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Struck

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

As I mentioned in the last post, it was Jo’s birthday. I survived the caning I received for telling her age, but other than that I have come out of it relatively unscathed.

We did go see Hidden Figures. What a moving picture! I was born in 1952 and even though I grew up during the age of segregation, I was basically naive. My mother was not a segregationist by any stretch so I was taught all people were worth something. I was never allowed to use the “n” word in her presence, nor was I allowed to make fun of any handicapped person. (Kids can be cruel you know?) I grew up living in the projects, low income housing units built for the steel workers in the 20s, I believe. Improvements had been made but I was still a son-of-the-projects.  I look back now and remember the separate housing units for the black people (that’s one of the names they were called. That and colored people). But I can also look back and realize some of my friends were black kids. I played sports with them. I went to school with them. I was affected by, but in the dark when the riots of ’69-70 hit home to my little town of West Mifflin, PA. I grew up in a high school that was about 1/3 black so I was not out of sorts like so many whites and blacks were. In fact, while former friends were fighting and calling each other names outside before school, I stood inside with Jeff Goldblum (yes him…a Jew); John, a white Catholic; Bruce, a black with concert violinist aspirations; and me, a white Christian. So I knew of difficulty with the races but isolated myself against it.

The movie, Hidden Figures, showed the ugliness and inequality of the whole racial situation. It was, to me, a blight on our country…to think of the Civil War and the freeing of slaves as basically a non-event in our nation’s history. I was struck by the way people were treated.

If I were you, I would make plans to see the movie. Go prepared to get angry. Go also with Kleenex because there are both happy/laughing moments, and also weepy moments. Above all, go prepared to be struck by the reality of God’s love for every individual…no matter the race or color.

Fools

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

This past Sunday I spoke about the verse where Paul says, “We are fools for Christ’s sake.” While the fool is not a complimentary term, I went another way with it. I went with the idea that God embraces the ridiculous.

I love to talk about my two daughters. Seldom do I get the chance to brag about them, so today I want to brag about my oldest, Tami. She recently wrote a blog that I want to highlight and ask you to check it out. She says it very succinctly and, if I may brag, very well. I’d like to ask you to read it here.

One of the things I did was change the word fool to the word crazy. I started with this video. With that thought in mind here are some of the crazy people and highlights Tami also mentioned (just in case you didn’t read her post):

Abraham– Obedience is easy when it fits into our plan or our scheme. Abraham was willing to obey even though it was crazy.

Namaan- Sometimes we are asked to take steps of wild obedience where we have no clue where it will end. Stop too soon and we miss out on God’s phenomenal blessings. (Note: Imagine if Namaan had stopped at #6)

Gideon- It doesn’t matter the size of the army or enemy coming against you when God is fighting your battle for you.

Hosea– Though we fail; we are not failures. Though we are unfaithful; God is faithful. Always.

As Christ-followers we are often asked to do bizarre-appearing actions. Some might actually call us crazy. But I’d rather be called crazy for stepping out of the status quo than be bored to tears and bore everyone else along the way.

 

Involvement

Sunday, October 30th, 2016

I interrupted my posts from last week to interject one about Sunday’s sermon.  I’d like to finish that series of posts with this one. For the purpose of review you can see the others:

Mission

Vision #1

Vision #2

#3: To be involved in our community.

It is easy-as a church and as individuals-to bury our head in the sand or to put our hands over our eyes and say, “It doesn’t happen here. If so, I don’t want to know.” The church needs to stop hiding behind its walls and stained glass windows (which we don’t have) and get involved. Change won’t happen unless we do. We will bemoan the fact “our town is going to hell in a hand-basket” but really have no right to say that unless or until we do something to stem the tide.

Speaking for OVCF, we have no desire to be one of those churches.

It used to be (and I’m ashamed to admit this) but my world was secluded to the church and church people I was called to shepherd. I did very little, and cared very little, for those outside the church walls. How ugly is that? Then I harped on the people to invite their friends and neighbors. I look back now and say, “Why? Why would I invite anyone to hear me?”

Everything changed when I moved here…gradually. I fell in love with the people of the church first, and by proxy, the town. But then I started making myself available in the community. I’m a member of the Chamber of Commerce board and other ventures. We have an annual Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas breakfast where we serve the community free. I’ve recently taken a deep interest in human trafficking and will be talking to a local judge who is spearheading the task force as to what we can do. Next Sunday, the 6th, OVCF will be partnering with two other churches in the community to do our Day or Service. The church building is a registered Safe Place venue.

I could tell you so much more. Huh, maybe I will in the next post. GET INVOLVED. DON’T HIDE BEHIND WALLS.

