Your Beliefs Run Your Life

“Who do people say I am?”

– Jesus (Mark 8:27)

 

“Most Americans believe in God, the Bible, and a few heresies,” so began a recent article I was reading.  In case “heresy” is an unfamiliar word for you, it basically means: a belief contrary to orthodox religion.  

So what’s the harm in a little heresy?  Well, while it might sound good to hear 53% of Americans believe the Bible alone is the Word of God, the same survey reports 51% also believe the Bible was written for each person to interpret as he or she chooses.  So, basically half of Americans say, on the one hand they believe the Bible, but on the other hand they also believe they can pick and choose what they want to believe within in the Bible.

Or another example, 66% of Americans believe God answers prayer.  Amen!  But that same percentage also believe while everyone sins a little, people are by nature good.  To believe everyone is by nature good means you can safely read Genesis chapter 1, but then have to ignore everything else written from Genesis 2 all the way through Revelation 22!  It also means the death, and resurrection of Jesus was meaningless – who needs a Savior if we’re all basically good?  

Here’s the danger: Your beliefs run your life.  How you look at this world, how you understand God, and how you see yourself determine how you live, how you relate to others, and how you see this world.  If you believe you are free to pick and choose what parts of the Bible you want to believe, you then also believe you can pick and choose which commands of God you live out, and which ones you ignore.  Do you think choosing not to believe the command “do not bear false witness” might have some impact on your relationships with others?

For the next four weeks of January we are having a special series at church called Core Beliefs.  This series will run during our regular Sunday School hour (9:30-10:45 am), and we will meet in the Sanctuary (for those of you who love your coffee don’t worry – we’ll have the coffee machines set up in the foyer, and you’re welcome to bring the drinks into the sanctuary with you).  We will study over these weeks the Core Beliefs of Christianity, as well as the Church of the Nazarene.  

Everyone is invited!  Whether you already regularly attend Sunday School, a Small Group or neither.  Start this New Year reflecting on what you believe, and you might be surprised to discover how those beliefs shape they way you live your life.  

See You Sunday!

Pastor Bill

Helping Families Affected by Apartment Fire

(updated at 3:50 pm, 12/16/16)

Thank you for the outpouring of love from the people of Harrisonville! The Red Cross was here yesterday (Thursday) to give away vouchers for housing and food to the families affected by the fire, so we are not housing any at this moment.

What we need now is help getting the word out to the families affected that they can come to the Harrisonville Church of the Nazarene to get clothes, toiletries, coats, shoes, etc. In fact, the response from our community has been so overwhelming we are opening doors to other families in need of warm clothes and other items. Our church will be open for people to come and pick out things from 12-6pm on Friday and 9am-12pm on Saturday. If you can pass the word along that would be most helpful.

Here is a list of some specific needs right now: laundry detergent, toiletries (soap, shampoo, lotion, toothpaste, toothbrushes, razors for men/women), combs, brushes, hair ties, diapers (all sizes), baby wipes, towels, wash-cloths, dishes, pain relievers, reading glasses, new underwear (all sizes), bras (all sizes), Depends (XL), coffee, cat litter, cat food, cat boxes, laundry baskets, storage tubs.

As we work with the families over the next few days we will be making a list of needs and getting those out to people who can help. Feel free to contact us in the coming days to see other ways we can continue to provide support to the families. You can also contact our school district – they will know which families with children were affected.

Lastly, if you are wanting to give a monetary donation, you can give through the Harrisonville Ministerial Alliance.  Make a check out to the HMA and mark it “Fire Victims,” or stop by Hawthorne Bank in Harrisonville and let them know you want to donate for this cause.

God’s Chosen Ragamuffins

Chosen RagamuffinsAre you a ragamuffin?  ‘Ragamuffin’ is a pretty unfamiliar word to most of us today.  It’s an old word that usually refers to “a poorly clothed often dirty child.” No one wants to think of ourselves in such terms. I didn’t, at least not until I read the Ragamuffin Gospel, a book by Brennan Manning.

