Compassion

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#StickingYourNeckOut

Friday, September 9th, 2022

Did you ever find yourself with more questions that answers? That is how I feel about this week’s sermon.  The Beatitude this week is “Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.”

Here are a few of my questions: What does it mean to be merciful? In a world of cutthroat actions and reactions, what place does mercy have? What should the Christ-follower do and how should we act? How do we show mercy to others? Tons of questions which need deserve to be answered.

It sounds like it should be an easy task. But in Jesus’ day it was a radical teaching. The Romans admired justice, courage, self-control, and wisdom, but not mercy. In fact, it was called a “disease of the soul.” It was something to be abhorred and avoided and ashamed of if you ever expected to achieve success.

It isn’t quite that bad these days. But there is still what I will call “faux-mercy.” What I mean by that is that there are those who pretend to show mercy because it is profitable, rather than because it is the right thing to do. All in all though, it is right to show mercy to those who need it.  Mercy is not a sign of weakness (as the Romans taught), but actually a sign of strength. The Greek word for merciful means “to give help to the wretched, to relive the miserable.” The Greek word gives way to our English word benefactor.

Sunday’s sermon will not only try to clarify what mercy is, but also give examples of people who showed mercy from the Bible (put a picture to the word). I hope you will join us at either 9 or 10:45 in person or via live stream. We would love to have you join us. I would be honored if you would.

#EasytobeHard#Meekness

Friday, August 26th, 2022

Back in 1969, Three Dog Night had a hit with a song called Easy to be Hard. Some of the lyrics went like this: “How can people be heartless/How can people be so cruel/Easy to be hard/Easy to be cold/How can people have no feelings/How can they ignore their friends/Easy to be proud/Easy to say no.”

Like it or not, there are people who are heartless and cold and cruel and have no feelings. Sadly, some of those people are those who say they follow Jesus.  A lot of that could possibly come from the idea that we have no clue what it means to be sensitive to others in a good way.

My sermon Sunday is on Meekness and if there is any one word misunderstood in the Bible, it is that one! Far too many say meekness = weakness. A closer look at that word shows that is simply not the case. Meekness is actually better seen as POWER UNDER CONTROL! Think of a horse being controlled by a bit. A ship being controlled by a rudder.  Besides the fact there is no way we can equate meekness with weakness, especially since Jesus was meek and lowly. He was humble.  Let’s make it even more practical. A person who loses his temper lacks meekness. I read where someone said, “Temper is such a wonderful thing that it’s a shame to lose it!”

This Sunday we will be looking at Meekness in depth. I hope you will join me and OVCF as we worship and study.  If you are unable to, we live stream at 9:00 and 10:45.

#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.

#PPA

Sunday, April 10th, 2022

Ever heard of PPA? You should have by now if you listen to any news feed. One of the most iconic actors of the past couple of decades was recently diagnosed with it. PPA stands for Primary Progressive Aphasia.

Bruce Willis has been diagnosed with it.

How ironic it was, then, that just a few weeks ago I listened to an Alisa Childers podcast where she interviewed a Christian philosopher and writer named Doug Groothius (pronounce grew-ties with the “s” sounding like a soft “s”). When I listened to the podcast I never caught the illness Doug’s wife suffered from and which was the inspiration for his book, Walking Through Twilight.  I was so intrigued by the interview I ordered his book and began reading it this past weekend.  Doug’s wife, a member of MENSA and a brilliant editor and writer of all his books, was diagnosed with PPA.

Here is a short “walk through” of PPA:

  • Often misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s or “strict” dementia, it is different. Alzheimer’s starts at the back of the brain and moves forward; PPA is a frontal lobe disease. It is a rare form of dementia.
  • They all act alike in many ways. Forgetfulness. Lostness. Blank stares. Inability to recognize people or remember things. PPA also carries with it the inability to put words or thoughts together. My non-clinical way of saying it would be it is like having dyslexia of the mind.
  • There is no cure. It gets progressively worse.  At the time of the writing of his book (2017), Becky had suffered from it for 15 years.  (She went to be with Jesus in 2018).  It is an emotional wrangle for all involved-spouse, family, caregivers, even pets.

His book? You have to buy it. That is all I can say. I am about 1/2 way through it and have found myself drawn into his story and his struggle-with life, with God, with the way things are. Even though Doug is a philosopher, he doesn’t write like one who is “over my head.” Trust me, though, when I say you will enter into his story. You will ride the waves with him as he struggles emotionally and spiritually.

Walking Through Twilight: A Wife's Illness―A Philosopher's Lament

My father had dementia (he died at 90). My mother-in-law had it. My sister-in-law has it (mild form so far). I can guarantee this book has given me a new perspective on the “world” of the one walking through this twilight with someone they love.

BUY IT!! READ IT!! WEEP WITH IT!! REJOICE WITH IT (she knew Jesus)!!

And say a prayer for Bruce Willis and his family. I’m guessing they don’t know Jesus. They will need Him and the strength and comfort He offers.

