Preaching

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#SupportingCast#Messy

Friday, November 27th, 2020

One of the hardest times for me to preach is Christmas. I know that sounds weird. But it is true. It isn’t that I don’t like Christmas. I love it! What makes it so hard to preach at Christmas is most people know the story so well they could probably do a better job than me. 🙂  So the hard job for me is to find a new way to tell an old story. By new way I obviously don’t mean denying it or the truth of it or the virgin birth or the Incarnation.  The questions are:

How do I make it come alive?

How do I make it appealing and not boring?

How do I tell this timeless story and bring old truths to life?

I’m not sure how I succeed in those but I do try. This year I am calling my series A Grand Production.  I plan to look at it through the idea of a play with the different actors and actresses in their roles. My sermon this Sunday is on the Supporting Cast.  I’m breaking it down into the Messy People and the “Go-Before” people. Do you know who they are? Hint: the first group is found in Matthew 1 and the others are found in Luke 1.  You should be able to figure them out.

If you are unable to come to OVCF don’t forget we live stream at 9:00 and 10:45. I’d love to have you join us. If you can’t would you at least pray for me/us? Thanks.

#Ingratitude#Guilty?

Friday, November 20th, 2020

I read something recently I thought was good. One man wrote:

Wearing shoes is optional. But eating is not. Driving a car is optional. But once you choose the option, driving on the right hand side (in America) is not…I’m not saying these things are impossible. You can choose to go without eating, but if you do you must take the consequences. You must be willing to exist at a low energy level, to invite infection and disease, and, if you persist, to die. You can choose to drive on the left but will pay fines and cause accidents.

In our life as a Christ-follower, we have an option of being good stewards with God’s blessings, or using His gifts for purely selfish means.  It is sad that because Thanksgiving Day is approaching that we find ourselves focusing on gratitude and God’s blessings when, if fact, that gratitude and those blessings are all-year around.

I’m going to make a very blanket statement which I firmly and 100% believe: we who follow Jesus ought to be THE MOST GRATEFUL people of all. Bar none. This Sunday I am going to recap some thoughts about God’s blessings I spoke about last week, but then I aim to draw attention to some examples in the Bible of people who were ungrateful.  What strikes me even more are the words Moses spoke in Deuteronomy 6 where he reminded the people what they had to be grateful for but added these words: then take care lest you forget them. Do you think God had an idea about His people? About me? About you?

This is the last in my series called Q & A and it has a simple title: What about Ingratitude?  Obviously I appreciate your prayers, but let me challenge you to take one step more: spend some time in gratitude for all God has done and given you.

#Blessed#CountThem

Friday, November 13th, 2020

Many of us can remember the old song “Count your many blessings name them one by one/Count your many blessings see what God has done.” It was especially pulled out of mothballs every Thanksgiving. And rightly so. But then again, it is sad. Why focus on blessings and saying thanks for them only when the holiday comes around?

British preacher, Charles Spurgeon, once said, “Memory is very treacherous, by a strange perversity-it treasures up the refuse of the past and permits priceless treasures to lie neglected.” I’m afraid that is true for many of us. We get so caught up in the bad of the past that we often forget the good that has happened.

Psalm 103 reminds us to “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless His hold name…Forget not all His benefits.” Here are four thoughts about God’s blessings that we should be aware of and I will be highlighting this week:

  1. God’s blessings are numerous and varied.
  2. God’s blessings are beyond what we deserve.  {Ain’t that the truth!}
  3. God’s blessings are poured out on the just and the unjust.
  4. God’s blessings have a purpose.

This Sunday I am going to begin a two-part sermon series on thanksgiving as part of my Q & A series. It is titled What about Being Blessed?  If you happen to live near us and attend or plan to, we will not be meeting in person this week. Strictly online.  You can find the links on our church’s website.  Our live stream will begin at 10:45 and will be scaled down to an opening song (prerecorded), a communion thought and the sermon. There will only be 3 of us in the building-me, Jo and Ryan.

Your prayers would be most appreciated.

#Troublemakers#WhatToDo?