The book changed my life.  Not because it convinced me to become a Christian, I was already saved and sanctified wholly.  It changed my life because it changed the way I understood God’s love.  The book begins:

The Ragamuffin Gospel was written with a specific reading audience in mind.
This book is not for the super-spiritual.
It is not for muscular Christians who have made John Wayne, and not Jesus, their hero.
It is not for Alleluia Christians who live only on the mountaintop
and have never visited the valley of desolation.
It is not for the fearless and tearless.
If anyone is still reading along, The Ragamuffin Gospel was written for
the bedraggled, beat-up, and burnt-out.
It is for the wobbly and weak-kneed who know they don’t have it all together
and are too proud to accept the handout of amazing grace.
It is for inconsistent, unsteady disciples whose cheese is falling off their cracker.
It is for earthen vessels who shuffle along on feet of clay.
It is for the bent and the bruised who feel that their lives are a grave disappointment to God.
It is for smart people who know they are stupid and honest disciples who admit they are scalawags.
The Ragamuffin Gospel is a book I wrote for myself
and anyone who has grown weary and discouraged along the Way.

Over next several weeks our sermons will focus on the lives of many of the great heroes of the Old Testament – Jacob, Moses, Rahab, David, Jeremiah and Jonah.  However, we are not going to visit these great characters during their mountain top experiences with God…instead we will visit them when they were in valley of their own brokenness and doubts.  When they recognized they were ragamuffins.

You see, saints are not those who have it all together all the time. According to the Bible, saints are the ones so aware of their weaknesses and frailties, they know God is their only hope and source of strength.

So, if you wonder if you will ever get your spiritual act together…if you wonder if you will ever measure up…if you wonder if God loves you but doesn’t really like you…join us these next weeks and discover the beautiful truth God’s grace is for everyone…even ragamuffins like me (and you).
Blessings,
Pastor Bill

Faith In Action – Spiritual Hunger

“Inside of me there are two dogs. One is mean and evil and the other is good and they fight each other all the time. When asked which one wins I answer, the one I feed the most.”

~ Sitting Bull

“SPIRITUAL HUNGER”

Lent - RenewalAsh Wednesday begins our journey toward the empty tomb of Easter.  For centuries Christians have set aside this special season of the Christian year we call Lent as a time for self- reflection and special attention to our spiritual health.  As we reflect on the life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we ask ourselves, “how is Jesus’ life and sacrifice reflected in my life?”

However, the goal of this season of Lent is not self-condemnation or self-hatred, as we try and compare ourselves to the incomparable Jesus.  Instead, the goal is to feed the spiritual hunger within our heart.  Feeding that spiritual hunger does not come naturally or easily, it comes from paying close attention to prayer, scriptures, and worship.  The goal in feeling this spiritual hunger is knowing Jesus more deeply so we can serve him more faithfully.

We invite you this Lenten season to feed the spiritual hunger within you by giving special attention to your spiritual health.  We begin our journey on Wednesday night, with an Ash Wednesday service.  Sunday we begin a new sermon Series, “Chosen for Training,” in which we will explore how to become a strong and mature follower of Jesus Christ.

Which “dog” are you feeding, and how are you feeding him?

 

Blessings,

Pastor Bill

Faith in Action – Being Faithful

 

“The missional church alwaysFP-13

thinks of the long haul

rather than the quick fix.”

Alan Hirsch

 

What a wonderful Faith Promise Weekend we enjoyed!  Chris and Courtney really opened many of our eyes to the realities of ministering to those in M********* (included is the fact that, for their security, we cannot put their full names in a document like this that will be online).  I’m sure many of us feel relieved that God has not called us to such a cold mission field, and yet I’m sure no one this weekend doubts that God has given Chris and Courtney the gifts and graces to fulfill his calling upon their lives.  For security reasons we will not be posting their sermon on our website, but copies can be available on CD if you missed the service, or would simply like a recording.  Please contact the church office to order a CD.

