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August Newsletter Article

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the LORD has commanded the blessing, life forevermore. Psalm 133

I have been in difficult situations in various churches, so I know the importance of this passage of Scripture. It‘s amazing how a few people can cause serious problems for a congregation! And, although I’ve experienced a variety of issues in pastoral ministry, I’ve discovered that it’s just as painful when a family member is going through a rough time.

My son Andrew is the youth pastor in an Evangelical Free church. By all accounts he’s doing very well, and is well liked by most of the congregation. However, that’s not the case with the senior pastor. Even though my son feels that that the senior pastor is being unjustly persecuted, the situation has become drastic enough that the elders are calling for a vote of confidence on July 30th to determine the future of his ministry at the church. To show their support, the entire staff has made this a vote of confidence on them as well. The vote may be over by the time you read this, and it looks like the staff has the support they need to weather the storm, but I would appreciate your continued prayers for them as I’m sure that there will continue to be problems for a while.

Now, having said all that, I am especially grateful to God for the season of ministry we are experiencing at First Baptist. Thank you for your support, and thank you for your continued work and outreach for the church. As we get ready for our August Fund Raiser, let’s make it a time of celebration and thanksgiving. Come out, enjoy some fellowship, eat some good food, and maybe even have a chance to dunk the pastor again this year!

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2017 in Newsletter

 

March Newsletter Article

2 Corinthians 12:9 “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

It’s been a difficult couple of weeks in the Billington household.  Not only did Valerie chip her ankle and tear some ligaments, I’ve been dealing with the crud that’s going around and actually had to call in reinforcements this past Sunday (thank you Delmar and Gene!).  The crud has now officially taken root in my sinuses, so I’m on an antibiotic once again and hoping for the best.

Unfortunately I’ve had to deal with sinus issues for a long time.  For the past 25 years I’ve had trouble breathing, sinus pain, migraine headaches, and various assorted maladies associated with my problem.  I’ve seen specialists, had surgery, tried allergy shots, and I currently use a neti pot, aromatherapy, vitamins, and was about to try something entirely new until I saw some pictures of people who have developed argyria!  Up next is probably another CT scan and a visit with a new specialist.

Why the litany?  Just to whine?  No, it’s because of a passage like 2 Cor 12:9.  Most of the time I realize that there are people out there that are much worse off than I am, but I still wish my issues would go away.  And I don’t have the attitude that Paul expresses here.  It’s true that he does ask the Lord to take away his “thorn in the flesh” – that I can understand.  But essentially being thankful for the thing that is causing him pain?  That’s not so easy.  In fact, when you’re in pain (emotional or physical), it can be especially difficult to feel spiritual, or to engage in prayer, study, reflection and praise.  Is Paul simply talking about the “God help me” cry that comes to our lips in distress, or is there more to it than that?

I think the key is in understanding what the power of Christ is in this verse.  And it’s even more interesting that Christ’s power isn’t felt through healing.  It’s felt through acceptance.  It’s felt through faith.  It’s felt through grace.  Grace?  Grace in pain?  Yes.  Grace to accept.  Grace to believe.  Grace to persevere.  Grace to trust.  Grace to hope.  In a loving God.  In a brighter future.  In a better world.  Something that we would not desire, we would not long for, we would not need, if it weren’t for pain in this world.  So, it turns out I can be thankful for my pain, because it causes me not only to lean on God, but also to look forward to a different world and a brighter future.

 
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Posted by on March 4, 2017 in Newsletter, Personal

 

January Newsletter Article

Bible Reading in the New Year

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2017 in Newsletter

 

December Newsletter Article

The sanctuary is decorated.  Christmas carols are on the stereo.  The Packers have their first win in a month.  God is on His throne!  And yet, in spite of all that, a sense of melancholy invades.  It has been a year of change.  Much good – some bad.  Many people endure this same sense of conflicting emotions around the holidays as they try to celebrate but never fully enter into the celebration.  What can help?

Well, we can recognize that life goes on.  If bad comes, so does good.  If sorrow comes, so does joy.  If pain comes, so does relief.  If it can get worse, it can also get better!  We need to heed the words of Solomon: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;  a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.”

We can also realize that we have hope.  Peter reminds us of all that we gain through our belief in Jesus Christ: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.”

And finally, we can rejoice that we are not alone. Isaiah 41:10 says, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

I truly hope that you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2016 in Newsletter

 

November Newsletter Article

The day is almost here.  Tuesday, November 8th is the day we are called upon to go out and vote for our leaders.  The best (but not perfect) Bible verse concerning the importance of voting and the importance of who to vote for may be Deuteronomy 16:18:

You shall appoint judges and officers in all your towns that the LORD your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment.  You shall not pervert justice. You shall not show partiality, and you shall not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous.  Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

I say that it’s not perfect since there are some interpretive difficulties in taking a verse giving instructions for Israel when they are entering the promised land and applying it to our representative democracy today!  However, there are some other Bible verses that give us clear instruction regarding how we are to live as Christians regardless of the government we have.

