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#ChristmasChallenge#Post15

Sunday, December 15th, 2019

In my #ChristmasChallenge#Post13 I mentioned there were three gifts we all need at Christmas.  Love. Joy. Peace. #Post14 was about that first quality we all want: LOVE. I want to continue on that idea with a post about JOY.

Alexander Whyte was a British pastor from many years ago. He once wrote something that seems to become more and more true each year (or maybe each day?) in our world:

We tend to hang very heavy weights on thin wires.

What he meant by that is that many of us have a tendency to put the weight of our happiness on thin wires that may easily break.  For example, I know of people-as I’m sure you do-who have put a lot of stock into their health. They eat right. They exercise. They go to bed at a decent hour for the right amount of sleep. They avoid smoking or being around it. They avoid alcohol (or do so sparingly). They get regular check-ups. But they also hear the dreaded “C” word that causes their world to come crumbling down.  We have also watched as people have put the weight of their happiness on family, possessions, fame and fortune.  We have also watched them crash and burn.

Have you ever watched the movie Titanic? (Yes it has one nude scene as Jack is drawing Rose. Skip over it.) Anyway, as Rose helps fill in the blank spaces of the sinking of Titanic, and as she tells her story of survival, she talks about Cal Hockley. He was a fictional character who thought money could buy love (at least Rose’s). As she recaps her life, Rose tells of how Cal took his life after the downturn took his money. And yes, it still happens.

Many of you know happiness and joy are not the same thing. Imagine the Christmas carol we sing: “Happiness to the world, the Lord has come.” Just doesn’t have the same ring as “Joy to the world.”  🙂

Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life, in your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”  Joy is found in Jesus. Joy is found in His presence.  I’ll close my thought with the lyrics from a song Chris Tomlin sings:

Joy, unspeakable joy/ An overflowing well, no tongue can tell/Joy, unspeakable joy, Rises in my soul, never let me go.

“Father, help me to know real joy. Help me to find that gift that far outstrips happiness of fulfillment. You have promised unspeakable joy. May it be mine and may those I love find it as well.”

Check out my fellow #ChristmasChallenge bloggers:

Diane and Hadarah

Ed at Word!

#ChristmasChallenge#Post14

Saturday, December 14th, 2019

In my last post, I mentioned the need we all have of Love, Joy, and Peace. As part of my #ChristmasChallenge I thought I would take each one of those needs and expand on them a bit.

My topic today is Love.

One of the top songs of 1984 (was it that long ago?) was by the group Foreigner called I Want to Know What Love Is. It was a moving ballad that even today still speaks to hearts and gets down to the root of what we all want...LOVE.  I think if we are all honest we would admit that we all want to be loved or to experience love. It doesn’t matter whether you are young or old; married or single; rich or poor; employed or unemployed; male or female-we all want to know what love is and what it is like.

Why? Because it is part of our DNA. Babies want to know they are loved and they don’t have a clue what it is. Every child wants to know they are loved and still they aren’t sure they know what it is.  As we get older and understand a bit more about how the world works, we still want to know we are loved.  Why else would someone sing a song with the lyrics of  “Looking for love in all the wrong places.”

So here is the million dollar question: why do need love? We all do things that make it hard to love us or we search for love depending on our feelings to somehow answer that question. Why love? I am taking a stab at 4 reasons:

  1. Love covers sin. When Joseph found out Mary was pregnant and he knew it wasn’t his, he could have walked out. In fact, he planned on it. But God changed all that. Joseph couldn’t throw Mary out on the street. I believe his love for her was enhanced by the message of the angel.
  2. Love listens to God. In the midst of his pain, God came to Joseph.  He still does that and if we are listening we can hear His still small voice in the pit of our heart.
  3. Love believes God. Joseph believed God that all would be right. I have to believe in love since John 3:16 says, “God so loved (me)…”
  4. Love obeys God. Joseph did not put Mary away; he loved her and took care of her. Just as God would have him do.

Love is the focal point of the Christmas season. John 3:16 becomes like a beacon shining brighter the closer we get to that miraculous night celebrated on Christmas day. 

“Father, help me to pursue love…real love. And help me to give love to others. There are so many people searching for love because we all want it. Help me to be your instrument to show love to others.”

#ChristmasChallenge#Post1

Sunday, December 1st, 2019

I’m going to try something I did several years ago. It was a good exercise for me in that it kept me focused. My plan is to post a new Christmas thought each day for this month. It could be a poem. It could be a song. It could be a written thought. It could be a spiritual thought or it could be one that is not spiritual in nature but has a focus on Christmas.

