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#GoodGrief!

Friday, August 19th, 2022

Let’s be honest here for a moment. For most people, especially in today’s world, mourning is not seen as a virtue.  In fact, for many men, to show tears is out of character. I can remember only seeing my dad cry once and that was after his heart attack and a visit Jo, Tami (she was barely a month old), and I made. We had traveled from Akron to my folks’ home in PA to visit. Now a days, it is becoming even harder and harder not just to find men, but also women, who are unafraid to shed some tears. It is often seen as a sign of weakness.

And yet, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (NASB2020)

What does that mean? Does it mean we should be constantly in “cry mode?” Does it mean we should go around with tears in our eyes so people can see us crying (sort of like being showy like the Pharisees)?  Everyone one of us experience or will experience pain and suffering of some kind. What should we do?

Mourn, of course. Jesus said it was okay to do that. I remember a song from years ago sung by J.D. Sumner: “Tears are a language God understands.”

But when Jesus tells us “Blessed are those who mourn” what does He mean? What is He giving us permission to do?  It is far more than just shedding tears. I hope to untangle that this week and with God’s help shed some light in this sometimes dark tunnel. 

I’d be honored if you could join us at 9 or 10:45 in person or via live stream.  If you care to watch it another time it is on the church FB page and YouTube channel. You can access those by going to the church’s website.

#Cancer#Hidden

Friday, August 5th, 2022

Of all the cancers which we have covered (6 so far), this last one is what I am calling the “Hidden” one. Why? Because most often it can be hidden from other eyes. Given the internet and given the plethora of other avenues, this cancer is considered “private.”

The cancer? L.U.S.T.

Someone has said, “Unbridled lust: A cannibal committing suicide by nibbling on himself.”

Another anonymous person said, “Lust, I read somewhere, is the craving for salt by a man (or woman) who is dying of thirst.”

I don’t need to go into detail of what happens when lust takes hold. A lust for money often leads to gambling. A lust for pleasure often leads to a life of unbridled lack of control. A lust for ease often leads to a life spent looking for short cuts. And a life of lust often leads to a body count left behind with destruction in its wake.  But like all the other cancers, it will eat away at us until it reveals itself in some way.

Lust is not a losing cause.  It is a disordered and idolatrous sexual desire that is both enslaving and destructive, but it is not an adventure in futility. This week I hope to disclose lust for what it is, but also to offer hope to those who struggle with it.  Please join us at 9 and 10:45 in person or via live stream. If you are unable to, please commit to praying for me-for us- as we study. Thanks.

#RealRevival

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2022

I also posted a good part of this on my other blog, Living in the Shadow, but I have made a few changes to this particular post.

Very recently I read an exciting and interesting new book by Pastor Greg Laurie. It is called Lennon, Dylan, Alice and Jesus.

Lennon, Dylan, Alice, and Jesus: The Spiritual Biography of Rock and Roll

To borrow from Bill and Ted: “It was a most excellent book.”

Strange name I know, but it was a book about those three musical icons, their contemporaries and how they felt about Jesus. Pastor Greg also wrote about other rock icons-Morrison, Hendrix, Joplin (who were all part of the dubious 27 Club because they all died when they were 27 years old), as well as others. He wrote about Jesus’ influence on different rock and roll artists- their acceptance, rejection, falling away, and embracing-of Jesus.

After reading that refreshing, sometimes sad, but still refreshing book, I decided to go back and read again another book by Greg which I had read back in 2018 called Jesus Revolution.

Jesus Revolution: How God Transformed an Unlikely Generation and How He Can Do It Again Today

I only started it last night so I can’t say much about it. However, chapter 1 began with this quote:

There can’t be any large scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level.  it’s got to happen inside first.

Who said that? Hold onto your hat when I tell you. Jim Morrison.

Shocked? Yeah…me too.

