Devotionals

Saturday June 15, 2019

Fiorello LaGuardia was the mayor of New York City from 1934 to 1945. Known as "The Little Flower" because of his diminutive size, he was well-liked because of his fearlessness, lack of pretension, and fairness.

From time to time during his tenure, he would serve as judge during night court. Once, a man was brought in who had been accused of stealing a loaf of bread. The man confessed, saying it was for his starving family. LaGuardia said "The law is the law - the fine is ten dollars." He then proceeded to take ten dollars from his own wallet for the fine. He also told everyone else in the courtroom to donate fifty cents to the man to help him. Quite a story of grace, isn't it?

We stand condemned before Christ, who is the Righteous Judge. Our sins have condemned us, and the penalty is death. There is no way around the judgment, but Christ took care of the penalty. He gave his own life for us, and then made sure we have all we need to live for him. II Peter 1:3 tells us: "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness."

Christ has taken care of the problem we face because of our sin. Our guilt is removed through his act of grace. LaGuardia's actions over a loaf of bread were a good example of grace. Christ is the Bread of Life. He tells us, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger." (John 6:35) Christ IS grace.

Pastor Steve
Friday June 14, 2019

I wonder what folks at my church would say to me if I preached the same message three or four weeks in a row? I would imagine someone might ask, "Pastor Steve, what is going on here?" That would be a valid question, and I would have a valid response. "I am going to preach the same message until I see you act on what is being said." Now, I don't know if I would ever do this, but it is tempting.

My desire to see people act on what is being said is rooted in Scripture. We read the words of James, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it-not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it they will be blessed in what they do." (James 1:22-25)

Many of us talk a good talk, or "hear" a good talk, but we don't act on what we know. This is something on which we need to work. Act on what you know! Don't be forgetful!

Pastor Steve
Thursday June 13, 2019

Many years ago at our church, a group of our folks put on a skit showing how we can sometimes wear "masks" to try to be someone we really aren't. They did a really great job showing how we can get caught up in wanting to put on "airs," trying to be something we aren't, just to impress others or get something we want. Although done in a comedic way, the skit made a really good point. We can try to be someone else if we want, but God knows us, and only a life with Christ can bring out the "real" us.

When Christ comes into our lives, there is no need to try to be someone else. Christ brings us peace, brings us hope, brings us life, all the while helping us to be ourselves. We don't have to put on a "mask" to be something to Christ. He knows all about us, knows all our faults, knows all our warts, and still wants us just as we are. He does this because he knows what we can be when he is in us. The reason for this is that he is the one who makes us into something special - no faking, no masks, no superficial changes, a true makeover. We read in II Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"

Don't wear a mask! You may fool some people, but you will never fool Christ. Be a real person, and let Christ work within you to make you who you need to be in him.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday June 12, 2019

The antagonist In W. Somerset Maugham's short story "Mr. Know-All" is described in this excerpt, "I not only shared a cabin with him and ate three meals a day at the same table, but I could not walk round the deck without his joining me. It was impossible to snub him. It never occurred to him that he was not wanted. He was certain that you were as glad to see him as he was to see you. In your own house you might have kicked him downstairs and slammed the door in his face without the suspicion dawning on him that he was not a welcome visitor. He was a good mixer, and in three days knew everyone on board. He ran everything. He managed the sweeps, conducted the auctions, collected money for prizes at the sports, got up quoit and golf matches, organized the concert and arranged the fancy-dress ball. He was everywhere and always. He was certainly the best hated man in the ship. We called him Mr. Know-All, even to his face. He took it as a compliment." Have you ever encountered someone like this?

Know-it-alls usually drive us nuts. I think know-it-alls probably drive God nuts, well, so to speak. God wants his followers to be confident in what they know, but he also wants us to be teachable. We should never think we have "arrived" or "made it" when it comes to our relationship with him and what we know about serving him. Proverbs tells us "Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." (Proverbs 9:9-10)

Follow God's instruction carefully - try to learn something new every day about him. Remember you can't know it all, but do all you can to learn as much as you can!

Pastor Steve
Tuesday June 11, 2019

As he looked upon the wreckage of his demolished home, John Lokitis Jr. felt a little sick and a little bitter. He had worked hard to try to stay in his home in Centralia, Pennsylvania, where he had lived for all of his 39 years. However, circumstances had dictated otherwise. Circumstances dictated otherwise for the entire town.

