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Marked

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

When I was in college I read a little book called The Mark of a Christian by Francis Schaeffer. It had to be the only book I read and understood by that intelligent man. I tried to use it as my required reading for one of my classes but its 20-30 some pages did not not meet the professor’s criteria for a worthy book. I don’t know why do you?  🙂

The mark of a Christian, according to Schaeffer is the same mark Jesus talked about in John 13:34-35: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

This week I’m going to delve further into the second part of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

  • Becoming a follower of Jesus produces a desire to obey…there is a submissive will.
  • Becoming a follower of Jesus produces an ability to love…there is a caring heart.

The commandment to love is not a new one. Even the OT tells us to love. But Romans 13:8-10 shows us it needs to go further. So this week my emphasis will be a new kind of love. I’d appreciate your prayers for me and the church. Thanks ahead of time.

Thoughts

Sunday, February 12th, 2017

Random thoughts from Sunday:

Any time I have gone away, I have always tried to come home either later Sunday or sometime Monday or Tuesday. I was reminded again of why. We went away from Wednesday through Friday. I made it home in time (45 minutes to spare) to take tickets at the high school basketball game. I slogged through Saturday’s preparation for my sermon. While the sermon was done physically, the spiritual part of me needs Saturday to get it in gear. Nope…didn’t happen. I like coming home the early part of the week since it means I will have time to prepare myself. Today was one of those days when it was a “little bit of me and a whole lot of God.”

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A few thoughts from Sunday’s message are pertinent to Christ-followers:

“Our salvation is the most important thing about us. If we have it, we are wealthy beyond belief. If we don’t, we are most to be pitied.” James McDonald

An unchanged life is a sign of an unchanged heart.  (Me)  This debunks the myth that I can live anyway I want and still call myself a Christian.

Real knowledge is not knowing something; it is in knowing Someone, a Person…Jesus Christ. (Me)  All the knowledge in the world will amount to nothing without a personal knowledge of Jesus.

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I have been asked to consider something wa-a-a-a-a-y out of my comfort zone or even my “desire” zone. I’m not at liberty to say what it is, but if you wouldn’t mind saying a prayer, God knows what it is about. Interestingly enough, Tami (my daughter), has approached me with an opportunity she has which will require stretching. You might want to include her. I hope to link to her blog this week as she writes about it. Thanks ahead of time.

There is some Sunday meandering for you. Random I know.

Branded!

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

There are a few TV shows or movies I will stop to watch if I am walking through the room when they are on. When I first started watching Back to the Future we had taped it on a free weekend. My friend and his son came to visit and I think that movie played on the round the whole weekend. No sooner was it over than we rewound the tape (it was a VHS) and started watching it again.  I’m sort of the same way with the old B & W Perry Mason shows. I am a sucker for the old shows, even though I know Perry is going to win. Never a doubt even though things look awful gloomy from time to time for his client.  I still like courtroom dramas.

A big part of the beginning of I John 2 is the importance of an Advocate who goes to the “bench” on our behalf.  The word Advocate translates the Greek word which means “one who comes alongside” and denotes in legal settings the defender or counselor who comes to aid his clients. It is the same word translated “Helper” or “Comforter” in John 14.  Jesus is the perfect Advocate since the Judge is His Father and they are always in perfect harmony.

Another word used in I John 2 is the word propitiation. A big word most will have trouble saying right, let alone knowing what it means.  It means appeasement or satisfaction. John tells us that Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross satisfied the demands of God’s justice.

There is more to write but will stop there. If you care to listen, the podcast of the sermon is on the church’s website. I welcome your thoughts if you do listen.

Just as a heads up: I am posting this early because Jo and I will be leaving today (Wednesday) for the St. Louis area and return late Friday afternoon. Two of our young men play basketball for Maryville University and we are taking some time away and watching them. Sort of like killing two birds with one stone. So, except for approving a comment, I will be very scarce here and on your blogs as well. Have a great weekend!

TESTS

Sunday, February 5th, 2017

I disliked taking tests. Maybe dislike is the wrong word. Maybe hated is a better one. 🙂 Actually, I didn’t mind the essay kind. I could “blow off” and hope I said enough to make my point. I didn’t mind multiple choice because somewhere along the line I might remember and get the right answer. I disliked strongly (how about that choice of words) the True/False kind.

