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Tough Challenges

Wednesday, February 14th, 2024

Unless you count a baseball or basketball coach, I have never used a personal trainer, although I know many who have. Each Saturday morning at the local Y there is a former Owen Valley Patriot basketball player teaching/coaching/training young ones to become better players. Harry was a good player who went on to play at a nearby University and is now taking his talents to young people (male and female) who want to become better basketball players.  If you Google “Goals of a Personal Trainer” one common formula that comes up is SMART goals= Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.

When I originally worked on the sermon series “WELCOME HOME…where… I came up with the following:

The Gospel is Preached

Jesus is Honored

Grace is Offered

Lives are Changed

Obedience is Encouraged

When I set this series up calendar-wise, I realized I needed two weeks to bring it out even, and also knew I would be gone for the final one. Since I have been using Colossians as my go-to Scripture for this series, I looked ahead and saw that Paul laid out some tough challenges. Specifically, there was a negative and a positive. So I decided to divide the Scripture into two parts. The first part is negative in that it says, “Get rid of…” I decided I would do that one and give Pastor Ryan the second part-the positive: “But put on…”

So this Sunday, my Scripture will be Colossians 3:5-11, or Tough Challenges are Given-Part 1.  My part this week will be spent mostly with the idea of “put to death” specific sins.  Even though it could tend to be a beat-down, I have no plans for that. I want it to be an encouraging time of “putting to death” certain sins in order to be a more honest servant.  I’d like to encourage you to read that Scripture for yourself.

And if you find yourself out and about Sunday, feel free to join us. 🙂

Obedience: Encouraged or Demanded?

Thursday, February 8th, 2024

There are some things I know for sure. 1) It is always tough to be a Christ-follower.  2) It is tougher to be a Christ-follower when rigid rules and regulations are in place. Obedience to Christ should be expected, but obedience should never be demanded or forced upon someone. Unfortunately, there will always be those religious teachers and religious systems that will take a “hard case” approach and make demands of their followers the Scripture never intended to take place.

The Scripture for Sunday, Colossians 2:16-3:4 takes a hard stand against demanding obedience or as I will say during the message: the “lord it over” approach. The question I plan to answer is this: “Is obedience demanded or encouraged?” Please see there is a difference. It is my personal belief that those religious leaders or religious systems who use the “lord it over” approach are afraid. They are afraid of people thinking for themselves. They are afraid of losing control of their flock. They are afraid that a lack of control will lead to rebellion. (Maybe it should). 

Do we obey God from our hearts or do we do it because we are being threatened or forced to? For my answer, please feel free to join us in person or online this Sunday at 9:00 and 10:45. I would love to see you or even to hear your thoughts when it is all said and done.

A Country Music Star’s Review

Wednesday, January 31st, 2024

REVIEW OF LIKE A RIVER

By Granger Smith

First, you need to know I am not a County Music (CM) fan. A few years ago (like 20-30+ when I did listen to CM), I was very picky whom I listened to. I even wore a cowboy hat! But after about 4 years I went back to my roots of rock ‘n roll and metal. So you might be wondering why in the world I would read a book by a CM star? To be honest, it sat in my Amazon cart for several months because I couldn’t bite the bullet. But I finally did and I’m here to tell you I’m glad I did.

Granger Smith and his wife, Amber, had three children:  London (7), Lincoln (5) and River (3). Lincoln and River were best buds so they were off playing together and Granger was helping London with a new gymnastics routine. His career was a shining star getting brighter by the day. This particular day, one day before the CMA awards, he was with London, when he suddenly noticed the boys were quiet. River had wandered off from his brother and Granger found him face down in the family pool. Despite efforts by him doing CPR and the EMS there was no hope. They rushed him to the hospital but his long time without oxygen gave them no hope. They donated his organs and allowed him to pass naturally.

