Church

...now browsing by category

 

#PostModernism#Feelings

Sunday, January 5th, 2020

In my last post I talked about my sermon theme for 2020: TRUTH.  I’d like to expand on that a little in this post and then in my next post say a bit more.

A number of years ago a philosophy made its way to the forefront of our culture and eventually into the church. That philosophy was called Postmodernism. It is much more complicated than I am going to tell you, but I don’t want to muddy the waters too much by complicating things.

The basic premise for postmodernism is there is not absolute truth. In place of absolute truth postmodernism said we can trust our feelings. Whatever you feel is the way to go.

Does that sound scary to you? It does to me.  Some of you will remember a song by Debbie Boone called You Light Up My Life.  It had the lyrics in it which said, “It can’t be wrong; it feels so right. ”  When you shake Postmodernism down to its basics it is safe to say that the only absolute seems to be there are no absolutes, and the only truth is there is no truth.  It is not uncommon to hear someone say, “You have your truth; I have mine.” Chances are good that our truths will not sync up because we are using two separate platforms.  I mean…how can someone who uses the Bible and God’s truth as his/her basis have the same outcome as someone who has no basis for truth whatsoever?

Romans 1:16 tells us the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the truth. But we also read in verse 18 that to suppress the truth always leads to believing a lie. Take out truth and everything is up for grabs.  Rebecca McLaughlin in her book Confronting Christianity (my choice for 2019 Book of the Year) quotes Nicolas Kristof, a liberal journalist. See if this doesn’t ring a bell.

We (liberals) champion tolerance, except for conservatives and evangelical Christians. We want to be inclusive of people who don’t look like us-so long as they think like us.

My next post will highlight 4 marks of truth. Meanwhile, ask yourself this question: what or who is the basis for my truth-God’s Word or my feelings?

#Truth#Nitty-Gritty

Friday, January 3rd, 2020

Bible-based Christianity is dead. Well…at least to listen to some it is. Society wants us to believe that. Churches are closing their doors (and not for good reasons).  Recently several high profile evangelicals have left the faith-some to go to false religions and some to defect.  It is not unusual to read about some who have turned from God completely and have declared themselves atheists or one of the “nones.”

So that begs a question: is the handwriting on the wall? Is the church almost done? Will it go the way of the dodo bird? The movement afoot seems to be either change or become irrelevant. (Which by the way is not a new movement at all).  Many, afraid of irrelevance, have changed and given in to the secular media, Hollywood values and the LGBTQ+ thrust.

As you can see my theme for 2020 is TRUTH. I thought the best way to start is to ask and try to answer the question “What is truth?” For a forward glance check out Romans 1:16-17.  I want to lay the groundwork for this series by trying to answer the question.  My approach is to ask whether truth is really all that important or then whether truth is a reality. I’m going to share some of my thoughts in blogs next week.

Meanwhile, I would greatly appreciate your prayers for us this week.

#Challenge#SeeingGodInvolved

Friday, December 27th, 2019

Hard to believe isn’t it that this Sunday will be the last Sunday of 2019? As they always say, “Where did the time go?” My theme for 2019 was Unsinkable. Over the year I looked at different Psalms which anchored our faith. I took a look at the sayings of Jesus on the cross.  I spent several weeks in Romans 8- IMHO one of, if not the, greatest chapter in the Bible. We spent the summer looking at various OT heroes-Daniel; S-M-A; Deborah- and then a multi-week study on Joseph. I rounded out the year by looking at the 7 churches in Revelation; being a servant; and finally, of not missing Christmas.

We now stand at the brink of a new year with no clue what it brings. I’m sorta glad of that. Depending on what it is to be like (and only God knows that) could determine where I felt like getting up or staying in bed.  I kid.  The theme for 2020 is TRUTH and I’ll unveil that graphic next week.

Every year at this time pastors across the land will be preaching on the past and the future. I am willing to wager (although I am not a betting man) more that one pastor will say something like this: “You have no clue what 2020 will bring, but one thing I can guarantee-whatever it brings you will not be able to navigate it alone.”

