Articles reflecting current events, musings, thoughts, and spiritual insights.

Shocking Events of your Lifetime

SHOCKING EVENTS OF YOUR LIFETIME

I am writing this article on 9/11. I have read and listened and viewed a number of articles reflecting on the events of that day. Nearly 3000 people lost their lives that day which started as a normal work day for those in the towers of the world trade center. THEN the unthinkable. It ended an era of assumed safety and set us on a course of suspicion, heightened security measures, multiplied inconveniences, and put more fear into flying and mass transportation as a whole. The world changed.

In anyone’s lifetime there are defining moments. For my generation, the assassination of John F. Kennedy as our president is emblazoned in the heart and mind. Everyone remembers where they were, what they were doing when the shocking news pierced us. Likewise, the planes flying into the towers on 9/11 caused each of to remember where we were when we caught sight of that horrible tragedy. A generation before us remembers Pearl Harbor attack of December 7th, 1941, and the stock market crash of 1929 and the depression that followed. Those who lived through WWII remember rationing and the fear of a knock on the door to announce the loss of a loved one. There are markers in our lives that evoke strong emotion when remembered. I am moved deeply at the remembrance of most of these events because I strongly identify with the suffering and loss of those who remain. Walls with names engraved such as the Vietnam War Memorial, the list of names at Ground Zero, and the lonely list of names in a field in Pennsylvania pay homage, but stir remembrance.

The Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC strives to keep the history of human suffering alive for the generations that have come since and the generations who will yet come. General Eisenhower ordered that as many pictures be taken as possible because he said that future generations will deny that such atrocities ever happened. Even now Muslim and Neo Nazi groups are saying that it never happened. How prophetic General Eisenhower was.

There is one event in history that does not get forgotten. Most people do not remember cataclysmic events of centuries past unless they are students of history. But this one event has remained at the forefront of history even though a day afterwards false rumors were launched by authorities responsible for the event itself. I am referring to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Resurrection is still at the forefront of faith that has stood the test of time. It has been debated, hated, stories concocted to disprove, but it remains a fact substantiated by a chorus of eye witness testimonies of over 500 people in one event; let alone by others on individual occasions. Add to that the number of unsolicited dreams and visions by those opposed to the idea of a resurrected Jesus; who then believe, and the preponderance of evidence continues to grow.

As we pay honor to those people and events of our lifetime, we still pay honor to the amazing, eternal sacrifice made by Jesus that has stood the test of time and has not faded away, but intensifies with time.

P. Bill

Raging Destruction

RAGING DESTRUCTION

Hurricane Dorian has raged through the Atlantic, striking islands and devastating property and lives. While a number of lives were lost which is sad, tragic, there were thousands of lives uprooted, total loss of home and property, and a thankfulness for a life saved. Starting over is the only thing left.

There will be all kinds of stories come from this event. There will be sad stories, stories of miracles, near misses, fear and deliverance, family lost and found. Bottom line, we humans live as guests of a whirling ball of dust. Life is tenuous. Any upset in the balance of nature and the forces that are created can change the landscape, the life of everyone. We build, create, invent, but in a moment it can all change. A tornado, a flood, a hurricane, a fire, an earthquake all can change everything. The calm, smug attitude of many is rocked to the foundations. Man in his arrogance is humbled by the forces of this earth.

These events pale in comparison to the earth shaking events recorded in the Book of Revelation. The superior forces of the universe are laughed at and scoffed by unbelievers. Temporary turning to God is expressed by some, others just curse God. People shake their fist toward heaven and yell if there is a loving God, why all this tragedy?

Meanwhile, repentance is far from their thoughts. There is no turning to the creator. You hear it in the interviews. One thanks God for deliverance and express trust for the future. They thank God for sparing them and their family. Others talk about luck and how well they prepared. Others are mad about climate change and blame politicos. The silliness of all this is that fact that the earth has experienced ebbs and flows of climate. We have had ice ages, cataclysms of all types. Oh, man thinks he is so strong and invincible.

While all the talk does not lessen the pain of those who suffer in these catastrophes, these things are not new and will continue. The true thinker, the honest human has to recognize how fragile our existence is. Even if it were stable, the life is so short compared to the existence of the earth and life. Each person has to come quickly to an understanding of the brevity of their life and the importance of preparing for eternity.