  • We pray for our leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-4).
  • We obey our leaders (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17).
  • But we always recognize that our greatest allegiance is to God, and He comes first (Acts 5:27-29).

In the midst of it all we believe that God is ultimately in control (Daniel 2:20-21), and that He can do as He wishes (Proverbs 2:11).  The issue becomes the difference between what God decrees and what God allows.  God says that certain things will happen and they do!  But other times He works in the midst of our decisions and our choices, because He can still accomplish His will.  Our responsibility then may go back to Deuteronomy 16:18, remembering that “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people (Proverbs 14:34).”  Please make your decision on November 8th based on prayer, the Word, and a continual reliance upon God’s Spirit.

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2016 in Culture, Issues, Newsletter

 

October Newsletter Article

Proverbs 16:9 “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (NASB).

A few weeks ago I gave a testimony at the 8am service instead of a sermon (August 14, 2016).  Although it wasn’t as eloquent as I’d normally like, it came out of the honest and forthright emotion of the moment.  It was the culmination of a long journey that I want to recount for you a little bit here.  Not the full story, since you can go and listen to that if you’d like, but a bit of the story that I think may be helpful and informative.

What do you do when you feel that God wants you to do something?  That was the dilemma that Valerie and I found ourselves in.  We both felt that it was God’s will to sell our house, and had been working toward that end for over a year.  Conversations with friends, real estate people, and even an appraiser confirmed what we felt: get it ready, put it on the market, and it probably wouldn’t last long.  So we did this past spring.  And we showed it a lot at the beginning.  And we waited.  And we waited.  And we waited.  Every other house that we’d sold had sold more quickly than this one!  We began to wonder whether or not we had misinterpreted what we’d felt, or put our desires and feelings in the place of God’s will.  And then we had another couple of showings, so we started looking for options again.  To make a long story short (too late!), Valerie ended up with a part-time job as a live in property manager of an apartment complex.  We felt that it was too good an opportunity to turn down, a God given opportunity at that, and we moved in on September 1st.  But that’s not the end of the story.  On the day that we signed our lease we received on offer on our house that we accepted.  We are currently waiting for the closing of our house on October 7th, but everything looks good so far.

So, what is the moral of this story?  Could you interpret it as God showing graciousness toward two stupid people?  Of course! But allow me to tell you my interpretation.  God was moving us in a direction, but we not only misinterpreted the timing, we often wondered if we had misunderstood the message.  However, if God had allowed our house to sell early, we wouldn’t be where we are now, and we may have jumped into a situation we weren’t ready for in our desperation for a place to live.  So that brings me to our Scripture passage.  We plan, we think, and we pray, but we recognize that it is God who is ultimately in control.  And if we are trying to please Him, He will lead us to where He wants us to be, even though that may not be where we thought we were going to end up!

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2016 in Newsletter, Personal

 

August Newsletter Article

You may have read through the Gospel of John in the past and noticed that his story of Jesus is a little different. In contrast to the other Gospels, John takes Jesus all the way back—to the beginning of Creation! This startling introduction presents Jesus as part of the Godhead. In words reminiscent of the Creation story, John begins his book: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (1:1). Word is from the Greek term logos, which means different things to different people. The Jews think of it as the power of God, for all God has to do is speak the words, “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3) and there is light. The Greeks think of it as cosmic reason, the well-designed frame on which the universe is built. Jesus is both of these—the power of God, and the one whose signature is stamped on the universe. But John takes the term still further. Just as a word reveals a thought, Jesus is the expression of God, physically revealing the invisible, spiritual presence of God. Jesus is God who “became flesh and dwelt among us” (1:14).

John also leaves out some things. Where are the parables?  What about Jesus’ birth, His baptism, temptation, the Last Supper? What about His agonizing prayer on the night of his arrest, or His ascension into the sky? John, probably written last of the four Gospels, does not repeat most of stories that may have been circulating for decades. Instead, he focuses on Jesus’ deity, using carefully selected miracles and teachings that propel this theme.

John focuses on seven “signs” whose purpose is to reveal “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (20:31).  John selected the signs he used with the apologetic purpose of creating intellectual (“that you may believe”) and spiritual (“that believing you may have life”) conviction about the Son of God.  But there is also great depth for believers in this Gospel as well. John reveals that Jesus used seven “I am” statements to describe His ministry, each revealing something else about His ministry and each rich with symbolism and meaning. If the action-packed Gospel of Mark was written for shorter attention spans, John has the opposite end of the spectrum in mind: people who enjoy peeling off layer upon layer of dramatic, insightful symbolism, and people who want nothing more than extensive, detailed teaching sessions led by the Master Teacher.

I hope that you will continue with us on this exciting journey as we look at the Gospel of John over these next few months!