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#Worry#Peace

Friday, July 3rd, 2020

Its funny (not ha-ha funny) how things come together and you are not even aware of it at the beginning.  When I started mapping out this series called Promises, Promises I was oblivious to the dates. I just started brainstorming titles, found the Scriptures, and then started putting them into the order I wanted to preach them. Little did I know that this week’s sermon would fall on the July 4th weekend and be so applicable that it blows me away. It wasn’t until I had started working on the outline and objective statement (what I want to accomplish) that I realized it was the weekend we celebrate our Independence as a nation.

I could not have planned it any better than if I had pulled out the calendar and said, “This week is this sermon.”  FDR once said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” JFK said, “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.”  MLK, Jr stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and gave his “I have a dream” speech. His dream of racial harmony has not been fully realized (as we know), but progress has been made and we can pray it will continue.

But if there is one thing our world has plenty of is worry. One thing our world is missing in spades is peace.  I like what Corrie Ten Boom (Dutch Holocaust survivor) said:

Worry is an old man with bended head, carrying a load of feathers which he thinks are lead.

The enemy of peace is not war. It is worry. And that has a by-product: fear.  Peace is something Jesus has promised His followers: “My peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” (John 14:7) There is no question that peace is what we all would like to see. Truthfully, that will never happen (not until Jesus returns). But the Christ-follower has the promise of peace…the kind the world will never know or experience. I want to give those who listen or watch some of that reassurance we find in God’s Word.

I think it is a critical subject. I’d appreciate your prayers please.

#EmptyTank?#FreshSupply

Friday, June 26th, 2020

It was the summer of 1983. We were living in Indiana pastoring a church that was as legalistic as the day is long. I was dying and after 4 months told Jo we needed to get out of there. (It would be another year before that happened…all in God’s good timing).  At the encouragement of some from the church, our family went camping at a family camp in Ohio.

First time camping.

Last time camping.

A storm came through the last day (Thursday) and soaked all our stuff. So we packed up the next day to head home when I looked at the gas gauge and it was 1/2 full.  Doesn’t sound bad except we barely had enough money for a breakfast drive-thru for the kids and faced a 4-5 hour drive home. Poor planning on my part for sure. So I did the only thing I knew to do: I prayed. H.A.R.D. Miraculously we arrived home and the gas gauge HAD NOT MOVED.  Trust me when I say that loaded down Chevy Citation wasn’t that good on gas! When we got home we knew we would need to buy groceries. I got paid Sunday. It was Friday.  I went to the mailbox and there was a check for $75 from a friend who was a pastor at a church in Ohio. I had spoken at the church’s men’s breakfast in December and he just then realized I had not been paid. I didn’t expect to be.  Remember: this is July. God came through!

How easy it is to forget God’s goodness.  Sometimes we come to the end of our road and rope. We have nothing left. Our tank is empty. We are barely hanging on. For pastors and leaders they call it burnout.  Some might use the words “I’m fried.”  This COVID thing has put a lot of people on edge or on the edge of emotional turmoil. I’d like to draw your attention to the God who promises the impossible and does the incredible.  Oops, now I’ve just gone and given you my two main thoughts for Sunday’s sermon. But you can still listen to see how they are fleshed out! 🙂

My sermon Sunday is from John 6:1-14, the feeding of the 5000. I’m calling it Supply for an Empty Tank.  If you are unable to be there you can check it out on the church’s FB page or YouTube channel.  If neither appeals to you (shame on you! LOL) then please say a prayer for me. I do appreciate those.

#Strength#WearyDays#BiggerGod

Friday, June 19th, 2020

I’m sure you have heard the American prayer. In fact, I suspect you have probably prayed it as have I. That prayer is simple:

Lord, give me patience…and give it to me now!

As I write this post, and as I prepare to preach on Sunday morning, I am a poster child for this prayer. It is far more common than I (and possibly you) would be willing to admit. Patience is not a virtue of many most Americans. We want it and we want it now. Case in point: the recent COVID shutdown. The first week or so we were patient and sort of reveled in the change. But as it went on longer we saw signs of impatience creep into our lives. Many who said, “No way will I go out” began to stretch the boundaries. 

