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Lazered-in

Friday, October 27th, 2017

When our girls were born in 1975 and 1979 there were no such things as sonograms. Least we had never heard of them. Today, they are pretty much a staple in pregnancies. Most couples have a sonogram done because there is nothing quite like going to the doctor’s office, hearing the assuring rhythms of a little heartbeat, then seeing the image of the baby on the screen. The doctor prints off the black-and-white picture, says, “See that? You have a boy!”; and the parents treasure the opportunity to show their parents and friends, even posting it on social media. The wait for the birth seems excruciatingly painful (in more ways than one), but they do it for the sheer joy of holding the baby in their arms.

The sonogram (in theory) serves as a picture of what is to come. They provide wonderful images, but are really only a shadow of what is to come. And so it is with Scripture. The shadow of the OT gives way to the substance of the New.

There are two core values we hold dearly at OVCF which go hand in hand.  Those values are Word-Focused and Authenticity-Minded. As Paul told Timothy: “Continue in what you have learned…all Scripture is breathed out by God…” A proper focus on Scripture brings a proper focus upon our lives.

My sermon this morning continues the HILLS series by looking at our Core Values.

Jesus-Centered

Word-Focused

Authenticity-minded

I’ll cover the other two next week. Your prayers would be appreciated this week. Thanks.

TESTS

Sunday, February 5th, 2017

I disliked taking tests. Maybe dislike is the wrong word. Maybe hated is a better one. 🙂 Actually, I didn’t mind the essay kind. I could “blow off” and hope I said enough to make my point. I didn’t mind multiple choice because somewhere along the line I might remember and get the right answer. I disliked strongly (how about that choice of words) the True/False kind.

One of the biggest struggles I run into among fellow Christ-followers is the assurance of salvation. Too many are always questioning “Am I saved?” “If I die today would I go to heaven?” “How can I know?” While I personally have questions about what is called Eternal Security, I don’t believe a follower of Christ ever has a reason to doubt their salvation. Based on what you ask? Well, Sunday I gave two tests to ask as you seek to figure out not only your own, but who might be preaching a strange gospel. Here are two from I John:

  • Belief in God and the certainty of sin. [1:5-6,8,10]  False teachers and doctrinal errors are spread when there is uncertainty about God and sin. John tells us “God is Light.” He also tells us “in Him is no darkness at all.” Ever since the Fall man has tried to excuse sin. We call it a “mistake” or a “failure” or a “disorder, illness, or addiction.” Call sin what it is…sin.
  • Belief in forgiveness of sin and confession. [1:7b,9] That verse 9 stands like a rock for me. We can deny it. We can argue. But we cannot erase that verse from the pages of Holy Writ. What is written is written. Way too many followers of Jesus live in the past and think they cannot be forgiven. The tense used for forgive is one which not only shows past forgiveness but specifically present forgiveness. And since my tomorrow is actually today, forgiveness is always there.

I’m sure you can think of more. But these are huge to the freedom of every follower of Jesus. What do they say to you?

Keys

Sunday, June 26th, 2016

I spoke today (Sunday) on the wonder of climbing the mountain peak of Psalm 139 and catching a glimpse of God and being so overwhelmed it is word-defying. I’m excited when God shows me a better way to present what I have studied, even when it comes on a Sunday morning as I’m making my “cheat sheet” on post-it-notes for inside my Bible. As I studied it hit me there were three key components of God presented in Psalm 139.

The first is God’s Omniscience. A fancy word (as many of you already know) for God’s knowledge. We say He is all-knowing. He knows what we do (verse 2a); what we think (verse 2b); where we go (verse 3); what we say (verse 4); and what we need (verse 5).

The second is God’s Omnipresence. Someone put it this way: God is either NO WHERE or God is NOW HERE. It certainly can’t be both. Verses 7-11 are worthy of your study.

The third is God’s Omnipotence. If God is not all-powerful, then He is not sovereign. If He is not sovereign, a whole chain of events comes into play which unravel who God is. Look at verses 13-18. He may have used creation as an example of God’s power, but none is as profound as the miracle of birth.

