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#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.

#Deconstruction#Religion101

Tuesday, May 11th, 2021

Have you ever noticed there are some things which are “all the rage”?   One Sunday as I was visiting with people before our services started, I said hi to an 8 year old who had double bell-bottom jeans on. I had just spoken with two older teen girls who were wearing bell-bottoms. I asked the older girls if bell-bottoms were coming back and they said, “Yeah.” Then I commented how I wore them while in high school.  That, my friends, was over 50 years ago. Yikes!

Anyway, one of the things which is “all the rage” right now is something very sad. It is called Deconstruction. No, that is not what you do when you flip a house-tear it down to its nubs and rebuild it. The deconstruction I am speaking of is that which speaks of someone’s faith. Some very high profile people have come out as “deconstructors” of their faith. Josh Harris (“I Kissed Dating Goodbye”). A worship leader for Hillsong. The former lead singer of Hawk Nelson. The Gungors who have gone on to what is called Progressive Christianity (avoid at all costs). Tons of books have been written; podcasts recorded; articles written and posted via blogs; social media posts; you name it. One of the best I have ever read concerning Deconstruction is a new book by Michael J. Kruger entitled Surviving Religion 101.

Surviving Religion 101

Michael takes a unique approach in his book.  He addresses the whole deal with deconstruction by writing letters to his daughter.  When he wrote this book, Emma was in her first year of college at UNC (University of North Carolina), home of the infamous Bart Ehrman, a renowned deconstructionist whose life passion seems to be destroying peoples’ faith.  There are a total of 15 chapters, each chapter a letter where he addresses concerns Emma might face as she interacts on campus with both teachers and fellow students.  A short list of what he addresses: the intelligence of her professors; her morals being seen as intolerant; the same-sex argument; hell is a fairy tale; the issue of suffering; science and the Christian faith; there are several chapter on the reliability of the Bible; and others.

I didn’t know what to expect when I first bought this book and began reading,  but I can honestly say this is one of the most enjoyable books I have read on this subject. Probably because it is not technical but practical.  My brain is on overload at times because I want to absorb all he writes but that is impossible for my mind to accomplish. But I do know I have underlined a ton of sentences and will revisit this book as I find myself in the place where I need to.  If you know of someone who is seriously questioning their faith, or is even in the process of deconstructing their faith, this is a book you need to put into their hands. It won’t answer every question but it sure will make you (and the person you care about) think. And it will show you that the Christian faith can and will stand up to scrutiny.

#Broken#FindingStrength

Sunday, May 2nd, 2021

Have you ever noticed there are some books which you labor through; some you breeze through; some you savor like a fine pizza (fooled you didn’t I?); and some you read that you don’t want to put down and think, “I suspect somewhere along the line I will read that again. I most definitely will pass it along to someone else when the time is right.”

I found and read one of those books just recently:

Strength at the Broken Places: A Memoir of Facing Career and Family Failure and Finding Hope Through God's Grace

I am not sure where I heard about Greg’s book. It may have been a podcast. It may have been while reading another book. But wherever it was, I’m grateful. This book is subtitled A Memoir of Facing Career and Family Failure and Finding Hope Through God’s Grace.  It was that and more.

From the earliest memories of his childhood Greg’s life was broken. An unsettled parental relationship which eventually wound up in divorce. A mother who never really recovered from the divorce.  High school years which had both success and failure. The loss of his grandfather (Big Pa) deeply affected him. Then it was off to college and surprisingly for this “going nowhere young man” college became a much better experience. His grades were so bad in high school Greg started college on academic probation. But he found his niche. He found it even more when his relationship to Christ blossomed and he met Terri Lynn, who eventually became his wife.

It would be nice to say that Greg’s life was all peaches and cream after that. It was the exact opposite. Seminary. A doctorate.  Several different pastorates. Things began to fall apart though as he allowed his demons from his childhood (and other events) continue to haunt him.  A failed marriage. A failed job or two. Shame from his past. He is definitely one of those men who found his identity in his job.