I was reminded this weekend of the truth of Alan Hirsch’s insight above – effective ministry is a long-term effort and investment.  This is one of the reasons why I am so proud of the century-long tradition in our denomination to equip, send, and support missionaries around the world.  The quick fix might be great for TV sound bites and fundraising letters, but the tough, long-term investments made by Christians around the world are what lead to life change.  Investments by missionaries who go and learn the language, put down roots, invest in the community, and share the love of Christ through word and deed.

What part will HCN play in this missionary effort?  I’m happy to report over $7,000 was pledged in the first week of our Faith Promise pledge drive.  We will continue receiving pledges over the next two weeks as we strive to meet our goal of $12,000. * * Update: And as of February 8 we now have surpassed our goal and stand at $13,180! * * I’m also thrilled to report you gave over $1,200 in our special offering for our speakers on Sunday (by the way, we decided to just “round up” that number to $1,500 when we wrote the check)!

Have you made your pledge yet?  I will be submitting my family’s pledge this next Sunday.  I’m excited to see how we respond as a local Body of Christ to his call upon us to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19)!  

Blessings,

Pastor Bill

Your Most Important Choice This Year…

ts_131018_road_sign_200x151We make dozens upon dozens of choices every day.  We choose which outfit to wear, which food to eat, which road to take to work, which television shows to watch, which websites to visit, which attitudes to embrace. Most all of these daily choices have become so habitual we do not not even think twice about most choices we make.  

However, in a lifetime, there are a handful of choices that can be literally life-altering – for our life and for the lives of others.  Who we will marry is one example.  How we will parent our children is another.  The most important choice we will make in this life though, is in whom we will place our trust.  

The vast majority of people in this world, and throughout history, have placed their trust in themselves.  Convinced they know best how to direct their lives, as well as how to direct the lives of other, they leave a path of destruction along the way.  For ultimately, choosing ourselves, is choosing selfishness.  Can you think of a time in which you chose selfishness, and it worked out great for you and for everyone else?  

There is another option, a much better option.  We can place our trust in the One who has not only created us, but chosen to love us, bless us, and forgive us.  When we choose to place our trust in the One who has first chosen us, we are choosing love over selfishness, generosity over greed, forgiveness over bitterness, joy over short-term pleasures, and hope for the future over regret for the past.  This is a choice we make once in our lives, but then must choose each decade, each year, each month, each day, if we will live it out or not.  

As we begin a New Year, in whom are you placing your trust?  We have no way of knowing what 2016 holds for any of us, but if we accept God’s love for us, and live our lives according to Jesus’ example and teachings, we have already made the most important decision we will make this entire year.  For it is only in making this decision we will experience all the joy, peace, love, and hope God has planned for our lives.  

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.  (Ephesians 1:3-4)

New Year’s Blessings,

Pastor Bill

Faith in Action – Ministry to the Sick

hospital_ministry1302837191Long-term illness eventually impacts every family, including church families.  It is often hard to know how to minister to those going through long-term illnesses, especially if you have never had someone close to you experience such an illness.  For some, it can be intimidating to know how to talk with someone going through such an illnesses, for others it can be paralyzing as you desperately want to help but have no idea how, for others it can be the open door to minister in deep and meaningful ways to someone in real need.

So I thought I would share some hints to being a blessing to those who are battling long-term illnesses.  Most of these hints are not my own, but are the results of conversations with survivors of long-term illnesses, conversations with family members of those who have journeyed with a loved one through a long-term illness, as well as observations from my own years of ministry to those suffering.  These four are not an exhaustive list, but hopefully will give you points to think about when you find yourself in relationship with someone going through a long-term illness.  

