#StarIsBorn!

Written by cycleguy on December 18th, 2020

It all comes down to red carpet night. Stars, wannabe-stars, and people who hang on all make their way onto the red carpet and inside for the grand production. So many flashbulbs go off you gotta wonder why they don’t have seizures or get flash burns. The “who’s who” of fandom is there. Some come solo. Some come with their significant other. All dressed to the “nines” in clothing that cost more than I make in a couple of months. Ridiculous fawning over people and celebrities, enough to make you want to gag, goes on all night. But to be sure…this is the night all the hard work is rewarded.

We have seen that as we have made out way through the Christmas story.  The supporting cast (the ladies in Jesus’ genealogy and Zechariah and Elizabeth).  The Unknowns (shepherds and wise men who appear and never to be heard from again). The co-stars (Joseph and Mary).  And now the culmination.  The STAR of the whole production  has made his appearance. Everything has led up to this point. All the OT prophecies and the prophets who wrote them. Isaiah. Micah. 

Then we get to John 1. I will be spending the bulk of my time. Two statements will stand out Sunday.

Christmas was not a beginning but a becoming. Christmas wasn’t His start, but His commission. He was not created; He came. The Christmas We Didn’t Expect by David Mathis (p.24)

“We are not being told merely that Jesus Christ has eternal life or even that He gives it. This verse in I John 1:2 is saying He is eternal life, salvation itself.”

I’m looking forward to Sunday and preaching about the STAR. Join me if you would like.

 

#12Days#LessonstoLearn

Written by cycleguy on December 13th, 2020

Saturday night as Jo and I were sitting in the living room she asked me if I had heard the story of The Twelve Days of Christmas. I told her I had but couldn’t tell her exactly what they meant. She then read it to me. I had her send it to me via text so I could retype it here for you.

The song was written by Catholics in England as a song to teach their children about the Christian faith.  “True love” refers to God. “Me” refers to every Christian.  The other symbols mean the following:

  • 1 Partridge in a pear tree= Jesus Christ
  • 2 Turtle Doves= the Old and New Testaments
  • 3 French Hens= Faith, Hope and Love or the Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit)
  • 4 Calling Birds= the Four Gospels
  • 5 Golden Rings= first 5 books of the OT
  • 6 Geese-A-Laying= the 6 days of creation
  • 7 Swans-A-Swimming= the 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit (I cor. 12:8-10)
  • 8 Maids-A-Milking= the 8 Beatitudes
  • 9 Ladies Dancing= the 9 Fruits of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23)
  • 10 Lords-A-Leaping= the 10 Commandments
  • 11 Pipers Pipers= Eleven Apostles, not Judas
  • 12 Drummers Drumming= The Twelve points of Doctrine in the Apostle’s Creed

So there you have it.  Brings a whole new meaning to a seemingly fun and mundane and nonsensical song.  Now you can teach it to others!!

 

#UnsungHero#SecondViolin

Written by cycleguy on December 11th, 2020

Have you ever heard the expression, “Close but no cigar?” Or some of you are old enough to remember Maxwell Smart from the TV show Get Smart. One of his favorite expressions was “I only missed it by that much” while holding his fingers up to indicate how close.  Or I’m sure you have heard the saying, “Almost doesn’t count except in horseshoes and hand grenades.”

There are actors and actresses who ply their trade for years and never hit it big. They always seem to wind up second fiddle.  Many of them go year after year playing second or bit parts while working another job to keep food in their stomach. Sometimes they hit it big (think Harrison Ford) and some never get the big time.  Some will always play the “one-who-never-made-it.”  Of course there are always those who think they are worth far more than they are and when a sequel comes up they say, “Bill me top dog or I’ll decline.” A lot of actors overestimated their value and lost out on their future. Hmmm that happened to one of my favorite trilogies.

Anyway, the Christmas story is coming down to the nitty-gritty. We talked about the supporting cast (Jesus’ genealogy) and Zechariah and Elizabeth. Last week I talked about the Unknowns (shepherds and wise men) who showed up, did their part and then were never to be heard from again.  This week is about the Co-Stars, whom I’m pretty sure you will come to realize are Joseph and Mary. I’m calling Joseph the Unsung Hero and Mary is the Second Violin (not to Joseph but to her Son).

There are some tremendous lessons both co-stars teach us and I believe if we can learn them it would change our world (our influence) and ultimately the world.  Two actors, both co-stars, but both vital to the outcome of the play. Join me if you would like.  At least, please pray for us. That just might be the best of all!

