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Patience

Thursday, November 16th, 2017

Okay…before you think I’m going to go from being a friend to meddling 🙂  I want to put you at ease. I’m not going to rehash the age old adage of “patience is a virtue” and stuff like that.

Let me take it another direction.

Several words are used to describe or define what characteristic of God I am speaking about Sunday: longsuffering (the old King Jimmy word) or patience. We like to talk about God’s patience because it speaks of longevity. You know…I can keep doing and doing wrong and God is patient with me. People keep putting off salvation because they want to believe God is patient and even after death His patience will be experienced.

God is a god of perfect love, one with an incredible amount of patience. I should know: I’m typing this. I used to think God was this demanding judge, standing with a paddle in His hand. Psalm 103 paints a totally different picture of God.  That does not sound at all like a God who just can’t wait to get His hands around your throat! Nor does it sound like a God who can’t wait to throw darts at your picture. God’s love for His people knows no limits. And I am thankful for that!

But don’t be fooled. There will come a day when God’s patience will run out and a less favorite attribute will become a reality: His wrath. That is another subject for another day.

I would appreciate your prayers for this Sunday’s worship. Thanks.

Otherwise

Monday, November 13th, 2017

I used the following poem in my sermon yesterday. I think it says what needs to be said without a bunch of commentary. It was written by Jane Kenyon and was quoted in Alter Ego by Craig Groeschel (pages 151-152)

I got out of bed on two strong legs.

It might have been otherwise.

I ate cereal, sweet milk, ripe, flawless peach.

It might have been otherwise.

I took the dog uphill to the birch wood.

All morning I did the work I love.

At noon I lay down with my mate.

It might have been otherwise.

We ate dinner together at a table with silver candlesticks.

It might have been otherwise.

I slept in a bed in a room with paintings on the walls, and planned another day just like this day.

But one day, I know, it will be otherwise.

Kenyon wrote this poem in 1993, upon learning that her husband, Donald Hall, had cancer. Ironically, it was Kenyon, not Hall. who died a year later after a fierce and swift battle with leukemia. “Otherwise” came unexpectedly. But Jane Kenyon didn’t miss the blessings of God in each day. She learned the art of gratitude.

As I said, no commentary needed. Enjoy the blessing of today!!

Thanks

Friday, November 10th, 2017

Growing up we were taught a number of things. When our girls were growing up we taught them several things. Sadly, many do not teach them anymore. I heard it tonight at a meeting called Owen After Hours which the Owen County Chamber of Commerce sponsored.  I was working the greeting table. And I heard it. And it wasn’t even prompted by her mom.

There is a new mom (and family) whose daughter calls us Mamaw Jo and Grandpa Bill. Okay, she hasn’t quite said those words yet but she does know who we are. She is about 13-14 months old. She is being taught these two things.

What are they?

When you want something you say the “magic word.”  Which is?  PLEASE.

When something is given to you, you say the other magic phrase (2 words). Which is?  THANK YOU.

Forgotten words by many kids. Let me rephrase that. Forgotten words my many adults and children. Does it really take that much breath to say “Thank you” when I hold the door open for someone? I was taught that men do those kinds of things.

Is it too much to say “Please” when you want something? Instead of just “give me” as though someone is entitled to it!

My sermon series over the next 3 weeks is going to take a look at Thanks. Gratitude is fast becoming a lost art. The whole thing with contentment and being thankful for having our needs met is often discarded for the desire for more and of thinking, “This is mine!”

Maybe, just maybe, I can help us to become a bit more thankful along the way. This week is using Luke 17: 11-19 as the basis for “I’m Thankful for His Provision.”

Here’s something to think about, something I read:

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”

Jumbled

Monday, November 6th, 2017

I was looking for the correct word to adequately express my thoughts and mind this Monday morning. I ran several through the “grinder” then realized jumbled is an adequate description.

Friday was anything but my day off.  I think I ran more…okay drove more…than I normally do in a normal work week. Saturday we put our oldest on a plan for Phoenix, which I wrote about here. I haven’t heard from her personally but Jo has seen some pictures on FB (which she has not shared with me. Hmmmmm), but I know she is having a fantastic time.

Yesterday (Sunday) was our Day of Service. Let me rephrase that: it was our Day of UNservice. You read that right. All week long we kept our eyes on the weather report. I let others tell what was coming; I finally looked on Saturday. I’d like to echo Doc Brown in Back to the Future when he said, “Since when can the weatherman predict the weather?” but I can’t say that this time. Oh wait…they were somewhat inaccurate. They said, “Large hail is possible.” Yikes! We didn’t get the hail but to make a long story short, we watched it start to rain Sunday morning and then watched it continue to rain until almost midnight. At times I thought “Oh man! We could have done our thing” but then about that time the skies opened up for 100 thousandth time. We still had lunch with the church we were partnering with (The Connection) then their Associate and I decided we were going to shoot in a different direction. Service like we were going to do is not and cannot be confined to a “special Sunday event.” So we challenged those who had signed up for a certain job to connect with a couple others, contact the people who we were going to serve, then make arrangements to do so within the next two weeks. Within 15-20 minutes all the people were taken. WAY TO GO OVCF AND CONNECTION! To add to that we had some “bigger ticket items” we were going to serve: the Cunningham Dog Kennels (rescued dogs) and Sue Whitman’s Horse Angels (rescued horses). They are both on board with us coming another time.

