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#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.

#Servant#Don’tForget#3Essentials

Friday, November 1st, 2019

Ever since 2009 the church I pastor has had a Day of Service (DoS). It is a day where we serve the community.  Our first one was humble in its efforts but very successful. We changed oil and did some light mechanical work as well as help people who were unable to get things done to their houses (prepare for winter, clean up after the flood, and more). We missed a year or two as we found our footing at our newly purchased building but eventually we “got it going” again. Then we saw the need to do two a year. We invited another church to join us and then two others. They fizzled out before they started but the first invite (The Connection) formed a great working relationship with us. The Spring DoS was cleaning up after winter’s havoc, preparing flowerbeds, and general maintenance. The Fall DoS involved the mechanical work on vehicles, cleaning gutters, as well as getting ready for winter. This year (2019) we had one in the Spring but had some unfinished work so OVCF took it upon ourselves to finish the two jobs that needed done.  Our last 2-3 efforts also involved the Owen County Chamber of Commerce.

All things change. After the two very tedious jobs this year which required a lot of man hours, I started feeling unsettled about asking our people to go to the well one more time. Then I studied for the first letter in Revelation-the letter to the church at Ephesus- where Jesus commended them for their hard work and service, but had one thing against them: they had left their first love. So I started praying and meditating on that and realized those words were very relevant to us. So during that sermon I told them my thoughts and that I was calling off the DoS (It was considered “my baby” by the others) for the Fall. I “felt” God was saying, “Bill, you guys have been so busy doing for Me, it is time to just be with me.”  So this Sunday we are having an afternoon of a Guided Prayer Time through different “stations” in our building. From 1-3:30 this place will truly be a Holy Place. My next post will tell you more about it.

But I decided to carry on with my initial sermon for that Sunday and to develop a whole month of sermons. My theme is “Servants” and my Scripture this Sunday is from Micah 6:6-8.  The Scripture tells us three items every follower of Christ (a servant) needs to have:

  • Do justice
  • Love mercy
  • Walk humbly with God

I would appreciate your prayers for me this weekend. I would especially love it if you would pray for the church as we meet. Learning to be a servant who does those three acts is absolutely essential.

I will be closing the sermon with this song.  Hope you enjoy it.

#Memories#Goodtime#15th

Tuesday, October 29th, 2019

This past Sunday the church I pastor celebrated our 15th anniversary. We had a great time in many respects. We had everyone meeting in one service. That is always a favorite. The singing was good with so many people in one building. The spirit was good. We had some folks who were regulars but had to move away because of health surprise us with a visit. That brightened a lot of people. We had an excellent pitch-in with some of the best food on the planet (and I made none of it).  I did hold my eating down to a mild roar.  🙂 There was a ton of cooperation of setting tables and chairs up and tearing them down and putting them away.  All in all it was a mighty fine day.

During my sermon I reiterated our Mission and Vision, especially for our new folks. I’ll put it here for you:

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

After speaking about those for a few minutes and explaining how they work, I unveiled my theme for 2020. Although I have the first series already mapped out (It is from 2 Cor.4), the rest of it is a work in progress. I’m convinced that many followers of Christ are swept downstream because they do not know the truth of the Gospel. With that in mind, here is my banner and theme for 2020:

I’ll not say much the rest of this year about it as I will be doing a series through November on “Servants” and one in December on “Don’t Miss It!” But come the first of the year, I’ll be focusing on TRUTH. I’ll keep you updated, as I normally do, via this blog.

By the way, I am not one for promoting myself but they record my sermons and then put them online for others to hear. If you would like to keep pace with  where OVCF is in study, I invite to take a listen. You can go here to check it out.

#15#Lukewarm

Saturday, October 26th, 2019

Have you ever stopped to take stock of your reading habits? I don’t mean whether you read or not but WHAT you are reading.  I did that recently but in a different way and for a different reason.  Let me explain.

Sitting on one of the edges of my desk (it is a 3-sided wrap-around) is a series of books. It is called the ESV Reader’s Bible in hardback and slipcover. The week before I started working on this Sunday’s message, I was curious as to my reading habits, especially as we close in on the end of 2019. At the time I was starting the book of Ecclesiastes (I am now in Isaiah) as I read through the Bible. I took note that I had already read through the NT in 2018 and remembered having started the OT before the end of the year. That means I have been reading the OT verse by verse, chapter by chapter all year long. During my morning Quiet Time I have also been including Psalms and Proverbs so my Bible reading has been almost exclusively the OT. I don’t mind telling you that it has been hard not to quit and even harder not to be bored. But even as I say that it has been a tremendously fantastic and enriching experience.