Since today is December 1 it calls for a post that will focus us on the importance of the season. The past few days I have listened to some random Christmas music and heard this song for the first time. Unfortunately there is no video with lyrics so I am unable to show that. However, the song is beautiful and clear.

Enjoy listening to it here.

Would anyone else like to join me in this challenge? I’d love to share links with each other.

#ClearEyes#20/20#Brightness

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019

“The eyes have it.” Oops that is supposed to be the “I’s” have it. 

Unless, of course, you are talking about cataract surgery which totally transforms one’s sight world. This past Monday I had my left eye’s cataract removed. I knew I was in for a real treat given that I had had my right eye corrected the week before. My world brightened some. But I can honestly say I was not prepared for the “revelation” that came from yesterday’s surgery. Talk about bright!  I told someone this morning (Tuesday) it was like walking into a room filled with new LED bulbs. Everything is so bright I wonder how in the world I was able to see before. I was…it was just cloudy. The doctor told me this morning that in a few days my brain will dial in the sights and it won’t seem so bright.  Truthfully, I’m not sure I want that!  🙂  I like seeing things brightly. Maybe it comes from seeing things a little “shady” and cloudy for the past oh-so- many-months that I relish the light. Can you tell I’m excited about my surgery and newfound “bright sight”? 

The applications to our spiritual lives are easy to see.  An early worship song that was sung a lot had the lyrics: “Open the eyes of my heart Lord/ Open the eyes of my heart/ I want to see you/I want to see you.”  Seeing him physically is not going to happen here on this earth so the song is not speaking of that type of sight. But asking Him to open the eyes of our heart to His Word and His Truth will bring clarity to our lives where before there was cloudiness and murkiness. 

We also can see another application. “When I was a child, I spoke like a child. I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”  (I Cor.13:11) Going from cloudy sight to bright and clear sight means I can give my old glasses to the Lion’s Club to give them away to someone who needs them. I can see things through a different perspective. Someone told me the colors would be brighter; the lights would be brighter; and I would need sun glasses. I confirm all three of those.  Growing in Christ means putting away the old stuff and see things through new eyes.

I sure can see how the man blind from birth must have felt when he first saw “men as trees walking” and then began to see everything with clarity. I thank God for my eyes. But I thank Him even more for the gift of sight for Him. May He and His Word and His will get clearer as each day goes by.

Any thoughts?   Oh, by the way: how is your (spiritual) vision these days?

#Forgiveness#WhatJesusdoes

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019

It seems to happen more than we know. Certainly more than we like to hear. Someone being shot/killed by accident. Honestly, I do not know the whole story behind this trial. I admittedly hide my head in the sand when it comes to reading much news. But when I saw this on a blog I read I felt I needed to pass it along. I can’t take credit for this so I’m just going to give you the link to the other blog and ask you to go there.

So here is the link to the other blog:

If we as Christ-followers practiced more of this, imagine what a difference we would make. Oh yeah…bring your kleenex.

#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.

#Temptation#RequirementstoDefeat

Monday, August 12th, 2019

Sunday I preached on Joseph’s battle against the temptation Potiphar’s wife presented. Two phrases I used several times were these:

With greater success comes greater measure of trust.  We can read how Potiphar trusted Joseph.

With greater measure of success comes a greater measure of vulnerability.  We can also see how his success made him vulnerable to attacks. The enemy came at him with laser-like accuracy.

What  would Joseph do? Well, with the benefit of hindsight we know Joseph said no, fled, but then was falsely accused by a woman who was scorned.

How can we do the same? Temptation is common to all of us. How can we defeat it? I hesitate giving an easy “Four Step Plan” because most of those don’t work, but Chuck Swindoll gave some great advice in his book on Joseph. As promised here, I’d like to give you his words.  The main thoughts are his; the commentary is mine.

1. Don’t be weakened by the situation. The Scripture says, “Day after day” Potiphar’s wife went after Joseph. Not one and done. Day after day. Fatigue often sets in during the battle. Don’t be weakened.

2. Don’t be deceived by the persuasion. I have heard my share of excuses, as I’m sure you have, when people fall. “No one will know.” “My husband or wife doesn’t meet my needs.” “I’m lonely.” “Just this once. Never again.”  Be careful of justification.

3. Don’t be gentle with your emotions.  Many soft-hearted people are drawn in by their compassion. I think that is one reason for not having mixed sex “gripe” sessions. Too often what started as innocent becomes the downfall for many. “But I don’t want to hurt their feelings.”  You are not being rude or insensitive by saying no.