In 1962, a fire at the town dump had ignited an exposed vein of coal. The fire spread underground and is still roaring today, fed by millions of tons of anthracite coal. Because of this, the town has had to move as fumes from the fire were creating serious health issues, not to mention the sinkholes created when seams of coal were burnt. So, with the assistance of federal and state governments, the town relocated. Some fought the relocation because of their strong ties to the town, but relocation was inevitable. They simply could not live there. Nonetheless, for many, their ties to their town made for a difficult move.

The scripture warns us not to have too strong a tie to our present home in this world. We will not live here forever, and we need to realize that having too strong a grip on our present life keeps us from appreciating the joys of what lies ahead. Clinging too tightly to what we have now can keep us from living for God the way we should.

Like Abraham, we are people of faith who need to remember that we are aliens here. We read of this in Hebrews 11:13-16, "All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country--a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them."

This scripture encourages us to have the right perspective on where we currently reside. It is not our home - our home is yet to come. Don't have such a strong tie with what you have now that your fail to realize this and focus too much on your present residence. This can hinder your relationship with God, and can hinder your ministry for him. Keeping the right perspective actually helps us enjoy more our lives now as we look forward to what God has in store for us.

Christ tells us, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19 - 21) Don't be too attached to your present home - keep in mind it is already condemned.

Pastor Steve
Monday June 10, 2019

Moses had a problem. He had too much to do and too little time to do it. He had too many people wanting too many things and they wanted them right now. From early morning until late at night, he would listen to people and their issues that needed solved.

When Moses' father-in-law, Jethro caught up with him and saw what was going on, he had a little "heart to heart" with him. We read about this in Exodus 18:14-18, "'What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?' Moses answered him, 'Because the people come to me to seek God's will. Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God's decrees and laws.' Moses' father-in-law replied, 'What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.'"

One writer said that Moses had become an "exhausted martyr." Exhausted martyrs are folks who are over-responsible and over-committed. Taking on too much, they are well-meaning, but they wear themselves out. Maybe you are one of these folks.

Avoid "the perfectionist's myth," i.e. "I can do it better myself." Let others work with you. Teach others how to do what needs to be done. Don't feel as if you need to do it all, because if you do, all will not get done. Moses followed Jethro's advice and appointed others to listen and judge, while he focused on teaching and the administration duties that truly required his decision. This was better for him, and, frankly, better for others as well.

Ask God for wisdom and help with what you have to do. Ask him for discernment to know what you can do on your own, and what you need to leave for others. Don't try to do it all alone!

Pastor Steve
Sunday June 09, 2019

Reading the book of Judges is like reading a "Who's Who of God's superheroes". There is Samson the strong man, Deborah the prophetess, and Gideon the amazing leader who defeated an entire army with only 300 soldiers. Then, you meet Othniel.

Not many details are given about Othniel's exploits. The story is told in just a few verses in Judges 3, "The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord; they forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs. The anger of the Lord burned against Israel so that he sold them into the hands of Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram Naharaim, to whom the Israelites were subject for eight years. But when they cried out to the Lord, he raised up for them a deliverer, Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb s younger brother, who saved them. The Spirit of the Lord came on him, so that he became Israel s judge and went to war. The Lord gave Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram into the hands of Othniel, who overpowered him. So the land had peace for forty years, until Othniel son of Kenaz died."

One commentator wrote about Othniel, "There is nothing but the bare essentials in his account. Hardly anything about Othniel. What you do have is what the Lord has done and what the Lord is doing. The Othniel account helps us to see what is most important--the activity of God. Interesting folk can sometimes obscure that. We end up concentrating on these fascinating characters and we fail to see what the Lord is doing."

It is more important for people to see what God is doing through us than for them to see us. As John the Baptist said, "I must decrease to that he may increase." (John 3:30) Let folks see God in you rather than just seeing you!

Pastor Steve
Saturday June 08, 2019

A trial supposedly took place during the latter half of the 19th century. A train had collided with a horse and buggy at an intersection. A suit was filed which led to the trial. During the protracted proceedings, the railroad watchman was questioned:

"Were you at your post that night?" a lawyer asked.

"I was," the watchman answered.

"Did you have your lantern?"

"I did."

"Did you signal with your lantern?"

"I did."

