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#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.

#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.

#That’sIt?#LifeMatters

Friday, April 23rd, 2021

There is always a sense of satisfaction when you come to the end of a book or project. I know what it is like to be reading a book and reading that last page, especially if it has been a tough go. We come to the end of Ecclesiastes this week with a sermon I have titled Is That All There Is?

My purpose this week is to remind the folks what Solomon has taught us over the past 4 months (with a 4 week break for Easter). I’ve been able to weed down each sermon into a short lesson that I think will make it easier to see Ecclesiastes as a whole with tremendous lessons (if we are listening).

All of this will make more sense if we remember our main purpose in life. The Westminster Shorter Catechism (a creed we don’t really know or follow as a church body with regular recitations) opens with the words, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and to worship Him forever.”  Bottom line: that is our purpose.  With that as the main idea, I am going to review the lessons Solomon has taught us throughout his book.

I’d love it if you would join me-in person or online. If not, then please pray for me, for us. I need that more than anything.

#Worry#Don’t!

Friday, April 9th, 2021

If I were to do a random walk through a town or a mall and asked what one thing amped up during the recent pandemic, I suspect worry would be the list.  Maybe even tops.

Worry is not a respecter of persons. It doesn’t matter if you are young or old. White or black or any other color. Rich or poor.  Living in a mansion or homeless.  Good job or no job. Married or single. Male or female.  White collar or blue collar.

There are three weeks left in the series on Ecclesiastes. I took a 4 week break for Easter so I could preach on the cross and the Resurrection. Ecclesiastes 11 is all about putting worry to bed.  Well…it doesn’t say that specifically but it does talk a whole lot about accepting life as it is.  The adage of AA is “Lord, help me to accept the things I cannot change; to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”  We are all faced with the issue of “Do I or do I not worry?”

Philippians 4: 6-7  says, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (NLT)

Wise counsel. I’m going to open my sermon Sunday by using Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:25-34 to see what He has to say about worry. Then I’m taking Eccl. 11 and taking verses 1-6 to show what we shouldn’t worry about and verses 7-10 to show what we can be happy about.

Join me/us if you have a chance to do so. I would be honored. If not, then please pray. Thanks.

#GreatestEvent#Celebration

Saturday, April 3rd, 2021

Oddly enough there is one thing atheists and Christ-followers can agree on.  I believe you can say we have a common ground. That common ground has been summed up very well by Billy Graham: “If I were an enemy of Christianity, I would aim right at the Resurrection, because that is the heart of Christianity.” 

I found an interesting quote recently by a man named Jaroslav Pelikan:

If Christ is risen, nothing else matter. And if Christ is not risen-nothing else matters.

All that to say this: the validity of Christianity rises and falls on the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  By an outward look, the cross is the final blow to Jesus and the life He offered. But ONLY IF the resurrection is not true. However, if the resurrection is true, the finality of the cross is done. It is defeated.

Of course, I believe very strongly that the resurrection of Jesus Christ physically from the tomb is true. If I didn’t I would quit my job, find another job, and live in despair for the rest of my life.  In a book called Moorings in a World Adrift, the late Clayton Bell wrote the following words:

The fact of Jesus’ resurrection is the benchmark from which we measure everything about Jesus Christ: his birth, his life, his teachings, his miracles, and even his death.”

Sunday if, of course, Resurrection Sunday. The day we celebrate the greatest event in history.  My purpose is to show why I believe the resurrection is true.  I invite you to join us in person or online. And I’ll close this post with a quote from N.T. Wright:

It is impossible to account for the early Christian belief in Jesus as Messiah without the resurrection.