My sermon this Sunday is titled “I Challenge You!” My challenge for me and for my folks (and you by proxy) is that we allow God to be actively involved in our lives-past, present and future.  I’m using Exodus 33 for my text this Sunday and will be approaching it from two plains: God At a Distant (33:1-6) and God In The Present (33:7-23).  Lots of rich OT history to show God’s distance as a result of sin/choices and God’s presence in the present using the Tabernacle as the backdrop.

A little different sermon for me but one I pray makes a point about God’s desire for us to know His presence in our lives. I’d appreciate your prayers as I close out the year. I’ve also been fighting a cough that wracks my vocal chords and makes them raw. The doctor says all signs are clear. So prayers for my throat and an end to the cough would be more than welcome.

#ChristmasChallenge#Post17

Tuesday, December 17th, 2019

I am late to the #ChristmasChallenge today. But I have a good reason!

Yeah, we are the “fun recipients” of our second day of the Winter Wonderland.  Yesterday’s was about 5 inches, enough to cancel the local school system, but it was more slushy than anything. We got the second round yesterday afternoon, and then a third wave last night (but I was asleep so couldn’t prove it by me). Except…the shoveling of the walk and driveway and scraping of the truck at home, then getting here to the office and shoveling the walks and part of the parking lot for walking.  There is another leg to the walk off to the right. Since I am the first one here I usually do it and really don’t mind. (And, believe it or not, that walk was totally clear just 15 minutes before I started writing this post). Today is even more important because of what happens today.

Today…Diana (the church secretary/office manager) gets to distribute HOPE to bunches of families, especially kids. Every year OVCF, the church I pastor, has done our own version of the Angel Tree. Diana sort of spearheads that and we call it The Giving Tree. We ask people to submit names of families/kids whom they know need help this Christmas. We then put the names on a tree and ask our people to take them and buy what is listed. This year we blew away all previous years. OVCF (not the organization but the people) is providing Christmas HOPE to close to 40 people. Our previous high was about 26. We do children, but we also try to include the parents with gift cards or needed coats/gloves/boots and even food cards. One of our ladies works at the local bank and she and some of her coworkers  took some names and bought gifts for the tree.  It was wonderful helping to carry some of the bags to the tables where Diana will meet the parents and give them the gifts today, and some tonight. Unwrapped, but provided with wrapping paper so they can have that joy. (If you consider that fun) 🙂

HOPE is a companion to my last three posts: LOVE. JOY. PEACE. The story of Christmas-the story of Jesus’ birth-is a story of HOPE. Take that away and we have nothing. We can’t live without HOPE.  Our small token of hope-giving for the children and parents of people who have had a rough year pales in comparison to the HOPE given to us by a simple birth in a manger.

LOVE. JOY. PEACE. HOPE. The four sorta go hand in hand don’t they? What gifts we have been given!! Give HOPE to someone today.

{And as a side light: can you now see why I am absolutely thrilled to be the pastor of these people? And what makes it even more incredible is some of the names were given after our deadline and except for about 2 or 3, all of them were taken and provided for by the people}.

Check out a fellow #ChristmasChallenge blogger here. This is short but poignant. Thanks Diane.

#ChristmasChallenge#Post12

Thursday, December 12th, 2019

I have been blogging each day as part of a #ChristmasChallenge I asked others to participate in. Due to my schedule I have been using virtually the same post here and at my other blog. But this one is different. This will stand alone from my other blog.  So…I give you my thoughts on this sensitive topic.

Recently we have had two holidays together which emphasize family, love, happy times and togetherness. For many they are anything but. For various reasons pain, hurt, emptiness, loneliness and depression are more apparent than the aforementioned family, love, happy times and togetherness.

Consider why:

  • A divorce has rocked the world of a woman or a man or their children.
  • A downturn at work has left him or her out of work.
  • An ugly spat has taken away family unity.
  • A death of a loved one is a painful memory that crops up even bigger during this time.
  • Friends are visiting out of town.
  • Family is unable to make the trip to see you or visa versa.
  • Perhaps you can think of more reasons.

My heart aches for these people. I realize what the church does in offering a lunch at Thanksgiving and a hot breakfast on Christmas morning is a small token when compared to the price of loneliness or pain.  Making our presence felt is needed more than just those special times.

