something our town has every year).

#PerfectTiming#NoDoubt

Friday, August 30th, 2019

This week is the final sermon for the series I called Icebergs.  It was the story of Joseph as he navigated the minefield of complex relationships and events which could have caused him to throw up his hands and quit. As a review:

  • Dysfunctional family
  • Jealous brothers
  • Betrayed by his brothers & sold into slavery
  • Falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife
  • Thrown in prison
  • Interprets dreams then forgotten
  • Interprets Pharaoh’s dreams and promoted
  • Sees his brothers make their way to him seeking grain
  • Bargaining with them until he sees their changed hearts
  • Reveals himself to his brothers and asks about his father.

Now comes the reunion and ultimate death of Jacob. Following Jacob’s death his brothers are filled with fear as to what will happen. The exchange is interesting. They use Jacob as a buffer in the sense of saying, “Your father gave this command before he died. Say to Joseph, ‘Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.’ ”  To that Joseph answers with the answer of all answers:

Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. 50:19-20

In my mind those same words are spoken years later when Mordecai tells Esther “for such as this.”  God’s plan brought Jacob and his sons and the Israelite people to Egypt. It was His plan. That is good enough for me.

I’m also going to talk about forgiveness this week and close with this statement: Joseph was led by grace. If you have not forgiven someone, it is time. If you have received someone’s forgiveness, it is time. If you have been the recipient of God’s forgiveness, now is the time to truly believe it.

Your prayers for this weekend would be greatly appreciated.

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Jo & I leave Monday for our long-awaited trip to Alaska. I’m not taking my computer and will have limited access via my phone.  Please pray for our safety, but most of all, for our rest. Ryan is preaching next week for me as we start a new series I’m calling “Postcards.” He will be preaching about the church as a beginning to the Letters to the 7 churches in Revelation. I’m sure he would love to know you are praying for him.

#Test#HardestTask#MajorRoadblock

Friday, August 23rd, 2019

In your mind, what is the hardest thing you have done or need to do?  I’m not going to beat around the bush on that question. I think one of the hardest things anyone has to do is to learn to forgive.

I have heard this quote or some variation of it for years:

To err is human, to forgive, divine-to forgive and forget supernatural.

Some of you may be old enough to remember the movie called Love Story, which starred a very young Ryan O’Neal and Ali McGraw.  It was a blockbuster hit for those days (1970) and was actually the first date Jo and I had (it didn’t end well). It contained one of the dumbest statements that I think has ever been made: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Now…that statement assumes that a real relationship will never require saying, “I’m sorry.” Forgiveness should just happen. There should be no special initiative on the part of either party.

But I beg to differ.  I hope we are all smart enough to realize any relationship takes time. Marriage. Friendship. Pastor/sheep. And I would be remiss if I left out the part forgiveness plays in any relationship. Forgiveness is never easy, especially when a great wrong has been done to you.  Makes you wonder about Joseph doesn’t it?

I believe this may have been his hardest task. This week’s sermon covers that time of his life when his brothers come seeking grain because of the famine. He recognizes them immediately but they don’t recognize him. There is quite an exchange which takes place until his “great revelation.” It will be a challenging sermon for all of us. I’d appreciate your prayers as I prepare.  Thanks.

#Prison#PrisonLife#NoLongerSlaves

Friday, August 16th, 2019

Talk of prison and people’s thoughts will immediately go to Alcatraz, some military prison, or some form of incarceration. When Potiphar’s wife accused Joseph of trying to rape her and he put Joseph in prison, it wasn’t a 5-star hotel. The Scripture specifically tells us he put Joseph where Pharaoh’s enemies were put. True to his nature and God’s blessing on his life, Joseph excelled. He overcame his prison life.

In truth, most people will never see the inside of a prison cell. They just live in a prison. Due to circumstances, expectations of others, guilt, pessimism or some other “bothersome” issue, they live in a prison of their own making, one without physical bars.

I’m going to focus on that kind of prison this week during my sermon. As followers of Christ we are no longer slaves to fear or to the enemy or his efforts to keep us down. I’ll be working on very short rest and am anticipating with a very tired body. I’d appreciate your prayers.

