Faith

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#Idolatry#Conviction

Friday, January 28th, 2022

Sometimes being a follower of Christ is a real bummer.

I can see your eyes open wider and your mouth even more.  But let me finish my thought.

Sometimes being a follower of Christ is a real bummer, especially if you are or have been conditioned to thinking or even believing that “coming to Jesus makes all things right.” The health/wealth/prosperity teachers fall into this heresy.  It is obviously a false teaching to say that coming to Jesus alleviates problems. Or all you have to do is speak the name of Jesus and all the dark clouds disappear and you will have a Mr. Rogers world.

To counter that thinking I have another question, one many people ask: Why does God allow us to be tempted? Why doesn’t He just step in and take all the temptations away.”  I mean, life would be so much easier and “funner” if temptation was not an issue for the Christ-follower.  Perhaps a good way to answer that is by comparing the difference between a test and a temptation. The devil tempts us to destroy us; God tests us to develop our faith. When trials come false faith withers. The opposite is also true: when trials come real faith stands strong.

Every child who ever attended Sunday School learned the story of the three Hebrew young men: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Or Rack, Shack and Bennie if you are were a Veggie Tales fan. 🙂  Their faith was tested when they  were called on to worship a false idol.  The consequences of not doing so were horrific. Well…if you know the story you know what they chose to do.

This Sunday my sermon is on Daniel 3.  It is a 5th Sunday so if we meet in person the elementary kids will be with their parents. I thought they might appreciate this story more than the one of Nebuchadnezzar’s vision and subsequent 7 years living in the fields as an animal.  My sincere hope is that we will meet in person this Sunday after taking last Sunday to just be virtual.  If we do then we will be in person and live streaming at 9 and 10:45.  If not we will live stream at 10. I will let you know. THIS JUST IN: We are meeting in person so will live stream both services.

Thanks for your prayers.

One more thing: when you read this we will be in Ohio. Jo’s birthday is Sunday so I thought a great birthday present would be to take her to see Braden (and Janna, his mom).  We will be coming back home Saturday.

#Don’tPanic!

Friday, January 14th, 2022

Man, because of his ego, ambitions, and idolatries, is often impressed by what he can build. For example, it is widely said that upon boarding Titanic one of the men was reported to have said, “Not even God could sink this ship.” Of course, it didn’t take God doing it; it only took an iceberg and some of men’s stupidity. The Twin Towers were often looked on as man’s view to prosperity and inventiveness and ingenuity. We all know what happened to them. It is easy to look at what we have and have a blind eye.  But when it happens to us or involves our family, we stand up and take notice.

When our back is against the wall, it is easy to panic. When it appears we are “on the ropes” with seemingly no way out, it is easy to panic.  Daniel and his three friends refused to panic.

This week we are going to be looking at what appeared to be a panic-situation.  Read Daniel 2 to find out what I am referring to. But Daniel refuses to panic. Instead, he trusts. My sermon is on Daniel 2 this week and I have titled it “Don’t Panic!” I would love to have you join me in person or live stream at 9 and 10:45. If not, please pray for us. 

LOVE GOD DEEPER…WORSHIP HIM MORE

#DrawtheLine#HoldtheLine

Friday, January 7th, 2022

There are two tests in life: the test of adversity and the test of prosperity. The challenge for each is different. The challenge for adversity is not to give in to despair, not to doubt God’s love, power, and presence in our lives. The test of prosperity is to forget God, to not become self-sufficient and proud.  I don’t know about you but my life seems to be a constant battle between the two.

Case in point: the response to COVID. This crisis has left many limping (and I don’t mean physically).  We have watched as our culture has leaned more and more to being anti-God and anti-Christian.  We have to know where we stand!

We have to draw a line in the sand and say, “I will not cross this and neither will you.” Daniel is a book filled with line-drawing. And it is not about “daring to be a Daniel. ” This book is not about Daniel and his 3 Hebrew friends. It is about Daniel’s God, the very same God whom we worship and serve. God is the hero of the book.

Daniel 1 is the second in the series I have entitled Against the Grain.  (Esther 4:1-14 was the first).  It will be all about drawing lines and then holding them.  My sermon is titled Hold the Line! and you can see why as you read the first chapter. I do hope you join us in person. If not, please join us via live stream.

One last thing: one my most faithful blogging friends who comments on both of my blogs, has one of her own, and tunes into our worship ever week is named Martha Orlando. This past week she was admitted for bacterial pneumonia (not COVID-related) to the hospital in Georgia. Would you please pray for her? Thanks.