Pursuit

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

In my last post, I talked about the Mission of OVCF. You can see that post here. I realize there are all sorts of different explanations for the difference between mission and vision. I have one that I feel comfortable with and use that as a guide.

The Mission is what we do.

The Vision is how we hope/plan to accomplish that mission.

MISSION: TO CONNECT PEOPLE TO JESUS

The $1000 question is “How can we make that happen?” The following is what was shared Sunday. In order to be cognizant of length, I’m going to do this in three posts.

#1: WE DESIRE TO BE PASSIONATE PURSUERS OF JESUS.

Our #1 goal is not to build a big church. It is not to have a huge nursery or the best youth program. Our first and primary pursuit should be running fully after Jesus. It goes without saying: we cannot lead people where we ourselves are not going or have not been. That would be like taking your child into the forest and telling them to follow a path and then going the opposite direction. Makes no sense.

Paul knew this principle. In Philippians 3:10 he wrote, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection.” The word know is the word which means “intimate knowledge.” In other words, Paul was drawing a line in the sand between a head knowledge and a heart knowledge. There are tons of people who know a lot about Jesus, the Bible and other teachings. The atheist knows the Bible and knows the teachings of Jesus! But it is head knowledge. We need heart knowledge.

A passionate pursuer of Jesus desires to have a heart knowledge, one full to the brim and running over. Are you one?

ID

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

If you look into the right margin of the blog, you will see an icon with RoadID. If you click on it, it will take you to a website of well…RoadID. RoadID is a series of products designed to tell people who you are in case of an accident. I wear three. The Slim ID. The FIXX ID.  And the Sport ID. I wear the Slim 24/7. The other two I wear when I am cycling. The motto of Road ID is Its Who We Are. In case of an emergency it is designed to let them know your name, age, contact person, any medical alerts, doctor (in my case) and a saying (Live the Adventure). You can actually design one however you want.

My message during the 12th Anniversary of the church was just that: It’s Who We Are. I also involved Ryan so he could give his thoughts from a youth-oriented perspective.

I started with this quote:

Without vision, there is rarely direction. Without direction, there are no goals. And without goals, there is not progress.

Our goal- our Mission- is simple and straightforward:

TO CONNECT PEOPLE TO JESUS

We get our cue from Jesus who said, “The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.”  He also said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinner to repentance.” We get our cue from Matthew 28:19-20.

To my way of thinking: it is sort of hard to mess that up.

Recap

Monday, October 24th, 2016

The church’s 12th anniversary celebration is now history. One service. A packed auditorium (even with over 15 regulars gone). A good spirit. A so-so sermon. 🙂 A great pitch-in dinner. And a good offering to go toward our new (and modest) youth addition (which will wait until at least the Spring to be started).

It is always strange when things are changed around. Instead of two services at 9:00 and 10:45, we had one at 10:00. We’ve been announcing it for over two months so I’m thinking most, if not all, got the memo. We had every available space used with 155 chairs. The spirit was excellent. We prayed it would be and the folks came expectant and excited. We have some fantastic cooks so the pitch-in was good. My only beef is because I go last-on purpose-there was very little meat left I could eat. Very little anything for that matter. But there was chocolate!! I’m okay with that.

The offering was over $7100. That puts our Youth Addition Fund over $86000. Our goal is $140,000 as we intend on paying cash for the addition. We thank God for His goodness and the generosity of the people.

The sermon was so-so. Ryan and I both preached, with him adding his thoughts from the Youth Pastor side of things. We will need to reevaluate and streamline I think.

All in all it was a “most excellent day.” For those of  you who pray for me/us every Sunday, thank you so much! We prayed before everyone showed up that God would be praised and glorified and the fame of his Name would be spread. Our prayers were answered.

I hope to share some of my sermon thoughts over the course of this week with you.

Timeless

Monday, October 10th, 2016

I have arrived safe and sound from a weekend in Ohio. I wrote about it here. I had a fantastic time. My right arm is a little sore of throwing a football countless times to a never-tiring grandson whose imagination goes wild. He had us in stitches several times during the weekend. I hope and pray his imagination never goes on the fritz and dies.

I’m a little rushed knowing what is facing me the rest of the week. A C-section delivery, a lunch appointment with my my wife and daughter, a Day of Service meeting at 5:00 and a movie to make popcorn for as a “Master Popper” at 6:00. (Yeah I’ll be a bit late). Wednesday is another non-stop day even though the kids are on Fall Break. And, of course, I need to find time to ride or work out. You know…the important stuff. 🙂

When I got back home I had a birthday card waiting for me. He included a saying in it:

Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young. Henry Ford

While I may not agree it is the greatest thing in life, it is certainly a very important part of it. I turned 64 Sunday. I have no clue how long God has me living on this earth, but I don’t want to waste away. I don’t want to stop learning. I don’t want to stop reading. I don’t want to stop enjoying life (my adventure). This sums up my thoughts (a gift from my secretary):

adventure-box

That is timeless. What are you waiting for?