We see this “I want it now” mentality in newlyweds.  They don’t want to wait to get things they grew up with. Without even realizing it they want what their parents had and spent years planning and saving for. We end up in debt up to our eyeballs because of our impatience.

Following God is no different. We want answers…NOW. We want God’s direction…NOW. When truthfully, waiting is the last thing we want to do. But oftentimes we are called on to wait. Sunday’s Scripture is most definitely one of the key passages about that: “Those who wait on the Lord…”

Sunday’s sermon is the second part of Isaiah 40 that began last week. This week is from Isaiah 40: 28-31: “Strength for Weary Days.” Thanks for your prayers for me and the church as we meet.

 

#AShelter#RunforCover!

Friday, June 12th, 2020

Forest Gump was famous for saying, “Life is like a box of chocolates.” Since I like love chocolate, I would agree.  But there are times when someone throws a curve and ruins the chocolate. All they have to do for me is to either put coconut or any nut but peanuts in it and they ruin it. I don’t have to say this because you know it from reality: we are thrown curves of every kind. The  end result is determined by what we do with them and how we handle them. 

I found some interesting quotes while I was studying for this sermon:

“Life is like an onion, which one peels crying.”

“When you are down and out, something always turns up-and it’s usually the noses of your friends.” Orson Welles

Here is one that made me chuckle: “Life’s a tough proposition, and the first hundred years are the hardest.” Wilson Mizner

Life and tough stuff go hand in hand. Let’s call them storms.  With all our high tech equipment we aren’t very often surprised by a storm anymore. Unless it is a tornado that comes while we are sleeping. In life, while we are not so much surprised by the storms because we know we are not exempt, we are often surprised by the intensity of them.  A more important question is this: where do you go when the storms hit?  Where do you hide? Where do you find cover?

The second sermon in my Promises, Promises series is called “A Shelter in the Time of Storm.” It is the first of two from Isaiah 40. This one covers verses 1-27.  In this day and age,  we all need a shelter. Not a monetary one. Not an abode.  Certainly more than an umbrella. We need a real shelter.  People are hurting. People are crying. People are living in fear. What better message than the one from God’s Word to give hope?

Your prayers would be appreciated. Thanks.

#PromisesPromises#Wisdom

Friday, June 5th, 2020

Most people are familiar with one of the most amazing stories of wisdom in all of literature. It involves two mothers fighting over a dead child and a live child. Discarding the dead child, they began to argue over whose the live one was. The arbitrator declares to split the baby in half and give each one a part. One says, “Yes” while the other says, “No.” The judge decides the one who said no is the real mother simply because the real mother would never want her child to die. You probably recognize that as a story in the life of King Solomon, who shortly before that event had taken over as king of Israel.

I started working on this first sermon in the new series, Promises, Promises, on May 11th.  I think it was week #1952 of what had become known as the lockdown. Okay, so maybe it was only week #9, but you have to admit to some it sure felt like an eternity! 🙂  When the Covid-19 mess took over, I decided to change my whole summer series of sermons and focus on Biblical promises/answers to challenges which have risen as a result of life (not just the virus). Then the George Floyd event happened.

The question we all face is this: “What now?” How do I respond not only to the whole Covid thing, but also to the senseless killing and violence as a result. How do I filter my own thoughts? We need to start by seeking wisdom-divine wisdom-not man’s wisdom. As we have seen, man’s wisdom falls short.

My sermon Sunday is Wisdom to Find the Right Page and will be from Proverbs 1: 1-7, 20-32.  What better place to start than there? I would deeply appreciate your prayers as I start this important, and possibly life-changing series.  And just as an aside: you can watch it on our FB page or on YouTube as it is live-streamed. The link to those is on the church’s website. Thanks for visiting here and for your prayers. 

#FromtheHeart#Observations

Friday, May 29th, 2020

This Sunday is a week of transition on several fronts.

First, we plan to meet in person for the first time in at least two months at 9 and 10:45. We will have some safety recommendations in place and we will expect them to be followed in order for all to feel comfortable.

