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#Change#Essential#Jesus

Friday, July 9th, 2021

Change is essential. Albert Einstein is credited with saying,

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

While his authorship of that quote is questioned, and is actually linked to someone within the Al-Anon organization, it is still true!  Change is essential, but not always easy.

Some changes are easier to make than others. Moving from one house to another is seen as a positive move. As a pastor, my family has seen its share of moves, but other than the trauma of moving from one school to another, each move-for the most part- was seen as a positive one. But in many churches change is anathema. From changing the type of music and songs; from pews to chairs; liturgy to more of a free expression; or the order of service, change gives some people serious heartburn.

Three words stand out me unequivocally:

JESUS CHANGES EVERYTHING.

Mark 2 is a chapter of changed lives-physically and spiritually.  My sermon Sunday morning is from this chapter. I would love to have you join us in person or on our live stream. If not, prayers are appreciated.

#LetFreedomRing#GuestBlog

Monday, July 5th, 2021

I read the following blog this morning (Monday).  It is from the Church & Culture blog of James Emery White, Pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church.  I thought you might enjoy reading it. Meanwhile, you might to also check out his website where you will find other blogs. Here you go:

On the 4th of July, I’m always reminded of times I’ve traveled in countries where freedom is severely curtailed. Or where the people have been freshly freed from the chains of injustice, and the joy of their release was palpable.

I was in Johannesburg on the 10th anniversary of the end of apartheid.

I was in Korea when the border between North and South was electric with tension.

My most powerful memory came from Moscow, where I was teaching shortly after the fall of communism. 

One night a group of us went to the famed Bolshoi Ballet. It was a long, wonderful evening, and after we took the subway back to where we were staying, the students said, “Come and let us celebrate.” The other two professors with me were as tired as I was, but the students were so intent on our joining them, that we went. 

And then we found out what celebration meant to them. 

They wanted to gather in the dining room and sing hymns and worship God. And we did, late into the night, with more passion and sincerity than I have ever experienced. It didn’t matter that we didn’t know how to sing in Russian—we worshiped God together.

But I went to bed puzzled. I had never seen such passion for spontaneous and heart-filled worship. I was curious as to why they were so ready and eager to offer God love and honor. I received my answer the following Sunday when I was invited to speak at a church in North Moscow. A former underground church that met in secret (as so many churches had been), they were now meeting openly in a schoolhouse. I had been asked to bring a message that Sunday morning. 

I didn’t know that I was in for a bit of a wait.

The service lasted for nearly three hours. There were three sermons from three different speakers, with long periods of worship between each message. 

I was to go last. 

When it was over, I talked a bit with the pastor of the church. I was surprised at not only the length of the service, but the spirit and energy of the people. Throughout the entire three hours, they never let up. In spite of the length of time, they never seemed to tire. Even at the end, they didn’t seem to want to go home.

“In the States,” I said, “you’re doing well to go a single hour before every watch in the place starts beeping.” (This was before smart phones.) He didn’t get my weak attempt at humor, but he did say something that I will never forget.

“It was only a few years ago that we would have been put in prison for doing what we did today. We were never allowed to gather together as a community of faith and offer worship to God. And we are just so happy, and almost in a state of unbelief, that we can do this now – publicly, together – that we don’t want it to end. And not knowing what the future might hold for us here, we know that every week might just be our last. So we never want to stop. So we keep worshiping together, as long as we can.”

As I left, his words never left my mind. I thought to myself, “I will never think about worship the same again. I’ve been too casual about it, too laid back, taken it too much for granted. These people know what it’s about – really about – and because of that, they have been willing, and would be willing again, to suffer for it. To be imprisoned for it. To die for it. Because they’ve discovered that it holds that high of a yield for their life. It has that much meaning and payoff and significance. It matters that much.”

And it should matter that much to all of us.

Happy 4th of July.

James Emery White

Editor’s Note

This blog was originally published in 2013, and the Church & Culture Team thought you would enjoy reading it again.

#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!!

#Social#VitriolicSpeech

Monday, June 7th, 2021

I’ll say it right up front: I am not on any social media-but then again, some of you already know of my disdain for it. I’ll go one step further: I don’t miss it. AT. ALL.  (Want me to tell you how I really feel?) 🙂

I read an article recently that was talking about what will keep a church from growing in the coming years. Know what one of them was? A pastor who doesn’t or won’t use social media.  My first reaction was benign- neither here nor there. Then I got upset that whether I am on social media or not will determine whether the church I pastor grows. Say what? Then part of me-a very, very small part- could see his point. Presence breeds an audience. So I left it at that.

I’m still not planning on using social media (except if this blog is considered social media). I’d probably get cancelled anyway since I’m not “woke” enough.  (Don’t care either). But there is something else which comes into play for me.

