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

Godspell

Godspell

Good news, Godspell, Glad Tidings, these are all translations of the Greek word used to describe the four books of the New Testament. This word had some special meaning to those who heard it. They did not read it. If anything, it was read to them. And it was not in the form of a book with 27 items in it. It probably came alone. Greeted with enthusiasm and listened to intently because it may have to be passed along to another gathering of believers.

Not unlike Russia during the Communist regime or China, people thrilled at having a piece of the bible. In those cases, they often, upon having a bible given, they would tear it into sections and pieces and hand it out to everyone. Then as days passed, they would trade their precious piece to another for their reading. We are so blessed to have the Bible around for us. We have numerous copies, different translations, commentaries, and ones we have not opened for years as we find a favorite for this period. I know I have a shelf of bibles that are not being used; some fragile from a lot of use and others collection pieces.

But the early church got the good news from people who were eyewitnesses or knew an eye witness or studied with someone who was taught be someone who was with Jesus. It reminds me of two of my professors who were discussing and debating an issue of theology. The one made a quote or attempted one of a German theologian, possibly Karl Barth, and the other said that was not accurate. The first thought it was so, but the latter said, no, I was in class in Germany sitting under his teaching and this is what he said. You could have heard a pin drop for the one who was there and heard the teaching had the experience and knowledge of the famous theologian. The eye witness trumped the observation of the other.

The Gospels were great news, but the good news preceded the writing of the good news. There was good news as the believers shared their powerful life stories. Somehow the good news was transmitted without a written document. The documents came 30 to 50 years after the resurrection. For the Jews, the believers could take some prophecies of the Jewish scriptures and make a case, but the overwhelming power was not the pulling of prophecies, but the power of the resurrection. Why do you think the Jewish leaders tried to spread rumors? The resurrection was such good news that they had to try to destroy it or muddle the belief in it. Yet, there were over 500 witnesses to the resurrection. IN a court of law, that would be such overwhelming evidence that it would be irrefutable.

The power of the new covenant is the resurrection. The power is Jesus. When he said that he IS the resurrection and the life, we can take him at his word since he proved it and had so many witnesses that the good news remains powerful to this moment!

  • Pastor Bill

The Amazing Gospels

The Amazing Gospels

This coming Wednesday we begin a new series in our Connect Group. Actually, by popular demand, we will begin looking into the Gospels. As I have mentioned several times, the Lord kept me in the gospels for cycles before releasing me to read or study further. 

What I found was the teachings of Jesus are difficult. On the surface they seem so benign, easy, simple in the statement. Yet, as you ponder them, they become revolutionary, hard, complex. The challenge he puts before us contradicts our human nature. There is no way to live his principles without serious divine help. For instance, love your enemies. We are taught to hate our enemies, set traps for our enemies, misconstrue everything they do, fight our enemies, and ultimately destroy our enemies however that can be accomplished whether physical or character assassination. But love your enemies. Can you see how this teaching, along with many more, will upset your lifestyle, challenge your thinking, and force significant change in your actions.

I think that we have studied the gospels or least read through them on our way to Paul’s letters. We pull our favorite Christmas stories and Easter events from the gospels, but to really, really see the universe changing teachings of Jesus, not so much.

I know I really like the miracle accounts, the healings, the power over death. We can focus on the miracles and have a great time moving through the displays of his power over sickness, nature, and incurable diseases. We can see him as the healer, the miracle worker. We may even want to do the same. I know I do.

But, as you peel back the displays, the authority over the demonic, there is so much more. The compassion for humanity, the care of the outcast, the downtrodden, the disenfranchised begins to grab your attention. There is so much more going on than a prophet speaking to a corrupt system; there had been many of those before. He is so much more than a reformer, a teacher. There is something going on that had not happened before in anyone’s teachings. In fact, the remark that he taught with authority was made regularly. So powerful his assertions that it impacted the listeners that this was something new, a source that had not been explored before. The religious system could detect that in Jesus there was something that was going to ruin them. They decided to kill him before it went too far. Kill this 33 year old and be done with this new authority that was being expressed and enthralled the people, drawing them to him and his word.

