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#Burdened#NotHeavy

Saturday, March 28th, 2020

W.E. Sangster was a Methodist pastor in England who lived from 1900-1960. He was so well-respected as a pastor that he would often interview possible candidates for ministry within the Methodist church. On one particular occasion he was interviewing a young man who said he was rather shy and not the sort of person who would set the Thames river on fire- that is, stir up the city.  The story goes that Dr. Sangster said, “I’m not interested to know if you could set the Thames River on fire. I want to know if I picked you up by the scruff of the neck and dropped you into the Thames, would it sizzle?”

He was looking for what we could call passion in that young man.  Paul carried a passion for the church at Colossae. We can see it oozing out of his pores (okay his writing) in this letter. We can see it especially from the passage we will be studying this week: Colossians 2:1-7.  A parent carries a burden for his or her children. The owner of a company carries a burden for its success and (hopefully) the welfare of his employees. A coach carries a burden for teaching his or her players to be winners. A pastor carries a burden for the church he is shepherding.

That is a burden worth carrying.  With the absence of personal “touch” and the plethora of online streaming, it is easy to lose touch with the people. I’m trying not to. I love the folks God has given me the pleasure to pastor. I carry a burden for them I did not know possible. Please pray for us this week. Thanks.

#Lent#15

Monday, March 16th, 2020

First place. That is what Colossians 1:18 is speaking about. “He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent.” Preeminent.

What is somewhat ironic is the false idea we have in our world of everything BUT Jesus taking first place. In verse 15 Paul uses the word image, which is the word likeness. It is also the word from which we get icon, i.e. idol.  Just think about it a moment. How often have we made something an idol?  When that happens we have allowed that thing/item to occupy the place of Jesus in our life.  Rather than belabor the point, let’s cut to the chase. Perhaps it is time to give Him:

First place in our family.

First place in our marriages.

First place in our profession.

First place in our sports.

First place in our worship.

First place in our possessions.

First place in our friendships.

First place in our viewing.

First place in our music.

You can add more but you get the point. The one I omitted speaks to all of us: First place in our lives.  Don’t you think it’s time? I certainly do.

#Truth’sTruth#Can’tForget

Wednesday, January 8th, 2020

In my last post I talked about PostModernism and the importance of feelings to our culture’s way of thinking.  I can’t think what I want to think because it is “all about me anyway.” I don’t like God’s rules or standards so I’ll make up my own. Talk about a world of hurt for a world in hurt!!

For this post I’d like to take you a bit further. Back in April of 2018 I purchased a book by Steve Lawson entitled The Moment of Truth. Steve is a pastor, a professor and has a ministry dedicated to biblical preaching. I bought it because I was appalled by what some were calling preaching these days. You know…the kind of nonsensical garbage from the “Your Best Life Now” author and others who want to preach their own ideas as Gospel-even though those ideas violate Scripture. Even though they leave out vital truths like sin, salvation by the blood of Christ, etc. Anyway, I digress. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t falling into that hole myself so I bought this book.  The first chapter was titled “What is Truth?” and he gave 8 distinguishing marks of truth. I chose 4 that I shared this past Sunday. The main thoughts are his; the commentary is mine.

#1- Truth comes from God. Truth is divine. All truth originates with God.  I’m certainly glad it doesn’t originate with man. We can’t even make up our minds what we are going to wear in the morning! Salvation is what God says it is. A lifestyle is wrong or right by what God says, not what I think.

#2- Truth reigns supreme. Truth is absolute.  Our culture may say truth is relative but it isn’t. Just like water conforms to its container, so does our version of “truth” today. Not God’s version.  Let me give you an illustration; I am 6’5″ tall. You can disagree with me but it doesn’t change the truth. You can say I’m only 5′ or I am a giant and must be 7’6.” But your thoughts don’t change the truth.

#3- Truth is a fact. Truth is objective. Truth never blurs the line of distinction. We can’t say something is truth one minute and then “fudge” the next. That is why we can’t base truth on our feelings. They change and waver too much.

#4- Truth stands as truth. Truth never contradicts itself. What is says once; it says again and again. If it changes then it is not the truth. God doesn’t say to you, “I love you with grace” but turn to me and say, “I can’t stand you. You aren’t good enough for me.” God’s truth is always the same.

Four marks that make truth stand out. I hope you will grasp onto truth and not let go. What do you think?

#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?

#ChristmasChallenge#Post19

Thursday, December 19th, 2019

One verse that may seem to have nothing or very little to do with Christmas has been one of my favorite verses for as long as I can remember. I have a plaque in my office with this verse on it. The verse is John 3:30. When John’s disciples are offended that Jesus is garnering more attention than John, he answers their statement with the words: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Other translations might say, “He must become greater; I must become less.” No matter how you shake it, they all the same thing: Jesus must become more; I must become less.

Can anyone think of a time in the Bible where the greatness of Jesus is seen any more than at His birth and at His death? Why? His greatness is shown by his humility. First, the whole reincarnation miracle (truth) blows me away. Second, to realize the humility He displayed for that to happen is mind-boggling! Sorta makes our petty jealousy and one-upmanship seem childish and silly. Here was the King of all laying down His pride, His status, His desire to display a humility that is unmatched. How can I insist that my agenda is the one that’s right? How can I insist that I do this or that? How can I be jealous when someone else gets to sing, play, speak, whatever and I don’t?  Christmas is a time for many things. It most certainly should be the time where we lay aside “us” and promote Him.  (You did notice the emphasis on the previous questions did you not?)

Humility-Jesus becoming greater and me becoming less-is where I need to be. It’s a trait that needs to be more common in my life. John 3:30 needs to be more than a verse in the Bible or on a plaque; it needs to be written on every page of my heart.

“Father, may You become more in my heart so there is less of me there. And may you become more in my thoughts and actions so people see less of me and more of you.”

Check out my fellow #ChristmasChallenge bloggers:

Diane at Hadarah.

Ed at Word!

#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.