blog

 

PASTOR’S PEN

 
THROUGHOUT THE WEEK

We are Part of the Story

It is an encounter that takes up only eleven verses (14:22-33) in the book of Matthew.  But it is an encounter that would shape lives from there on.  All of us identifies with one of the personalities involved.  We have Jesus who has just finished a time of prayer and seeks to reconnect with the disciples in a boat in the middle of the lake while a storm blows.  Jesus decides to walk to them, on the water no less.

We have a boat load of disciples who are exhausted, fearful, and I imagine praying.  They have been in this boat for several hours.  Between the wind and waves, the hour is early in the morning and they are still trying to make it to shore.  It is like being caught in a Midwest blizzard with ice and snow with a long way to go.  Of course, they are praying.  Then they see Jesus.

When they see his presence, their first impressions are – don’t know.  To explain it they cast about and fearfully decide it is a ghost on the water.  Then, Jesus calls out to them, “Take heart, it is I.  Do not be afraid.”

Then our other personality reveals himself, Peter.  Whether testimony or confirmation, Peter calls out, “Lord, if it is you command me to come to you on the water.” 

Jesus responds, “Come.”

We all know the story.  Many times, throughout history all of us have identified with Peter or the others within the boat.  We want to believe that we would have the faith of Peter to try.  Then we have moments where we find ourselves staying in the boat with the others.  The thing to remember in these moments, that it is all about Jesus. 

Some of us have the bravado of Peter and say, “Call me to come” and I will.  Others of us say all kinds of things like, “He’s stupid.”  Another might say, “I hope he makes it.”  Another is cheering, “Go, Peter, Go.”  Trust me, there is also one who is saying, “I want to try.”  The neat thing about the story is that all of them together make the story.

I don’t know where you are in your walk of faith.  What I do know is that you are part of the story.  I don’t know if you are in the boat questioning Peter’s decision or cheering.  Maybe you are like Peter and you are already stepping over the gunwales of the boat.  Here’s what I do know, you are part of the story and the only other thing that is important is Jesus.  Keep your eyes on Jesus.

FCC has some big things coming.  Some of us will question.  Others of us will hope.  Others of us will ask, “when is it my turn?”  All of us will draw upon the last vestiges of our strength and know for sure that Jesus is in control.  Keep your eyes on Jesus, he calms the storms and encourages us to take it to the next level, “Do you want to get out of the boat?”

C U on the 13th,

Bill

%MCEPASTEBIN%

Read more...

The Shepherds

The FCC Elders are preparing lunch for the FCC family on the 22nd of September.  Rick is firing up his smoker and preparing several other wonderful delights.  The lunch will be in the Fellowship building following the services.  Invite your family and friends and plan for a wonderful time of fellowship.  It is our elder’s way of showing their appreciation for the church family and all that each of you do. 

During the Old Testament times, the elders would have been like the city council.  At other times, they were counselors to kings and many other political settings.   In another setting in scripture the elders would have been similar to the “Judge.”  The elders led the local synagogues in the New Testament times and as the church begins and develops, we find the elders leading the church.

The titles for the elders throughout scripture may be presbyter, bishops, leaders and overseer.  The Apostle Paul comments (1 Timothy 3:1) “This saying is trustworthy: if anyone aspires to be an overseer, he desires a noble task.” 

My favorite title for an elder is shepherd.  There is nothing that glitters about a shepherd.  In fact, if you get within a few feet of one, he smells like the sheep that he tends.  The job demands have no clock and they tend to stretch the shepherd beyond his comfort zone.  They love the job in order to be at peace with the demands and the job is all about the flock.  Since many shepherds work for an owner, then it really becomes about the flock and the pleasure of the owner.  The shepherd is the owner’s on-site elder.

The owner and creator of the church flock is Jesus.  The church is and always will belong to Jesus.  The men that serve as “elders” are the on-site shepherds of Jesus’ flock.  They have no clock as to the time they put into it.  They will go beyond their comfort zones.  They will pray without ceasing because the flock is threatened.  They will spend countless hours scouring the directions (reading His Bible) of the owner, Jesus.

So let me urge you like Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account, so that they can do this with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” 

Enjoy the “Shepherd feed”

Bill

%MCEPASTEBIN%

Read more...

It Won’t Be Easy

     Recently a coach was sharing of the change in commitment of many young potential athletes today.  He noted that there was an increase in attitude whereby there was no desire to work hard or put in the energy needed to be good at what they do.  This lack of commitment (or the easy way) among us will contribute to the untruth among us.  The Apostle Paul mentioned in the letter to Titus (1:11-13) They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. 12 One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth.
 
     It takes committed effort to overcome untruth, gossip, and even controlling the tongue.  When our culture leans toward a lack of commitment, it contributes to the trials among us.  Overcoming these cultural trends is not easy.  How will we do it?
 