It is this approach that we will take in our study. We will be looking for the teachings that turns the world upside down, that shakes the heavenliness, that moves nations and peoples. This teaching and lifestyle that will dictate and rule eternity. I am looking for Jesus, the way, the truth, and the life. Then to walk in the way.

  • Pastor Bill

Weather Wars

Weather Wars

Winter is here with a vengeance. I do not think I have experienced a winter where there is such a roller coaster of a temperature ride. We have just experienced arctic temperatures that are dangerous. Then we race into the 50’s with a warming trend. We had snow last week which was 3 inches or so, plowed that out and the next day it rains with warm air. What a war of weather fronts!

Our granddaughter was married Saturday the 26th in the middle of snowing. It made for beautiful pictures and a chilling recessional. Yet, those pictures and memories will last their whole life. Sometimes adversity is difficult in the moment, but yields great memories and stories in the long run.

We have been somewhat in that arena for years now. However, being forged on this anvil of stress has yielded some really good things. When you are in the furnace of affliction you soon find what is of value and essential. 

The Holy Spirit works with all of us. He is patient and kind. He gives time for change. While I am wanting change NOW, he works things around so that all involved can benefit if they will. I have thought at times, why are they not changing, or why do they not see this truth or that way? In those moments there are interpersonal conflicts. Believer is struggling with another believer. We want to form sides. Sometimes people want to win, defeat the other person or group, gather folks to their side and win. Some even go so far as to want the other side to die, fail, vanish. However, I have been surprised at God. He works with all. He lovingly guides each. For the one may have felt the leading of the Spirit in one direction and the other does not. They both may be right and the interpersonal conflict is necessary to free both to follow the Spirit’s leading for their lives.

To want to win at the expense of the others is human nature, but not godly. We all have been there until we are corrected by the Lord. The Lord will win in both cases. And each will have to spend eternity with one another. I do not believe we will hide in our corner and refuse to talk to the folks in the throne room. I do not think we will refuse to speak when we bump into them on the streets of New Jerusalem.

Like the weather our lives can be balmy, peaceful, and tranquil and then suddenly, there is a storm and a drop in temperature that is soul chilling. The illusion of life always being under control is shattered regularly. We, like the thermometer, can set new record lows and highs although we long for a steady 72 degrees.

What really matters is maintaining a sense of value, integrity, love for one another, and the knowledge of constantly growing in the direction of conforming to the image of  Jesus.

  • Pastor Bill

Sudden Life Change

Sudden Life Change

Last Sunday was very weird for me. Not having church threw my whole sense of what day it is off. I kept thinking it was Monday. It messed up my normal routine. I missed the fellowship, the worship, the after church chats, going to lunch with someone, and my afternoon nap after preaching. Oh well, the weather changed all that. I understand that was the most snow in one event we have had in a number of years possibly as far back as 2005.

Mary, my daughter, texted me and said it must be really bad, dad canceled church. I really dislike having to cancel church, but this event was serious enough that it could endanger anyone who tried to make it.

Life lessons teach us that life can change drastically in a moment. You can be going along with plans that are good, everything in place, the day laid out, and suddenly it changes and forces everything to go another direction. Monday we were driving along, coming from Canton area back to the house. The roads had cleared up and were mostly dry. We were within a mile of the Hayesville exit on Rt. 30. I had the cruise control on and was passing a business van. I got to the place where my passenger side mirror was straight across from his when he drifted my way. I moved the truck as far left as possible and honked my horn and then suddenly “bang” he hit just behind the rear passenger side door. The impact sent my truck spinning. I think he hit us again as we spun in front of his van and then went straight into the guardrail. We hit the guardrail hard and spun to the left and ended up facing the way we came. The seatbelts kept us from being thrown forward into the windshield. We just sat there, stunned. We were all right. 

