About Bill Rowe

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Leading yourself from heaven

By Pastor Bill Rowe

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7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7-8, NKJV)

Pastor Carter Conlon of Times Square Church in New York described how he sometimes looks at himself from the perspective of heaven; that is, he sees himself in heaven, looking down and encouraging himself to persevere through the toughest times of life and ministry. “Just a short way and you’ll finish the race!” he shouts to himself from his heavenly perch. Can you see the host of saints and angels cheering alongside him?

This image challenged me to consider what my heavenly self would say to me today. The following principles came to mind; they’re principles I’ve learned along the way as a church-planter and pastor.

  • Prayer trumps skill: There have been times when I’ve drawn on leadership skills learned through Marine Corps training and business experience to motivate and direct people in ministry. Many of these lessons and skills are good and effective. But when applied without a significant amount of prayer, the results can be ministry volunteers who feel discouraged and disengaged. I would have been far better for me to pray more for these people than try to direct or lead them. Leadership skills are of tremendous value in the church, but prayer is needed more. Prayer produces far better servants for God’s many ministries than any level of leadership skills. Leader, God will honor your prayers more than your training.
  • Trust trumps control: Most of us have a clear vision of how our ministries should look. We’ll do almost anything to maintain our vision as precisely as possible. However, like leading from the flesh, too much control will discourage Spirit-led servants God has sent to fulfill your vision. Controlling volunteers and staff, or, more precisely, corralling them, into doing things exclusively your way will often drive creative, resourceful, and ministry-focused servants out the door and to a church where they can thrive. Trusting God rather than trying to control people will produce far better results for your church, your vision, and for the kingdom of God. Leader, trust God for you to experience and appreciate His creative hand in the lives of others. 
  • Submission trumps discipline: My Marine Corps experience instilled in me a love of discipline. I like plans and accomplishing the mission. I like the steps along the way to the goal, and I like the discipline it requires to stay on-task. Discipline, while essential for all Christians and leaders, can result in disaster when working with ministry teams. You will avoid disaster by practicing submission over discipline. Submission to God results in His guidance through the challenges every leader faces. He will warn you of pitfalls, enable you to overcome disaster, survive setbacks, celebrate victories, and build-up His people. God will get you to your goal. Leader, develop and practice a discipline of submission.

The bottom line is that our heavenly selves would encourage us to remain on-task until we reach the finish line.

13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13)

Be prayerful. Be trusting. Be submissive.

Blessings!
Pastor Bill

 

We are what we worship

By Pastor Bill Rowe

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1 Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Your name give glory, because of Your mercy, because of Your truth. 2 Why should the Gentiles say, “So where is their God?” 3 But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.

4 Their idols are silver and gold, the works of men’s hands. 5 They have mouths, but they do not speak; eyes they have, but they do not see; 6 They have ears, but they do not hear; noses they have, but they do not smell; 7 they have hands, but they do not handle; feet they have, but they do not walk; nor do they mutter through their throat. 8 Those who make them are like them; so is everyone who trusts in them. (Psalm 115:1-8, NKJV)

The psalmist proclaims to God that he recognizes God as Most High and worthy to be praised first and above all things. He points Israel away from glorifying themselves and prioritizes God’s ultimate glory. The Lord’s people prioritized God above all things, especially themselves. To God’s glory, we shout, Amen! 

Notice that the psalmist then claims that those who have no true God make and worship their own idols. As they do so, they tragically become like them. In other words, they are what they worship (Ps. 115:8).

Lives filled with idols
Today’s idols are more abundant than those of the psalmist’s day. We make idols of our possessions, our careers, our families, our sports teams, our politicians, and our passions. The most heinous idol of all today is “self” – we place ourselves above all things, especially God. Very few of us place God Almighty as our highest priority. We claim devotion to God with our mouths, while our true priorities are revealed through our daily calendars. Sadly, most of us fit God in around all the other priorities that make life so busy. Does God need to call you for an appointment, or have you taken the initiative to place Him first on your calendar every day? 