I have thought of this from my childhood. I have always had a sense of how short life is and even more so, the shocking thought of the infinite life of the future. What must I do to be ready? What must I do to insure I live with the God who created me? What must I do to be saved? In these crises I am sure people were praying, “what must I do to be saved?”

Call on Jesus, Repent, and be baptized, receive the Holy Spirit!

P. Bill

Patience

PATIENCE

I was awake most of the night (Tuesday night). As I have said before, I am constantly thinking of the church, worrying sometimes, thoughtful all the time. I have been praying, asking what to do, asking personal questions regarding ministry, asking…asking.

During the night, while looking at the clock every half hour, wondering if I would ever go to sleep and praying in short bursts, I distinctly heard and saw the word “Patience.” I keep asking what I am doing wrong? Tell me and I will correct it, but the answer is patience.

I have never been good with patience. I like to act, get it done. When you are working with people it takes patience. Not all move at the same pace or process at the same pace. Sometimes in movies I know where things are going and begin to laugh before anyone else. I usually process things quickly; so I have had a struggle with those who do not. The Lord has reminded me and taught me on that level. So many years ago, I started recognizing that it takes time for many. This came into play often in leadership meetings and working with teams. I began to give my ideas and then allow time for those who needed it to think about it and make improvements.

In our situation, I keep thinking that we have reached the basement level and now we will see the building phase start. And then, there is another layer removed making the basement deeper. What is to be built must take a deep foundation. When I came 10 years ago, I came with the mandate from the Holy Spirit to rebuild the foundation. I was thinking it only needed a patch job in a few places, but it has turned out to be far more serious and it looks like a whole new foundation.

Patience…waiting confidently for that which is to come. Patience: Romans 5:3-5 (KJV) we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation works patience; 4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope: 5 And hope makes not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

For me, Patience is an exercise of effort and concentration. It is one of the fruit of the Spirit and is spoken of many times in scripture to encourage individuals or the saints at large. In the fire of trials, we, I, want to get through it and on to the positive. However, I have learned that we must go through the fire to get to the other side and patience is necessary. While recovering, each day I thought would be the final restore, but it took weeks to get back to anywhere near to wholeness.

I realize that we are in that process of recovery and the Lord emblazoned that word as he spoke to me last night. Actually, it was not a reprimand, but encouragement. I felt relief and confidence. There was no scolding sense in it; it was more explanatory. What it did for me in that moment and I want to hold on to that, was a peace that it was going to be all right, just wait, be patient. I can do that now that I know.

P. Bill

GROW

GROW

We have lived in a Christian culture that has in the last several decades focused on the word, GROW. So, GROW became the goal, the focus. GROW was to be accomplished at any cost. There have been all kinds of gimmicks for GROW. Pastors have submitted themselves to outlandish schemes to entice people to come to church like shaving their hair off, taking pies in the face, you name the gimmick; it has been done. Along came Seeker-Sensitive and churches became places for plays, concerts, feel good messages, relaxed atmospheres, anything that would make people of the world feel comfortable. While many of the changes for that purpose were good, the problem usually lie in the compromise of the messages to make the gospel fun or changing the gospel to a people centered semi-psychological therapy. The message of repent and be baptized was lost. Self help replaced conviction and conversion.

GROW is important, but I think we need to return to Bible GROW. Jesus’ idea of GROW is way different than ours. His GROW is a new birth. His GROW is repentance and forgiveness. His GROW is new life and new lifestyle reflecting the conversion. Also, his GROW sometimes meant the loss of followers, people walking away, people not following ever again. His GROW includes severe pruning sometimes.

It is hard for us to think that way. We equate numbers with growth. Our whole economy is based on growing. Corporations are always looking for 20% annual growth. If they do not get that number; they push the sales force and production to get their act together and do better. We judge our companies by their annual performance and place in the stock market.

The kingdom of God is different. GROW means adding souls to the kingdom through life changing conversion. GROW is defined also as becoming more like Jesus through progressive changes internally and externally as the Holy Spirit works. GROW has the component of community where the life change is shared with others. No growth is intended by hype, but by conviction of the Holy Spirit.