Here is a song for your enjoyment: https://youtu.be/2QigyB50yGw

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After waiting for almost 8 months the BikeMS ride is this weekend in Lebanon, IN. Dave (from 3 Feet Please) is coming from Arizona to ride with me and his two adult children are coming to volunteer.  Jo and I left Thursday for Indy to spend the night in the hotel in Indy and to meet up with them. Jo plans to also help with the volunteer table for 3FP. Dave and I plan to do the 65 mile portion of the ride.  This is a fundraiser for MS and thanks to many of you and your generosity, I have been able to raise $1100 this year. Thank you so much!!  I do appreciate it more than you know but will appreciate your prayers even more. 65 miles will be double what I have been able to do (due to time constraints) at one time this year. Safety and health or my primary concerns. Thanks.  Here are pictures of the partners in crime.

#FalseAccusations

Friday, August 9th, 2019

The ’60s was an interesting decade. Different philosophies floated around like “Make Love Not War” as well as others. One that took hold and still holds today is “If it feels good do it.”  It has become the passkey for many questionable actions becoming accepted.  In our study of Joseph we can see how this philosophy reared its ugly head in his job as head of Potiphar’s household.  Funny…Joseph could have been part of the #MeToo generation.

Temptation is something we all face. I’m not telling you something you don’t know! 🙂 Playwright Oscar Wilde once said, “I can resist anything except temptation.” Temptations are designed to make us fall, but we determine whether they will win or not.

Joseph was at the age when hormones for men rage. He was where no one knew him. He had (obviously) a sex-starved woman who was interested in him. She put the moves on him day after day after long day. But Joseph kept resisting her advances. Well…you know that old adage: “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” Rejected once again she decided to take brash tactics and accuse Joseph of trying to rape her.  After he fled (like he was supposed to), leaving his cloak behind, she, with coat in hand, told her story. What was Potiphar to do? The simple fact he did not have Joseph executed (it was his job) sort of tells me he was dubious about his wife’s charges. But to prison he would go.

My emphasis this week will be on temptation, specifically defeating it. I’d appreciate your prayers for Sunday. I do think it is a much-needed sermon.

Note: my first post for next week will include 4 requirements for resisting temptation which Chuck Swindoll gives in his study of Joseph. Hope you will look forward to those.

#MarkedMan#FalseAccusation

Friday, August 2nd, 2019

Someone has said:

To be falsely accused and retaliate is natural; to be accused and remain in control is supernatural.

No one likes to be falsely accused, especially when it has far-reaching consequences. IMHO Joseph might very well be the OT poster boy for being falsely accused.  He is sold into slavery, bought by Potiphar, and eventually distinguishes himself so that he is elevated to top dog in the household. But it only serves to make him a marked man. Talk about pressure! Not work pressure either. Boss’s wife pressure.

He is a new kid in a new culture, one completely different than the only one he had known. Not only does he have that to deal with, he now has his boss’s wife wanting to play footsie with him.  If you know the story you know he resists. Because “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” she falsely accuses him of trying to rape her and he ends up in prison.

Joseph’s public witness took place at work, and raises the question of our own attitude as followers of Christ. Do we, like Joseph, distinguish ourselves at work? Are we trustworthy? Faithful?  Hard working? Resistant to temptation (of every kind)? Pointed questions which need to be addressed. Genesis 39 is where I will be this Sunday.  I’d appreciate your prayers.

#Betrayed#Hurt

Saturday, July 27th, 2019

Few things hurt so deeply as being betrayed. The hurt is compounded when it is family.  Joseph knows that first hand. His road to becoming the second most powerful man in Egypt did not start out smoothly at all. But God had his plan, so even when it looks like there is no good to come out of a situation, God has other plans.

When I took a closer look at the life of Joseph through my study, I realized there is so much more than what meets the eye. Before he even got to Egypt he had some mountains to overcome! Consider these:

  • Family history of dysfunction
  • Rape of Dinah (Jacob did nothing but her brothers, Simeon and Levi, did)
  • Jacob’s favoritism of Joseph
  • Joseph’s mouth (telling dreams)

All of this created a perfect storm.  Add in his brother’s hatred fueled by jealousy and you not only have a perfect storm but also a very volatile situation.

My sermon this week is about their betrayal of their own flesh and blood as they take his coat, sell him to a traveling “slave” market, and then lie about his death to their father. To me the ultimate betrayal.

I have not preached on the family much this year so this series on Icebergs (which can sink our faith) is also giving me an opportunity to do that.  Prayers are appreciated.