There is no time to think or correct. It happens so fast that there is no control, no reaction time. You are totally at the mercy of time, space, and the laws of inertia. Where will this stop? My mind went to “Will we be hurt? Could this be the end?” “Will Cathy be all right?” There was no time to pray, repent, check in with God. As we sat there waiting on the State Patrol, we thanked the Lord for taking care of us, we called the kids. We kind of checked ourselves. “Are you hurt? Are you all right?” “You sure?!”

This morning I am all right. But the truck is damaged heavily, but still is slightly drivable. No engine damage etc. We were thankful to be in a large vehicle and sturdy. It can be repaired. The real blessing is we were not hurt, nor the driver of the van.

But the lesson, once again, is that things can change so rapidly. I have thought through the years that people who say they have time, really do not. Those who think that they will have time just before they die, it probably won’t happen. Either you take care of those things now or you will most likely not have time to care about it at the moment. “Today is the day of salvation.” This rings so true. The writers of the New Testament call out to us to make today the day. Do not hesitate, do not procrastinate, do not think that you will be afforded a long moment to repent.

I can think of so many cases through the years where someone’s life was snuffed out in a moment and others whose lives were drastically changed in a moment. Today is the day.

  • Pastor Bill

Go For the Rebound

GO FOR THE REBOUND

Pastor Doug Duble sent these quotes out to his church in Columbus. He, most often, sends his thoughts along to me as well. Often quoted too is falling down is not defeat unless you refuse to get up. Quitting is when you are defeated. Just as Duane was speaking last week about worry and how it can be debilitating, we can become overwhelmed with scenarios of defeat, failure, self recrimination, and even disgust.

These many quotes from famous people who have known the ups and downs of life and maybe spent a large amount of time in difficulty such as Winston Churchill are important because they are birthed out of the experience. Take a look:

“Most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure.”– Napoleon Hill

“Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.”

– Winston Churchill

“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.” – Elbert Hubbard

“You’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”– Wayne Gretzky

“Everything you want is on the other side of fear.”– Jack Canfield

“Remember that failure is an event, not a person.”– Zig Ziglar

“A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them.”– John C. Maxwell

“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent in doing nothing.”– George Bernard Shaw

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” – Albert Einstein

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”– Henry Ford

Reading the lives of the various apostles, there were so many experiences recorded that could have met failure and quit. The most famous one may be the denials of Peter on the night of the betrayal, the court cases, and the crucifixion. Riding high on the power of relationship with Jesus and his obvious leadership qualities, Peter would have never thought of failing, denying, repudiating his relationship. Wow, how quick things can change. Once the rooster crowed and Jesus glanced over to Peter, he was devastated, broken, personally disgusted with himself. He probably felt that it was all over. He was the biggest loser in the world and probably hated himself.

I think that he would never be, ever again, in the graces of God. When death came to Jesus, there was, in his mind, no way he could ever make it up, correct it. Possibly he thought he was out, no longer worthy to be a disciple, let alone a leader. Jesus knew this. Jesus purposely invited him to breakfast after the resurrection. As they were eating, the thrice denial was turned into a thrice confession of love. With each confession, Jesus renews the call, the commission, the forgiveness. The prophecies of Jesus came to pass. He did become the one to open the doors and lay the foundation of the church and yes, the prophecy of his denial came true was well. Two prophecies at opposite ends of the spectrum, both fulfilled.

Failure was turned into success. Peter lead the church into world changing power and influence. 

Rebound!!!

  • Pastor Bill

Transitions

Transitions

Transitions are not easy, but they are necessary. Life has a number of them. We transition from being an infant to a toddler. Bumps and bruises happen as we learn to walk and navigate. While we are struggling getting from one point to another, mom and dad are cheering us on. We transition from early childhood to school age. Now we are thrown in with all kinds of other kids. We are not the only ones in a small circle of care. We have to adjust and adapt to various personalities and schedules and study. Another significant transition is from childhood to puberty. All kinds of physical and hormonal changes are taking place. Some body parts are too big or too small, feet growing, limbs growing, turning us into gangly, uncoordinated messes at times. Hormonal changes are bringing acne, facial hair, moods, and strife with parents. Trying to grow up faster than the brain will allow. Another huge transition is the one from middle school to high school. Most freshman enter as still kids and are thrown in with guys with beards, fully developed muscles, many at their final height and you feel like a dwarf in an adult world, but it isn’t. The one from high school to college or the military will be just as huge as that first day in high school as a freshman.