There are times where there are large in-gatherings. These come most times in a move of God, a revival of some sort, a world wide event of the Spirit. However, most growth comes from one by one interaction. Then, sadly, there are times of a great falling away as the Lord winnows the harvest. All this is contained in the scriptures, all of this is spoken of by Jesus. He gives parables explaining these things. There is even prophecy of a great falling away.

So, we must direct our attention to Jesus’ definition of GROW. Let the rejoicing be in one who comes out of the darkness, the lost condition, into the glorious light of salvation through repentance and forgiveness.

P. Bill

Platform

PLATFORM

As I mentioned in the opening of last week’s message, Rod Parsley in his keynote address at the Stand Your Ground Conference, spoke of the difference between a stage and a platform. His comment was a stage is for a performance and a platform was to elevate the speaker or singers to be visible for leading. He went on to say that every ministry needs a sub structure, a platform that holds up the leader, the vision, the purpose.

No one can do it alone. Every leader needs folks and structures that take the vision forward. Every leader needs people, supporters, followers who believe in the direction, the vision, and the leader’s capability to take them there. However, the scriptures indicate that where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, or in other translations, they perish.

I have been singular in my vision. I have been consistent in expressing it. It has been my concern for many years, even before becoming pastor here. But since coming I have been working toward, casting vision for, looking for the next generation of leaders to come into existence. I have met resistance, outright objection, counter actions to block that from coming to pass; yet I have held vehemently to that vision.

I have had numerous fine, potential younger leaders driven from the church. Before I came there were a number of young leaders who were driven out and now they serve in other churches. Of all the ones I have worked with during my first years here, there is only one left and he was nearly driven away. We have some more who have come and I am hoping for better things now.

Like the Marines, I am looking for a few good men (and women)! I want young leaders who have that “semper fi” in them (always faithful). This is not limited to teens, twenties. This is not limited to men.This is across the board, multigenerational. Focusing on next generation leadership is not abandoning any age group. If you are older, you are not done! You have the job to mentor, disciple. The reason there is complaint about working with the next generation is that the older generation has not bought into the mandate of Jesus to disciple. The older generation has failed because they became enamored with entertainment in the form of teachings, conferences, self help books. They lost the nitty gritty of getting dirty with ministering to the lost and caring for them. Going to conferences and waving flags and dancing may feel good, but it is not doing the work of the kingdom.

It is time for the younger generation to quit complaining and engage. It is time for the older generation to quit being peevish and critical and accept and encourage the young. Remember, you were young once and had the same complaint leveled at you. Let’s build a platform to support the vision and the leaders.

P. Bill

Stand Your Ground

Cathy and I attended the “Stand Your Ground” conference in Bucyrus last Friday and Saturday. We were invited and cared for by Victory in Truth ministries. J.C. Church is the pastor and is active in statewide and national Christian issues and how they effect government. The list of speakers represented various areas of concern and how Christians must stand their ground. There were around 700 people there and a good third of them were pastors and Christian leaders.

Pastor Church spoke first and stirred everyone with his message and illustrations. The key of his message was that America does not have a political problem; it has a spiritual problem. Rather than it being primarily a political event, it was a spiritual event. The challenge throughout the conference was for the pastors to quit being weak and compromising and to stand their ground. It was a strong call to make the pulpit a place of the Gospel message with themes of born again, repentance, conversion, and the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

To me, it was encouraging that the message that has resonated in my heart and which we have been working on, and still need to work on, is being heard in the hearts of leaders throughout the country. There is a movement in the making which already has begun to gain momentum. Rod Parsley was the final speaker and he brought the house to its feet numerous times in agreement and excitement. The whole conference was a shot in the arm of courage and resolve.

We really do have a spiritual problem. The aggression of the enemy and the laxity of the saints has laid waste to our morals and culture. The voices of the enemy are loud and clear, aggressive and violent. They have successfully changed moral issues into political issues. They have changed moral issues into civil rights issues. They have made the voice of morality sound illegal. The challenge is for the Christian to find his voice again. This was the prayer of the group, Find your Voice.

Another great concern and topic was the lack of difference between the world and the church. Rod Parsley put it well when he said that there are too many decisions and not enough conversions. Decisions are intellectual and conversions are transformational to the heart and lifestyle. I have long decried that fact.