Sounds like some religious jargon doesn’t it? How many times have you heard or said something like, “Real revival must start with me.” It’s true. Real revival, real renewal, must begin within each one of us, starting with me. Real revival is a revolution, a radical changing of my heart and mind to being conformed to the image of Christ. To borrow and reword Jim Morrison’s words: It’s an inside job.

You see, I think the world (and the church to some extent), has seen enough of, and had enough of, fake “works of God.” I know I have had enough of pretenders (and that includes me from time to time).  We see the garbage and hucksterism on TV for what passes for faith, and we hear of crusades (not Harvest Crusades put on my Greg Laurie) with all the showy junk, that we are literally sick of it. 

I know I’m sick of what passes for “God’s work” and “God’s words.”  Sort of makes me sick to my stomach.

Revival, or a move of God, is much more than “You don’t do this” or “You don’t do that” or “You must act a certain way” or “You must belong to a certain political party.”  No. Revival is a radical change within a person’s heart. THAT is what the world wants and needs to see.

Jim Morrison was right. We need Someone to light our fire. It’s not a baby (babe). It’s the King of kings setting us on fire with a fire of epic proportions. That is one that will set the night on fire by bringing the light of Christ to its darkness.

That the real thing. Authentic. Life-changing. White hot change-maker.

“Start with me, Father. Set me on fire.”

#Cancer#Resepctable

Friday, July 29th, 2022

We have the Big 10. You know…the 10 Commandments. “You shall have no other gods before you.” “You shall not murder.” “You shall not commit adultery.” And others. The biggies.  People will also throw in some of their social issues with them. Curiously, there is one we tend to leave off the list. In fact, of all the cancers we have been talking about, this one most people will take the least seriously than any other. The cancer?

Gluttony.

I’m going to be honest. I don’t have an axe to grind.  I like to eat like all the other folks do. I used to say, “The Apostle Paul said, “I buffet my body, not buffet (like endless eating) my body.” I have to admit that I preferred the latter more than I should have. Pizza. Ice Cream. Chinese. Age has slowed me down some I’m sorry to say, but I do still like to eat! 🙂 

Gluttony is more than just overeating at Thanksgiving or Christmas or some special occasion. The failure to see that fact is flabby thinking about the Bible and what it says about this “respectable” cancer. I call it that because it normally doesn’t show up on someone’s list of sins.

This Sunday I am going to be preaching about what the Bible says about this “respectable” cancer.  I would love to have you join us in person, or if that is not possible, online.  We have two services at 9 and 10:45. Both are live streamed as well.

#Mother’sDay#SpecialDay#Honor

Friday, May 6th, 2022

This Sunday, in case you were born yesterday or are from the planet Vulcan, is Mother’s Day. A National Holiday. If you ask some, it is THE NATIONAL HOLIDAY!! 🙂  I know some will think I am prejudiced but I’m really not: I believe I married the best of the best, the cream of the crop.  Seriously, I am not prejudiced. 🙂 🙂

Anyway, Mother’s Day brings a gamut of emotions.  Happy thoughts. Sad thoughts. Reminiscing thoughts. Bitter thoughts. The list goes on.

One thought it brings to a pastor is scary: what do I say on Mother’s Day? I am a man and who am I to think I can use Proverbs 31 to tell a woman how to be that kind of woman? And who am I that I should use Mother’s Day to tell a woman she needs to be submissive to her husband (and he to her)?

So I decided to take the chicken way out…or is is the wise way out? I’ll let you decide and have your opinion. I decided to approach this year differently. No, I didn’t ask a woman to preach for me (I don’t want to get into that frankly). However, I did ask for help.  I know…how unlike a man right?

I texted 10 women and asked them a question: what woman in the Bible stands out as a hero you look up to?  I thought I would then take their suggestions and write my sermon focusing on them. Little did I realize that not only would all the ladies respond but they would-in many cases-give me several women. Yikes! It is Mother’s Day and I know they will not want to be there for a couple hours.

