First Presbyterian Church

First Presbyterian Church
221 North Main Street
Belvidere, IL 61008

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Script #26


Wednesdays are another opportunity to align our hearts with His and each other with so many wonderful children's programs and opportunities to sing and study and...

Today begins our new Advent/Lent spiritual discipline with Midweek Boost ("Positively Good News at the Table") in the chapel at 11:30 a.m.

Beginning with a few minutes of quiet music commencing around 11:25 a.m., there will be 5-10 minutes of devotional/expositional reading from the Bible and then the privilege of Holy Communion.  The "boost" will conclude with a benediction before noon.

If you scroll down to script 24 (yeah, scroll down after reading this sentence to review a note or two) to #2, you will see a parenthesis that I did not make clear.  The parenthesis comes after the notation on quiet music and was an invitation to folks who'd like to provide some gathering music for the boost.  Two friends read that to mean an invitation to provide the devotional.  While that was not the original intent, I trust the Lord's working in their lives and a message for me through them that if anybody does feel called to provide a 5-10 minute devotional during the boosts of Advent and Lent that I am to clear the way!  So if you feel called to do it, just let Karen or me know a week in advance.  I look forward to His Word through you!

Getting back to last Sunday, what a blessing to have Bruce and Dan with us again!  And I'm praying they come back again and again and...

BTW, disks of the service - requests have been coming in - are available by calling Karen at the church (815-544-6402); and you can even pick up some more of their disks at the same time!

He is quickening His movement among us.

Blessings and Love!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Script #25


With thanks and praise to God for Jeremy's nearly eight years of ministry to the children and youth of our family of faith at First Presbyterian Church, we will gather together in Fellowship Hall after the second service on December 18 to celebrate our love and life together as he accepts a call to the Reformed Church of America in Cedar Rapids, Iowa as Director of Youth on January 1, 2012.

A small part of our affection and affirmation will be expressed through a love gift presented to Jeremy, Jeanette, Bree, Kara, and Ben during the celebration; and you are invited to contribute to this gift by sending a contribution to the church by December 15.  If your gift is by check, please make it out to "First Presbyterian Church" with a designation/memo for "Jeremy's Love Gift."

A transition/search committee for children, youth, and educational ministries has been appointed and will report regularly to session.

As we thank and praise our Lord for the privilege of our previous partnership with Jeremy, Jeanette, and their children, we look forward to our continuing bond in the extended family of faith for the glory of Jesus alone.

Blessings and Love!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Script #24


I thank God for you every day; as I intercede for His best in your life!

I am praising God more than ever before on this Thanksgiving for who He is and what He has done for us through Jesus along with the privilege to be your undershepherd.

Some quickies:

1. While the Sunday after Thanksgiving ranks right down there with other "empty tomb" Sundays, I hope to see you this Sunday along with folks you invite as we welcome Dan Holmes back to First with his buddy Bruce!  Seriously, let's have a big welcome home Sunday for our friends!  Invite!  Welcome!  Include!  Love!

2. We're starting an Advent (and then Lent) spiritual discipline on the corner of Lincoln and Main: Midweek Boost ("Positively Good News at the Table") in the chapel on Wednesdays at 11:30 a.m.  Beginning with a few minutes of quiet music to align hearts with His (and if you'd like to volunteer on a Wednesday, let Karen know), there will be a 5-10 minute devotional/expositional reading from the Bible and gathering at the table for Holy Communion.  The "boost" will conclude with a benediction before noon.

3. I Just Wanna Ride (see below) will hit the, uh, market, officially, on 1/1/12.  The message is clearly Christocentric/Biblical; but the language is rough and tough to reach people for Jesus in an unconventional way.  Specifically, while I studied French, German, Latin, Hebrew, and Greek, I have come to realize, as Paul noted, that we must learn the language of the people if we are to reach them for Jesus.  This book is in the language of "real" not posing folks.  I know it will offend some; but I beg your indulgence to the higher intentions of the author.  My goal is to humble myself, even humiliate myself, to get people of all persuasions looking to Jesus alone as Lord and Savior and the only solution to the meanness, madness, and misery of life in the modern world. 

4. Leslie is doing well after surgery; and your prayers have been heartfelt.

Again, Happy Thanksgiving!

Blessings and Love!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Script #23


Preceded by worship with holy communion and a devotional reading of Matthew 9:35-10:42, session met for its monthly stated meeting with representatives from the deacons and invited guests.

