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PASTOR’S PEN

 
THROUGHOUT THE WEEK

A Christmas Prayer

I tend to see from one year to the next by the Christmas last year to the Christmas of this year.  Maybe you do too.  This last year was …

Father, thank you for mortality.  I turned sixty this year.  My mind wanders to where the years have gone.  I see youth and the many pleasures that I was reckless with but thank you for those times.  I look forward and as my vision becomes more physically limited it signifies my view of the future is more and more limited too whereby, I trust more in you.  “Walk with me,” I hear you say.

Father, thank you for church that has been my mission almost since birth.  You have taught me times of loyalty despite what I feel through your church.  You have raised me up time and time again through your church.  You have walked me and your church through many heartaches and joys.  Our rally call has been “For Jesus.”  Thank you for the treasure of years spent in your church.  Especially these last fifteen spent with your church in Nevada.  She has blessed me many times and led me into many experiences that I familiarize more with you.  The church is your bride, may we present her more beautifully to you.  Thank you for the many saints that are helping in this process.

Father, thank you for Jesus.  He is the difference in our world.  There is so much that is right within our world because of Jesus.  And with an ache in us, we see so much that is wrong because Jesus completes your mission with perfection.  Jesus blends your perfection and humanity completely as you wanted it.  As Jesus was born so came grace.  As Jesus death restored was our relationship with you.  As Jesus arose a new age began, and your church led by your Spirit leads us into eternity.  Thank you for Jesus, our big brother and King.

Father, thank you for all that is precious: our very being, our marriage, our family, our nation and our salvation.  Thank you, Father for eternity with you through a price that we can only imagine.  Thank you for your Spirit’s presence in this world as we are challenged by so much.  Thank you for the church, your bride as the day draws closer.  Thank you for being the eternal Father and your love for us.

Father protect us from the times to come.  Protect us from the evil one.  Protect us from those things that would draw us away from you.

Until Jesus comes again, Amen.

%MCEPASTEBIN%

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A Mission Grounded in History

     In First Christian history, you will read about the gathering before the Civil War that would become our roots.  Significant things will show themselves as you follow our history.  Among several photos that have been saved is the photo of 1927 in which 1194 people are outside the building on Washington Street.  Another tidbit is the fire of 1948 that destroyed the building, but within the year it had been rebuilt.  Still another is the doctrinal differences that led this church family out of a denomination.  Some of our history is victorious and other parts of our history is painful.  What is present throughout and continues to be the force in FCC is our mission, a mission found in Bible.
 
     Several decades ago there was a store called Montgomery Ward.  It grew into a catalog giant.  It then developed several retail stores throughout the nation.  Then it transitioned to a retail presence in many large cities.  Eventually retail sales went another direction and the Wards mission didn’t really change.  Montgomery Wards disappeared.  I remember buying a beautiful rocking chair for Linda from Wards and my daughter Jae still has it.  The rocker has outlasted the store.
 
     The FCC setting has changed many times throughout history.  The mission is still our force.  It is a mission built right out of the Bible.  Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
 
     Imagine our setting, what does it look like for the decade to come.  The mission hasn’t changed, but the setting may need a vision built with imagination.  God has given us some fantastic tools and outreach that is only limited by our vision.  So, what do you see?  We are building relationships with God: beginning with your relationship with God, followed by reaching out to help each other in our relationship with God and finally to help those outside our building to have a relationship with God. The mission calls to us.  It is a mission bound within the will of God, so I urge you pray and support the mission.  Imagine how we could build upon God’s call.

C U Sunday,

Bill

 

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Imagine a thank you so big…

Imagine a thank you so big, that you couldn’t see over it.  Imagine a thank you so big, that you couldn’t get under it.  Imagine a thank you so big, that you couldn’t get around behind it.  Now that you have the image in your mind.  I would say thank you for being the church family you are.

Not once but twice you have walked through issues of my physical heart.  Sometimes it does my heart good to remember the presence of this church family in those times.  You have walked with me when my mom and dad died in an auto accident.  You have walked through the ache of my heart when Linda was diagnosed with ALS and then would leave me in death.  You gave meaning of being the church during that time.  You walked with me as we celebrated the union of Susie and I.  What a joy to know that you helped raise Susie to be the blessing she is.  Imagine the size of my thank you.

I am but one testimony of what this church has done.  Imagine the mission for this church to come.  We are about relationships with God. 

We have marriages that have lasted the span of lifetime.  We have ministers that have grown up among us.  We have generations that profess their heritage among us.  We have memories bound up in what Jesus has done.

God loved us so much (Imagine how big that must be.) that He gave his only son to die for us, so that we might have eternal life with God.  We are about building relationships with God.  My prayer is that our offering of miracles (December 30th) proclaims our testimonies.

