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#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.

#LoveLost#FirstLove

Saturday, September 14th, 2019

My sincere apologies for not getting this posted sooner. As many of you know we spent September 2-10 on our trip to Alaska. We arrived home after midnight on the 10th and I played catch-up the rest of the week. But tomorrow is Sunday and I have to be ready to go! I am…in principle. Now all I have to do is get my head and heart in the game. 🙂

I start a new series this week which I am calling Postcards. It will be a seven week series on the 7 churches of Revelation and the letters, i.e. postcards Jesus sent to each of them. Ryan did a great job of introducing God’s idea of the church last week as a lead-in to this series. I’m glad I have someone like him who is so dependable and able to present God’s Word. He’s a good one. 🙂

This week I have titled the sermon “To the Loveless Church.” The city of Ephesus had so much going for it as being one of the greatest cities to live in at that time. Economically. Culturally. Historically. Religiously (even though it was pagan).

The church at Ephesus had a lot going for it also. As you read Revelation 2:1-7 you can’t help but be struck by the commendation heaped upon them: their work, toil and patient endurance; they didn’t tolerate evil men; they hated the works of the Nicolaitans; and their motivation was spot on.

B…..U……T…..

The condemnation far outweighed the commendation. It is very clear. They left their first love. While they had all the outward show of being alive, they were dead inside. Their love for Jesus had grown cold. Their motivation should have been what Paul wrote: “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one died for all, therefore all have died.” (2 Corinthians 5:14). It wasn’t, and therefore they were told in no uncertain terms “to repent or else.” Unfortunately, the “or else” happened and there is no longer a church in Ephesus.

Fighting this battle for “first place” is an ongoing one.  I hope to challenge all of us to renew our first love for Jesus.  I plan to play this song to help emphasize my point.

ONE

Friday, January 11th, 2019

This has nothing to do with song from the 60s by Three Dog Night (even though I liked it and still do).

The movie Seabiscuit was the story of more than a horse. It was also the story of a jockey named Red; a trainer whose time as a cowboy had long been up; an owner who lost his only son to an accident and found himself divorced, lonely and lost until he met and married a young lady who turned his life around; and they, in turn, bought a horse who was considered a runt. They had to retrain what Seabiscuit thought about himself. Then they had to train him how to run. The rest was up to him. During a race “the Biscuit” (as he was called) was virtually on his own. It wasn’t the ones behind him Biscuit concerned himself with. It was the one ahead. He became singularly focused.

Most of have at one time or another been guilty of tunnel vision. We see nothing around us, sort of like the horse that runs with blinders on.

In Psalm 27:4 David says, “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” In David’s day, the temple (tabernacle) was where God lived. David wanted to be in God’s presence. But notice what he said about it: It was his one desire!

My sermon Sunday is entitled My One Thing. It will be a challenging message for me. For those who listen. I am challenging myself to take stock of what my highest priority is. What is My One Thing?  My prayer is that we will all be challenged to answer that one question. Your prayers would be much appreciated.

I will also be showing this video to go along with the message.

Forgotten

Wednesday, December 19th, 2018

No one likes to be forgotten. Unless, of course, they have done something wrong.  Then they want to hide and never be found!

But consider the Christmas story. A manger. A baby. A stable. A star. A long ride. A full inn. Mary. Shepherds. An angel (Gabriel). Zechariah. Elizabeth. Wise men. Bethlehem.

There seems to be one forgotten player in this drama. I’m sure you figured it out by now…Joseph. The man made a monumental decision and commitment and we forget him! He loved Mary so much he was willing “not to embarrass her but to divorce her quietly.” Some may think he was ashamed but keep in mind the difference in culture. Besides, you see his real heart come out after he heard the news the child was to be Messiah. Immanuel. Jesus. So he went against all odds; against the culture of his day; against everything his insides told him to do, and took Mary to be his wife.

But that’s it! That’s all we know except for a few side references. He showed his love for Mary and the baby and his  willingness to listen to God by taking them and heading off to Egypt. We see him when Jesus turns 12 and he hunts for him in the Temple.  But after that…ZERO. NADA. COME UP EMPTY.

What a noble man! This morning (Wednesday) during my New Morning Mercies reading, I read Isaiah 48:1-11 as supplemental reading. I was struck by verse 11: “For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another. (emphasis mine) God refuses to share His glory with anyone else. Not me. Not you. Not the most well-known pastor/preacher/evangelist/author/TV personality, etc. NO ONE ELSE!