God intends for us to prioritize our lives in a far different way than we are used to prioritizing. In the First Century, we read of people who worried about providing food, clothing, and shelter for themselves and for their loved ones. Jesus told them that they should… 

“…seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)

Running in reverse
I wonder how you would describe your pursuit of your basic needs. Most of us are running in reverse in this area of our lives. Rather than first seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness with confidence that He will provide all of our needs, we employ our vast resources to create our own idols that we hope will fulfill our desires. We then become like them. We slip down the sewage pipe of idolatry and splash headlong into a pool of unrighteousness. This is precisely opposite of what the Lord requires of His followers!

Christian, today is a good day to examine your priorities. Are you like those who do not know the Lord, seeking your satisfaction by building your own idols? If you were to be asked, Who are you? where would you place your identity? Would anyone believe your answer?

Who or what are you like?

Blessings!
Pastor Bill  

The Christian’s role in times of loss and pain

By Pastor Bill Rowe

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Losing a loved one brings to surface deep emotions. This past week, two of our Revive families experienced the death of a loved one. In times like these, we not only hurt inside for our own loss, but also for the suffering of our friends and family who grieve. Death also is a stark reminder of our fragile and temporary state; the truth is that a day will come for us all (and all whom we love) to step from this life into eternity.

In times like these, we are reminded of a two-fold ministry the Lord has put before us, both rooted in God’s commandment to love Him and to love others:

“Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God will all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.'” (Matthew 22:37-40, NKJV)

When the grief of losing a loved one strikes, and our questions point beyond this life, two ministries that God’s love calls us to are:

  1. Making disciples; and
  2. Comforting the broken-hearted.

Making Disciples
Ask yourself: “Do I love deeply enough to share God’s saving truth with everyone?”

Death brings us face-to-face with the prospect of eternity. We ask, “What happens after we die?” When we know the Lord’s answer to that question, we want desperately to be sure our loved ones have heard of God’s promise of eternal life in Christ. So what do we do?

First, we “make disciples.” The Lord’s Great Commission is this:

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.” (Matt. 28:18-20)

The structure of that sentence means that “as you go…” about your daily life, you, Christian, are to point people to the Savior so that they will be drawn to Him and to become His disciple. It is good news that God has assigned you to point people to Christ during every moment of your busy life. You are a witness for Christ at home, at play, at work, at school, at church, and in every aspect of your life.

A second truth about living the Lord’s Great Commission that comforts in times of loss is that it is not your job to convert people – not even your loved ones! Rather, it is God who changes hearts and saves the lost. Your role in making disciples is to sow the seed, to lift Jesus before the world, and to trust God to convict and to win them to Christ.

Paul wrote:

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.” (1 Corinthians 3:6-9)

Your role is to sow the message of the good news of eternal life in Jesus Christ, God’s role is to change hearts. Notice that God rewards the witnessing, not the converting!

Whenever a loved one passes away, I struggle with whether I did enough to witness Christ to them. I still struggle with this question, but I know by God’s Word that when I do share the gospel with anyone, whether they accepted Christ or not is in the Lord’s hands, not mine. Determine to share Christ with your loved ones now, before they move beyond this world.

God’s truth is clear:

27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, 28 so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.” (Hebrews 9:27-28)

This truth makes the Lord’s call to witness quite urgent. Yet, while we wrestle with the salvation of our loved ones, especially in times like these, our Lord gives us peace in knowing that He rewards our sharing the gospel, while He does the supernatural work of converting non-believers.

Pray for one another in a similar way as Paul sought prayer from the Ephesians:

“…that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” (Ephesians 6:19-20)

Your first role in times of loss and pain is to “make disciples.”

Comforting the broken-hearted
Ask yourself: “Am I a loving friend, relative, and companion?”

The defining mark of a disciple of Jesus Christ is his or her love for others:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

God’s love is the most powerful and effective salve a Christian can offer to hurting hearts:

“Let Your steadfast love comfort me according to Your promise to Your servant” (Psalm 119:76, ESV).

The Lord Jesus promised,

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:8)

During times of loss, our entire church family has opportunity to comfort our friends and relatives who are in mourning. We can offer the love of God to all who have suffered loss. Let me suggest three simple ways that you can share God’s love with these dear ones:

  1. Pray for them—pray for God to comfort their hearts and to receive His love at this time;
  2. Talk to them—Brenda wrote this in her e-mail about the loss of her nephew: “It’s good to know everyone cares.” If you cannot speak with them in person, a phone call might be just what your loved one needs. Even a voice mail or e-mail with a short message that shares your heart and reminds them that you’re praying for them will help them realize that they are not alone, that they are loved, and that God is interested in their suffering; and
  3. Be available to them—these are unique situations where our daily schedule is worth rearranging. Do not be afraid to drop what you’re doing to reach out and comfort another. God may be calling on you to represent Him to someone in desperate need of His love.

