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December Newsletter Article

Wow. December is here. Colder weather is on the way. Snow. Christmas! It’s hard to believe, but true. Time marches on, and we are one day closer to the return of our Lord and Savior.

This Christmas season we will once again be using the advent wreath to facilitate our celebration. I’m hopefully going to be able to tailor the book of Ruth to the major themes of advent: hope, love, joy, and peace. The working sermon titles are:

“Hope for the Hopeless” (Ruth 1:1-2:1)
“Sacrificial Love in Action” (Ruth 2:2-3:13)
“The Joy that Comes from Knowing our Redeemer” (Ruth 3:13-4:17)
“God’s Plan for our Peace” (Ruth 4:17-4:22)

Speaking of Christmas, have you thought about your devotional plan for the New Year? I’m sorry to say that my plan broke down last year and Valerie and I ended up doing something different. This year, however, I’m trying to engineer a plan that is simple and straightforward, and I’m going to ask you if you’d like to join me in it. Are you familiar with the “Youversion” Bible app? It’s available for free, and they not only have Bible reading plans, but they also allow you to group together for those plans. That means each day after the reading I can include my thoughts on the meaning of the passage, and others can comment as well. I thought that going through the New Testament in a year would be a good place to start.

If you’d like to join me, please download the app, and then let me know that you want to participate and make sure that I have your mobile phone number. In late December you’ll get an invite from me. Click on the link and then choose to open it with the “plan” portion of the app. You should then be a part of the plan! Each day you open the app, go to the plan, read for that day, and then have the opportunity to go to the comments section. I also believe that your phone will notify you whenever someone has posted a comment (assuming that you haven’t turned off the notifications!). I’m hoping that this will work similarly on tablets and will post a generic invite to the church Facebook page (make sure you like the page ahead of time). I guess that I’d better send the invites out before the final Sunday, so that we can work on the tech together if you have a problem!

Looking forward to a great season and a Merry Christmas. Hope to see you in church!

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Posted by on December 1, 2017 in Newsletter

 

October Newsletter Article

Hopefully by now, if you live in Northern Door, you’ve received an invitation to our sermon series for October and November. I’m using Timothy Keller’s “The Reason for God” as my inspiration and we’re going to try to answer various questions that people have about Christianity. In addition to the sermon series some smaller group opportunities will be available on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday evenings. These opportunities will give us the chance to talk about various topics by using a short video as a guide:

“Christians will be challenged to wrestle with their friends and neighbors’ hardest questions, and to engage those questions in ways that will spark an honest, enriching, and humbling dialogue. Capture a live and unscripted conversation between Timothy Keller and the six panelists discussing their objections to Christianity. This study will help small groups and individuals dig deeper into the objections of the Christian faith and to learn about both sides of the issues.”

The Sunday evening sessions will be held at church. Dave and Gretta Shepherd have graciously opened up their home on Monday nights, and Keith and Vivian Nienow have done the same for Tuesday. There is a sign-up sheet at the welcome desk for the studies. Even though you don’t necessarily have to sign up for Sunday nights, I would appreciate having a general idea of how many to expect!

Tuesday afternoons this fall ladies have a special opportunity for “Tea and Conversation” at Tea Thyme in Country Walk Shops. Stop in at 2 p.m. for fellowship and a time of guided conversation that is focused on a scripture verse. Valerie Billington, Karen Sundstrom, Pam Olsen, and Monica Koepsell will be leading the table discussions.

In September I had the opportunity to lead Sunday worship at Scandia Village. It was wonderful getting a chance to see several members of our congregation on a weekly basis again! Thank you Winnie Jackson for playing the piano, and a special thank you to those on the Compassion Team and others who do regular visits at the facility. Your thoughtfulness is much appreciated!

Valerie and I will be away October 8th, and Rev. Ken Muck will be filling the pulpit that morning. Please give him a wonderful welcome!

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2017 in Newsletter

 

September Newsletter Article

We live in an age of skepticism.  The society around us not only doesn’t understand Christianity, but is often antagonistic toward it.  Many believe that the Bible is filled with errors.  Some are offended because of the exclusive nature of Christianity.  Others are angry and confused by what they see as the moral requirements of Christianity.  Most wonder why the church and Christians seem to be such hypocrites.  A significant number are convinced that all paths lead to God, and wonder how anyone could believe in a God that wouldn’t let everyone into heaven.

For six weeks this fall we’ll try to engage our community with a series called “The Reason for God.”  We hope to have some promotional materials available soon!  In addition to the sermon series we’ll also have some additional weekly sessions that you can attend.  During these studies we’ll have an opportunity to watch a DVD with Timothy Keller engaging non-believers on a given topic, and then we’ll discuss it as a group.  These discussions are geared toward helping believers to better engage the culture around them.  The weekly sermons and sessions will be:

October 15      “Why should I believe the Bible?”

October 22      “Can’t all religions be right?”

October 29      “Why are there so many rules?”

November 5    “If God is good, why is there evil?”

November 12  “Why Are Christians hypocrites?”

November 19  “Shouldn’t everyone go to heaven?”

I hope that you are excited about the series!  Also, if anyone out there would like to host one of the small groups, please let me know.

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2017 in Newsletter

 

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