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#SupportingCast#Messy

Friday, November 27th, 2020

One of the hardest times for me to preach is Christmas. I know that sounds weird. But it is true. It isn’t that I don’t like Christmas. I love it! What makes it so hard to preach at Christmas is most people know the story so well they could probably do a better job than me. 🙂  So the hard job for me is to find a new way to tell an old story. By new way I obviously don’t mean denying it or the truth of it or the virgin birth or the Incarnation.  The questions are:

How do I make it come alive?

How do I make it appealing and not boring?

How do I tell this timeless story and bring old truths to life?

I’m not sure how I succeed in those but I do try. This year I am calling my series A Grand Production.  I plan to look at it through the idea of a play with the different actors and actresses in their roles. My sermon this Sunday is on the Supporting Cast.  I’m breaking it down into the Messy People and the “Go-Before” people. Do you know who they are? Hint: the first group is found in Matthew 1 and the others are found in Luke 1.  You should be able to figure them out.

If you are unable to come to OVCF don’t forget we live stream at 9:00 and 10:45. I’d love to have you join us. If you can’t would you at least pray for me/us? Thanks.

#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).

#Ingratitude#Guilty?

Friday, November 20th, 2020

I read something recently I thought was good. One man wrote:

Wearing shoes is optional. But eating is not. Driving a car is optional. But once you choose the option, driving on the right hand side (in America) is not…I’m not saying these things are impossible. You can choose to go without eating, but if you do you must take the consequences. You must be willing to exist at a low energy level, to invite infection and disease, and, if you persist, to die. You can choose to drive on the left but will pay fines and cause accidents.

In our life as a Christ-follower, we have an option of being good stewards with God’s blessings, or using His gifts for purely selfish means.  It is sad that because Thanksgiving Day is approaching that we find ourselves focusing on gratitude and God’s blessings when, if fact, that gratitude and those blessings are all-year around.

I’m going to make a very blanket statement which I firmly and 100% believe: we who follow Jesus ought to be THE MOST GRATEFUL people of all. Bar none. This Sunday I am going to recap some thoughts about God’s blessings I spoke about last week, but then I aim to draw attention to some examples in the Bible of people who were ungrateful.  What strikes me even more are the words Moses spoke in Deuteronomy 6 where he reminded the people what they had to be grateful for but added these words: then take care lest you forget them. Do you think God had an idea about His people? About me? About you?

This is the last in my series called Q & A and it has a simple title: What about Ingratitude?  Obviously I appreciate your prayers, but let me challenge you to take one step more: spend some time in gratitude for all God has done and given you.

#Troublemakers#WhatToDo?

Friday, November 6th, 2020

Charles Schultz had a Peanuts cartoon where Linus was watching TV when Lucy demands that he change the channel to what she wants to watch.  He says, “No” and she threatens him again.  He then looks at her and says, “What gives you the right to come in here and demand your way?” She says to him: “See these five fingers? Separate they are nothing. Weak. But curl them together and they become a force powerful to behold.” To which Linus answers, “What station do you want?” As he walks away he is shown looking at his hand and asking, “Why can’t you guys get together like that?”

There is no worst kept secret than a church filled with fighting, or even specifically one or two people whom we will label as troublemakers.  In fact, someone has said, “Where there’s light, there’s always bugs.”  At some point in our lives-as a business, a church, a school, even personally-we will have to deal with troublemakers. But it just seems like the church troublemaker speaks the loudest, shares the widest, and spreads the farthest than any of those other examples.

What is a church to do? That is the title of my Q & A series question this week: What about Troublemakers?  I’ll be giving several examples of troublemakers this week and then use Diotrephes (3 John 9-10) as a main example of what is suggested we do with them (besides toss them out).  I’d appreciate your prayers this week. They mean a lot. 

#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.

#SearingLoss#HowLong?#WhatNow?

Friday, October 30th, 2020

Pastor Greg Laurie is a well-known pastor in Riverside California. He has pastored Harvest Christian Fellowship for over 40 years. As you can imagine he has been through probably about everything a person can go through but he will tell you the hardest to deal with was the accidental death of his son in a car accident.  He and his wife, Cathe’s response prompted me to add this sermon to my Q & A series.

