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Birth

Friday, December 14th, 2018

If you want to strike “fear” into many peoples’ lives, two words will do it. In many circles it will bring up memories of disagreements and shortness of tempers. Those two words:

VIRGIN BIRTH

Books, articles, essays, speeches, sermons, and a whole lot of other means of communication have been used in the discussion of the Virgin Birth: Pro or Con. I can honestly say men a whole lot smarter than me have gone ’round and ’round about it. I’m not well-versed in the deep defense of the VB. I just know this: God’s Word said it was how Jesus would come into the world, therefore, I believe it.

Just a few months ago we were treated (again) to another round of gaudiness and pomp and ceremony. A royal wedding of Prince whatever-his name is and his new wife, Meghan. Despite what the media and paparazzi says, they are mere human beings. Can you tell I am not a fan of their weddings? It lies in direct contrast with the entrance of Jesus into the world.

The attacks on the VB are monumental.  And ongoing-past, present and future. I’m not going to go into detail about the attacks, but the big question is Why? Simple actually: the VB is the line in the sand.  It is the line of demarcation. If someone denies the VB of Christ, IMHO I have every right to call into question the reality of their faith. The truth is that Jesus’ life did not begin at His birth or His conception. He is eternal and has always existed.

This Sunday I’m going to tackle the issue of the VB. In keeping with the “Light” theme, I’m calling it This IS the Light! John 1:1-14 will be my Scripture. Thanks ahead of time for your prayers.

Unfiltered

Friday, December 7th, 2018

Don’t you just love genealogies? Aaaaah no. “As a matter of fact I usually just skip over them and go to the end. Sort of like I do when I’m reading all about the clans and offspring in Numbers.”

But there is one genealogy you just don’t want to skip over. I’m sure you know I’m speaking of Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew 1. I used to. I was lost at the first “begat.” You know…the old KJV version of “father of.” And honestly, when people want to talk about Christmas they want to talk about the baby in the manger, the shepherds, the wise men, Bethlehem, no room in the manger, or some other well known part of the story. But the genealogy? Surely you have got to be kidding!

But there it is in black and white and as glorious as it can be! There is the requisite “father of” found in all genealogies. But, as you may know, there are some women included in His. The culture of that day excluded women from any place of prominence, especially in the genealogy. But not Jesus’. I’m sure you have heard it before but here is what we find with the woman:

Tamar– disguised herself as a prostitute and seduced Judah. Find her story in Genesis 38

Rahab– anyone who has read the story of Jericho knows her profession.  She was an idolatrous, an outcast Gentile woman, and a professional prostitute. She became the mother of Boaz who married our next woman.

Ruth– a Moabitess, a lineage that came as a result of incest. (Genesis 19). She married Boaz (Read the book of Ruth) and became David’s great grandmother.

Bathsheba– Is the anyone who does not know who she is? Just say “David.”

Mary- the mother of Jesus. A sinner like you and me. A virgin but still a sinner.  Definitely not perfect and definitely not deserving to be elevated to the heights with Jesus. She was in need of a Savior like all of us.

The genealogy of Jesus speaks of grace. It shows that God accepts outsiders. Like me. Like you.  The genealogy shows people with warts. It is unfiltered.

Grace is my main topic for this Sunday. The Unfiltered Light of Christmas. Your prayers would be appreciated.

Light

Thursday, November 29th, 2018

I must confess. I love lights. Christmas lights in particular. One of my fondest memories as a child was one Sunday night after church we would drive through the neighborhoods around us looking at lights. Christmas was a challenge for mom and dad in many ways, but they did their best  to make them bright and cheery. We never got our tree before Christmas Eve day but when we came down on Christmas morning it was bright with a train underneath. Dad always put lights in the lower windows. Our trips through the neighborhoods were those where money seemed to be no object. But even those would be considered child’s play according to some. Here is one of them: https://youtu.be/MnL0_CsXncI

I know that will never be me. Shoot, I don’t even put lights in the windows.  I’ll let someone else blow their hard-earned dough on contests and taking a chance on the wrath of the neighbors.  🙂

Sunday I start a new series I’m calling Shedding Light on Christmas (as you can see by the banner).  This week I’m taking a look at Isaiah 9: 2-7: “The people who walk in darkness have seen a great light…He shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” My whole focus this month will be on Jesus as the Light. I’d appreciate your prayers for this Sunday. Thanks.

AWE

Friday, November 23rd, 2018

The idea of worship is nothing new. If we are speaking about the Bible it is a theme which dominates the pages. In Genesis, for example, we discover the Fall came when Adam and Eve failed to worship God by obeying the one command God gave. In Revelation we learn that all of history culminates in a scene of eternal worship in the presence of a loving God.