This book is Granger’s efforts to process his grief and to share the lessons he learned with us. I cannot even begin to imagine what it would be like for him, or for any other parent in a similar situation, or for any parent having to say “Goodbye” to a child. As you can imagine Granger’s life from that point on was a roller coaster. He admits faking it and lying on stage and telling people he was okay (typical for most of us). He also found himself going down the rabbit hole of marijuana usage to help him deal with the nightmares (PTSD). Then the dark night of the soul where he had a loaded gun ready to end it all. Shortly after that dark night and his decision to follow Jesus, he approached Amber about having another baby. But she had had her tubes tied and so the chances of that happening were slim. Oh, the miracles of modern medicine. They implanted an egg but Amber had a miscarriage. With one frozen embryo left they tried one last time. This time God blessed them with little Maverick.

The book ends with Granger telling us that he has given up the road traveling and singing CM to attend Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he is pursuing a Master’s Degree and preaching. I like what he says: “Other than that, my future is none of my business. What a freeing feeling that is.” (p.184)

I did enjoy this book. It wasn’t a sordid “tell all” like many of them could do. Instead, it was a “God came through and I want to share my testimony with you” book. His story of losing River is heart-breaking, but to see what God has brought out of this is truly inspiring.  He was honest; he was real; and it was well worth the time reading. (He still didn’t convert me to CM).  🙂

Jesus Is Honored

Thursday, January 18th, 2024

Over 100 years ago the famous World’s Columbian Exposition was held in Chicago. D.L. Moody saw it as a great chance for evangelism. He used churches and rented theaters, even a circus tent for various “preaching posts.” His friends wanted him to attack the “Parliament of Religions,” but he refused, saying, “I am going to make Jesus Christ so attractive that men will turn to Him.” He knew that preaching Christ preeminent would do the job. It did. The “Chicago Campaign” is considered to be the greatest evangelistic work of his life, and thousands came to Christ.

How different 100+ years makes! Other than someone like Billy Graham or Greg Laurie, if it doesn’t have a dog and pony show with it, people think it is not successful or won’t draw people. Sadly, churches can get into that same mindset. Instead of solid preaching and lifting up Christ, too many have settled for hype, light shows, and “sermon lite” preaching.

This Sunday’s message-as you can see by the title-is all about Jesus. Colossians 1:15-20 is all about lifting up Jesus and honoring Him.  I’ve got three main thoughts:

Jesus is the Lord of Creation

Jesus is the Head of the Church

Jesus is the Savior of the Cross

Please join us in person or online at 9:00 and 10:45. I pray you have a blessed weekend and find yourself worshiping the King of kings this weekend.

#GospelPreached

Thursday, January 11th, 2024

I start a new series this week that will go to the end of February. I’ve called it WELCOME HOME…where…

Each sermon is part of a reworking of a our Mission and Vision Statement. You can find our Mission and Vision Statements on the church’s website here and here.  This past October, during our 19th Anniversary celebration I shared a story with the people about what had happened during the previous week. I was unable to sleep so I got up and went into my ManCave and picked up my journal on the way there. While there I sensed God “telling” me to write down some stuff. What I wrote down was a reworking of the Mission and Vision statement in a “softer” version.  Here it is for you to see:

WELCOME HOME…where…

The Gospel is Preached

Jesus is Honored

Grace is Offered

Lives are Changed

Obedience is Encouraged

I am going to take each one of these over the next two months and spend a week simply explaining what they mean. I’m “cheating” though; I’m adding two to round it out all the way to the end of February. The series will come from Colossians 1-3 so I will include each week’s Scripture here if you would like to read ahead of time. This week’s Scripture is Colossians 1:3-14. I will also be including I Cor. 1:18-31 and Romans 1:16-17.

I’ll leave you with a quote I will be using:

God is not going to rewrite the Bible for your generation. Stop trying to change Scripture when it’s written to change you.

See you Sunday in person or via live stream at 9:00 and 10:45!

Talking Animals-Glade Review

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2024

My blogging friend, Martha Orlando, has written a wonderful series of books called The Glade Series. It morphed into two trilogies. The other is Adventures in the Glade. I recently reread the first trilogy and decided to do a review of them. Following is my review:

How do you feel about talking animals? Not the Dr. Doolittle kind but the Narnia kind? I fell in love with the Chronicles of Narnia when I was about 27 years old. That was the first time I ever read them. I had heard of them when I was in college and saw a fellow student reading them, but when he said they were children’s books, I just sloughed it off. “I have better things to do than to read children’s books about talking animals.” Or so I thought. One read of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe changed all that.

