Pastor's Blog - Mount Vernon Grace Community Church

Service and Worship Times

18350 Hopewell Road
Mount Venon, OH 43050

  • Sunday Morning Prayer
    10:00 a.m. Prayer time prior to Sundays service
  • Sunday Morning Service
    10:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
    Nursery is available and Sunday School classes are held for children preschool age through 12 during the sermon
  • Wednesday Night 
    Bible Study 7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.
    Teen Bible Study 7:00 p.m. - 9:00 pm

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The Truth About a Negative Spirit

Do You Know?

As I write this, I am trying to beat a cold. So far it is beating me. I feel like crawling in the proverbial hole and just disappearing from sight. I’m tired, my back hurts, my eyes are burning… I know you know the feeling; you’ve had a cold before. Melodee thinks I’m a big baby when I’m not feeling well. I don’t see it. Besides, since I don’t get sick very often, I think I should be able to take advantage of it.

Anyway I digress. Physical sometimes remind me of spiritual things. We live in a culture that is becoming spiritually sick. I think we have far surpassed the cold stage and we have full blown pneumonia.
My mind keeps going back to the Laodicean church. They were rich, (monetarily); they were clothed well, (physically). They knew how to party so they thought they were happy. They thought they had good medicine for poor eye sight, (turns out the salve they manufactured was a placebo.) Jesus had a different take on their state. In his words, “You say you are rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing; you don’t know you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked.” In other words, you’re sick and you don’t know it.

I highlighted the words “you don’t know” because they are scary important. I think the Laodicean culture was much like our own. Probably at one point they were on fire for the gospel. I imagine that when Paul went to that region with the life-changing message of Jesus they jumped all over it. But it wasn’t long after that a virus of prosperity and self-indulgence set in. They lost their fire for Jesus and their hearts started burning for self. They have a fever and it is making them delusional about who they are. “You don’t know…”

I have a cold. (I think I mentioned that.) When you are sick your judgment is off. It is easier to give in to depression when you don’t feel well. Temptation (throw your own weakness in at this point), is harder to resist when you are sick. I have known people that have been sick for so long that they have forgotten how it feels to feel good and they don’t know how sick they really are.

This is the Laodicean church. The fire in their belly was a lust for self. From where I sit, and maybe it is because I don’t feel well, this is where I see the church. I would like to say GCC is different but we have little viruses popping up in various places. I think we are healthy but healthy people aren’t immune to exposure to disease. A little gossip here, a little deceit there, throw in some bitterness and anger and you have a recipe for spiritual flu. Sometimes it is hard to diagnose where the disease really started but usually it starts with the other person. It certainly can’t be me.

The individuals in the church in Laodicea had a decision to make. Jesus told them, “As many as I love I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore and repent.” This has to be done on an individual basis. ‘Mono e mono’. One on one between me and God. You can’t go to the doctor for me I can’t go to the doctor for you but we can encourage each other to get regular checkups.

I know I have a cold. I have all the symptoms; runny nose, cough; if I were one of the seven dwarves I would be Sneezy. (My wife would say Dopey and that can fit with cold symptoms also.) I know I need cold medicine. I don’t know how I got the cold but I know that I have it so I can treat it.

Let’s go back to those dangerous words Jesus spoke to Laodicea: “YOU DON”T KNOW…” We will not seek a cure if we don’t know we are sick. I know two men in the past week that died of massive heart attacks and had no idea that they were sick. Would a checkup have uncovered a hidden heart disease? It is very likely. I know that one of those two men refused to go to the doctor. His decision was fatal.

Some things that have happened over the last year tell me we have symptoms of a struggling heart. We need to have a checkup. I shared this past Sunday that I have been in a spiritually dry place for a long time. This is a symptom of something wrong.

