Faith

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#Truth#BattleLines

Friday, March 11th, 2022

Have you ever had vertigo? I’m not sure there is a more awful feeling than having it. Watching the world spin out of control and you haven’t even moved. I went to bed feeling fine one time, but when I woke up in the middle of the night I walked right into the door jam. And then the nausea hit.  A quick trip to the clinic revealed wax on my eardrum.  A quick flush, an anti-nausea pill and I felt like a brand new man. Jo disagreed. She kept me under wraps. (I think it has more to do than just the nausea(.

Vertigo is an ugly thing to have. We seem to be in somewhat of a vertigo situation these days when it comes to truth. It is a fact that truth has always been in question. Check out the story of Adam and Eve. What did the serpent say to Eve? “Did God really say that?

Does truth matter? You betcha! If there is no truth then there is no place to stand. Anything goes-which, of course, our world likes.  Truth still matters. Always has and always will.  As truth decays so do our foundations.  My sermon Sunday is the 2nd in the series Truth Decay,  I’ve titled the sermon a real doozy (so he says out of the corner of his mouth): Truth is Still the Truth.  I’d love to have you join me in person or via live stream.  You can check it out at 9 and 10:45 on the church’s FB page or on YouTube.  Oh…the Scripture is from I Cor. 1:18-2:5.  See you there!

#ExclamationPoint#Ending!

Friday, February 25th, 2022

Have you ever wondered what sets someone apart from others? I’m not talking about financially, athletically, or socially. I’m talking spiritually. Why do some excel in their walk with Christ and others don’t? Why do some keep growing while others stagnate?

Seventeenth century Puritan, John Owen, once said, “What an individual is in secret, on his knees before God, that he is and no more.”

If that is true, and I tend to believe it is, Daniel is quite an example for us.  He must have spent hours upon his knees in secret.  In this final sermon in the Against the Grain series, I think it is only fitting to see what led to Daniel’s “staying power.”  I asked myself these questions: “What was it that gave him the strength; how was he able to go against pressure; how was he able to take whatever was thrown at him; how was he able to go against the grain of popular opinion and the threat of reprisal and come out as a shining example of what it take to follow God?”

I believe the secret is found in Daniel 9. Join us as we worship and study this Exclamation Point.

#Hint#WeWin!!

Friday, February 18th, 2022

I am not a gamer. I don’t play Candy Crush. Halo. Fortnite. Madden. Or any other game. I once found myself staying up way too late playing a game back in the 80s and said, “Never again.” I sold the Atari (remember those?) and never looked back. I had a friend once try to get me to try this game where I was the pilot, but after about 5-10 minutes I said, “I’m done.”  Part of the problem at the time was that I hated to lose and knew my competitive juices would start flowing. I also did not want to waste time playing a game when I could be doing something else.

Now, there is nothing wrong with gaming. Or winning. Sports is based on that premise. But when it becomes an all-consuming passion, it is time retire that desire.  One thing is certain: in every contest there is a winner and a loser. Even in a tie!! Think about it: someone did better than they or anyone thought; someone did worse than they or anyone thought. 🙂

What is the Christ-follower supposed to think about the future? We know there is going to be one. But do we know what is going to happen? Can we know what to expect? Daniel 7 is God’s vision of the future to Daniel, one which totally frightens him.  My sermon this Sunday is entitled Hint: We Win, and while we cannot know all that is going to happen, one thing we do know for sure: we will win.

I would love to have you join me this Sunday, but I know some of you can’t. Least not in person. So I hope you will join us live stream. Preaching on prophecy is a new thing for me so I most definitely will appreciate any prayers you might send up for me. 🙂

#BigCats#Afraid?#LoyaltyandFaithfulness

Friday, February 11th, 2022

One of the most familiar stories in the Bible is the story of Daniel and the big cats.  Tragically, as time has moved on the story of Daniel has been relegated to not being a true story. It is seen by many “scholars” as nothing more than a folk tale or fable to tell little children, sort of like Grimm’s Fairy Tales. It is seen as nothing more than a made-up, make-believe story.  The reasons people give are many and varied in their weight, but I’ll stand by the truth that this is a real story, that Daniel and Darius were real people, and that this story shows the power of God even over the mouths of animals.

The story of Daniel is the story of a man who refuses to bow down to ridiculous measures enacted by jealous, spiteful, little people. (Not little as in stature but little in being petty and jealous). It is the story of a man pushing 80 years of age, who is condemned to death in a most gruesome manner because he chooses loyalty to God over obedience to the state. While it is true that Daniel’s faithfulness stands as an example to us of taking a stand regardless of the consequences, it also boldly declares that God is able to do far more than we can think or imagine. I’m thinking Daniel’s attitude was the same as his 3 Hebrew friends who told King Nebuchadnezzar that they believe they will be saved by God but if not, they still won’t bow to his idol. Daniel may have thought the same.

The big focus of this story should not be on Daniel. It must be on the God who shut the mouths of the lions. My sermon is entitled Who’s Afraid of Big Cats and is from Daniel 6. Please read ahead to be prepared. I would love to have you join us in person, but if you are unable to do so, please join us via live stream at 9 and 10:45.  If you can do neither, then your prayers would be much appreciated.

#SignLanguage#Finished

Friday, February 4th, 2022

Have you ever heard or had someone say something like this to you: “I know there is not a God because I cursed Him and said if you are real then strike me dead. He didn’t so that proves that God is not real”?  Seriously? How lame is that? First, unless that person did it in front of others no one would know. Second, that person ought to be grateful God didn’t honor his request. Sadly, he/she would have found out how real God was and it would not have been pretty.  And another thing: that really proves nothing. Even humans are capable of resisting foolish requests.

 God is pretty patient. But there are some cases where His patience runs out. Enter Belshazzar in Daniel 5. One can mock God for only so long before Galatians 6:7 comes true: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a person sows, this he will also reap.”  Daniel 5 leaves us a glaring illustration of mockery come to fruition.

My sermon for this Sunday is a continuation of my series in Daniel called Against the Grain.  This one is titled Sign Language. Despite the expected snow, we plan to have two in-person services this Sunday. I would love to have you join us in person, but if that is not possible, we will be live streaming both services. If you can do neither, please pray for me, for us. Thanks.

#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.