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#Change#Essential#Jesus

Friday, July 9th, 2021

Change is essential. Albert Einstein is credited with saying,

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

While his authorship of that quote is questioned, and is actually linked to someone within the Al-Anon organization, it is still true!  Change is essential, but not always easy.

Some changes are easier to make than others. Moving from one house to another is seen as a positive move. As a pastor, my family has seen its share of moves, but other than the trauma of moving from one school to another, each move-for the most part- was seen as a positive one. But in many churches change is anathema. From changing the type of music and songs; from pews to chairs; liturgy to more of a free expression; or the order of service, change gives some people serious heartburn.

Three words stand out me unequivocally:

JESUS CHANGES EVERYTHING.

Mark 2 is a chapter of changed lives-physically and spiritually.  My sermon Sunday morning is from this chapter. I would love to have you join us in person or on our live stream. If not, prayers are appreciated.

#BestNewsEver!#Mark

Friday, July 2nd, 2021

The story is told of the Prince of Wales visiting India and he found a formidable barrier had been set up to keep back the masses of people who wanted to catch a glimpse of royalty. When the prince arrived, he shook hands with some of the dignitaries who were presented to him. Then, looking over their heads to the crowds beyond, he said, “Take down those barriers.” They were quickly removed and all of the people, regardless of social rank, had free access to the heir to the British throne.  Some time later when the prince came to that district again, ten thousand outcasts waited under a banner inscribed with the word, “The Prince of the Outcasts.”

That is a great story! And it is easy to see the application. What the Prince of Wales did in that moment sounds very much like what Jesus would have done in the same situation. In fact, it is exactly what He did.  He was a king who demonstrate His power through service to His people.

The entire Gospel of Mark is a tribute to the King. That is why I am giving my new sermon series the title “The Servant King.”  I start that series this week, Lord willing.  My plan is to spend the next 16 weeks preaching through Mark, one chapter a week. 16 chapters = 16 sermons. Energetic to be sure. Daunting to be even more sure. But I am excited beyond words to take this approach.  I have been working and studying and condensing to make this fast-paced book fit our lifestyle and show how Jesus is the servant King. First up is Mark 1: 1-20 which I have entitled Best News Ever! 

I hope you will join me in person or online.

#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.

#Transformation#LittleMan

Friday, June 18th, 2021

“Zacchaeus was a wee little man, and a wee little man was he/He climbed up in the Sycamore tree for the Lord He wanted to see/And as the Savior passed that way He looked at Him and smiled, and said, ‘Zacchaeus, you come down! For I’m going to your house today.’ “

Anyone who has been raised in a church has probably heard that childhood song.

I’m not going to say anything earth-shattering with my next statement: we live in a world that is deeply polarized. If 2020 and the beginning of 2021 taught us anything (besides certain organizations ought to be banned-dare I say cancelled?- and/or held accountable), it is this truth: we are deeply polarized. Divided. People take sides on so many levels and on so many topics-race, gender, politics, work, sports, neighborhoods, you name it- and we fight over those sides.

Sadly, many of Jesus’ followers are no different than our culture-now or even back in Jesus’ day. We have a critical (but not discerning) eye. We rant and rave about just about everything. I’m not opposed to taking a stand against certain inequities, but it can be done without ripping someone apart.

Imagine if Jesus had had that type of approach to people like Zacchaeus. He would have thrown him out of the tree instead of asking him to come down. Gone would have been the loving and caring approach He took toward all, except maybe the bulk of the Pharisees.

Zacchaeus’ life was transformed by his encounter with Jesus. I am praying for the same response in this Sunday’s message. As people see how Jesus responded to Zacchaeus, we see a perfect example of how we ought to approach someone who disagrees with us but is seeking something.

I would love to have you join me this Sunday at 9 or 10:45- either in person or online. If you can’t make it or have a church family of your own, then I would appreciate your prayers.

#Truth#Confrontation

Friday, June 11th, 2021

Sometimes I feel like my name ought to be George McFly. He is the father of Marty McFly in the movie Back to the Future. When Marty goes back into the past to 1955 he finds out his father was a milquetoast back then just as he is in 1985. There is one scene early on in the movie where Marty comes home to find the family car has been wrecked by Biff (the bully in the movies). Biff is bullying his dad and after Biff leaves, George looks at Marty and says, “I know, son, I know. But Biff is my boss and I guess I’m not very good at confrontation.”

I suspect not many of us are good at confrontation. In fact, if I was to make a list of “Worst Things To Do” or “Things I Despise Doing,”  I’m pretty sure confronting someone would not be high on most people’s list. Unless, of course, you are a sadist and enjoy making people’s lives miserable.

We all have toxic people in our lives, people we would just as soon not be around for any length of time…if at all. Jesus seemed to spend a lot of time around toxic people. They were called Pharisees. Sunday’s sermon, Eyes of Truth, is from Luke 7: 36-50. It is the story of Simon the Pharisee and the “sketchy” woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with her tears.  How He deals with both is a classic lesson to learn.

Join me please either in person or online as we live stream to the church’s FB page or YouTube. Want to know how? Go the church’s website. Right underneath the banner for this Sunday’s sermon are the links for both. Simple and easy. See you there!!

#Endearment#Desperation

Friday, June 4th, 2021

I suspect most of us have heard or used the phrase:

Hurting people hurt people.

We might also have heard the phrase:

Desperate people do desperate things.