I don’t need all the vitriol I hear about and sometimes have read to me, i.e. so-and-so said this, “_________.”  Filling my mind and heart with garbage is not my idea of fun.

What prompted my thoughts this morning? Try reading Colossians 4:5-6 and try not feeling the same way. “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Your speech must always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” (NASB 2020)

The NLT has an interesting take on that passage: “Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.”

Frankly, I don’t trust myself. People spout off the whole BLM/CRT mumbo jumbo and my blood begins to simmer. To see a “woke” culture cancel everyone who doesn’t toe the party line and spiel their putrid garbage fries me. To see blatant hypocrisy and lies only gets my dander up. What hurts even more is to see and hear about the anger and the hate and the vitriol and strong, sometimes vulgar language, and lack of love words come out of people I know makes we want to shout, “No! This is not the way! This is not the Jesus way!”

So, you see…I don’t trust myself to practice Col. 4:5-6 (no matter what translation you read it in). Better to avoid than to wallow in the slime.

“Father, may my conversation always glorify You. May it always be ‘with grace and seasoned with salt.’ May my words be those of healing and encouragement.”

This same post is also at my other blog Living in the Shadow. You can also find it here.

#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.

#MemorialDayThoughts

Monday, May 31st, 2021

I have also entered this same devotion at my other blog, Living in the Shadow. Please feel free to comment either place.

I have never served in the military. When I was in high school registering for the draft was a law. When I was in college it was a law also. When I turned 18 on October 9, 1970 I was a Freshman in college. But I was required to register so I hitched a ride from a school buddy and made my way to another town in Kentucky to do so. I was never called and to this day do not know what my number was. I was exempt because I was in a Bible college studying for the ministry.

I did not go to college to bypass the draft, even though I know of some who did. They really had no business being in that college because they had no desire to really be a pastor.  Without trying to be too judgmental, their lives showed it.

I did not know what VietNam was all about. I was naive when it came to war and political things. Call me guarded. Call me shielded. Call me sheltered. I do know if I had been called on to defend the freedom of this country, I was willing to do so. But I didn’t have to.

Others did it in my place. I am grateful.  I am beyond thankful for the men and women whom we honor today, those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.  I keep thinking of those who want to destroy what we have; to take it and give it away to some lawless nation; to compromise the foundation of our great nation to satisfy their own whims; and as they do, compromise their own words to get what they want. Sacrifice does not do that. Sacrifice is no where close to the “what-I-can-get-out-it” mentality that dominates today’s thinking.  I still say that if they don’t like living in the United States of America then take their wretched philosophy and governmental garbage (socialism) and 1) move somewhere else (you know…as they threaten to do so) and 2) take their wretched ideas and put them where the sun don’t shine. (Sorry if that is too crude).

As you consider today, think of it as more than a holiday (and in many cases) a day off work. Remember the sacrifice paid for your freedom.  Here is a thought: did you worship yesterday at the place of your choice?  Try that in a socialist country.  I don’t think we are perfect and I certainly don’t worship the USA. I am not a Christian nationalist. But I am a grateful American whose Christian faith recognizes the God of all humanity as the One True God and as the One who has truly blessed us.

‘Nuff said. Soapbox put away…for now. 🙂

#JesusAtHisBest#Endearment

Friday, May 28th, 2021

If you happened to be raised in the church, you learned or at least heard two songs as a child: “Jesus Loves Me” and “Jesus Loves the Little Children.” 

“Jesus loves me this I know/For the Bible tells me so/Little ones to Him belong/They are weak but He is strong/Yes, Jesus loves me…”

“Jesus loves the little children/All the children of the world/Red and yellow, black and white/They are precious in His sight/Jesus loves the little children of the world.”  (No racist language in that song because Jesus is not).

The love Jesus had and has for children is unquestionable. It is because of His love for children that OVCF has a love for our children.  Pastor Ryan works hard to bring a well-rounded program for all ages. (It is a rare bird who can be all things to all the children and doesn’t put one age group over the other. Ryan is one of them).

We are trying something new this Sunday. Every month which has a 5th Sunday will be “Youth in church” Sunday. The children who are normally elsewhere in the building having their own worship and class will be experiencing “big people’s church” with their parents and other adults. I have asked Ryan to join me in a interview-type of setting to discuss why we are doing it; to help the adults to see what takes place on a given Sunday; to talk about his goals for the Sunday morning children program; and what might be coming down the pike in the future.

It will be very relaxed and much different than a normal Sunday. I will be opening with a short “visit” to Mk. 10: 13-16 and then Ryan and I will do the “interview.” I’d like to invite you to join us in person or on line.

#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!!