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#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.

#Positive#WastingLife

Saturday, December 26th, 2020

It seems no matter how hard one tried there seemed to be no way to avoid the China virus. I am no exception. Nor is Jo. Nor is Tami. Nor is Diana or her husband, Jim. Nor is Ryan and his wife, Hope. It hit like a landslide and there was nothing any of us could do about it. It wasn’t just us. Some of our friends as well. So we have been quarantined since Monday and if we finally get symptom free our breakout day will be Wednesday or Thursday. Jo, Tami and I were tested Monday.  So, needless to say, in-church is not meeting Sunday. We are doing all virtual. Since Ryan, Jo and I are all positive it will be just us three in the morning. Your prayers would be appreciated.

As for the sermon? Well, it is the end of truth. That sounds bad since truth will never die. It is the end of the year long theme of “Truth!” Sunday’s sermon will be Back to the Future. I subtitled it “Don’t Waste Your Life.” It will be a quick look over this past year and a challenge for 2021. I’ll share some of my thoughts in another post or two.

I’ll also unveil my theme for next year with a new banner thanks to my techgeek, Ryan. What a gem of a friend God gave me! 

You can watch Sunday’s sermon via live stream on the church’s FB page or YouTube. I hope you will join me. The links are on the church’s website.

#UnsungHero#SecondViolin

Friday, December 11th, 2020

Have you ever heard the expression, “Close but no cigar?” Or some of you are old enough to remember Maxwell Smart from the TV show Get Smart. One of his favorite expressions was “I only missed it by that much” while holding his fingers up to indicate how close.  Or I’m sure you have heard the saying, “Almost doesn’t count except in horseshoes and hand grenades.”

There are actors and actresses who ply their trade for years and never hit it big. They always seem to wind up second fiddle.  Many of them go year after year playing second or bit parts while working another job to keep food in their stomach. Sometimes they hit it big (think Harrison Ford) and some never get the big time.  Some will always play the “one-who-never-made-it.”  Of course there are always those who think they are worth far more than they are and when a sequel comes up they say, “Bill me top dog or I’ll decline.” A lot of actors overestimated their value and lost out on their future. Hmmm that happened to one of my favorite trilogies.

Anyway, the Christmas story is coming down to the nitty-gritty. We talked about the supporting cast (Jesus’ genealogy) and Zechariah and Elizabeth. Last week I talked about the Unknowns (shepherds and wise men) who showed up, did their part and then were never to be heard from again.  This week is about the Co-Stars, whom I’m pretty sure you will come to realize are Joseph and Mary. I’m calling Joseph the Unsung Hero and Mary is the Second Violin (not to Joseph but to her Son).

There are some tremendous lessons both co-stars teach us and I believe if we can learn them it would change our world (our influence) and ultimately the world.  Two actors, both co-stars, but both vital to the outcome of the play. Join me if you would like.  At least, please pray for us. That just might be the best of all!

#SupportingCast#Messy

Friday, November 27th, 2020

One of the hardest times for me to preach is Christmas. I know that sounds weird. But it is true. It isn’t that I don’t like Christmas. I love it! What makes it so hard to preach at Christmas is most people know the story so well they could probably do a better job than me. 🙂  So the hard job for me is to find a new way to tell an old story. By new way I obviously don’t mean denying it or the truth of it or the virgin birth or the Incarnation.  The questions are:

How do I make it come alive?

How do I make it appealing and not boring?

How do I tell this timeless story and bring old truths to life?

I’m not sure how I succeed in those but I do try. This year I am calling my series A Grand Production.  I plan to look at it through the idea of a play with the different actors and actresses in their roles. My sermon this Sunday is on the Supporting Cast.  I’m breaking it down into the Messy People and the “Go-Before” people. Do you know who they are? Hint: the first group is found in Matthew 1 and the others are found in Luke 1.  You should be able to figure them out.

If you are unable to come to OVCF don’t forget we live stream at 9:00 and 10:45. I’d love to have you join us. If you can’t would you at least pray for me/us? Thanks.