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#Lent#20

Sunday, March 22nd, 2020

With all the talk about “the virus” I thought we needed a reminder that we are still alive and live on a planet made by God, the Creator of all things good.  I came to the office early this morning (Sunday) and about 7:40 I peeked outside. I saw this sunrise and took these pictures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’d say that is a pretty impressive display of God’s creative work wouldn’t you? 

Our service was live streamed on the church’s Facebook page.  I do not have the ability to post it here but if you would like you can go to the church’s website and click on OVCF Facebook Page. You can ask to join and either Diana or Tami will approve it. You can then watch it. I understand (and may be wrong since I am technologically-challenged illiterate) that you can watch it once you are a member of our page.

And remember there is always a sunrise with Jesus. In fact, it was real popular a number of years ago to say, “Friday’s here, but Sunday’s coming!” Good Friday looked bleak, but Resurrection Day changed it all.

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Shortly before they left on their spring break vacation one of the ladies in the church (my State Farm Agent) said she saw a shirt and it had my name written all over it. She gave it to me to wear and I told her I would wear it the first Sunday they were back. Today was that day and you obviously know the result of that.  It tells a great story for us and our times.  It is a lesson we must never forget.

Those are my words to all: DON’T. GIVE. UP!!

#Lent#15

Monday, March 16th, 2020

First place. That is what Colossians 1:18 is speaking about. “He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent.” Preeminent.

What is somewhat ironic is the false idea we have in our world of everything BUT Jesus taking first place. In verse 15 Paul uses the word image, which is the word likeness. It is also the word from which we get icon, i.e. idol.  Just think about it a moment. How often have we made something an idol?  When that happens we have allowed that thing/item to occupy the place of Jesus in our life.  Rather than belabor the point, let’s cut to the chase. Perhaps it is time to give Him:

First place in our family.

First place in our marriages.

First place in our profession.

First place in our sports.

First place in our worship.

First place in our possessions.

First place in our friendships.

First place in our viewing.

First place in our music.

You can add more but you get the point. The one I omitted speaks to all of us: First place in our lives.  Don’t you think it’s time? I certainly do.

#Lent#6

Wednesday, March 4th, 2020

I’ve just finished reading The Creaking on the Stairs by Mez McConnell.  It is subtitled “Finding Faith in God through Childhood Abuse.” I have to admit I was sickened and angered by his stepmother’s treatment of him (and his handicapped sister), and the lack of compassion , even laughter, displayed by the so-called adults she surrounded herself with. The book is about him coming to grips with a God of love, grace, and forgiveness. It is his journey from childhood abuse; to teenage bullying and rebellion; to a life of drugs and crime; to prison; to eventual salvation, fatherhood and being a pastor.

Lots stuck out to me…this being one of the sharpest:

Jesus came for victims. For the helpless. For the abused. For the lost. For the wayward. For those without a voice. For those who’ve faced injustice. For those who’ve known only pain and hurt.  For the abuser. For the oppressor. For the violent. For the murderers. For the rapists. For the paedophiles. For those who have caused only pain and hurt.

For broken people like me.

For broken people like you.

For broken people like them.

(The above quote was taken from page 168)

It’s the you that got to me. Mez was including himself in the “me.” He was including me in the “you.” He is including us all.

We are all sinners before a holy God.  I. AM. A. SINNER. BEFORE. A. HOLY. GOD.

You need the cross. I. NEED. THE. CROSS.

 

#Lent#Number2

Friday, February 28th, 2020

I’ve noticed lately that there is a movement to get rid of God’s wrath. What I mean by that is that we want to talk about God’s love and patience and kindness and goodness and forgiveness. The risk is that we want to excuse and escape talk or even thinking about God’s wrath.

What is strange though is the whole Easter story-the crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection focus on God’s wrath. Oh, not as we think. God’s wrath predicted. God’s wrath fulfilled. God’s wrath satisfied. The biblical word is propitiation.  Consider these verses:

“He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” I John 2:2

“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” I John 4:10

“Whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in His divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.” Rom.3:25

*Propitiation refers to the removal of God’s wrath by providing a substitute…The substitute, Jesus Christ, does not just cancel the wrath; he absorbs it and diverts it from us to himself. God’s wrath is just, and it was spent, not withdrawn.*

And you know what’s amazing? It was God’s idea. Think about that! Chew on it. Then remember, it was His plan all along.