Second, it is a week of transition from the series on Colossians (which I finished last week) to a new series I am starting next Sunday called Promises, Promises.  In our grand scheme of things Ryan was going to preach this weekend so I could go away while he went away this past weekend. However, his plans changed, but then he let it be known that he did not feel he should preach the first Sunday back to in-person worship.  So I changed my plans to be here in the morning and then leave after our worship for a few days in Ohio.

Ryan paid me a great honor by believing I should preach this first Sunday back. As I was studying for it, I decided he has had as much influence, if not more, during this pandemic mess as me, only in a different way. His shepherding of the kids was out-of-this-world and I felt like I wanted to share the “stage” with him. So I asked him to join me for the morning as we just talk about what we have gone through. I drew up four questions I’d like us to answer:

  • What we observed
  • How we felt
  • How we filled our days
  • What’s on the horizon?

Those bullet points might lead you to believe it is about us. It isn’t. Neither one of us would be comfortable if it was. We are going to be sitting in chairs and just talking to the folks as if we were sitting in their living room.  Please feel free to join us at 10:45. That is the only service which will be live streamed.  You can join our FB page at Owen Valley Christian Fellowship-Spencer, Indiana. Ask to be approved and either Diana or Tami will approve you.  You will then have access to our page 24/7,  as well as the live stream.

In any case, would you please pray for me, Ryan and the church as we prepare for Sunday? Thanks.

#Friends#Close#Praying#Loyal

Friday, May 22nd, 2020

I mentioned in another post in another life (just kidding. I have no clue where I wrote it) that when I became a youth pastor after college the Senior Pastor once told me to “never get close to anyone in ministry.” He was not talking about colleagues, especially since his son is my long-time best male friend (over 46 years). He was talking about people within the church I was serving. I understand his words, but I was just never able to do that.  Reason? As I matured I was able to see that I was a very social creature.  I score multi-high on the extrovert scale.

Friends are important to me on various levels. I have had cycling friends who have come and gone.  Jim is now about the only one close enough in distance. I count Dave (3 Feet Please) a friend but he lives in Arizona. Sort of hard to get together to ride. 🙂  After years of legalism, I have ministry friends outside my “camp.” I’m richer for it. I have “Y”/lifting friends whom I have not seen over the past 10 weeks or so because of some crazy virus.  But the most friends I have are church friends. Males whom I love to get together with. Granted, there are some “guards” I have to put up, but I know if I need them for anything they will come.

The final sermon from Colossians is like a “Who’s Who” in Paul’s life.  Starting in 4:7 Paul gives a list of very dear and close friends. I’ve categorized them as such:

  • Close friends
  • Praying friends
  • Loyal friends

We need all of them in some way in our life. I’ve titled the sermon A Little Help from My Friends.  And yes, you can cue the Beatles song. I did.  “No man is an island” it has been said. My sermon this morning will show the importance of friends to Paul…and to us. I’d love to have you pray for me and for those listening online. In fact, I’d love to have you join me!

#SpeakUp#WordsMatter

Friday, May 15th, 2020

Is there any doubt in your mind our speech betrays us?  When you think about it we can use our speech for good or bad. The way we use it reveals a lot about us.  I found a few quotes I plan to use Sunday. See if you can relate:

“A sharp tongue is the only edge that grows keener (sharper in our vernacular) with constant use.” Washington Irving

“If your lips would keep from slips, Five things observe with care: To whom you speak; of whom you speak; and how, and when, and where.” William Norris

“I have often regretted my speech, never my silence.” Greek sage Publius

I’ve said a lot about our speech, especially on my “Living in the Shadow” blog. Weave your way through the Bible, especially the NT, and you can see the importance of good speech in about every book.  In our world of information overload, where tweets, posts, pins, and texts are thrown around with great abandon, it’s easy to believe that words are unimportant, weak, meaningless, and hollow. But we KNOW they aren’t.