#Dirty#Cleansed

Friday, June 25th, 2021

I read recently that some are convinced that if WWII did not happen the History Channel would not exist.  He goes on to explain that “it seems that the vast majority of HC’s programming either deals with the war in general or Hitler in particular.  Hitler’s bodyguards. Hitler’s hideouts. Hitler and the occult. Hitler’s suicide.” One of his henchman, Dr. Josef Mengele, was dubbed “The Angel of Death” because of his horrific work with Jewish prisoners.  He saw them as experiments to be played with, not as humans who were God’s image bearers.

Back in the late 70s/early 80s, pop singer, the late B.J.Thomas came out as a Christ-follower. A string of records and awards followed in the Christian music industry. I remember one of his songs was entitled Using Things and Loving People. That is the correct order. But sadly, we often tend to turn it around and say, “Love things and use people.”

How do you see people? For the past 2 months I have been preaching a series called “Eyes Wide Open” where I focused on how Jesus saw people.  The final sermon is this Sunday and it focuses on the woman caught in adultery in John 8.  A poster child for one who needed grace in a big way. And Jesus came through! But it causes me to question my own response to people.

Please join me in person or via live stream at 9 and 10:45. You can find the links to the live stream (the church’s FB page or YouTube) on the church’s website (ovcf.org). If you can’t be here or watch, then please say a prayer for us.

#Transformation#LittleMan

Friday, June 18th, 2021

“Zacchaeus was a wee little man, and a wee little man was he/He climbed up in the Sycamore tree for the Lord He wanted to see/And as the Savior passed that way He looked at Him and smiled, and said, ‘Zacchaeus, you come down! For I’m going to your house today.’ “

Anyone who has been raised in a church has probably heard that childhood song.

I’m not going to say anything earth-shattering with my next statement: we live in a world that is deeply polarized. If 2020 and the beginning of 2021 taught us anything (besides certain organizations ought to be banned-dare I say cancelled?- and/or held accountable), it is this truth: we are deeply polarized. Divided. People take sides on so many levels and on so many topics-race, gender, politics, work, sports, neighborhoods, you name it- and we fight over those sides.

Sadly, many of Jesus’ followers are no different than our culture-now or even back in Jesus’ day. We have a critical (but not discerning) eye. We rant and rave about just about everything. I’m not opposed to taking a stand against certain inequities, but it can be done without ripping someone apart.

Imagine if Jesus had had that type of approach to people like Zacchaeus. He would have thrown him out of the tree instead of asking him to come down. Gone would have been the loving and caring approach He took toward all, except maybe the bulk of the Pharisees.

Zacchaeus’ life was transformed by his encounter with Jesus. I am praying for the same response in this Sunday’s message. As people see how Jesus responded to Zacchaeus, we see a perfect example of how we ought to approach someone who disagrees with us but is seeking something.

I would love to have you join me this Sunday at 9 or 10:45- either in person or online. If you can’t make it or have a church family of your own, then I would appreciate your prayers.

#Truth#Confrontation

Friday, June 11th, 2021

Sometimes I feel like my name ought to be George McFly. He is the father of Marty McFly in the movie Back to the Future. When Marty goes back into the past to 1955 he finds out his father was a milquetoast back then just as he is in 1985. There is one scene early on in the movie where Marty comes home to find the family car has been wrecked by Biff (the bully in the movies). Biff is bullying his dad and after Biff leaves, George looks at Marty and says, “I know, son, I know. But Biff is my boss and I guess I’m not very good at confrontation.”

I suspect not many of us are good at confrontation. In fact, if I was to make a list of “Worst Things To Do” or “Things I Despise Doing,”  I’m pretty sure confronting someone would not be high on most people’s list. Unless, of course, you are a sadist and enjoy making people’s lives miserable.

We all have toxic people in our lives, people we would just as soon not be around for any length of time…if at all. Jesus seemed to spend a lot of time around toxic people. They were called Pharisees. Sunday’s sermon, Eyes of Truth, is from Luke 7: 36-50. It is the story of Simon the Pharisee and the “sketchy” woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with her tears.  How He deals with both is a classic lesson to learn.

Join me please either in person or online as we live stream to the church’s FB page or YouTube. Want to know how? Go the church’s website. Right underneath the banner for this Sunday’s sermon are the links for both. Simple and easy. See you there!!

#Endearment#Desperation

Friday, June 4th, 2021

I suspect most of us have heard or used the phrase:

Hurting people hurt people.

We might also have heard the phrase:

Desperate people do desperate things.

There are many examples of both hurting and desperate people in the Bible. One story actually has them both in the same side-by-side story.  If you turn to Mark 5: 21-43 you will find those stories.

Jesus knew what people needed. When they needed it. One thought which is so important to see is that Jesus didn’t just pity people; he empathized with them.  The sermon this Sunday will look at this essential which Jesus modeled and all who call themselves His followers need to do the same. Go ahead. Check out the Scripture and see if you don’t get the same idea that I did.

A desperate father.

A desperate woman.

They both came to the right place and Person. Watch how Jesus doesn’t just show pity; he shows how to take pity to another level. 

Well…you know my Scripture. You know my main thrust. May I ask you to join me in person or via live stream? I’d love to hear from you.

#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.

#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.