Note: All statements made by John Piper are highlighted with an * outlining his statement. They come from his book The Passion of Jesus Christ.

#Ashes#Lent

Wednesday, February 26th, 2020

I want to start out this post with a confession, something you need to know right up front.

I come from a tradition that does not observe Lent. When I was in high school I would see teachers, and maybe a classmate or two, walk around with this black spot on their forehead. I remember one teacher, Mr. Bano, who had this dark spot on his forehead. I almost…almost…went up to him and said something about having a black smudge on his forehead. But I didn’t. I’m glad because he had been to his Catholic church that morning before school.  I didn’t know.  Strangely, I grew up with a large contingent of Catholic people in my school and I had no clue what was going on.

Fast forward to the early ’70s when I was in Bible college (yeah I’m that old) and I was being taught the “evils” of other beliefs-of denominations, cults (agreed), and other faiths (agreed). We were above the others in that we were not a denomination. (I now say hogwash to that theory). Anyway, I was still not taught the idea of Lent.  I also do not consider myself a part of that particular group any more. And haven’t for multiple years.

It wasn’t until I was here in Spencer that I decided to stop being ignorant of something so widespread.  I found out Lent was (supposedly) a solemn time of religious observance that began on Ash Wednesday until what is called Maundy Thursday.  For more you can read here  or here.  I still have to confess that I am not much into special day observances like Lent. Resurrection Sunday (Easter) and Christmas are different.  What I never grasped was this whole idea of giving up something for 40 days for what? One year I tried it. I gave up caffeine pop. The day it was over I had my Diet Dr. Pepper. What did it accomplish? Ummmm nothing, except I didn’t drink caffeine pop.  One year I gave up chips. That wasn’t so big of a deal. At one point I had given up fries and chips for 7 years for my health. I am now into month 15 of giving up pop (soda to some of you).  I can’t say it is a spiritual thing because it is not. It has been a health thing. I’ve been drinking water with extra lemons at restaurants (it does make the bill cheaper), but like I said there is no spiritual significance attached to it.  I don’t drink coffee at all. Can’t stand the taste of it. We are a coffee-less family, except for one member of our extended family.

All that to say (finally! you must be thinking) that I am challenging myself during this Lenten season. Not to give up something, but to add something. As much as I can, I am going to challenge myself to blog some type of Lenten thought here on this blog. I also have to say there might be some cross-pollination between this blog and my “Shadow” blog.  That nature of the beast requires some “shortcuts” along the way. I will also tell you that I will be using John Piper’s excellent little book, The Passion of Jesus Christ, as a way to “seed” my thoughts. I have read it twice before (I have the colored underlines to prove it) but it has been a couple of years since I have. I’ll give credit where credit is due.

I hope you will join me as I try this self-imposed challenge.  In fact, if you would like to get “meaty” with me and take up the challenge on your own blog, then I welcome it and will link to your post as well.

#Valentine#Valentine’sDay#Love

Friday, February 14th, 2020

Okay, so in order not be to shot, filleted, hung upside down by my toenails, or any other violent act you can think of, I thought it would be wise to talk about my valentine. Strangely enough, it would not be her who would do all the above-said violence. She is a very non-violent person (except if I come to bed with cold hands). I just don’t understand how her love turns so deadly when I come in and want to hold her hand or put my hand across her body so it doesn’t hang in the air at a weird angle while I’m laying on my side. Sheesh! You’d think I put my hands in the freezer before I came to bed. Come to think of it I am pretty sure she thinks I do.

We have been married 46+ years…47 in June. We had our first vacation away from anyone who knew us just 3 years ago (2017) thanks to the graciousness of a couple who had a timeshare and gifted us with a week.  And we had the vacation of a lifetime last September when the folks from the church sent us on a cruise to Alaska. (I would go back in a heartbeat but I wonder if she got tired of me. She doesn’t want to go back this year).  Well, Lord willing, maybe 2021. I hope, I hope, I hope.  Our almost 47 years have not all been smooth sailing but one word never escaped our lips. Not it wasn’t Love silly; it was the “D” word.  Never an option.

