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

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

Seed Faith

Seed Faith

In all my years here and in other churches, I have not spoken on finances hardly ever. In fact, I cannot remember that last time.

Giving is one of the basic principles of serving. It is a spiritual principle that has effect for the soul and your personal finances. Templeton, of the Templeton fund, was speaking at a convention and told the crowd that the secret to his success was tithing. A multi-millionaire was saying the basic secret to his success was giving. Another man of world fame was J.D. Rockefeller who was not known as a Christian, tithed because of the rich return for giving. Some people think that you can be too rich too rich to tithe, but it is usually the ones who have little that do not give because they think they have too little.

Jesus exhorted the rich young ruler to give it all away and follow. He did not and Jesus said he was hard for the rich to enter into the kingdom of God. In another place, he spoke of the woman who gave a small amount, but it was all she had, and he commended her faith. Giving is a matter of faith. It demonstrates your faith in God’s ability to provide.

Oral Roberts wrote a really good book years ago called “Seed Faith.” I was given the book by a dear saint just after we were baptized in the Holy Spirit. I read the book and caught the principle of giving. It was a principle for planting for the future. It was not about cars, houses, wealth, and a prosperity gospel; it was about having faith in God to return a harvest, to bless in whatever way he chose. I really saw it as honoring God. I was not twisting God’s arm for anything. I was placing myself in a place where he could take care of me. I was investing in his kingdom.

Sometimes the word tithe sets people off. They do not want to give 10%. Maybe they cannot give 10% in the financial condition they are in at the moment. But the idea is to plant seed. Plant what you can and plant faithfully on a regular basis. You will never have a harvest of anything if you do not plant. You cannot be looking in the garden for tomatoes if you do not plant them.

We have some new believers, new members who will grow into strong servants in the kingdom. Each is encouraged to start somewhere to plant seed for God’s garden and watch what he can do with a little. 5 loaves fed 5000 men. Planting the seed puts you in miracle territory.

I would encourage you to get a copy of Oral Robert’s book to build your faith. Jesus when questioned by the pharisees about tithing told them they missed the weightier matters of mercy and compassion, but he said you ought to tithe. Cathy and I learned long ago that we had to start small and grow in our giving. We have had amazing miracles of provision. He has been faithful to us and we have tried to be faithful to Him in our finances.

Looking Still

Looking Still

Good news, the church’s name has been officially changed and recognized by the Secretary of State of Ohio. There were several businesses and churches that were using the name, Connection, is some form. I had applied twice with our name and twice were told that others had too similar a name. We could either get permission from them to use the name or make ours uniquely us. So, I called the Secretary of State’s office and spoke with someone asking them what would work. He said that “The Connection Church of Butler” would work. So, I sent the paper work in with that name and we were granted the change of name on our charter. So, legally now, we are The Connection Church of Butler.

If you have noticed, change takes time. It may seem like it is fast, but it is not. We have been working on changes since the end of last year. We still have a ways to go. I still have not completed the series of messages I want to share. We have, as a group, read the book, Becoming a Welcoming Church, we have focused on the Serve the Valley Outreach and we are in the process of the Summer Sack Lunch Outreach. Michaela is spending her summer in a limited internship with me. She is doing a wonderful job. Many of you are starting to catch the vision of the New Covenant approach to being a follower of Jesus.

What am I looking for still? I am looking for more members to catch hold of being committed to the work of the kingdom. Some of you have gone through a lot and have experienced “burn out.” You needed a break or just distanced yourself to a position of semi commitment. I understand. Cathy and I have experienced the same thing, but we had to come to a place that it was more about Jesus and his message than our feelings. Hard to do, but necessary.

I am still looking for you to invest in other people. I do not see anywhere in scripture where it says you did your time. Relax and coast. We may not be able to do everything we used to be able to do, but we can do something. No one should be just an “attender.” Everyone should look to plug in somewhere. You can greet, you can make coffee, you can serve the valley, you can teach the kids, you can pray, you can take on small projects. Start looking for somewhere to serve. It takes all of us to make this work and be able to reach new ones. I want to have a group of people called the church that make “the lost not feel lost anymore!”

