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#BloodofJesus

Wednesday, April 13th, 2022

After preaching on The Cross is Still the Cross this past Sunday, and knowing this is “Holy Week” i.e. the last week of Jesus on earth before His crucifixion, I was struck by the words to an old hymn.  Honestly, I am not into many hymns because much of what I sang as a youngster fit more in the Spiritual songs genre. But there are some hymns which are real diamonds…diamonds we ought to mine and never forget. Here is one of them:

“What can wash away by sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus/What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus/

Chorus:

O precious is the flow that makes me white as snow/No other fount I know, Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

For my pardon this I see, Nothing but the blood of Jesus/ For my cleansing, this my plea, Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Nothing can for sin atone, Nothing but the blood of Jesus/Naught of good that I have done, Nothing but the blood of Jesus/

This is all my hope and peace, Nothing but the blood of Jesus/This is all my righteousness, Nothing but the blood of Jesus/

O precious is the flow that makes me white as snow/No other found I know, Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”

Words and music Robert Lowry

A blast from the past. But what a punch! Remember this truth as you celebrate the death of Jesus this week.

#SundayMusings#LiveVsStreaming

Sunday, January 23rd, 2022

Note: I wrote this today (Sunday) as I awaited the opportunity to preach knowing things would be greatly different. These are my musings.

As I sit here this Sunday morning, a mixture of emotions flow through me. Due to the state and county both being in the red (COVID-wise not politically), the decision was made to do live stream only this morning.  Add to the state and county statistics the fact that some of the church people are also testing positive or simply struggling with illness, it seemed the wisest thing to do.

Am I happy? I would be lying if I said I was.  But I also understand. As far as I’m concerned, someone getting vaxxed and boosted is a matter of personal choice and I will not take a side on that issue. It is not for me to impose my will or thoughts on someone, even though Jo and I have both been double vaxxed and boosted.  She will be 71 next Sunday and I am 69. Yeah…she robbed the cradle. 🙂

No, my issue is not even a health issue. My issue is how much I look forward to Sunday morning and seeing people. Sure, I do get to do what I possibly love more than just about anything-emphasis on “just about.” I know I’m a social creature and I really look forward to seeing people, laughing with them, hugging them, fist bumping them, and just all around greeting people.  I love seeing smiles and the joy of connecting with people I have grown to love. I love seeing new people and the fact we have some “mo” right now makes it a bit harder to take this break. But that is the way of life in 2022…and in 2021…and in 2021.  I just think there is great value in meeting together.

But thankfully, we have live stream-a vital second to our ministry. Where would we be without it? Given today’s scenario, we would have to cancel services or require (gasp) everyone wear a mask. I’m thankful for the live stream. I remember how we started in late 2020 with nothing more than an iPhone.  The live stream has really been a life saver.

My personal hope is that this will just be a one week glitch. If not, we will use whatever means we can to get the message of Jesus to others. I pray God will bless our efforts and I am going to take Him at His Word that His words will never return void.

#What’sNext?#Challenge!

Friday, October 22nd, 2021

I think the older one gets the more a question enters the mind: Am I making a difference? Does my life count?  I suspect many of us fear living a life of ineffectiveness, ineptness, or with no direction.  While studying for this sermon I ran across several humorous quotes. One was

We should all be concerned about the future: because we will have to spend the rest of our lives there.

I finished the Gospel of Mark study this past Sunday and now we have to face the future. Jesus’ time on earth is done and there is only one last thing to do: commission and challenge His followers for what is next.  It is certainly more than “just go out and do whatever you want to do.”  He has tried for a little over 3 years to prepare them for what was ahead. Now what? What is next?

I will be completely closing the book on The Servant King series this Sunday with a sermon from Acts 1:1-11.  It is loaded with a commission to the apostles and a challenge to them to carry on His work. But He also gives specific instructions which they are to follow.

Join me please if you are able to.  If not, we will be doing it live stream at 9 and 10:45.  And by the way: if you were unable to join us at those times this past week, it was live streamed at 10:00. However, you can go to the church’s FB page or YouTube channel to watch it. You can find those links by going to the church’s website (ovcf.org) and finding the link right underneath the information about the sermon.

I hope you will join me in some way. If not, I always appreciate your prayers.

