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#NewPost#FamiliarSongs

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021

Over at my other blog I have written a devotion which will post tomorrow. But I know that many do not read it so I thought I would post it here a day earlier. In that post I talk about a song which plays over and over in one’s head.  Here is the rest of tomorrow’s devotion blog. By the way, I’d love to have you join me on a daily basis as I write a devotion that I pray helps my readers face the day.  The link to that blog is here.  And here is that post:

Did you ever have a song in your head and it gets stuck there and it keeps repeating and repeating?  Maybe it was one you heard just before bedtime and you woke up with that song playing over and over in your head. Or maybe you were in a “mood” and a song just struck you right. Or you heard a song that had you waxing nostalgic, reliving a scene from the past that song dredged up.

A few weeks ago I had a medical diagnosis hanging over my head that was cryptic at best. “You have a mass of suspicious origin so I want you to get an MRI. It just looks different.” Of course all sorts of things run through the mind. He wanted that MRI to get a closer and deeper look. Thankfully, it was gall stones (which he was able to go in and take out with a process called ECRP.  That led though to a gall bladder surgery this past Wednesday. I’m glad it is over and out. But the morning after those initial words I was driving to the office and a fairly new song to me was playing on my Spotify playlist-Holy is Your Name by Petra. I pulled into the parking spot and found myself overcome with emotion and wept. I just knew no matter the outcome, I was going to be okay. (Here is the link to that song).

One of my favorite worship songs was playing last night as I worked on a jigsaw puzzle. I have related here before how my relationship with my father was sketchy at best. No need to repeat it. But the song hit me last night and I became emotional. “You’re a good, good Father that’s who You are/And I’m love by You, it’s who I am, it’s who I am.” My earthly father loved me in his own way, I guess. But God!! There is no comparison. He is a good, good Father and I’m loved by Him.

Now…that’s a song to have stuck in my head and on repeat!! (Here is the link to that song).

“You are a good, good Father, Lord. I cannot thank You enough.”

#TheHole#Emptiness#Life

Friday, February 19th, 2021

Augustine is credited with saying, “Our hearts are restless, O God, until they find their rest in you.” (Edited by me since the original was in King James English).  Just take a look around and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize his statement is true. Solomon has shown us over and over in Ecclesiastes that those things which we pursue will never satisfy. But just when you think he might be done, Solomon moves on to another empty pursuit. This week he will cover riches and honor.

Have you ever researched lottery winners? While there are some success stories of people who stayed humble and are still living in their modest home and living a modest lifestyle, or got a financial advisor to handle their finances,  there are also those who splurged on a new home and new toys and then lost it all to bankruptcy and divorce or in trouble with the law. They would be perfect examples of Solomon’s conclusion: all is empty.

My sermon this Sunday is from Eccl.5:8-6:12. I’ve titled it The Hole because that seems to me what Solomon is saying. But all is not lost! Just as Solomon talks about The Hole we can find ourselves in by chasing after empty things, we can also have the hole filled.  William Butler Yeats once said, “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.” Translated into Grandi language that says: “When things fall apart (as they will), nothing can hold life together.” I would disagree with Mr. Yeats because of the ONE who holds all of life together.  To help me make my point I’m going to share the story of Becket Cook, which comes from his book, Change of Affection. Becket was a practicing gay man who had an encounter with Christ and even though he had the world and all its “things,” he gave it up to follow Jesus. It is a thrilling story.

I’m recovering from gall bladder and hernia surgery as many of you know.  Ryan has a copy of my sermon just in case I can’t go, but Lord willing, I will be preaching this Sunday. I’d appreciate your prayers for health and a solid communication of the truth…by me or Ryan. Thanks.

#ImportantDay#DayofReflection

Wednesday, February 17th, 2021

Today is an important day for several reasons: one personal and one spiritual.

The spiritual first. Today, February 17th, is the beginning of Lent, or Ash Wednesday. Lent is the 40 days before the day we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus. This year that will be April 4th. I must confess to you that growing up in the church tradition I belonged to we did not observe Lent. I was so naive about it that I almost went up to a teacher who had a dark spot in the middle of his forehead and told him he had dirt there. 🙂 I had no clue! I also know some of my friends would talk about giving up something for Lent. Again, I had no clue.  My teacher was Catholic, as were my friends, and I now know that was a significant aspect of their belief system.  It had to be only 15 or so years ago that I really gave any notice to Lent. I heard some folks talking and decided it would behoove me to know more. For several years I decided to give it a go so one year I gave up caffeine pop. Another year I gave up beef (which wasn’t really hard since I didn’t eat it much anyway). One year I gave up all pop and drank only water. Then I finally figured out it really wasn’t about giving up something; it was really about surrender.