We are moving the right direction. One prophetic word that I was spoken to me was that we are about to experience a flood of people. I want to be ready, have the baptismal full and always in service because there are so many coming to Jesus.

P. Bill

Fathers

Father

Fathers. What do you say? First, there is the Father in heaven. The creator of all life. The one we pray to. The one we fear. The one we love. The one we count on for protection, guidance, support, approval. The one we count on for eternal care and shelter. In this one being we see the hope of all things. We see his love in the provision he made in sending his son to provide the bridge to all this contentment and hope. We knew his justice and wrath would have to be expressed and satisfied at some point. Yet, his love is so strong and his paternal character desires that none should perish, even though the consequences would dictate doom. But, he is not soft, passing over heinous crimes, transgressions, and lies. He is firm in his justice, but in true fatherhood looks for ways to satisfy justice and still save the child. So, he laid down his life for us. Like a father rushing to spare his child, as happened this week when a man saved his daughter from a vicious dog and lost his life in sparing hers, God the father laid down his life in the form of his son, sparing us eternal death.

Then there are fathers. This breed of father is only interested in the rush of lust and the accidental impregnation of a woman whether he cares or not. This breed of father is purely a biological function akin to breeding horses or cattle. There is no obligation, love, connection, nor care. This kind of father walks away, denies involvement, shirks responsibility. This kind refuses to support, pay support, or give the child any attention. This kind of father, if they take minimal responsibility, is abusive, hurtful, verbally destructive, and distant.

Then there are fathers. They marry the one they love. They have children, but have no sense of the needs of the child. They can be emotionally disengaged. They can be consumed with their career or work. They can be chasing fame, money, or power. Their excuses for the distance seem to be logical, defensible on the basis of “making a living.” So, the child grows with a father in the house, but also with an emotionally absentee father. Later in life, the child has difficulty with the whole concept and feeling of father.

Then there are fathers. They marry the one they love. They have children, but they realize the role of father is extremely important. They seek to engage with the child from birth. They are involved in the day to day of life for the child, the children. They see their role as stewardship to God. They really try to mentor the child in areas of life including character, manners, responsibility. They teach. They play. They advise. They discipline. They love. Also, they try to direct their child toward the Father in heaven. The fathers who admit their mistakes, ask forgiveness when wrong, are the ones that the child will come to year after year.

The goal of the father is to bring a child up in the admonition of the Lord and then to enjoy the lifelong friendship and companionship of the child in whom he invested.

P. Bill

You Encourage Me

You Encouraged ME

Last Sunday was one of the most encouraging Sundays I have experienced in a long time. Not, that we have not had great Sundays, but for me the response to the message was deeply heartening. As I went through all the areas that we need volunteers to plug in and serve, I had hoped to see some response. However, you all responded wonderfully. There were so many responses that area coordinators and leaders were excited at the end of the day.

Courtney had enough responses for the Children’s Ministry to cover the Connect Kids. That was wonderful. David and Teresa had multiple people volunteer to serve with them on the Greeting and 1st Impressions Team. I had two ladies say they would cover the procurement area; that is a relief for me. They both are good shoppers. We have a finance team in place. We have a public accountant now, Macauley in Bellville, as requested by our apostolic team. Serve the Valley is coming along. There are over 80 people from the churches ready to serve. Michaela had a number of people come up and are ready to serve the kids of the community in our Summer Sack Lunch program. Prayer notices and needs can be called in to Cathy or text her or iMessage her. Also, you can put the prayer request on the Connection App. Kay Clark was the first to use it! Way to go Kay.

There are still a couple of areas that need addressed, but the overwhelming response blessed me beyond my hope. Just so you know, I am still looking for decor help, maybe 2 or 3 could team up. Judy and Will had some ideas for the stage. Also, I would like for someone to take the coordinating the summer picnic scheduled for July 28th, just before the kids go to camp. All in all I am so pleased with everyone pitching in. This really feels like the Body of Christ working together!

