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

Idealism…Youth Only?

Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be Done, on earth as in Heaven…
I have lived my life with a certain idealism that has never been realized. I have striven for this illusive goal, and have missed the mark. I remember sharing my desire of what Christianity should be when I was about 25 with another man just a little older than me. I remember where I was. I was teaching at the Magnolia School and was in the cafeteria talking to this man. He told me that it could never happen. I walked out of that cafeteria thinking to myself, “it will happen!” I moved with determination holding forward that ideal found in the New Testament. I grew up with the people who called themselves the Restoration Movement. They were committed to restoring New Testament principles and life to the church. Yet, as the years went by, it appeared to be a thinly veiled mantra with no power or plan behind it. So many things of the NT were missing.
Along came the Charismatic Renewal which somehow had been given that name after a few years of dynamic impact in main line denominational churches. This was birthed in Episcopal and Lutheran venues. Catholics were coming by the thousands. Conferences were held in Catholic halls of education. People came from all around the country seeking the power of the Holy Spirit. This was not the Pentecostal movement of the early 1900’s which touched people considered to be the poor and indigent. This was not the Holy Roller crowd which had gained a reputation of sorts. These were the society crowd full of pride and substance.
In this movement, I received the missing link of my pursuit. He was the Holy Spirit. This baptism completed the ground work for a truly NT experience. The Book of Acts was a possibility. As the Charismatic Renewal was winding down and mainline churches were putting an end to acceptance, people who were being rejected or told to make the Holy Spirit only a personal, devotional part of their lives, began to form small groups and small churches to give expression to the freedom they had found. In this time, it seemed possible to form a NT church.
However, as is so often the truth, they brought their baggage from Egypt (their past) with them. Church forms were carried over and the new freedoms were ritualized in the context of the old. New teaching emphases created what were called streams of doctrine. Faith stream, laughing stream, submission stream, plain people stream and many others were formed. Some really were not streams, but extremes.
I am still looking for the ideal of the NT church. Looking for the Book of Acts people. I have had glimpses, short experiences with it, but so far, nothing sustainable. BUT, I am still looking and trying. I still believe. -P. Bill

Vacation Lessons

Cathy and I had a very important, restful, vacation. It was important because our physical beings were being regenerated with rest and emotional rest. We both had periods of not feeling well, but we have experienced that before when it came to vacation time and we had time to shut down. Our place was right on the ocean and we kept the patio door open most of the time to allow the sounds of the ocean to flow into our one bedroom unit. One night in particular, there was a storm and the waves were crashing and the wind was blowing. I got up and went and opened the patio door and laid on the couch and watched the sea roar. The colors of the water changed regularly from the light sea foam green to darker shades of green. The breeze kept wafting through the door sending the scent of salt air into the room.

On days when the sky was blue and the sun was shining brightly, the ocean had its deep blues and sometimes close to shore brown finishing waves. On these days I would walk the beach, spending time listening to an audible book that was ministering to me deep down inside. At times as topics were covered, they would reach so deep that tears would come as the Holy Spirit used them to minister life to me. Really fresh sense of directions was coming, renewing me. Likewise Cathy was spending time with the Lord and He was speaking to her.The transformation was so evident in our time of ministry in Columbus. I saw the Cathy that I knew 20 years ago when it came to ministry. I was so happy to see her return to her calling and anointing.

There were a number of things the Lord spoke to me. We, as a church, have a lot of good work ahead of us. There will be a need at several levels for everyone to participate in. The journey of becoming what the Lord wants of us. One thing for sure, we are not trying to resurrect the past and the way things were done then. The nostalgia of those days has to be laid aside as a good history, but not current or necessarily relevant to today. However, there are key elements that God has and we need to discover how they are to be applied today. It is now a matter of re-inventing ourselves; it is learning what God wants us to be and do today. Many of us our older and do not like change, but change we must. You change all the time and may not know it. You are constantly adapting to changes in life, health, location, etc.

I am pleasantly encouraged and excited with what the Lord wants to do here in this next phase of the journey. Through the next months and maybe years we are going to find ourselves in the will of the Lord. We are going to be seekers, pursuers of the will of God. We are going to discover the joy of our salvation like we have not experienced in a while.

We must learn to enjoy the journey. We must focus on the positive things God wants and forsake the old ways of always complaining about what is missing, the things that are not quite the way we want them. If you are busy serving and engaged in building, you will cease being the critic. And, it is not the pastor’s fault that things are not always correct or good. It is the responsibility of everyone to connect and carrying the load. It is easy to sit at home watching a game and be the yelling, complaining, arm chair coach. They judge, but they are not in the battle, the trenches. They are not there watching the replay at the moment. It is the heat of the moment and everyone is in it, committed. When you are in it, you support one another, encourage one another, you do not complain and break the sense of unity, camaraderie, the team. -P. Bill

HARD CHOICES

HARD CHOICES

Life has hard choices. We are not always prepared for them, in fact, we usually are not prepared. Significant events can take place so fast that we hardly have time to respond with well thought out plans. Sometimes we just react. Other times we have to ponder, weigh the facts, control our emotions, think clearly, take a break, pull away for a while to gage our response.