So I elicited their help. “Would you be willing to share with the church family why you chose those ladies?” Two said they would, but would be out of town, so they were willing to record it on a flash drive for us to show. Several said they were uncomfortable or not yet ready to share their story.  I certainly understood and was willing to forgive them. 🙂  Five said they would, but a couple were hesitant to do it from the pulpit (fear). So I decided to do it like a panel and focus it more like a discussion amongst themselves, but obviously including the rest of us in their musings.

I’m looking forward to it. Novel approach. Hopefully a great learning experience.

We are having one service at 10:00 since I did not want to put the ladies through two services.  If you are able to be with us in person, I look forward to seeing you. If not, please join us via the live stream. You can join us by going to the church website where you will see our link to YouTube and also Facebook (Look below the sermon title).

 

#Snapshots#Forgiveness

Friday, April 29th, 2022

We all like to receive letters. Long or short. Hearing from someone we love or have at least corresponded with at some time usually makes for a good day.  The NT consists of 27 books, most of which take some time to read and study through.

But it also contains some very short books. Four to be exact. I thought it would be a nice change of pace after the sometimes grueling and grinding subject matter of Truth Decay to pause for a refresher. So for the next 5 weeks (not including Mother’s Day) I plan to cover the short books of the NT: Philemon, 2 John, 3 John and Jude (2 sermons). I’m calling the series Snapshots since they give us short pictures of the early church.

First up is Philemon. if you haven’t read it before I’d suggest you read it. What a wonderful book! And a wonderful series of lessons we can learn. The most important?

LEARNING TO FORGIVE.

I’ll be looking at Paul’s request he makes of Philemon and how it is calling on Philemon to make one of the greatest sacrifices anyone can make: to forgive when someone has wronged you.  I’ll be talking about 4 things which happen to us when we fail to forgive.  I’ll share them in a blog next week.

I’d like to invite you to join us in person or via live stream. And I’d also encourage you to pray and ask God how He wants you to forgive and whom He might want you to forgive.

#AliveisStillAlive!

Friday, April 15th, 2022

Famous atheist, the late Christopher Hitchens, was once interviewed for Portland Monthly about his opposition to religion, and more specifically, Christianity. The women “minister” questioning him noted the Christianity he opposed was of the more “fundamentalist” variety, while she identified herself as a “liberal Christian.” After explaining that she didn’t take the stories of Scripture literally and rejected the atonement, she asked Hitchens if he saw a difference between fundamentalist faith and more liberal religion. His answer was surprising: “I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.”

I guess there is no other way to say it but that he put her in her place. And that I totally agree with him. If I became convinced that the resurrection of Jesus was not true, or that Jesus was just a good teacher or a wise man to imitate and not the Savior and King, I would disavow being a Christian. I would walk away from the faith.

This Sunday is the apex of our faith: the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead. I’m excited about preaching on that! We are meeting at Abram Farm Event Venue in order to be together as one church family.  Our service will start at 10:00 and be live streamed as well (thanks to Pastor Ryan for making that happen).  So I’d like to invite you to join us in person at Abram Farm or via live stream.

#September9#September11

Thursday, September 9th, 2021

I am posting this early for several reasons.  On Saturday, 9/11, I will be taking part in the memorial service the town of Spencer will be having to remember the 20th anniversary of the attacks by cowards. But an even greater reason confronts me. Today, September 9th, is the 10th anniversary of the death of local soldier, Brett Wood, in Afghanistan. I did not know Brett. I know his brother, Nikk, who attends OVCF now. So I post this in honor of Brett and to remind you not to forget.

Even writing those words-that date- brings back haunting memories.

Planes hitting two towers. Papers falling. People dying.  Metal crumbling. Layers of smoke and dust and debris in the air and on people and cars. People digging. American flag waving on site, almost like a guardian and inspiration.

“Let’s roll.” Brave passengers. Todd Beamer. Rumors of the plane headed to the White House.  An empty field. Plane crashed. Crisis averted. Lives lost.

