First Presbyterian Church

First Presbyterian Church
221 North Main Street
Belvidere, IL 61008

Friday, March 28, 2014


So many accelerating miracles on the corner of L&M!

Some are obvious, some are confidential, and all are awesome.

Having said that, the spiritual battle for souls accelerates as well (see below).

The movie Noah is symptomatic; and Leslie will be talking about it in both services tomorrow!

And baptisms!

We're also continuing our series on scratching the surface by digging deeper as we continue our mini-series on our Lord's seven r(R)evelationary letters to the, uh, seven churches of John's Apocalypse.

7:20 and 10:00 a.m. (with the singing nun starting at 9:50 a.m. before the 2nd to start aligning hearts).

Blessings and Love!

Scratching the Surface


Spiritual Warfare

(A Brief and Incomplete Guide to Victory)

It’s possible to distinguish the Lord’s light from darkness.

It’s possible to distinguish people living in the Lord’s light from people living in darkness.

God and His accomplices build bridges, relationships, friendships, and families; forgiving, reconciling, healing, helping, inviting, welcoming, including, elevating, and encouraging.

God says, “Come to Me, all and everyone who are weary and burdened, and I will take care of you and give you…”

God’s accomplices cooperate with His caring call.

Satan, the architect of darkness, and its accomplices tear down, pick apart, burn bridges, fracture families, separate, segregate, distance, degrade, denigrate, devastate, and seek to

Satan says, “You’re no good.  You’re bad.  You’re useless.  You’re not invited, welcomed, included, or loved.  You don’t belong.”

Here’s the good news: “Darkness cannot overcome the Lord’s light…My children, you have come from God and have conquered these spirits because the One who lives within you is greater than the one in this world…Submit yourselves therefore to God.  Resist the devil and he will flee from you.  Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”

Of course, as Luther cautioned, Satan is “a clever trickster” and its accomplices are sneaky, secretive, slimy, and slithering among the faithful like sleeper cells: “It/they come as angels of light.”  Jesus said, “They are wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

Denise Frangipane: “Satan is a master of illusions.  He plays upon our weaknesses and exaggerates our problems.”  It/they come at our moments of vulnerability.

Certainly, victory is guaranteed for people who really believe in Jesus and are intimate with Him; or as Francis Frangipane wrote, “How do we defeat the enemy?  Victory begins with the name of Jesus on our lips.  It is consummated by the nature of Jesus in our hearts.”

Moretheless, Paul used the metaphor of a Roman soldier preparing for battle to remind us of how/why we can live victoriously (read Ephesians 6:10-20).

Here’s an example of how to pray with Paul’s metaphor as a guide:

            Lord, I thank You for providing all I need to live victoriously!

            You are all I need to live victoriously!

            Aware of the dark influences conspiring to move my mind from You,
            I close the psychic door; barricading it with the cross of Christ and
            sealing it with His blood.  Knowing You have granted volition to me,
            I only open this door for You.

            I wear the helmet of salvation which is lined with the promises of Your
            affection and protection.  Making all thoughts captive to You and
            protecting my mind which is a battleground for spiritual warfare, this
            helmet covers my ears, eyes, and mouth so I do not hear, see, or speak
            in unGodly ways.  I will not entertain anyone/anything that distracts me
            from Your holiness.

            I place the breastplate of righteousness over my heart which is the
            wellspring of my life.  This is not my goodness.  It is Your great
            graciousness that protects me.

            I wear Your belt of truth.  Your truth protects me.

            I wear Your gospel shoes of peace; therefore, I can stand firm, balanced,
            and always ready to follow You.  Firmly footed, I look up, stand up,
            speak up, and act up for You.

            I take the shield of faith, my trust and confidence in You as saving Lord,
            to protect me from the fiery darts, deceptions, lies, assaults, accusations,
            and all other dark strategies.  With the hinges of this shield, I am linked
            to all of the saints for protection of family, home, possessions, and

            I wield the Sword of the Spirit which is the Bible.  The Bible contains
            Your pure prescriptions for living victoriously.  Defensively, I can
            distinguish Your light from darkness because of the Bible.  Offensively,
            I can bring Your love, light, and salt into the world because of the Bible.

            I wrap myself in the mantle of praise because You “inhabit” the praises
            of Your people.  As my praises go up, Your blessings come down.

            I place Your cross before me as a banner and guide.  I have decided to
            follow You!  No turning back!  The cross before me!  The world behind
            me!  No turning back!  Though none go with me, yet I will follow You!
            No turning back!