"No further questions," the lawyer concluded.

The verdict was reached in favor of the railroad. On his way out of the courtroom, the watchman whispered to his wife, "I'm glad he didn't ask me if my lantern was lit."

Many of us are walking around with our lanterns, but they aren't lit. We are not getting the job done of letting our light shine. Christ said, "Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:15-16)

The watchman had his light "under a bowl." We are often guilty of the same thing. Let that light get out to where it can do some good! Make sure your lantern is lit and is exposed so that others may see the light of Christ and be led to safety. Giving a signal with an unlit lantern does no good. Keep your light burning brightly!

Pastor Steve
Friday June 07, 2019

All of us who have driven much on the interstate (or any other road, for that matter) have encountered law enforcement agents patrolling the roads. What is your reaction when you are buzzing along and see an official vehicle parked in a median crossover or along the side of the road? Usually this will be determined by the speed you are traveling at the time. If you tend to have a leaden foot, you probably shoot a glance at the speedometer to see if an adjustment is in order.

Sometimes this action might be too late. By the time you see the officer, I would imagine your speed is already registered on his radar. However, if you always make sure you are driving within legal limits, encountering an officer brings no fear. Why should it? You have the right to be traveling the speed at which you are going, and the representative of the state recognizes that right and has no problem with what you are doing. You may be clipping along at 80 miles an hour, but if the speed limit is 80, there is no problem. But if you are clipping along at 80 miles an hour and the speed limit is 65, that little response of fear you feel upon seeing a patrol car is probably warranted.

Those who break the law should fear those who enforce the law. The members of the law enforcement community are there for our protection. They are there to enforce the rules because the rules are put in place to bring about a safe environment for us. They are there for our good. The same is true with God's laws. They are for our benefit. When we follow those rules, there is no need to be afraid of God. However, when we don't follow those rules, you need to be afraid.

The apostle Paul speaks of following rules in II Timothy 2:4-5, "No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs--he wants to please his commanding officer. Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules."

Don't try to be a "non-conformist" with God. He has given us rules for a reason, and he wants us to obey him. And don't try to out-run God - he has a faster car.

Pastor Steve
Thursday June 06, 2019

A dear lady was moving into a nursing home following the death of her husband after 70 years of marriage. "Wilma" was someone who tried to meet each new day with joy and eagerness, looking forward to what was in store for her.

On the day she was supposed to go to her new home, a neighbor drove her there. When they arrived, they were told it would be a little while as the room was not quite ready. Finally, after waiting for some time, an attendant came and told them that it was finished. "Your room is all prepared for you," she said. "There are new curtains on the window, and we have recently changed the color of the walls. There is new furniture, and a lovely quilt on the build I think you will like." "Oh, I love it!" exclaimed Wilma. "But you haven't seen it yet, Mrs. Jones," the attendant replied. "That doesn't matter," said Wilma. "Happiness is something you choose. Whether I like my room or not doesn't depend on how the room is arranged, it's how I arrange my mind."

Well, isn't that something to think about? We usually let circumstances dictate how we feel. Be proactive about your mindset. Remind yourself often of what Christ has done for you and be thankful. Paul tells us in Philippians 4:6-8, "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." This is how you can arrange your mind!

Pastor Steve
Wednesday June 05, 2019

A missionary comes to your church and speaks about the need for short-term help where he ministers. Do you pray or do you act? An appeal is made in the church newsletter for more help in the Christian Education ministry of your church. Do you pray or do you act? A person shares with you their struggle with a financial need. Do you pray or do you act?

In many circumstances, the answer to our prayers is standing in our shoes. Prayer is an important part of our spiritual lives and should not be overlooked or underappreciated as a means of communicating with our Father. In our prayer we praise God, we celebrate who he is and what he has done, and we ask for his intervention in various matters. Sometimes these concerns for which we intercede could be something we could see done if we would step up and step out to meet the need.

Maybe the answer to all the prayers mentioned above is you - maybe you could go to help in the mission field, maybe you are the one who could lead the youth group, maybe you are the one who could help with that financial need. David Branon wrote in an article, "In the first century, the good news of Christ was spread by people going out and taking action. That's why their story is told in a book called The Acts of the Apostles, not The Prayers of the Apostles." Now, he was not making a negative statement about prayer, he was emphasizing that the apostles put shoe leather, well, actually sandal leather, to their prayers.

