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#Lent#26

Tuesday, March 31st, 2020

I’m in Ohio the first part of this week helping our daughter, Janna, move into her apartment. So I’m “cheating” by using the same devotion here that I am using at my other blog, Living in the Shadow.

If there is one emotion which captures the mood of many, if not most, people these days, it is fear. It has no favorites. Young. Old. Rich. Poor. Mansion-dweller. Homeless. Actor. Homemaker. CEO. Grunt worker. Christ-follower. Non-believer. F.E.A.R. It paralyzes. It haunts. It creeps.

I was reading a devotion recently on Psalms. I’m going to reprint it in its totality for you. I hope it blesses you and show why we have nothing to fear.

Etty Hillesum was a young Jewish woman living in Amsterdam in 1942. During that time, the Nazis were arresting Jews and herding them off to concentration camps. As she awaited the inevitable arrest, and with the fear of the unknown (my note: sound familiar?), she began to read the Bible-and met Jesus. She simply put her hand in God’s hand and found rare courage and confidence.

Etty wrote in her diary: ‘From all sides our destruction creeps up on us and soon the ring will be closed and no one at all will be able to come to our aid. but I don’t feel that I am in anybody’s clutches. I feel safe in God’s arms. And whether I am sitting at my beloved old desk in the Jewish district or in a labor camp under SS guards, I shall feel safe in God’s arms. Once you have begun to walk with God, you need only keep on walking with Him, and all of life becomes one long stroll.’

Etty was a living, courageous picture of the psalmist’s declaration: “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you…What can mere mortals do to me?” (Ps.56:3-4). What a challenge for anyone plagued by fear!

As we sense the strength of God’s everlasting arms beneath us (Deut.33:27), we can stroll through life with confidence, holding the hand of our unseen Companion.    Devotion by Vernon Grounds

I wish every person on earth, whether a follower of Jesus or not, could grab a hold of that truth. It is especially viable for the follower of Jesus to have faith not fear. Praise not panic.  My prayer is that including this devotion might soothe your troubled soul (if you are anxious or troubled).  And by all means, pass this along!

Devotion (in blue) from Together With God: Psalms @2016 Our Daily Bread Ministries. 

#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!!

#Supremacy#Colossians

Saturday, February 29th, 2020

It never ceases to amaze me how contemporary the letters that Paul wrote are to today’s culture. Case in point: Colossians.  I am beginning a new series this Sunday on the book of Colossians with the title of Supremacy.

Many churches have glorious pasts and they like to live there…forever. You can hear it in statements like “We never did it that way before” which someone has dubbed as The 7 Last Words of the Church. Then there are those churches who revel in their past and want to spend an ungodly amount of money keeping their buildings update, their stained glass windows looking all nice and spiffy and regularly use Murphy’s oil soap to shine and wax their pews. Then, of course, there are those who celebrate milestones by putting people’s names on buildings, pews, and even offering plates.

I’m not trying to be difficult but I sure think a church should have another focus than just the looks of their building. If celebrating the past gives us a heightened awareness of the future, I’m all for it.

In this opening passage of Scripture (Col.1:1-8)  Paul gives us a reason to celebrate in the church. I’ll give you a hint: it has something to do with faith, hope and love. 🙂

Your prayers would be appreciated this Sunday. Thanks.

#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.

#Qualities#NewCovenant

Sunday, January 12th, 2020

I’m thinking that sometimes we who are Christ-followers really do miss out on the importance of the New Covenant over the Old. Now…before I say even more I want to make one thing very clear: I am in no way discounting the importance of the Old. The TRUTH is that we miss out on a lot of the meaning of the New by discounting the Old and we miss out on the observances of the Old by relegating it to “non-person” status. The power of the New Covenant is enhanced by our understanding of the Old.

In my sermon Sunday I brought to light 8 distinctive qualities of the New Covenant as found in 2 Cor. 3:6-18. I’d like to share them with you but also ask you to go to your Bible and see them for yourself. Underline and highlight them and use them to earn a greater appreciation for what we have. Here they are:

