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Fools

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

This past Sunday I spoke about the verse where Paul says, “We are fools for Christ’s sake.” While the fool is not a complimentary term, I went another way with it. I went with the idea that God embraces the ridiculous.

I love to talk about my two daughters. Seldom do I get the chance to brag about them, so today I want to brag about my oldest, Tami. She recently wrote a blog that I want to highlight and ask you to check it out. She says it very succinctly and, if I may brag, very well. I’d like to ask you to read it here.

One of the things I did was change the word fool to the word crazy. I started with this video. With that thought in mind here are some of the crazy people and highlights Tami also mentioned (just in case you didn’t read her post):

Abraham– Obedience is easy when it fits into our plan or our scheme. Abraham was willing to obey even though it was crazy.

Namaan- Sometimes we are asked to take steps of wild obedience where we have no clue where it will end. Stop too soon and we miss out on God’s phenomenal blessings. (Note: Imagine if Namaan had stopped at #6)

Gideon- It doesn’t matter the size of the army or enemy coming against you when God is fighting your battle for you.

Hosea– Though we fail; we are not failures. Though we are unfaithful; God is faithful. Always.

As Christ-followers we are often asked to do bizarre-appearing actions. Some might actually call us crazy. But I’d rather be called crazy for stepping out of the status quo than be bored to tears and bore everyone else along the way.

 

Loneliness

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

godsgiftofchristmas

That word…loneliness…seems to be so empty. Drafty. Lifeless.

For many, Christmas is one of the loneliest times of the year. They feel like they are home alone. When the movie Home Alone first came out, I was not a fan. It just didn’t turn my crank, so for years I never watched it. One day, I think we were at a friend’s house, and they wanted to watch it. I found myself chuckling then laughing at the gags. It was almost like watching the old 3 Stooges, only updated with modern antics.  The story centers around a young boy who is left behind when his family heads for vacation and his attempt to keep the thieves away from the house. What ensues is an adventure in comedy that keeps you laughing.

What isn’t funny is how many live lives of quiet desperation in today’s media saturated world. Busy but alone. Surrounded but isolated.

That is what is so good about the name Emmanuel (God with us!). Not only is it a beautiful name for God’s Son, it also explains one of the great reasons for Christmas in the first place.

There is more. Guess you will have to come Sunday to hear it. But just in case you can’t, I will give you this preview:

  • The glory of Christmas means we are far more precious to God than we could ever imagine.
  • the glory of Christmas means there is far more to celebrate then we thought.
  • The glory of Christmas means we will never be alone

Those alone give us reason to celebrate Christmas. I hope you are not one who spends time alone. Find friends. Find others who are alone and get together for a Christmas dinner. Go visit a nursing home.  You will find others just like you-dreading the holiday because of some memory. You can have a mutual “pulling-out-of-the-doldrums” party.

Until then, I’d like to ask you to pray.

 

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.

BeingThere

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

One of my favorite quotes by Jim Elliot, the martyred missionary to the Auca Indians, is “Wherever you are be all there.” Lately I have had trouble being here. Shoot, I’ve had trouble being anywhere. It seems like I’ve been going a thousand different directions lately. Then I read this:

“When George Mallory was once asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, he famously answered, ‘Because it is there.’ But in a personal letter to his wife, Ruth, he revealed even more about what drove him to climb the mountain. ‘Dearest,’ he wrote, ‘…you must know that the spur to do my best is you and you again…I want more than anything to prove worthy of you.’ George left a meaningful legacy that proved worthy of history’s remembrance. But George’s son John wrote something that has challenged me. Proud of his father but sad too, John wrote, ‘I would so much rather have known my father than to have grown up in the shadow of a legend, a hero, as some people perceive him to be.'” (The Imperfect Pastor by Zack Eswine-p.78)

I’ve noticed (as I’m sure you have also) life goes in seasons. Busy. Not busy. Crazy busy. Not so busy. Steady. Lull. You get the point. Today is one of those crazy busy seasons. My mind has wandered. I stopped and got both Jo and me a Polar Pop (yeah I know it isn’t good for me) and almost made it to the office before I remembered I had her pop. Sheesh!

So this small section out of this excellent book stopped me dead in my tracks. As Tim Hawkins says in his video, “I need to be centered.” Watch him. He is a hoot.