There is so much more to say, but time says, “Stop.” I hope you will do your own study on Psalm 139 and see how climbing this mountain peak will leave you in awe and wonder.

Life is an Adventure

Thursday, June 2nd, 2016

LifeAsAnAdventure2

If you have watched the movie CARS you will have heard the song “Life is a highway/I wanna ride it all night long.” Truth is…life is not a highway. For most of us it is a jungle. (Does “Welcome to the Jungle” come to mind)? There are twists and turns. Roots to trip over. Clear weather and bad. All sorts of things to trip us up as we walk that trail.

When I was younger (much younger) I used to love to read books on Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, and the early settlers. Although exciting, it was in some ways glamorized. Living in those early times would have been a real challenge. The scene from Last of the Mohicans where Hawkeye and his friends returned to a  burned down cabin and death was all too common.

But someone had to blaze the trail.

I am preaching, as you can see, on Life is an Adventure! this Sunday and through the summer as I plan to spend the whole summer in Psalms. Ps.25:4-5a says, “Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me.”

I’m challenging the folks at OVCF to read through the book of Psalms this summer. We are also making available a book of 90 devotions to supplement their reading. Here it is:

Product Details

Maybe you would like to join me? A daily devotion. A commitment to read. A podcast of the sermon will be available right after the second worship on our website (if you are interested in listening).

HardWords

Sunday, May 15th, 2016

Every once in a while we come in contact with a word or words which stump us-both in our daily speech and in the Bible. I find myself occasionally checking Webster’s online dictionary or my Roget’s Thesaurus to hunt up a meaning of a word or a synonym to help make more sense.

It is those hard-to-sometimes-understand Bible words which often trip people up. It is one of the reasons people give for not reading the Bible or definitely for not understanding it. In today’s message, I spoke about adoption. I also introduced some other hard-to-understand/grasp words often found in the Bible. This is certainly not exhaustive but just five random words:

Regeneration– when a spiritually dead person is made alive in the power of God.

Justification– when God declares a sinner righteous because of the blood of Christ shed on the cross.

Sanctification– the act of being set aside for a specific purpose.

Redemption– the act of being bought back. It is the act of being set free. (Think slaves bought on the auction block and then given their freedom).

Propitiation– the work of Christ in purchasing our salvation. I John uses this term to describe Him as our Advocate.

I know there are more. Part of being a pastor is also being a teacher. I confess I’m not much of an evangelist, but I do love to teach the folks what I am learning.

So…here’s your question: have any of those words given you pause? Is there another word or two which will raise your eyebrows in thought? I’d like to hear it.

StartandFinish

Thursday, April 7th, 2016

Solid

Ask one question and it is amazing how the “camps” develop. For example, here is a question: how important is the Bible to people’s lives? To yours?

Camp #1: “The Bible? It’s just another book. Some wise sayings here and there, mixed with a lot of genealogies, myths and crazy visions.”

Camp #2: “Of course the Bible is important-at least my pastor thinks so. I’m not so sure but he’s always quoting from it and waving it in the air. But I don’t read it all that much since I can’t understand it.”

Camp #3: They would align themselves with Sir Walter Scott, a committed Christian, who on his deathbed said, “Bring me the Book.” “What book?” his secretary asked. “The Book-the Bible-the only book for a dying man.”

I would say it isn’t just the book for a dying me; it is also the book for a living man. Men will argue with me on that…I know that. I’ve learned pleasing everyone is impossible. Not only that it is an effort in futility.

For me the Bible is a life=giving source. While I don’t always understand it nor feel like reading it, I know it is essential for me. It is my starting place; it is my final authority. Every thought, every word, every action needs to be weighed against it. Will I still misstep? Sure. Will I still misunderstand it? You bet. But that does not change the magnificence of the Book nor its influence.

My sermon this week will be on the Bible: Starting Place and Final Authority.  I’d appreciate your prayers. What does the Bible mean to you?

Solid!