Critical thinking is good, but sometimes there is a spiritual dynamic to it. Sometimes the leading of the Holy Spirit will take us in a direction that we do not want to go. Sometimes the leading of the Spirit is in contradiction with critical thinking. Not all rational decisions are rational. Reason may lead us in places we do not want to go or the results of our well thought out plans produce a result unseen and tragic. The Holy Spirit however, has inside knowledge. He knows the mind of Christ, He has the foresight of the Father, He sees the end from the beginning.

I have had on several occasions leadings of the Holy Spirit that ran contrary to reason, logic, and decorum. Yet, after struggling with the leading, I will yield. It is not that I do not want to obey, but careful weighing and asking for confirmation of some sort is not wrong. Confirmations can be just the incessant prompting of the Holy Spirit as the pressure increases with urgency. Other times, confirmations can come through circumstances or a word spoken by another.

Hard choices make us pray, think, ponder, wrestle with God. We test, complain, explain to God our reservations and how this does not fit our plans. And really why do we have to face this choice?

His ways are higher than ours. His reasons are inscrutable. Learning to surrender and obey is one of the Christian life’s greatest lessons and challenges. I do not know why I have been thrown into this difficult place. Oh yes, some are the consequences of bad choices made out of my own determination, but some I did not sign up for. They are not the result of my bad choices. Some come about because of my good choices. Good choices do not always produce a smooth road. Sometimes, maybe many times, they produce conflict when morality and character run juxtaposition with popularity and crowd mentality. Persecutions are based in this type of hard choice.

Yet, the high road, the right road may cause us sadness, separation, second guessing because of the results, possible isolation, but it is still the right choice. The Bible record is full of people making right choices, hard choices and suffering consequences that were wrong. Many of the New Testament writers acknowledge this result. They tell us to rejoice and be glad. Consider it an honor to suffer for Christ’s sake. (Personally, this is hard and a lesson I am still working on.) I have had several prophetic words that have exhorted me to rejoice and be exceeding glad. Hard choices, hard places, still working on the rejoice part.

P. Bill

LONGEVITY

LONGEVITY

Longevity. This is how long you have done something, been faithful, held a job, a career, a relationship. It is measured in days and years. It is the accumulation of ups and downs, good days and bad, happy and sad, intense love and distant commitment. It has endured. It is seasoned with experiences, places, people. It has survived discouragement and bouts of depression. It has survived euphoria, pipe dreams, hopes, and the crash of some of those.

Yet, longevity in anything deserves respect. Those who have been married for many years deserve the respect of all. They overcame hardship, arguments, silence, and loud disagreement. They have the joy of deep loving moments and the sadness of losses. They traveled that road of life together.

Longevity has to adjust. Each decade presents its challenges. The early ones find us looking for meaning and place, destiny for some, making a living, adjusting to adulthood. The next decade will find us learning to raise children and balance spouse, children, and job. The next decade begins to cause us to evaluate as to whether we will ever reach our life goals. Teenagers, job demands, and maintaining a meaningful relationship face us daily. The challenges of mid life crises appear and the temptations to quit, have an affair, change professions, divorce, throw it all away and start over are present in the thinking of all. The next decade could be one of just resignation and drift toward retirement, or it could be a season of determined reinvestment in family, job, marriage. Then come the years where couples have to find themselves again because everything they had been living for and working for has changed. The kids are gone and an empty nest makes two people find new purpose and relationship. This area is particularly hard on women because they usually have given all for the kids. Some live long enough to have great grand kids and some even great, greats. The decline in strength and health approaches all in this phase. Each decade has its challenges that must be faced. Learning and adapting never ends.

Longevity in faith is similar. We have the times where we are fervent, white hot with desire for spiritual things. We follow hard after God. We read voraciously the Bible. We search and research for understanding. Then come the days when we just lose interest. The Bible becomes dry straw and prayer is liking slinging spaghetti against the wall. But longevity does not quit. There may be ups and downs, but there is no quit in the dry periods. The temptations of faith are similar to other areas. You do not walk away and go to the world for substitutions. You do not throw away your faith and follow worldly philosophies or worse, go to other religions that are dead, but ritualistic. You wait on the Lord and again you will mount up with the wings of eagles.

I noticed when I was younger and still notice it, there are very few who hold fast to the faith throughout their lives. Older people do not turn to the Lord as they come closer to death. They are stuck in their unbelief and are calcified to the gospel. They did not “endure to the end.”

Longevity deserves respect!

P. Bill

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