We read in James 5:16, "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." Prayer should not be taken for granted, but we should remember that often the answer to our prayers is our own activity. Please remember that the actions of a righteous person are also powerful and effective.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday June 04, 2019

Why is it that we just can't seem to resist the lure of the message when it pops up on our phone? When we hear the phone ring, we feel as if we have to answer it. When our text signal goes off, we need to read to find out who is trying contact us. This lure causes some problems. We need to ignore the lure when we are driving, but often don't, and this can lead to bad consequences. Theaters, churches, and other venues have messages asking folks to turn their cell phones off. We are so anxious to get those messages that are most often pretty inconsequential.

There is even a term for this phenomenon - fomo, created from "fear of missing out." This is in the dictionary now. This term relates most specifically to an anxiety created from being unable to follow posts on social media, but the usage has broadened to include any communication transmitted primarily on mobile phones.

So, why is it that we are not as anxious to get God's messages? Why don't we have fomo when it comes to God's posts? God has information for us that is vital and yet we are casual with retrieving his messages. We are all too willing to "put him on mute" or even turn him off altogether when we feel his message may be interfering with things we want to do or places we want to go. Or maybe his message may be asking us to go somewhere we don't want to go or do something we don't want to do. "Sorry, God, my cell was turned off, so I didn't get that."

Don't do this. Those cell messages you are so anxious to retrieve are the ones that can wait. Your connectedness can come down a notch and you won't suffer for it. However, if you are not taking care of your connectedness with God, that can be a problem.

We need the attitude of Samuel when it comes to the messages from God, "Speak, Lord, for you servant is listening" (I Samuel 3:9) Make sure you are keeping the lines open.

Pastor Steve
Monday June 03, 2019

Why do we lie? This is a great question that we need to confront. Sometimes we can be really ridiculous in how we treat the truth. A good example of this comes from the scripture. In Exodus 32:22-24, we read this whopper from Moses's brother, Aaron: "Do not be angry, my lord," Aaron answered. "You know how prone these people are to evil. They said to me, `Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don't know what has happened to him.' So I told them, `Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.' Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!"

Wow. You can't find a better example of how much we can mess up the truth than this. Here you have an example of a person with great "credentials" lying to a person who probably knows him as well an anyone about something he knows is absolutely critical, all because he wants to save face.

The point is: we have the capacity to mess with the truth, so acknowledge this weakness we have and determine to take control of our weakness. Be truthful. Don't lie. This may be a tough command, but it is the way we please the Lord. Proverbs 6:19 tells us that the Lord hates "a false witness who pours out lies." Telling the truth helps us gain the respect of other people. Zechariah 8:16 tells us to "speak the truth to each other." It will also help you feel good about yourself.

In Shakespeare's "Hamlet," Polonius' last bit of advice to his son, Laertes, before Laertes leaves for Paris is "To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man." This is good advice for us as well. Tell the truth!

Pastor Steve
Sunday June 02, 2019

God is a popular person on Sunday. On Sunday, millions of people all over the world spend a significant amount of time meeting in buildings with other folks, singing songs, offering praise, praying, and studying God's Word. This is the way it should be. However, on Monday many of us who were so devoted on Sunday go a different direction. This is the way it shouldn't be.

We should be just as focused upon God and upon our relationship with God on Monday, or any other day of the week for that matter, as we are on Sunday. All too often this is not the case. The distractions of life pursuits tend to blur our most important pursuit - pleasing God with our life. We fail to consider his thoughts when we are making decisions. We go a hundred different directions, and they each lead us away from God, not toward him.

God should be just as much a part of our lives outside the church as he is when we are inside the church. In actuality, if he is not, all that time we are supposedly spending with him in our times of worship is going to waste and, to be frank, is useless. Where do we get the idea that God only wants our attention on Sundays? He wants all of us, or he wants none of us.

He tells the Laodicean church in Revelation 3:15-16, "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." That is pretty plain, but then God usually is pretty plain. God wants seven days-a-week followers. Enjoy lifting God up on Sundays; just don't forget Him the rest of the week!

Pastor Steve
Saturday June 01, 2019

According to the Mayo Clinic, a good rule of thumb when washing your hands (please pardon the pun) is to wash your hands for as long as it takes to sing the "Happy Birthday" song twice. I understand that is legal now since a judge declared the "Happy Birthday" song public domain. That is, of course, another story altogether. Back to hand washing.