Friday, November 6th, 2020

Charles Schultz had a Peanuts cartoon where Linus was watching TV when Lucy demands that he change the channel to what she wants to watch.  He says, “No” and she threatens him again.  He then looks at her and says, “What gives you the right to come in here and demand your way?” She says to him: “See these five fingers? Separate they are nothing. Weak. But curl them together and they become a force powerful to behold.” To which Linus answers, “What station do you want?” As he walks away he is shown looking at his hand and asking, “Why can’t you guys get together like that?”

There is no worst kept secret than a church filled with fighting, or even specifically one or two people whom we will label as troublemakers.  In fact, someone has said, “Where there’s light, there’s always bugs.”  At some point in our lives-as a business, a church, a school, even personally-we will have to deal with troublemakers. But it just seems like the church troublemaker speaks the loudest, shares the widest, and spreads the farthest than any of those other examples.

What is a church to do? That is the title of my Q & A series question this week: What about Troublemakers?  I’ll be giving several examples of troublemakers this week and then use Diotrephes (3 John 9-10) as a main example of what is suggested we do with them (besides toss them out).  I’d appreciate your prayers this week. They mean a lot. 

#SearingLoss#HowLong?#WhatNow?

Friday, October 30th, 2020

Pastor Greg Laurie is a well-known pastor in Riverside California. He has pastored Harvest Christian Fellowship for over 40 years. As you can imagine he has been through probably about everything a person can go through but he will tell you the hardest to deal with was the accidental death of his son in a car accident.  He and his wife, Cathe’s response prompted me to add this sermon to my Q & A series.

C.S.Lewis once wrote:

“God whispers to us in our pleasure, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain; it is His megaphone to rouse the deaf world.”

I know there are those who have experienced such searing loss that it still affects them many years later. The loss of a child. The loss of a child at birth. The loss of someone you love by suicide. The loss that sears so deeply it is burned into your soul.  I must confess: I’ve not had that type of loss. I’ve lost my mother to cancer at the age of 71.  I lost both my in-laws but felt the loss of my father-in-law the deepest. I have lost friends in the churches I have served. I have seen my long time male friend bury his father and son.  But I’m not going to pretend I understand the ache of searing loss.

This Sunday my sermon is What about Searing Loss? and I will be using Job’s experience as an example. I will also be taking the four truths that Pastor Greg said held them together and expanding on them. I also plan to share those 4 truths with you in a post next week.

This will be a gut-wrenching sermon for some to hear. I am asking you to pray for extra wisdom for me and extra grace for those listening-in person and via live stream. Thanks.

#Worry#Wringhands#Trust

Saturday, October 24th, 2020

Corrie Ten Boom, the Holocaust survivor who for years traveled the globe telling of her experience in the Nazi prison camp and spreading words of God’s love and forgiveness once said:

Worry does not empty tomorrow of sorrows; it empties today of strength.

I think we all know people who worry a lot. We even call them “worry warts.” They wring their hands, bite their nails, toy with their hair, bite their lips, and a host of other physical displays, very often a sign of worrying or being overly concerned about something. 

Oh…then add in this all-important upcoming election which has many up in arms and you can find plenty of people filled with worry. Just listen to them (then again…you may not want to). No matter the outcome, we must realize as Christ-followers that we are not in charge (neither side is) but God is.

All in all, worry is counterproductive to what God has in mind for our lives.  The word worry means “to take a thought” or “to be careful.” The Greek actually takes it a step further and tells us it means “to be divided” or “inwardly distracted.” Boy, ain’t that the truth!

As you might have been able to gather, my sermon is on worry this weekend. 🙂  I’m using two specific examples and Scriptures for my thoughts. Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42 and the words of Jesus in Matthew 6: 23-34. It certainly is not the definitive sermon on worry, but if it gets a conversation started among people then I will consider it a good thing. I would appreciate your prayers please as I preach and as people listen-in person and online. Thanks.

#Anger#WrongorRight?

Saturday, October 10th, 2020

The idea of anger is a hot topic (pun intended) especially as we see it played out before us almost on a daily basis. Is it right or wrong to be angry? We hear of stories of people consumed by anger for one reason or another and we cringe when we think of its dangerous interplay in our own lives from time to time. People passed over for promotion; people losing their jobs after years of service and commitment to the company; people feeling like they were abused as a child or taken advantage of in an athletic contest; people who have anger issues that seem to be passed down from grandpa to dad to brother to you; and people who have justified reasons for being angry. They are all there in the mix.