In his book, Journey to the Cross, a 40 day devotional to be used during Lent, Paul David Tripp writes: “It is right and beneficial to take a season of the year to reevaluate, recalibrate, and have the values of our hearts clarified once again. Lent is such a season. As we approach Holy Week, where we remember the sacrifice, suffering, and resurrection of our Savior, it’s good to give ourselves to humble and thankful mourning. Lent is about remembering the suffering and sacrifice of the Savior. Lent is about confessing our ongoing battle with sin…And Lent is about giving ourselves in a more focused way to prayer, crying out for help that we desperately need from the only One who is able to give it.” (Pages 8-9)

I no longer use Lent to give up something physical. I try to use it to do just what Tripp says: “to reevaluate, recalibrate, and have the values of my heart clarified once again.”  May I challenge you to do the same? I have been reading his book in preparation for my sermons on the cross and the resurrection. I’m actually on Day 17…and no I didn’t plan it that way. Perhaps you might even consider getting a copy of his book to help guide you.

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On a more personal note: this day has some significance. Many of you know of my struggles physically since testing positive for Covid on December 21. I will spare you the ugly details. Let’s just suffice it to say I lost between 40-50 pounds in less than a month. After multiple tests they have narrowed it down to gall stones which lodged in my bile duct which caused my physical issues. After having them removed, it was highly recommended that I have my gall bladder removed. My words: I have a gravel pit in there.  Oddly enough, I NEVER had a moment of pain. However much I hated getting Covid, it actually alerted my doctors (and me) to the potential for a great amount of pain and the possibility of infection which could have caused serious issues down the road. So I am having my gall bladder removed today. I guess that gives new meaning to Lent being a time of giving up something?  🙂  By the time many (most) of you read this my surgery will probably be over. I am hoping for the laparoscopy so I can come home today. All I ask is that whenever you read this you do say a prayer. I would like to recover as quickly as possible. On the bright side: we were “blessed” with 8-9 inches of snow Monday and Tuesday morning so I can’t be outside riding my bike anyway.  But I have been riding inside and am praying for a good answer to my question: when can I start riding inside again? I’ll keep you posted on how things went. Meanwhile, I do ask for your prayers. For more on this whole process and how I am “seeing” it, please check out my other blog here.

#Update

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2021

I asked for prayer yesterday for my procedure. I’d like to give an update. The procedure went well. They were able to go in and get the renegade stones. No complications except for a sore mouth as a result of having a tube down my throat.  I functioned well the rest of day and went to bed at my normal time of 9:30ish. 

I woke up at 2:00 and decided after fighting getting back to sleep to get up. I don’t have any commitments today so if I want to sleep this afternoon I can. Why?

Because I have a wife and two staff people who ordered me to stay home.  The doctor’s orders was no driving for 24 hours but I think I can stay awake for 2 miles.  The real reason is I have bullies ordering me around.  🙂 🙂

The only caveat to all of this is the doctor said I need to have my gall bladder removed and the sooner the better. He did say I had a bladder full of gravel (my words). Once this happens I can count on it happening again and again. And I don’t want to go through this weight loss regimen again!!!!! So now I wait for a call from the scheduler and the surgeon to sink up.

All is well at this point. Thanks so much for your prayers. God’s got this and I trust His perfect hand. 

#Request#Prayer

Monday, February 1st, 2021

Hey all of you who read this!  All two of you anyway. 🙂  I have a prayer request.  As many of you know I have been having some health issues related to my positive test for Covid. Nothing serious like many. No breathing issues. No need for a ventilator.  No hospitalization. My heart goes out to those who have suffered so much.

However, I have am what they have called a long-hauler.  I tested positive on December 21st and stayed in jail for 14 days. I ventured out on Sunday to preach since both Jo and Ryan (our youth pastor) also had tested positive. We were the only ones to show up.  I lost my sense of smell and taste for about a week, but the greatest (I thought) was being tired. I slept a lot and got nothing done I thought I would get done.  But since Christmas morning I have lost between 40-50 pounds because of my inability to keep things in and down (occasionally).  All blood tests have come back negative, as have all other tests.  Chest x-ray.  Negative.  CT scan. Negative. Coloscopy. No tumor, polyps or mass.  I finally had an MRI last week which showed some renegade stones. The doctor initially told me I had a mass of a suspicious nature. I’m glad it was not what it sounded like. So today I go in for him to get the stones out of there. He said they have come out of the bladder and entered the tube heading into the pancreas. There is a little “v-like” bend in the tube and they are close to that and he said I would NOT want the stones to reach that. So out they come today.