She blessed me with two wonderful daughters who have turned into wonderful young ladies, both of whom I am totally stoked about and so proud of my buttons pop (and no it is not from weight gain).  Their lives have not been easy from the start. I mean, a Pastor’s Kid? How radical is that? It is like they have targets on their backs. They have gone on to college and done well in spite of the tests that come from growing up (and growing older). Ha. And they think I’m old.

But Jo has stuck with me through all the ups and downs of ministry life. At times there were far more downs than there were ups.  We have laughed together (if she could roll her eyes she would do that often). We have cried together. We have lamented together. We have hurt for others together. There is one thing we won’t do together…play games. She thinks I cheat at Backgammon or Scrabble. I don’t but she doesn’t like me putting her in the middle in Backgammon or using words she doesn’t know in Scrabble.

But there is one thing we will do together. (Get your mind out of the gutter people!)  We will continue to love each other for as many years as God gives us together.  🙂

Happy Valentine’s Day Honey! I love you.

Now if I can just her to read this I will have won another year of life without buying flowers.

#Quote#Darkness

Wednesday, February 12th, 2020

Quite honestly I have never been one to listen to sermons or podcasts while I drive. I don’t know if you would say I am a typical male or whether it is just me, but I have trouble doing two things at one time.  Even reading more than one book at a time is hard, especially if I find one of them more interesting than the other. So I tend to be a “one-tasker” (as opposed to multi-tasker).  Driving and listening to a sermon is not on my radar for obvious reasons. Hint: you have to think while listening.

But lately I have found a couple podcasts I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to. One is Carey Nieuwhof’s leadership podcast, as well as Craig Groeschel’s. Another is Hole in my Heart with Laurie Krieg. Her husband, Matt, and friend, Steve, often join her. I have personally met Matt & Laurie and had them as our weekend guests here at OVCF. Laurie has what she calls “broken sexuality” (Same Sex Attraction). But her podcast has not focused on that alone. She did have one guest whom I really enjoyed listening to concerning his SSA but also his conversion to Christ. A recent guest, Sheridan Voysey, talked about the struggle he and his wife had with infertility.  It was during a “side road” Laurie took Sheridan on that he said something I wrote down (after I got back to the office).

This very darkness you are going through and your waiting and hungering and hoping for that new birth or rebirth, God can be doing things under the surface without you even realizing it, which is all part of Him making you who He called you to be.

I sent that to someone I know who is going through a really tough time right now. Short thought: nothing is ever wasted in God’s economy. His plan is sometimes curvy; sometimes uncomfortable; sometimes painful; but always with purpose.

I leave this quote with you for your perusal. If you care to comment, I’d love to hear what you think.

#Miraculous#PrayerAnswered#Astounded

Tuesday, February 4th, 2020

I don’t normally “cross dress” my two blogs. As many of you know, I have this one (Cycleguy’s Spin) and another one-a devotional blog called “Living in the Shadow.” I decided to bring “Shadow” to this one today. Not many read “Shadow,” but I believe someone who reads this one may need to hear this today. So I share it with you here.

There has been and always will be a battle between seeing and believing the miraculous and being so jaded that even the miraculous is seen as mundane. Skepticism seems to rule so many peoples’ thinking.  Over the past 45+ years as a pastor I have had the blessing of seeing the miraculous. I’ve seen God work in ways that astound. I know some question the use of the word “miracle” and want to confine it to the NT days, but I’m going to use it to describe some recent events I have been privileged to witness:

  • A 13 y/o healthy young man finds himself suddenly fighting for his life. In just a matter of  days, he goes from healthy to life support. Prayers bombard heaven endlessly. “Miraculously” he goes from death’s door to home in a matter of weeks. He still has a haul but there is much to marvel at. Aslan was on the move!
  • A 20 month old boy born with a heart defect (left artery totally closed) has another surgery as a “last ditch” to get some blood flowing. Not only are the doctors able to open his artery 2mm (needs 10-12), but-and here is the absolutely incredible, “miraculous” element-he goes home less than a week after surgery! There is no other explanation except God’s hand. Aslan was on the move!
  • A man who does not acknowledge the God of the Bible has health issues. Heart. Feet. Heart supposedly has bacteria on his valves but surgery is risky because of infection in his foot. A cath late last week shows his valves are clear with no bacteria; his foot is healing; and he has heart surgery to replace two valves this week. The whole scenario is nothing short of incredible. And even though his idea of God is warped, prayers have been said on his behalf. I’d like to believe it is so he can hear about and respond to the true God of the Bible. Aslan was on the move!