Sometimes things just don’t work out the way we plan. But that’s okay. Service will get done…just not at the time or the way we thought.

After the “failed” Day of Service, I did come home later and ride 45 minutes inside. My thoughts were jumbled…but I did sleep well last night.

YOU

Friday, November 3rd, 2017

Pat Williams, a leadership writer and also senior vice-president of the Orlando Magic, once wrote:

A leader is not just someone who takes charge. A leader is someone who takes charge and does the right thing. It’s not enough to make a decision; it needs to be the right decision resulting from strong character. It is not enough to take action; it needs to be the right action, prompted by strong character. (Leadership Excellence)

There are three illegitimate sources of influence people fall back on: Position, Power, and Prestige. None of those will “hold their weight.” When push comes to shove, they are nothing more than a house of cards.

In your mind, what is the single, most important character quality a leader (or anyone for that matter) can show? If you said “being a servant” give yourself an ice cream treat!  If you don’t like ice cream, I take gift cards. 🙂

Teams won’t be winning teams until they learn to serve each other.  As long as each player is in it for himself or herself, that team will not win. No pitcher has pitched a no-hitter without 8 other guys on the team. We should use our influence not to gratify or satisfy self, but to serve others. We take that very seriously here at OVCF and have worked hard to make that part of our church culture. This Sunday we have one service followed by a meal with The Connection (a church in town we have asked to join us) and then the two churches will spread out into the community doing free service for everyone who called to ask.  No strings attached…just service.

Your prayers for good weather (chance of rain) and for safety would be much appreciated.

Masquerade

Tuesday, October 31st, 2017

This is not about the evils/horror/(take your pick) of Halloween.

I couldn’t sleep. No, it wasn’t because of some heavy weight on my heart. I took an inadvertent nap. After a very busy day I sat down in my chair to read. Next thing I knew: Bam! It was a 1/2 hour later. Way too close to bedtime to take a 20-25 minute snooze. Stop I stayed up (actually got back out of bed) to spend some time reading my devotions for today (Tuesday). They were about costumes.

Spiritual fakery is one of the chief tools of the enemy. It is one of the key ingredients of spiritual blindness. 

I don’t know if Paul David Tripp planned for his devotion to focus on costumes or not but there it was.  He writes: “The kingdom of self is a costume kingdom. This is because one of the enemy’s most useful tools is the ability of wrong to imitate right.” 

Hallloween is all about masks. Who can hide who they really are the best? Many followers of Christ are becoming or are already adept at hiding who they really are. Present company included. Wearing the clothing of the personal kingdom to hide the real me. Often wearing a costume to cover me. Sin does that. Since sin wants to reign in me, can I expect anything less?

I’m thinking that maybe instead of spending so much time worrying about the rightness or wrongness off Halloween, maybe we should concern ourselves with our own masks & masquerade.

What do you think?

Integrity

Sunday, October 29th, 2017

Part of my sermon Sunday was on being Authenticity-Minded. That brought in the subject of the title:

INTEGRITY

When I was studying I ran across a couple of quotes which said volumes to me and, of course, used:

Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway. Mother Teresa

Another one came across loud and clear:

Integrity doesn’t come in degrees: low, medium, or high. You either have integrity or you don’t. Tony Dungy

It is never easy being real. Or honest. Or vulnerable. Or a person of integrity. Tragically we live in a world where people are more shocked by a display of integrity than the lack of it. More and more people are surprised when someone does something right or out of the ordinary to set things right than when someone fails.

Authenticity involves our integrity. Practicing integrity means our behavior matches our beliefs. But keep this in mind: personal integrity is not the same thing as your reputation. Your reputation is who other people think you are. Your integrity (or lack of it) is who you really are.

Craig Groeschel wrote a book called Alter Ego. In it he tells a story of when his golf coach caught him stealing a golf ball from a miniature golf course and kicked him off the team.  He said, “If you’ll steal a golf ball, you’ll steal other things.” After some pleading on Craig’s part, the coach took him outside to talk and said words Craig says he will never forget:

If you have integrity, that’s all that matters. And if you don’t have integrity, well…that’s really all that matters.

Wise, wise words. And in my mind, that about sums it up.  Any thoughts?