  1. It gives life. (v.6) Check out this verse on your own. “The letter kills but the Spirit gives life.” What a powerful statement against legalism. I’d almost say it was this one verse that solved the mystery for me years ago.
  2. It produces righteousness. (7a,8-9) The phrase “now if” can be translated as “since.” Since the law was a ministry of condemnation it could not offer righteousness. That could only come through Christ.
  3. It is permanent. (7b,10-11) Just as Moses’ covered reflection faded, so does the Old Covenant. The glory of God never fades away.
  4. It brings hope. (12) Those under the law had no hope, which also meant (are you ready for this?) no forgiveness of sins. Hope is the confident belief that God will fulfill all the promises of His New Covenant. It is a hope the Law could not offer.
  5. It is clear. (13-14a) Moses had to put a veil over his face after being in God’s presence.  He did that for two reasons: to hide the blazing glory of God, and to hide that it was fading. In contrast, the New Covenant reveals the mysteries of God that were obscure in the Old. All those sacrifices. All those rules. All those rituals.
  6. It is Christ-centered. (14b-16,18a) The veil which obscured the Old Covenant was removed in Christ, and was made plain in Him.
  7. It is energized by the Spirit. (17) The same God who gave the Old gave the New. The same God who gave the Law is the same God who gave salvation to all. The same God who gave the rules and regulations of the Old is the same God who set us free through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
  8. It is transforming. (18b) We are daily being transformed in the image of Jesus.

There is no doubt the New Covenant is superior to the Old. Let’s not denigrate the Old; let’s just remember its place and purpose. Galatians tells us it was a “schoolmaster to lead us to Christ.”  Paul was upset with the Galatians that they were going back to the “old ways of the Law.” Let’s not go backwards. Let’s move forward in faith.

#ChristmasChallenge#Post25

Wednesday, December 25th, 2019

This will be my last #ChristmasChallenge post for this year. I thank each of you who have taken the time to drop by and read and even comment. Thanks for giving up some of your precious time to come to my world and spend a little time with me.

So…what could I do as the final post? That haunted me yesterday as I pondered it. I decided to do what we all need to do. Remember that old commercial when the telephone companies (when they still had phone books) would say, “Let your fingers do the walking?” Well…I’m going to allow the Scriptures to do the talking.

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:6

“For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

“Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel.’ “ Mt.1:21-23

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be sign for you; you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.’ “ Luke 2:10-14

May the truth of Scripture fill your heart with that which God has promised: LOVE. JOY. PEACE. HOPE.

Thanks to Ed and Diane, my fellow #ChristmasChallenge bloggers.

#ChristmasChallenge#Post17

Tuesday, December 17th, 2019

I am late to the #ChristmasChallenge today. But I have a good reason!

Yeah, we are the “fun recipients” of our second day of the Winter Wonderland.  Yesterday’s was about 5 inches, enough to cancel the local school system, but it was more slushy than anything. We got the second round yesterday afternoon, and then a third wave last night (but I was asleep so couldn’t prove it by me). Except…the shoveling of the walk and driveway and scraping of the truck at home, then getting here to the office and shoveling the walks and part of the parking lot for walking.  There is another leg to the walk off to the right. Since I am the first one here I usually do it and really don’t mind. (And, believe it or not, that walk was totally clear just 15 minutes before I started writing this post). Today is even more important because of what happens today.

Today…Diana (the church secretary/office manager) gets to distribute HOPE to bunches of families, especially kids. Every year OVCF, the church I pastor, has done our own version of the Angel Tree. Diana sort of spearheads that and we call it The Giving Tree. We ask people to submit names of families/kids whom they know need help this Christmas. We then put the names on a tree and ask our people to take them and buy what is listed. This year we blew away all previous years. OVCF (not the organization but the people) is providing Christmas HOPE to close to 40 people. Our previous high was about 26. We do children, but we also try to include the parents with gift cards or needed coats/gloves/boots and even food cards. One of our ladies works at the local bank and she and some of her coworkers  took some names and bought gifts for the tree.  It was wonderful helping to carry some of the bags to the tables where Diana will meet the parents and give them the gifts today, and some tonight. Unwrapped, but provided with wrapping paper so they can have that joy. (If you consider that fun) 🙂

HOPE is a companion to my last three posts: LOVE. JOY. PEACE. The story of Christmas-the story of Jesus’ birth-is a story of HOPE. Take that away and we have nothing. We can’t live without HOPE.  Our small token of hope-giving for the children and parents of people who have had a rough year pales in comparison to the HOPE given to us by a simple birth in a manger.

LOVE. JOY. PEACE. HOPE. The four sorta go hand in hand don’t they? What gifts we have been given!! Give HOPE to someone today.

{And as a side light: can you now see why I am absolutely thrilled to be the pastor of these people? And what makes it even more incredible is some of the names were given after our deadline and except for about 2 or 3, all of them were taken and provided for by the people}.

Check out a fellow #ChristmasChallenge blogger here. This is short but poignant. Thanks Diane.