The Lord reminded me today of a situation quite different than the lukewarm Laodicean experience. Shortly after Jesus walked out of the grave two men were on their way to the village of Emmaus. They were talking about all that had taken place that day after they had heard that the tomb Jesus was in was empty. While they were walking, a man they didn’t recognize joined them. They invited him over for dinner. We don’t know what their conversation was about but it must have been life changing. We know they talked about the scripture and I would assume the man was showing them the scriptures that spoke of the Messiah and how he must die and that he would rise from the dead. Just before he left them he revealed himself to them and they recognized Jesus. They realized they didn’t just have an interesting conversation about the Torah. They were in the presence of God. In their own words “Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scripture.”

How long has it been since your heart burned within you because of the presence of Jesus and because of his Holy word? I can remember a time in my life when I could hardly contain my enthusiasm for Jesus. I have done a pretty good job of containing it lately. Maybe that is why some of the little fires have been ignited. Maybe I have ignored some of the symptoms.

None of this is meant to accuse or point fingers so please don’t assume it is. This is a plea. Jesus closed his letter to the Laodicean telling them, “Behold I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him and he with me.” He is saying, “I want to have dinner with you. I want your heart to be on fire in relationship with me.” Please make sure you are opening that door. Make certain your heart is in the right place. The Laodicean lie of wealth and health affected the entire community. Let’s not let a lie fester in our heart. We will either burn in our heart in the presence of Jesus or we will grow cold and die. Choose to burn!!!

How to Make New Year's Resolutions a Success

It is a time for change; a fresh start; a new beginning. It is a season when we say goodbye to old bad habits and hello to new good ones. It is a time when yada, yada, yada; blah, blah, blah, blah… what a load of stuff that comes out of the hind end of a donkey. Don’t quit reading. I think this will get better. 

We put dates on and give time limits to things we know we should change but we really don’t want to. I’ll quit _____________ after the first of the year, (you fill the blank). I will start ________________ after the first of the year, (you fill the blank). Some of us don’t even talk about New Year’s resolutions anymore because we know we probably won’t keep them. You know the old saying, “resolutions are made to be broken.”

Just for your reading pleasure here are some of the origins of New Year resolutions:  The ancient Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts.  The Romans began each year by making promises to the god Janus, for whom the month of January is named.  In the Medieval era, the knights took the "peacock vow" at the end of the Christmas season each year to re-affirm their commitment to chivalry.  At watch night services, many Christians prepare for the year ahead by praying and making resolutions.  There are other religious parallels to this tradition. During Judaism's New Year, Rosh Hashanah, through the High Holidays and culminating in Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), one is to reflect upon one's wrongdoings over the year and both seek and offer forgiveness. People may act similarly during the Catholic fasting period of Lent, though the motive behind this holiday is more of sacrifice than of responsibility; in fact the practice of New Year's resolutions partially came from the Lenten sacrifices. The concept, regardless of creed, is to reflect upon self-improvement annually. (Incidentally I know of a guy that will give up drinking adult beverages for Lent and take vacation over that period because in his mind his Lent vow is null and void during vacation. That’s what I mean about the load of stuff from a donkeys hind end.)  (Some of you might be thinking “what’s your point Mr. Sunshine?” Bear with me and I’ll come up with one by the end of the article.)

A study was conducted by Richard Wiseman from the University of Bristol involving 3,000 people. The study showed that 88% of those who set New Year resolutions don’t keep them. (That means 12% do, so not all was lost. Maybe you and I could be part of that 12%) Fifty-two percent of the study's participants were confident they would succeed when they made the resolution. Men were 22% more effective in keeping their resolutions when they set goals for themselves such as I will lose x amount of pounds in x amount of time. Women, on the other hand succeeded 10% more when they told someone about their goals and got support from their friends. (By the way, I got some of my info from Wikipedia so take it for what it’s worth.)