The Connection APP is available in the Android and Apple stores. Go to your store and type “The Connection” into the search. Many apps will show up since the word “connection” is used by a lot of different churches and businesses. Scroll down through the list looking for our logo.
When you find our logo, download it. So far, the logo has been found quite a ways down the list since we are new to the stores. It is there. We have found it in both stores. The app is new and I am still learning how to work with it. It will get better as we go. Thanks for your patience.

The sign our front will be installed in its new location when Joseph gets back from his mission trip. It is very temporary, just leaning for the time being, but at least, it identifies us a bit. Someone at the Whiffletree Sunday mentioned the name change to me. She liked it. It will take a while for people to see and know our new vision and fresh approach to ministry.

P. Bill

Thanks

Thanks

This week, Helen has finished her season as the church secretary. She has served well for fourteen years. There are many things she has done in the background to serve the church beyond secretarial duties. Those things will have to be picked up by others in a voluntary way. She has used her position to support Children’s ministry, decorating projects, various art projects as needed and a myriad of little things for others. So, we want to thank her for her dedicated service. 

As has been explained, the position will not be filled because the church is smaller and the need is not there. Computers, social media, and the change in the way people communicate has lessened many of the duties that a secretary would accomplish. However, the apostolic team has provided a very generous severance package to allow Helen and her family to make adjustments that will be required.

All that being said, thank you Helen for your years of service!

THE CONNECTION APP IS AVAILABLE IN THE APPLE AND ANDROID STORES

We received the approval from the Apple Review board and the app is active in the store. Go to the App Store and in the search section type in “The Connection.” You will need to scroll down through many different apps using the word “connection.” Look for our logo.   When you see it, you can click on “Get” and it will load onto your phone. The app still needs some editing for our use, but I will be doing that as I learn and work on it. There is a prayer page, the Bible is available, the giving link is there. We will work to design it for our specific use.

As we continue to move forward I am hoping that everyone is beginning to see and support the vision being developed. We are not the only church going through transitions and name changes to express a new vision. There are several churches in the area and in the state that I know of that are in the midst of transition. When I came here the Lord said there was serious foundational problems that needed corrected. I received prophetic words from people from various areas that spoke of the work to be done and the cost of following the Lord’s direction. The cost was counted, but it did shock me the depth and extent of the cost. However, obedience is better than sacrifice. Obedience to the Lord can be costly, but it is right. Being called of God is not a popularity contest. Many times obedience makes you unpopular. But the Lord said that this church would not survive without making the necessary changes. We are still moving in the right direction and there are still attitude changes that need to be made to continue to open the door for blessing. We may look like Gideon’s army, starting with many and fighting and winning with few, but we will win as the Lord fights the battle. When everyone sees the future and quits looking at the past, we will have crossed the threshold of victory. Even in Gideon’s army, there were friends who turned back, who did not go to war. If we base our service on friends, we will miss the call of obedience. 

P. Bill

All is Grace

All is Grace

It was the mid to late 70’s, we were planting a church in Waynesburg, Ohio which is where I grew up. Starting a church in a small town where you grew up is the same as a prophet is not without honor except in his home town. It was difficult going at times. We were renting an old pool hall. We had cleaned it up, painted the floors and walls, bought metal chairs, found an old upright piano and had been meeting there for a couple of years. We had drunks walk in, had someone shoot the window with a crossbow bolt and break it. We were making the best we could. It was the time of the Catholic Charismatic Movement and we had a number of Catholics and former Catholics coming. We had befriended through one of our friends, a Franciscan priest. 

The priest’s name was Brennan Manning who became a fairly famous author and conference speaker. We invited him to come to our storefront church and minister. He graciously did so and brought one of his friends from the College of Steubenville with him. We all had dinner together and then he shared at the church. For a small, storefront church, we had a good turnout that evening. Brennan’s message was uplifting, exploring his primary theme of the grace of God. 

Later, I went to Duquesne University to hear him speak. It was always thought provoking and inspirational. Through the years he authored a number of books which we would read. Abba’s Child was one of the first; then came Ragamuffin Gospel which became his most famous, top selling book. To this day it sells well and is recommended highly by those who have read it.

