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Tandem

Friday, January 18th, 2019

If I were to ask you, or take a survey by asking one question, I wonder what your answer would be. Here is the question: What one thing do you see as the possibly the hardest thing to have today?

My guess is that many would answer TRUST.

We are being told much more than we want to hear today (it is called TMI). Sadly, much of what we are told we don’t know whether to believe or not. We are told to be our own boss. Why? “Because you can’t trust anyone.” We are being told to do our own thing. Why? “Because you can’t trust anyone to keep their word.” We listen to self-help gurus, exercise gurus, financial gurus and every other one you can think of because we are told “you can’t trust anyone else so forge your own path to success.”  One of the common lines from Back to the Future is when George tells Marty: “See, like I said! If you put your mind to it you can can accomplish anything.”

In reality, independence is an illusion; it is a delusion. “I want to be my own person” is nothing more than a foolish statement for the Christ-follower. The simple truth is “we are not our own. We have been bought with a price.”  The world offers independence. What the world really offers is slavery.

God has designed us to live in a dependent, obedient, and worshipful relationship with Him and in humble, interdependent relationships with each other.  It is like riding a tandem bicycle. The one in the front seat is the one who steers and guides. The one in the back can cause all sorts of havoc if he/she decides to operate independently from the front seat driver. They must work together. God has designed our earthly relationships to work that way as well as our relationship with Him.

My message for Sunday is entitled Tandem and is from Psalm 27:8-14. It is the final one in the short series on Psalm 27. I’d appreciate your prayers. Thanks.

 

Satisfaction

Tuesday, November 27th, 2018

There are a lot of things which bring us satisfaction. Some are not worth it; some are. Some are temporary; some are eternal. Some eat us alive; some give us life. As I see it, satisfaction can largely depend on your motives and expected results.

This past Thursday I was satisfied. In case you were born under a rock, Thursday was Thanksgiving Day. You know…eat till you drop. Eat till your buttons pop. Eat till you vow you will not eat again all day. Okay, at least until your next meal at another relative’s house or during the game (if you watch them).

Thursday for us was an absolutely beautiful day. The past few years it has been so frigid we had popsicles come inside after standing outside with a sign announcing our Thanksgiving Lunch for the community. But not this year! It turned out to be in the 50s and sunny.  It was a great day for a bike ride…I mean…a Thanksgiving lunch.  My day started early with my Quiet Time of Thanksgiving to the God who blesses me more than I deserve. Jo & I made our way to the local Lion’s Club where we hold the lunch. We started there when we didn’t have a building of our own and now that our building is sort of outside of town, we still use the LC for accessibility. We had a local lady who wanted to make pies for us so we arrived early to meet her. Sarah made 5 pies and some sugar cookies. Good thing I’m not a pumpkin, apple cinnamon, or pecan pie eater!  🙂  Eventually, others started arriving and preparations were underway.

I’m in charge of deliveries. I don’ t make them. I have men and women who do. So once people start coming I start humming. We have it down to a system now which works pretty well. And I had plenty of people who were more than eager to help in delivering the meals to whatever address I gave them, even some which were a 20-25 minute drive.

I know you don’t particularly want to hear those kinds of things. If you are like me you are saying, “Get with the program Bill! How many meals did you deliver? How many people did you serve in house?” I’m glad you and I think alike. Last year we delivered about 50 meals and served 15-20 in house. This year we blew the doors off both those numbers.

We delivered over 70 meals (not counting all the leftovers we took to the EMT’s).

We served over 30 meals to people who just wanted to come in and sit down to a Thanksgiving meal.

Now you can see why I am satisfied. Contented. Fulfilled. We helped a lot of people that day. We expect nothing back from them. But we are the ones who benefit by giving. I think Jesus was onto something when He said “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”  🙂  I know, in spite of how tired I was after all the lifting and carting before and after, there was a sense of A-a-a-a-a-a-h inside.

Two things hit me:

  1. We are going to turn right around and do a Christmas breakfast from 7-9:00 on Christmas morning.
  2. Neither Jo nor I brought any turkey or dressing or anything home.  I didn’t need the turkey to induce a nap. It just happened.

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving Day. I sure did.

AWE

Friday, November 23rd, 2018

The idea of worship is nothing new. If we are speaking about the Bible it is a theme which dominates the pages. In Genesis, for example, we discover the Fall came when Adam and Eve failed to worship God by obeying the one command God gave. In Revelation we learn that all of history culminates in a scene of eternal worship in the presence of a loving God.

