Grace

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Reason

Sunday, November 27th, 2016

Daniel Hamlin and his family are five of the neatest people you will ever meet. They came to OVCF just a tad over a year ago in a search for something different than what he/they had grown up in. They were also concerned for their three children (one a teen and another real close and an adorable young girl). So he actually first heard of OVCF from living in the community about all his life, but when Daniel started searching with earnest his father told him about us. Daniel checked out the church website and then a few podcasts. Something resonated in him and a “chance” encounter with him at a local restaurant (we were supposed to eat somewhere else) led to him coming to OVCF. They have not left (that’s a good thing…a very good thing). He is a fine young man who wants to seek God with all his heart and wants to lead his family that way also. The following is what he posted on FB after helping with the Thanksgiving Dinner the church puts on annually.

Today, our church provided Thanksgiving meals to the community.  At one point my family was tasked with delivering 5 meals to a local low-income motel.  As we stepped out of the car I realized that we were probably not relatable to those who were receiving the food.  I had grabbed my LL Bean jacket, the boys were wearing Nike shoes and shorts (yes, shorts in November), we were a clean cut family.  One lady asked us to come in to her apartment.  After passing through the blanket that draped the door we enter her cluttered, dark apartment.  She had no kitchen table and had an aged container of Ramen noodles sitting on the stove.  We delivered her the prepared meal and she became emotional, expressing thanks for the food.  Amy asked her if she had any Christmas needs and she responded that she would like prayer for her son who suffers from scoliosis.

As I reflect back on this, it brings new appreciation for the Incarnation.  Just as I felt that our appearance would make us not relatable to those we were serving, if Jesus had come to earth in all of his power and glory we would not be able to relate to him.  Instead, he came to earth as a baby, grew up as a man, was tested, tempted, beaten, suffered loss and eventually killed.  I’m thankful that because of God’s grace and his love for us, Christ made himself relatable by becoming human.

And that, my friends, is the reason for the season.

I would say Daniel has it right. Not only that…do you see any doubt he will be able to lead his family well? I don’t.

LIFE

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016

I had planned on giving you an update of our Day of Service but LIFE has a way of throwing Clayton Kershaw curve balls at you. Yesterday (Monday) I was riding my bike about 2:30 in the afternoon. I had gotten a late start due to thngs at the office. I was a little over 4 miles away from the church building (where I keep my bike) when out of nowhere a speeding early model Ford Escape-like SUV decided to use me as a bumper car. It is so surreal-terrifying; anger for being hit and left; not sure what or if anything is broken; searching for your phone to take a picture then call 911; to watching a hematoma blow up to ungodly proportions on your hip; to spending 6 hours in an ER waiting for X-rays ; to being so sore & knowing tomorrow is going to hurt worse; to gratitude for friends close by & those far away (people you don’t even know) telling your daughters they are praying for their dad; to unlimited thanks to a good, good Father it was not worse-all go through my mind even as I write this.

I am grateful for the outpouring of support I have received. This is one of a cyclist’s worst nightmare (paralysis being the worst) and tears roll down my cheeks as I write this out of gratitude for God’s grace & protection. I do hope they find the perpetrator-not for the purpose of revenge or medical bills help-but so he/she will NEVER do this again. People who leave scenes like this are cowards of the highest order. Did they do it on purpose? Did they hit me then realize it and run? Were they texting or playing with their phone or looking down? Did they realize what they did & run? Are they even aware of what they did? Questions which will probably go unanswered.

I may never know the answers to those questions. It bugs me but I am more concerned now with fellow cyclists who face the same cowardice & recklessness.

In the end, I’d appreciate your prayers for a full & complete recovery. Share the road folks. Cyclists have as much right to be on it as cars do. Stay alert while driving.

GraceEffect

Sunday, September 25th, 2016

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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.

Sin

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

A bad word these days. I know. No one wants to hear sin called sin, especially if what they believe or how they act is diametrically opposed to the Bible. I am also aware there are some who have written off the Bible as a standard to live by. I’m not going to argue that point. Sunday in my sermon I brought out three words used for sin and then ultimately three things God has done for sin. They are found in Psalm 32.

First word used is in verse 1- “transgression.” That word literally means “a going away” or “departure.” In this case “a rebellion” against God and His authority.

Second word used is also in verse 1- “sin.” The Hebrew word is the equivalent to the Greek word which means “missing the mark. ” It was an archery term for “falling short of the target.’

Third word us is in verse 2- “iniquity.” It literally means “corrupt,” “twisted,” or “crooked.”