So my question is this: can there be anyone more deserving of being noticed for not taking glory than Joseph? But its a catch-22 really. He would not have wanted known. He would have deflected the glory away from himself and toward the one who deserves it. Maybe I ought to take a hint?

There is a Christmas song we sang this past weekend and I have requested again for this coming Sunday’s Christmas Sunday service. It is this one and I can’t hardly think of a song more suited for a topic like this. And I would love to hear your thoughts.

Christmas’18

Monday, December 3rd, 2018

The past few Decembers I have taken to posting something about Christmas. A song. A devotion I read. A quote. I plan to do that this month as well.

My first post is by my favorite singer probably of all time. He made his mark with a group in the 60s and then went solo in the 70s and beyond. He put out a Christmas recording (what else should I call it?) back in 2008 and it stays close to my truck CD player for the whole month in December.  One year it never left the player. 🙂  What’s funny is I have a compilation of his 40 greatest hits and the title tune from his CD is on it: “I Love Christmas.” When that song comes on it truly is Christmas in July.

Anyway, in keeping with the real meaning and spirit of Christmas, I’d like to feature what I consider one of the highlights of the CD. Hope you enjoy it.

And Floyd: you know I had to do this.  In fact, I included this just for you!

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.

Nostalgia#4

Sunday, September 23rd, 2018

It all started with this song.  I had heard it sung on the very first worship CD I ever bought- The Passion Band’s second recording. Christy Nockels actually sang it. In 1999 I went through a revolution in my faith. After spending so many years in legalism, I had started getting out of that around 1995. I had read a book called Wisdom Hunter by Randall Arthur which rocked my world.  By 1999 I was enjoying the freedom from legalism, but there were some dark clouds on the horizon.

They had actually been there. In July of 1998 my father-in-law went to be with Jesus after dying on the operating table for open heart surgery. We were living 6 hours from Jo’s mom who was showing signs of “not being with it.” With a fear of dementia creeping in, I told her it was time to move and I would try to move closer to Sandusky, OH. Some dark clouds were forming in my ministry which I was aware of but never felt them threatening. In August of ’99 Tami visited another church in town (Maryland Community Church) and totally loved it. I asked her if she minded if I went the following Sunday night with her. That is when it all started. I heard the opening song for the first time and heard worship music which rocked. No fog or lights. No hymns. Just worship songs to a beat I liked.  And some good Bible teaching (which I desperately needed). One Sunday led to another to another until Sunday night’s at Maryland were a staple for father & daughter. ‘Course she liked that I bought her something to eat afterwards. 🙂

The clouds became a gathering storm and in June I found myself moving to Sandusky. There is so much more to say about that time but this is not the time or the place. What I can say is that from August of ’99 through June of 2000 the communion I had with God had never been sweeter and I am hard-pressed to find a time since (except following my accidents and the renewal of my love for God and Jo).

Since that first song, many worship songs have gone under the bridge of my “favorites.” I have two which make my list of favorites which I never tire of hearing. One is here by Chris Tomlin. The newest one is this one by Planetshakers (which I featured awhile back).

As I grow more mature in my faith, I’ll find others I like but this is where I am right now. Hope you enjoy it.

Nostalgia#3

Sunday, September 16th, 2018

When I was first introduced to Christian music it was in high school but it was “old” stuff. When I went to college I was introduced to Gospel Quartet music and since that was all I knew (other than my “secular” bands) that was what I listened to. I graduated from college in 1974 and for a few years listened to more “oldies” rock and roll. But in the later half of the 70s I heard of bands like Resurrection Band (Rez Band), Darrel Mansfield, Sweet Comfort Band, and others.  But there was one band which struck my fancy. The first time I heard them I was hooked.

Their album Straight On was played over and over (by LP and cassette). Remember those?  🙂 The ensuing years brought Stella This Ain’t Hollywood; a Double Live album and multiple others. The two founders were friends since 1st grade. They grew up in Memphis and loved rock ‘n roll music. Their conversions to Christ gave them the motivation to make “another kind of music.” Music with meaning.

Eddie DeGarmo and Dana Key were the brain-masters of DeGarmo and Key, one of the pioneers of Christian rock. After a run of over 20+ years of making music together, they chose to make solo projects. One of Dana’s most heart wrenching songs was his song to Eric Clapton following Mr. Clapton’s song, Tears in Heaven. Dana’s song was simply titled Dear Mr. Clapton.  On June 6, 2010 Dana died of a ruptured blood clot at the age of 56.  Tragically his wife died a couple years later at the age of 52.