Lazered-in

Friday, October 27th, 2017

When our girls were born in 1975 and 1979 there were no such things as sonograms. Least we had never heard of them. Today, they are pretty much a staple in pregnancies. Most couples have a sonogram done because there is nothing quite like going to the doctor’s office, hearing the assuring rhythms of a little heartbeat, then seeing the image of the baby on the screen. The doctor prints off the black-and-white picture, says, “See that? You have a boy!”; and the parents treasure the opportunity to show their parents and friends, even posting it on social media. The wait for the birth seems excruciatingly painful (in more ways than one), but they do it for the sheer joy of holding the baby in their arms.

The sonogram (in theory) serves as a picture of what is to come. They provide wonderful images, but are really only a shadow of what is to come. And so it is with Scripture. The shadow of the OT gives way to the substance of the New.

There are two core values we hold dearly at OVCF which go hand in hand.  Those values are Word-Focused and Authenticity-Minded. As Paul told Timothy: “Continue in what you have learned…all Scripture is breathed out by God…” A proper focus on Scripture brings a proper focus upon our lives.

My sermon this morning continues the HILLS series by looking at our Core Values.

Jesus-Centered

Word-Focused

Authenticity-minded

I’ll cover the other two next week. Your prayers would be appreciated this week. Thanks.

Politics

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017

I’m not big on politics. Frankly they turn my stomach. I simply refuse to preach politics from the pulpit. I won’t endorse any candidate from the pulpit and seldom say much on a more personal level of discussion. But while the following article from Chuck Swindoll might be speaking of politics to start, it switches gears quickly and speaks about an even more insidious cancer which eats away at pastors, churches, and people in general. Here’s Chuck:

I see it every night on the news. The politics of backslapping and handshaking and making sure “so-and-so” isn’t turned off—it’s maddening! (We call it “smoke-blowing” here in Texas.)

At the end of the political rainbow the pot of gold is “favorable public opinion.” Period.

If we’re not careful, we can let politics work its way into our churches. And even worse, into our pulpits. In fact, the pastorate is a breeding ground for this sort of thing—maybe more than most professions.

I love the way the apostle Paul keeps our motives clean and focus sharp:

For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts. (1 Thessalonians 2:4–5 NLT)

People-pleasing is a very tempting allurement, especially for people in ministry, because most of what we do gets done through people.

When needing volunteer positions filled—whether . . .

  • In the nursery
  • For a Sunday school class
  • Among the ushers
  • In our music ministry

It’s easy to massage our words and say more than we mean . . . or say something other than what we mean. (That’s called a lie.) The pastor must resist the temptation to flatter. We must refuse to play both sides against the middle.

Don’t go there. Why? Because once you start, it’s hard to stop.

When a pastor is a people-pleaser, he sits on the fence so as not to offend anyone. He remains neutral when he should NOT be playing it safe.

He tells people what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear.

That’s not pastoring . . . that’s politics.

Look at the apostle’s words one more time. I find myself both challenged and refreshed by Paul’s transparency:

Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts.

—Chuck

I spent way too many years as a people-pleaser, i.e. playing the political game. As I got older I realized that was a losing game. So today, while I try to be sensitive to people and their feelings, I also realize sometimes “politicians” can be the biggest hindrance to the church being the church.

Are you a people-pleaser? Is your pastor one? Are you part of the reason he is? Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

JesusContinued

Thursday, September 28th, 2017

Francis Chan once wrote:

We all see problems in the church. We don’t need another book to point them out. We need the faith to believe that the solution is really quite simple: the Holy Spirit.

What he says is absolutely true. While no follower of Christ would deny His existence, I’m willing to bet there are millions of church-goers across our nation who have no clue who the Holy Spirit is, nor could they confidently say they have experienced His presence in their life.

We set ourselves up for this you know? The benchmark of success in churches has waffled-no make that bee-lined- from purpose and lives being changed to attendance and sometimes the offering. Far more than we would like to admit many churches adopted the “entertainment” mentality of the 80s-90s, i.e. entertain the people or they will get bored with church and go to the one that does it best. We became a church nation of church hoppers looking for the next, best fix.

Who got lost? The Holy Spirit. What go lost? Well, in the words of Bono (whose music I’m not really a fan of) but with whom I can agree on this: “Religion is what happens when the Spirit has left the building.” We can preach without Him. We can have discussions about the Holy Spirit and not have a clue of His powerful effect on a person’s life. And, of course, there are those who can make wild claims of the Holy Spirit’s work and be totally empty or lying or a heretic.

This Sunday, as part of the “Hills” series, I am preaching on the Holy Spirit, or as J.D.Greear calls Him: “Jesus, Continued.” His thought, which I will be focusing on, is “The Spirit inside you is better than the Jesus beside you.”  I’d appreciate your prayers for me and for the folks who listen.