When I look around-when you look around- we see people all around us going through the motions of life. Aimless. Heartbroken. Lonely.  Out of sorts. And sadly, it is just as easy to miss them. Avoiding their eyes. Rushing past their pain. Ignoring their tears.

BUT…and this is a big BUT…if we are to have the heart of Christ, we can’t pass by unaffected or closed off.  Having the mind and heart of Jesus demands we see people through eyes of love and compassion.

So let me challenge you this year to keep your eyes and heart open to really “see” other people. Reach out. Invite them to your family gathering. Take them a meal or take them out for one. See if there is something they need done which they are unable to do, but perhaps you can help by doing it or having someone else help. Speak to people as you see them. Don’t ignore them or divert your eyes.

The following song is on one of my favorite Christmas albums. It is not a “spiritual” Christmas song by any stretch but does touch on my thoughts for this post. And yes, it was partly responsible for me writing what I have.

https://youtu.be/V3Z3-z8eXuM

If you have trouble with understanding the lyrics, underneath the video is a “Show More” tab.  Click it and the lyrics will show up.

I encourage you to check out my fellow #ChristmasChallenge bloggers.

Diane at Hadarah.

Ed at Word!

 

#ItBegins#EssentialTruth#Don’tMissIt!

Saturday, November 30th, 2019

And so it begins…

The race to Christmas. Much of the way we celebrate Christmas finds its roots in our younger years. We carry traditions with us. Some we ditch; some we keep observing.

Growing up nothing we ever put out except the lights. No tree. No gifts. No nothing. But when we woke up Christmas morning the whole house, especially the living room had been transformed. We don’t do that today. Our tree goes up Thanksgiving Day or the day after and stays until the day or two after Christmas.Gifts are placed under the tree as they are wrapped.

Growing up we were taught not to use our Christmas gifts (except for games) until after the real tree was taken down. We don’t that one either.

We NEVER opened a gift until Christmas morning. We don’t do that one either, however, I did get Jo’s family to compromise. One gift on Christmas Eve; the rest Christmas morning.

One fact is a constant though: the meaning of Christmas has never changed. The teaching of that meaning has never changed. The impact of that meaning has never changed either.

Just as there is a backstory to each of our histories of Christmas, there is a backstory to the story of Christmas as well. Christmas didn’t start at the manger; it started years before we can conceive. Before the OT.  This story was formed before recorded time and if we were somehow able to put it on the silver screen there would be no CGI or animation able to convey it.

I have given my series for this month the title of “Don’t Miss It!!” Each sermon (4) will be one aspect of Christmas which is so important we dare not miss it.  It would be a tragedy if we did. This Sunday my sermon will be taken from John 1:1-14 and my aim is to show the essential truth of Christmas.  A.W.Tozer once said:

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.

When you think about Christmas what is the first thing that comes to your mind? My desire is to lay the groundwork for a meaningful Christmas by presenting the essential truth of Christmas. May you know that as well. I would appreciate your prayers.

#Atheism#Confrontation#BadRep

Sunday, November 24th, 2019

In one of my posts last week I reviewed two books dealing with abuse. You can read that here. Bookending those two books were two books of similar vein on a subject, but approaching it from different perspectives.  I had this first book and then read the two on abuse, but I needed to get away from that subject for a bit so I read the book which is my second review.  I’m now reading a totally different book because I like variety as well as needing a more biblical study.  So here are my reviews of the two books.

My first is Confronting Christianity by Rebecca McLaughlin.

Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World's Largest Religion

Rebecca was not raised in “Christian” America, but in the UK. Her Christianity was not handed to her on a silver-plated American Christianity platter (my words not hers). But trust me when I say she is nobody’s lackey.  This woman is smart and knows her stuff. Her book is subtitled 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion and she delivers the goods. I wondered if I would be overwhelmed by the sheer “brain power” she brings to the table. I am happy to say Rebecca has done an excellent job of making it so that even we who are not deep thinkers can understand her writing. This book is so good I have given one copy to my small group leader, one to a searching college student, and have another copy for someone I love. Here are just a few of the questions she asks and answers (masterfully I believe) :

  • How Can You Say There’s Only One True Faith?
  • Doesn’t Religion Cause Violence?
  • How Can You Take the Bible Literally?
  • Hasn’t Science Disproved Christianity?
  • Isn’t Christianity Homophobic? {Note: Rebecca admits to her former struggle with SSA so she writes from an “insider’s” viewpoint.}
  • How Can a Loving God Allow So Much Suffering?