I was unsure what to expect when I started reading Martha Orlando’s Glade Series (and the Adventures in the Glade series which follows). Talking animals with human interaction was a tough act to follow. This is my second read of The Glade Series. My first one was several years ago (circa 2015) so reading this again was like reading it for the first time. I’m glad since I didn’t come into it with any preconceived ideas of what I did or did not like. I have to be honest: except for not liking Davy’s disposition in the first book (before his encounter with Grey, the squirrel), there wasn’t much I didn’t like about this series. Martha’s story telling abilities improved with each book and pulled me in. I wanted to keep reading long past when I needed to stop. 🙂

The story starts with Davy’s mom taking Davy and his sister Anna to a place off the “grid.” No internet. No TV. No PSP. It has electricity and one bathroom (oh the inconvenience of that!). And only one neighbor, the Fairchild’s, who took care of Jim’s (Davy’s stepfather after the death of his father in the military) grandpa. Grandpa had stories to tell…did he ever! They were stories of talking animals which delighted children. It was during a story telling episode at his mother’s wedding to Jim that Davy was told he was the “Chosen One,” but had no clue what that was all about.  He was to find out when he meets Grey in person. After his night sleeping when Grey and the Wise one visit him unawares, Davy’s whole demeanor changes. Personally, he is much more pleasant to read about. 🙂  Davy is eventually introduced to The Glade and meets the animals he will soon rename as the “Chosen One.”

There are several specific things which are out-of-the ordinary. Davy is the only one who can see Grey (whom he renames as Racer). He misspeaks a few times and others hear him talking to Grey, but he covers it well.  Jim (the stepfather) has a cousin (Ronnie) who wants the land for building and reverts to underhanded means to get control of the land. That whole scene leads to some creative means (with the help of the animals from The Glade) to stop the building project. The final book of this first trilogy gives Davy a chance to introduce his whole family to the animals in The Glade.

When I first read this a number of years ago, I found it enjoyable but I had a tad bit of trouble “getting into it.” That was simply because of time lapse between reading each volume. This time was different since I was able to go from one right to the next. I saw so much more this time and enjoyed it so much more as well. If you have young children, I would suggest you read this to them. If they like to read, encourage them to read on their own. They will come to love and enjoy the characters as much as I did. And don’t make the same mistake I did when I first heard about Narnia. Stories like this are good for adults also! Martha has done all readers of fantasy a great service by writing The Glade series. Now on to the next trilogy which continues the antics of Davy, Racer, and the animals of The Glade as they protect what is theirs.

This Is It!

Thursday, December 28th, 2023

How many times did you hear or find yourself saying over the past month: “I can’t believe it is already December.” “I can’t believe it is already Christmas. It seems like we just celebrated it.”  We use the well-worn phrase, “My, my, how time flies.” And it certainly applies to the calendar.

The phrase fits many aspects of our lives. EXCEPT when it comes to the return of Christ. Then…  It seems like to the question should be, “How long can you wait?” I mean, it has been over 2000+ years since Jesus said He was returning and here we are in 2023 (almost 2024) and still waiting.

Over the next few days there will be plenty of people talking about the new year and what lies ahead. Or maybe I ought to say, “Will be wondering what lies ahead.” Of course, no one knows. Only God, the Father, does. And He ain’t tellin’! 🙂  One assurance we do have though is carved in stone: Jesus will come back. The only caveat to that is no one knows when. Except, you guessed it, the Father in heaven. It never ceases to amaze me how people can “prophesy” about the date or the time or the year that Jesus will return when Jesus Himself did not know. WOW!

This Sunday, I will be talking about two vital truths followers of Christ can pound a nail through: 1) He is with us.  The whole Christmas story taught us that.  That was the whole meaning behind the name Emmanuel (God with us). And 2) He is coming again. The old song said, “May be morning/may be noon/may be evening and may be soon.” I firmly believe that. But I also firmly believe that NO ONE knows when. Cults have been formed and still thrive based on the crazy belief that they know.  I will take a simple stand: Galatians 4:4 tells us Jesus came the first time when the time was right. He will come the second time when the time is right.