#Reminded#Present#Past#Future

Friday, October 15th, 2021

As much as I hate to admit it, my memory is not what it used to be. That is part of aging I know. I’m being told to take some Gingko Biloba, or a product called Prevagen, or some other product which is supposed to sharpen my memory. I used to hardly ever forget a face, where I saw it, and the name that went with it. Well, those days are long gone. I pity those who have ADHD. How they concentrate long enough to do anything is far beyond my comprehension, but to ask them to concentrate long enough to remember peoples’ names seems like a form of torture.

It never hurts to be reminded of things.  God spent long chapters in Psalms reminding the Israelites what they were forgetting. In Mark 14 there are three events which Jesus uses to remind His followers some vital truths.

The woman who anointed Jesus’ head with oil. It was a reminder that extravagant acts of love will be public; they will be criticized; but they will also be remembered.

Observing the Passover was something the Jewish people were told to observe. It was to remind them of God’s faithfulness and protection.

The Last Supper is the forerunner to our observance of the Lord’s Supper. Communion not only looks back to Christ’s death, but also looks forward with eager anticipation to His coming.

Sunday the church celebrates her 17th anniversary. We will be meeting outside in our shelter and a tent. We plan to live stream so I hope you will join us in some way.  One of our elders will also be presenting some great news about our addition-some possible ideas we are pursuing. Then comes a pitch-in. Yum! (Oh, that’s Red Robin). Yum anyway. If you can’t join us please be in prayer for us. Half of our offering will go the Building Fund and half to Missions. I’m excited about the whole day. Lots of work but it will be worth it.

One more thing: it will be the final sermon in my sermon series on The Servant King from the Gospel of Mark.

#OldOldStory#GospelEssentials

Friday, October 8th, 2021

Some of you may remember the old hymn with the following lyrics:

“I love to tell the story/Of unseen things above/Of Jesus and His glory/Of Jesus and His love/I love to tell the story/Because I know ’tis true/It satisfies my longing/As nothing else will do/ Chorus: I love to tell the story!/Twill be my theme in glory/To tell the old, old story/Of Jesus and His love.”

My sermon this morning is a bit out of order. Since next Sunday, the 17th is OVCF’s 17th anniversary, I am switching my sermons for the two weeks. Next week’s is from Mark 14: 1-31 and is entitled Let Me Remind You. This Sunday’s sermon is from Mark 14:43-16:15 and is entitled Tell Me the Old, Old Story.

It is going to be a recounting of the essentials of the Gospel:

Tell Me About the Trial

Tell Me About the Death

Tell Me About the Resurrection

It never hurts to hear the old, old story over again.  I’d love to have you join me in person. If not, then live stream will be where you will get a chance to look at my face. 🙂  Actually, it would be better to say, “Where you can join us in worship.” If not, then I’d appreciate your prayers.

#Leadership#ChurchLessons

Thursday, August 26th, 2021

In my last post I featured Phil Cooke’s blog entitled Leadership Lessons from Joe Biden and Afghanistan.  At the end of that post I made a comment that I would apply it to church leadership. Here is my somewhat meager attempt at doing that. I am not a “Leadership Guru” by any stretch. I have weaknesses as a leader which I am aware of.  So please understand I am not speaking from a mountain of leadership expertise as though I am “the” leader. Far from it.  Here are my thoughts born out of my last blog:

1) Incompetent leaders can rise to remarkable heights. There is no question that many leaders “get there” riding on the coattails of several different things. Personality. Talent. Who-they-know. Just because they get wherever they are going doesn’t mean they are competent leaders.

2) Fantasy isn’t a leadership strategy. I had a dream once of being a pastor of a big church. Fantasy only as I soon found out. Reality: I wasn’t equipped for that nor gifted for that. I’m good with pastoring a church in a small town. I love the people here and this November, Lord willing, will start my 17th year. Living in a Disney fantasy world would have only left me high, dry, unfulfilled, and miserable.  Whoever said, “Reality s***s” has not lived in my world.

3) Leaders take the hits. Admitting I have been wrong seems to be the theme of my ministry. 🙂  I have been wrong so many times… if I could have received $1 for every time I was wrong and had to apologize, I could retire and live off the interest. Rats!  Should have started that jar a long time ago.

4) In a crisis, leaders must face the public. Back in January of 2011 I found out we had been embezzled to the tune of $200+ thousand. After telling the leaders and having a flash meeting with them, I went before the church family to inform them of the shortage. To say people were shocked, enraged, stunned (and any other adjective you can think of) would be an understatement. But it was the right thing to do. In my mind, it was the only thing to do.