Another theme was there is too much self help preaching and too little gospel being preached. It is not your better life, but Christ living in you. There is so much to unpack in that statement that it could take weeks.

This movement of God is calling the church back to the basics and defining what those basics are. The Gospel is being placed in the premier place instead of the background. It is time for the saints to find their voice of truth and speak it and stand our ground.

P. Bill

Moving in the Movement

Moving in the Movement

We are in August already. School starts in August. Where did the days go? Camp is over, back to school shopping has started. The stores are packed with school supplies, moms and dads are ready to buy the new clothes and shoes that reflect the growth spurts of summer. The weather has been beautiful the last few days, but much of early summer was so wet that it now seems there was little to no summer.

We have had our big pushes of the summer. We had a wonderful Serve the Valley, the Summer Lunch program was successful, Impact Camp was tremendous. Every venue was productive for the kingdom.

As we move into the latter part of summer and the beginning of fall, we will continue developing the church with our vision and new covenant approach. I knew when we started in this direction that it would take time to develop. With every movement of God there are things to unlearn, learn, and activate. Each movement through the years starts with a specific renewal or developing revelation. It usually ends up in people trying to memorialize the movement and its revelation rather than staying current with the move of God. So, what happens is many get stuck, petrified in the old form. When God begins to reveal more or take us back to basics to clear the excess, the tendency is to baulk and refuse to move. This is when we are challenged by God.

The challenge becomes one of value. Is what we had more important than what we can have? Are our doctrines sacred and guarded or can God show us more? Are our ways of doing things God’s ways or habits we have formed? Is our definition of holiness his, or our interpretation that has led to rigidity and legalism? And, is our expression of church a form that has been developed and comfortable or is it a reflection of the dynamic of the Holy Spirit?

This is why a movement is necessary, but also scary. We are forced to move. Move into territory unfamiliar, uncharted. Also, it is exciting, adventurous, and foreign. One moment we will feel like the explorer and at other times we feel like “lost in the woods.” We will find some things that work and others that fail. I know, we hate failure, but every adventure, every inventor has failed in the process of discovery and revelation.

This is where we have to quit thinking that everything has to be perfect in our pursuit and walk with God. It is a journey and learning the voice of God takes time and trial and error. Learning to walk in the Spirit is a challenge. We miss it a lot. We succeed rarely, but we learn with each attempt. You never get a hit if you never step to the plate and swing. Most great home run hitters also led the team in strike outs. As my mom always told me, “Can’t, never did anything.”

This movement will have its successes and failures, but we are called, commanded to “Just Do it!”

Pastor Bill

Summer Lunch Program

Summer Lunches for Kids

 This summer, we once again had the Summer Lunch Program in the Hitchman Park. This program is designed to give latch key kids a summer lunch. It coincides with the Library Reading program. Mothers and their children who are participating in the reading program come for the lunch and activities before the reading program begins.

This year, Michaela served as the program leader. Along with a lot of the youth group she brought high energy fun things for the kids. The Serve the Valley Churches all contributed to the financial backing and we had Johanna and Patrick involved most of the time. 

There were 50 plus registered over the summer. The average attendance was in the mid 20’s as families came and went through the summer. When we finished this past Monday, the kids were disappointed that it ended. They were having a great time. Michaela and the youth made the summer fun for a bunch of kids. A comment was that many of them never get out to have that level of activities and interaction.

Also, thanks to the Butler Nutrition Center who packed the lunches every Monday and Wednesday. They prepared over 220 lunches with smiles and happy to serve.

Also, Tanya served coffee on a few Wednesdays and engaged the mothers in conversation.

Reaching out to the community is going to take some time to seriously engage them and to begin to see results, but we have already changed the view of the church in the minds of the people. We are also receiving cooperation when we seek to do something in the community. We are slowly becoming a factor in the valley.

Again thanks to Michaela as she has served a limited internship this summer. With the time available, she has done a great job. Thanks.

Seriously

Seriously

Sometimes we feel like we are walking in the dark, totally unfamiliar with our surroundings. We hope we are walking in faith, but the darkness obscures any clues, markers, or clear vision. We are being guided by something internal, deep inside, hopefully we trust the leading is from the Holy Spirit and that voice is his.