To me, he was a spiritual giant, an honest writer. Sometimes his writing was so bluntly honest about himself that you would cringe reading it; all the while it is hitting home. I would read it and think about being that blunt and honest myself.

Brennan became an alcoholic when he was 16. He battled the addiction all his life. This was what he was so honest about. Oh, he would have periods of sobriety and dryness, but in periods of depression, he would lapse. The grace he spoke of came from the grace he received. Abba kept calling him back and loving on him. Out of his pain he learned unfathomable grace granted and we were the beneficiaries of his journey.

I just read his last book he wrote, All is Grace. It was written just before his passing in 2013. It is a memoir and again, the most blunt of all his writings. He reveals the deep pain and rejection from childhood, his looking and hoping for someone to say, be my friend. He reveals the depth of his addiction which eventually took his life. Throughout all his life he struggled for acceptance and love, while we saw him as a spiritual giant, close to God. He described himself once as an angel addicted to beer. 

Saddened by the end of his life and now privy to his suffering, I do not look down. I still look up and honor the man and his wonderful revelations of the grace of God.

P. Bill

MESMERIZING LOVE

Mesmerizing Love

Mesmerize, to view with exclusion of other things, or to focus solely with rapt attention. 

I was given this word prophetically the other day. I was asked what it meant and I pretty much defined it the way it is written above; though the above is from Webster’s dictionary. I asked what the context of this word meant in the insight given. The person said that there were people coming to the church that would have that focus for the things of the Lord.

If you have ever watched a couple who are dating and have become mesmerized by one another, you will note that they can be right in front of you and be oblivious to your presence. They are in a world of their own design and pleasure. Do not interrupt the dream. Or, watch a kid at play with a new toy, they are lost in their own world of imagination, enjoying every minute. Or, someone reading a good book is caught in the pathos of the story, oblivious to events in the room since they are transported to the world of the story.

In the context of the prophetic word, I believe we are going to have more people coming who are mesmerized with the cause of Jesus Christ. I believe we will see first things first again. There is a returning of first love. To me, first love is where we once again are impassioned with the love of Jesus. It expressed itself in the intensity of care and concern for our families, our friends, for the world as we meet it. It gets back to the reason I came to Jesus in the first place. 

I did not come to Jesus because I was righteous. I did not come from a place of perfection to judge others. I did not come with a priority to set other people straight. I came because I needed him. I knew I was lost, hopeless, and unworthy. There was no arrogance in my plea. I did not think Jesus was getting a bargain; that I would be great in his kingdom; that my talents were excellent and he could use me. No, I came out of desperation. I had no idea what he could do with me, maybe nothing.

First love comes out of appreciation. It comes from someone loving and caring for me. It starts with his unrequited love and then grows to be reciprocated as we see how we are loved. He first loves us. During that early phase we are completely, to use a current word, smitten. But we allow religion to kill us. We are surrounded sometimes by “do-gooders,” who tell us this rule and that rule and pretty soon we don’t love anymore. Jesus is shoved out of the picture by what we are doing to earn acceptance from those around us and supposedly from Jesus to. HEY, he loved you while you were still lost. What folly. No wonder Jesus warns in Revelation to return to our first love. What folly to start in grace and move to works and law. The new covenant is a revelation of his love. Let’s stay mesmerized.

I want to go back to simply being mesmerized by Jesus.

P. Bill

Tough Love

Tough Love

It is Mothers’ Day. This is the annual observance to remind people to pay attention to their moms. It is so easy to let daily pressures and busyness to push relationships to the background. It can happen in friendships, marriage, and family. Particularly easy is to neglect the relationship with parents. We all strive to be independent and establish our own families and businesses. So, sometimes family members fade to the background. Mothers’ Day is on the calendar to kindly remind us.

In the news this week was the birth of a royal baby. The interview with Prince Harry was respectful of his wife when he commented on how amazing it was what she went through to bring the child into the world. Each of us has had a mother who went through some difficult and painful moments to bring us into the world; then to instantly love us after we were the ones who took her close to death during the brith process. Even more amazing she would do it again in having your brother or sister.