But we also find worship elsewhere. We live in a worshiping culture. The latest sports star. Musician. Author. Preacher. The list seems endless.

Jesus knew this was an issue in Mark 12:29-30: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”

This will be final sermon of the Staking Your Claim series.  I’m not sure there is a better way to end a series talking about the non-negotiables of our faith than to talk about worship. If worship is honor and adoration directed to God, then it must be something we cannot do without. Perhaps Albert Einstein said it best:

“He…who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.” 

I would appreciate your prayers for me and for us this weekend. In a way, we will be refocusing our thoughts from Thanksgiving to Christmas-from gratitude to awe.

HYMNS

Friday, November 16th, 2018

I am not preaching this weekend. My brother, Rob, will be here to sing and preach. So, I decided I would do something that I hope will set your heart right.

Worship is often confined to what happens on Sunday morning at “church.” I’m a firm believer though that worship is 24/7. However, focusing on the time we gather together on Sunday morning is what I’d like to do in this post. We gather. We sing. We partake of the Lord’s Supper. We give our tithes and offerings. We preach. (Okay…I preach). 🙂  But chances are when we talk about worship to the everyday attender most will point to the singing.

Sunday morning singing has gone through several time warps. It used to be it was all hymns. (I still love Great is Thy Faithfulness and Holy, Holy, Holy and some others like them). Then a few spiritual songs were added (think I’ll Fly Away or When We All Get to Heaven). The Jesus Movement brought in a whole new type of song, both worship songs but also “feel good about me” songs. The evolution of those types of songs has been slow but eventually we morphed into a band, a group of singers, guitarists, drummers, and (choke choke) light shows, smoke machines, and theatrics. Some have even introduced “secular” songs into a worship set (Like the church that played Highway to Hell to introduce their Easter service one time).  We now have songs that last 5-7 minutes due to repetition of verses and choruses. And, of course, there is the resident “jump around and act crazy” songs mistakenly substituted for and called worship. Now…please understand I love some of the music played. I like a beat, even a rockier kind. But there is a point of saturation.

Enter a new breed and new wave of hymns. Yep, that’s right hymns. I never thought I’d be saying it but I welcome it. Not going back to singing the old ones that drone on, but new ones which highlight God the Father and Jesus the Son in meaningful, heart-touching words and music. I’ve come across some of the “new” hymns lately by a church out of Australia (no not Hillsong). The group is called CityAlight. I have been touched by their music and lyrics. You know I have been if I tell you I have been to the Y the past two days and have had them in my ears. I’d encourage you to listen to them on your own but I would like to highlight a few songs that have touched me deeply.  No comment will be made by me. I’d like you to listen and then let me know what you think. I’m encouraging our Worship Team to pursue learning some of this music.

First, this was the first one I ever heard by them.

Second, this one is a cry of my heart.

Third, I heard this one today and it jolted me.

Fourth, this one is for good measure.  🙂

I hope you will check out more of their music. I believe you will be blessed beyond measure.  Have a great weekend of worship! Enjoy being in the Father’s presence.

Difference

Tuesday, November 13th, 2018

We often hear people talking about “making a difference.” Their desire to make a difference will have one of two affects. One, they will think about it; stew over it; lament over the state of things; cry over it; even speak about it; but do nothing about it!

There are also those who want to make a difference and it will change them. No longer satisfied to sit on the sidelines, they will become advocates and fight for something.

That is not a political statement. I despise politics-government, home, church, sports, and anywhere else where there are people who think they can throw their weight around and get what think is theirs. Even if it means lying, cheating, slandering, gossiping, and a host of other ugly things.

Jesus’ parable in Matthew 25 was not a political statement. Sheep on the right; goats on the left. Nope, not a political statement whatsoever. But it was a statement pertaining to following Jesus by caring for others. You have seen them: the hungry, naked, thirsty, lonely, in prison, homeless.  Making a difference in their lives is what Jesus is talking about. I asked a question Sunday: How do I make a difference?  How do I show compassion? I answered it this way:

Allow our heart to break.  Someone once said, “Break my heart with the things that break the heart of God.”  Melinda Gates, Bill’s wife, once said, “If you want to make a difference, you have to let your heart break.”

Ask God for a mission. Many missions are started because of personal experience. I’ve dreamed for years of opening a home for abused or “lost” woman. Our little community does not have the sex trafficking issue a big city does (at least that I know of) but alcohol and opioids have played havoc with families. Seems like daily I read of another bust or broken home and children finding their way to DCS. Scary thought that.