GraceEffect

Sunday, September 25th, 2016

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51pbqw8T5uL._AC_US160_.jpg

Several weeks ago I published a review of the book “Hitch” by Larry Alex Taunton. In that book he mentioned an encounter between Hitch and his internationally adopted (Ukraine) daughter, Sasha. After reading of that friendly encounter and Hitch’s reaction to her, I thought I wanted to read the book based on the adoption. The name of that book is The Grace Effect and this is my review.

I know several families who have adopted internationally. Several of you have done so. My brother has. Several from the church have. An acquaintance from the Y has just adopted 5 siblings from Bulgaria. (UGH!) Larry’s wife and their three sons all wanted to adopt Sasha after a mission trip where they fell in love with her. Until the point of adoption Larry had never met her. He was on board with it though and once he saw her there was never any doubt. Little did they know the hoops they would have to jump through to make it happen. Ukraine is a country from the old Soviet Union. It may say “Free” but old habits die hard. I cannot even begin to write down all they were put through-emotionally, physically, financially (and every other “ly”) in the year it took them to adopt her while in Ukraine! 

It was an emotional roller-coaster for them. I have to admit it was for me as well just reading the book! This was far more than just reading a book about the horrors of international adoption. It was also a book about the false promises of socialism; the emptiness of communism; the soul-destroying influence of unbelief; and, in short, what the atheistic worldview would give us without Christianity-something cold, pitiless, and graceless.

I’m glad I read this book even though I really had no idea what to expect. It was eye-opening on so many fronts. I’d suggest you find this book and read it also. You will thank me for suggesting it.

SpringKeeper

Sunday, September 18th, 2016

My next couple of days will be filled with various meetings plus a visit to the friendly, neighborhood hospital for a procedure on Tuesday so I thought I would give you a general post to consider. I used this illustration Sunday to close my message on Compromise.

The old gentle man had been hired many years earlier by a young town  council to clear away the debris from the pools of water that fed the  lovely spring flowing through their town. With faithful, silent  regularity he patrolled the hills, removed the leaves and branches, and  wiped away the silt from the fresh flow of water. By and by, the village became a popular attraction for vacationers. Graceful swans floated  along the crystal clear spring, farmlands were naturally irrigated, and  the view from restaurants was picturesque.

Years passed. One evening the town council met for its semiannual  meeting. As they reviewed the budget, one man’s eye caught the salary  figure being paid the obscure keeper of the spring. Said the keeper of  the purse, “Who is the old man? Why do we keep him on year after year?  For all we know he is doing us no good. He isn’t necessary any longer!”  By a unanimous vote, they dispensed with the old man’s services.

For several weeks nothing changed. By early autumn the trees began to shed their leaves. Small branches snapped off and fell into the pools,  hindering the rushing flow of water. One afternoon someone noticed a  slight yellowish-brown tint in the spring. A couple days later the water was much darker. Within another week, a slimy film covered sections of  the water along the banks and a foul odor was detected. The millwheels  moved slower, some finally ground to a halt. Swans left as did the  tourists. Clammy fingers of disease and sickness reached deeply into the village.

Embarrassed, the council called a special meeting. Realizing their  gross error in judgment, they hired back the old keeper of the spring . . . and within a few weeks, the river began to clear up.

True? I can’t say. Fanciful though it may be, it still tells a great story. The application I leave up to you.

Brrrrrrr

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016

Chilling.

Not the weather. Least not yet. 🙂 I, for one, am not looking forward to the colder weather. But I know it is going to happen. Just not yet…please!

I’ve been writing this week about the sad state of affairs we find ourselves in when it comes to our children. And even last week. I guess I’m like a lot of people: something gets under my skin and I can’t stop scratching it. I finished Make It Zero last night (Tuesday) and have been wanting to write this post all day but time has not been a commodity for me. I have a few minutes before my Wednesday night 66 class so I thought I would give you some statistics that have me chilled to the bone.

70% of all sex trafficking victims were former foster children.

More than 100,000 children are currently trafficked for sex in the United States.

In 2014, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline received reports of 3,598 sex trafficking cases inside the United States.

The average age of a child when they first are used in prostitution is twelve to fourteen years old.

Do those chill your bones? They should. I can’t get the children out of my mind. Sorry for the preoccupation I seem to have. No…I’m not sorry. I sense outrage. I sense sorrow. I sense something needs to be done. But what?

What can I do? What can one person do? Not a whole lot. But it is a start. What can you do?

My daughter sent me a link to this upcoming movie. I am trying to get it here at our local theater. Check out the trailer.