There is something in the make up of mothers that is pretty awesome and God given. The maternal instinct it is called. It is the part that makes getting up in the middle of the night, feeding, changing, nursing, caring, hour after hour of attention, all a part of loving the child. Just thinking of it is fatiguing. Yet, moms continue to do it year after year as the child grows with its ever changing needs.

The problem for the kid is this: Mothers never turn off the mother instinct. You can be 30-40-50 and if your mom is still with you, you are still her baby. My mom is in her 90’s, me in my 70’s and I am still her kid. Your mom feels she has the right to say anything to you, to give you advice or just flat out tell you what to do. Every child, no matter the age, chafes under that at times, but most people when the mother is gone wishes to hear those maternal directions again.

We are called upon to care for our moms as they progress through life. Often it ends up that the one who cared for you becomes the one you have to care for. Life has its seasons. The one that used to chase us, spank us, work us, counsel us etc.; now we are helping her into the car, making sure she walks safely, and gets enough nourishment. I was amazed that the account of Jesus on the cross, while dying for the sins of the world, took time in his pain and suffering to look down and tell John that he was to take care of his mom and tell his mom to allow John to care for her. Mary went to live with John, the apostle.

Family is important. Mothers tend to be the heart of the home. Therein resides the maternal, the caregiving, the eternal never give up, the hopeful, the ready to forgive, the welcome home, the encourager, the “tell it like it is,” the nagging persistence, the unbounded love, all rolled into one woman who is called mom, mother, mum, ma, and mommy.

So, we celebrate the women who are moms and particularly, ours.
Happy Mother’s Day!
P. Bill

Tough Change

Tough Change

Recently, GM made a decision, a business decision that affected a large number of people. They closed the Lordstown assembly plant. The plant had been assembling the Chevy Cruze. The reality of the corporate decision was caused by the buying habits of the public. People are not buying cars. They are buying in large numbers the SUV whether it be small like the Ford Escape or large like the Cadillac Escalade. The sedan is a dwindling market. There was no animosity on the part of GM toward the workers; it was matter of saving the company and redirecting labor. Some have said that maybe another vehicle would be built there, or it could be like the GM plant in Mansfield that does not exist except for acres of concrete.

But Mansfield, Ontario, are in the process of making the space usable again. The mall has been transformed and exists with a health facility being built inside the space that Lazarus used to have. Life changes and adjustments are made. Health issues can change a person, a family. A wonderful wage earner can be limited by physical issues not of their own making. Loss of income, tragedies such as happened in Shelby can turn our world upside down.

You received my letter-email regarding our changes. We are becoming a younger, newer church. We are expressing fresh vision, fresh approach to our life as Christians. The name change is a part of that re-branding of ourselves as the fresh revelation of His gospel permeates our being. 

The apostolic team is not mean spirited. The health and welfare of the church is its foremost concern and desire. Each one of the team has extensive experience in planting churches. Probably collectively, we have planted in excess of 100 churches. None of us are novices. The changes, while uncomfortable at times, are all steps to fresh life and spirit and survivability of this church.

One of the core issues that is being worked on and established is the right relationship with authority, with leadership. The writer of Hebrews exhorts the church to honor, respect, and follow the leadership. Paul writes of honoring, respecting, and following as they follow Christ. Leadership has plenty on its shoulders with the spiritual care and responsibility. The second guessing and complaining, rumoring, gossip which has been the history of this church is coming to an end.

The apostolic team is making the changes because they need to be made. In honoring Helen we are going way beyond what would be fair. We have expressed concern and know the changes will take time. To give someone over six months severance pay is unheard of and we have been told so, but we want to care for and allow an easy transition as possible for our sister and her family.

So, if you have questions, please direct them to one of the team and not to each other in gossip form. Please have the integrity to speak to one of us.

   -Pastor Bill       Ralph Howe Ministries Mobile Phone: +1 (306) 536-9574 Email: ralph@ralphhoweministries.com

P.O. Box 31085, Regina, SK., Canada S4R 8R6 or  Duane Flemming, duane@cccn.org, (614) 325-0021