Those are recent examples. It is easy to write them off as “the doctors did this” or “modern medicine did that,” but I believe differently. I’d rather say it is-if I may borrow Paul’s words from Ephesians 2: “But God.” Man may have knowledge (ironically given to him by God) and may even acknowledge it is limited; man may say, “If it hadn’t been for the doctors;” but it goes much, much deeper. Man’s limited knowledge shows God’s limitless power.

“Father, skeptics can be cast aside. They will never accept nor understand Your unlimited-dare I say miraculous?-power. Limitless. Powerful. Able to astound. Help me to never take that power for granted, nor take your wonder working power for granted.”

#AlexanderUpdate#PrayerAnswered!!

Monday, January 27th, 2020

Okay, so I had been posting about 20 month old Alexander this past week.  You can read my past posts about him here and here and here.   I didn’t post over the weekend due to my schedule so I thought I would keep you updated as of yesterday (Sunday). The following was posted on FB (which I am not on) but forwarded to me by Jo.

Everyone is amazed at how well Alexander is doing and they plan to send us home this week! Praise God for His hand in all of this…there is no other explanation than Him. Alexander came into this surgery having not had the best odds in his favor due to recent illnesses, sinus gunk/cough as well as the fact that the surgeons were not sure there was anything they could do to fix the issue with his heart. Now they might send him home less than a week after open heart surgery where he was on the bypass machine (harder on the recovery than if he wasn’t)! Nothing less than a miracle how well he is doing. Thanks for all the prayers.
He is still in some pain but manageable with Tylenol and we are still struggling to get him to drink anything (but we still have his feeding tube so he is getting some nutrition thru it as much as he will tolerate it). Overall we could not be happier! He faces more procedures in the future but if things go as planned they should be able to do them with a Heart Catheterization and no more open heart surgeries! For the next couple months he will have to stay away from people and germs and we have to be careful how he is picked up (never under the arms as usual) so we don’t mess up his incision site but these are small hurdles compared to how far this little superhero has come!

Is that not awesome? I only use that word when it refers to God or something God has done. And so I have to say this is A-W-E-S-O-M-E!!!!! And here is something that will steal your heart:

I told Christine when I found out Alexander would be born with a heart defect and that she and Jimmy never questioned whether keeping him was an option or not, I believed God has some special plan for His life. No one knows what that is except for God Himself. But even now, God’s miraculous work in his life is nothing short of incredible. What a testimony this little guy already has! Kudos to the doctors and staff at Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis. Kudos to Jimmy & Christine for the love and trust they have shown to love Alexander as every child should be loved- #real definition of heroes. Kudos to Eliza and Isabella (his sisters) for their understanding of mom and dad’s time and their love for their brother. But more praise goes to the Father for His loving care of His little lamb.

Thanks to you for your prayers. You don’t even know him but have been praying.

#ClosingChallenge#2020

Sunday, December 29th, 2019

Jo and I are leaving right after worship today for Sandusky, Ohio. Her sister has a procedure tomorrow in Lorain, OH (near Cleveland) on her eyes that she must have. Unfortunately, there were no openings in Sandusky this time so she has to be taken to Lorain. Also unfortunately, the woman who would have taken her is out of the country right now so it is up to Jo to get her there. She is unsure about driving to Lorain and asked (tears were involved… 🙂 ) if I would go. So we leave today and will be return home Tuesday before the crazies get out on the road.

I will be out of commission for writing a blog so I thought I would post one early and then another for Tuesday/Wednesday. I can approve your comments and even comment but writing a blog on my phone is another matter and I don’t want to drag the computer around.

You can go to my other blog to see my thoughts about the year end challenge I gave today. I’ll not do a double take on that. But I would like to encourage you to listen to an old song that still challenges me today.  I can’t say it any clearer than Dana Key sings it.