Oh, then there is the transition from single to married. Lookout! The change from being married to having a kid in the mix is tantamount to a major earthquake. Down the road, there is the parenting job of raising teenagers, most difficult. But after the high energy of teens in the house, you tend to collapse into the empty nest which is a major shock to mothers. Then comes the transition to becoming a grandparent. For most, this is a welcome phase. However, for some, it is hard because they are not ready for the word, “grandma, or grandpa.” 

Age transitions continue. These come at various ages later in life. Some can continue to function lively into the 80’s and 90’s; while others are physically old in their late 50’s or early 60’s. But the transitions are there and what you able to do changes. This transition affects the children since the middle aged children now become concerned and caring for the older parent.

Transitions. Hard, necessary, unavoidable. 

There are transitions in the faith as well. They tend to parallel the pattern of life too. In our spiritual infancy, things are easy, exciting. As we grow, we learn, we struggle, and persevere. As we age in the faith it is too easy to fall into a dull routine. The relationship with Jesus can stagnate or it can prosper. It takes attention and work.

I sense, I know. We are in a period of transition. Not only us. I believe there is a birthing of a movement of God happening. It is in its beginning phase, but it is here. It is not full blown. It is the early, small tremors of the movement, but a shaking is in progress. God is speaking to many of his people. I have been sensing this for several years and am now getting a handle on it. We are transitioning. The ways of the past several decades are coming to an end. There is a fresh breath of God beginning to blow. We are about to discover the dynamic of the “Jesus Movement.” “The Way” that Saul was persecuting and “The Way” that Paul preached after the transition on the road to Damascus.

Transitions…

  • Pastor Bill

2019 Peace and Joy

2019 Peace and Joy

12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days, 8760 hours, 525,600 minutes, 31,536,000 seconds comprise one year. Broken into these pieces it becomes a mathematical item, but it is the moments of our lives. We are breathing, heart pumping, thinking, and so many actions going on in the inside of our bodies without thought to them. Broken down into these pieces we have a small window of expression, interaction, and relationship. To remain healthy, you will need to spend a third of those hours sleeping. You will spend another third of those hours working. You will have to concentrate on your job. You will spend another large section eating, maybe three hours a day minimum.

The daily grind, the routines of life take a considerable amount of time. These routines are for sustaining life and providing for family and self. If you then multiply the annual time spent times the life expectancy of a man or woman, you will find that the weighted issues of life are relegated a very small portion of our attention and for some it is negligible. Time is ticking, but what about the eternal matters that must be decided in that ticking clock?

We have this very handy celebration every year called New Years. It is a moment to mark time, a crossroads, a mile marker. It locates us in the history of the world. It serves to set boundaries of people’s lives, their service, their responsibilities. It also is a count down. You look forward and you look backward and you get a sense of where you are. This barrier of sorts gives each person a moment to evaluate, a moment to say “that is past.” It is a moment to hope for the better, a new day, a new start. We make resolutions, turn over a new leaf, start fresh. We look ahead with a sense of renewal. There is an adventure in it. What does this year hold for me?

With the break of a new year, we cast vision for the next months. But, we also take a hard look at the past months and ponder, “what did I learn, what did I do, what do I need to change moving ahead?”

I have found that hope springs up in me at the change of the calendar. I hope for a better year than the last one. I hope for health for all. I hope that lives will be changed through Jesus. I hope for people to catch the message and purpose of being a follower of Jesus. I hope for prosperity for all my loved ones. I hope for unity in the family and the family of God. I hope I see Jesus more clearly. I hope I serve well and am faithful to Him. I hope for more revelation of his purposes, his word, and his Spirit. I hope to enjoy life, be content, be happy, smell the roses, imbibe in his wonderful creation. I hope for true friends.

I, through his grace, have another 8760 hours to live. You do too. I am familiar with the way life goes though. There will be challenges. There may be grief and sorrow. We are not exempt. But there will be some really great times too. The real joy does not come from events so much as from the relationships we have with loved ones. The events become great memories because of who was there with you.

I really want to see 2019 be the year of building wonderful, familial relationships in the church. I would like this to be a year of building, growing, being healthy, loving one another. I would pray for a year of peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 

– Pastor Bill

Looking For Peace

Looking For Peace

Here we are at the last Sunday of 2018. It seems years go by rather rapidly. The world is filled with turmoil, anger, strife, hatred. We are bombarded daily with negativity through the media and other sources. When Jesus said that he would leave us with peace, his peace, he introduced something that the world does not and cannot have. In fact, most believers struggle to find that kind of peace. He said that his peace would pass all understanding. So, the peace that passes understanding is not attainable by exercises of the mind. His peace is revealed by the Holy Spirit to the inner man, you inside, down deep in the soul.

In the face of criticisms, complaints, negative talk, accusations, cyber bullying, lies spoken, personal attacks, and character assassinations, the Christian has a source of peace, positivity, and hope. In the face of the stream of negativity and angst, the Christian is called to swim counter culturally and provide a flow of hope and positivity. In the face of fear, worry, and hopelessness the Christian can truly offer and display a life and message of peace, meaning, eternal and temporal hope.

The battle for each believer is to not be drawn into the ways and speech of the world. This is not easy. We are to be in the world, but not of the world. We cannot run away and hide and fulfill our calling to go to the world. Hiding the light of Jesus under a basket, as he illustrated, is not our calling. Yet, many want to hide in the safety of withdrawal from the world, or bind themselves in such a legalistic approach that they are useless in reaching a dying world because they do not love the people. 

Yes, we are called to reach out to the people who are negative. We have some who have dropped out of life choosing to waste themselves with pleasures, drugs, and any form of escape. We have others who are angry and are activists who choose violence and rage. There is no peace in their souls. There are those who lose themselves in the money chase and believe riches are the answer. They end up always chasing the carrot dangling in front of their eyes only to be disappointed in the long run. Even in the Christian world there are futile chases that lead to emptiness. We have the drop outs who sit and never share their faith. They are comfortable with church attendance, but there is no drive or joy in their faith. There are also those who use their faith as an escape, researching, reading, devotions, books, but never engage the world. For pastors and leaders it can be the push to be successful, numbers, finances, buildings, programs etc. It becomes a paper chase of success and comparison. Where is the peace? Where is the engagement with the mandate of Christ?

When we reach the place where the peace of Christ reigns we are positioned to be light and salt to a confused and angry world. The world is made up of suffering individuals caught in the turmoil of life and the battle for the souls of men and women. 

Let us work to find that peace in Christ and let us live in peace with one another. Let us love one another and exemplify the desire of the Lord.

THE WONDER OF IT ALL

THE WONDER OF IT ALL

Remember the excitement, the anticipation, the sleeplessness? Remember Christmas being the moment of high excitement. You went to bed with a tree in the living room lit up with colorful lights, tinsel, and ornaments. That alone was beautiful, but what happened in the morning was spectacular. As you came into the room, the lights were still lit on the tree, but under the tree were numerous wrapped gifts in reds, greens, silver, gold and ribbons tightly embracing the contents. We knew better than to touch anything before the parents were up. So, we would knock on the door, make loud noises to arouse them. Once they came to the living room, the orderly distribution of gifts began. Each of us was excited for the others to see what they got. Especially important was to see if you received what you had been hoping for. As a child, Christmas seemed like it would never get here. As an adult, it comes and goes so fast that you struggle to grab the wonder.

Now, my favorite thing has become watching the faces of the little ones as they open something they had wished for. Their parents love to see clothes for the kids, but the kids pass over those quickly for the more exciting toys. All that preparation, buying, wrapping, anticipating, cooking, and the event is over in moments. Yet, during that short event, there are memories made. Things are remembered and simple gifts can become treasures that remain a lifetime. Looking back years later, you begin to realize the sacrifice of parents and loved ones to make Christmas special.