I’m preaching to myself here. Maybe you too?

SpringKeeper

Sunday, September 18th, 2016

My next couple of days will be filled with various meetings plus a visit to the friendly, neighborhood hospital for a procedure on Tuesday so I thought I would give you a general post to consider. I used this illustration Sunday to close my message on Compromise.

The old gentle man had been hired many years earlier by a young town  council to clear away the debris from the pools of water that fed the  lovely spring flowing through their town. With faithful, silent  regularity he patrolled the hills, removed the leaves and branches, and  wiped away the silt from the fresh flow of water. By and by, the village became a popular attraction for vacationers. Graceful swans floated  along the crystal clear spring, farmlands were naturally irrigated, and  the view from restaurants was picturesque.

Years passed. One evening the town council met for its semiannual  meeting. As they reviewed the budget, one man’s eye caught the salary  figure being paid the obscure keeper of the spring. Said the keeper of  the purse, “Who is the old man? Why do we keep him on year after year?  For all we know he is doing us no good. He isn’t necessary any longer!”  By a unanimous vote, they dispensed with the old man’s services.

For several weeks nothing changed. By early autumn the trees began to shed their leaves. Small branches snapped off and fell into the pools,  hindering the rushing flow of water. One afternoon someone noticed a  slight yellowish-brown tint in the spring. A couple days later the water was much darker. Within another week, a slimy film covered sections of  the water along the banks and a foul odor was detected. The millwheels  moved slower, some finally ground to a halt. Swans left as did the  tourists. Clammy fingers of disease and sickness reached deeply into the village.

Embarrassed, the council called a special meeting. Realizing their  gross error in judgment, they hired back the old keeper of the spring . . . and within a few weeks, the river began to clear up.

True? I can’t say. Fanciful though it may be, it still tells a great story. The application I leave up to you.

TheWeek

Sunday, September 11th, 2016

Sunday I used this illustration. You may have heard it before:

Once upon a time there were twin brothers. One optimistic. One pessimistic. For the sake of understanding their differences, their mother enlisted the help of a noted psychologist.

The psychologist instructed her to put the pessimist in a room filled with various sizes and shapes of wrapped presents. The optimistic child was to be placed in a room filled with manure.

With this task done, the mother and psychologist visited the children to gauge each one’s response to his circumstances. They found the pessimistic child sitting among his presents, gazing at them in complete disbelief. When asked why he had not opened any, he simply stated, “They couldn’t possibly be for me!”

Moving on to the next child, they were a bit concerned to see no sign of him in the manure-filled room. They called for him, and his head emerged from one of the piles. When asked what he was doing, he answered, “With this much mess, there’s got to be a pony in here somewhere!”

Fanciful. Probably not true. But telling. You/I have a brand new week ahead of us. We can choose to make it a bummer of a week or we can choose to make it a week of good things.

Choose wisely.

Calling

Sunday, September 4th, 2016

I know Kevin Costner is not everyone’s favorite actor. He’s not mine but he is one of my favorites. I loved his 2006 movie The Guardian. It was about a high school swim champ with a troubled past who enrolls in the Coast Guard’s “A” school where Costner’s character, Ben Randall, is an instructor with a nagging injury that came as a result of hanging on to another rescuer. I wrote the following quote down awhile back. I thought it applied well to Labor Day.

If by some miracle you actually have what it takes to become one of us, then you get to live a life of meager pay with the distinct possibility of dying slow, cold, and alone somewhere in the vast sea. However, you also get the chance to save lives and there is no greater calling in the world than that.

We all have a calling. Some seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things. But none are. It does not matter what you do, do it well. “For each the real purpose for us being here is personal and passionate: to know what we are here to do, and why.” (Os Guinness- The Calling-page 3)

I hope you know why you are here. We celebrate Labor Day. Do what you are called to do…and do it well.

Seasons

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

I started reading this book about a week or so ago but put it aside for this one. I have a bad habit of doing that sometimes but in this case I needed to. The Grace Effect is by the same man who wrote “Hitch” and it talks about his adopted daughter, Sasha, from Ukraine. Now that I have finished a puzzle for a teacher-friend who is teaching a whole unit on it, I can spend some time reading.  (Yeah…Jo says I get obsessed when I am working a puzzle. I don’t agree. Just because I did this one in less than 5 days does not prove she is right).