C.S.Lewis once wrote:

“God whispers to us in our pleasure, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain; it is His megaphone to rouse the deaf world.”

I know there are those who have experienced such searing loss that it still affects them many years later. The loss of a child. The loss of a child at birth. The loss of someone you love by suicide. The loss that sears so deeply it is burned into your soul.  I must confess: I’ve not had that type of loss. I’ve lost my mother to cancer at the age of 71.  I lost both my in-laws but felt the loss of my father-in-law the deepest. I have lost friends in the churches I have served. I have seen my long time male friend bury his father and son.  But I’m not going to pretend I understand the ache of searing loss.

This Sunday my sermon is What about Searing Loss? and I will be using Job’s experience as an example. I will also be taking the four truths that Pastor Greg said held them together and expanding on them. I also plan to share those 4 truths with you in a post next week.

This will be a gut-wrenching sermon for some to hear. I am asking you to pray for extra wisdom for me and extra grace for those listening-in person and via live stream. Thanks.

#Worry#Wringhands#Trust

Saturday, October 24th, 2020

Corrie Ten Boom, the Holocaust survivor who for years traveled the globe telling of her experience in the Nazi prison camp and spreading words of God’s love and forgiveness once said:

Worry does not empty tomorrow of sorrows; it empties today of strength.

I think we all know people who worry a lot. We even call them “worry warts.” They wring their hands, bite their nails, toy with their hair, bite their lips, and a host of other physical displays, very often a sign of worrying or being overly concerned about something. 

Oh…then add in this all-important upcoming election which has many up in arms and you can find plenty of people filled with worry. Just listen to them (then again…you may not want to). No matter the outcome, we must realize as Christ-followers that we are not in charge (neither side is) but God is.

All in all, worry is counterproductive to what God has in mind for our lives.  The word worry means “to take a thought” or “to be careful.” The Greek actually takes it a step further and tells us it means “to be divided” or “inwardly distracted.” Boy, ain’t that the truth!

As you might have been able to gather, my sermon is on worry this weekend. 🙂  I’m using two specific examples and Scriptures for my thoughts. Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42 and the words of Jesus in Matthew 6: 23-34. It certainly is not the definitive sermon on worry, but if it gets a conversation started among people then I will consider it a good thing. I would appreciate your prayers please as I preach and as people listen-in person and online. Thanks.

#AnotherGospel#Review

Wednesday, October 21st, 2020

When I first moved to Spencer to pastor Owen Valley Christian Fellowship (11/05), I was quite ignorant of a “new wave” that had struck the Christian landscape. It didn’t take me long to acclimate myself to this new teaching since a former staff member ascribed to it.  Even as I say that it wasn’t a “you are here now so I want you to know what I believe” type of situation. It unfolded over time until it became a full-blown storm.

First, the names. Rob Bell. Brian McClaren. Tony Jones. William Paul Young. Richard Rohr.

Second, the movement.  I soon found out the movement was known as Emergent.

Third, the teachings. Pure heresy. Questioning the Virgin Birth. The Bible’s Inerrancy. God’s Omnipotence and Omniscience. The Atonement. Penal Substitution (The cross was cosmic child abuse). And others.

Fourth, the response. Rob Bell disappeared off the face of the evangelical planet to become Oprah’s guru. #terrible loss#sarcasm.  And to my delight I thought it had disappeared off the face of the planet and had gone the way of the dodo bird.

Fifth, finding out I was wrong about #4. (not RB but the disappearing act of Emergent).  It went underground and since has become more known by another name-one that sounds much more “Christian”- Progressive Christianity. Doesn’t that sound like a cool-sounding name? It sounds relevant (whatever that is supposed to mean). It sounds…woke. (Can I tell you how much I dislike that term in any way, shape or form or use?).  I use that term to mean I got out of bed. I woke up.