            Thank You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for protecting and preserving
            me from here to eternity as I pray in Your holy, holy, holy name.  Amen.

In short, as Luther taught us to sing victoriously, “One little word shall fell
him!…Dost ask who that may be?  Christ Jesus, it is He!…And He must win
the battle!”

Or as many have done so victoriously when it/they come knocking at the door, “Jesus, please get that for me.  Thank You!”

Are you still looking for a different way to do church?
Are you tired of the SOSO RELIGION?
Are you put off by posers in pews, politics and pulpits?
Try our family of faith on the corner of Lincoln and Main!
(Belvidere, Illinois)

Sundays at 7:20 and 10:00 a.m. and so much…

Friday, March 21, 2014

Men's Breakfast
Saturday at Church
7:30 a.m.
Faith, Fellowship, Fun, Manly
Snooze and lose

Friday, March 14, 2014


It's Friday...but Sunday's Coming!

Observing our 175th during both services at 7:20 and 10:00 a.m., there will be an extended fellowship hour with expanded goodies after the second service.

Hitting the streets today, you will want to pick up a copy of Lisa Rodgers' superbly written column on our 175th in the Boone County Journal; which you can also read right now by clicking here.

Reminding moi of the recent dedication of the Tom Sparks memorial that symbolizes our dedication to building upon the best of the past for a better future of fidelity to Jesus by the book, there's a surprise in the sanctuary - a new appointment, again, symbolizing our dedication to building upon the best of the past for a better future of fidelity to Jesus by the book!  It's the right time with the right message!!!


1. Don't miss today's inaugural broadcast of "The Old Gray Dog Ponders" at 11:30 a.m. on

2. And if you click on by 11:15 a.m., you'll catch Joe's "Add a Little PEP" that's been running every week from 11:15-11:30 a.m.

Blessings and Love!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


Meeting with a peer earlier today, he said, "My sermons have been really tough lately.  Maybe it's time for a fluff sermon."

You may want to check out "Clerical Error" on for some related thoughts.

Well, as my friend talked, I thought of Kurt Vonnegut's conclusion to a "sermon" on Palm Sunday 1980 at NYC's St. Clement's Episcopal Church: "This has no doubt been a silly sermon.  I am sure you do not mind.  People don't come for preachments, of course, but to daydream about God.  I thank you for your sweetly faked attention."


Anyway, I did say this to my peer and friend, "I'll never forget sitting in preaching class back in 1974.  The class was right after our daily chapel service.  Dr. Macleod, before saying anything else, started, 'When you have the privilege of preaching in Miller Chapel, please have something to say and don't waste everybody's time.'  Uh, I had just preached in chapel a few minutes earlier.  I never forgot that.  I haven't been able to preach a 'fluff' sermon ever since."

Sooooooo try as I have, the Lord just won't let me preach a fluffy message for our 175th anniversary of life and ministry on the corner of Lincoln and Main this Sunday.


What do Exodus 20, Philippians 3, Revelation 1, Miley Cyrus, and Justin Bieber have in common?

Blessings and Love!

P.S. BTW, Don't miss the inaugural broadcast of "The Old Gray Dog Ponders" this Friday at 11:30 a.m. on  When it comes to Reformed theology, I am a BB gun compared to his heavy artillery!  He is the most clear and concise yet comprehensive Reformed theologian known to me.  You will not be disappointed.  Please forward this to others so they don't miss out!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Mes amis,


1. Is it just me?  I'm starting to wonder what our Lord has in mind with this global cooling.  Have you noticed that it has snowed almost every Saturday into Sunday since 12/22 along with most Tuesdays and Wednesdays (Midweek)?  I'm checking out the Greek in Romans 8:28;

2. Our directory will be distributed after both worship services this Sunday!  Let it snow, let it snow, let it...  Aside from changing the clocks, the directory is really, really, really well done with thanks to Kathie, Karen, Marilyn, Donna, Darlene, and you!  Of course, if you miss services because of the inevitable snow, well, uh, uh, uh,...remember, we ain't Mormons; meaning no stand-ins!  One copy per family and copies are limited;

3. The directory allows for additions; which is good because it's already out of date and will be out of date in an Acts 2:47b kinda way.  It's/He's/you're happening on the corner of L&M!  BTW, I will be using this daily during prayers and especially on Wednesdays during MCM that commences about five minutes after I hit the send button for this; and

4. Reviewing script 202 (below), the change will begin this week!  While I've never had such a response to anything I've written - keeping in mind that I've recently been named the #1 non-best-selling author in the history of mainline Christendom - the responses to this have been overwhelming, numerous, and all positive.  Here are two very interesting responses:

From Jeff Barrett who's been in our, uh, lectern and is the renowned pastor of Blackhawk Presbytery's Genesis Community Church: "We have been using the 'sin' word in the Lord's prayer for many years.  'Debts' sounds like my credit card is a bit over-extended and 'trespasses' like I walked on some guy's lawn.  'Sins' gets to the heart of the matter and brings us to our knees more often than not."