It has allowed me to see one huge truth: the waywardness of Israel. Chosen as God’s special people, they squander away their opportunities to be recognized as such. Reading their story is like reading the story of a bouncing child on a knee-laughing and giving moments of sheer enjoyment versus weeping and moments of pure, unadulterated frustration. I can’t even begin to register God’s sheer frustration and disappointment at their actions.

Then I realize that is me. That is you. Up and down in our emotions. Up and down in our temperature of following Jesus. Up and down in my desire to be with Him. Laodicea was like that. Lukewarm. Not a good state to be in.

This weekend is OVCF’s 15th anniversary.

Along with our celebration will be a challenge to avoid the lukewarm state that is so easy to fall into.

I’ll also be unveiling my theme for 2020.

Would you please pray for me? Would you please pray for the church as we meet and also to avoid the dreaded lukewarm state which is so easy to fall into? I thank you ahead of time.

#Faithful#NotPerfect#God-honoring

Friday, October 18th, 2019

Have you ever heard the statement “If you are looking for the perfect church don’t go there. You will ruin it”? Even though blunt, it is true. People search around for the perfect church and so they church hop from one to another. Sad thing is: they will never find the perfect church because as soon as they join, it will become imperfect. Needless to say it always was, but you know how it is when we have blinders on.

To say the church at Philadelphia was perfect would, of course, be wrong. But to say they were spot on in their love and commitment would be on the money. There are two churches of the seven who received letters where nothing negative was said about them. Philadelphia was one of them.  It wasn’t perfect but it was God-honoring.

This postcard is filled with rich language. even deeper words to describe them. I am so excited to preach this sermon Sunday. I’ll give you a hint of 4 qualities they are commended for.

  1. “You have little power.”
  2. “You have kept my word.”
  3. “You have not denied my name.”
  4. “You have patient endurance.”

I plan to talk a little bit more about them Sunday.  Along with those admirable qualities, they are given some unprecedented opportunities. It will be fun preaching this week. But I most definitely want and need your prayers.  Thanks.

#Dead#Alive#YouChoose

Sunday, October 13th, 2019

As I wrote that title I couldn’t help but think of Bon Jovi’s song Dead or Alive. My sermon this morning was on the postcard to the church at Sardis. I called it “To the Dead Church.”  One of the ideas I tried to stress was that we need to see this letter as more than one sent to a church body, but we also need to apply it to ourselves as individuals.  One of the thoughts during the message was asking the question When is a church dead? The answers are jarring, but I also want to apply them to us as individuals. So, I’m going to put the four answers I gave to that question and then allow you to make the personal application. I have already done that as I prepared; misery loves company so join me! 🙂  When is a church dead?

#1- When it is content to rest on its past laurels.  Many churches have banners and plaques throughout their building which testify of their past. It’s like little Johnny who was being shown through the church building by his father when they came upon a plaque with names. He asked his dad what that was for and his father said, “They are the names of the men and women who died in the service.” He asked, “Which one-morning or evening?” We chuckle but sadly that is way too often true. (Nowadays it is first or second not morning or evening).

#2- When it is more concerned with form than spiritual reality. We make sure we fit into a mold. The pastor can’t speak too long we have things to do, places to go. Besides, we want to beat the other churches to lunch.  This can be especially harrowing in a small town where options are limited. We make sure we have communion, take offering, sing all hymns or no hymns, offer an invitation. Seriously? That shows a church is alive?

#3- When it focuses more on social ills and politics than changing people’s hearts and minds through the life-changing message of Jesus. There is nothing wrong with being socially aware and conscious, but the church does not exist to change the environment. We exist to carry the message of the God’s life-changing message.

#4- When it is more concerned with material things than spiritual things. “Nuff said. When we hired Ryan one of my first words to him were “People over programs.” We have reminded ourselves of that often. Another: “People over buildings.”  We had a dream of an adult worship center but it was cost-prohibitive.  I was so proud of our leadership when they said, “No” to the building and put things on hold.  God made it possible to pay off our mortgage early as well as build the youth addition debt-free.  We are now in the dreaming stage again and will remember the adage: “People over buildings.”

I think you can see how those can apply to individuals. But it is one thing to see; it another to do. Let’s do it! Let’s not be caught in the “Sardis cycle.”