In order to make sure your hands are clean and as free from bad microbes as possible, wash them to "Happy Birthday." And then later on, wash them again because they are dirty once more. That is the reality of life. Hands that are washed will need to be washed again.

In the Old Testament, sacrifices had to be made over and over because of sin. That is why we need Christ so desperately. Hebrews 10:4 tells us, "It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins." Christ died once for all so that sins can be forgiven for good. Verse 10 tells us, "And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all."

Through Christ, we are made clean forever, and we don't even have to sing Happy Birthday!

Pastor Steve
Friday May 31, 2019

Ron Fourchier is a Dutch virologist who developed a strain of H5N1, the virus that causes bird flu, that was much more virulent than the original. The original was bad enough, so why develop something worse? Well, the Dutch government thought the same thing and prevented him from releasing his findings to "Science" magazine for publication. Why release a formula that could be used to develop a weapon of mass destruction? His claim was that he was trying to show how viruses mutate naturally; however, in the process he developed something that could wipe out a lot of people in a limited amount of time.

Sometimes too much knowledge is not a good thing. That was what got us in the mess we are in in the first place. Prompted by Satan, Adam and Eve went after more knowledge. The result of this is not good. We need to avoid things that can cause us difficulty if we know about them. We need to pursue good thoughts and manifest good intentions. We cannot avoid all knowledge of evil but we can avoid knowledge of all evil. Watch what you pursue with your thoughts.

Paul wrote, "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy think about such things." (Philippians 4:8) Think on the good and beauty found in God's creation and avoid that which is bad.

Pastor Steve
Thursday May 30, 2019

In 1990, Thomas J. Bouchard Jr. and Nancy L. Segal, both researchers at the University of Minnesota, published a study that showed identical twins reared apart were "eerily similar to identical twins reared together on various measures of personality, occupational and leisure-time interests, and social attitudes." Simply stated, this study showed the importance of genes in the determination of a person's make-up.

Environmental factors do contribute to how a person is and what they become, but the 1990 study showed that inherited traits play a strong role in the shaping of a person, regardless of environmental influence. The study demonstrated that separated twins manifested remarkably similar likes and dislikes such as preferences for a certain type of candy or enjoying tennis, among many other things.

We need to allow our "genetic structure" to play a great role in shaping who we are as followers of Christ. We are related to him through faith, and as brothers and sisters of Christ, we need to let our genes play a strong role in determining our personality, interests and social attitudes. We live in an environment that will draw us away from being conformed to God's image, so let your genetics overcome your environment and make sure you are living for Christ. This is certainly God's will.

Paul tells us in Romans 8:29, "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers." Since this is true of you as a follower of Christ, make sure you are cooperating with God in this action so that you will be conformed to the likeness of Christ. We sometimes blame "outside influences" for our behavior. You have been given the resources to overcome influences that would lead you away from God. These resources are in your spiritual genetic make-up. Let your "genes" shape who you are!

Pastor Steve
Wednesday May 29, 2019

Have you ever read much in the books of I or II Chronicles? You can find some interesting stories there. Consider the following: "In the eighteenth year of Josiah's reign, to purify the land and the temple, he sent Shaphan son of Azaliah and Maaseiah the ruler of the city, with Joah son of Joahaz, the recorder, to repair the temple of the LORD his God. . .While they were bringing out the money that had been taken into the temple of the LORD, Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law of the LORD that had been given through Moses. Hilkiah said to Shaphan the secretary, 'I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the LORD.' . .When the king heard the words of the Law, he tore his robes. (2 Chronicles 34:8, 14-15, 19)."

The access we have to the Bible can keep us from appreciating the true significance of this story. The "Book of the Law" they found was the Bible they had at that time. Imagine someone walking up to you at your church and saying, "We were cleaning the church and found a Bible!" Your response to this would probably be, "Well, put it on the table in back and someone will pick it up, or put it with the all the others that have been left here." It really wouldn't cause a great stir.

Another aspect of this passage that makes the impact a little obscure is that it is hard to imagine how far the people of God must have slipped to actually "lose" the Book of the Law.

We must be careful not to "lose" God's Word even when we have it right in front of us. We need to be cautious that we don't lose our wonder of God's revelation to us. We need to have the awe of Hilkiah when he said, "I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the LORD!"