I’d appreciate your prayers for me and Jo at 2:00 today (Monday). You may get this after the fact…you can still pray for recovery.  I’m looking forward to getting my life back where I can ride and lift and put on weight. I’ve had all kinds of offers from people that I can have their weight but it doesn’t work that way. 🙂 

Thanks again for praying. I’ll keep you posted on how things went. I’m not concerned. God’s got this.

#Life#Sacred#SpeakUp

Friday, January 15th, 2021

Every once in a while a pastor has to-by design or by expository preaching through a book-come across a subject which is uncomfortable or controversial.  I think people are much more forgiving if you are preaching through a book and come across an uncomfortable subject, like say…tithing.  But when a pastor gets on his soapbox or high horse and screams and challenges any opposite view that is when listeners get “antsy.”

This Sunday has the potential to be one of the latter. Way back in September when I doing a series called “Q&A” one of the questions was going to be “What About Abortion?”  I scrapped it because the time was not right (for several reasons). I then chose to not preach about it before the election lest someone think I was hyping a particular political position and was against a certain candidate.

Here is why I held off: I do not believe abortion is a political issue, nor should it be. I believe it is a Biblical issue, a moral issue.  I heard a podcast this past week where Alisa Childers was interviewing John Cooper, the lead singer of the Christian rock band, Skillet. John said the same thing-that it was a Biblical issue.  Anyway, when I started working on the Ecclesiastes series Life Matters, it seemed to fall in line that now was the time.  Couple that with this Sunday being “Sanctity of Life” Sunday and it was like the perfect storm.

I have no intention of being judgmental or to froth at the mouth out of contempt for those who perform or have had, campaign for or even encouraged an abortion. There is enough guilt thrown at them without me adding to it.  My approach is going to be simple and straightforward: How pro-life is the Bible? and How does God see the unborn? A massive amount of Scripture will be used with the final emphasis on Psalm 139: 13-18.

Each week I invite you to join me/us in our worship. We will be live this week with both services being offered in person and live stream.  So I do invite you to join us at 9 & 10:45. However, the best and greatest thing you can do is P.R.A.Y. I want the message of the Bible to come through loud and clear, that the cacophony of voices will be silenced, and God will be heard. Thanks ahead of time.

#Wisdom#Pleasure#Empty

Friday, January 8th, 2021

Henry David Thoreau once said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.”

I’m guessing he is not too far from the truth.

In the 80s, the rock group Foreigner had a song that haunted many and if given to reality and truth, still does. The song’s big refrain was “I want to know what love is/I want you to show me.” I’m pretty certain the writer of Ecclesiastes never heard of Foreigner, but that song has every human being’s name on it. You see, no matter who we are; no matter how old we are; no matter our language, time or place; we all want to know what love is and that we are.

My sermon Sunday is the second installment on my two month series on Ecclesiastes. In Eccl. 1:12-2:11 Solomon shows the emptiness of chasing wisdom and pleasure.  We will be virtual again this week due to our desire to keep our people safe, and even though our governor has said nothing about churches, our County is in the Red which is 25 or less in one place. Given the strike of Covid on our congregation, that may be a stretch to even reach that. But we are playing it safe.  I’d love to have you join me online at 10:45 at the church’s FB page or YouTube channel.

I found the perfect song for this week and I’m guaranteeing it will surprise you. Check it out here

#CCReflections

Monday, December 28th, 2020

I posted this on my other blog. I thought I would post it here also.

Christmas reflections:

Friday-After a positive Covid test for me, Jo and Tami and some positive tests for the staff and friends of each of us, this is a really strange Christmas. It was going to be anyway because Janna and Braden were not going to be here. But even Tami can’t come over. This devotion may be a little longer than normal due to my observations but also because it will cover 3 days of observations.

Every year it seems we hear certain refrains from spiritual leaders, i.e. pastors.

  • Slow down. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I have said that. “Pull away from the hustle and bustle and slow down,” I’ll say. Well, this has certainly been one of the by-products of covid isolation.
  • Stay home. No problem. And when I have said this in the past it was not a covid-ordered government mandate. We travel a lot visiting family and friends all over the place. We aren’t allowed to go out of the house so staying home is the norm. If we had gone to Ohio today we would have been snowed in. They got a ton of snow! White Christmas indeed! So we stay home and maybe watch some Christmas movies. {Note: we didn’t. Neither one of us felt like it}
  • Refocus. Honestly, how can you not? Gifts will be opened rather quickly instead of one at a time like we normally do going around the room. So when that is all done we get to focus on the real gift.