One of the biggest struggles I run into among fellow Christ-followers is the assurance of salvation. Too many are always questioning “Am I saved?” “If I die today would I go to heaven?” “How can I know?” While I personally have questions about what is called Eternal Security, I don’t believe a follower of Christ ever has a reason to doubt their salvation. Based on what you ask? Well, Sunday I gave two tests to ask as you seek to figure out not only your own, but who might be preaching a strange gospel. Here are two from I John:

  • Belief in God and the certainty of sin. [1:5-6,8,10]  False teachers and doctrinal errors are spread when there is uncertainty about God and sin. John tells us “God is Light.” He also tells us “in Him is no darkness at all.” Ever since the Fall man has tried to excuse sin. We call it a “mistake” or a “failure” or a “disorder, illness, or addiction.” Call sin what it is…sin.
  • Belief in forgiveness of sin and confession. [1:7b,9] That verse 9 stands like a rock for me. We can deny it. We can argue. But we cannot erase that verse from the pages of Holy Writ. What is written is written. Way too many followers of Jesus live in the past and think they cannot be forgiven. The tense used for forgive is one which not only shows past forgiveness but specifically present forgiveness. And since my tomorrow is actually today, forgiveness is always there.

I’m sure you can think of more. But these are huge to the freedom of every follower of Jesus. What do they say to you?

Branded!

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017

Kicking and screaming. Loud noises. Hot and sweaty. Searing flesh.

Obviously you probably figured out with that description and the title I am not describing a child being disciplined or being asked to do something he doesn’t want to do. Branding cattle or sheep was an absolute essential in the days we call the Wild West. The brand identified whose sheep or cattle or horses they were.

Phil Cooke, in his book, Unique, defines a brand as “what do people think of when they think of you, your product or your organization?” Each church establishes its brand, i.e. what it is known for. Preaching. Youth program. Generosity. Outreach to the community. Love. So much more.

As an individual follower of Jesus, I am branded. If you are a Christ-follower you are too. The question is this: “what do people think of when they think of me/you?” Is there a checklist to see how we are doing in that area?

Actually there is. “Branded”, my sermon series from I John which starts this Sunday, has 5 marks/brands which should be the makeup of every follower of Christ. They are marks I will be visiting as we make our way through this fantastic book.

LOVE DEEPLY

OBEY FAITHFULLY

LIVE AUTHENTICALLY

KNOW COMPLETELY

BELIEVE CONFIDENTLY

I can’t take credit for thinking those up. James MacDonald gets kudos for that. I’m excited to be preaching this book. I have never done it before. So I thank you for your prayers ahead of time.

Weakness

Thursday, January 26th, 2017

Weak is the new strong. That is just one of the opposite-opposite statements we find in the Bible which seemingly contradict each other. Here are a few more:

  • Love your enemies
  • The way to be exalted is to be humble
  • To truly live you have to die
  • Jesus gave His life, not for good people but for sinful, ungodly people who don’t deserve it.

To be strong, you have to be weak. That sure sounds strange in our society doesn’t it? We of the power grabs and climbing the ladder (while using our coworkers as stepping stones). So hearing the word weakness almost throws us into a convulsion, or at best a spasm.

Paul said it well in 2 Cor. 12:9-10: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

We all have weaknesses and limitations. That’s normal. As humans we are finite, imperfect, sinful people. Those are limitations. But weaknesses are different. We all have them; just different ones.  The lesson for us though is that in spite of our weaknesses, God’s grace stands there ready at a moment’s notice. The equally interesting thing is that God not only wants to display His grace in Paul’s life, He also wants to display His power in Paul’s weakness.

Truth: the weaker we become, the greater God’s power is released in us. That is the idea I want to capture this coming Sunday. Will you please pray for us this Sunday?

The leadership is also making an announcement this week concerning the future of OVCF. If you, my readers, are interested in knowing what I said, you can tune into the podcast.

Fools

Sunday, January 22nd, 2017

It is not a compliment to be called a fool. Not in biblical days. Not in the 1800s. Certainly not today. It is a term of derision. In fact, the word “fool” is on the level of idiot, nincompoop, and dunce. Far from a compliment, it is seen as a put-down. Interesting fact which I am sure many of you know: the word fool in the Greek is actually the word moronic. Yeah, you read that right. No need to tell you what word we get from that.

In verses 9-14 of I Corinthians 4 Paul uses four words to describe the followers of Christ:

  1. Spectacles– When a Roman general entered the city as a conquering hero, he came first. His army came next. The captors brought up the rear and they were spectacles to the watching and jeering throng.
  2. Fools- The early followers of Jesus often lived in the lowest level of society. While others wanted glory, honor and recognition, the followers of Jesus gave that up.
  3. Sufferers– While others lived like kings, they often lived like paupers. The life of following Jesus was a life of suffering. The word labor used in verse 12 means toil, which literally means “working our fingers to the bone, to the point of exhaustion.”
  4. Scum– Refuse. This refers to the scrapings from the bottom of a pan which are scraped off and thrown away.