We should be grateful that we have free access to God's wonderful Word, and we should not allow the free access we have diminish our excitement and our awe of God's Word. Pray for those folks who are in areas of the world where they don t have ready access to the Bible. We should have the same desire as they do for God's Word. We should not allow the statement "familiarity breeds contempt" to be true with regard to our attitude towards the Scripture. We are blessed with the presence of the Bible, let's make sure to keep it present!

Pastor Steve
Tuesday May 28, 2019

Some time ago, I read an article about a newlywed couple that went in sort of a different direction with the money that was intended for their honeymoon. "Not long ago, two newlyweds kissed their honeymoon good-bye. They also purposely did not plan a wedding reception to celebrate their union. Instead, they used the money they would have spent on themselves to selflessly help people in each of the 50 states in the US. In Arkansas, they gave gifts to sick children. In Utah, they aided victims of domestic abuse. In New Jersey, they donated clothing to a homeless shelter--and so on."

Most of us would not consider being this selfless. Many of us struggle with what we should be giving to God and to others, let alone do without something ourselves in order to have more to give to him or to help others. Usually, we wouldn t consider altering our lifestyle in order to have more to give. We really need to do some re-thinking is this area and determine how we can become more sacrificial givers. Selflessness involves giving up some our creature comforts so that we can make better the lives of others. This can be applied directly, or through our giving to our church.

We need to develop a greater understanding of the concept of giving and how it relates to our fellowship with God and our lives in terms of the lives of others. God warned his followers about the offerings they were bringing to him, "Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, 'In what way have we robbed You?' In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house." (Malachi 3:8-10) Develop at attitude of selflessness when it comes to your giving to God and your help of others. This more accurately reflects the character of God we should try to exhibit.

Pastor Steve
Monday May 27, 2019

Today is Memorial Day, originally a day set aside to honor those who lost their lives in the War between the States. According to many historians, John A. Logan of Illinois was the one responsible for the establishment of Memorial Day. On May 5, 1868, John A. Logan, a former Union general who was Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, called for a nationwide day of remembrance. He decreed, "The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land." As those of you in and around Ironton, Ohio, know, the word got out about this and a parade was organized for May 30, 1868. This is now the oldest continuously-running Memorial Day Parade in the nation.

The day established by Logan was first known as Decoration Day. Through the years, the name for the observance changed to Memorial Day. In 1968, Congress established Memorial Day as a federal holiday. It was to be observed on the last Monday in May, thus creating a three-day weekend for federal employees. This first took place in 1971.

A memorial is something constructed or something done to bring remembrance. Memorial Day was originally set aside to remember those who gave their lives in a specific war, then expanded to include the sacrifice of lives in other wars, and eventually came to be a time to remember all those who have died. For those who have hope in Christ, this day can also bring about another remembrance a reminder that a sacrifice has been made that we who had no hope can have the promise of life.

On a day that has been set aside to honor the sacrifice of many for all, we would do well to recognize the sacrifice of the One for all. Christ is the quintessential example of service and sacrifice. Paul wrote, "Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:7 8)

We should remember those we have lost; we should commemorate the sacrifice made by others to provide benefit to us; and we should especially commemorate the death and life of Christ who brings us the hope of life after death. Our lives should be a memorial to him! Happy Memorial Day!

Pastor Steve
Sunday May 26, 2019

I am more or less continuing a musical theme in my post today. Let's move from Johann Sebastian Bach to John Cougar Mellencamp. That's not a really big musical leap, is it? Mellencamp once wrote in a song, "Life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone." This seems to be an apt description for many people today. If you have a chance to visit an amusement park, you may see this illustrated. At the park, you will find scores of kids running around having a blast while some of the adults look as if they are at the worst place on earth. What is the situation? The kids are there to have a good time; the adults are simply there - they have the wrong focus.

We often struggle in life because we are looking at the wrong perspective of why we are here. "And just why are we here?", you may ask. We are here to enjoy Christ and develop a deep relationship with him. Through this are true joy and the abundant life that Christ said he came to bring to those who follow him. When we take our eyes off this perspective and focus on health issues, money issues, relationship issues, and so many other things, we are missing the point of life.