Pentagon. The “seat” of military power. A symbol of military might and genius. The hub of decisions. Fiery death. Walls breached.

A nation united against evil. For once. “God Bless America” sung by political rivals. A common enemy. Swift action. Swift reprisal. Manhunt. Finally got him (them).

9/11…Never forget. This is not a matter of forgiveness. This is a matter of remembering the fallen.  As of today, there are just under 3000 innocent lives gone.  Heroes who rushed burning buildings. People who went to work that day not having a clue. Some of them I will see someday. Some, sadly, thought they had more time. And a few consigned to hell where their vestal virgins do not await. Only tongues of fire.

Matthew 26…Never forget. A memorial feast set aside for a Savior to never be forgotten.  Paying the ultimate price. For me. For you.

LEST WE FORGET

“Father, the memories are fresh as flashbacks occur on this 20th anniversary of evil’s destruction. Thank You for Your faithfulness through it all. Giving hope and life to so many. And thank You for the cross. Help me to never forget.”

September 11, 2001 was part of the inspiration for Brett, and his brother, Nikk, joining the military. I am proud to be a part of a community that wants to honor their fallen. We had a memorial service this past Monday, Labor Day, to honor the 13 who died in Kabul over the fiasco that is Afghanistan.  The views expressed here are mine and not necessarily those of the church I pastor.

#Revelation!#Jesus

Friday, September 3rd, 2021

I’m pretty sure that you, like me, have used some phrases with regularity. Phrases like “Things are not always as they seem.”  “Looks can be deceiving.” “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”

Tragically, many of us do not see ourselves as we truly are. It’s a game we play with ourselves and with others.  I remember back in 2003 I visited the doctor and he was unhappy with my numbers. After seeing them I had to admit they were high. Too high. So was my weight. I weighed in at 233 pounds. Now, I’m 6’5″ so I can carry that weight(so I told myself). I was also lifting weights, almost daily at the local high school, so I was also pretty solid.  But what I didn’t see was the growing middle section of my torso. After all, when one looks into the mirror he doesn’t normally look at that; he/she looks at what they like. The doctor set me straight. Lose weight or go on meds. In two months I lost 20 pounds and my numbers came tumbling down. I liked it so well I dropped to 200 which is where I was in May of 2004 at a significant event in my life. (I also had no muscle since all I did was ride and never lifted a weight. But that is another story).

Point: I never saw myself as the doctor saw me.  I lied to myself that I was healthy because I was big and muscular. 

We do that same thing in our walk with Christ. It is much easier to hide behind the facade and pretend we are someone we are not or pretend we are more than we are. It is like we are living in a permanent cosplay performance.  The road to being like Jesus begins with realizing who Jesus is and then who He desires us to be.

My sermon Sunday is from Mark 9 where we find the great story of the Transfiguration and it ends with an appeal from Jesus to be like children. I’d like to invite you to join me this Sunday at 9 and 10:45 in person or live stream.  If you are unable to make it, would you mind saying a prayer for us please? Thanks.

#LawsFamily#Testimony

Saturday, August 28th, 2021

I’m not preaching this Sunday because Mike, Trisha, and Ryan Laws are our special guests.

I have been anticipating this for over 2 months. Mike donated his kidney to his son in order to save his life.  A perfectly healthy, 13 year old, soccer-playing teenage who in a matter of days found himself in the ICU because of a kidney disease is the basis for the Laws’ story. The foundation of it though is the faithfulness of God as they cried, trusted, sought answers, watched Ryan lay in a bed unable to respond, until finally both Mike and Trisha were tested as matches. They decided Mike would be the one to give his son new life. What greater father/son love story could you find? 

Oh yeah, there is one. God the Father giving up His Son on the cross for our salvation.

Please join us live at 9 and 10:45 as they tell their story, a testimony to God’s incredible love and faithfulness.

And BTW: Mike has been back at work and Ryan is back at soccer going full bore.  You gotta hear their story!