I will leave you with two simple questions that you should ask daily:

  1. Do I love deeply enough to faithfully share God’s saving truth with everyone?
  2. Am I a loving friend, relative, and companion?

Blessings!
Pastor Bill

Christian, you are someone’s key to heaven

By Pastor Bill Rowe

18And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘19Go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’” (Matthew 28:18-20, NKJV)

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The other night, Fonda and I were talking about end times prophecy. Specifically, we thought about the Rapture of the church and the Tribulation that will follow. Our thoughts went to our children and grandchildren. We realized that when Jesus Christ returns for His church, those who do not know Him as Lord and Savior will not go with Him. Instead, they will remain here where evil will have no restraint.

We asked, “Will our children and grandchildren be with the Lord, or will they remain here to face the evil?” That is a horrifying thought! It’s horrifying because we know that, no matter how much we love these dear ones, there are no free passes to heaven for those who do not believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. And it’s horrifying because we know that we hold the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the key to heaven for all who are lost.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  (John 3:16)

We thought about our efforts to share the good news of Jesus Christ with them. How do we communicate the love of God to our children and grandchildren? How about our neighbors? What about the stranger? Have we shared the key to heaven with them? Have we shared the gospel?

Are you a “holy presence” for your family?
Maybe your family is like ours. Whenever our family members have a spiritual crisis or a spiritual question, they call on Fonda or me to help them deal with the crisis or to help answer the question. We are a “holy presence” within our family; they turn to us for “God questions.” But after the Rapture, to whom will they turn? Witnessing Christ to my loved ones must be a matter of highest priority for me. Could my willingness to disciple my family and friends be their key to heaven?

The Prophet Isaiah wrote something that challenged me:

“He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor; therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him; and His own righteousness, it sustained Him.” (Isaiah 59:16)

Isaiah is speaking of God interceding with the Lord Jesus Christ to bring salvation to those who would believe. A principle you and I can take away from this is that God is looking for people to intercede in the lives of the unsaved. Christians must introduce the Lord to those who don’t know Him; we must share the good news of Jesus Christ with them, and teach them “to observe all that the Lord has commanded,” lest they perish forever.

It’s been asked before: “If not you, who? If not now, when?”

Are you a witness for Jesus Christ? Are you making disciples? Are you the intercessor that the Lord has assigned to introduce Him to your loved ones? Will the Lord wonder that “there was no intercessor” when your loved ones stand before the Great White Throne? O, Lord, let it not be so!

Hitting the mark of disciple-making
So often we lose focus of the Lord’s commission to the church, which includes every single Christian. We offer so many non-essentials of the faith in an attempt to draw in non-believers. We try to wow people into faith in Christ, and that is missing the mark of the Christian life.

The late Dr. Fred Dickason said, “It’s our job today to make disciples, not the demonstration of miracles.”

We offer Christ as the great problem-solver everyone needs. Need a job? Jesus is the answer. Need your family restored? Jesus is the answer. Poor? Unhealthy? Jesus is the answer! And so on. To our shame, we neglect to ask the most important question, the question that everyone must answer with a resounding “Yes!” Do you need eternal life?

When I think of our precious, sweet daughters, I desperately want them to know that God loves them and will save them. When our grandchildren come to mind, I can’t imagine them not being in heaven with Fonda and me. So what will I do about it?

Begin today
I want to challenge you today to share Jesus with one person you love, and with one person you have never met. Share the good news that God loves them even though they don’t give Him a thought in the busy lives they lead. Share the truth that a Man named Jesus died for their sins so that they might receive the gift of eternal life.

I often make excuses for failing to “evangelize.” But evangelism isn’t the goal here, simply sharing the saving message of Jesus Christ is the goal. How can we recommend a pizza joint without hesitation, but have so much trouble recommending the grace of God? Share Christ and pray that God opens hearts. You’ll be surprised at who will be in heaven with you.