5) Good leaders listen to advice. I won’t go into my thoughts on the arrogance of Mr. Biden not listening to his advisors. But many pastors don’t either. When it comes to important decisions which affect the whole congregation, I don’t make unilateral decisions.  There are two others on staff who are involved in helping to make decisions and if it is a major one, I take it to the elders.  I found out early on it is wise to listen to others…even if I may disagree.

6) Never forget that leaders who try to leave a legacy rarely do. The best legacy I can leave behind is that I was a follower of Jesus and loved Him with all my heart. The rest takes care of itself.  It is far too easy to try to please everyone if I am concerned with my legacy.

There you have my thoughts. Totally non-political. Thoroughly my thoughts.  Leadership is different. I used to think I was a great leader. No more. I am adequate at best. I still have so much to learn.

#Listen#ListenFirst#ListenMore

Friday, July 23rd, 2021

A man consulted a doctor and told him his wife was going deaf. “I ask her what we are having for dinner and she doesn’t answer.”

“Bring her in,” the doctor said, “I’ll examine her.”

So the man brought his wife in. The doctor had her stand fifty feet away. He said to the man, “Go ahead and ask her what’s for dinner.”

“Hey honey,” he said, “what’s for dinner?”

Next, the doctor had the woman stand forty feet away.

“Hey, honey,” the man said, “I said, what’s for dinner?”

After going through this routine several times, the doctor finally had her stand five feet away.

“Hey, honey,” the man said, “for the sixth time, I said, what’s for dinner?”

The wife looked at the doctor then back at her husband. “And for the sixth time, I said, spaghetti!”

The man thought his wife had the hearing problem, but he was the one with the problem.  Sometimes we can be so sure of ourselves, so sure of something that we are hearing or not hearing, that the real message does not get through.

I don’t need to tell you how true that is when it comes to listening to a message/sermon or advice or to resolve a conflict.  We are so sure of ourselves that we hear but don’t really “hear.” That is especially true when we have to have the first word, the middle word and the last word.

Mark 4 is filled with teaching by Jesus that we need to listen to. My initial title was Listen First, Talk Second but after working on it I decided to change it to just LISTEN!  I would love to have you join me this Sunday if you can be here in person. If not, please check it out as we live stream both our services on YouTube or the church’s FB page.  And as always…if you can’t join either, your prayers would be most appreciated.

#LetFreedomRing#GuestBlog

Monday, July 5th, 2021

I read the following blog this morning (Monday).  It is from the Church & Culture blog of James Emery White, Pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church.  I thought you might enjoy reading it. Meanwhile, you might to also check out his website where you will find other blogs. Here you go:

On the 4th of July, I’m always reminded of times I’ve traveled in countries where freedom is severely curtailed. Or where the people have been freshly freed from the chains of injustice, and the joy of their release was palpable.

I was in Johannesburg on the 10th anniversary of the end of apartheid.

I was in Korea when the border between North and South was electric with tension.

My most powerful memory came from Moscow, where I was teaching shortly after the fall of communism. 

One night a group of us went to the famed Bolshoi Ballet. It was a long, wonderful evening, and after we took the subway back to where we were staying, the students said, “Come and let us celebrate.” The other two professors with me were as tired as I was, but the students were so intent on our joining them, that we went. 

And then we found out what celebration meant to them. 

They wanted to gather in the dining room and sing hymns and worship God. And we did, late into the night, with more passion and sincerity than I have ever experienced. It didn’t matter that we didn’t know how to sing in Russian—we worshiped God together.

But I went to bed puzzled. I had never seen such passion for spontaneous and heart-filled worship. I was curious as to why they were so ready and eager to offer God love and honor. I received my answer the following Sunday when I was invited to speak at a church in North Moscow. A former underground church that met in secret (as so many churches had been), they were now meeting openly in a schoolhouse. I had been asked to bring a message that Sunday morning. 

I didn’t know that I was in for a bit of a wait.

The service lasted for nearly three hours. There were three sermons from three different speakers, with long periods of worship between each message. 

I was to go last. 

When it was over, I talked a bit with the pastor of the church. I was surprised at not only the length of the service, but the spirit and energy of the people. Throughout the entire three hours, they never let up. In spite of the length of time, they never seemed to tire. Even at the end, they didn’t seem to want to go home.