Eventually, he found another wife who was committed to Christ.  I wish I could say that it was a “happily ever after” kind of life but it wasn’t. She even moved out when his “demons” came back. Ultimately though he sought help in the form of a Christian counselor and two mentors who helped him rise above the “demon” past. Today Greg is the pastor of Lost Pines Cowboy Church in Texas. God has used him, his past, and his present to help others and to make the future something to look forward to.

I highly recommend this book. It was readable but not fluffy. Greg painted himself warts and all. Everyone can benefit from reading this book and then passing it along. I plan to do just that whenever I find someone who could really benefit from his experiences.  I would give it 5 out of 5 stars if there was a grading system.

#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.

#BadtoGood#God’sProtection

Tuesday, April 27th, 2021

Every week I write a Midweek Message to the folks here at OVCF and Diana emails it on Wednesday. I started writing it when Covid hit as a way to stay in touch during the week. I have fun with it, but also try to keep the folks informed about comings and goings and happenings around the church fellowship. This week (tomorrow/Wednesday) the following will be included in the MM. You ought to feel really important since you will get to see it before the church folks do. I don’t have to worry about the cat being out of the bag too much since probably 90+% of the folks don’t read my blogs. 🙁  Anyway, here is what I wrote:

Have you ever had one of those “this could have been a very bad thing but it has turned out to be a good thing” events?  I had one this past Friday that still blows me away when I think about it. Every year I have my bike serviced by Bicycle Garage Indy in Greenwood. That is where I bought the last two and so I tend to be faithful to where I bought something. This past Friday I took my bike to Greenwood to have two new tires put on it and to have a tune-up so that it is safe and ready for the summer riding season. I had an early appointment with the intention of taking Jo to lunch and hanging around Greenwood for a couple of hours so I could take it home with me when it was done. We were sitting at lunch when the store manager called me with bad news. I thought he was going to say it needed more than tires and a tune-up. Nope. I needed a whole new frame. There was a crack on the inside of the frame down by the rear shifters and derailleur. There would have been no way I would have ever seen that until the frame busted and sent me spiraling or worse. The frame is under warranty but my size is a detriment, as has been COVID. Bike makers are so far behind that if I ordered a bike today, it would not be available until the end of 2022. Fortunately, Trek had some frames available for warranty claims and hopefully, will get it to them to build me a bike soon.

How could that be good given how much I like to ride? If that frame had failed while coming down a hill; if that frame had failed while on 43 (the state road I have to ride on before I find side roads) and cars coming up from behind me; if that frame had failed when I was all alone…well, I don’t even want to think about it. Jo says I told her after my last wreck (the one that broke my collarbone, three ribs, and split my helmet in three places) that if I had another wreck I was done. I think I was delusional and under the influence when she says I said that. 🙂  But the truth is I may very well have been done. I still shudder when I think about it. And I am immensely grateful to God for His watchful eye while I was riding and having me get it to the shop as soon as I did. I have always believed that God does not do evil or make His children suffer.  God’s goodness and protection overwhelm me.  {Note: I’m sorry honey. I’m not quite ready to retire the bike just yet. And I still think I was under the influence when you said I said that}. 🙂

Never forget God does not do evil to His children. Someone else is responsible for that.   With that simple truth in mind, why would anyone want to serve him?

#TrueWords#ConvictingWords

Thursday, April 22nd, 2021

As my readers know, I am not on FaceBook or Twitter or Insta or any other social media. I have enough trouble keeping up two blogs and my daily work (plus spend time with Jo) to have to worry about social media and keeping up with the latest trends, wacky and whacked-out thoughts posted on modern media. I have no patience for ignorance espoused as “brain food” and definitely no stomach for liberal politics. Or maybe politics in general.

I recently read an interview with Carl Trueman, the author of The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self  and a professor at Grove City College in Pennsylvania.  He was being asked what books are on his nightstand these days. After answering the questions he said some profound words that I want to copy below for you to read and think about:

Question: What are you learning about life and following Jesus?

Life is short. Now in my mid-50s I am increasingly conscious that time is limited and that as a Christian I need to be very careful about my personal and professional priorities. Private time with family and close friends means so much to me these days. An evening in the company of loved ones is a precious gift that I have too seldom appreciated in the past. And professional time has to be focused on things that count: the classroom, reading things that matter, writing articles and books on topics of serious moment.