#AfterChristmas#Letdown

Tuesday, December 21st, 2021

The last Sunday of 2021. I know some who said, “I can’t wait until 2020 is over.” Now those same people are saying, “I can’t wait until 2022 is here. Surely it will be better.” Well…I certainly don’t have a crystal ball to predict any of what is to come so I will refrain from making any predictions.

Except one.

2022 will be different from 2021. It is a new year filled with all new challenges. 

Every new year which begins holds promises of something better for all of us. We like the idea of turning over a new leaf and starting with a clean slate. But to get to the new year we have to fight through what I will call the Christmas letdown.  You know what that is: the high then the low. A veritable roller coaster of emotions.

But the new year is not without its hopes and dreams. My sermon this Sunday is one in which I uncover for you what I believe is the dream of every individual: that we all just get along. Well, you know that isn’t going to happen so let’s go to Plan B. What will it take to even begin to think that might happen?  Two qualities (IMHO):

Unity

Humility

The foundation for the sermon is from Philippians 2: 1-11.  I hope you will join me this Sunday either in person or via live stream.  We will be having only one service this week at 10:00 so you can watch it live then or catch it later. I do pray that 2022 will be a good year for you to find a deeper walk with Jesus.

This is also the last of my theme for 2021: Life on the Edge. I will unveil my theme for 2022 next week with an all new graphic.  Be looking for it. I’m also posting this early due to Christmas being on Saturday and I suspect most of us will lay aside our computers for a day or two.  🙂

#SoberCycle#Review

Tuesday, November 30th, 2021

I can count on one hand the good things I think that have come out of the pandemic of the past close to 2 years.  One was the church implementing a live stream. That was most definitely good because it was very much needed. The other is podcasts, as in, I started listening to them. I have always said that I have trouble listening and driving. So I listened to music almost exclusively.  After I started listening to podcasts I had to change my tune. I figured out the reason why I could listen to them: they were not sermons.  Sermons are by nature one-sided so my mind wandered. Not so with most podcasts.  Honestly, I no longer listen to some of the podcasts I started with.  Some got too complicated. Some too business-oriented. Some too large-church oriented (I’m a pastor of a church in a small town so no relevancy there).

But one I have continued and consistently listened to is Bleeding Daylight hosted by Australian Rodney Olsen. I first “met” Rodney when we crossed paths while blogging.  We also had something in common: he was  a cyclist. Anyway, Rodney’s podcast is his interviews with various people who have overcome challenges and “kick at the darkness until it bleeds daylight.”  Like all interviews, some kept my rapt attention and some I lost interest in. One of the most recent featured a woman by the name of Sherry Hoppen from Hudsonville, MI.  Sherry’s story is one of addiction to alcohol.  It kept my attention from start to finish, not because I have an issue with it (I have never had a drink), but because I have some I know who do.  It was for them I listened; it was for them I was blessed.

Sherry has written a book chronicling her journey in a much more in-depth way than the podcast could do.

Sober Cycle: Pedaling Through Recovery One Day at a Time

I confess that I am hesitant to review or even suggest a “self-help” book.  Most of them are of the “your best life now” genre. I loathe that approach. Life is a challenge; life is tough, and no amount of self-talk will get you out off that treadmill. But Sherry’s book is much more than self-help. It is a memoir of sorts.  It is a revealing book. It is a brutally honest book.  Since I have never had an issue with alcohol, I do not totally understand its grasp on people. Sherry enlightened me as to the struggle addicts face. I wanted to simply say to her, “Well, then walk away. Don’t drink” but it wasn’t that easy.  And to my friends here, I now have a better idea of what they are going through.

I gave my copy to my friend. I now have another. I know another friend who has one waiting for him when he comes out of rehab.  I have to admit that I was impressed by Sherry’s battle, but I was totally impressed by her husband, Craig, who stood by her through it all. I know many husbands (and wives) who would have walked out and away at the first sign of addiction, let alone stay with her for years as she struggled.  Kudos to Craig!

I must also tell you that Sherry’s hobby is cycling.  Her first real effort at getting free from her addiction was a bike ride from Michigan to Maryland.  But her addiction was so bad she even started the ride with a hangover. I’m telling you folks, you need to read this book. For yourself. For your friends. For your alcoholic friend or relative.  And then pass it along.