Because of our Lord's passion for witnessing in His light (see John 3:19-21), I will ask Karen, if no one objects, to duplicate this update for inclusion in this coming Sunday's bulletin.  It will also be published on Wednesday as "First's Family Undershepherd Script (23)."  While it may be lengthy and cumbersome for some, one consistent concern in our congregation is the thirst for more information.  Well, uh, here we go!

I know e-mail or snail mail or any written communication has limitations - open to sad misinterpretations and reading between the lines and imagining and...

I know some folks rebel against such communications and prefer face-to-face reviews of everything; and while respecting that desire and always available to anyone about anything at just about anytime as asked, this update is important for so many in such a timely way that such individual attention is imprudent as well as hurtful to those who would ask why they were not contacted when someone else was contacted.

Now to last night's meeting.

Last night's meeting was marked by the best expressions of Christian character by all who attended.

All decisions were unanimous or clear/substantial/indisputable majorities.

The meeting's deportment was marked by grace, generosity, and other hallmarks of agape.

I felt privileged to moderate such a meeting of people so dedicated to honoring Jesus.

Among the many decisions made, I believe two rise to the level of Christocentric/Biblical significance.

Other decisions will be reflected in the minutes of the meeting that are available to anyone who asks Karen for a copy and highlighted by Connie for the newsletter.

First, appreciation and affirmation were expressed repeatedly for the tireless, generous, and steadfast service of Dale as chairman of the Project Team.  Everyone recognizes the financial challenges of these times and thanks him for leading with Jan, Carl, Pat and those employed by the church during this renovation/expansion.  The bad news is we will exhaust most of our endowment as we move to completion of the project.  The good news is we will not be in debt.  Bob (not me) will be helping to monitor the completion of the work; focusing on completing all current aspects of the renovation/expansion while not commencing anything new.  Again, while recognizing the challenges, this discussion was marked by celebration along with appreciation and affirmation of Dale's exemplary service.

Second, it was unanimously decided the "senior" (Geez!  I know I'm...) pastor will exercise the constitutional rights/demands/expectations of our denomination's constitution and order worship subject to the review of session.  These discussions were marked by attention to "Leadership for Today's Church" which can be read via  Appreciation and affirmation were expressed repeatedly for all who have been coordinating and ordering music, rubrics, and ceremonies of rites in worship; however, it has become increasingly clear that members of our family of faith at First Presbyterian Church have become increasingly frustrated by not knowing where the "buck" stops.  Session made it clear that the buck stops with session through the "senior" pastor as the primary liturgical leader of the family.  Practically, this means anyone who has a problem, complaint, concern, vision, revelation, inspiration, or indigestion will know that they can blame the pastor and focus their energies in his direction.  I made one important comment (amplified since last night) here: "It is important for all of us to remind folks that listening and agreeing are not synonyms."  Specifically, the "senior" pastor subject to the review of session will order the liturgies, determine how much music is included in services, honor the diversity of music inspired by our Lord, and so on.  After the unanimous vote, I fleshed it out a bit more.  While I pray never to be pharisaical as I submit to the reviews and authority of the session, I told session that this will commence on 11/27, Elaine will coordinate praise songs with me and help order the service with Karen et moi for publication in bulletins, Lisa will be the "gatekeeper" of all musicians and continue her responsibilities with our rich diversity of choirs and musicians and consult with Elaine and me about the availability of selections for Sundays in advance, Mona will continue her ministry in the first service and be asked to play the organ and piano in the second service as requested (noting Lisa will play organ hymns when Mona is unavailable), and Karry will coordinate liturgical participation/leadership/speaking/praying apart from the concerns preceding the service, message, sacraments, prayers, and other elements entrusted to the "senior" pastor and subject to the review of session.  In short, people will now know where the buck stops and how to be heard as we pray and labor together to honor Him in worship.

If I am wrong in any of my recollections or amplifications, participants in last night's meeting will hit "reply all" and correct me; expressing my apologies in advance for anything that I have miscommunicated or misinterpreted.

Again, it was a great meeting; and from worship through adjournment, I trust we felt the warmth and gentle guidance of His Holy Spirit.

Blessings and Love!

P.S. Please feel free to forward this to anyone not appearing as copied who you feel should recieve this.  Again, if anyone reads anything pejorative in the above, it is my failure to communicate the overwhelming presence of the Lord in gently guiding session in all its deliberations last night.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Script #22


This morning, in prayer, I was almost paralyzed by my tears and sorrow over the pain in our world, country, denomination, churches, families, and even on the corner of Lincoln and Main.