From South Carolina's Jim Wilken of, uh, Jim Wilken Ministries: "Endorse the return to what Jesus probably said in the first place...After all, 'The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ came to save...debtors...trespassers?'  NO!  Sinners, silly!  Who do we think we're fooling anyway?...BUT when words get changed, well, you know all about revealing idolatry!"

Selah, Selah, my...!

Blessings and Love!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


Daniel and I had a very, very, very important conversation on Friday night.

Son to father and father to son, it may have been a top ten conversation in our relationship concomitant to our holy communion in/through/for Jesus.

While there's a context not relevant to anyone but him et moi, he said, "Dad, you're always changing."

I said, "That's because there's always room for improvement in my life and ministry."

I added, "Besides, I'm not among the walking dead...[Parenthetically, Revelation 3:1-6 comes to mind]...I really believe Jesus wants us to be new wineskins; stretching and making room for His new and fresh blessings to experience Him and His and...Jesus said, 'Behold, I make all things new'...Yeah, I'm always changing...While I've made mistakes and do make mistakes and will make mistakes, I try not to miss out on the new and improved ways that He..."

Hope you catch the drift!

I thought about that while worshipping with another part of His family on Sunday while solo-celebrating...

That messenger/undershepherd really tries to be faithful; and I liked what he had to say as he preached on Matthew 6:12: "Forgive us our sins...[He didn't use 'debts' or 'trespasses' which have been vocabulary idols for...] we forgive those who sin against us."

Parenthetically, he's a nice guy; greeting me before the service, "I don't think I've ever seen you..."  Of course, that's not hard to notice because there were only 11 people there.  Reminding me of people who don't get it/Him in every church, I was saddened by two comments that I overheard: "I'm not in your spot!  Don't get so worked up about it!  I know that's your seat!"....[Again, there were 11 people in a sanctuary for about 500!]..."Why does he have to preach from that little music stand?  Why doesn't he use our beautiful pulpit?"...[Whoa!  SOSO!  Idolatry!  And we ain't gonna ever use ours again unless I'm assassinated or get Grandpa Jacob's cancer!  We need the space for our children, musicians, and to put an end to the idolatries that distract from...Really, if that's what...Sell 'em!...O.K. wait for the next guy/gal!...Got 20 years?  A child wrote to me on my birthday: "Don't let anyone replace you!"  I saw a new family after worship on Sunday who looked concerned and asked, "You're not thinking of leaving us, are you?  We get nervous when you're not there!"  I reminded all that my call is deeper, broader, and longer than my enemies and their idolatrous friends would...Or as I added, "That's right!  By God's grace, we took the church back from them with the help of the reborn, renewed, and recent and, together, we gave it back to Jesus!"]...

Anyway, getting back to the message and Daniel, I've decided to change again!

Checking the Greek and several translations/paraphrases and remembering the next generations who don't speak the Shakespearian/Elizabethan English of the 16th century (KJV), I'm really thinking/entertaining and praying about replacing those "debts" and "trespasses" with "sins" because I think that's easier to explain/understand/communicate to...

If I have the guts/faith/compassion to do that for those who want increased intimacy with Him through common language, I'll probably get some letters and banters and moans about it from the language/liturgical/architecture/furniture/meaningless-in-the-end-stuff police/idolaters...but the way that I figure it, I'm called to help folks get into a real, authentic, somewhat-understandable-despite-the-many-mysteries, and enduring relationship with Him without the detours/distractions/idolatries/religion.

Why do we continue to defy Jesus who warned about elevating human stupidities aka traditions to the commandments of God?

Matthew 15 and 23.

I may do it.

I may not.

Don't know.

I'm changing; and I pray those changes are from Him in a Romans 12:1-3 kinda way.

Confessionally, I don't think of myself as liberal or conservative or Democrat or Republican or Libertarian or Presbyterian or Catholic or Baptist or evangelical or...anymore.

I'm just trying to follow Jesus by the book.

I may fall and fail; but, at least, I'm trying.

Blessings and Love!

P.S. I really liked one of that messenger's last comments: "No one has the power to ruin your life but you!"  Not bad for a guy wearing thousands of dollars worth of religious rags!