I’d like to ask you to join us via live stream on the church FB page or via YouTube. You can go to the church’s website to connect with us in that way if you prefer. If you live around Spencer, please feel free to join us in person. I would love to meet you.

 

Don’t Miss It!

Thursday, December 21st, 2023

If I was a betting man I would put all I had on one fact: somewhere, sometime, somehow you have heard about missing the meaning of Christmas.

I think we all have our favorite Christmas movies. Mine are It’s a Wonderful Life and The Santa Clause. I know others have their favorites as well. Die Hard. Is that really a Christmas movie? I don’t think so even though it takes place around Christmas. 🙂  One of the ones I enjoy seeing from time to time (not necessarily on a regular basis but from time to time) is Polar Express.  As you watch the movie, you see the progression from the “person” of Christmas being, of course, Santa Claus, to more of the idea that the spirit of Christmas is found in the heart.  The Santa Clause stars Tim Allen as Scott Calvin (SC) who puts on the Santa suit and transforms into Santa Claus. I have to admit that I like Tim Allen and this is one funny romp I have never grown tired of.

Back to my original thought. We often talk about the spirit of Christmas and how so many fail to see what Christmas is all about. We make statements like “It’s Christmas not Xmas” or “Keep Christ in Christmas.”  Sadly, it is a real possibility that will happen though. Our culture is trying its best to avoid any reference to Christ. A city in Iowa had a display of Satan among the Christmas displays in their courthouse. So it is safe to say there will always be people who miss Christmas.

Even with the spectacular event of Jesus’ birth right in front of them, there were those who missed it.  I hope you won’t and that is my point this Sunday. I hope to see you on Sunday at 10:00 or Christmas Eve at 5:00 (different service completely). I look forward to seeing you in person or online.

The Role of a Lifetime

Thursday, December 14th, 2023

 Aspiring actors and actresses are everywhere. I went to high school with Jeff Goldblum. My senior picture is on the same page in our yearbook as his. I had no clue Jeff would leave our high school and head to New York for the stage and ultimately to a TV show named TenSpeed and Brownshoe, and then on to Jurassic Park, Independence Day, multiple other movies, and finally back to TV with Law & Order: Criminal Intent.

For every successful actor there are hundreds, maybe thousands who never make it. At best, they are two-bit players. Truthfully, some people are looked at that way. Many overlooked. Many seen as hacks. It happens all the time, in every profession. Sunday’s sermon will be dealing with two groups of people. One, is seen as little people. The others are seen as big people. Well…at least as the world looks at them that way. But in God’s eyes, there are no little people and there are no big people.

Shepherds and Wise men. The have’s and the have not’s.  The clean and the unclean.  The “welcome-to-my-world” versus those who are “not welcome anywhere.” The stories are familiar but I will be praying we all might learn something new this week. I look forward to seeing you in person at 9:00 and 10:45 or via live stream.

Meet Michael Kent-Hughes

Monday, December 11th, 2023

REVIEW OF GLYNN YOUNG’S BOOKS

I read fiction at home to forget, to go into “another world” so to speak, to read something different from my daily reading. Since I’m a pastor my daily reading consists of (of course) reading the Bible for personal need; reading the Bible for study; using various other books for help with preparing sermons; and reading books that enhance my ability to communicate to the audience with some knowledge of the subject.  🙂 I don’t want to simply puppet, or worse, plagiarize another preacher. But when I’m home? Most serious study material is off the table.

That is why I picked up a series I had read over a period of several years as the books came out and decided to reread them. Starting with Dancing Priest in 2011 (Book 1); followed by A Light Shining in 2012 (Book 2); then Dancing King in 2017 (Book 3); Dancing Prophet in 2018 (Book 4); and finally Dancing Prince in 2020 (Book 5), Glynn Young captivated me. I couldn’t wait until the next one came out and as you can see there was quite a gap, i.e. a long, impatient wait between books 2 and 3. I read Books 1 and 2 several times in preparation for the next ones, but have to admit Books 3, 4 and 5 received one reading each. So when I sat down to read these books again, the final three were like reading them for the first time, while I thoroughly enjoyed being reminded again of why I totally enjoyed Books 1 & 2 originally. I will not be able to give a real comprehensive review here since I plan to cover all five books.  What I will do is give a brief synopsis of each book then give my thoughts.

