I uttered those words verbally in my car (to no one in particular) the first time I took off my brand-new hearing aids after wearing them for several hours in a denominational board meeting. It was literally as if someone put a pillow over my head. In May I finally realized that I was agreeing to far more than I actually understood, and it was time to take drastic action before I got myself in REAL trouble. So, I mortgaged the house to purchase top of the line “Unitron” hearing aids. I cried driving home with them for the first time, wanting to tell Pat, “Sweetie, I can hear you!” She would have been thrilled for at least two reasons –

  1. the neighbors would no longer be able to hear the TV, and
  2. I would have no more excuses (men, you know EXACTLY what I mean !).

Finally, I can hear voices again with clarity. I can hear you talking
about me in the last pew! I have “high frequency hearing loss,” common among men my age. The result is that I can hear the sounds and words, but the message is muffled. It is as if I am hearing people from under water. To the question, “How did I survive,” it’s easy – I simply had gotten used to it, and adjusted accordingly.

There are some voices that are best muffled in our figurative ears – i.e. the voices of secularism, much of the media, often our own voice, and certainly, the enemy’s lies.

But there is one voice we must hear with clarity– the voice of the Lord. John 10 describes Jesus as the Good Shepherd Who calls His sheep by name, and they know HIS voice. A stranger can call, but it will fall on “deaf ears.” Surely, the voice of the Lord is a gentle voice, clear and authoritative, but there is more…

The LORD’s voice is one of power and strength – “The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is majestic. The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars…” ~Psalm 29:4.
*The LORD’s voice is not to be ignored or minimized.

…The LORD’s voice is one of guidance and direction – “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’” ~ Isaiah 30:21.
*The LORD’s voice is to be followed.

…The LORD’s voice is one of invitation and promise – “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him.” ~ Revelation 3:20. *The LORD’s voice is to be welcomed.
…The LORD’s voice is one of warning – “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts…” ~ Hebrews 3:7. *The LORD’s voice is to be feared and obeyed.

Consider for a moment a few questions – whose voice is loudest in your ears these days? Who do you listen to the most? Is it the latest TV drama series …or movies on Netflix …or talk show …or the “wisdom” the world is so quick to offer? Or do you hear God’s voice with clarity? Are you intentionally making time to “be still” – to regularly practice the habits of grace by reading His Word, praying, and gathering with others of God’s people – so that His voice can be heard over the many others. He will not often shout to get your attention – though C.S. Lewis says “pain is God’s megaphone.” How much better to hear the gentle clarity of His whisper in your ear… and submit?

Since Pat died, I have heard the voice of the Good Shepherd like never before. He tells me, “If I laid down My life for you, you can surely trust Me today to provide all that you need.” Shhh…listen…Whose voice do YOU hear?

By God’s grace and for His glory,

Pastor Bill

I am paying to kill my lawn! That’s right, this Spring I finally broke down and contracted a lawn company to make my lawn a luscious, weed-free green carpet that would make Augusta National envious (not to mention, my neighbors…even Larry two doors down whose lawn has been MY secret envy for twenty years 🙂 ). The only problem is that my lawn is now worse than it has ever been! What happened? Do I demand my money back, after all it IS satisfaction guaranteed? My “highly trained and well-experienced ”lawn care technician explained to me that this is a TWO year program (of course!). BEFORE we do anything, we must FIRST kill the weeds (wow, are they stubborn!) The weeds have got to go so that the new grass will have the room and nutrients to grow healthy. Presently the weeds are sapping the life out of any grass trying to grow. We’ve also got to build up the soil with fertilizer and lime so that when we core aerate and overseed in the Fall (surprise, an extra fee), the grass will have a healthy environment in which to thrive. And then, drum roll please…VOILA – next year, a lawn to rival the ninth fairway at Augusta National (ok, I will settle for the sixth rough at Chisel Creek).

Somehow this hits close to home. How many “weeds” are in my life that are choking out the fruit of the Spirit and sapping my spiritual vitality? Hebrews 12:1 exhorts us to “lay aside every weight, and the sin that clings so closely. ”The need to be right, the pursuit of one’s own comfort and convenience, an unforgiving spirit, pride, self-centeredness are just some of the stubborn “weeds” that need to be “put to death” in our lives so that the fresh, new green grass of the Spirit can grow and thrive. Perhaps for you it is too much TV or poor financial habits or social media is robbing you of quality time. We all have weeds that need to be uprooted! When it comes to weeds… Be ruthless!

(more…)

“As for the saints…they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight…” ~ from Psalm 16:3. Next to the Lord Himself and my dear wife and family, this congregation remains one of the greatest blessings of my life, and has been for over thirty years. “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places.” ~ Psalm 16:6. I do not take lightly the love, support, and esteem that I regularly receive in affirmation of my ministry among you. These come from  the hands of a gracious, gift-giving God, to Whom we bow in humble gratitude and awe.