 

#Dead#Zombies

Friday, October 11th, 2019

First, let me put you at ease. This is not a post about zombies. Not only do I think it is silly, but I have never watched even a moment of the TV show when it was on, nor will I while it is in reruns. As for New Death Experiences (NDEs) I have my own opinion which shall remain mine at this point. I have never been a horror movie fan so to talk about the macabre and living among the dead has never “yanked my chain.” I have enough trouble with reality. I don’t need people confusing the issue with other junk.

I have been a pastor long enough; I have been alive long enough, to know when death is either imminent or soon to take place. There are certain characteristics which manifest themselves. I suspect if we took the time to compare we would see some of the characteristics of death could be seen in some churches as well. There are all kinds of churches in various stages of “aliveness.” Some are vibrant; some are lukewarm; some are barely hanging on; and some are dead (but may not even know it).

This week’s postcard is written to the church at Sardis, the church I am calling the Dead Church. Revelation 3:1-6 gives us that letter and Jesus minces no words of judgment on them.  It is never easy hearing that you or your church may be dead.  I don’t want to sound harsh or judgmental but only kind and loving as I present the possibility that it could happen to us if we aren’t open to Christ’s leading. Please pray for me this weekend.

#WrongRoad#Weakness

Sunday, October 6th, 2019

This morning (Sunday) I preached on the letter to the church at Thyatira and I approached it from the aspect of tolerance. I’ll state it right off the bat: no matter what our culture says and even what other “churches” tell us, tolerance is never mentioned in Scripture.  Another word some may be more familiar with is Compromise.  I’d like to take this blog space and talk about that a bit.

In the letter to the church at Thyatira Jesus commends them for their works, love, faith, service, patient endurance and that their latter works exceeded the first (I think that means they were maturing and growing and not stagnant). BUT the church was an immoral cesspool (v.20). That “train” was led by a woman He names Jezebel. I seriously doubt that is her real name. I mean…what parent in their right mind would name their daughter Jezebel, or even Delilah? Be that as it may, my research seems to indicate two possibilities she was teaching:

  1. Gnosticism.  Gnosticism taught that the physical universe was evil and the spiritual was good. This led to what is called Dualism. Today is it is seen in those who teach Jesus was not fully human and fully divine.  A popular brand of this is Jesus was human until His baptism when He became divine and then somewhere before His crucifixion He became human again. One of the most prominent teachers of this heresy is the false “apostle” Bill Johnson and those associated with Bethel Church and the NAR (New Apostolic Reformation) movement.
  2. Antinomianism. It is a combination of two words: Anti which means “No” and nomian which means “Law.” Hence, No Law. This teaches you can do whatever you want as long as you invoke God’s grace when you are done. This is taught by….just about everyone. I believe God’s forgiveness is complete and His grace covers any sin, but I also believe He wants us to be holy, not acting however we want then constantly seeking God’s grace for forgiveness.

Tolerance is a slippery slope we want to avoid. We will be called all sorts of names.  We will be looked on as a three-headed monster. But God’s truth stands and we are much better taking “heat” from our culture than taking “heat” from God.

Those are some of my thoughts. What do you think?

#Tolerance#Intolerance

Friday, October 4th, 2019

I’ve been absent from this blog since last week. I always said I would only post if I had something to say. While I have a lot to say (ask anyone around here), not all of it is significant. Least that is what Jo tells me. 🙂  Life has been sort of crazy busy for me and writing did take a back seat this week. Maybe someday…SOMEDAY…life will slow down. It sort of will the next few weeks. But I’ll tell that story in another post.

This post is about this weekend’s upcoming sermon: To the Tolerant Church. After last week’s time away for a wedding in St. Louis (it went well and we had a great weekend), it will be good to be back in the pulpit. My sermon is on the church at Thyatira from Revelation 2:18-29.  In many ways the church at Thyatira and the church at Pergamum has some things in common with the biggest being that they were both guilty of compromise. Thyatira, more specifically, was guilty of tolerance of evil.

When I think of this church I think so much of what is going on in the church today. Afraid of what others will think we have become tolerant of blatant evil and sin. We are afraid of being falsely accused of being unloving, of having some phobia, that we are giving in to our culture’s “demand” that we accept it all. The church at Thyatira was guilty of allowing Jezebel to thrive in their midst. I’ll be discussing who this “woman” might be.

Tolerance is the bane of the church today. Least I am convinced of that.  It will not be an easy sermon to preach. I’d appreciate your prayers for this Sunday. Thanks.