Doctrine

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Light

Thursday, November 29th, 2018

I must confess. I love lights. Christmas lights in particular. One of my fondest memories as a child was one Sunday night after church we would drive through the neighborhoods around us looking at lights. Christmas was a challenge for mom and dad in many ways, but they did their best  to make them bright and cheery. We never got our tree before Christmas Eve day but when we came down on Christmas morning it was bright with a train underneath. Dad always put lights in the lower windows. Our trips through the neighborhoods were those where money seemed to be no object. But even those would be considered child’s play according to some. Here is one of them: https://youtu.be/MnL0_CsXncI

I know that will never be me. Shoot, I don’t even put lights in the windows.  I’ll let someone else blow their hard-earned dough on contests and taking a chance on the wrath of the neighbors.  🙂

Sunday I start a new series I’m calling Shedding Light on Christmas (as you can see by the banner).  This week I’m taking a look at Isaiah 9: 2-7: “The people who walk in darkness have seen a great light…He shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” My whole focus this month will be on Jesus as the Light. I’d appreciate your prayers for this Sunday. Thanks.

HYMNS

Friday, November 16th, 2018

I am not preaching this weekend. My brother, Rob, will be here to sing and preach. So, I decided I would do something that I hope will set your heart right.

Worship is often confined to what happens on Sunday morning at “church.” I’m a firm believer though that worship is 24/7. However, focusing on the time we gather together on Sunday morning is what I’d like to do in this post. We gather. We sing. We partake of the Lord’s Supper. We give our tithes and offerings. We preach. (Okay…I preach). 🙂  But chances are when we talk about worship to the everyday attender most will point to the singing.

Sunday morning singing has gone through several time warps. It used to be it was all hymns. (I still love Great is Thy Faithfulness and Holy, Holy, Holy and some others like them). Then a few spiritual songs were added (think I’ll Fly Away or When We All Get to Heaven). The Jesus Movement brought in a whole new type of song, both worship songs but also “feel good about me” songs. The evolution of those types of songs has been slow but eventually we morphed into a band, a group of singers, guitarists, drummers, and (choke choke) light shows, smoke machines, and theatrics. Some have even introduced “secular” songs into a worship set (Like the church that played Highway to Hell to introduce their Easter service one time).  We now have songs that last 5-7 minutes due to repetition of verses and choruses. And, of course, there is the resident “jump around and act crazy” songs mistakenly substituted for and called worship. Now…please understand I love some of the music played. I like a beat, even a rockier kind. But there is a point of saturation.

Enter a new breed and new wave of hymns. Yep, that’s right hymns. I never thought I’d be saying it but I welcome it. Not going back to singing the old ones that drone on, but new ones which highlight God the Father and Jesus the Son in meaningful, heart-touching words and music. I’ve come across some of the “new” hymns lately by a church out of Australia (no not Hillsong). The group is called CityAlight. I have been touched by their music and lyrics. You know I have been if I tell you I have been to the Y the past two days and have had them in my ears. I’d encourage you to listen to them on your own but I would like to highlight a few songs that have touched me deeply.  No comment will be made by me. I’d like you to listen and then let me know what you think. I’m encouraging our Worship Team to pursue learning some of this music.

First, this was the first one I ever heard by them.

Second, this one is a cry of my heart.

Third, I heard this one today and it jolted me.

Fourth, this one is for good measure.  🙂

I hope you will check out more of their music. I believe you will be blessed beyond measure.  Have a great weekend of worship! Enjoy being in the Father’s presence.

Hope

Thursday, November 15th, 2018

God placed his unshakable love on me.

Let that sink in for a minute or two. That sounds so inviting. So settling. So solid. Especially in today’s world when everything seem so unsettled, so much in an upheaval, it is good to know there is a constant. That constant is Jesus. That constant is the solid hope He gives.

I like what Tripp says: “Hope is a Person and His name is Jesus.”

For the rest of my post on HOPE see my post here on my other blog.

Leaning

Friday, November 9th, 2018

Many of you are not so old that you don’t or can’t remember the song by Bill Withers (later recorded by DC Talk) called “Lean on Me.” It had the lyrics “We all need somebody to lean on.” There is truth in those words.

However, have you noticed that sometimes it is hard to have compassion for people? For example, you walk into a quick shop and see a family where the kids are dirty and obviously their clothes are hand-me-downs. Your heart breaks and then you see mom or dad buying a carton of cigarettes or some alcohol and you may find your compassion going out the door.

I try not to judge too badly because I don’t know the circumstances surrounding their family or their choice of lifestyle. But I do know this:

A church can become part of the problem instead of part of the solution.