But we also find worship elsewhere. We live in a worshiping culture. The latest sports star. Musician. Author. Preacher. The list seems endless.

Jesus knew this was an issue in Mark 12:29-30: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”

This will be final sermon of the Staking Your Claim series.  I’m not sure there is a better way to end a series talking about the non-negotiables of our faith than to talk about worship. If worship is honor and adoration directed to God, then it must be something we cannot do without. Perhaps Albert Einstein said it best:

“He…who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.” 

I would appreciate your prayers for me and for us this weekend. In a way, we will be refocusing our thoughts from Thanksgiving to Christmas-from gratitude to awe.

Leaning

Friday, November 9th, 2018

Many of you are not so old that you don’t or can’t remember the song by Bill Withers (later recorded by DC Talk) called “Lean on Me.” It had the lyrics “We all need somebody to lean on.” There is truth in those words.

However, have you noticed that sometimes it is hard to have compassion for people? For example, you walk into a quick shop and see a family where the kids are dirty and obviously their clothes are hand-me-downs. Your heart breaks and then you see mom or dad buying a carton of cigarettes or some alcohol and you may find your compassion going out the door.

I try not to judge too badly because I don’t know the circumstances surrounding their family or their choice of lifestyle. But I do know this:

A church can become part of the problem instead of part of the solution.

It isn’t easy being sympathetic. It is even harder being empathetic. Sympathy can be broken down by saying it is “feeling sorry for someone.” Empathy can be broken down by saying it is “being able to put yourself in someone’s shoes and know how they feel.”

I like what Caleb Kaltenbach wrote in his book Messy Grace:

When people look at your life, it should be so easy for them to see Jesus in how you treat them, love them, and share truth with them.

He also wrote:

We can be orthodox in our theology while committing heresy by how we treat others.

This Sunday I am talking about the church as it reaches out. Two weeks ago we celebrated our 14th anniversary as a church community. Last week we served. Those are easy to do. The hard part is seeing individuals as individuals, someone who may need another to lean on.

WOULD YOU PLEASE PRAY FOR THIS ME AND THE FOLKS AT OVCF THIS SUNDAY? Thanks.

Serving

Thursday, November 1st, 2018

Martin Luther once said,

A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to no one; a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to everyone.

Service should be something every follower of Christ should be willing to do. A servant is what every follower of Christ should be willing to be.  Why? Well…that’s easy. Our role model once said, “I did not come to be served, but to serve and to give my life as a ransom for many.” Hmmmm.

Joel Manby wrote one of the best books on leadership I have ever read. It is called Love Works. The book was loaded with solid advice on leadership, primarily leadership is being a servant to all. He had some quotes I found really good:

Being unselfish doesn’t mean thinking less of yourself-it means thinking of yourself less. (p.88)

A little bit later he wrote:

The difficult journey of life is to move from a selfish heart to a serving heart.(p.88)

This Sunday is our Day of Service where we serve our community. We have asked The Connection Church and the Owen County Chamber of Commerce to join us again in our effort to serve and help others. This Day of Service offers free oil changes and light maintenance for those who can’t afford it and any yard work which needs done. Last year at this time we had a deluge that Sunday. I’m praying for good weather this year. We have about 8-9 oil changes and close to 30 people to help with their yards.

My sermon was chosen for this specific day and this specific topic. Your prayers for both would be appreciated.

ReturningtoReclaim

Friday, October 26th, 2018

Every year the church I pastor, Owen Valley Christian Fellowship, has an anniversary. (I’m sure that is news. But it is good news!)

Every year Ryan (our youth pastor) and I give a “State of the Church” address. We reiterate our Mission and Vision to the people in order to keep it in front of them.

Every year we follow that with a celebration. A Pitch-in dinner and some good old laughing and talking…and, of course, good old eating some good old food.

This year is no different. Only this year there is a twist…or two. About 2-3 months ago, at the request of the other leaders,  I was asked to keep the growth of the church in front of the people. So I developed what I called FIT. No, it is not a fitness group. FIT stands for Future Initiative Team. We have met twice now and have pinpointed some future ideas of what we need/should/could possibly do down the road. We then delineated them into “Big Ticket Items”; “Items which need our attention but in time”; and “Items which require immediate attention.”  We brainstormed quite an extensive list and this past meeting I “assigned” and asked for volunteers to follow up on the items, especially the immediate ones.  Long story short: following the message this Sunday, I’ll be giving a brief presentation of what we have come up with.

The other twist is the Dedication of our new Youth Addition. I’m excited the Chamber of Commerce is coming to have a ribbon-cutting for us, along with Ryan talking (briefly) about what all is going on in the addition and I’ll close in prayer.