Imagine with me, C U Sunday.

Bill


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How do we build a mission?

     When you begin to build a mission, you must establish what it is that drives us.  My blog on at the beginning of November declares we at FCC are about building relationships with God.  Then after declaring a mission comes the how.  How do we do it?  What are the priorities that set us apart?
 
Mission highlights: we had toward 300 children (not counting parents, siblings and grandparents) pass through our Halloween Trunk or Treat.  We sent 97 boxes to Operation Christmas Child.  We gave out all of 200 tickets for our Friday showing of “I Can Only Imagine,” over 60 came to see it.  We shared with several shut-in veterans a visit and a gift of cookies.  We gave out over 142 Thanksgiving baskets to our local community last Saturday.
 
     Mission highlights are part of our mission, but we don’t exist to put together thanksgiving baskets or be a movie theatre.  The baskets are a symbol of our priority.  So, what gives us guidance in our varied mission efforts?
 
     Our first priority is portraying, and teaching Bible as God says it.  I heard countless times “whose interpretation is right?”  I have responded as many times, “It is only God’s interpretation that counts.”
     Second priority is (borrowing the words of Micah 6:8) “…to act justly, and to love mercy….”  We seek to be righteous when unrighteousness tends to be the norm.  We seek to be kind and compassionate because this is what God calls us to be.
     Next priority is to be good stewards of what God has given us.  In Matthew 25:14-30 is a parable of talents.  When the master leaves he shares varied talents with each servant.  The master expects returns upon those talents.  We seek to hear the Master say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.  You have been faithful with a few things…Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Vs. 21)
     Our final priority is to be a mission presence.  Jesus was leaving this earth shortly after his death and resurrection.  The book of Matthew closes with these words, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
     Jesus calls us to be mission present.  In other words, we are constantly seeking to build relationships that will grow closer to God.  Ourselves with God, Others with God, Ourselves & others lifting each other up with God and God with us.
 
     Our “how?” is portrayed in the Bible as God says it.  God says to “…act justly & love mercy,” God says to be good stewards of our gifts, God says to be a mission presence.
C U Sunday, may you have wonderful time of giving thanks this week,
Bill
 

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What Hinders a Sacrifice?

     Several years ago, when Susie and I first married her daughters came to visit.  We all loaded into my Chevy pick up and went to get a bite to eat.  I didn’t buckle my seatbelt.  Erica noticed and after hearing my ramblings about why I didn’t, she simply said, “It’s the law.”  It requires sacrifice to wear a seatbelt.
 
     I rode my bike to the office many years ago and didn’t wear a helmet.  Ellen Balk was the secretary then and told me of several settings where the bike rider suffered for not wearing a helmet.  She finally bartered a deal with me that I would wear a helmet while riding my bike and she would wear her seatbelt while in a car.  Every now and then when I see her, I will ask her if she is still wearing her seatbelt.  She is, so I still wear my helmet.  It requires sacrifice to wear a bike helmet.
 
     What hinders you from doing a sacrifice?  The testimonies I shared — the biggest hindrance was my nature.  You can call it what you will – pride, hardheadedness (goes well with the lack of a bike helmet), selfishness, or even sin.  Sacrifice according to David in 2 Samuel 24:24 “…I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God which cost me nothing.”
 
     I heard a speaker one time say of Romans 12:1 (…to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.) “the trouble with a living sacrifice is that it keeps crawling off the altar.”  So, what hinders you?
 
     Paul writes in Philippians 1:27-28 I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel     28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.  We are asking you to prayerfully consider above and beyond your normal giving a sacrifice.  There is no question that things will hinder your sacrifice, but our “…striving together as one for the faith of the gospel…” will become a testimony of what God is doing.

 

C U Sunday,

Bill

Mission highlights: we had toward 300 children (not counting parents, siblings and grandparents) pass through our Halloween Trunk or Treat.  We sent 95 boxes to Operation Christmas Child.  We gave out all of 200 tickets for our Friday showing of “I Can Only Imagine,” over 60 came to see it.  We shared with several shut-in veterans a visit and a gift of cookies.  We are planning to give out over 140 Thanksgiving baskets to our local community this Saturday.