     The force of the wind and the waves are constant and brutal, yet the lighthouse keeps standing in the trial.  Just like the lighthouse, when the stresses of our times beat against what is true and what is right, we must stand.  It is important to be steadfast.  It isn’t easy.
 
     When the cultural mud flows around us, it is easy to be stuck and even pulled down into it.  The language of our lips declares truth, righteousness and worship of God.  For many of us this means soaking our minds in scripture and prayer.  Only when the water that comes of Jesus (John 4:10) flows outward from within us will the mud be gone.  It is important to be of the mind of Jesus.  It isn’t easy.
 
     When towing a massive truck – one weak link can snap the chain.  The chain of “the gathering” (the church) is only as strong as its weakest link.  How do you change a cultural mindset that seems driven to spiritual darkness?  It requires that all the links in the chain are strong so that “the gathering” becomes important.  It is important to spend time gathered with the church.  It isn’t easy.
 
     I would urge you grit your teeth, spiritually shoulder the task, look forward in Jesus and do what is right with God.  It won’t be easy.

C U Sunday,

Bill

 
P.S. – Our Elders are planning to celebrate the family of FCC on the 22nd of September plan to be here and bring a friend.
%MCEPASTEBIN%

Read more...

Endurance = Faithfulness

When life hands us the uneasy what will come of it?  For most of my life I have been a runner.  It was my claim to identity.  When struggling with the pecking order of the first-grade school yard, my place was determined by running faster than everybody else.  My first trial in running was a regional track meet and coming in last.  Being able to outrun my peers in the schoolyard didn’t happen when running with other runners from the region.  My mom gave her tidbit of motherly wisdom while I cried on the way home, “Billy if you would walk to school you would be faster.”  I walked to school until my Junior year of high school even though I had a car.

When life hands us the uneasy, it is easy to curl up in a corner and call it quits.  If you are going to overcome, it becomes a matter of our focus on endurance.  Many of us have moments in life when endurance is important.  We endure the gluttonous feeling of “I ate too much.”  We endure taxes, mechanical expenses, aging and more when it comes to our right to drive and own a car.  We endure many uncomfortable, frustrating, and even embarrassing moments for our children.  But when challenged by life’s hardships with other things we surprisingly back away and curl up in our corner and show no evidence of endurance.  Why is that?

For many of us it is our Christian walk.  God calls us to obedience, but it challenges our pleasures.  Endurance disappears.  The Bible calls us to church attendance whereby we grow, but it cuts into our weekend. Endurance disappears.  Jesus speaks to loving the unlovable, but they make us so angry.  Endurance disappears.  Endurance becomes the fruit we don’t want to grow.

James (1:2-4) tells us, Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”  We live in the culture of the easy which is resistant to endurance.  But the nature of Jesus (Hebrews 12:2) “…who for the joy set before him endured the cross,…”calls to us endure.

 

Next time you consider curling up and forgetting your trials know that you are growing the spiritual fruit called endurance.  Paul says (2 Timothy 2:12-13), “If we endure, we will also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us; If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself [God].  Now that’s endurance God continues to be faithful, no matter what.

 

C U Sunday
Bill
%MCEPASTEBIN%

Read more...

Why don’t we just “get along?”

We live in a time that it is not easy to get along.  The news is full of the “don’t get along” so there’s no need for me to illustrate that.  Social Media is swamped with the “don’t get along” so, why would I need to tell you about that.  Morning coffee groups tend to separate into those who think one way or the other.  Work becomes driven with making sure that you don’t offend the one in charge.  School is made up of cliques burdened with peer pressure this way or that.  So, our temptation becomes “this is what I think and if you are hanging with me, you will think the same way I do.”

The American culture thrives on “this is what I think.”  We tend to idolize the independent thinker and if you disagree with me, we “don’t get along.”  If you don’t think so, just check out the historical continental congress and even some of the early campaigns (1700s and early 1800s).  For instance, look at the John Adams and Thomas Jefferson bid for the presidency.

Take another step back in history, the Garden of Eden and the recently created Adam and Eve.  God’s standard was clear (Genesis 2:17), “Don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”  The relationship that Adam and Eve shared with God was unbelievable.  God made a regular physical appearance to them in the garden.  All of them cherished this time together.  But man sought to be his own “man” and sin enters the creation.  Pretty much the first thing to vanish was the relationship with God.  Why is it that the first thing to disappear with our independent thinking are our relationships?  Furthermore, why is it that in order for a relationship to thrive we must practice humility and lay aside some of our independence?

It isn’t easy to be humble.  Our schools are educating children in teamwork and humility.  The workplace is striving to put forth a vision which draws together members of the work force in teamwork and humility.  The greatest victories of America are the ones where we come together (usually against a common foe) and humbly accept each other.  Why is it then that God’s creations are looked upon as trivial and out-of-date? 