It isn’t easy being sympathetic. It is even harder being empathetic. Sympathy can be broken down by saying it is “feeling sorry for someone.” Empathy can be broken down by saying it is “being able to put yourself in someone’s shoes and know how they feel.”

I like what Caleb Kaltenbach wrote in his book Messy Grace:

When people look at your life, it should be so easy for them to see Jesus in how you treat them, love them, and share truth with them.

He also wrote:

We can be orthodox in our theology while committing heresy by how we treat others.

This Sunday I am talking about the church as it reaches out. Two weeks ago we celebrated our 14th anniversary as a church community. Last week we served. Those are easy to do. The hard part is seeing individuals as individuals, someone who may need another to lean on.

WOULD YOU PLEASE PRAY FOR THIS ME AND THE FOLKS AT OVCF THIS SUNDAY? Thanks.

HolyWhat?

Friday, October 19th, 2018

I come from a tradition where talk of the Holy Spirit was almost nil. He was hush-hush. I’m not sure if that was because of ignorance or it was because of fear. My first exposure to someone raising their hands in worship (something I had never been exposed to but had read about) was at a youth conference I was attending. The worship leader was leading us in a song when several around me raised their hands. I kid you not: I broke out in a cold sweat wondering what was next.

I survived. Now I are one (as they say). But seriously, why was that even as issue? Why are there still people today who will not raise their hands because of a “theological problem” with it?  More importantly: why are we so closed off to that type of expression to the praise and glory of God?

There is an even greater problem underlying many churches and pastors today. We are afraid.  We are afraid to allow any semblance of emotion to be expressed. I’m not talking about excess. I’m not talking about the whooping and hollering and the devil-inspired jerking, rolling around on the floor, and barking like a dog we hear about. That is not godly. But we do have an elephant in the room. You see…there are two extremes (as I see it). Some pursue experience in the Spirit apart from the Word.  They listen for voices or seek “signs” from God. They seem to be always talking about what God “said to them.” At the other extreme is the one who seeks to know and obey the Word without any interaction with, or real dependence on, the Spirit. These people are often void of emotion and can become legalistic in their thinking.

My sermon this Sunday is entitled Jesus, Continued. I borrowed the title from a book I read several year ago.  As you might have guessed, the sermon is on the Holy Spirit. I’d appreciate your prayers for this message and those who listen. And, of course, the one who is bringing it. 🙂

Accident?

Wednesday, October 17th, 2018

Okay so I didn’t quite tell the truth. I said in this post that I would post once more this week. But I wasn’t counting on reading something that “rang a bell” in my head. I wanted to blog about it before it left my thoughts (which happens a lot when you get older! 🙂 ).

I’m reading Therefore I Have Hope by Cameron Cole. His 3 year old son died unexpectedly one evening while sleeping. He is writing about his journey and what he has learned. One of the things people and pastors say is “God had nothing to do with your son/daughter/mother/father’s death.”  One woman was told that and said to the chaplain: “Don’t tell me that! You take away my only hope.”

Mr. Cole is of the opinion that, even though it is hard to see, God was involved in his son’s death. Why? God is sovereign and all-knowing. To say He wasn’t is to deny those two Biblical truths. He finished his chapter on Providence with these words:

My trial is not a random accident. Nothing comes into my life but through God’s perfect discretion. God remains in control of all circumstances. He has a hand in my painful circumstances, which means that his hand can extend to redeem my life. God is good. The evil in this world and the suffering in my circumstances do not represent his character. The perfectly kind and loving person, Jesus Christ, is the very image of the character of God. The cross reassures me of his love and sovereignty. I can trust him, knowing that he is fully good and fully in control.  (p.100)

As hard as it is to accept the truth that God is involved, it is hard to argue with what Mr. Cole has written. I can’t. I have decided I will never again say God is not aware or involved in what has happened. He does not cause evil  (James 1:13) but He is there. What are your thoughts?

TheRock

Friday, October 12th, 2018

No…this sermon is not about the “actor”  or any of his movies. It is about the One who is The Rock.  Do you remember ever reading or hearing this from many moons ago?

All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man on earth as much as that One Solitary Life.

That is just part of the poem/story told about Jesus. It is amazing how much Jesus is mentioned in our culture, but not necessarily out of respect. He’s in the world of fashion. (Who could forget the infamous “Jesus is my Homeboy” t-shirts many celebrities wore?) He shows up in movies. He shows up in music, both good and bad. He shows up at award shows (again both good and bad).  He shows up in the world of sports.  He shows up in the religions of the world (Don’t get me started on that!).