 

#Thoughts#Faith

Written by cycleguy on December 9th, 2020

I had one of those mornings during my Quiet Time where I had several random thoughts and ideas as I read and underlined. On my other blog, Living in the Shadow, I am going to share some of those thoughts on Friday morning. But today on this blog I want to share two random thoughts I had as I read.

The first is from 40 Days of Faith by Paul David Tripp.  It is a compilation of 40 devotional thoughts from his wildly popular New Morning Mercies which I cannot recommend highly enough. I used it several years ago for 2 or 3 years. I even had a daily blog of lessons from it. Anyway, on Day 38 of Faith he was writing about Abraham’s ordeal about sacrificing Isaac. He opened with this thought:

Faith is living in light of what God has said, resting in what he has done, and entrusting the future to his care.

I’m pretty sure most of my readers know the story of Abraham’s trek to Mount Moriah where he was to offer Isaac as a sacrifice.  At the last moment God intervened and provided a ram. He most certainly was testing Abraham’s willingness to trust Him. Tripp wrote these words: “We know that grace had visited and transformed the heart of this man, or he would not have been able to react as he did.”  A paragraph later he wrote this (and this is priceless):

Abraham wasn’t relying on what he could see or understand. No, he was at rest because he acted on the firm platform of God’s commands, as well as his presence, promises, faithfulness, and power.

Abraham’s faith in the God He came to know and trust; the God he saw do a phenomenal miracle with the birth of Isaac; the God who loved and sustained him through all his humanity, i.e. sin, is the faith that led him to totally trust God with this offering of Isaac. I like what Hebrews 11 says: “He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead.”  NOW THAT IS FAITH!

And one last word from my reading:

Christmas is a testament to God’s grace, not my deservedness.

Some editing of that last statement was made by me to make it more personal. It is from The Christmas We Didn’t Expect by David Mathis (p.70).

I hope these random thoughts help you in your daily walk today.

 

#Unknowns#SimpleMen#WiseMen

Written by cycleguy on December 4th, 2020

The title gives it away. There should be no question who my sermon will be about in my A Grand Production series. 🙂

Life is full of surprises as we all know. Christmas morning is full of surprises.  When I was growing, when I still believed in SC,  Christmas morning in the Grandi household was one big huge surprise. We went to bed with nothing except lights in the windows. No tree.  No gifts. No train. N.O.T.H.I.N.G. But when we woke up life was full of wonder and surprises. Our living room had been transformed into a Christmas wonderland.  A well-lit tree. Gifts under the tree. A running train (my dad’s pride and joy). Even up to the day she died mom had pictures which showed our surprise as we hit the top of the steps and then came down to see what wasn’t there when we went to bed. I now know-or should I say I no longer wonder-how mom and dad stayed up all day. Oh yeah…coffee.  Lots of it. I know they had to have stayed up late at night, maybe most of the night putting everything together to make a magical surprise.

I don’t imagine there could be anyone more surprised than the shepherds when the angel and the host of angels visited them on the hillside with an announcement which shook their world. And to see how the wise men followed the star which took them from their home in the east to Bethlehem by way of Herod’s court is the stuff of legends. Come to think of it both of them are the stuff of legends even though we know nothing more about them than what we are told in Luke and Matthew.

I am afraid we have sometimes lost our wonder. Like the young man in Polar Express,  we go through a crisis of belief and settle too easily for the mundane. Excitement awaits us if we follow Jesus.

I’d appreciate your prayers if you are able and would love to have you join us via live stream.

 

#SupportingCast#Messy

Written by cycleguy on November 27th, 2020

One of the hardest times for me to preach is Christmas. I know that sounds weird. But it is true. It isn’t that I don’t like Christmas. I love it! What makes it so hard to preach at Christmas is most people know the story so well they could probably do a better job than me. 🙂  So the hard job for me is to find a new way to tell an old story. By new way I obviously don’t mean denying it or the truth of it or the virgin birth or the Incarnation.  The questions are:

How do I make it come alive?

How do I make it appealing and not boring?

How do I tell this timeless story and bring old truths to life?