Making a difference starts with me. With you. And one person at a time. But we have to start.

Leaning

Friday, November 9th, 2018

Many of you are not so old that you don’t or can’t remember the song by Bill Withers (later recorded by DC Talk) called “Lean on Me.” It had the lyrics “We all need somebody to lean on.” There is truth in those words.

However, have you noticed that sometimes it is hard to have compassion for people? For example, you walk into a quick shop and see a family where the kids are dirty and obviously their clothes are hand-me-downs. Your heart breaks and then you see mom or dad buying a carton of cigarettes or some alcohol and you may find your compassion going out the door.

I try not to judge too badly because I don’t know the circumstances surrounding their family or their choice of lifestyle. But I do know this:

A church can become part of the problem instead of part of the solution.

It isn’t easy being sympathetic. It is even harder being empathetic. Sympathy can be broken down by saying it is “feeling sorry for someone.” Empathy can be broken down by saying it is “being able to put yourself in someone’s shoes and know how they feel.”

I like what Caleb Kaltenbach wrote in his book Messy Grace:

When people look at your life, it should be so easy for them to see Jesus in how you treat them, love them, and share truth with them.

He also wrote:

We can be orthodox in our theology while committing heresy by how we treat others.

This Sunday I am talking about the church as it reaches out. Two weeks ago we celebrated our 14th anniversary as a church community. Last week we served. Those are easy to do. The hard part is seeing individuals as individuals, someone who may need another to lean on.

WOULD YOU PLEASE PRAY FOR THIS ME AND THE FOLKS AT OVCF THIS SUNDAY? Thanks.

Aftereffect

Tuesday, November 6th, 2018

I remember watching MacGyver years ago and one of the scientific principles he used several times was “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” I didn’t post yesterday (Monday) because I can attest to that.

This past Sunday we had our Day of Service (DoS). You can read about it here. But it was so much more than just an afternoon of serving. In my case, it was several months leading up to the day.  For the last few years I enlisted the help of another church since it was getting way too big just for me/us. My friend, James, an Associate Pastor of another church in town, came on board and has been invaluable. Last Spring the Owen County Chamber of Commerce joined us, as they did this time. (I am a board member of the Chamber also).  The Fall DoS entails a bit more since we not only rake leaves, clean gutters, and help get people ready for winter, we also do free oil changes for those who need them but can’t afford them. Invariably, there is one or two who need a bit more. So OVCF paid for 10 oil changes; a set of wiper blades and rear set of brakes for the same car; and an extensive look trying to fix a speedometer cable. Along with that we raked, cleaned gutters, etc for over 30 people. And trust me when I say there were plenty of leaves! Sycamore trees and maple trees abound in our town. Jo and I were going around encouraging and thanking people, but ended up staying at one place as we bagged and emptied huge contractor bags full of leaves 4 times! As it was I took 2 of the bags to put on the garden we have on the church property (one of our ladies started it). Then it started raining about 3:00 and I heard some of the folks were raking in the rain.

Here it is Tuesday and I’m still not done. Still some debriefing to do with James and Cassandra. Still some notes of thanks to be sent to some local folks (Babbs grocery and AutoZone) for their help. Oh yeah…rest. I was dead on my feet Sunday night and even dragged yesterday some. But its a good tired. A tired that comes from helping others. From knowing you were doing what Jesus would do (although I’m thinking He didn’t have gutters, leaves, air conditioners to move, weather stripping to install, or gardens to clean out). Then again…

Tired but satisfied. Tired but fulfilled. Tired but knowing we served as our Master would.

Serving

Thursday, November 1st, 2018

Martin Luther once said,

A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to no one; a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to everyone.

Service should be something every follower of Christ should be willing to do. A servant is what every follower of Christ should be willing to be.  Why? Well…that’s easy. Our role model once said, “I did not come to be served, but to serve and to give my life as a ransom for many.” Hmmmm.

Joel Manby wrote one of the best books on leadership I have ever read. It is called Love Works. The book was loaded with solid advice on leadership, primarily leadership is being a servant to all. He had some quotes I found really good:

Being unselfish doesn’t mean thinking less of yourself-it means thinking of yourself less. (p.88)

A little bit later he wrote:

The difficult journey of life is to move from a selfish heart to a serving heart.(p.88)

This Sunday is our Day of Service where we serve our community. We have asked The Connection Church and the Owen County Chamber of Commerce to join us again in our effort to serve and help others. This Day of Service offers free oil changes and light maintenance for those who can’t afford it and any yard work which needs done. Last year at this time we had a deluge that Sunday. I’m praying for good weather this year. We have about 8-9 oil changes and close to 30 people to help with their yards.

