blog

 

PASTOR’S PEN

 
THROUGHOUT THE WEEK

The Presence of God

   It was a dramatic moment when the doctor told us that Linda was dying. It was a dramatic moment when Susie and Kathy put their dad in the Barone Alzheimer Unit. It was a dramatic moment when Susie and I were married before all of you, our FCC family. It was a dramatic moment when Missouri Christian Convention asked me to be president. It was a dramatic moment when Susie and I faced by-pass surgery. It was a dramatic moment when we celebrated our offering of over $21,000 plus at the beginning of this year. These are but a few of the dramatic moments that the FCC family and I have shared.
 
     It is also a dramatic moment for me to think of the changes that will come with stepping away from being the FCC senior minister. After almost sixteen years of ministry here, it is hard for many of you too. The powerful thing that happened in each of these dramatic moments was the presence of each other. For many of these dramatic events, you the FCC family, were there for me. Mutually, I was there for you. The wonderful beauty of it is, God was, and is, there for all of us.
 
     It was a moment filled with drama and fear. Afterall Moses had led the children of Israel for over forty years. Israel had experienced a whole new beginning with Moses. They had received the law. They had established themselves as a nation. They had overcome many chaotic moments and Moses had always been the presence they would remember. Patterns form over time. The dramatic event of Moses stepping away was going to unsettle those patterns.
 
     It seems to me that a rather common occurrence with the presence of God, is that He tends to be overlooked. It was God that divided the sea. It was God that gave the Israelites the law. It was God who laid out the infrastructure by which Israel would live. It was God who led them by cloud during the day and by fire during the night. It was God that provided the manna (daily). It was God that called Moses to the job of leader. Just as it was God that lined up the next leader, Joshua.
 
     Right now, where we are in our present setting, is uncertain and filled with drama. I want you to know and remember this; God is present. God was present when I came to FCC, and God will be present as Dave continues to lead. Trust God and His presence. Next, I urge you to pray. Pray that we and God are on the same page. This is an opportunity filled with so many wonderful possibilities, but only if God is in it.
 
     We are unfolding a prayer plan. Every night we will pray for the year 2020 at 20:20 (8:20) pm. Dave and I urge you to pray for our church family. Set the alarms in your phones for this time to remind you to pray. The leadership team covets your prayers and support during this time. We want God’s presence in this, and we want to be on His page.
Thank you for being the church family that you are, C U Sunday.
 
Bill
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Thankfulness that lends to Faith

Faith brings a transformation to so many things. If you have faith in a vision, it may become a reality. If you have faith in the performance of your team, it may become a win. If you have faith in the system, hopefully you will see justice.
 
Science tells us that the caterpillar faithfully becomes a cocoon by which it transforms into a butterfly. A tadpole faithfully becomes a frog. A tree will faithfully restore its leaves come spring.
 
It is even so with matters of spirituality. Jesus rings the bell called faith several times throughout scripture. “If you have faith you can move mountains.” “Your faith has made you well.” “It shall be done to you according to your faith.” It isn’t unusual for Jesus to reprimand someone for “your little faith.”
 
Faith is mentioned over 200 times in the Bible. It is very clear that faith has tremendous bearing upon our spiritual walk. Many of you aware that faith in God plus water becomes a spiritual grave and resurrection that we call baptism. Faith highlights the communion experience of a cracker and grape juice whereby we are part of the crucifixion scene of Jesus. Faith with the giving of charity lends to God’s response in empowering us with more.
 
Did you know that an ungrateful heart can lean towards reducing faith? Listen to Romans 1:21 “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.”
 
Then follow this thought with Hebrews 11:6 “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”
 
So therefore, a grateful heart would contribute to your faith. In Luke 17:11-19 is the story of ten lepers asking Jesus for a healing. Jesus promptly healed them and urged them to go show themselves to the high priest so that they could return to a normal life. One man (gentile-not Jewish) returned to Jesus to say, “Thank you.” Jesus noticed the absence of the other nine and then responded to the one, “Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.”

 

I would urge you this season to seek a grateful heart, whereby your faith will grow further.

 

Happy Thanksgiving. C U Sunday.

 

Bill
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Legacy or Albatross

     Over forty years ago, I started a library with my college books. Knowing the direction of my future years I began to build upon that with more books. I included magazines that were conducive to my library collection. Then I began incorporating articles, recordings, video and more. Linda proceeded to help too. My office library took on an existence that led to tribute and admiration (at least for me).
 
     Then a season in life came whereby libraries became more about data in a computer program. My first computer library was slow and rather complicated. I found myself getting angry while using it. Then came the next generation of computer library. They told me that I could include it in my will for my children. It is impressive. The problem is getting computer systems that can handle its “H-U-G-E” (say it like the sports announcers) amount of material.
 
     Guess what? The other library is still in my office. Occasionally I pull out a volume for use, or loan one out to some dear searching soul. Now as I downsize for retirement, I realize how many volumes, magazines, cassette tapes, cds, vcr tapes, and dvds, files of material that I haven’t used. I’ve also noticed the memories tied to so much of it. If I dwell too much on the memories, I would never let go of any of it. Then my library would become an albatross for the generations to come.
 
     Susie and I got up rather early the other morning to welcome another little saint into the kingdom of God. Our grandson Evan was baptized. My son asked during our visit, “Do you have any advice?”
 
     I commented, “remain steadfast” and followed with a verse from Colossians 2:6-7, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”
 
     I say all of this about my library because when it comes right down to it – the simple truths are still eternal truths. You will find all of them in one library volume, the Bible. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
 
     I would rather leave my children and grandchildren a legacy of faith in Jesus than an albatross called a library.

 

C U Sunday,

Bill

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The Final Part “Truly you are the Son of God.”

(Blog of October 1st) 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?”
 
     The following writing has for background the story of Peter & Jesus walking upon the water.
     You, the family of FCC, and I are creating a step-out-of-the-boat experience. Just like Peter, the faithful point of this experience is that we are to keep our eyes on Jesus. Susie & I realize the need to do the next chapter in our lives. It will be a stepping-out-of-the-boat chapter. It is our intent for me to be semi-retired as of the first of the year 2020.
     The next step to doing this is that I will resign as the fulltime Senior Minister of FCC effective as of December 31st of 2019. First Christian’s leadership and I are piecing these next few steps together while keeping our eyes on Jesus.
  1. Dave will serve in the capacity of day to day issues along with several of the things that he already does.
  2. I propose to the FCC family that I will fill the pulpit on Sundays. This will be determined by the elders and me. Other places that you see me throughout the church family will be voluntary.
  3. Monday through Saturday you may see me throughout the community doing part time jobs. Please note, this is our home and we plan to be in the community.
     There are several reasons for this decision. The primary ones are my health, time available with family, and our desire to help FCC with her next step. You are welcome to talk with Susie and me about it. Know that the relationship between FCC leadership and I is good and will continue. We hear Jesus saying “Come” and we are stepping-out-of-the-boat, all of us, the FCC family and Susie & I. Pray for the next several steps and continue to keep your eyes upon Jesus. [This resignation was given to the FCC family on October 13th.]
 
     The FCC family has been my rock and my help throughout several life experiences. You have been the reminder and the physical presence of God during these moments. I know that you will continue to be those things now as Susie and I reach this next chapter. Thank you for being the “church” in so many ways throughout the years.
 
     The final part of the step-out-of-the-boat experience was (Matthew 14:32-33) 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

 

May it be likewise for the FCC family and I as we go into the years to come.

Bill

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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

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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

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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.
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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
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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


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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

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