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Seeking to Build Relationships with God

     The view changes depending upon where you are.  Recently, my son Andy & his wife Annie adopted a little boy who has partial vision.  His name is Luke.  While on a trip to settle several of the final adoption issues they were able to spend time with just Luke (they now have three boys).  One of the photos showed Luke feeling the leg of an elephant statute.  Annie’s comment refers to a story where the blind men were describing the elephant, “The blind man touched the elephant – and, predictably said it was a tree.”
     When we look at FCC, the view changes depending upon where you are.  Many would declare First Christian the building of steeple and stained glass.  Others would declare First Christian to be the site of their heritage because their family attended there.  Still others would see a place of generosity because of the Emmanuel baskets they received.  Much like the blind man and the elephant, these are only partial views.  What is your view?
     The view that counts most is the view coming from heaven.  Several times in the second & third chapter of Revelation Jesus declares, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”  God definitely has a view of the efforts of His church.  God’s view is a complete view of who we are.  After we consider His view, then you can begin to seek and listen to those within the church.
     A view that has bearing upon the church is the leadership of the church.  It becomes the priority of church leadership to seek God’s view and build a harmonious view that leads the church through time.  1 Chronicles 12:32 briefly mentions the “…men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do….”
     The view that I have formed of FCC throughout the almost fifteen years that I have served here is, we are a church body seeking to build relationships with God.  Whether you are new to the faith or have served God for a lifetime my prayer is that you can find the tools you need to draw closer to God at FCC.  My next prayer is that you are building relationships with each other while drawing near to God.  Finally, my prayer is that we help others to draw closer to God.
     I say all of this to point out a date that will soon be upon us.  December 30th is the last Sunday of this year.  Our church has a mission that has been, and will be vibrant until Jesus comes, to build relationships with God.  We have so many views of who we are and what we are doing that I hope to share a few with you over the next two months.  We as leaders call you to consider giving to an offering of miracles on December 30th, the last Sunday of this year.  It will be an offering that is the testimony of mission, to build eternal relationships with God.  I would urge you to begin praying and nurturing the thought of a gift that will test your faith.  God says in Malachi 3:10, “Test me in this and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.”
     The power of this offering of miracles is your view.  May your view be a testimony that FCC is seeking God’s view.

C U Sunday,

Bill


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How should a Christian be involved in politics?

     Did you know that if you were born in Puerto Rico you are an American Citizen?  This is like the Apostle Paul being born in Tarsus.  He was born in a area that was not Rome, but by the time that he was born anyone born there would be a citizen of Rome.  Saul (his Jewish name) at this time chose to be a citizen of Judea.  Judea struggled with Roman rule.   Judea sought to be a country where God ruled.  Thereby they formed a group called the Sanhedrin that was a representative government of the leaders of God (Pharisees) and leaders of the community (Sadducees). Saul sought to be politically involved as a Pharisee.
 
     That being said, this tells us that Saul (Paul) sought to be politically involved.  In fact, his persecution of the church was a politically charged strike ordered by the Sanhedrin and Saul was a major force.  Then in Acts 9 Saul has a confrontation with Jesus that changes not only his name, but his priority.  Paul begins to preach Jesus at every opportunity in communities throughout the Roman empire.
 
     His citizenship becomes kingdom motivated, he is a citizen of God’s kingdom first.  He is a child of God, an apostle of Jesus Christ, a bond servant (slave), Paul refers to himself in many roles but rarely a citizen of Judea or Rome.  When he does, it is only as it would serve the kingdom of God.  This is a Biblical example of someone with a priority of being involved in politics, only as it serves God and his kingdom.
 
     My last blog the point was made to be informed, to be true to the conviction of God (pray) and to vote for what God leads.  Jesus calls us to be light in darkness.  Jesus also refers to us as salt in a world needing flavor.  Salt is such a small thing, but in the first century world it had tremendous qualities that were highly esteemed.  As Christians we are the salt that flavors, preserves, medicates, purifies and it should show in our vote.  It should be heard in our voice.  It should be evident in our stand.  If the community wants to know what God thinks about it…we should be the source, God’s kingdom – the church.
 
     Some Christians will seek office and my prayer is that they are Christian politicians, not political Christians.  The difference in title declares what is at the heart of their politics.  We are Christian, citizens of God’s kingdom and this will have bearing on our politics.  I am a Christian American, not an American Christian.  How would God vote on marijuana, Bingo, or abortion?

 

“We have an immense amount of power over how we interpret the world… It’s not, ‘Oh I’m going to wish things are good and therefore they are going to be good.’ It’s knowing that we add a lot of interpretation on top of our realities.” — Ryan Holiday

 

God Bless,

Bill

 

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Politics & Prayer

Politics seem to raise feelings for most everyone.  The feelings cover a vast range of emotions.  They may be frustration, anger, injustice, or just plain withdrawal from it all.  Politics seems to build dividing lines among us whereby we say, “we don’t discuss politics.”  Then we use the visual of politics to describe other elements of leadership that we see.  For instance, we say of the schools, “they are just too political.” Or we declare of the church leadership team, “I just couldn’t support them because they are too political.”  So, the very idea of politics tends to turn us off quickly and we have no tolerance for any of it.