My sermon was chosen for this specific day and this specific topic. Your prayers for both would be appreciated.

Reflections

Tuesday, October 30th, 2018

This past weekend OVCF, the church I pastor, celebrated its 14th anniversary. OVCF was started when some people, who attended another church in town, were tired of “doing church” as they always have. It was birthed sometime in October of 2004.  Jo & I came in November of 2005.  I have been asked if I started/planted the church. I tell them No, but I sure feel like I did. They had not had a pastor for close to 9 months (he had only stayed about 3 before he felt he needed to move on); had no Mission or Vision to operate by; and did not have a lot of things in place. What they did have were some people eager to learn and serve.

I inherited both. We had a rough patch in 2009 caused by various reasons, but other than that, it has been a fun church to pastor.  In the first quarter of 2017 I watched several families choose to go elsewhere. One because of a move away from our area. They were dear friends of me and Jo and still are. I miss Ryan and his family.  One was because they were seeking the kind of “religious experience and high” we did not offer. They chose to put their stock in the NAR and some other questionable teachings.  Since then 2017-2018 has been up and down as we have tried to find our “wings.” Every church goes through those times. I’m a lot more patient and understanding of those times than I used to be. I figure God is in control and not me so there isn’t much I can do except continue to love and serve Him and the people He has given me to pastor.

With that being said, Sunday was a wonderful day of celebration and thanksgiving to God for what He has done! We had a great service (you can listen on podcast if you care to).  I’d be honored if you would take a moment to listen. We had tons-and I mean tons-of food! The Owen Country Chamber of Commerce came and did a ribbon cutting for our new youth addition. We had a meaningful dedication and then said a very weary “see you later” to the folks.  At the end of this post are 4 pictures of some of the changes made as a result of our addition. The first two are Before and After in our hallway. The Before is really not a true picture since I remembered to take the picture after the walls had been done. They had been covered in canvas. The next is a view of our new nursery with a door for access to a soon-to-be-finished playground for the little ones. The final one is the new security check-in for our youth addition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a good day.  I appreciate each one of you who prayed.

ReturningtoReclaim

Friday, October 26th, 2018

Every year the church I pastor, Owen Valley Christian Fellowship, has an anniversary. (I’m sure that is news. But it is good news!)

Every year Ryan (our youth pastor) and I give a “State of the Church” address. We reiterate our Mission and Vision to the people in order to keep it in front of them.

Every year we follow that with a celebration. A Pitch-in dinner and some good old laughing and talking…and, of course, good old eating some good old food.

This year is no different. Only this year there is a twist…or two. About 2-3 months ago, at the request of the other leaders,  I was asked to keep the growth of the church in front of the people. So I developed what I called FIT. No, it is not a fitness group. FIT stands for Future Initiative Team. We have met twice now and have pinpointed some future ideas of what we need/should/could possibly do down the road. We then delineated them into “Big Ticket Items”; “Items which need our attention but in time”; and “Items which require immediate attention.”  We brainstormed quite an extensive list and this past meeting I “assigned” and asked for volunteers to follow up on the items, especially the immediate ones.  Long story short: following the message this Sunday, I’ll be giving a brief presentation of what we have come up with.

The other twist is the Dedication of our new Youth Addition. I’m excited the Chamber of Commerce is coming to have a ribbon-cutting for us, along with Ryan talking (briefly) about what all is going on in the addition and I’ll close in prayer.

It will make for an exciting day. I’d certainly appreciate your prayers for us. Please ask God to put His hand on our young people and that we be wise in how our building is used. It was never intended to be used for us alone. Twice a week, for example, WRE (Weekly Religious Education), a totally voluntary program for the local school kids uses our building. The kids give up a free class time to attend. Ryan is heavily involved in it.

And lest I forget: Our Mission and Vision is as follows:

Mission: To Connect People to Jesus

Vision:

  • To be Passionate Pursuers of Jesus
  • To be models of Truth and Love
  • To be involved in our Community

I would appreciate your prayers for us this Sunday. A lot of people have had a hand in making this addition a reality. Youth Addition or not, the church (OVCF and as a whole) needs to do more celebrating. We intend to do just that.