But here is the good part! Along with those words David also includes what God has done for each of them.

For “transgression” he says “forgiven.” Psalm 103:12 says “he removes our sin as far as the east is from the west.”

For “sin” he says it is “covered.” This hearkens back to the OT sacrifice  at the Mercy Seat (the covering of the Ark).

For “iniquity” he uses a negative. It describes what God not do. “He will not count your iniquity against you.” The word count is a bookkeeping term for keeping a ledger. God does not stand there with this huge ledger marking off the good and bad we do.

The best news of all? The slate is wiped clean. We are forgiven completely and immediately and it is never brought up again. I like that type of news. Do you?

 

Covering

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

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I love the movie Gladiator! In the opening scene there is a battle between the soldiers of Marcus Arelius (led by Russell Crowe) and the “army” of the Germanic tribes. As they fight, Maximus (Crowe’s character) is in hand-to-hand combat when he senses someone at this back and prepares to defend himself. When he turns he finds out it is his fellow officer has his back.

When I played ball and someone was having a bad game, we would ask the other players to “pick me up.” That was simply another way of saying, “Cover my back. Need some help here guys.”

In our spiritual walk it is essential to have someone who will cover our back. David needed it for sure. Psalm 32 is seen as being a parallel psalm to Psalm 51. After David’s adultery with Bathsheba, he needed someone to cover his back. He needed someone who would come alongside him and help him take the hammer blows which were coming-due to his own shame and also those who were bound to know by putting 2+2 together.

But rather than focus on the negative of his sin, he chose to focus on what God has done for him. He focuses on how God has got his back covered. You do too. I look forward to sharing this message with those who are here.

One service + potluck pitch-in = exceptionally good time (even if the sermon is weak). Have a great weekend! I will not be posting on Monday so enjoy your Fourth of July.

Healing

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

WARNING: Disturbing and explicit content follows (that is not headline hype)

So…I started reading Dan Allender’s book, Healing the Wounded Heart last night. The subtitle is “The Heartache of Sexual Abuse and the Hope of Transformation.” I made it through the Introduction and Chapter 1 before my body and eyes gave out (sleep-induced). I find the situation this book is written about an all too-familiar scenario these days. Scary. I read a lot of “heavy” stuff-disturbing stuff-in that first chapter. Here is the first:

The period in which we now live may well go down in history as the Erotic Age. Sexual love has been elevated into a cult. Eros has more worshipers among the civilized men today than any other god. For millions the erotic has completely displaced the spiritual. (see below for author and year)

But this one disturbed me even more:

There is an emerging cultural trend where many young woman learn to trade sex and its allures-sexual favors and/or sexy dressing-for popularity, long before they step onto a college campus. Young girls and women as early as middle school and certainly by high school barter their sexed-up bodies for status.  (Donna Freitas-2008)

I’m not naive. I know there are multiple factors which play into the current “sexual craze” we are experiencing. Certainly pornography has played a part. Certainly media access (internet) has played a part. Alcohol plays a part in many cases. So it can’t be all thrust on the female gender. I highly doubt anyone would argue when I say we live in a “hook-up sex” culture.

But I do like the direction this book will be taking. There is healing and transformation available. It will take time and lots of tears, pain and agony but the end result is a healed person-male and female. I know this is not my typical post. It can even be seen as a downer. Please don’t see it that way. See it as positive encouragement toward healing and transformation. After all…that is God’s desire.

First quote by A.W.Tozer in 1959 (And we say some old guys aren’t relevant?)

FewWords

Wednesday, March 30th, 2016

Were you born under a rock?

“Of course not,” you say. And that would be true (unless you are a worm or a snake).

I ask that because only if you were born under a rock are you oblivious to the ugly scene which has taken place in this town I have come to love. Spencer, IN. Yes, that Spencer.

The horrendous details which every newscast and every newspaper carried this past week, weekend and into the first of this week tell of one of most heinous crimes one could imagine. I was in town for the first day of it but in Ohio for the next couple days. But I was here when all the gory details emerged. I sat in a hospital waiting room with a lady whose husband was having surgery Monday and watched as it flashed across the screen-not once but multiple times. I commented. I cried for a little girl’s pain. I finally shut off all exposure to the story. NO MORE!

I hate to admit I had little sympathy for the perpetrator and struggle with it for the little girl’s family. How could he? Why did he? How could the family…?  Lots of questions.

