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#OldOldStory#GospelEssentials

Friday, October 8th, 2021

Some of you may remember the old hymn with the following lyrics:

“I love to tell the story/Of unseen things above/Of Jesus and His glory/Of Jesus and His love/I love to tell the story/Because I know ’tis true/It satisfies my longing/As nothing else will do/ Chorus: I love to tell the story!/Twill be my theme in glory/To tell the old, old story/Of Jesus and His love.”

My sermon this morning is a bit out of order. Since next Sunday, the 17th is OVCF’s 17th anniversary, I am switching my sermons for the two weeks. Next week’s is from Mark 14: 1-31 and is entitled Let Me Remind You. This Sunday’s sermon is from Mark 14:43-16:15 and is entitled Tell Me the Old, Old Story.

It is going to be a recounting of the essentials of the Gospel:

Tell Me About the Trial

Tell Me About the Death

Tell Me About the Resurrection

It never hurts to hear the old, old story over again.  I’d love to have you join me in person. If not, then live stream will be where you will get a chance to look at my face. 🙂  Actually, it would be better to say, “Where you can join us in worship.” If not, then I’d appreciate your prayers.

#AvoidPanic#EscapeJudgment#BeReady

Friday, October 1st, 2021

The story is told that Alfred Nobel was a Swedish chemist who made a fortune by inventing dynamite and other powerful explosives used for weapons.  Years later when Nobel’s brother died, a newspaper accidentally printed an obituary for Alfred instead. He was described as a man who became rich by enabling people to kill one another in unprecedented quantities. Shaken by this assessment, Nobel resolved to use his fortune to honor accomplishments that benefited humanity. Thus, he created the Nobel Peace Prize, among others.

I daresay very few of us get a sneak preview into how we will be remembered if we were to die today. But, if the truth be told, we tend not to be so concerned about it. We tend to be more concerned about the future.  The environmentalist is concerned about the state of the planet in the future. The secularist is concerned about the future of humanity. The follower of Christ is also concerned, but in a different way.  He is more concerned about future events, and in the long term, where he will spend eternity.

The idea of Jesus returning is on the minds of most Christ-followers, only in varying degrees. Some are rabid about it; some mildly interested; and some not at all. This week’s sermon, Mark 13, is on this very topic. I’m calling it Words for the Wise and my plan is to encourage us to look to the future but not lose sight of the present.  I look forward to you joining me.

I close with a story I will use Sunday: Waiting to be interviewed for a job as a Morse code operator, a group of applicants paid little attention to the sound of the dots and dashes that began coming over the loud speaker. Suddenly, one of the applicants rushed into the employer’s office. Soon he returned smiling. “I got the job” he exclaimed.

“How did you get ahead of us?” the others asked.

“You might have been considered if you had not been so busy talking that you did not hear the manager’s coded message,” he replied.  The message said, “The man I need must always be on the alert. The first one who interprets this and comes directly to my private office will be hired.”

You can apply it.  Hope to see you Sunday!

#Legalism#Deadliness

Friday, August 13th, 2021

Only someone who has grown up or been a part of legalism can truly understand its draw.

There are three ways of looking at the Bible.

Progressive “Christianity” (PC)– I use that term loosely because I am not convinced it is Christianity at all. PC takes a very open approach to the Bible and the things of God.

Legalism– the other end of the spectrum from PC. Legalism takes a very closed approach-not in the areas of inerrancy and accuracy of the Scriptures-but in the way God’s Word is followed.  Wanting to follow God’s Word is admirable, but in legalism’s case, it is taking it to an extreme and thinking, “Unless you see it my way there is no hope for you.”  It is the old adage: “Us four, no more, shut the door” type of thinking.

My sermon Sunday is going to explore that topic deeper. Using Mark 7:1-23 and Jesus’ confrontation/words with the Pharisees, I intend to show how legalism is dangerous and also life-sucking.  I would love to have you join us in person or live (whichever floats your boat). 🙂  One thing I do need to say if you plan to watch it on the live stream: due to a scheduling conflict of the two who are steady about streaming the second service, WE WILL ONLY BE STREAMING THE 9:00 SERVICE. Sorry for the inconvenience. You can still watch it at 10:45 or any other time.

I hope you will join me one way or the other.

That third way? The Bible is the inerrant, unchanging Word of God. True. Trustworthy. Completely accurate in its original languages. God’s written Word as He “spoke” it to the writers who wrote it down in their words.

#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.

#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.

#InMemorium#ThankYou

Monday, May 17th, 2021

In 2003 my brother, Garry, and his wife, Deb, adopted a little girl from China. Lia’s “delivery” was delayed a year due to the SARS virus which shut down the whole adoption from China wheel, but eventually they held beautiful Lia in their arms.

Early in my blogging years, I faithfully followed (and he me) a pastor (Jason) who lived in Alaska (yes, I am jealous). He and his wife were already parents but chose to adopt 2 children from Japan.

Some in the church I serve have adopted children from other nations. One family  has two-one since a baby and the other in her elementary years. They have both grown into beautiful young ladies. One graduates high school this year and the other I look for her to be seen as an Olympic diver if she realizes her dream.