It will make for an exciting day. I’d certainly appreciate your prayers for us. Please ask God to put His hand on our young people and that we be wise in how our building is used. It was never intended to be used for us alone. Twice a week, for example, WRE (Weekly Religious Education), a totally voluntary program for the local school kids uses our building. The kids give up a free class time to attend. Ryan is heavily involved in it.

And lest I forget: Our Mission and Vision is as follows:

Mission: To Connect People to Jesus

Vision:

  • To be Passionate Pursuers of Jesus
  • To be models of Truth and Love
  • To be involved in our Community

I would appreciate your prayers for us this Sunday. A lot of people have had a hand in making this addition a reality. Youth Addition or not, the church (OVCF and as a whole) needs to do more celebrating. We intend to do just that.

HolyWhat?

Friday, October 19th, 2018

I come from a tradition where talk of the Holy Spirit was almost nil. He was hush-hush. I’m not sure if that was because of ignorance or it was because of fear. My first exposure to someone raising their hands in worship (something I had never been exposed to but had read about) was at a youth conference I was attending. The worship leader was leading us in a song when several around me raised their hands. I kid you not: I broke out in a cold sweat wondering what was next.

I survived. Now I are one (as they say). But seriously, why was that even as issue? Why are there still people today who will not raise their hands because of a “theological problem” with it?  More importantly: why are we so closed off to that type of expression to the praise and glory of God?

There is an even greater problem underlying many churches and pastors today. We are afraid.  We are afraid to allow any semblance of emotion to be expressed. I’m not talking about excess. I’m not talking about the whooping and hollering and the devil-inspired jerking, rolling around on the floor, and barking like a dog we hear about. That is not godly. But we do have an elephant in the room. You see…there are two extremes (as I see it). Some pursue experience in the Spirit apart from the Word.  They listen for voices or seek “signs” from God. They seem to be always talking about what God “said to them.” At the other extreme is the one who seeks to know and obey the Word without any interaction with, or real dependence on, the Spirit. These people are often void of emotion and can become legalistic in their thinking.

My sermon this Sunday is entitled Jesus, Continued. I borrowed the title from a book I read several year ago.  As you might have guessed, the sermon is on the Holy Spirit. I’d appreciate your prayers for this message and those who listen. And, of course, the one who is bringing it. 🙂

TheRock

Friday, October 12th, 2018

No…this sermon is not about the “actor”  or any of his movies. It is about the One who is The Rock.  Do you remember ever reading or hearing this from many moons ago?

All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man on earth as much as that One Solitary Life.

That is just part of the poem/story told about Jesus. It is amazing how much Jesus is mentioned in our culture, but not necessarily out of respect. He’s in the world of fashion. (Who could forget the infamous “Jesus is my Homeboy” t-shirts many celebrities wore?) He shows up in movies. He shows up in music, both good and bad. He shows up at award shows (again both good and bad).  He shows up in the world of sports.  He shows up in the religions of the world (Don’t get me started on that!).

I recently finished reading Superheroes Can’t Save You by Todd Miles ( a great book where he took different superheroes and related it to how Jesus is perceived by many).  Todd wrote this after talking about his stagnant spiritual life which came to life while a student at Oregon State University:

Jesus Christ is the most compelling, interesting, and remarkable person who ever lived.  He is exactly who he claimed to be, precisely who the Bible teaches that he is-God in the flesh, the King of kings and Lord of lords.” (p.3)

Who Jesus is, according to the Bible, is a non-negotiable. That is where I choose to Stake My Claim this Sunday. If you live around here, please join us. If not, you can listen via podcast. In any case, please pray for me and for the folks this coming Sunday.  Thanks.

BigGod

Friday, October 5th, 2018

If there was ever a question asked that has yet to find a complete and correct answer it would be the “Why?” question. I seriously doubt there a person on this planet who has not asked that question sometime in their life.  As I was studying for this first sermon in my new series Staking Your Claim I ran across this quote:

A god small enough to be understood is not big enough to be worshiped.  Evelyn Underhill

That statement blew me away. I began to think, “Who am I to question God?” Another question: “Who am I to think God owes me an explanation for His dealings?”

Years ago I read a small little book with a big message: Your God is Too Small by J.B.Philipps. I have come to the conclusion that we in the American church have sort of “dumbed down” God. We may have not done it intentionally. I don’t think we purposely said, “I think I’m going to put God in a box and He will not operate outside of it.” I have not done what Thomas Jefferson did, i.e. cut out of my Bible parts I don’t agree with or believe in. I have never called God my “buddy” or “my homeboy.”

But if we diminish God in any way, such a God cannot sustain faith. You see…what we think about God determines everything else in our lives: what we value, what we pursue, and how passionately we pursue it.

That is why I have entitled my sermon The Bigness of God. Grasping that God is a being of unfathomable magnitude, wisdom, and goodness is one of the non-negotiables of having a living, vital faith.  Your prayers would be appreciated.