Our life is not summed up by our experiences; our life is summed up by our experience in Christ. This is why Paul said his chief focus was Christ. We find his manifesto in Philippians 3:10, "I want to know Christ yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death." Having this focus helps to put life in proper perspective and allows us to enjoy the abundance of life spoken of by Christ in John 10.

We can enjoy life and should enjoy life. However, this comes about when our focus is correct. Mellencamp's philosophy may have made for some interesting song lyrics, but it does not reflect what we can have when our focus is Christ.

Pastor Steve
Saturday May 25, 2019

I don't know why I am sort of on a music theme, but my writing today more or less follows what I wrote about yesterday, and I will tell you now that tomorrow's post will continue along the same vein, more or less.

Johann Sebastian Bach was born on March 21, 1685. His parents died by the time he was 10, and he was a church organist at the age of 18. He is perhaps the most famous of the "composer masters." He was succeeded by Mozart and then Beethoven; however, his work of more than 300 sacred cantatas is almost unparalleled among the composers.

Bach wrote, "The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul. If heed is not paid to this, it is not true music but a diabolical bawling and twanging." Our music is an important part of our worship of God whatever style you employ.

Music is a gift from God and it is hard to conceive of worship without music. One of the longest books in the Bible is a compilation of songs composed for use in worship. Moses wrote songs, David wrote songs, and Isaiah wrote songs. Solomon wrote over one thousand songs (I Kings 4). After crossing the Red Sea, one of the first things Moses and his sister, Miriam, did was write a song (Exodus 15).

Paul tells us "Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts." (Colossians 3:10) So, come on everybody, let s sing!

Pastor Steve
Friday May 24, 2019

I really enjoy the praise music we have in our worship services and I even play in the praise band if they are short a guitarist or a bass player, but I will never lose my appreciation for hymns. We use both in our services. I might write more about this at some point, but not today. I just want to base my comments on one of my favorite hymns, "Great Is Thy Faithfulness."

The hymn was written by Thomas Chisholm and William Runyan in 1923. It started as a poem (as many songs do) written by Chisholm who sent it to his friend, Runyan, at Hope Publishing Company. Runyan wrote the music and published it. Years later, George Beverly Shea started singing it at Billy Graham Crusades and it became popular in churches.

The first verse and chorus follow: "Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father, There is no shadow of turning with Thee; Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not, As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be. Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see; All I have needed Thy hand hath provided Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!"

Do you know where the scripture is found that was the inspiration for this hymn? That would be Lamentations 3:22-23, "Because of the Lord s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." In the midst of a book that addresses the great unfaithfulness of the people and the resultant judgment, Jeremiah declares the faithfulness of the Lord.

The general tone of Lamentations gives Jeremiah the nickname, "The Weeping Prophet." This is because of the tears he shed for the condition of Judah and God's impending actions towards his wayward children. In the midst of this, Jeremiah reflects on the faithfulness of God. He makes this comment to contrast God's character with the character of the people, but he also makes this comment as a means of encouragement in the wake of discipline. God would indeed judge, but the people could know that God's judgment would be fair and restorative, not destructive. Yes, they would suffer great loss because of their sin. Sin always brings that consequence, but they could rely upon God's person and know he would bring them back.

In the times of our darkest despair, we can always rely upon the light of God's presence. He is always there in those times bringing about his will whether the circumstances are punitive or whether they are formative. Whatever you may be facing, concentrate on what God will do and know that he will intervene because "great is (His) faithfulness!"

Pastor Steve
Thursday May 23, 2019

The African impala is a deer-like animal that has the ability to "leap tall buildings in a single bound." Actually, the impala is able to leap a barrier almost 10 feet tall, and is able to leap a distance of 30 feet. Yet, zoos are able to contain these creatures with fences that are a little over a yard high. How? These fences are taller than the impala, and that means he cannot see where he is jumping. The impala will not jump where it can't see where his feet will land. On the one hand, you certainly can't blame the impala. However, when the impala has that ability, you would think it would take a chance every now and then.

We can be compared to the impala. We have the ability to attempt great things for God, but often don't because we cannot see where we will land. Now, there is a lot to be said about prudence. Yet, we are people of faith and there are times when we need to step out on faith. There are times when we need to act like Abraham. God may not be calling us to leave our homes so that we can become the first person of a great nation, but there are other boundaries that need to be leaped that are within the realm of possibility. Is God calling you to a new ministry? Is he calling you to consider taking a new position in your church? Is he calling you to make a special effort on behalf of others?