God created man & woman who humbly lay aside their independence and are joined together in marriage.  God created family and siblings to teach us that humility in sharing is a priority for relationships.  God created church in which our priorities are humbly relating to God first and then, each other.  One instance, foot washing doesn’t happen with independent thinking.  God created government and the only way that it really works well is when “…he who is least among you all—he is the greatest. (Luke 9:48).”

It isn’t easy to relate with someone else, but the benefits are God made.

Bill


Read more...

Prayer — Our testimony with God

It is a rather common occurrence to lay down our phone and not be able to find it.  It is such a problem they created an app to locate your phone.  Or so they say.  Recently Susie misplaced an iPad on a flight we were on.  What you thought would have been easy instead led us to “limbo land.”  The iPad was never to be found. 

The process to find the lost iPad led us to the airline stewardess (multiple times).  Then it took us to Apple.  Then we were directed to AT&T.  Then we were told to check with lost and found at the airline.  Then we were told to fill out a form(s).  Meanwhile everybody kept referring us back to the app.  I seriously think that our iPad found its way to another dimension and a galaxy far, far away.  But trust me we searched valiantly for that iPad.

Many people approach God in prayer as if there were an “app for that.”  Every time you push the app on your phone another prayer is uttered.  Several different faiths have turned prayer into rituals of such as spinning a metal cylinder or hanging a prayer flag so that every time it waves in the wind a prayer is sent God-ward.  Many of us think that when more of us are praying it will tip the scales with God and the answers will have a positive ending.  Prayer wasn’t meant to be a mindless ritual whereby God will automatically produce our request. 

Among the first occurrences in Genesis of a new creation – man & woman had time each day sharing with God.  When sin entered our world in Genesis 3 among the first tragedies that occurred was that God had to search for man and woman who hid in shame.  Their sharing time was broken.  If we were to call this time “prayer” — which I believe it is – prayer immediately became far more complicated.  Therefore, when we seek to pray it will not come easily.

There are multiple obstacles to our prayers and our sharing time with God.  They will range from busy-ness to misunderstandings.  Sin will influence our hearts and our prayers.  If you remember, Adam & Eve hid from God.  Sometimes we are hiding from God.  Rituals can invade our desire to have sharing time with God.  However, if we persist and truly want to spend time with God, our prayer lives will become rich testimonies of what God has done and is doing. 

Remember the face of Moses glowed because of his sharing time with God.  Because of it, Moses had to wear a veil.  Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 

May your prayer life lead to the need to wear a veil.

C U Sunday,

Bill

%MCEPASTEBIN%

Read more...

The Next Step

It is hard to sit in a dentist chair while he drills into your teeth.  It is hard to wait in line for the ice cream treat.  It is hard to bend over and tie your shoe.  It is hard to keep focus while the driver’s license instructor rides with us.  It is hard to visit family in the hospital or the nursing home.  It is hard to process and respond in a job interview.  For me it gets harder and harder to sit in a meeting even if it is headed for a great outcome.  Did you notice that all these hardships have the hope of something good to come?

Life is full of hardship.  Easy is ever allusive for the things that count.  We have been taught that most everything that is worth anything requires hard work.  So, why would faith be any different?  Jesus comments throughout the gospels about faith.  He spurs us on to growing our faith further.  And just like the many hardships in the first portion of this blog, there is hope as to good to come.

I would invite you to a special gathering that Susie and I will host Sunday, July 7th.  It will be this one Sunday during the Sunday School hour.  Whether you are a new face in our church family and trying to determine your next step, or a Christian of decades looking for the next step – you are invited to come.  Maybe you are interested in church membership and seeking to plug in further or you desire to join a prayer team – you are invited to come.  Or you are seeking to grow your faith and are uncertain of what to do – you are welcome to come.  It is my intent to help you with your next step.

The walk of faith is full and wonderful, but it requires effort.  At times it may even be hard.  Our desire is to create a special time to help people in their walk by helping with the “Next Step.”  It may be plugging you into a small group or sharing some material that will help.  It may be helping you with counseling for some of life’s hardship.  It may be walking you into a new relationship with Jesus, please come.  Susie and I hope to help with the next step.  You will find us across from the nursery in the conference room during the Sunday School hour (9:30 to 10:15) on July 7th.

God Bless — C U Sunday,

Bill

%MCEPASTEBIN%

Read more...

Fatherhood, an image of God

There is nothing easy about being a dad.  For many a dad, fatherhood comes with no instructions.  In my library is the book by Bill Cosby called, Fatherhood.  It was a gift and a joy to read.  It was so comforting to read a number of his experiences that were similar to my own.  Then the image of Bill Cosby has fallen into shame lately and his image of fatherhood is questioned. 