  1. The Ministry of Presence.  Often times we feel at a loss of words.  That can be a good thing. We do not want to be glib, but we also might fear we will needless bring up painful thoughts if we try and have a deep conversation.  A good rule of thumb is, “if you don’t know what to say, say nothing.”  The person going through the illness has a much better idea than you what kind of conversation they need, and so let them direct it for you.  Honestly, sometimes they just need silence.  Othertimes they do in fact need to pour their heart out.  Sometimes they just want to talk about something shallow.  So just offer a “how are you doing?” and then let them guide the conversation, knowing your presence with them will probably be the biggest blessing.  
  2. Call Before You Show Up.  Living through a long-term illness is often like a roller coaster – emotionally, physically, spiritually, relationally.  If you want to visit, just make sure you call first to make sure that this is a day or time they can use a visit.  Unfortunately, well meaning Christians can sometimes disturb a much needed time of rest for someone who desperately needs rest.  Also, when dropping off a meal, be willing to share a conversation with a family member, but also realize it might not be a good time for them to share, and be willing to drop if off and leave.
  3. The Illness Affects The Whole Family.  While visits and conversations are great blessings for those who are sick, so also are acts of mercy and service to the rest of the family.  Offering to mow the lawn, offering to clean the house, offering to do the grocery shopping, making sure the kids have rides to where they need to go are just a few ways you can be a blessing.  Also keep in mind the range of emotions and feelings the rest of the family members are experiencing.  Point one above also applies to the family members – let them know whatever they need from you, a deep conversation or a shallow discussion of how the Chiefs blew another lead, might be exactly what they need.  Again, a simple “how are you doing?” opens the door for them to guide the conversation to where they most need it to go.
  4. Keep Worship a Time of Worship.  Now here is where I’ll probably confuse and offend some folks.  The Passing of the Peace each week is a wonderful time to shake hands, it is not a wonderful time to get caught up on the progress of an illness.  Passing the Peace is a great time to see a lot of friends, it is not the time to make a beeline across the sanctuary to stand in line to offer a hug to someone going through an illness and hope to get caught up on everything that has happened the previous week.  As one family member of a survivor told me, strive to make “church as normal as possible.”  Being mobbed during the Passing of the Peace or before or after service can make the person who is sick or their family members very uncomfortable.  This is tough to hear because you may only see that person or family member once a week – and that is at church.  So let me encourage you, make phone calls during the week.  Send notes during the week.  Find other times and ways to catch up.  Now, is this a hard and fast rule?  Of course not.  Sometimes the person needs hugs and expressions of love and support from a lot of people.  I’m just saying, be sensitive.  Be sensitive to not just your desire to catch up, but their need to connect with God during a time of worship.  Let’s keep worship about worship, and with so much change and stress in the life of a person with a long-term illness, strive to make “church as normal as possible.”  

In the liturgy for bringing in new church members, the Nazarene Manual states, “the privileges and blessing that have in association together in the Church of Jesus Christ are very sacred and precious.  There is in it such hallowed fellowship as cannot otherwise be known.”  Please take the four hints above in a spirit of love, and as a partial guide on how to make this hallowed fellowship an oasis for those enduring a long-term illness, as well as their loved ones.

Blessings,

Pastor Bill

Not Again Charlie Brown!

22
Charlie Brown, how do you know how to make the right decision? Do you simply look at the nice smile on Lucy’s face and simply believe her when she says this time, she will not pull the football a way? Do you listen to the conviction in her voice, and trust that anyone who believes so strongly about something must be right?
If you know the Peanuts comic strip at all, you know, Charlie Brown always makes the wrong decision when Lucy is holding the football.
We laugh at Charlie Brown’s predictably bad decision knowing he will soon be flat on his back. However, what is not at all funny are all the Charlie Browns in our lives whose bad decisions have led to deep pain and regret.
This past Sunday morning the sermon focused on the call to live a life of discernment. To be discerning means we live and make decisions wisely. As Christians, we believe the principles and values that will help us make wise decisions are found in our Bible. They may take study to find, we may need to consult others when seeking to understand the Bible, they may not be the principles and values that we were hoping to find. However, we believe that the scriptures contain for us everything we need for life and salvation.
My challenge to you Sunday morning was simple – create habits and practices in your life that will develop this God-given wisdom in your life. Specifically, I challenged the church to three of these practices and habits –
Make weekly worship a priority in your schedule, regularly setting aside time for the worship of God, hearing of his word proclaimed, and fellowship with fellow Christians.
Invest yourself into a small group or Sunday School class to learn through scripture study and dialogue with others how God is calling you to live your life.
Nurture your own personal devotional life. If you do not know where to begin in this step, or struggle to find a devotional guide that helps, begin with the Discipleship Helps that are printed on the back of the sermon outline in the weekly bulletin.
If you are not already part of a Small Group or Sunday School class, information about these will be in our weekly worship bulletin. Try some out, see what fits for you, and invest yourself into growing more deeply in your Christian life with your brothers and sisters in Christ. As I pointed out Sunday morning, we are beginning a brand new Adult Sunday School class on September 20th – a new class is a great time to begin a new spiritual practice in your life. See the worship bulletin for more information about this new class.