That’s just half the questions. This is one of my nominees for “Book of the Year” (as if I have any say).  I love Rebecca’s writing style and her attention to the answers. Never harsh but always engaging. I do believe you will benefit from this book.

I followed Rebecca’s book with another that intrigued me: Why I Still Believe by Mary Jo Sharp (MJ). 

Why I Still Believe: A Former Atheist’s Reckoning with the Bad Reputation Christians Give a Good God

Her book is subtitled “A Former Atheist’s reckoning with the bad reputation Christians give a good God.” The book is aptly titled. MJ came from a non-religious home and chose atheism, but eventually came to know Jesus as her Savior. (You can read the book’s introduction for her story).  How she stayed with Jesus and the church is a miracle in itself (in my book anyway). The day she came to church with her husband to declare her choice to follow Christ, the pastor’s wife did not welcome her or congratulate her but to tell her she needed to wear a different dress-one that showed less cleavage. She doesn’t say whether it did or not, but I would have probably turned around and walked out. Eventually, she and her husband found themselves involved in ministry full-time (he was a worship leader). Meanwhile, she is struggling with Christians who are giving God and the church a bad name. One heart-breaking example (and one which made my blood boil) came when she brought a friend who was an atheist-seeker to church and he was literally blown off and embarrassed by the self-righteous teacher and the pastor of the church (who publicly humiliated him) because he dared ask a question which challenged their way of thinking. From her own awkwardness of defending her belief in the resurrection with a co-worker (she is a music teacher in a public school); to learning about Islam (a great discussion and info on Islam is included) from her dear friend, the late Nabeel Qureshi; to her confidence in apologetics, she never loses sight of her purpose: how annoying and “turn-off-ish” many Christians can be. I’d have to say it is a good thing she had a pretty solid faith and a good husband who helped her stay grounded. 

MJ’s book was different from Rebecca’s in that it took on issues facing the church within, whereas Rebecca’s focused more on questions from without. MJ’s book read easily also. And she gave some great answers along the way in a very clear style.

I would highly recommend both of these books be part of your reading list. If you know of someone who is struggling with their faith or have questions about hypocrisy within the church, have them read these.

#NoFence#NoLimits

Friday, November 15th, 2019

I don’t think anyone would argue with this statement:

Being a servant often requires we step outside our box and do what doesn’t come naturally and or easily.

That is the basic premise of my sermon this Sunday. Being a servant often requires we become uncomfortable in our service. Sometimes it is disarming, in that we find ourselves in situations which try our patience; test our mettle; even call on us to make hard decisions.

Could there be any parable more in line with that thinking than the Good Samaritan? Talk about someone who went out of his way and out of his box! There was no love lost between the Jews and Samaritans so Jesus’ example really had to fry them. The fact He used two Jewish religious leaders as part of His story left little to the imagination. Amazingly, it was this man who wasn’t supposed to stop and help, did. It says he had compassion on him, bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them, put him on his own donkey and took him to an inn to recover. When he needed to leave he even left extra money for further care.  I think I am safe in saying this Samaritan went way beyond what was expected, and certainly stepped outside the box to care for him.

The story is found in Luke 10:25-37. You now know where we will be studying this Sunday. And as always, your prayers would be much appreciated.

#GuidedPrayerFocus#MuchNeeded

Tuesday, November 12th, 2019

Well, it is a long time coming but it is finally here. And no I am not talking about the frigid weather hitting our area. That started yesterday (Monday) and left us about 3 inches of snow last night. Temps today were 17 but they said it felt like 5. For November that is way too cold. But that’s the way it is. I was going to take a picture but it was too cold to go back outside after I has spent way too much time shoveling and spreading salt.

