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#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.

#SayingThanks#1/10#StigmaHealed

Friday, November 22nd, 2019

We are in the season known as Thanksgiving. I tell you that just in case you were born under a rock yesterday. 🙂 In many ways, Thanksgiving is the forgotten season. It is sandwiched between Halloween and Christmas, both seasons which play very well into our consumeristic society. Candy and gifts. What more could you ask for? The way Thanksgiving is overlooked it makes you wonder if we won’t see Uncle Sam in a sleigh pulled by 8 tiny rabbits.

My sermon this Sunday is taken from Luke 17:11-19. It is the story of the 10 lepers who asked for healing. Jesus sent them on their way and as they went they were healed. Only one took the time to come back and say thanks. Leprosy was an ugly disease and to be cured from it was monumental. It boggles the mind to think only one individual stopped and turned around to say thanks.

I guess I shouldn’t be so critical though. How many times have I been blessed or seen God move and forget to say thanks? My simple challenge this week will be to remind the folks to say thanks. Not to take God’s goodness for granted.  Your prayers for Sunday would be appreciated.

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I’d like to challenge you to do the same. With Thanksgiving next week, it is a time for reflection. Be sure to set aside some time to do so. Jo, Tami and I will be heading to Ohio early Monday morning to visit her sister and then stop off for a night in Columbus to our grandson and his parents. 🙂 Thursday noon the church is serving a meal for the community. I will approve your comments but will be missing most of the week. Thanks for reading.

#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.

#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.