Any way you look at it, resolutions are tough to keep. It sounds like goals and accountability are, at least, part of the key to success. It is probably part of the problem, too. Accountability will only go as far as your willingness to be open, honest, and vulnerable to someone or a group of someones. We just don’t trust each other anymore. Don’t worry - your secret won’t go any farther than Facebook or Twitter.  I wonder if another reason we struggle with life changes is our motive. If my motive is weak my chance of success is going to be weak. Maybe it all boils down to why we want to make a change and who we want to make the change for. Change to please someone else or for my own well-being will break down somewhere in our sinful nature. We are naturally selfish and will often end up doing what feels good in the moment.

When God gave Israel the Ten Commandments, he told them life would go well if they obeyed them but the motive he gave Israel to keep them was much deeper than self-fulfillment. Moses writes in Deut. 6:1-2, Now these are the commandments…which the LORD your God commanded to teach you… That you might fear the LORD your God…Now, isn’t that a novel concept: fear God? But I thought he was my celestial buddy. Actually, he’s your celestial daddy. We like to keep the thought that that means he is always there with open arms to hold and hug his wayward children. This is true, but the writer to the Hebrews tells us in Hebrews 12:6, Daddy disciplines and scourges his children when they disobey. (My paraphrase.) The word "scourge" sounds especially harsh to a society that has deemed spanking as child abuse. How’s that working for us? (Another article for another time.)

Someone is thinking, “fear is an Old Testament trait. We have Jesus now and nothing to fear.” So what you’re thinking is “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” doesn’t apply anymore.  (Psa.111:10; prov.1:7; 1:29; 2:5; 8:13; 9:10; 14:26-27; 15:16,33; 16:6; 19:23; Acts 9:31) Did you read ‘em? It applies.  Fear means respect, reverence and even terror. Jesus should cause us to have a lot of respect for God. Do you remember what he did? If you read those passages, and there are plenty more, you can’t help but see the power the fear of the LORD gives us.  It kind of breaks down the "do it for yourself" theory that only 12% of the resolution makers succeed at. Maybe for New Year's we should resolve to know and fear God.

He doesn’t stop there. Failure to succeed at resolutions is not only a fear issue but it is a love issue. (This isn’t an argument about how much God loves us. His love for me is incomprehensible. Eph.3:17-19? That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.)  Moses goes on in Deut.6:5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. It is about our love for him.

This is a fact; you can’t really love yourself unless you love the one that created you in his own likeness. That’s why resolutions made simply on the premise of pleasing someone else or doing it for yourself  simply won’t work. The motive must be out of fear and love for our creator.

That’s my point; whether it is a new year, a new day, or just a new hour we should continually resolve to walk in the fear of the LORD learning to love him with our whole heart. I’ll bet we might be surprised how much power we have to keep those resolutions if our motive is right. They won’t be just fertilizer.

As Dr. Lora used to say, “Now go take on the day.”

Thank You From Pastor Roger

Thank you and a short trip into the mind of pastor

      Where do you start? Sunday October 27, 2013, was an exceptional day. It spoke volumes about the health and state of Grace Community Church of Mt. Vernon Ohio. I can’t tell you how proud I am to be the pastor of this church. It is people like you, not me, that will keep the momentum going. You put the 80-20 theory on its back and proved it wrong, at least for GCC. (80-20 is the theory that 80% of the people set in a chair on Sunday morning while 20% do all the work.)


Who's Your Hero?

We like to put men on pedestals. We need a hero to save the day. I grew up with Superman and Batman. There was the Lone Ranger and Roy Rodgers.


What’s Piling Up in Your Life?

     I am at the end of a very tiring vacation. It was tiring because of a well-oiled gift I have. I have perfected this gift to a tee over the years. It’s not one I am proud of; none the less I am good at it. It is called being disorganized.
     One of the goals of my vacation was to begin to clean up some of my messes. I wanted to eradicate the “piles” I had let accumulate in my garage, basement and yard. (For the record, my wife is free and clear of any charges here. She is a better house keeper than I am; besides I want to eat dinner tonight.) I like to say it all piled up because I am so busy with my “pastoral duties.” While that might sound spiritual it is just an excuse I use to continue to perfect my gift. (It is partially true…)