The long time coming is the Guided Prayer Focus report I promised. On Sunday afternoon, the 3rd,  the church I pastor had a Guided time of prayer.  Background: we have offered a Day of Service (DoS) to our community for the past 10 years or more. But as I studied for the letter to the church at Ephesus I felt God was “speaking” to me and saying, “Bill, I commend OVCF for your works, your hard work, but I want you to stop doing for me and just be with me. So instead of our DoS we had a guided prayer focus from 1-3:30 at the church building.  We had about 20-30 people participate on different levels. Some did the whole thing; some did part due to schedules or in the case of one family-a child. All said it was a good thing. The idea was mine but I cannot take credit for its “workings and implementation.” Two ladies had a vision for it so they met with Ryan and me. Ryan and Diana (church secretary) did the heavy lifting of gathering the information and printing things off. I am so grateful I work with people who will take the bull by the horns and make things happen.

Here is how the Guided Stations were broken down. We had different rooms for each station.

STATION #1– I met folks outside with an explanation of how it worked and their first stop was a personal time which we called Draw Near to the Lord. We suggested certain Scripture to use and then encouraged them to take an index card and write some praises on it and put it in a jug (supplied). They were also encouraged to write some besetting sins or anger or lack of forgiveness, etc on a card and then use the shredder we provided in the hallway.

STATION #2– Prayer for our community. We asked them to pray for our local government, Law Enforcement, School Admin, teachers, etc.  We also asked them to pray that people in our community would come to know Jesus as the Lord of Salvation. And we asked them to pray for OVCF’s influence in the community.

STATION #3– Pray for Missions and the Persecuted Church. We gave a list of the missions we support as a church and Ryan had some iPads cued up for people to learn more about the persecuted church.

STATION #4- Pray for Family and Society. We asked them to pray for the families of our community, especially those being torn apart by issues like Gender Identity/Sexual Orientation Confusion, Child Abuse and Neglect, Drug and Alcohol Abuse (Opioids are real bad here) and a stop to abortion.

STATION #5-Pray for our Nation. Federal. State. Local. National tensions of racial/ethnic/religious/extreme political tensions. We asked them to pray the Gospel would transform hate-filled hearts.

STATION #6– We offered to pray with anyone who would like us to. Several of the elders and their wives, and Ryan and I were here to pray with people if they so desired.

We closed with group prayer of anyone who wanted to join us. It was a very fulfilling and much-needed time. We had some who hoped we would do it again. Sorry I had such a long post but I didn’t want to divide it into several posts. I’d suggest it for your church community to give it a try some day.

#Intangible#Watching#Waiting#Working

Friday, November 8th, 2019

I had totally intended on giving you a report of our prayer time this past Sunday but life happened. Some good; some not so good. But I will do that at the beginning of next week. For now, I’d like to just give you a heads up about Sunday’s sermon.

Almost every decade some false prophet comes along who claims to have figured out precisely when the Lord will return. The JW cult was founded on that premise, and even though their leader was wrong multiple times, it still thrives. (GAG!) Back in 1988 a book became popular with the title 88 Reason Why Jesus Will Return in 1988. Methinks he may have been wrong.

I find it fascinating that not even Jesus knew when He would return. What He was concerned with was preparing His followers until He did return. My sermon this Sunday morning will be three parables Jesus told to do just that. Here are the three parables with my emphasis.

  1. Two Servants (Expectant Watching) Scripture is Matthew 24:45-51
  2. Ten Virgins (Patient Waiting) Scripture is Matthew 25:1-13
  3. Three Stewards (Diligent Working) Scripture is Matthew 25:14-30

Of course, as you probably know each of these will stand on their own so my thoughts will be capsulized. I’m focusing on this month’s theme: Servants. So each of the parables will look at what or how a servant is to be. There  is one word which makes its way through all three of these parables: faithfulness. All three exhort us to be ready.

I’m excited about continuing this series on Servants and using these three well-known parables. Your prayers would be greatly appreciated. It has been a long and tiring week of ministry. I always need God’s Spirit when I preach.  This Sunday is an extra dose. I know He is sufficient. Thanks.