Another image that we build upon is the image that we grew up with.  Many of you would tell stories of your dad and glow.  While still others would mumble your experiences with shame.  My dad was an image of a self-made college grad who had grown up a farmer’s son.  He was the only one of his family to graduate college.  He loved God and loved serving as a minister of God’s Word.  He cherished faith in Jesus at all cost and his greatest joy was a family of faith that lives his passion for Jesus.  All three of us boys are ministers still and my sister (the youngest) a teacher to teachers and very passionate about Jesus.

But in a culture where fatherhood calls out to absent fathers.  It is so easy to do the biology of fatherhood but being a father is not so easy.  Varied studies tell us that our image of God is fashioned after our image of our father.  This is unfair to God because even the best of fathers will be far less than what God deserves.  It isn’t easy to be dad.

So, how do we give God the image of fatherhood that he deserves?  Again, it isn’t easy.  It begins with spending time in the family album, the Bible.  Next would be blocking out more time with God through worship and prayer (which could be one and the same).  Then dwelling with other siblings in Jesus.  One thing for sure is that image you’ve framed of your earthly father (even though your dad was great) is unfair to God.  Pull that image out of the frame and give God the image that comes of knowing him through scripture, prayer and gathering with the family (church) time.

Meanwhile take your dads to church next Sunday,

Bill

P.S. – Thank you to so many for making this past Sunday (Leadership Sunday) so special.  Especially thank you to Martha & the kitchen crew.  You were amazing.

%MCEPASTEBIN%

Read more...

Easy will not Do

    Easy tends to be a pattern found in so many things.  We tend to like easy, but the truth is that with many things easy is not good for us.  If you choose to sit versus exercise (even just walk around) there will be consequences.  If you choose to eat what taste good and have several helpings which is easy to do.  There will be consequences.  If you choose to sleep which is so easy instead of study, your grades will definitely take a dip.
 
     The same is true with faith.  Many of us will seek to take the easy way.  God’s wonderful gift of grace even tends to lend to this temptation of easy faith.  James (2:19) records that “Even the demons believe…” in grace.  If your faith amounts to no more than belief you may be stuck in the easy way.  So, if you are to practice a faith that leads beyond easy it will require the un-easy.  How do we do that?
 
     One of the first verses that my dad had me learn was 2 Timothy 2:15   “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”  Oops, pardon my King James, my early learning is showing.  In order for you to know how to grow in faith you must dwell in God’s Word.  Next, I would urge you to plug into one of our existing or new small groups.  Hangin with those who are in the word helps grow faith in us.  Then trust me, life will supply struggles to come that will exercise your faith.  Struggles are more do-able with faith in God and knowing he is present.
 
     These are only a couple of things that will grow faith, but it is a great place to start.  So hopefully we will see you in small groups and studying God’s Word.

C U Sunday,

Bill

P.S. – Plan to be at our leadership ordinations at 10:30 on Sunday, 9th of June.  This will be followed by a potluck.

%MCEPASTEBIN%

Read more...

The Age of Illusion

     We live in an age of the illusion.  Many of us will post a special connection on FB in hopes that our volumes of FB family will see it and respond.  We savor these connections that at most may make a comment.  But as to the sacrifices that come of relationships – comments come easy.  Relationships require far more than a post.
 
     The illusion shows itself in other ways too.  Our desire for things leads us to think that all will be well if I have this.  For instance the newlyweds that want to have all the things that mom & dad have.  It is the career shift that will make my world better.  It is driving the latest and most colorful vehicle.  It is the college degree at all cost that will set the stage for my tomorrow.  It is the healthy gimmicks that will build my form or vanquish death.  Many of us will build our world upon these illusions.
 
     Hollywood attracts us to the glitter of experiences.  Afterall what can be sweeter than an overnight fling.  Or more rewarding than the delight of a child.  My favorite illusion of glitter is that all of life’s problems can be solved in 30 minutes or at the longest 2 hours (or three hours if you’ve been to the new Avenger’s movie).  All that glitter will disappear with the daylight of reality, an illusion.
 
     Illusions even show themselves in our spiritual beliefs.  Most funerals talk of reunions in heaven when Jesus is very clear that the “way is narrow …and there are few who find it (Matthew 7:13-14).”  Grace has become the “Get out of hell free” card.  Illusion shows itself in the numbers that attend church on Sunday and live as if Jesus has no place in their life Monday thru Saturday.
 
     So how do we see through the mist called illusion?  Focus on knowing Jesus.  He is truth.  John 18:37 shares, …Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”
 
     Next, realize that prayer and Bible time are a priority not a backup.  Finally, spend time with people of truth – the church, because we are all wrestling our ways through illusion.  What one of us has tackled may help another of us.
 

Gather with us Sunday and lay your illusions aside.

Bill

%MCEPASTEBIN%

Read more...