So two views emerge about anger for the Christ-follower: it is either right or it is wrong. To show anger is good; to show anger is bad. To reveal it is not very “Christian”; to hide it is not very “Christian.” Sheesh!

So this week I’m going to speak about anger. Is it always wrong? But, then again, maybe that is not the right question to ask at all. Maybe the right one to ask is “what should I do with the anger I have?” My main Scripture is Eph. 4: 26-27.

I’d appreciate your prayers. If you won’t, I must get just a tad upset. 🙂

#Storms#SinkorSwim

Friday, September 25th, 2020

Several days after an earthquake hit the San Francisco area, the story is told that a young boy was seen rocking and swaying on the school playground. His principal asked him if he was okay and the boy nodded and said, “I am moving like the earth, so if there’s another earthquake I won’t feel it.” He was trying to prepare himself for what he thought was soon coming again.

Don’t you wish you knew when the next storm would hit?  Not weather. Life storms.  We have an old cliche’ which says, “Into every life some rain must fall.”  Have you ever felt snarky enough to say, “Yeah rain.  But this is a storm! A downpour with lightning and thunder accompanied by a monsoon!” I think it is relatively safe to say that storms affect us all…to some degree. Some seem to always be in a storm, while others seem to skip some major ones.  There is no doubt we have been and are still in a storm called Covid-19.  I think the fear caused by it which has resulted in a shutdown of our economy, our work, our churches, our schools, businesses, and in some ways our whole way of life, has led to multiple other storms.

Sunday I am continuing my Q & A series with the question What about Storms?  (Bet you didn’t know that did you?) 🙂 I’m going to talk about some storms which were chasing David and then why that makes Psalm 13 such a rich chapter for us to study. I’ll show you in another post how every one of David’s haunting questions is answered by a solid answer.

Join us if you would like to. The church has a FB page and also streams on YouTube.  I’d love to have you join me/us.  And I’d appreciate it even more if you would commit to praying for us.

#SticksandStones#Words

Friday, September 18th, 2020

There is absolutely no doubt, and I mean NO DOUBT, that words affect us. Call someone a name and it sticks.  We used to say the old adage to make people think we weren’t affected by their words: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.”  The only way I want to respond to that ditty is “Liar, liar, pants on fire.”

Someone has said the average American speaks about 700 times per day. If that sounds high, chop it in half (350). If that still sounds high cut it in half again (175). Face it, there are very few things we do 175 times a day, at least voluntarily. I’m sure I blink or swallow or breath more than 350 times a day but that is all part of God’s magnificent creation called the body.

Harmful words damage relationships and reveal a heart out of tune with Jesus.  Physical wounds often heal before emotional wounds. There are words said to us in the past which still haunt us.  Our heart flutters and our stomach turns when we hear them or think about them. Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue holds the power of life and death.”

This Sunday my question is What about Words? (as if you couldn’t tell).  Prayers would be appreciated for this Sunday. Consider this quote by Ben Franklin: “A slip of the foot you may soon recover, but a slip of the tongue you may never get over.” ‘Nuff said.

#ThrowingStones

Friday, September 11th, 2020

Have you ever played darts?  I have played at it but have never played it for “blood.” I know there are tournaments all over creation for dart throwing, but I also know that just throwing darts can be big time in small venues, i.e. bars, etc. The goal, of course, is to hit the bullseye. But as you can imagine there are those whose aim is slightly worse than terrible. One dart may hit the round target but then the next one might be the wall or the floor.

That is a perfect picture of the way we throw stones at each other. Verbal stones have the tendency to hit all over the place. Sometimes they are deadly accurate, but sometimes it makes you wonder, “Where in the world did that come from?”  In today’s world, and even more sadly in the church, this idea of throwing stones is far too common.  It is almost like it is seen as “sport.”

The Bible is very clear how we are to treat each other, how we are to talk about others. In my new series (this is week #2) called Q & A, this sermon is entitled What about Stones? My Scripture is Ephesians 4: 25-32. The outline is extensive but simply follows Paul’s words to the church at Ephesus.  When I was in college I had never heard of a man named Francis Shaeffer when I read a little booklet written by him called The Mark of the Christian. His whole premise is that love was that mark. May that be true of us, especially in our words.

I would appreciate your prayers for me, for us, as we worship and study. Thanks.