Oh, one more thing. Sherry’s ministry is called She Surrenders because that is what it took for her to finally get free. Surrendering daily to the lordship of Jesus.  I can’t speak highly enough of Sherry’s book.  You can order from her website (https://www.shesurrenders.com/ or if you prefer, Amazon.

 

#ThePivot#Gratitude

Friday, October 29th, 2021

Would you agree that given the current state of our world we need something to hang our hat on?

I think that coat rack is gratitude. Gratitude reveals each person’s core-his priorities, his presuppositions, his understanding of God, and his ways.  Truth: our gratefulness to God and our indifference toward Him lays the line of demarcation between wisdom and folly.  I am calling that “The Pivot.”

When a basketball player is dribbling and needs to change direction he pivots. When a player gets a pass and faces the hoop or turns on a dime, he must have a pivot foot. It is a foot that is always grounded. To move both feet while in possession of the ball is a “travel.’ (Unless, of course, you are in the NBA. Then you can run about 5 yards with it then shoot or pass).

In our walk with Christ, our future swings on a well-oiled hinge or one that is rusty and grungy. Gratitude is either a well-oiled hinge or it is old and rusty. I think it can be said whichever one is used the most…gratitude or griping, gratitude or ungratefulness. You choose.

My sermon Sunday is the beginning of a 4-week series called “Attitude Check.” It, of course, will lead up to the Sunday following the Thanksgiving holiday. And I suspect you can already guess my title: The Pivot. Join me please as we study from I  Tim.1:12-15 and Deut.33:25.

We had a dead battery pack for the first service last week so the quality was not as good as it should have been so I apologize for the lag. But the pack had sufficiently charged for the second service. If you missed last week you can watch it on YouTube. Just look for the 10:45 heading. We will be ready to go this week! If you can’t join us, please pray for us.

#Reminded#Present#Past#Future

Friday, October 15th, 2021

As much as I hate to admit it, my memory is not what it used to be. That is part of aging I know. I’m being told to take some Gingko Biloba, or a product called Prevagen, or some other product which is supposed to sharpen my memory. I used to hardly ever forget a face, where I saw it, and the name that went with it. Well, those days are long gone. I pity those who have ADHD. How they concentrate long enough to do anything is far beyond my comprehension, but to ask them to concentrate long enough to remember peoples’ names seems like a form of torture.

It never hurts to be reminded of things.  God spent long chapters in Psalms reminding the Israelites what they were forgetting. In Mark 14 there are three events which Jesus uses to remind His followers some vital truths.

The woman who anointed Jesus’ head with oil. It was a reminder that extravagant acts of love will be public; they will be criticized; but they will also be remembered.

Observing the Passover was something the Jewish people were told to observe. It was to remind them of God’s faithfulness and protection.

The Last Supper is the forerunner to our observance of the Lord’s Supper. Communion not only looks back to Christ’s death, but also looks forward with eager anticipation to His coming.

Sunday the church celebrates her 17th anniversary. We will be meeting outside in our shelter and a tent. We plan to live stream so I hope you will join us in some way.  One of our elders will also be presenting some great news about our addition-some possible ideas we are pursuing. Then comes a pitch-in. Yum! (Oh, that’s Red Robin). Yum anyway. If you can’t join us please be in prayer for us. Half of our offering will go the Building Fund and half to Missions. I’m excited about the whole day. Lots of work but it will be worth it.

One more thing: it will be the final sermon in my sermon series on The Servant King from the Gospel of Mark.

#RandomThoughts#VaxxNoVaxx

Monday, October 11th, 2021

I’m hoping this does not sound like a political statement or rant since this is not the time or place for that. However,  after speaking with someone last night about the “mandate” which has come down to his work and the lives affected by it, I’d like to add my .02 worth.

I am neither pro-vaxx or con-vaxx. It is my personal opinion that each person, each family, must decide what is right for themselves. And please don’t get me started or side-tracked on the whole stupid mandate-mask or vaxx-thing. Trust me when I say I have feelings about that. (Bet you didn’t know that! 🙂 )

I chose to get vaccinated. I had COVID as many of you know. It ravaged my body so that I lost 48 pounds in about 4 weeks time. After a couple of procedures cleared me from some things, it was decided I had gall stones blocking my bile duct. Two more procedures were needed to make things right. I feel God restored my health, although there are still some lingering long-haul affects. I chose to be vaxxed-not because I wanted to or even needed to (ever heard of antibodies?), but for another reason.