My song of nostalgia is one DeGarmo and Key’s early songs. But it stands as #3 on my hit list. I never tire of hearing it. I love the lesson it teaches. I love the imagery it presents of the Christian race being a long distance run. I know many of you don’t/won’t like this song, maybe because “I don’t like rock music.”  But all I ask is that you give it a listen. You will be surprised at the lyrics and that it is easy to listen to.

Here is Long Distance Runner by DeGarmo & Key. Sorry I couldn’t find it the lyrics but I think they are pretty clear.

Nostalgia#2

Sunday, September 9th, 2018

Last week I decided I would do a short blog series on my Top 5 songs of all time. My #1 song of all time is Crystal Blue Persuasion by Tommy James and the Shondells. Floyd was not surprised (see comments).  🙂  I guess I’ve written about him quite a bit for him to know.

My #2 song is another one which does not seem to fit the times I grew up in. I was born in 1952 so that means my teenage years were during the ’60s. I graduated from high school in 1970 so my high school years were smack dab in the middle of the “peace, love, sex” era. Woodstock. Haight Ashbury. Black Power. Drugs. LSD.  A whole host of other recognizable markers. But it was the music which set it apart from previous generations.

Before those formative high school years music was different. I can remember a classmate named Chuck. In 8th grade he listened to The Temptations, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, The Four Tops and others. Come 9th grade his musical tastes had changed to rock and the early psychedelic music.  Definitely a 360. But I hadn’t quite latched onto the new music…not yet. That’s where my #2 song of all time comes in at.

There was this group made up of 4 singers. One guy, though, had a really unique voice. Once they hit it big with songs like Dawn (Go Away) and Sherry that voice was never mistaken. In fact, every recording had a signature: “Featuring the sound/voice of Frankie Valli.” I liked the 4 Seasons…still do. I still listen to them. But this one song hit me the first time I heard it and never left. I listened to it over and over (I’m sure my mom got sick of hearing it). I wore out the 45 (remember those?). Then I wore out the album it was on. Even today, I never get tired of hearing it. It featured Frankie’s tenor but not his falsetto voice.

Here is my #2 song of all time. Hope you enjoy it and maybe it will even bring back memories.

Nostalgia

Sunday, September 2nd, 2018

I’m feeling nostalgic for some reason. I didn’t post a song last week because I know my style of music is not most of my reader’s style. But lately, even as I drive and workout or cut grass, Spotify has been on several of my “oldies” lists. So I decided to wax nostalgic for a few weeks. Over the next 5 weeks I’m going to post my Top 5 favorite songs of all time. I don’t know if you have ever done this but I do rankings in my mind a lot. I’m going to start from Top to bottom as opposed to bottom to top.

The ’60s was an age of upheaval and sometimes strange music. A war that seemed to have no beginning; no rhyme or reason; no ending dominated the airwaves. Campus unrest was the norm. Long hair on guys became more common than short hair. Many women went with the long, straight look. Clothes were definitely a different look than the ’50s more prim and proper suit with the straight leg pants.

But the music! The music! Once dominated by doo-wop and lounge-type singers and Elvis suddenly turned 360 degrees. Strange sounds were coming out the guitars. Long guitar and drum solos. Loud music. Songs which talked more openly about sex and drugs were pretty much across the board.  It was during this time I was in my teen years. Jimi Hendrix. Led Zepplin. Vanilla Fudge. Grand Funk Railroad. Even the Beatles were still slightly in the mix (although I never was much of a fan).

Into this mix came my favorite group. Psychedelic they were not. Not by a long shot. I was in Junior High when they hit it big with one song dug out of a bin by a DJ in Pittsburgh. Hanky Panky became a song which launched Tommy James and the Shondells into the atmosphere.  But in time even they were influenced by the music of the Woodstock generation and they released Crimson and Clover. (I always liked the longer version).  But while I like that song, it was the next one which was released that caught my attention and is still today my #1 song of all time. Tommy says it was inspired by his reading of the Bible. He was searching for meaning to life and an escape from the drugs which had begun to take over his life. He read the Bible. His book tells how he accepted Christ but still struggled with his demons. I believe he has put them behind him now. His voice today has lost some of its upper register (as is typical) but it is still rich and soothing.  And yes, I still listen to him…a lot.

So to start out this Top 5 series, here is my #1 song of all time.

From 1969

From a live concert at the Bitter End.

Hope you enjoy!