I recalled a terrifying/horrific paragraph from William Barclay's The Letter to the Romans (1955) about 16:17-20 that I first read back in 1976: "He picks out...characteristics of men hurtful to the Church and to the Christian fellowship.  They are men who cause dissensions among the brethren.  Any man who does anything which disturbs the peace of a church has much to answer for.  A minister was once talking to a man newly come to his congregation from another town.  The man had obviously little of the love of Christ upon him.  He said to the minister: 'You know such and such a congregation?' naming that of which he had formerly been a member.  'Yes,' said the minister.  'Well,' said the man with a certain evil relish, 'I wrecked it!'  There are people who take a pride in making trouble and who like nothing better than to sow the poisonous seeds of strife.  The man who has brought strife to any band of brothers will answer for it some day to Him who is the King and Head of the Church."


Calvin was right; remembering he got it from Paul who got it from God.

We can't help ourselves.

We like to grumble, gripe, gossip, banter, bark, bite, beat, batter, and...butcher.

It's our nature.

Uh, that's why He said we must be born again and from above.

Blessings and Love!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Script# 21


Worship is the only indispensable activity of God's people - Biblically, confessionally, historically, and traditionally; and, for those of us in that part of the Kingdom called the PCUSA, constitutionally.

It is what we say and do when we recognize in highest degree who He is, who we are, and what He has done for us and our salvation through Jesus.

God's people hunger and thirst to worship.


God's people hunger and thirst to worship.


God's people hunger and thirst to worship.

And when they/we do, they/we are lost/immersed/healed in wonder, love, and praise.

It's the pulse, power, breathe, and so much, much, much more of life - now and then.

Peterson: "Worship shapes the human community in response to the living God.  If worship is neglected or perverted, our communities fall into chaos or under tyranny."

He goes on, "Our times are not propitious for worship.  The times never are.  The world is hostile to worship.  The Devil hates worship.  As The Revelation makes clear, worship must be carried out under conditions decidedly uncongenial to it."

Come, let us worship God.

Blessings and Love!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Script #20


Kopper finished off the Halloween chocolate when no one was looking - a big, big, big bowl of it.

Leslie thought he was a goner; until I reminded her about the last box of chocolate that he gobbled down.

Of course, my walks with him well before 4:30 a.m. over the past few days have been a lot longer if you know what I mean.

How's your diet?

I've been thinking a lot about mine (read quickies below).

Garbage in...garbage out...

Psalm 119:105: "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."

Peterson translation/paraphrase of selected verses from Psalm 119: "You're blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God...How can a young person live a clean life?  By carefully reading the map of Your Word...What You say goes...Every word you give me is a miracle word - how could I help but obey?"


1. Jesus said, "When your fast..." not "If you fast..."  Watch for a forthcoming on the spiritual discipline of fasting as His way of getting closer to...

2. A neighboring Presbyterian church will close its doors in the next few months.  10+ churches in America are closing their doors every day.  While we won't be among those dominoes, we are not immune to the continuing decline of America's economy.  Indeed, just this morning, I discovered Belvidere's unemployment rate is the highest in the state.  We are eating away at our endowment.  Weekly income, like all churches, is declining at an accelerating rate.  Facts.  Personally, I am looking for secondary employment as we approach the inevitable.  I will not entertain other opportunities because I love you and I am called to love you and live with you through this transition.  In conversation prior to prayer with a member of our Project Team earlier today, I said, "We will trust Him through this and celebrate together on the other side."

3. While it is never my intention to offend anyone because I pray and labor, depending upon His grace, to love Jesus by loving like Jesus, I know I do, have, and will.  If I am going to practice what I preach, I must embrace "A Good Report Card" and invite anyone that I have offended over the past seven years to tell me how I have offended them so I can confess my sins to them face to face, pledge repentance, ask forgiveness, and model Someone better for our family of faith and church at large.  Hence, for the next two Sundays, I am suspending our regular prayer meeting from 3:00-5:00 p.m. for "Pastor Confession and Repentance" and inviting anyone who has ever felt offended by me to come to the chapel and list my offenses so I may humble myself before them as humbling myself before Him.  I praise the Lord for this compelling opportunity!

Blessings and Love!

Script #19


I commend "Confessing Moments" to you.

You can catch it live most mornings and listen to the archives anytime by clicking on

Bill is being used mightily during those moments for us.

Blessings and Love!