4. Don’t be confused by the immediate results. Joseph was falsely accused and ended up in prison. We often cannot see the forest for the trees. Immediate results can be deceptive.

There you have it. Four simple ideas about defeating temptation. They aren’t steps to take; they are advice to heed.

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Notice: Due to some error from WordPress notification, they have been sending my blog address with an https not just http.  It tells people my site is unstable and may be dangerous (or something like that). May I ask you to please subscribe again to receive this via email? Thanks and I apologize for any inconvenience.

#Don’tQuit#StayingtheCourse

Wednesday, July 10th, 2019

I’ve been reading J.D.Greear’s new book Above All over the past couple of weeks. Yeah…it is taking me awhile due to being out of town and also just trying to digest the meat in the book. I read something today that I liked so well I thought I would pass it along.  {My comment: Ministry is hard work-paid, full-time or otherwise. If you are like me, sometimes you wonder if you are making a difference or even making a dent}.  After using the example of Noah who preached for 100 years and saw no one accept his preaching and “convert” to God’s way of thinking (the world is going to be destroyed), J.D. gave some examples of others who hung in there, didn’t quit, stayed the course. I was fascinated by the examples. Hope you are as well, but I also hope you are helped and encouraged to not quit or give up.

William Carey, the father of modern missions. He was largely opposed even by the Christians in England, who told him that his missionary zeal was misplaced. Despite opposition he left for India in 1793. For seven years he worked before he ever saw his first convert. Do you think he wondered about what the folks back home said and questioned his call?

Robert Moffat was a 19th century Scottish missionary to South Africa. He spent three years (1818-1821) just traveling to his assigned mission post. He and his wife labored faithfully for 10 years with no tangible results. Then God moved and in a period of three years, the number of converts in Moffat’s city went from zero to 120. Imagine if he had quit at year #9.

Adoniram Judson was one of the first American missionaries to Burma. He spent 6 years there before he saw his first convert and he fretted over his confession of faith…largely because of the years of unfruitfulness.

William Wilberforce, a British politician who spent 48 years fighting against slavery. The Slavery Abolition Act was passed 3 days before he died, and he heard about it on his deathbed.

Hudson Taylor in China. Jonathan Edwards with the Mohican Indians.

I had to stop and chastise myself for my lack of faith to stay the course at times. The desire to quit and give up in the ministry because of a lack of fruit. The tears I shed because of no “ministry success.” (Perhaps we ought to ban those two words put together?).  J.D. helped me put things in perspective as we go through a slow time here at OVCF.

#Faithfulness#Don’tQuit#StaytheCourse#NeverGiveUp. Those are to be my monikers. Why not join me make them yours as well?

#MarksofIntegrity#Follow#Absent

Sunday, June 23rd, 2019

I find myself in a precarious situation these days. I’m trying to balance being the pastor of OVCF and being a supportive husband to Jo.  In this post about our trip to PA I also mentioned that we would be taking a side trip to Ohio to see Jo’s sister who was put in the hospital.  She has since been placed in a long-term facility and just this past Thursday was placed back in the hospital as the doctor was concerned about her kidney function.  Meanwhile, we found out on that side excursion that she did not have an apartment to go back to. So it falls on me and Jo to clean it and “divest it” of clutter and other items.  So we leaving today (Sunday after worship) and planning to stay the week to get as much done as we can.  On Friday we are heading to Columbus to watch our grandson play baseball then coming home Saturday morning. On Sunday we plan to repeat everything (except watching him play). We have no clue how long it will take to empty her place.  She has no TV, no phone, no internet so I am going to be out of commission unless I can find a Wifi somewhere close by.  So I will be absent from this blog (and possibly my other one) for the week.  So I leave you with this:

Daniel lived a life of integrity. In Daniel 6 there are 4 marks of integrity we find:

  1. His attitude. [Verse 3].  Psalm 75:7 is a good verse to go along with that.
  2. He was faithful at work. [Verse 4]. They could find no grounds for complaint against him.  Pr.20:6-7  is important for us.
  3. His personal purity. [Verse 4b].  Isn’t that interesting? “They could find no complaint against him.”
  4. A consistent walk with God. [Verse 10].  Daniel knew it meant trouble to do what he always did but guess what? He did what he always did!! 🙂

Living a life of integrity is no guarantee things will go well. But we are not here to gain man’s approval. We are to please an audience of One.

Have a great week if I don’t see you here sooner!

#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.