I chose to be vaxxed for other people. I wanted people to feel safe around me. I wanted them to know if I visited them in the hospital, nursing home, in their own home, on the street, and especially here at the church, that they could feel safe around me. Again, it was my personal decision and I will judge no one who is or is not, just as I will not judge over the wearing of a mask.  (Please don’t get me started on forcing young children to wear one. Okay…you twisted my arm…what a crock!)

Let’s turn this: When Paul wrote to the Corinthians in I Cor. 8, he would not abuse his liberty at the expense of others. In other words, for the sake of others, he would forego meat offered to idols.  “Hold the hamburger please” would have been his words. 🙂 

Jesus went to the cross-not for Himself-but for the sake of others. For me. For you.

What a great way to live! Living for someone else.  Perhaps we need to start asking ourselves the question, “Who am I living for?” What do you think?

This post is my opinion. This blog is mine. It is not stating the views of the church I pastor or the elders of the church. The opinions expressed here are strictly mine. 

 

#SomeGaveAll

Friday, September 24th, 2021

I cringe as I write this:

On May 19, 1992  Billy Ray Cyrus released a song from an album which became the #1 album for the year. This same album contained a mega hit, that song about somebody’s “achy breaky heart.” Among the silliness, though, was a song called “Some Gave All” and he was criticized by some as writing a “war song.” Seriously? It was a tribute to the men and women who served our country and to those who gave their all.  The chorus of the song is one worth remembering: “All gave some, some gave all/Some stood through for the red, white and blue/And some had to fall/And if you ever think of me/Think of all your liberties and recall/Some gave all.”  Those who know me would be shocked that I referenced a country song since I listen to very little-like zero-country music today. But the message of that song should cross every musical barrier.

I am preaching this week on Mark 12 and to be totally honest, it left me exhausted as I tried to narrow it down to a few succinct points. After a lot of work and “playing around” with the chapter, I think I finally found it.  I am going to be all “preacherish” and use three main points (I usually stick to two). Here they are:

I. The Cornerstone (verses 1-12)

II. The Creed (verses 28-34)

III. The Coin (41-44)

Each of the main thoughts find their root in the Scripture indicated. It will easy to follow along if you would like to join us. As you can gather my sermon will be called “Some Gave All” but it will not focus on the political aspect at all. It will, however, focus on how each thought zeroes in on giving all.

I would love to have you join me in person or via live stream.  If not, prayer would most certainly be appreciated.

#September9#September11

Thursday, September 9th, 2021

I am posting this early for several reasons.  On Saturday, 9/11, I will be taking part in the memorial service the town of Spencer will be having to remember the 20th anniversary of the attacks by cowards. But an even greater reason confronts me. Today, September 9th, is the 10th anniversary of the death of local soldier, Brett Wood, in Afghanistan. I did not know Brett. I know his brother, Nikk, who attends OVCF now. So I post this in honor of Brett and to remind you not to forget.

Even writing those words-that date- brings back haunting memories.

Planes hitting two towers. Papers falling. People dying.  Metal crumbling. Layers of smoke and dust and debris in the air and on people and cars. People digging. American flag waving on site, almost like a guardian and inspiration.

“Let’s roll.” Brave passengers. Todd Beamer. Rumors of the plane headed to the White House.  An empty field. Plane crashed. Crisis averted. Lives lost.

Pentagon. The “seat” of military power. A symbol of military might and genius. The hub of decisions. Fiery death. Walls breached.

A nation united against evil. For once. “God Bless America” sung by political rivals. A common enemy. Swift action. Swift reprisal. Manhunt. Finally got him (them).

9/11…Never forget. This is not a matter of forgiveness. This is a matter of remembering the fallen.  As of today, there are just under 3000 innocent lives gone.  Heroes who rushed burning buildings. People who went to work that day not having a clue. Some of them I will see someday. Some, sadly, thought they had more time. And a few consigned to hell where their vestal virgins do not await. Only tongues of fire.

Matthew 26…Never forget. A memorial feast set aside for a Savior to never be forgotten.  Paying the ultimate price. For me. For you.

LEST WE FORGET

“Father, the memories are fresh as flashbacks occur on this 20th anniversary of evil’s destruction. Thank You for Your faithfulness through it all. Giving hope and life to so many. And thank You for the cross. Help me to never forget.”

September 11, 2001 was part of the inspiration for Brett, and his brother, Nikk, joining the military. I am proud to be a part of a community that wants to honor their fallen. We had a memorial service this past Monday, Labor Day, to honor the 13 who died in Kabul over the fiasco that is Afghanistan.  The views expressed here are mine and not necessarily those of the church I pastor.