“In the States,” I said, “you’re doing well to go a single hour before every watch in the place starts beeping.” (This was before smart phones.) He didn’t get my weak attempt at humor, but he did say something that I will never forget.

“It was only a few years ago that we would have been put in prison for doing what we did today. We were never allowed to gather together as a community of faith and offer worship to God. And we are just so happy, and almost in a state of unbelief, that we can do this now – publicly, together – that we don’t want it to end. And not knowing what the future might hold for us here, we know that every week might just be our last. So we never want to stop. So we keep worshiping together, as long as we can.”

As I left, his words never left my mind. I thought to myself, “I will never think about worship the same again. I’ve been too casual about it, too laid back, taken it too much for granted. These people know what it’s about – really about – and because of that, they have been willing, and would be willing again, to suffer for it. To be imprisoned for it. To die for it. Because they’ve discovered that it holds that high of a yield for their life. It has that much meaning and payoff and significance. It matters that much.”

And it should matter that much to all of us.

Happy 4th of July.

James Emery White

Editor’s Note

This blog was originally published in 2013, and the Church & Culture Team thought you would enjoy reading it again.

#Dirty#Cleansed

Friday, June 25th, 2021

I read recently that some are convinced that if WWII did not happen the History Channel would not exist.  He goes on to explain that “it seems that the vast majority of HC’s programming either deals with the war in general or Hitler in particular.  Hitler’s bodyguards. Hitler’s hideouts. Hitler and the occult. Hitler’s suicide.” One of his henchman, Dr. Josef Mengele, was dubbed “The Angel of Death” because of his horrific work with Jewish prisoners.  He saw them as experiments to be played with, not as humans who were God’s image bearers.

Back in the late 70s/early 80s, pop singer, the late B.J.Thomas came out as a Christ-follower. A string of records and awards followed in the Christian music industry. I remember one of his songs was entitled Using Things and Loving People. That is the correct order. But sadly, we often tend to turn it around and say, “Love things and use people.”

How do you see people? For the past 2 months I have been preaching a series called “Eyes Wide Open” where I focused on how Jesus saw people.  The final sermon is this Sunday and it focuses on the woman caught in adultery in John 8.  A poster child for one who needed grace in a big way. And Jesus came through! But it causes me to question my own response to people.

Please join me in person or via live stream at 9 and 10:45. You can find the links to the live stream (the church’s FB page or YouTube) on the church’s website (ovcf.org). If you can’t be here or watch, then please say a prayer for us.

#Social#VitriolicSpeech

Monday, June 7th, 2021

I’ll say it right up front: I am not on any social media-but then again, some of you already know of my disdain for it. I’ll go one step further: I don’t miss it. AT. ALL.  (Want me to tell you how I really feel?) 🙂

I read an article recently that was talking about what will keep a church from growing in the coming years. Know what one of them was? A pastor who doesn’t or won’t use social media.  My first reaction was benign- neither here nor there. Then I got upset that whether I am on social media or not will determine whether the church I pastor grows. Say what? Then part of me-a very, very small part- could see his point. Presence breeds an audience. So I left it at that.

I’m still not planning on using social media (except if this blog is considered social media). I’d probably get cancelled anyway since I’m not “woke” enough.  (Don’t care either). But there is something else which comes into play for me.

I don’t need all the vitriol I hear about and sometimes have read to me, i.e. so-and-so said this, “_________.”  Filling my mind and heart with garbage is not my idea of fun.

What prompted my thoughts this morning? Try reading Colossians 4:5-6 and try not feeling the same way. “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Your speech must always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” (NASB 2020)

The NLT has an interesting take on that passage: “Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.”

Frankly, I don’t trust myself. People spout off the whole BLM/CRT mumbo jumbo and my blood begins to simmer. To see a “woke” culture cancel everyone who doesn’t toe the party line and spiel their putrid garbage fries me. To see blatant hypocrisy and lies only gets my dander up. What hurts even more is to see and hear about the anger and the hate and the vitriol and strong, sometimes vulgar language, and lack of love words come out of people I know makes we want to shout, “No! This is not the way! This is not the Jesus way!”

So, you see…I don’t trust myself to practice Col. 4:5-6 (no matter what translation you read it in). Better to avoid than to wallow in the slime.

“Father, may my conversation always glorify You. May it always be ‘with grace and seasoned with salt.’ May my words be those of healing and encouragement.”

This same post is also at my other blog Living in the Shadow. You can also find it here.