When we read the scriptures and the faith voyage of our heroes, we just assume it was easy. We assume they were confident, never wavered, were on task all the way. Then, I come across John the Baptist asking of Jesus, “are you the one or should we look for another?” Wow, the guy was there when the dove descended and the voice spoke. He had the sign from God that he was told to look for. Yet, there he is with doubt. Circumstances had changed fiercely. He was in prison, hated for his message and stance for righteousness. His beheading would soon be the price for a lewd dance.

There are others who were obedient to the call, walked in faith, and wondered if they had missed God somewhere. In our Americanized version of Christianity with modern heroes jetting around the country with multimillions income we have come to belief if you are a person of faith, you get a pass from trouble, doubt, fear, and questioning. Americanized Christianity is little more sometimes than religious capitalism. So, when we face trials and question where we are, we have no one to turn to because often we get the glib answer of the rote phrases of churchianity that mean nothing.

If this is the case, we are doomed to isolation and loneliness. This is really the root of the accusation against Christians that they are all hypocrites. A hypocrite is an actor, pretending to be someone they are not.

One of the principles that has to be ingrained in this new move or as one author put it, the Remnant Movement, has to be honesty. This generation is crying for transparency which is another way of saying honesty. Even though we call and desire transparency, there is a trust level that has to be attained before that can happen because betrayal is so prevalent.

If we are seeking to walk in faith, we must find a new way that reflects Jesus. It is not a matter of confessing till you get something. True faith confesses what has been revealed, not what you want to extract from God. Sometimes faith is a journey of darkness with little being revealed. Sometimes faith is trusting God for the next clue, the next flash of light on the path, the next glimmer of hope generated by the Spirit within. Even Jesus had to have angels come and minister to him at times.

This New Covenant walk is serious. Lives are at stake. Eternity is in the balance for many. Faith will have to be discovered in a way that reflects the new covenant. Real, Transparent, Trust in God!

P. Bill

A Breath of Hope

A Breath of Hope

I was talking on the phone with one of my friends from France this week. He travels a lot in ministry, speaking in France, Switzerland, and Israel on a regular basis. He mentioned that he had just come back from Switzerland and noted a change that was hopeful. He said that for the first time in a long time, he found young people seriously interested in the faith and had asked him to return and continue sharing the word and faith with them. It was so profound that it impacted him. (me too)

For a long time we have been looking for younger people to be interested in the faith. Not a superficial look and attendance, but a serious pursuit of God. It will take a serious pursuit to carry the gospel into the world. It will take a serious pursuit for the survival of the church as an entity, keeping it alive and representing the Lord.

We have had such an entertainment mentality and consumer approach that we have lost the deep commitment to the kingdom of God. Sad to say, the depth of engagement is shallow. Sad to say, the hunger for the word is barely existent. Everything takes priority over the celebration of the resurrection and the community of believers. It is evident in our society that more and more things are scheduled on Sunday mornings. Mid-week services of churches are pretty much wiped out as sports have taken the children and families. Our soccer fields, ball diamonds, and football fields are packed with cars, kids, and parents. It is a strong testimony to our priorities. What is being taught is that anything can take the place of spiritual enrichment and relationship with the Lord. So often, God gets the leftovers of our lives.

So, when I heard that young people in Switzerland showed a keen interest in the gospel, it encouraged me a bit that maybe we will see a turn around in things here as well. I seriously have a deep concern for the life of the church in America. Just because some churches have large numbers does not necessarily reflect the spiritual life of the church. Activity does not always translate into spiritual health.

I am still looking for the level of engagement that creates passion, helps passion, exports the faith to friends and family. It will take folks who are committed to the kingdom of God to carry things forward for the next 40 years. It will take children who sense a call of God to pursue Him. Most children will start in a deficiency because parents chose other things as priorities. Discovery of the Lord will have to start with the children. I guess maybe this pattern has been repeated throughout history. The Book of Joshua states that there arose a generation that did not know the works of God and had forgotten the accounts of their forefathers.

I trust God to do it again, bring life, cause hunger. I would like to see it. I would like to see it in The Connection!

P. Bill