Dancing Priest-Book 1. Michael Kent is introduced to us and will become the major player in all five books. Michael is a cyclist (a man after my own heart) whose Christian worldview and desire to join the Church of England priesthood inspires his every thought and action. A catastrophic event in the Olympics catapults him into the consciousness of just about every person, race, and country. His concern for his fellow cyclists during the Olympics gives us the “tell-tale” heart of this young man. His desire to be God’s man leads him to San Francisco and not Africa, where he truly wanted to go. But even there, events in and around St. Anselm (an Anglican) Church he serves as basically a youth pastor, show his heart for God and people.

A Light Shining- Book 2. This book picks up where Book 1 left off. His marriage at the end of Book 1 is highlighted in the beginning of this book.  Their openness to God’s leading not only leads them to continue caring for Jim, the young man Michael is the guardian for in Book 1, but also circumstances move them to “adopt” one of the homeless boys Michael met in Book 1. A cataclysmic event changes everything for Michael and Sarah Kent-Hughes. {Spoiler alert: Michael, due to events we find out about in Book 1, is in line to be the king of England. An assassination attempt is made on Michael and Sarah’s lives}. That’s all you get from me! 🙂

Dancing King- Book 3. The approach is different in this book. Glynn writes it from the perspective of different characters telling the story as they see it. I like this approach because we get to see Michael’s effect on the principle players in his life. Michael is to become the king of the United Kingdom following the cataclysmic event detailed in Book 2. But once again, there are nefarious dealings afoot from church leaders who don’t like Michael’s desire to reform the Church of England (the church his ordination is in and as the monarch he will be the head of). Michael’s team is top-notch and seems to have an “answer” for those wanting to destroy Michael. But Michael’s own integrity and his relationship with the Queen (Sarah) shines so brightly that people are willing to follow his leadership. The book ends with Michael and Sarah being coronated as king and queen of the UK.  

Dancing Prophet- Book 4.  To be honest, this one was the hardest to read. It hit too close to home. Michael and Sarah have begun their reign as King and Queen and while life looms large in front of them, a tsunami is about to rock the Church of England. Glynn acknowledged the similarity between his story and the scandal which rocked the Roman Catholic Church a few years ago regarding the abuse and sexual abuse of the priests. The unveiling of this within the fiction story written by Glynn is eerily similar, but not nearly as bad as the real thing. As is typical with hidden sins, once the water starts flowing the flood gates soon open. Glynn handled this masterfully (IMHO) and showed how a man or a woman of integrity and a heart for God can make a difference. I’ll let you read this on your own rather than give you any more detail.

Dancing Prince- Book 5.  Michael is seen as more fallible in this book than in the others. He takes on too much; neglects those who need him; and finds himself lost due to {Spoiler alert: Sarah’s death}. The primary character in Book 5 is Michael, but even more so his son, Prince Thomas. My second read of this book clarified some things for me (as multiple readings will sometimes do). Prince Thomas had a closeness to his mum (Queen Sarah) that even Michael was jealous of. That closeness caused a rift between the father and son, especially as it involved her painting. Even though I would have loved to have read further adventures of the Michael Kent-Hughes clan, I realize that all good things must end. I think Glynn brought these to a masterful close.

I am not blowing smoke when I suggest that you begin reading these right now. Okay…so buy them first, then read them. 🙂 Glynn has woven a genuinely enjoyable series to read. Reading this will give you many hours of “escapist reading.” Along the way you will learn some history of the UK, the Church of England and the Anglican Church (which I knew nothing about), and the way the monarch works (and you will be glad we don’t have one). You will learn why a church should never have so much influence and power in government. Simply said, I believe you will find your time captured by the stories. Well done Glynn!