The point? God is embracing the ridiculous. That is the point of my message this weekend. God embraces the ridiculous, the crazy people. I’m going to give some examples this week in a post or two of “crazy people.” Meanwhile, would you please pray for the Word to hit home this weekend?

Control

Monday, January 16th, 2017

I suspect many of you have seen The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Next to Back to the Future, it is my favorite trilogy of movies. The central plot focuses on The Ring of Power fashioned by the Dark Lord Sauron. This ring corrupts whoever has it. No matter how good his or her intentions are, the ring’s power eventually corrupts even the purest heart. Enter Frodo. Frodo is given the task of taking the ring to Sauron’s lair to destroy it. We watch throughout the three movies as the ring’s power begins to take over and control Frodo’s every waking and sleeping moment. The finale has Frodo on the precipice of where he needs to throw the ring, and with Sam yelling, “Throw it in Frodo!” we watch as Frodo turns to Sam and says, “No Sam. It’s mine” and puts it on. The power of the ring had taken control of Frodo. It had enslaved him.

Idols are like that. They slowly and subtly take over, often without us even knowing it is happening. Pastor Tim Keller calls an idol a “counterfeit god.” He goes on to call an idol:

Anything more important to us than God, anything that absorbs our heart and mind more than God, anything we seek to give you only what God can give.

In my next post I plan to give 6 examples of idols we face today…many we don’t even realize are idols.

Oh…thanks for hanging in there with me over the past couple of months. I’ll give an update on my accident in the next week or so. But I do thank you for your prayers.

Idols

Thursday, January 12th, 2017

In Numbers 21 there is a story of the people of Israel and a serpent. They had begun to grumble against God and Moses, complaining they brought them out of Egypt into the wilderness to die. Their complaining got so bad God sent fiery serpents among them and when they bit the people they died. Suddenly complaining about being in the wilderness was not such a big thing anymore. The remedy for all of this mayhem was for Moses to make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole. Anyone who looked on it would live. Sounds all well and good.

E.X.C.E.P.T!

“He (King Hezekiah) removed the high places and broke the pillars and cut down the Asherah. And he broke pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it (and it was called Nehushtan).”  2 Kings 18:4

That which was for a good purpose turned out to become something bad. The serpent had become an idol.

We may not have those kinds of idols but we do have them. An idol is a representation of what we honor, esteem, pay allegiance to, or worship. Idols tell us we can’t live without them.

My sermon this week is #3 in the series “I Am Fifth.” I’m calling it “Who’s Your Daddy?” because of the subject of idols. It is a tough sermon to preach since it hits all of us (especially me). I’m going to take a post or two next week to cover this subject in a little more detail. Stay tuned!

Fifth

Sunday, January 1st, 2017

Hard to believe 2017 is over 7 hours old already. Being that today is “my one day to work”  🙂  I went to bed at 9:35 last night. No amount of celebrating or celebration could keep me up until 12. Strangely enough, I was. I woke up from a fitful sleep about 11:30 so I decided to go to my Cave and read. I grabbed my Bible and journal and started catching up on the reading which had taken a back seat over the past few days. (And yes, pastors do that also. We are not always on the ball). So…while I had no intention of welcoming in the New Year…I did. I have this sneaking suspicion that less than four hours of sleep is going to catch up with me. Let’s just hope it isn’t while I’m preaching or praying. That could be bad!

The banner gives a good picture of my theme for 2017.  “I am Fifth.” Gayle Sayers, a Chicago Bears running back from the ’60s-70s, wrote a book called I Am Third, where he talked about his friendship with Brian Piccolo-a white teammate who was also dying of cancer. His guiding life lesson was “God is first; Others are second; I am third.” As I scanned by library back on July 5th, I ran across the book The Fifth Gospel by Bobby Conway. I decided to use the title with a twist and spend 2017 preaching about being the gospel to others.

Two quotes stand out to me:

“Where one man reads the Bible, a hundred read you and me.” D.L.Moody

“Preach the gospel; when in doubt, use words.”

After introducing the idea this month, I plan to preach on I John. After that the plan is Philippians and/or James.  If you are part of OVCF, I do hope you will join me in this journey. If not, but you still want to join in, you can listen by podcast on the church’s website. Have a great 2017.