Foster parents and grandparents are making life different for hundreds, even thousands of children every day.

The Bible speaks of adoption into God’s family.  Take a moment and read Romans 8: 14-15; Gal.4:5; and Eph. 1:5. Adoption says we are legally His. He has put His stamp on us. We are identified as His child. He is our Abba Father.

There are several reasons for adoption. One is the desire to make life better for someone. While withholding my comments about what is going on at the southern border, there is a reason so many are making their way here. They see a better life.  For most of them, if not all, they see America as the “land of opportunity.”

We have those who have served our country whom we should thank for that perception (which I do believe to be true). America and its capitalistic ideals, despite all its flaws (which I will not go into), is still the greatest place to live. (And here I will make a statement: if you don’t like it here…leave. See if you can get away with your free speech, etc in China or Russia or some other socialist regime).

I am grateful I live in America…flaws and all. And I just want to stop and say thank you to all the men and women who served, are serving and are training to serve this great nation to keep us free. Have you taken the time to say thanks?

THANK YOU!!

#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.

#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.

 

#Necessity#Cross#FulfillGod’sPlan

Friday, March 19th, 2021

Paul wrote the following words: “The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.” (NLT)

The cross has always been the central symbol of Christianity.  And while some wear it as jewelry around their neck or dangling from their ears or even carved into their body, the power of the cross has never been diminished. Some think the cross is a dead symbol. One man is quoted as saying, “A void has opened in the heart of Christianity. Where the cross once stood is now a vacuum.”

Remember two words: Penal substitution. Odds are you may have not even heard of them. Penal denotes punishment.  Substitution speaks of a replacement or a proxy.  Penal substitution atonement is therefore where one person bears the penalty someone else deserves.

All NT writers agree on this: Christ was our sinless substitute, and He died to pay the penalty for our sins. Sin has turned us all into criminals and there is no escape hatch from the pathway to destruction except by way of the cross.

My series on the cross continues this Sunday with the sermon titled The Necessity of the Cross.  There can be no Christianity without the cross. Humanity is not going to get better (do you remember the riots of this past summer?)  Yeah…I wouldn’t call that getting better.  As someone has said, “There is no death of sin without the death of Christ.”

Join me please if you are able to do so. Either in person or online. If not, prayer is greatly appreciated.

#SpeakUpandOut#ItisTime

Wednesday, February 10th, 2021

As the title suggests, it is time to speak up and out. I have rued speaking about politics on purpose.  In the long run, it serves no purpose. Talking heads will want to believe what they want to believe. My wife has asked me on several occasions, “Can’t people see that what he is doing is ruining our country?” I nodded in the affirmative to her thoughts about the country but then simply replied, “Nope they can’t because they don’t want to. Big tech and the liberal media only tell people what they themselves believe or what they want people to hear.” We saw that since the first impeachment (farce) of a trial and we saw it the whole 10 months leading up to the election.  (And please don’t get me started on that).

But I have another “bone” to pick. All this talk of science during the whole pandemic as though science was the end all. Science had/has all the answers.  “Science says this or science says that.” If science is so right on that subject, why is science so wrong on another subject?  Cases in point:

The current administration has signed into law that transgender males may participate in female sports. Science says that gives the males an unfair advantage because of the testosterone which is running through their body. But we suddenly push science aside for the sake of political “woke-sim.”  Can I say how much I despise that word “woke”?  Even athletes like Martina Navratilova, a known and out-spoken lesbian,  has gone on public record that it is a bad thing. “It gives the transgender athlete an unfair advantage,” she says. Oh, she took some heat on that one for sure. She isn’t alone. Even Billie Jean King spoke out.  And many others.  It is unfair that woman/high school/college athletes will be punished by the travesty of allowing males to compete as females. So we kick science to the curb for the sake of being PC (a word we no longer need to use since we have “woke”).  Have I told you much I despise that word?  🙂  Oh, and if you think this is not backed by big money then take a gander at this articleThat ought to chill you to the core.

Another “Kick science to the curb” scenario is the recent vote to allow babies who survive abortion not to receive medical help, i.e. just let them die. The fact that they are breathing even science will admit means they are alive.  How can babies be denied life-saving means, especially when a botched abortion was meant to take their life to start with? I am beyond stumped with that. And I am beyond livid when it comes to abortion and now this?  I submit to you there will be some lawmakers who will cringe when they stand before the Judge of all and have to give an account for their actions.  I seem to remember Someone saying we “need to become like children to see the kingdom of heaven” and “it would be better if a millstone were tied around our neck rather than cause one of the little ones to stumble.”  Of course, I suspect many or most of them don’t care what God thinks. And for a supposed pastor to vote for letting them die? I do not want to be in his shoes on Judgment Day.

I have other thoughts but will keep them to myself.  🙂  I will also now climb down off my soapbox and be on my way.  I ranted long enough.  Oh…by the way…these are not political issues; they are moral issues. On those I will speak.