Then God showed me my sin (which is huge in its own right). My judgmentalism. My desire for vengeance.  My definite lack of grace. Hmmmm…something I preach and talk about so often. The perpetrator is redeemable by the blood of Jesus. The consequences of his actions must be dealt with judicially. The consequences of his sin have already been dealt with…on a cross over 2000 years ago.

“Forgive me Father for forgetting my sin is heinous in Your eyes. It took Your Son’s life to take care of mine. Let me remember it did so for him also.”

Few words can describe what took place last week. Even fewer words can describe what took place on a cross. One more word: would you mind praying for our community and the church as we sift through all of this? Thanks.

#Compassion

Sunday, February 7th, 2016

I’ve been reading #Struggles by Craig Groeschel and in a chapter on Compassion he includes this quote:

Compassion is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.  Frederick Buechner

In all honesty, I’m not sure how I feel about that quote. I see the value of it. And yet…I wonder if the scenario he suggests says I will never arrive at having my compassion satisfied.

The nature of my job exposes me to people all the time who either “play the system” or just have trouble finding the “key” to what they are missing. If I help people does that guarantee they will come to a place of peace and joy? The obvious answer is no. But compassion is what drew me to try to help.

#easytobehard. Three Dog Night sang a song back in the late 60s/early 70s by that title. It is easy to be hard. It is also easy to be cold. I find that true especially with those who keep coming back for more when they have done nothing to better their situation or themselves along the way. #easytobecynical.

But compassion is something we all need. I pray I never grow so cold or hard or cynical that I stop seeing people who are hurting. “Forgive me, Father, when I close my eyes to the ones who need to experience a touch of Your hand on their life. I may be the only one to do that. Give me compassion for the lost and hurting soul.”

 

Failure

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

 

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I seriously doubt, if we are honest, there isn’t a one of us who at one time or another hasn’t failed. If you are like me it is, “Seriously? Again?” If there is one thing we all have in common it isn’t hair, heights, teeth, clothing, or anything tangible.

All of us have failed at something. A job. A business. A marriage. A career. A sport. The list seems endless doesn’t it?

Pick a person in the Bible who represents failure and I suspect many will choose the one I will be speaking about this Sunday. Matthew 5. Luke 9. Matthew 16. Matthew 26. If you guessed those Scriptures were about Peter you would be right.

Epic fail. Colossal fail. Especially that last one. Talk about betrayal Judas comes to mind. Talk about denial/failure Peter comes to mind.

But talk restoration and he should also come to mind. That, after all, is what John 21 is all about. Three times Jesus asked him if he loved Him, with the last being an echo of Peter’s own answers to the first two. Three denials. Three questions. Life & ministry restored.

After all, there is a second chance after failure. Peter is an example. Thanks for your prayers Sunday.

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May I ask a special prayer from you this weekend? A local church has about blown apart. We are supposed to have some of the folks visiting Sunday. I don’t mind being a haven for people to get their hearts and minds together, but I am not interested in growing OVCF by “sheep stealing.” Please pray for a right attitude for me and the healing of a breach in the wall for the other church. Thanks.

Purging

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

Boy!  Talk about opening up a can of worms!! That word means so many things to so many different people.

To a dieter it means shedding weight.

To a person unhappy with their body image it can often mean anorexia or bulimia.

To someone into wholeness it means cleansing the body of impurities, usually through a colon cleanse or some bodily/health action.

To me…well it meant something else.  I did something I have been putting off for what seems like centuries. I purged many of my files. I went through many of my files (I still have many to do) and got rid of unwanted, unnecessary and un-roomed (translated: I needed the room in my file drawer) files which needed purged long time ago.

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But I kept putting it off.  And off. And off. For something like two years. I had files from 10 years ago. I had files from meetings long forgotten. Minutes. Notes. From conferences I had attended. I didn’t do it indiscriminately. I looked at the material and thought, “I haven’t used this in ______ years. What makes me think I am suddenly going to switch gears and use it?”  Pitch.

Purge. Many of my files have been purged.

We do that with our lives also don’t we? Carry around garbage long past useful (if it ever was). Emotions. Hurt feelings. Betrayals. Stuff filed away. Why? To bring up hurts again? So I can remember that in 2000 something so-and-so hurt me deeply? For what point? IMHO long past time to be deleted. Purged from the memory bank. It’s over and done with.

So…along with purging some of your files of paper, why not purge some of that other garbage? You know…the stuff which doesn’t amount to a hill of beans anymore. The junk you have allowed to define who you are.

My file drawers are sure leaner. I can put some fresh stuff in them without overflowing them. Maybe it is time to do the same with your “life file.”