charlie-brown-football
If you invest yourself into these three spiritual practices you will be able to see much more clearly than Charlie Brown does, what are good, healthy, and right decisions for your life. And you will avoid all kinds of “WUMP,” the pains and regrets that result from bad decisions.

Faith in Action – Really? It’s Better to be Spiritually Dead than Lukewarm?

 

Join us for our July sermon series...

Join us for our July sermon series…

We began our new study of the book of Revelation Sunday by looking at God’s message to the Church of Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22).  One of the disturbing parts of this message to this Church that has accommodated itself to the sinful society around it is the complaint:  I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!  So, because you are lukewarm– neither hot nor cold– I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”

I confessed to you Sunday morning this is a really hard message to hear.  We in the American Church are often thrilled to find someone just half-committed to Christianity.  We think being half-committed is far better than being not committed at all.  Is it really worse to be a half-hearted Christian than a complete heathen?

Proving that your pastor does not have all the answers (as if you needed any more proof of that), as I was greeting everyone after service, one church member came up to me to share their take on this passage.  In their thinking, (I’m summarizing here) being half-committed is worse than not being committed at all, because the uncommitted person is still able to be confronted by God.

I think there is a lot of truth to that insight. The half-committed person knows just enough about religion to know how to ignore the hard teachings of God, how to avoid the deep sacrifices required, how to decide what the bare minimum they have to believe in order to feel good about themselves. In other words, they have learned how to not take God too seriously.

The spiritually cold person on the other hand, because they have only been oblivious to God and not boxing-in God, still has the opportunity to be amazed by the mighty love and majesty of God when God breaks into their lives.  Untrained in manipulating God, they are still able to one day take God seriously when they recognize there has to be more to life than just themselves.

Have you lost the ability to be amazed at the great love and majesty of God?  Have you forgotten the great joy and peace God brought into your heart when you first surrendered your life to him?

Lukewarm Christians are in grave danger, because they do not even recognize what great spiritual peril in which they live. I invite you today, to block off some time with God, and ask him to search your heart and mind.  Ask him to reveal your spiritual “temperature.”  Ask him, to bring his fire and passion into your life, that you might know true joy and peace with God.

Commandments: Gifts or Burdens?

New Sermon Series...

New Sermon Series…

Do you glance at those speed limit signs and see them as gifts or burdens? Now, we may not say we necessarily see them as “burdens,” but the very language of “limit” strikes us as oppressive. They limit us from getting where we want to go as quickly as we want.

When people read the commands found in the Bible, they often perceive them as burdens.
…Burdens that keep us from really enjoying life.
…Burdens that keep us from being in control of our lives.
…Burdens that keep us from getting ahead in life.
Even the language of “Commandments” strikes us as oppressive.

However, the Israelites, when walking faithfully with God, did not understand God’s commandments as burdens, but as gifts. They were gifts clearly laying out the guidelines for a life of joy, peace, and proper relationships with God, spouse, children, and community. Those guidelines provided boundaries, which when lived within, brought the blessings of God, and peace with others.

What if we saw those speed limits signs not as impediments to us getting our way, but as gifts, that when followed by all drivers, provide for much safer and more enjoyable travels for everyone?
Our invitation is to see the commands of God not as impediments to us getting our way, but as gifts. Gifts, which when followed by all God’s people provide for a much safer and more joy-filled journey through life.
Join us beginning this Sunday as we begin a new sermon series, “The Ten Commandments for the 21st Century.” Discover for the first time, or discover anew, the great blessings God offers to us through the gift of his commands.