Saturday– This will forever be remembered in history as CC- Covid Christmas. Yesterday was strange. We Facetimed Tami as we opened gifts-she in her apartment and us here. We would have welcomed her here but MCCSC (her school corporation) monitors her during covid. So it was safer. Later Janna Facetimed us with Braden so we could see what he got. Everything was “Air this and Air that.” I guess I don’t see the fascination with giving a retired basketball player, whose stuff is made in China, all that money…but that’s me. All in all yesterday was an uneventful day. Lazy. Watched a little TV then head back to my “cave” to fall asleep. Other than the no taste and no smell issues, and a few others, the biggest by-product is the desire to sleep. I have slept more in the last week than I have in the last year. I remember Pastor Greg Laurie saying that was his biggest issue (wish I could say that). Some of that is boredom since I can’t concentrate on reading. I’m going to try to study today since I preach virtually tomorrow. Praying for extra grace today as I prepare for tomorrow.

Sunday– I’m writing this after the fact.  Sunday seemed to go off okay without a hitch. We were immensely blessed by the anonymous gift that allowed us to purchase the upgraded equipment. All in all though, I thought it went well. I chose to sit instead of standing. I’m not sure my stamina would have been there to stand the whole time and preach and remember.

Sunday afternoon was tough. I was weary but when I tried to eat some soup it didn’t stay in my stomach very long. But you don’t want here that saga. 🙂 It was a lazy day as they have all become. One family was really kind and brought some soup and crackers, a couple of baked potatoes, and some other items. Friday one family blessed us with Ensure and Pedialyte for me, some veggies  and soup and crackers. Saturday one family blessed Jo with some Zero and Diet Coke. I’m not sure about the other two on staff but I certainly can’t complain how we have been taken care of. Plus the texts and emails have been nice. Oh yeah…one family brought us a Christmas meal on Christmas evening after their family Christmas. Not that we could eat it or taste it. 🙂

Jo and I called it a day at 8:00. Yep 8:00. Seems to be about the norm these days. I’d like to believe I am on the mend. It has been a week since my test but well over that since I started showing symptoms. I should have been more honest and aware and introspective with myself. Gone to be tested sooner. Not gone to Ohio. Funeral? But hindsight is 20/20 and there is nothing I can change. It seems strange the way it has hit us all about the same time and in the same way. Others also have got it-part of our friends group-so there is a common denominator there somewhere. But who wants to try to figure that out. Not me. It is what it is.

I’ll close by saying I’m looking forward to putting this behind me and moving forward.

#MyOpinion#Unpopular

Sunday, November 22nd, 2020

I have “soaked” on this since before the election. I have been writing it in my head since weeks before but I chose to hold off, to wait until my head was “cool” and my heart was right. As I write this, the election has happened but the results are still up in the air.  I seldom, if ever, write about politics. In many ways, I despise the topic. I believe they do not in any way, shape or form belong in the pulpit. I struggle with any so-called pastor who gets involved in politics on a national level and spews vitriol at his/her opponent.  I somehow cannot see Jesus approving of that approach, nor can I see Him approving abortion and hate.

But I feel I must speak up. We are living in a post-Christian culture. No question. We have seen “evangelical” preachers take a stand as being pro-life but aligning with a party that has as its basic platform to tear down that stronghold of life, all because they cannot stand a man.  We have seen the rise of a socialist agenda. We have seen the rise of people who mock God and mock our democracy. We have seen the rise of big tech and the media controlling the information disseminated to the people. (And people wonder why I am not on Twitter and FB and Instagram? Need I say more?)

Back when this whole mess started with BLM I made a public statement and published it on this blog here. If you missed it please check it out.  I stand by that. But I’ve also done some more thinking on it. (Now that is scary!).  I have heard a statement and have seen it loud and proud: “All lives don’t matter until black lives matter.”  Would you please take a look at that statement one more time and see one thing? Do you see how racist that statement is?