There are many examples of both hurting and desperate people in the Bible. One story actually has them both in the same side-by-side story.  If you turn to Mark 5: 21-43 you will find those stories.

Jesus knew what people needed. When they needed it. One thought which is so important to see is that Jesus didn’t just pity people; he empathized with them.  The sermon this Sunday will look at this essential which Jesus modeled and all who call themselves His followers need to do the same. Go ahead. Check out the Scripture and see if you don’t get the same idea that I did.

A desperate father.

A desperate woman.

They both came to the right place and Person. Watch how Jesus doesn’t just show pity; he shows how to take pity to another level. 

Well…you know my Scripture. You know my main thrust. May I ask you to join me in person or via live stream? I’d love to hear from you.

#JesusAtHisBest#Endearment

Friday, May 28th, 2021

If you happened to be raised in the church, you learned or at least heard two songs as a child: “Jesus Loves Me” and “Jesus Loves the Little Children.” 

“Jesus loves me this I know/For the Bible tells me so/Little ones to Him belong/They are weak but He is strong/Yes, Jesus loves me…”

“Jesus loves the little children/All the children of the world/Red and yellow, black and white/They are precious in His sight/Jesus loves the little children of the world.”  (No racist language in that song because Jesus is not).

The love Jesus had and has for children is unquestionable. It is because of His love for children that OVCF has a love for our children.  Pastor Ryan works hard to bring a well-rounded program for all ages. (It is a rare bird who can be all things to all the children and doesn’t put one age group over the other. Ryan is one of them).

We are trying something new this Sunday. Every month which has a 5th Sunday will be “Youth in church” Sunday. The children who are normally elsewhere in the building having their own worship and class will be experiencing “big people’s church” with their parents and other adults. I have asked Ryan to join me in a interview-type of setting to discuss why we are doing it; to help the adults to see what takes place on a given Sunday; to talk about his goals for the Sunday morning children program; and what might be coming down the pike in the future.

It will be very relaxed and much different than a normal Sunday. I will be opening with a short “visit” to Mk. 10: 13-16 and then Ryan and I will do the “interview.” I’d like to invite you to join us in person or on line.

#Discernment#Judgment

Friday, May 21st, 2021

In this day of the “Green Agenda” we are continually encouraged to be good stewards of our resources.  It shouldn’t take a New Green Deal to challenge us to reduce, reuse and recycle. I read that during one recent year the world was expected to generate 2.6 trillion pounds of garbage-the approximate weight of 7000 Empire State Buildings. I could cynically say we have become a “disposable generation.”  (I know bad joke). 🙂

That goes for the way we look at people too. Way too often we see people as not meeting our expectations so we write them off. They are “below our pay grade” so to speak. We disagree so they are not worth listening to. Their opinions and ideas are invalid, or at least not very important. It is especially hard for Christ-followers to listen without preconceived ideas and judgment. Barna took a poll and asked one question: what one quality above all others are non-Christians and lapsed Christians looking for in a person with whom they talk about faith. What do you think the answer was?

Ready?

62% said, “Listens without judgment.” That is not saying “without convictions” but “without judgment.” 

I think a perfect example of that is Jesus Himself and we find that in the Scripture and story I will be covering this Sunday. The Scripture? John 4. The story? The woman at the well.  Jesus shows us how to listen without compromising your standards and without cynical preconceived opinions and judgment.

I’d like to invite you to join us this Sunday-in person or by live stream. If you can’t, please commit to praying for us. Thanks.

#Amazement#Faith

Friday, May 14th, 2021

Nietzche, the German philosopher and atheist, once said, “A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything.” (Too bad since he ended his life committed to one as a result of a breakdown and depression).

Thomas Aquinas once said,

“To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.”

No source better than the Bible says, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Heb.11:1)

In the story and Scripture for this Sunday, we find Jesus amazed. Amazed at a “pagan’s” faith. The Centurion. A Gentile amazes Jesus by his faith.  He asks for healing for his servant and then tells Jesus that just saying the word will do the trick.

My Scripture will be Luke 7:1-10 and Matthew 8: 5-13.  This is a powerful story of faith in action. And although I would like to say I have faith, I’m not sure it would be the kind that would amaze Jesus. I can learn a thing or two from the Centurion. We all can. Join me please if you have the chance-in person or online.  Prayer would be much appreciated either way.

#EyesWideOpen#Compassion

Friday, April 30th, 2021

When I was a young boy, we had a TV.  In an age of multiple TVs in a household; where some TVs are as big as a wall; where hued colors so vivid it seems unbelievable; I was privileged to watch a black and white TV with rabbit ears. There was no such thing as cable TV or satellite TV or internet.

There were some fantastic shows back then. Perry Mason. Red Skelton.  There were the “hero” shows like Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Sea Hunt, and Superman (who looked anything but super).  One show was really popular: Eliot Ness and the Untouchables.  Kevin Costner did a movie version of that a good number of years ago.

In the days of Jesus, Israel had their own set of untouchables. It wasn’t because of social or moral status. There were literally untouchable. This week’s sermon is titled Eyes of Compassion from Luke 5: 12-16 and Mark 1:40-45. It kicks off my new series called EYES WIDE OPEN. I will be looking at people who entered Jesus’ life and how He treated them and talked to them and met their needs. I have never done a series like this before. I’m looking forward to it.

I hope you will join me either in person or online. As always, your prayers would be appreciated.