I am amazed at how many Christians spend their days on Twitter and Facebook—too often platforms for ephemeral trivia and unpleasantness. I do not believe Jesus wants me to use my remaining years in exchanging insults with other Christians. I think he wants all his people to witness to the world by using the time and talents he has given them to edify the body of Christ and to help the rising generation think clearly about the challenges we all face.

Well, now you know I am not alone in my thoughts. It feels good to have someone so intelligent say it so much better than I can.

#Vaxxer#Non-Vaxxer

Monday, April 12th, 2021

I read a blog written by James Emery White that I want to share with you. But before I do I want to say something. I will go on record as saying that I thought COVID was a passing thing. I will even admit to saying that as the election drew near that it was too politicized, that one side was using it as a weapon against another side. There was tons of misinformation floating around. I went 9 months avoiding the “plague” and it finally caught up with me on December 21 when I tested positive. But it wasn’t done. After an incident on Christmas morning (which I will defer on telling you), I literally went from 223 pretty solid pounds honed on a bicycle and weights at the Y, and in three weeks I was looking straight in the mirror at a 175 pound refugee body.  It had attacked my digestive system, ruining my ability to keep food in or down. After a long and eventful 3-4 weeks which included several surgeries, I am on the mend. I am riding by bike again and working out at the Y.

On April 19th Jo and I get our second vaccine.

I worked out. I took tons of immune support vitamins. I exercised. I thought I was “bullet proof” with all that I did. But I still got COVID, worse than anyone in my personal space. Even Jo who has compromised health (diabetes) did not experience what I did.

To be honest, I still didn’t want to take the vaccine. I was concerned about being kicked backwards by it. I also thought since I had COVID I thought, “I’m good.” But then I started thinking about the example I am setting. I thought about how the folks will feel more comfortable around me knowing I am vaccinated.  So I chose to get the Moderna vaccine. Time will tell its end results.

But I know there is a lot of misinformation still floating around…about the vaccine…about COVID. So I am simply asking you to read James Emery White’s blog about the vaccine. Click here to read.

Maybe it will help you make a decision.

#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.

#NeverTooLate#Song

Thursday, April 1st, 2021

I was on my way to the office this morning (Thursday) and was listening to Kutless. I have been listening to them lately and I’m sure I heard this song but never paid much attention.

Until this morning.

I realized how pertinent it was given the meaning of this whole week. The day we honor tomorrow (Good Friday). The day we celebrate on Sunday (Resurrection).

And the ache we have in our hearts for those we know and/or love who have continued to push Jesus away.  I know I do.  I offer this to you to be encouraged to not stop praying and hoping. It is never too late until that last breath is breathed. Until then…

Here is the song.

#Story#Replacement

Monday, March 29th, 2021

Perhaps you have heard this story before. Maybe not. Since I have never read Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities I can’t say I have except in a passing glance. But I used the following story in my sermon yesterday and since it is the week leading up to the crucifixion and resurrection, I thought I would start your week off with a thought-provoking story.

A man named Charles Darnay is condemned to die by the guillotine.  In our vernacular, all means of appeal had been made. The verdict kept coming back “Guilty.” “Condemned.”

As he sat in his cell and thought about his wife and child, he heard the shuffling of feet in the stone passage, a turning of a key, and a quick open and shut door. With a finger to his lips, Sidney Carton stood face-to-face before Darnay with a slight smile on his face. This man had come to trade places with Darney. Carton, an innocent man, is willing to go to the guillotine so that Darnay can be free to live and rejoin his family.

After the exchange has been made, and prisoners are gathered to be taken to their execution, a little seamstress approaches him. “Are you dying for him?” she whispered. “And his wife and child,” he replied.

Sidney Carton died so that another might live. But as great as his act was, it still does compare with what Christ has done for us.  You see, Carton died for 3 people. Jesus died not for just three, not for a hundred, but millions upon millions of people. Jesus died mercifully for a humanity caught in rebellion against God. By His death Jesus reconciled us (made us friends) with God.

Romans 5:8 says, “God demonstrates his love for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Think on that truth as we begin this final week leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus.