Sunday Morning

As a young child on Sunday mornings I used to get up and watch a television program called “The Children’s Hour,” a local DFW program. Sunday mornings the host would read the Sunday comics, show some cartoons, have a guest from a zoo or museum showing something and then the highlight for me, the claymation show about a boy and his talking dog “Davey and Goliath.”

The “Davey and Goliath” program was really the only reason I watched the show, (and probably the only reason I’d be allowed to watch TV before church.) There were lessons on all kinds of issues that were day to day problems, issues and yes, sins. Prejudice, lying, cheating, friendship, helping others, and the list goes on as to the many lessons that were addressed. The coolest thing for me (if referencing the program were not enough to date me, using the term ‘cool’ certainly does) was that at the end of the program a large picture of Luther’s Rose was shown for a good 15 seconds and a note that the program was a production of the Lutheran Church.

As a child then and just like kids today, if it was on television, it was important. Thus, for the Lutheran church reference and our most recognizable symbol, Luther’s Rose, to be on television meant that as a Lutheran I was a part of something important. Here I was, now ready to go to church, a church that had just been recognized by the “TV people” (not to be confused with the ones so-called in the movie “Poltergeist”.) I was a part of something significant, something meaningful, something important. The Children’s Hour host, Bill Kelly would even end the program with a statement along the line of “well, we have time for one more cartoon before it’s time to go to church.”

Over the years my attention to “Davey and Goliath” waned. The program was moved to Saturdays, were it conflicted with action style kid’s programing and 30 minute cartoons. A long time after I quit watching it, it was also eventually canceled. But, by that time, my draw to the church had changed. I was no longer drawn because of the notoriety given to the church by the television, but by the focus of the church on Jesus.

A TV program on a major network inviting kids to get a Christian message and encouraging them to go to church seems unimaginable in this day. In fact, television has gone the opposite direction with its anti-Christian bias. Most every program has a couple living in what is deemed an alternate lifestyle. The use of God’s name is reserved mainly for humor. The devil is portrayed as someone who is not so bad and may even be glorified. While there are several programs even now about God, they are farcical at best, and blasphemous in reality.

So, what manner has the Holy Spirit devised to combat the world and the ongoing daily attack that is audibly and visibly before us? That would be the same thing today as it has been throughout history, the Church. While so many Christians fill their daily lives with the heretical flood of entertainment that comes through their televisions, a small percentage of them come to church, purge their sins, join in the fellowship of the family of believers and worship the Savior.

Don’t de-emphasize God and His Church in your life. It’s like a bride ignoring her groom when we leave the church out of our life. We permit culture to attack our faith and don’t put up any struggle. Fight back (that good fight of faith) and join the family in praising Christ. It’s the most important event you could be a part of every week. There is nothing more God pleasing you could do with your morning.

Pastor Bill

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Life Out of Control?

This letter you are reading was/is being, written while Kathryn and I travel to Colorado. As we neared our first 400 miles, we made our first stop for gas and to switch drivers. So, while Kathryn takes the wheel, I type on a bumpy road somewhere in Kansas. So far, we have seen no less than 6 accidents where people lost control on the wet roads (It’s been raining heavily since we entered Oklahoma). Some of the vehicles managed to get their cars so far off the road, we couldn’t even figure out how they got there.

With a New Year, I was drawn to think about how many people are dealing with a like reference in life. What I mean is, as we both look around and perhaps even a quick glance in the mirror, we see that for some people, their lives have spun or are spinning out of control. Some have gotten to that point because of contact with another vehicle (person). Some have ended up where they are because of hitting a barrier and rebounding out of control. Others we going to fast and just not paying attention to some of the dangers around them. And for even a few we look and say, how could they have possibly gotten where they are from here of where they were.

Holidays and especially the major Holy days that are centered on love and family life with God and each other can become a burden on some and a dread for others. I urge you to work to keep your life in control. If you feel like you’re losing traction, slow down and perhaps even give someone else the wheel for a while. Let others in the Body of Christ be a support for you.

Several Bible verses come to mind for those dealing with their loss of control in life. 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” So many people around us have traveled down the same roads we are on now. Some successfully and some who have spun-out in the past and learned from their experiences. They can help us just as we would certainly be willing to help them.

Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” While some may want to take this verse and use it to suggest a manipulation of what an individual can do and believe that God will back them. We should read it as an understanding that if we properly place God first in our lives, He’s the one who really takes the wheel for us. Like the hymn, “Jesus Savior Pilot Me”, we don’t want God in the passenger or co-pilot seat. Let Him have control and trust He’ll get you where you need to be.

Finally, 1 Peter 5:6-8, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” The devil is looking for ways to help us lose control. He wants us to veer off the road and feel that we have nowhere else to go. You know that’s not true. Jesus said He is with us always. He also gave us each other to support and hold on to when we’re in times of trouble or the road is difficult. Don’t lose control in the New Year, Hand the keys for your life to Jesus and take comfort that He and your sisters and brothers in Christ are there for you.

Pastor Bill

Belize 2018 (2nd Letter)

While walking in the village and running errands for the team, I met a young boy named David. He wasn’t at the school where the other children were gathering. In fact, he was walking the opposite direction from there. I stopped him and encouraged him to go and join in on the fun, the crafts. coloring, bible stories, the football (soccer) game…He couldn’t do that. He was heading to the bus stop. As we visited, I shared my name, ‘Mr. Bill’ with him. His eyes lit up as he said, “Mr. Bill is the man’s name that I work for.” “Really? You work for someone? What do you do?” I asked. David told me he raked and whatever else he says.

The job of raking is very important in Belize in the areas where there is beach sand, such as along the peninsula where our team goes. It’s believed that raking the sand (daily) helps control the sand flea (jigger) population. The thought is that raking reveals some of the eggs to the sun and kills them. So, David has an important task for his employer. What’s hard of course to accept is that an 8 year old, has to work. Yes, “has to” work. His pay is needed for his family. This trip was during their summer break from school and I do not know if he attends school or just goes to work year round. While elementary school is considered compulsory in Belize, there are many who do not attend, and for a multitude of reasons.

We cannot relieve most of the physical struggles the peoples of Belize face. But, we can continue to go there and seek to bless them and support them as we are able. The Belize Mission Society (BMS) monetarily sponsors several students that they may attend school. Once there, they also sponsor the feeding program that provides (at current about 50-60) kids with a hot lunch at St. Alphonsus in Seine Bight, and breakfast program that feeds 20+ kids each day. We go as missionaries of various congregations, but under the auspices of the BMS.

God has called congregations from around the states to come together to serve. We go there to find ways we can continue to give help in physical and spiritual ways. As we go to bless them, we return more blessed for having been there. It is certainly a two way gift from God.

Back in Belize City I met Simeon, a security guard who is from Punta Gorda (the opposite end of the country). He left there to find gainful employment and too escape a bad lifestyle, even ganginvolvement. He is trying hard to be a good person, reading the Bible and is learning about the Christian faith. He struggles but is open about those struggles and his desire to be the child of God that God desires. He asked for continued prayers and specifically that he would be able to avoid temptations and being drawn back into old ways trough pressure from his brother and others. We spoke for a long time and prayed together before having to stop because his supervisor came and did not approve of our visiting.

These are only two stories of new connections I made. There are dozens more by the many members of our team on this trip alone. While not everyone can go to Belize, everyone can be a part of this ministry through your financial support and more importantly your prayers. As the saying goes, “We cannot all cross the seas, but we can all see the Cross.”

Holy Cross – Belize Missions 2018

There is so much more to share than I can write within the confines of a single brief blog. So, I am going to make a series of posts, but begin with this simple overview for now.

16 folks from Holy Cross were joined by 16 more people from two other congregations, Zion in Walburg, TX and St. Paul Lutheran in Napoleon, OH. Last year we were notified by the airlines that out flight had been cancelled only 3 hours before we were scheduled to take off. We had no problems flying out this time but there were other struggles the devil came up with instead. We had two folks who had to leave early do to some health issues, and another who had to stay inside for a couple of days because of other health struggles. We had planned to paint classrooms at the school, but the school doors were locked and no teachers or keys were to be found. The devil seems to work overtime wherever Christians gather together to focus on blessing others.

As always, God prevails. And those of us who went to be a blessing discover all over again, that in many cases we are the ones who are blessed. When we place ourselves in the Lord’s hands and let go so that God may truly use us, He not only shows His glory, but allows us to be a part of His good works (Eph. 2:10).

Half of our group each day went to the village of Riversdale. Riversdale is located just north of the peninsula. So, they had a 10 minute drive north each morning from where we were staying. Once there, they held a VBS for the local children. This is the first time a VBS has ever been held in this village according to those who lived there. This ministry also opened up an opportunity for one of our missionaries to make more contacts with the local folk who expressed a desire to have regular worship times there.

The rest of the team went down to Seine Bight (our home community), which was a 10 minute drive south on the peninsula. There we held men’ and women’s Bible studies, children’s ministry each day and also worked on painting the cafeteria and the preschool at the school. We did some bathroom repairs at the school too. Then, we repaired a sink and installed a shower and wheelchair ramp in a home as well. All in all it was a very good trip.

The devil was defeated throughout our week there, we overcame obstacle after obstacle, work was accomplished, old relationships were revitalized and new friendships were made. By grace, we were a blessing to our sisters and brothers in Belize and they were a huge blessing to each of us.

(What follows is changed from my original post. As happens far too frequently in the U.S. happens the same in other countries as well. An early report said Antwone, having been found hanging, was being called a murder. That story has been changed. I had not read anything past those initial reports but have been made aware of a followup story.) 

Sadly, there was a tragedy following our time there. After the team had returned to the states a young boy only 7 … *** was found dead in what is being investigated as a suicide.*** This child had been a part of our Belize Mission Society ministries in the past, even participating in VBS in Seine Bight this year. This reminds that even after years of ministry in Seine Bight, the devil still has a strong foothold in the community, just as he has all over the world. God is not done with us there. We are not done going there. Next year, I pray for a larger number of folks to join us and help continue to bring the life saving Gospel to Belize. Until then, just keep praying.

Pastor Bill

“FIGuring Things Out”

A couple years back I mentioned in a sermon that I was very disappointed that the Fig trees I planted were not producing as I felt they should. Did I plant them in the wrong area? Was the soil that poor? Were they not getting enough water? Well, that has changed now. They are thriving (or at least were until the extreme heat hit the area). I have had some great harvests from one of my fig trees almost every other day. I do argue with the squirrels and birds. The fake rubber snakes I placed out helped, I think for a while, but now nobody is fooled by them anymore.

I have always loved figs. Fig cookies, fig preserves and years ago I even had a unique fig flavored vodka from Germany that was rather good. The fig tree is the third tree mentioned in the Bible when Adam and Eve made their clothes from fig leaves. Between the word “Figs” and ‘Fig Tree” they make an appearance in around 70 verses in Scripture. In all those verses there are good things spoken of as well as words of admonition and even curses made.

I recall from Luke 13:6-9 [Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So, he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”]

The Law from this passage would help us saying, don’t take up soil (life) and waste the nutrients (blessings, gifts, talents) that God presents to you. “Produce fruit in keeping with the repentance” (Matthew 3:8). The Gospel from this passage would remind us that God gives us second chances and as we know, a lot more than just a second chance. He gives us time to mature and produce as He has planted us.

God is certainly more generous with us than we are with others. If someone disappoints us in some way we might be swift to correct or condemn them. How often do we give them the opportunity to amend or self-correct their situation? Some folks are certainly better at this than others, still we all have our breaking point.

Thankfully God does not. He is there to forgive over and over again. The Lord God has us “FIG”ured out. He has taken time to allow us to grow and mature. We may get a little scraggly, or from one season to the next fail to produce as expected, but God still puts up with us. At least for now. There is a day coming when we’re are told “Every knee will bow.” Many fig tree branches have a good deal of “bend” in them. But they also have their breaking point. Better to give ourselves fully to God now. Better to honor Him with our lives today than wait for the day of judgment and wonder if we have produced as God desired us to do.

You’ve already been planted and nurtured for years. Get out there and bear fruit! Go! Be the child of God that you were called to be. Flourish under the SONshine. Live for the Lord. Don’t wait another season to start doing what God made you to do. Bear fruit!

Pastor Bill

Legal or Illegal?

Those words have very distinct meanings. In the United States (as it likely is in any other country) we have a multitude of laws that some people are in favor of and some people dislike. Over time laws change and change again. The result is the same, some people like the changed law and some people do not like the changed law.

The application of, or outcome of, a certain law is sometimes decided by nine people in the highest court in our country. Most often, they cast their vote in accordance with their political ideology. This is always controversial recognizing that there is an inherent bias always at work. So it is with most laws. The bias that exists within every person is not altered by our vocation.

One of the greatest challenges our country is facing today is the application, and/or enforcement, of laws. A great problem exists when we try to insert or use God’s Word to support our perspective on a national/secular law. The reason this becomes problematic is that one can use the Bible to support or condemn pretty much anything they want. There are already distinct laws in the Bible. You can find 10 really good ones in the Old Testament (Ex. 20 and Deut. 5). After that, Jesus introduces a couple of summations of those 10 laws reducing them to two. And of course, people want to use those laws to support their bias concerning civil laws.

While there is a statement that reads, “We the People…” concerning our government, there is a more important statement that reads we are the Body of Christ (the church); Rom 15:5, Col. 2:19, 3:15. How that is exercised is the next place where we continue to find disagreement. We will always have disagreements on the laws of the land, but that cannot be allowed to cause division in the Body and the Law of the Lord. Where God’s bias must always be honored.

I am greatly disheartened by “Christians” who condemn other Christians because of their political perspective. I’ve read where a person called those who view things differently sinful and even ‘evil.’ To which I respond that they just became the evil they condemn. It is not given to us to judge the motives and heart of another. Actions that disagree with our ideology most often (granted not always) are simply that, not acts of evil. Once we judge another child of God we have forgotten the log that is in our own eye (Mt. 7:1-5.) See also Js 1:23-24.

Civil laws come and go. From the past; prohibition, health care, voting rights, social security, the draft, and so on. From the present; legalizing marijuana, private enterprise and rights of service, gun ownership, health care (still), trade with other nations.

I may not agree with your ideas regarding the Country’s laws. But, what I really want to know is, are you a child of Christ? Have you been Baptized? Do you know Jesus as the only way to heaven (Jn. 14:6 “no one comes to the Father, except through me”)? Will you work with me to get the Good News out into the world? God’s Laws will not cause a division between us. The Gospel will unite us! Look at me as a forgiven child of God, I pledge to do the same to you. “But the fruit of the Spirit is LOVE, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Gal. 5:22-23).

Pastor Bill

SERVICE or SERVE US?

Do you have a “service mentality,” or a “serve us mentality”? While the dichotomy is simple to understand, because of our sinful nature, living the Christian lifestyle and being a true servant is hard to do. Still, we are called to serve, not to be served.

There are some genuinely generous people, truly gifted in hospitality, in giving, in serving others. Sadly, and perhaps somewhat cynically, more of what I see in people is that they have a desire to be served more than to serve others.

When this “serve us mentality” infects the minds of the individuals, it also infects the church which is made up of these people. It’s the same principle we deal with in people saying they come to church to “be fed”. It’s rather obvious that people get out of things from that which they put in (kind of like a church potluck). If a church member comes with a bitter attitude, more than likely they will leave with bitterness multiplied in their heart. If someone comes lacking the desire to forgive another they will be prone to leave not only feeling the same, but possibly having even less forgiveness in their heart as they see and hear that others are being called forgiven who have done far worse things (at least in their minds).

People most often see what they want to see and hear what they want to hear. They take with them only what fits their personally molded mentality. It infiltrates every aspect of people’s spiritual life. Some people put $20 a month in the offerings and expect the church to maintain a certain standard of appearance, comfort and certainly service to them in times of need. They scoot in and out of church hardly saying a word to anyone and then claim the church is unfriendly and unwelcoming.

Praise God that there are many in the church who do love the Lord and it’s genuinely observed because they show it in their love and respect for other children of God. Matthew 13 speaks about how Jesus was rejected in his own hometown and that there were no miracles performed there because of their lack of faith. It’s sorrowful that they missed out on the blessings of Jesus because they were too focused on themselves, on being served rather than serving.

There’s a series of commercials that have played over and over for years from a credit card company asking “What’s in Your Wallet?” The direction they want you thinking is that if you have their card, you’ll have all you need. We could ask in the church, “What’s in Your Heart?” and understand that question may reveal you have all you need, or it may show an ugliness that is in need of repentance and being left at the foot of the Cross.

If the church is to be right and healthy, then we as her members need to be right and healthy. If the church is to be faithful, then we as God’s individual people need to be faithful and faith filled. If the church is to be a place of “service” to others, the we need to rid ourselves of the “serve us” mentality and instead return to the Lord and the example He is in His service to us. Are you faithfully coming to the weekly family reunion or missing out to serve yourself? What are you bringing to the Sunday family gathering? It’ll be reflective of what you take home.

“For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them.” ~ 1 Corinthians 9:19

Don’t be in it for yourself, that you might be served. Live for the opportunity to be of service for others.

Pastor Bill