Sunday I’m using Colossians 4:2-6 as my Scripture and I’ve divided it into two main thoughts:

  1. Speak Up when talking to God!
  2. Speak Up when talking to Others!

How about saying a prayer for us Sunday? That hits #1.  I know I’d sure appreciate it. And we would love to have you join us at 10:00. We will have a link for you on FB to be able to watch it on YouTube is what I am told. (Call me technologically-challenged). Either case- your prayers are longed for. Thanks.

#Manipulation#Critique#Toxic

Wednesday, May 13th, 2020

I just finished reading When to Walk Away by Gary Thomas, a book I mentioned in my last post about Finding Freedom from Toxic People.  It has been a really good book, one that will take some time digesting and reading over the highlighted thoughts and sections. I want to use one of the thoughts as a springboard for this post.

If you are like me you tire-and I mean really tire-of people accusing us of basically being mean and narrow and bigoted.  You say something they don’t agree with and you can hear it coming from a million miles away: “Aren’t you Christians supposed to forgive? How come you aren’t acting like a Christian?” Or they will say, “You are nothing more than a narrow, bigoted hypocrite.”  To quote Gary:

They don’t really care if we’re acting like a Christian though. They just want us to do what they want us to do, and they’re using our faith as a weapon to manipulate and control. (p.146)

I always find it interesting when someone who does not claim any allegiance to Christ or to Christianity or to Biblical principles tries to lecture us on those very same issues. Do you sense a disconnect here?  People like this are masters at lecturing or deciding for us how we are supposed to act AND YET they make no claim-they even scoff at the idea-of following Christ.  The problem as I see it is that the atheist or the non-conformist or the immoral person wants to spout off their junk, but when someone questions them or stands against them they rear their ugly head in shock and toxicity and shame-throwing. They are masters at lecturing us how we ought to behave and yet are unwilling to listen to the truth because it will go against their carefully crafted lifestyle and belief system.  They aren’t so much interested in me acting like a Christ-follower should as much as they want me and you to do what they want us to do.  Long story short: approve of their lifestyle and belief system and not counter them or make them feel guilty.

My purpose as a follower of Christ is to please God. To bring fame to His Name. To honor Him in all things.  I have to keep in mind my approval by others is not on the table. Don’t allow someone to manipulate you into playing his games by his rules.

#AvoidThese!#Devastating

Saturday, April 25th, 2020

I’m a little bit late posting about the sermon this week. It, despite the encouragement to stay inside, has been a busy one. You can read here the approach I have taken starting this week.  That took me away from the office two afternoons.  But I am loving it and actually getting to see some people at a distance. It has satisfied, for now, my desire to see the people and to let them know I am thinking of them.

There is a tradition in Poland I read about. It started over 700 years ago. Every day from the steeple of St. Mary’s Church a bugle is sounded. The last note of the bugle is muted and broken, as if some disaster had befallen the bugler. This 700+ year commemoration is in memory of a heroic trumpeter who one night summoned the people to defend their city against the hordes of invading Tartars. As he was sounding the last blast on his trumpet, an arrow from one of the Tartars struck and killed him. So there is always a muted note at the end. The Krakovians (Krakow, Poland) have never forgotten this heroic warning.

Part of American history is the warning of Paul Revere that the British were coming. Some of you are old enough to remember the air raid drills in school where they hoarded us together in the hallway with no windows, sat us down, had us put our heads between our knees, and cover our heads.

Our life is filled with warning signs. Some very blatant; some as subtle as a lump or a cough or a stumble. Some are heeded immediately; some pushed aside as a cold or aging. The current Covid-19 virus has a list of warning signs of possible infection. The Bible is filled with warnings.

Some of those warnings are of a false gospel.  Read Galatians 1 for Paul’s feelings about the false gospel. In this week’s passage- Colossians 2:16-23- Paul warns them of three false teachings to avoid.  I’ll make it easy for you. They are legalism, spiritualism, and asceticism. You might be surprised how they are applicable to our day and time.  We will, once again, be using FB to stream the service. We have new equipment coming which someone donated the money for so please be patient with us as we try to overcome the hurdles which we were (admittedly) unprepared for.

Thanks for your prayers.