It is difficult to express in mere words the extent of our gratitude to the BFCN family for the wonderful  “30/40/60” celebration in April. Pat and I were so grateful, humbled, and honored by all that was said and done on our celebration day (including those who shared with us privately). To those who worked so hard in planning, preparing, and then making it happen – KNOW that Pat and I are immensely grateful. It will be a day we long remember! We are keenly aware that this ministry would not be possible without MANY faithful servants working tirelessly together to fulfill God’s purposes among us. This truly is a team effort!

One does not set out with the idea of having thirty years of ministry at one church. The years unfold one day at a time…and voila – 30 years! It means two things: 1) God is faithful; and 2) I am
old! As wonderful as the last thirty years have been, our prayer is that the “best days of BFCN” still lie ahead, eventually under new leadership. Since our God never changes (Hebrews 13:8), and He promises to enable us in fulfilling the Great Commission until He comes again (Matthew 28:18-20), there is no reason NOT to expect that His blessing will continue…as long as, that is, we continue by His grace “to BE what He has called us to be and to DO what He has called us to do.” Our personal prayer remains that God would work among us in ways “that are unmistakably a work of His,” producing fruit that will last for eternity. To that end, it is our prayer that we personally continue to serve Him, and by His grace, to finish well in His perfect time and way.

One thing that struck me was the number of people that God has intersected with BFCN over all these years. Whether for a lengthy period of time or for just a short season, God has had His purposes in our  interaction. After all, we know that no one enters our doors by accident. The blessing of a long-term ministry is that those acquaintances/ relationships may change, but the seeds sown over the years sometimes bear fruit many years later (often unbeknownst to us). What a blessing it was to have folks from the past and those new to BFCN join together in celebration of God’s faithfulness.

Some may not be aware that the congregation overwhelmed us with a special gift – a cruise to Alaska! That surely is something we never would have done. Presently, the cruise and land tour is planned for August 29th thru September 11th. We are already eagerly looking forward to this “once in a lifetime trip” together. What can we say but THANK YOU!! The generosity of God’s people at BFCN – to us and the Lord’s work – is indeed a cause for rejoicing and a testimony to the sacrificial spirit that you live out daily.

May we continue to be L.I.F.T.E.D by the Gospel every day in Gospel-saturated joy and gratitude before Him and one another. To God be the glory!

In His lavish GRACE,
— Pastor Bill (and Pat)

A Personal Post Script…
Because I am “the Pastor” and the one usually up front, those who stand behind – and beside me – can sometimes be taken for granted. I want to publicly express my deep love and gratitude to my wife, Pat, and our daughters – Amy, Andrea, Amber, and Anne – for the roles they have played in thirty years of serving the Lord here at BFCN. They share any and all honor and appreciation with me. They were the ones who sacrificed often and freely…they knew when the heartaches of ministry were heavy and were patient with me…they shared their husband, dad, and home with a growing congregation…they lived the ups and downs with me and have always made going home the best part of every day. Pat, you orchestrated the symphony of home-life like a master maestro,  ensuring that each part knew it was important and blended together in harmony. You opened our home freely and to many, often with short notice. You were/are God’s gift to me as a life and ministry partner. Indeed, “my boundary lines have fallen in pleasant places” when God included you. For that, I thank GOD…and YOU!

 

Nearly 300 people settled into our sanctuary on Sunday afternoon and over 500 packed the sanctuary three days later on Wednesday afternoon. One – a Memorial Day weekend concert by the Newark Chorale and the other a memorial service for a well-known UD Hall of Fame football player who succumbed to pancreatic cancer a week earlier. I attended both of these events – simply listening to the concert and then officiating at the memorial service. At the conclusion of these events, I was overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude to God for what He was accomplishing – yes – through a building. I thought to myself, “This building was worth it!” Let me explain… (more…)

I have seen a few episodes of “Undercover Boss,” a TV show in which the CEO of a company, under disguise, becomes a member of the everyday work force. Often times, the CEO is quite surprised at the level of excellence – or lack thereof – that takes place in the very company he/she leads. I am grateful that God is not content to be an “undercover boss,” but rather chooses to be intensely engaged with me 24/7. I have been thinking lately of the absolute privilege we have to be called into God’s workforce, just as each of us who know Him have been called. For sure, our specific calling may be different – i.e. mine is a full-time vocational call while yours is likely one to be lived out in the context of another job or role. Yet all of us are called to “put on display the character of God in whatever roles He gives and wherever He places us.” (more…)