Racist you say? Yes I said that.  Here’s why.  That statement says Chinese-American lives don’t matter. That statement says Italian-American (of which I am one) lives don’t matter. And you can keep going with that.  I grew up in West Mifflin, PA, a suburb of Pittsburgh.  For my first 12 1/2 years I lived and grew up in the projects until my folks were finally able to afford a home of our own. My brother still lives in that house. I grew up around black people-some of them were my friends.  I played sports with them. I got along with them. I didn’t have a clue about the different section of housing in the projects. We played together. My mom taught me to never use the “n” word.  A very vivid memory of mine is in 1969.  The racial riots were breaking out and my high school was no different (I’m guessing it was 1/3-1/2 black. My graduating class was between 300-400 students). I stood in the foyer of our school with 3, sometimes 4 other students commenting how stupid the fighting was. John was Catholic and came from a successful family. Bruce was black and had designs on being a concert violinist. Jeff was Jewish (Jeff Goldblum, the actor, a rich doctor’s kid who probably doesn’t remember me from Adam). And I was a Christian and came from a family that struggled to make ends meet. Did you notice the diversity? No one ever told us the other’s life didn’t matter. That would have been one of the stupidest ideas I/we would have ever heard.

In God’s economy, NO ONE is more important than any other.  Has injustice been done? Sure. To all when you check it out. How about the ugly Holocaust? How about the Japanese-Americans during WWII? I see a greater injustice done to the thousands of unborn babies whose lives are snuffed out before they can even take a breath…white, black, Hispanic, or otherwise. As people of God, as followers of Christ, we MUST begin to see that all lives matter.  Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Then verse 13 says, “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  Notice the gospel is for everyone. No color mentioned. Because we all need Jesus.

I realize what I have said may not sit well with some. I’m a big boy. Feel free to respond if you like, but please be courteous. To me. Or to anyone else.  Also keep this in mind: this is my blog.  The views expressed are mine and in no way reflect on the individual beliefs of others or the leadership of OVCF.  We truly do welcome all people-age, color, social status, or lifestyle. And just so you know: we do have a Hispanic who attends and an interracial teenage couple. And I guarantee you that he (I will withhold his name) would never tell you I judged him/them with prejudice.  We even had a Filipino attending for several years until she found a Filipino congregation in her town. We do believe the Bible is God’s Word and is true and won’t compromise its message to make ourselves palatable to the masses.

Oh yeah, one more thing. When some of the stuff comes true-jobs leaving the US; the socialist agenda (BLM and others) makes inroads; we become reliant on foreign oil; we become “beholding” to foreign powers because of compromised leadership; when organizations come calling for favors; when abortion and other ungodly things hit their stride; when you can’t afford gas (car or home) and your taxes are raised; when healthcare is truly unaffordable- I’ll make sure I don’t say “I told you so.” (Sadly, as I finally publish this, some of the above “prophecies” are coming true).

#4Truths#ClingTo

Sunday, November 1st, 2020

I mentioned in my last post that I was deeply influenced by 4 truths taught in Jesus Revolution by Greg Laurie and Ellen Vaughn. Before I share those 4 truths, I think it is important to give you the backstory to them. Greg and Cathe Laurie are the parents of two sons. The oldest, Christopher, had gotten into drugs and the way of the world. But one day he recommitted his life to Christ and it was real. He became a good husband and father. He also worked alongside his dad, who was and is the pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California.  One day they were waiting for Christopher to show with water for a ministry they were doing when it became later and later. Finally Greg received word that Christopher had been killed in a car accident. He said he collapsed on his front porch and and wept. But as he wept he said, “You gave him to me in the first place, and now I give him back to you.”  Would the faith they absorbed during the Jesus Movement days and practiced since the ’60s sustain he and Cathe? The reality of faith didn’t anesthetize the pain. Trusting Jesus wasn’t an emotional Xanax. But faith did make the pain bearable. 

They knew four truths, not just intellectually, but deep in their souls. These truths were what they could hold on to in the midst of their storm.  Here they are:

#1- Life is full of trouble, just as Jesus had promised.  John 16:33 comes to my mind when I think about this.

#2- They knew God loved them.  I personally think this is where we get tripped up the most. Sometimes we think we are owed something because of the life we have lived-both good and bad (our childhood for example). We might be going through a tough season-mentally, physically and spiritually-but we have the assurance of God’s love.

#3- They knew Jesus wept with them.  Ask for a memory verse in a contest and invariably someone will says, “Jesus wept.” We chuckle (although it is old) but have you ever considered the power in that short verse?

#4- They knew God can be glorified, in some mysterious way, by human suffering.  Job was able to say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” The Lauries were able to say that as well.  The proof is in the fruit.

So much there.  Unpack it some more on your own. Want some help? Feel free to contact me.