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

Solid

 

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”  Bilbo Baggins in Fellowship of the Ring

That statement sort of sums up how I feel. To wade into the minefield of truth is dangerous business. If we don’t keep our moorings, we could be swept off into who know where. But failing to do so, leaves us like we are wearing a pair of too large pants without a belt. They are going to come down and reveal personal items to others. 🙂

Truth: the inadequacy of what you believe will soon be exposed for all to see.

Things sure have changed. When I was in college I heard about a preacher named J.W. McGarvey (late 1800/early 1900s). During his lifetime the Bible came under siege and someone asked him if he was going to defend the Bible. His answer was striking: “No. The Bible doesn’t need defended. It defends itself.”

I’m not too sure that is a reasonable-or viable-argument today. The fight over the Bible has become more and more volatile, more and more pronounced.

TRUTH MATTERS

Over the next two months my sermon series will be looking at truth: God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Bible and the Church. I’m calling it SOLID! because our day and age requires we do what Peter says, “Always be ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within.” I’d appreciate your prayers.

Centered

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015

So…I have a question for you to think about.

And I will say right up front this is mostly focused on those who attend church and have a reasonable idea of what they are looking for when they do.

For as long as I can remember, the tradition I grew up in would say things like “We preach the Bible here.” “We are a church which preaches the Bible and nothing else” (as opposed to any creed). “We are a Bible-believing, Bible-preaching church.”  (Let’s hope so).

I now wonder if perhaps those are the wrong things to say. Say what?

I wonder if we have put so much emphasis on “Bible-preaching church” that we have almost made an idol of the Bible. Don’t get me wrong. (Go here and read the fourth statement. Those are my words in print). But I can remember from my teen years being told we are not to worship the Bible but the God/Author of the Bible.

So…here’s my question: Which is better to say: “We are a Jesus-centered church or a Bible-centered church?”

What do you think?

History101

Sunday, June 14th, 2015

There should be absolutely no doubt as to why there is war in the Middle East. The Bible (yeah that outdated and irrelevant book) has the answer.

Abraham received a promise: His seed would be as numerous as the sand of the seashore and stars in the sky.

Impatience drove he and Sarah to take matters into their own hands. Abraham + Hagar = Ishmael.

God’s promise comes true when Abraham is 100 and Sarah 89. Abraham + Sarah = Isaac.

Sarah despises Hagar. Ishmael despises Isaac.

Abraham bans both.

Ishmael = Arab nation.

Isaac = Jewish nation.

Case closed.

And who says the Bible is outdated and irrelevant? For further study check out Genesis 15-18:21; 21:1-21; Galatians 4:21-31

Imperfect people will always mess with God’s plan. The consequences (to quote Doc Brown) can be “disastrous.” And there is your History101 lesson for today. 🙂

Reader

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

Product Details

 

Since I wasn’t sure what my weekend would bring, I thought I would write about something I am using and have been using for close to a year now: the ESV Reader’s Bible.

If you read the Bible at all, or are at least somewhat familiar with it, you know it is filled with chapters, divisions, verse numbers, often notations, and a host of other things (i.e. helps which turn into distractions). This Bible is different. When I first saw this I wondered about the wisdom of a Bible like this…and whether I would ever use it. But one day last year I decided to buy it…as quirky as it seemed.

I CANNOT TELL YOU HOW MUCH I HAVE ENJOYED USING IT!

Late last summer I embarked on a journey. I began reading Galatians through Colossians in preparation for my 2015 sermon series on Freedom. Along with that I continued my practice of reading the Psalms and also Proverbs (every other month). My most trying leg of the journey though has been to read the whole Old Testament no matter how long it took. To date, that leg has me in I Kings 10. Yeah…long journey. 🙂

But I have thoroughly enjoyed just reading the Bible. No verses. No chapter headings. No notes to be distracted by. Just reading it like a novel. It doesn’t work as a study Bible. Nor will you want to take it to worship to use as the pastor preaches. But to just read the Bible like a novel? This is it!

I’d like to suggest you invest in one. I know of only one style (check out the link above for more information). I honestly believe your Bible reading will be enriched by it and you will find the Bible coming alive. Oh…be careful though: it just might change your life! 🙂