I’m not sure how I succeed in those but I do try. This year I am calling my series A Grand Production.  I plan to look at it through the idea of a play with the different actors and actresses in their roles. My sermon this Sunday is on the Supporting Cast.  I’m breaking it down into the Messy People and the “Go-Before” people. Do you know who they are? Hint: the first group is found in Matthew 1 and the others are found in Luke 1.  You should be able to figure them out.

If you are unable to come to OVCF don’t forget we live stream at 9:00 and 10:45. I’d love to have you join us. If you can’t would you at least pray for me/us? Thanks.

 

#MyOpinion#Unpopular

Written by cycleguy on November 22nd, 2020

I have “soaked” on this since before the election. I have been writing it in my head since weeks before but I chose to hold off, to wait until my head was “cool” and my heart was right. As I write this, the election has happened but the results are still up in the air.  I seldom, if ever, write about politics. In many ways, I despise the topic. I believe they do not in any way, shape or form belong in the pulpit. I struggle with any so-called pastor who gets involved in politics on a national level and spews vitriol at his/her opponent.  I somehow cannot see Jesus approving of that approach, nor can I see Him approving abortion and hate.

But I feel I must speak up. We are living in a post-Christian culture. No question. We have seen “evangelical” preachers take a stand as being pro-life but aligning with a party that has as its basic platform to tear down that stronghold of life, all because they cannot stand a man.  We have seen the rise of a socialist agenda. We have seen the rise of people who mock God and mock our democracy. We have seen the rise of big tech and the media controlling the information disseminated to the people. (And people wonder why I am not on Twitter and FB and Instagram? Need I say more?)

Back when this whole mess started with BLM I made a public statement and published it on this blog here. If you missed it please check it out.  I stand by that. But I’ve also done some more thinking on it. (Now that is scary!).  I have heard a statement and have seen it loud and proud: “All lives don’t matter until black lives matter.”  Would you please take a look at that statement one more time and see one thing? Do you see how racist that statement is?

Racist you say? Yes I said that.  Here’s why.  That statement says Chinese-American lives don’t matter. That statement says Italian-American (of which I am one) lives don’t matter. And you can keep going with that.  I grew up in West Mifflin, PA, a suburb of Pittsburgh.  For my first 12 1/2 years I lived and grew up in the projects until my folks were finally able to afford a home of our own. My brother still lives in that house. I grew up around black people-some of them were my friends.  I played sports with them. I got along with them. I didn’t have a clue about the different section of housing in the projects. We played together. My mom taught me to never use the “n” word.  A very vivid memory of mine is in 1969.  The racial riots were breaking out and my high school was no different (I’m guessing it was 1/3-1/2 black. My graduating class was between 300-400 students). I stood in the foyer of our school with 3, sometimes 4 other students commenting how stupid the fighting was. John was Catholic and came from a successful family. Bruce was black and had designs on being a concert violinist. Jeff was Jewish (Jeff Goldblum, the actor, a rich doctor’s kid who probably doesn’t remember me from Adam). And I was a Christian and came from a family that struggled to make ends meet. Did you notice the diversity? No one ever told us the other’s life didn’t matter. That would have been one of the stupidest ideas I/we would have ever heard.

In God’s economy, NO ONE is more important than any other.  Has injustice been done? Sure. To all when you check it out. How about the ugly Holocaust? How about the Japanese-Americans during WWII? I see a greater injustice done to the thousands of unborn babies whose lives are snuffed out before they can even take a breath…white, black, Hispanic, or otherwise. As people of God, as followers of Christ, we MUST begin to see that all lives matter.  Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Then verse 13 says, “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  Notice the gospel is for everyone. No color mentioned. Because we all need Jesus.

I realize what I have said may not sit well with some. I’m a big boy. Feel free to respond if you like, but please be courteous. To me. Or to anyone else.  Also keep this in mind: this is my blog.  The views expressed are mine and in no way reflect on the individual beliefs of others or the leadership of OVCF.  We truly do welcome all people-age, color, social status, or lifestyle. And just so you know: we do have a Hispanic who attends and an interracial teenage couple. And I guarantee you that he (I will withhold his name) would never tell you I judged him/them with prejudice.  We even had a Filipino attending for several years until she found a Filipino congregation in her town. We do believe the Bible is God’s Word and is true and won’t compromise its message to make ourselves palatable to the masses.