Anyway, back to When Trouble Comes (the book I put down). The author, Philip Ryken, says some things just in the Prologue which I know will draw me back to this book when I’m done with the other.

“Would you like to know some of the things that helped me? The first was this: I knew that what I was going through was totally and completely normal.” (p.15) 

Oftentimes when we are going through something, we feel alone. No one understands. No one else has experienced what I’m experiencing. Not true!

Here was a gem: All of this leads to seasons of doubt, discouragement, and depression as a normal part of life in a fallen world. When trouble comes, this does not mean that I am a bad Christian. Nor does it mean that God is against me, although sometimes it may feel that way. (p.16)

I have spent time recently with several people who are suffering in various ways. I try hard to show them they are not alone. They are not bad Christians. They are not being rejected by God for some sin in the past. God doesn’t hold grudges.

If you are going through a tough time right now, don’t give up. You are not alone. This is a season of growth (if you let it). Be encouraged by a loving Father.

I’m also going through a season of not having much time to write. I apologize for that. Hopefully this season will be over soon.

Report

Sunday, July 31st, 2016

I thought I would bring you up to date with a report about how the week went for the group that went to New Orleans this past week. You can read about it here and here.

The week went well. Other than a few minor mishaps-someone twisting a knee playing volleyball, finding some red fire ants to be pesky, the inability to go to the Gulf due to an algae that can become a flesh-eating bacteria if your immune system is low, missing out on seeing where NCIS New Orleans is filmed due to construction-they had a fantastic time. After the hard and amazing work they all did, especially the young people who went along, they had about a day and a half of sightseeing.

Their major project was finishing a shed which another group had started. Mission accomplished. They worked even through the half day they were supposed to have in order to finish the project. Meanwhile, Jo and one of the young ladies applied their sign-making skills to doing a new sign for the front of the church building. They were in the lower 9th ward, a ward affected by a broken levee. Here it is 11 years later and they are still trying to make things happen. 2nd Rose of Sharon Missionary Baptist Church I salute you!

This Sunday many of them dragged themselves out of bed to make it for the end of our first service and then stayed for the second in order to give a short “this is what impacted me the most” contribution. They were all touched by a homeless man, William, who was a school teacher but had suffered a brain aneurysm, lost about 1/4 of his skull, was now homeless but “preached” to them about God’s goodness.

I like the way one put it: “I went expecting to bless others. Little did I know how much I would be blessed by so many people.”

They got home after midnight Saturday night and were tired puppies. But they all said they would do it again. Well done Ryan E, Ryan S, Josiah, Jo, Keegan, Aleah, MaryRose, Elizabeth and Donnie. May your life be impacted eternally (and may you have impacted others as well) with the selfless giving of your time and money to go and serve.

Refreshment

Monday, July 18th, 2016

Lesson #2 in the Trail Boss idea comes from Psalm 23:2:

“He leads me beside still waters.”

Although sheep thrive in dry, semi-arid country, they still require water.  The body of a sheep is composed of about 70% water on the average. It maintains body metabolism, and is necessary for proper organ function. If the supply of water drops off the animal’s tissue begins to dehydrate and can cause serious damage.

You can’t drive sheep like you drive cattle. The ’60s TV show Rawhide had a theme song which said, “Rollin’ rollin’ rollin’ keep those doggies rollin’, Rawhide.” Funny. Seven years later they still hadn’t reached market. 🙂  If Mickey D’s had waited on those cattle we might be eating veggie burgers today. (Yeah…I know…bad).

You can’t drive sheep. Pastors need to learn this. I am sometimes asked why I don’t pound the pulpit more and scream and yell and send people to hell for doing or not doing such-and-such. The answer is easy. First, that old man died long time ago and I hope I never find him. Second, I remember something Charles Stanley once said,

Shepherds don’t beat sheep; they feed sheep.

Sheep trust the shepherd to lead them to cool, clear, clean water. If they drink from dirty, polluted water they end up sick, eaten alive with parasites.

You do see the connection do you not? 🙂

So ends lesson #2.

Again I am grateful to Phillip Keller’s book A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 for a lot of this information.