The Bible is full of politics.  It was political differences that led to the first sin.  Satan’s temptation was voiced with politics, “…God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  Webster’s dictionary says that politics is the art or science of government.  It would appear that Satan is tempting man to challenge God for governing this creation.  This is one event.  In Hebrews it says the angels will serve us.  This is another picture of politics even into eternity.  Paul tells us that no government rises into position unless God is involved (Romans 13).  What of David, Solomon and even the messianic text?  Politics radiate throughout the pages of the Bible.

So, what should be the mindset of the Christian during these times?  First, remember that God is in it.  Romans 13 is clear that government does not exist without God’s presence.  Next, pray for politics.  In 1 Timothy 2, Paul declares that we should pray in several ways “…petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made…for kings and all those in authority,…”  Also realize you have a gift that guides government from the lowest levels, your vote.  Pray and study as to your vote.  The voting booth should not be entered by the saint without surrounding it in prayer.  Your vote becomes a part of the political system at the roots of government.  Abraham Lincoln mentioned this in the Gettysburg Address, “…government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Pray, study upon it and prepare to vote.

Bill


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Impressions

     Claude Monet was a French artist in the 1800’s. His painting style is called “Impressionism” because you can make out the features of the objects in his paintings and perceive what they are, but the edges are fuzzy and the colors are different than expected.  The popular style of the 1800’s was more detailed and exact. When asked by his manager what to call his painting style, Monet responded, “it is my impressions.”
 
     The apostle Paul states something similar about our impressions of God, love, and what is to come when he says in 1 Corinthians 13:12, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
 
     Many try to declare that they know fully and well the mind of God.  What we know of the nature and mind of God is found in the scripture that God gave us.  Sadly, this scripture gives us only a portion of who God is. A popular trend today is to take a “selfie” in varied settings. Then, after taking this self-made photo on your phone, it is passed along through Facebook, Twitter or some other social media. The image may look like you, but who you are is so much more. Maybe in some faint way it is your impression of who you are.
 
     Scripture then becomes a portrait of God (Maybe you could call it a selfie, but the word “selfie” is too close to the word “selfish” and I wrestle with saying that of God.).  But, like the selfie in nature, the Bible is very limited as to the totality of who God is. He has given us just a little view and He is so much more. God states in Isaiah 55:8-9, For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
 
     So, we may have impressions of God, but we need to be careful of stating what is not in scripture. When Paul wrote his text in 1 Corinthians 13:12, he was so excited about one day knowing the fullness of God and what is to come. My prayer is that you enjoy the impressions and also seek to know the fullness of God.
 
See you in the Park next Sunday (Gage is preaching – come and hear).
Bill

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FCC Services

     The FCC family has the blessing of four services. The services are known primarily by their times, but each has its own personality. We have our 8:00, 10:30, 10:32 services, as well as, for many, the overlooked one; our radio service. It has been my ongoing experience to think of them as children.
 
     Our 8:00 service is the early riser. It is filled with many who do likewise. Most who attend this service have already done several chores and have taken a moment to worship. Many of them are going on from there to continue with doing a number of things. That is a portion of the personality of this service, but we also have those who leave and practice a sense of Sabbath as they enjoy a day of rest which started with worship.
 
     Our 10:30 service has been in many ways the backbone of our church family. It has been the worship hour since — who knows? It has a sense of dominance just like an older child (I should know. Afterall, I am an oldest child.). It has boasted being the financial one. It is considered by many of our older church family to be the standard for FCC, as well it should. But, like many of us, its age shows. So many of our grassroots brothers and sisters are no longer present and we feel it on Sundays.
 
     Then we have our newest service, the 10:32. There is no other service in our area quite like the 10:32 setting. The folks who attend enjoy a coffeeshop style with many of the K-LOVE radio station tunes. They sit at tables and sip coffee while eating morning treats, but worship is highlighted with brothers and sisters of all ages seeking to focus upon Jesus. Its very nature appeals to a younger mindset and it strength is its youth.
 
     Finally, we have our stable and ever-present radio service. It highlights the 10:30 hour by putting it over the air waves for our community to hear. It influenced the nature of the 10:30 hour’s music because the radio required music that is easier to hear. So, you might call it a twin of the 10:30 setting, but it is distinctly, just like a twin, its own being (I should know). Many of those who listen are the aging element of our 10:30 setting. Several in our community have shared with me varied things they heard in our radio hour.  It reaches out to lots of folks who have never been inside the buildings.
 
     FCC has four different personalities we may call the FCC children. They all have FCC in their veins, but each is unique. This is our strength. We are bound by the FCC being and share the FCC leadership direction.  The greatest truth is that we are able to reach out for Jesus even more by our diversity. Pray for the services and seek to support all of them.
C U Sunday
Bill

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