I recently finished reading Superheroes Can’t Save You by Todd Miles ( a great book where he took different superheroes and related it to how Jesus is perceived by many).  Todd wrote this after talking about his stagnant spiritual life which came to life while a student at Oregon State University:

Jesus Christ is the most compelling, interesting, and remarkable person who ever lived.  He is exactly who he claimed to be, precisely who the Bible teaches that he is-God in the flesh, the King of kings and Lord of lords.” (p.3)

Who Jesus is, according to the Bible, is a non-negotiable. That is where I choose to Stake My Claim this Sunday. If you live around here, please join us. If not, you can listen via podcast. In any case, please pray for me and for the folks this coming Sunday.  Thanks.

BigGod

Friday, October 5th, 2018

If there was ever a question asked that has yet to find a complete and correct answer it would be the “Why?” question. I seriously doubt there a person on this planet who has not asked that question sometime in their life.  As I was studying for this first sermon in my new series Staking Your Claim I ran across this quote:

A god small enough to be understood is not big enough to be worshiped.  Evelyn Underhill

That statement blew me away. I began to think, “Who am I to question God?” Another question: “Who am I to think God owes me an explanation for His dealings?”

Years ago I read a small little book with a big message: Your God is Too Small by J.B.Philipps. I have come to the conclusion that we in the American church have sort of “dumbed down” God. We may have not done it intentionally. I don’t think we purposely said, “I think I’m going to put God in a box and He will not operate outside of it.” I have not done what Thomas Jefferson did, i.e. cut out of my Bible parts I don’t agree with or believe in. I have never called God my “buddy” or “my homeboy.”

But if we diminish God in any way, such a God cannot sustain faith. You see…what we think about God determines everything else in our lives: what we value, what we pursue, and how passionately we pursue it.

That is why I have entitled my sermon The Bigness of God. Grasping that God is a being of unfathomable magnitude, wisdom, and goodness is one of the non-negotiables of having a living, vital faith.  Your prayers would be appreciated.

GRACE

Sunday, July 22nd, 2018

I recently shared this on my other blog, Be Transformed, and decided it needed to be “heard” by more. It had so much power, so much oomph, that I could not pass it by. I wrote it in my journal so I would have it, then used it in my post on Be Transformed.

My worst days are never so bad that I am beyond the reach of His grace. And my best days are never so good that I am beyond the need of God’s grace. Every day should be a day of relating to God on the basis of His grace alone. Jerry Bridges

WOW! Is that good or what?

I’m ashamed to admit this but there are times I take grace for granted. Not the “I can sin because I know God will forgive me” taking for granted. I just forget it is there for me. Days are tough and I forget because I am preoccupied. Days are good and I forget because I’m not hurting.

So…let’s make a vow together to live each day in grace. Up or down…Grace.

My song this week is from a man who knows grace…big time.  It is very upbeat and is a great way to start and then continue your week. Here’s your song for the week.

Think

Sunday, July 8th, 2018

Paul says in Philippians 4:8- “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on these things.”

Over the past week or so I have been reading God of Tomorrow, Caleb Kaltenbach’s new book.  A normal review will give the pros and cons , good points and bad points, and whether it is worth your while to read it.  I’m going to take a different approach in this post. I want to highlight several of his included quotes and thoughts. Then let you decide at the end if it is a book you want to invest your time in.

God of Tomorrow: How to Overcome the Fears of Today and Renew Your Hope for the Future

First, an explanation. Caleb’s book’s premise is focused around hope for tomorrow being the solution to the fears of today. He analyzes the culture pretty well and what should be the Christ-follower’s approach to the people who are the culture. Change is inevitable. It is how we react to that change which gives us our approach to people.  (My comments appear after)

“Combativeness without compassion is always going to be counterproductive.”  We need to have our beliefs but we don’t have to cram them down someone’s throat nor do we need to be militant.

“Our differences with people should drive us to them, not from them.” This is sure opposite of our “hunker down” attitude.

“Our fear is no match for the unlimited power and uncontested reign of God.  When will we learn this? Instead of fearing change, let’s hold to our beliefs but not shy away in fear.

“Hope reminds us that our best days are ahead, not behind us.”  And I might add not right now either. No apologies to Joel for that.

“Out-of-place people always have a place with God.”  I seem to remember someone telling a story about going to the highways and bi-ways to bring people into a meal. Hmmmm.  Maybe this would change our approach toward “unlovely” and “unacceptable, despicable” people we often have.

There are plenty more and I plan to use them during the next week as I post some thoughts. But the coup de grace for me was this one:

When people look at your (my) life, it should be so easy for them to see Jesus in how you (I) treat them, love them, and share truth with them. (p.201)

What do you think of those quotes? Think you might get this book?