Anyway, I thought Emergent was dead and buried but Alisa Childers has shaken my comfortable world with the revelation that, no it hasn’t died, it has just been repackaged with a new name. Same old garbage just a new name. Alisa has a history with this movement. As a member of the seminal girl group ZOEgirl she traveled the globe singing about Jesus, but it wasn’t until she attended a class (albeit it innocently) taught by a progressive pastor that her house of cards almost came tumbling down in a heap. Fortunately, the Spirit who lived in her was waking her and stirring her to “test the spirits to see if they are from God.” (I John 4:1)  She almost deconstructed (the term used for evangelicals who toss the historic Christian faith aside to often become an agnostic or atheist, aka woke).  Her experience led her to study and ultimately write a book called Another Gospel? She pulls no punches on truth. She pulls no punches in exposing the false teaching of Progressive Christianity. In fact, it is her life’s mission.  Her review of Rachel Hollis’ book, Girl Wash Your Face, went viral as did her review of Jen Hatmaker’s latest book.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Words fail. I picked last year’s Book of the Year (Rebecca McLaughlin’s Confronting Christianity). I personally feel this is worthy of being considered in that class for 2020.  I’ve been listening to Alisa’s podcasts as well and find them a rich source of information and thought.  I might suggest you consider checking that out as well.  You can find her at alisachilders.com

Another Gospel?: A Lifelong Christian Seeks Truth in Response to Progressive Christianity

#Anger#WrongorRight?

Saturday, October 10th, 2020

The idea of anger is a hot topic (pun intended) especially as we see it played out before us almost on a daily basis. Is it right or wrong to be angry? We hear of stories of people consumed by anger for one reason or another and we cringe when we think of its dangerous interplay in our own lives from time to time. People passed over for promotion; people losing their jobs after years of service and commitment to the company; people feeling like they were abused as a child or taken advantage of in an athletic contest; people who have anger issues that seem to be passed down from grandpa to dad to brother to you; and people who have justified reasons for being angry. They are all there in the mix.

So two views emerge about anger for the Christ-follower: it is either right or it is wrong. To show anger is good; to show anger is bad. To reveal it is not very “Christian”; to hide it is not very “Christian.” Sheesh!

So this week I’m going to speak about anger. Is it always wrong? But, then again, maybe that is not the right question to ask at all. Maybe the right one to ask is “what should I do with the anger I have?” My main Scripture is Eph. 4: 26-27.

I’d appreciate your prayers. If you won’t, I must get just a tad upset. 🙂

#Faith#Feelings#Doubt#

Sunday, October 4th, 2020

Today, Sunday, I spoke about how doubt should not be panned and dismissed as invalid. While I don’t question God’s character or who Jesus is as the Son of God, fully God and fully man, I do have questions. They center mostly on why things are the way they are. I struggle with not knowing what God has in mind for my life. I don’t doubt his love for me, nor do I doubt He has an ultimate plan. I struggle with Him not sharing it with me. 🙂

Part of my sermon was spent in Psalm 13 as David wrestles with the whole faith vs doubt thing.  I owe a debt of thanks to Randall Arthur (Randy Dodd) who first wrote about this in his excellent novel, Wisdom Hunter. (And yes, I am encouraging you to buy it and read it).  Anyway, here is how he teaches Psalm 13.

  1. In verse 1 David says God has forgotten him. But in verse 5 he says God loves him unceasingly (steadfast).
  2. In verse 1 he says that God has hidden His face from him. But in verse 6 he writes that God has been good to him. (dealt bountifully with me)
  3. In verse 2 he wrestled with many thoughts (take counsel in my soul) and had sorrow in his heart every day. But in verse 6 David says, “I will sing to the Lord.”
  4. In verse 2 David writes, “My enemy is triumphing over me.” And yet at the end of verse 5 he says God is delivering him (my heart shall rejoice in my salvation).

Why? Is David schizophrenic? No, of course not.  The point to see it this: There is often a difference between how we feel and what is true. Feelings can be so deceptive and unreliable. How many times have you or someone you know done something because “it felt right” or “it felt good,” but all along it is against the Scripture?  The very fact that David kept on going is proof that his beliefs kept him from being overtaken by his feelings. Trouble comes when our feelings become stronger than our beliefs.

I hope you will keep that in mind as you move through each day.