Oh yeah, one more thing. When some of the stuff comes true-jobs leaving the US; the socialist agenda (BLM and others) makes inroads; we become reliant on foreign oil; we become “beholding” to foreign powers because of compromised leadership; when organizations come calling for favors; when abortion and other ungodly things hit their stride; when you can’t afford gas (car or home) and your taxes are raised; when healthcare is truly unaffordable- I’ll make sure I don’t say “I told you so.” (Sadly, as I finally publish this, some of the above “prophecies” are coming true).

 

#Ingratitude#Guilty?

Written by cycleguy on November 20th, 2020

I read something recently I thought was good. One man wrote:

Wearing shoes is optional. But eating is not. Driving a car is optional. But once you choose the option, driving on the right hand side (in America) is not…I’m not saying these things are impossible. You can choose to go without eating, but if you do you must take the consequences. You must be willing to exist at a low energy level, to invite infection and disease, and, if you persist, to die. You can choose to drive on the left but will pay fines and cause accidents.

In our life as a Christ-follower, we have an option of being good stewards with God’s blessings, or using His gifts for purely selfish means.  It is sad that because Thanksgiving Day is approaching that we find ourselves focusing on gratitude and God’s blessings when, if fact, that gratitude and those blessings are all-year around.

I’m going to make a very blanket statement which I firmly and 100% believe: we who follow Jesus ought to be THE MOST GRATEFUL people of all. Bar none. This Sunday I am going to recap some thoughts about God’s blessings I spoke about last week, but then I aim to draw attention to some examples in the Bible of people who were ungrateful.  What strikes me even more are the words Moses spoke in Deuteronomy 6 where he reminded the people what they had to be grateful for but added these words: then take care lest you forget them. Do you think God had an idea about His people? About me? About you?

This is the last in my series called Q & A and it has a simple title: What about Ingratitude?  Obviously I appreciate your prayers, but let me challenge you to take one step more: spend some time in gratitude for all God has done and given you.

 

#Blessed#CountThem

Written by cycleguy on November 13th, 2020

Many of us can remember the old song “Count your many blessings name them one by one/Count your many blessings see what God has done.” It was especially pulled out of mothballs every Thanksgiving. And rightly so. But then again, it is sad. Why focus on blessings and saying thanks for them only when the holiday comes around?

British preacher, Charles Spurgeon, once said, “Memory is very treacherous, by a strange perversity-it treasures up the refuse of the past and permits priceless treasures to lie neglected.” I’m afraid that is true for many of us. We get so caught up in the bad of the past that we often forget the good that has happened.

Psalm 103 reminds us to “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless His hold name…Forget not all His benefits.” Here are four thoughts about God’s blessings that we should be aware of and I will be highlighting this week:

  1. God’s blessings are numerous and varied.
  2. God’s blessings are beyond what we deserve.  {Ain’t that the truth!}
  3. God’s blessings are poured out on the just and the unjust.
  4. God’s blessings have a purpose.

This Sunday I am going to begin a two-part sermon series on thanksgiving as part of my Q & A series. It is titled What about Being Blessed?  If you happen to live near us and attend or plan to, we will not be meeting in person this week. Strictly online.  You can find the links on our church’s website.  Our live stream will begin at 10:45 and will be scaled down to an opening song (prerecorded), a communion thought and the sermon. There will only be 3 of us in the building-me, Jo and Ryan.

Your prayers would be most appreciated.

 

#Troublemakers#WhatToDo?

Written by cycleguy on November 6th, 2020

Charles Schultz had a Peanuts cartoon where Linus was watching TV when Lucy demands that he change the channel to what she wants to watch.  He says, “No” and she threatens him again.  He then looks at her and says, “What gives you the right to come in here and demand your way?” She says to him: “See these five fingers? Separate they are nothing. Weak. But curl them together and they become a force powerful to behold.” To which Linus answers, “What station do you want?” As he walks away he is shown looking at his hand and asking, “Why can’t you guys get together like that?”

There is no worst kept secret than a church filled with fighting, or even specifically one or two people whom we will label as troublemakers.  In fact, someone has said, “Where there’s light, there’s always bugs.”  At some point in our lives-as a business, a church, a school, even personally-we will have to deal with troublemakers. But it just seems like the church troublemaker speaks the loudest, shares the widest, and spreads the farthest than any of those other examples.

What is a church to do? That is the title of my Q & A series question this week: What about Troublemakers?  I’ll be giving several examples of troublemakers this week and then use Diotrephes (3 John 9-10) as a main example of what is suggested we do with them (besides toss them out).  I’d appreciate your prayers this week. They mean a lot.