Yes, sacrifice. As a kid you do not realize that it may take a couple of months to pay for the gifts you received. Parents do that. Or maybe someone was working two jobs or working a lot of overtime to make Christmas special. The wonder of Christmas is in the willingness to sacrifice to make the moment wonderful for someone else. 

Some of the toys were played with for awhile and then they faded. Clothing fit and was worn, but in the years of growing a few months made them too small. Yet, the sacrifice was made willingly and for that fleeting moment the reward was seen in the face of joy.

Gratitude should be present, but often is not. Sometimes it takes years to feel the gratitude for what was done. As a child, you do not know. You probably should not. Some have said that they did not know they were poor till they got older into adulthood. The sacrifices and love covered the reality so there would be joy. Then as adulthood awakens the reality of the past, you are awed by what was done for you.

I guess I do not want to lose the wonder of Christmas. The number of gifts do not matter to me, in fact, the fewer the better. You remember better with fewer. What is really important is having family together. The banter, the laughter, the stories, the little ones are the best gifts of the day.

Likewise, the wonder of the sacrifice that God made for us to have joy, fulfillment, and peace is paramount to our celebration. The birth is a wonder of God’s planning and grace, but without the cross it would have been a kid born to a Jewish carpenter and his young wife. The progress of the gift from birth to resurrection makes the wonderment beyond full comprehension. Jesus is a gift that keeps on giving to us daily. The opening of another revelation, another understanding, another prophetic fulfillment causes us to live in wonder. It is Christmas every time we see another facet of the plan and the eternal gift.

I am eternally grateful to Jesus!

– Pastor Bill

Peace on Earth

PEACE ON EARTH

We just finished a very fruitful weekend with our Holy Spirit Encounter Weekend. Ralph did an excellent job of teaching, Duane’s contribution was really good, and I enjoyed sharing as well. There were many good questions and numerous comments that were helpful. We had several guests come to the conference. They each reported how it really helped them. They made comments too about how friendly and loving the church was. (That is really good to hear)

We are fully in the Christmas season. Everyone is busy, decorating, family events, cooking, baking etc. I hope you are not getting stressed out and will be able to enjoy the season with your loved ones. We certainly want to focus on the birth of Christ and all the redemption contained in that miracle. One of the declarations of the angels was “peace on earth, goodwill toward men.” It can be translated, “peace on earth toward men of goodwill.” 

In a time where peace seems so far away, it is important to know where that peace resides and where it comes from. The peace comes from knowing God, knowing Jesus, the one sent by God. It resides within our soul and spirit and not from some external calm in the world. In the face of trials and temptations, rumors of wars and wars, trouble and double trouble, the peace comes to the spirit and soul through the presence of the Holy Spirit. As I look around, if I were looking for peace, I would not find it in circumstances.  I can only find it in the presence of Jesus.

I choose to be positive. I choose to not return evil for evil. I choose to love, not hate. I choose to look to the positive and not live in the negative. I choose to look forward and not look backward. I choose to forgive, not condemn. I choose to speak well, not complain and whine. I choose to have faith for the future and not doubt God’s provision. Life is a series of choices. What you choose, sows the seeds for your harvest. 

The world does not understand the peace of God. Many Christians do not understand the peace of God. Often they are caught in the religious, the legalistic, the performance, the sad carnal responses to life. Caught, trapped. Finding and maintaining the peace of God is a test of endurance. Each trial tests our responses and feelings. Each trial causes the internal to rise up its carnal nature. Each trial then makes us run to God, run to the savior to find the peace that passes understanding. Peace was promised, was announced, was shouted by angelic choruses. The angels declared a new day because of the child to be born.

One day the Prince of Peace will come. One day the Prince will settle the accounts and bring justice and maintain the peace. One day we will do war no more. One day the lion will lie with the lamb. One day the saints of God will love one another like Jesus intended.

– Pastor Bill