The only free pass to heaven is through the Lord Jesus Christ. You have the key to heaven for those you love; don’t keep it to yourself.

Blessings,
Pastor Bill

Revive Reminders

By Pastor Bill Rowe

Blessings, Revive! As the month of June ends, I’m reminded that every day is a day closer to our Lord’s return. Come Lord Jesus!

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This Sunday, June 2, is our family breakfast at Revive. Since it’s vacation season and many of our folks are off for much needed rest and relaxation with family and friends, I hope all who are in town will join us at 9:30 a.m., for our monthly breakfast, followed by our weekly church service at 10:15 a.m.

Blessings!
Pastor Bill

Weak? Lost? Defeated? God will strengthen you! Praying Isaiah 40:28-31

By Pastor Bill Rowe

28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. 29 He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. 30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, 31 But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31, NKJV)

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Are you alone and worn out? Have you reached your limit physically, emotionally and spiritually? Have you exhausted every ounce of your energy? Do you dread facing another problem?

We all experience times when we wonder if we will survive a particularly difficult trial. It seems that everyone is either against us. It seems that no one is aware of our plight. It seems that no one cares. We feel completely along and worn out. In such times the Lord shines brightest, though His Light may be preceded by a time of discouragement and even depression.

Israel was facing a time of extreme trials when the Lord spoke through His prophet Isaiah. The words from Isaiah 40:28-31 can encourage you to turn to God as your refuge and your hope. Take a moment to read through and meditate on the above verses, then pray…

O perfect and almighty Father, my God who rescues the weary, hear my prayer.

I humbly bow before You, Father. I come to you desperately needing Your love and Your kindness, Your mercy and Your grace, Your power and Your strength. I come to You powerless, trusting You to strengthen me, as You see me through my trials.

You promise, Father, to give power to the weak and to increase the strength of those who have none. Lord, You see that my trials have worn me out. I trust that Your eye is upon me and that You, Father, will rescue me. As I wait, You promise to renew my strength! You promise to lift me up with wings like eagles! In Your strength I can tirelessly engage the battle and overcome my foes. I will find victory in You, Lord!

O heavenly Father, hear the prayer of Your weary servant today. Increase my faith in You, and renew Your strength in me!

In the name of my Lord Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

Blessings!
Pastor Bill

 

 

 

 

 

[1] The New King James Version. (1982). (Is 40:28–31). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Security in our trials: Praying through Psalm 91:1-4

By Pastor Bill Rowe

1He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. 2I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!’ 3For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper and from the deadly pestilence. 4He will cover you with His pinons, and under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.” (Psalm 91:1-4, NASB)

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There are times when I feel so overwhelmed by the pressures of life that I want to retreat. My reasoning tells me that I should withdraw from everyone and everything – take a break, take a breath, and regroup. But where can I go to find refuge from the chaos of life?

The psalmist gives tremendous hope as he promises that, when we retreat into the shelter of God Almighty, the Lord will be our refuge and our fortress. Inspired by the Holy Spirit of God – our Comforter – the psalmist writes that it is God Almighty who delivers His child from the traps of the enemy and from the deadly filth the enemy throws at you. The Lord, the psalmist promises, will cover you with His feathers, like a mother eagle protects her brood in the security of her wings.

Open your Bible to Psalm 91:1-4. Read and meditate on these verses, and then pray with me the promises of God as we seek shelter from the chaos of life in the security of our Lord…

Pray:

“O holy and righteous Father, my Protector and my Provision. I praise You today for offering shelter as only You can provide. I will trust You, Father, as my refuge from evil, providing the place where I am safe from the assault of the enemy. I will trust You as my fortress, where I will be restored, strengthened, and refreshed to again stand strong against the pressures of this world. I will wait, Lord, as You minister Your love into my weary soul.

“O Lord, thank You for being my Father, my Hope, my Joy, and my Rest! Thank You for being my Salvation, my Rescuer, my Provider! Thank You that You promise me refuge, rest and restoration!

“I trust You now, Father, in the name of my Lord, Your Son, Jesus Christ, to deliver me and to restore me in Your precious rest. I love You, Lord! Amen.”

Blessings!
Pastor Bill