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#ChristmasChallenge#Post9

Monday, December 9th, 2019

It is not unusual to hear or say-and I have-that Thanksgiving should be and is to be more than one day out of the year. Thanksgiving should be 24/7/365. The inference (although it is more than just inferred or implied) is that the spirit of Thanksgiving is so dominant in us that it weaves its way into every day of the year.

What would that mean if I said, “Christmas ought to be every day of the year? Does that mean we ought to have candy and cookies and eggnog and gifts and the other trappings of Christmas all year ’round? (I can say you will have a hard time with me saying no when it involves chocolate. But I digress… 🙂 )

In all seriousness, what does that mean? Seemingly endless shopping? No. Lights and decorations all year ’round? No. A tree in the foyer or living room? No on all counts. To say Christmas all year ’round is to have the attitude we find in Philippians 2: “Have this mind (attitude) among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” Paul had just been talking about doing nothing out of selfishness or conceit. But instead, we are to look out for the interest of others.

THAT’S the spirit of Christmas! Humility. Selflessness. Who couldn’t benefit from an attitude like that displayed. Giving our lives away for the sake of the Gospel.

“Father, may my life exhibit the Christmas spirit of humility and selflessness all year ’round. May Christmas not be just a once a year event but a lifestyle of giving myself away on a daily basis.”

Please check out Diane at Hadarah and Ed at WORD! for other Christmas Challenge offerings.

#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.

#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.

#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.”

 

#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?

#Calling#Shepherd#Presence

Wednesday, September 25th, 2019

This post is a little bit of both worlds: the world of the “big church” and the world of “I’m a shepherd.” They will intertwine so I hope I don’t totally confused you. 🙂

When I started on my journey as a pastor while I was still in college (1972), I admit to total “duncity.” I know that is not a word but that is the way I would describe myself. Clueless might make more sense. What did I know? It was the summer following my Sophomore year and I was asked to preach at a country church-Mt Camel Christian Church in Mt. Sterling, KY. It was 100 miles away from the school. I worked all week and then would head down either sometime Saturday or very early Sunday morning. It was aptly named…it was at the top of a mountain.

As I graduated and became more acclimated to the pastor’s life, I began to see that I was to be a shepherd of the people. I took that seriously, sometimes too seriously, at the sake of my family. I was gone a lot. I didn’t know any better, plus that was the day and age of the visiting pastor. Office work all morning and visiting in the afternoon and many evenings. In my mind I was shepherding my people.

Then came Church, Inc. That was the time in the 90s when being a pastor switched gears. We were no longer shepherds; we were CEO’s. How can I say this? EPIC FAIL for me. And in my mind EPIC FAIL for the church as a whole. I’m not going to mention any names of the gurus, but being a pastor was no longer about being a shepherd but being the “chief vision-giver” of the church. Frankly, I despise that moniker. For one, I don’t work well in a vacuum. I dream best when surrounded by others who can dream as well. Batting ideas off each other. Seeking God’s purpose and plan more than my own.  Not doing things and making decisions unilaterally (although I sometimes have too) but including others in the dreaming and planning process.

Somewhere along the line I came full circle. The best part? I became a shepherd again. Granted I don’t go like I used to. Safety issues (translate that #MeToo, etc)  have changed the way I do ministry. I no longer see females alone, in my office or in their house or at a meal in a restaurant. If they can’t say it with Jo around, they don’t need to be telling me. (She or someone will at least be in the building if I meet with them at the office). But being a shepherd has allowed me to once again adopt something I read from Skye Jethani’s book, Immeasurable:

When I enter the room, I represent the presence of God.

That is especially true of visitation in a hospital or nursing home. I am Jesus to many- and honestly?- that is a very scary thought. But it is true. I am their shepherd and I represent Jesus. No CEO type pastor who sits in an ivory tower; is isolated from people; or looks down on people from “the sacred office” can say that.  I had to learn the hard way that I was wired to be a shepherd.

I would rather represent Jesus any day than some stuffy Church, Inc organization. You can’t put a price on people’s lives and hearts. No matter how badly Church, Inc wants to do that. So leave me out of the Global Leadership Summit and other Church, Inc gatherings. “Father, give me a heart for the people of OVCF.”

I apologize for the length of this “rant.” Thanks for reading this far.  If you have gone this far, I’d sure like to know what your thoughts are.

#MarkedMan#FalseAccusation

Friday, August 2nd, 2019

Someone has said:

To be falsely accused and retaliate is natural; to be accused and remain in control is supernatural.

No one likes to be falsely accused, especially when it has far-reaching consequences. IMHO Joseph might very well be the OT poster boy for being falsely accused.  He is sold into slavery, bought by Potiphar, and eventually distinguishes himself so that he is elevated to top dog in the household. But it only serves to make him a marked man. Talk about pressure! Not work pressure either. Boss’s wife pressure.

He is a new kid in a new culture, one completely different than the only one he had known. Not only does he have that to deal with, he now has his boss’s wife wanting to play footsie with him.  If you know the story you know he resists. Because “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” she falsely accuses him of trying to rape her and he ends up in prison.

Joseph’s public witness took place at work, and raises the question of our own attitude as followers of Christ. Do we, like Joseph, distinguish ourselves at work? Are we trustworthy? Faithful?  Hard working? Resistant to temptation (of every kind)? Pointed questions which need to be addressed. Genesis 39 is where I will be this Sunday.  I’d appreciate your prayers.

#Blessing#Challenge

Sunday, July 28th, 2019

As a grandfather, I have a desire to see my grandson more often than I have the opportunity to. He lives 4 hours away and is actively involved in baseball and football (oh, and school) so his schedule is pretty full. Him coming to visit his grandparents is not high on his list of things to do. And it is not high on his mother’s list either. She is a busy, working mom and wife. Neither Jo nor I begrudge that.  We just know our situation is unique and unless God says, “Time to move” we will be here ministering in Spencer hopefully for years to come.

My girls are adults now, each with their own life. Tami, our oldest, teaches Kindergarten in Bloomington, IN. Janna, our youngest, works in Delaware, OH for a car dealership (not selling but as a jack-of-all-trades doing rentals, office work, receptionist, etc). When they were babies I would often go into their room at night and pray for them and pray over them. I prayed a prayer of surrender, i.e. “Father, these girls are yours. Help me never to hold on to them so tightly I won’t give them to you.” Sort of like Abraham and Isaac. I also prayed for their salvation.

The first time I held Braden when he came home from the hospital and I surprised Janna by being there, I went off by myself with the little guy in my arms and prayed for him. I prayed a blessing over him. I prayed for his salvation and that he will grow up knowing Jesus.

All this flooded back to me as I read I Chronicles 22 Saturday night. David is making preparations for building the temple and then calls his son, Solomon, to him. He tells Solomon about why he is not building the temple (he was a man of war), but he also speaks a blessing over Solomon and challenges him as well.  The blessing is found in verses 11-12: “The Lord be with you.” But he also issues a challenge to Solomon to stand strong and be faithful to God. [Verses 12-13].

What a great opportunity we have as parents and grandparents to speak into our son’s and daughter’s and grandchildren’s lives with a blessing to cover them. I’m not into so-called “positive confession” that the name-it-claim-it people talk about. But I am into praying over and for our children and grandchildren.  In our case, being 4 hours away, that seems to be the next best thing to being there.  Who knows how and when God will answer our prayers for them.