Abraham "when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going." (Hebrews 11:8) There are times when we need to move out, even when we don't know exactly where we are going. Following God in faith is part of our life, and sometimes a leap of faith, when we can't see where we are going to land, is the right path. As William Carey said, "Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God."

Pastor Steve
Wednesday May 22, 2019

David had a problem. For years, Saul pursued him and wanted to kill him. Twice David had the opportunity to end the conflict by taking Saul's life, but he wouldn't do this. He knew he needed to rely on God and his wisdom. At the confrontation just after David spared Saul's life for the second time, David said, "The king of Israel has come out to look for a flea--as one hunts a partridge in the mountains." (I Samuel 26:20)

How did David cope with this prolonged struggle? By continuing to rely on God's presence and his love. He knew there was no other recourse but to continue to place himself in God's hands and trust his promises. He brought his problems to the Lord and registered his complaint with him. He asked, "How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?" (Psalm 13:1) However, he proclaimed his faith in God's plan and proclaimed his understanding that God knows best. "But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord s praise, for he has been good to me." (Psalm 13:5-6)

Facing protracted difficulties is not easy. When we do, we need to bring our complaints to God and give them to him. God interacts with his children and will help bring us to a place where we come back to certainties: He loves us in spite of what we experience. God will not leave us alone and will help see us though the conflict. David had a problem and sometimes so do we, but there is no problem we have to face alone.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday May 21, 2019

Bread is not a necessary item in cultures with abundant food choices. In the past, it was once a prominent item in the diets of most folks in the world. In some places, it still is more prevalent. In the states we don't view bread as an integral part of our diet, especially if we are one of those folks who need to watch carbs for their health. I enjoy bread, but for years I have avoided eating bread in abundance. On the other hand, my wife would eat bread and nothing else. Well, that was the case until she found out that she is diabetic and therefore needs to monitor her bread intake.

Just after Christ fed the 5,000, some asked him for a sign along the lines of manna from heaven (John 6). Isn't that ironic? He had just fed them with bread, and they asked for bread. Of course, in Jesus' day, bread was part of everyone's diet. It was essential. Christ used the request for a sign as a springboard into the teaching that he was the Bread of Life sent down from heaven. He said, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." (John 6:35) Even as bread was necessary for physical life, Jesus told them he was necessary for spiritual life.

This is the same today. We may not need bread in our physical diets, but we certainly need Jesus, the Bread of Life. Avoiding bread in our diets is not a great problem for us as there are other options. However, there is no alternative to Jesus. He alone is the Bread that supplies what we need to live forever. You can't live without Him!

Pastor Steve
Monday May 20, 2019

Have you ever felt ashamed because of something you did? Perhaps you lied to a friend, or betrayed a trust. Maybe you helped spread some rumors about someone else that weren't true. You sinned and you knew it and now because of your sin your feel guilt and remorse. That is a natural response to doing something we know we shouldn't and it is a good thing that your feel that way when you sin.

When you have guilt over an activity then it drives you to do something about it. Confession is the first step to take when you have done something you know you shouldn't. We need to confess to God our wrongdoing, and then we need to confess to those who have been affected by our sin our sorrow and ask for forgiveness. We should not try to justify what we have done, or place the blame on someone else; we need to confront our behavior and deal with it appropriately. Guilt and shame have their place in letting us know that what we have done is wrong and needs to be set right. However, we should not let guilt and shame come between us and doing what we know we should for the Savior. Often, we use our guilt as an excuse to not go on and do other things we should be doing because "we have done something terrible."

When you follow the steps of confession and receive forgiveness, you need to accept the cleansing that the Lord offers to us when we say we are sorry. John wrote, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (I John 1:9) Guilt and shame are good when they drive you to the Cross; do not compound the issue by not accepting the forgiveness Jesus offers because he "endured the cross, despising its shame." (Hebrews 12:2) Remember that when Jesus forgives, he forgives completely.

Pastor Steve
Sunday May 19, 2019

What are you known for by those who are close to you? Is it your intelligence? Your passion for golf? Your love of music? Your love of your family? If someone interviewed the ten people closest to you and asked them, "What does he/she really like?"; what would they say?

I read about a man who seemed to be consumed with a desire to build up frequent flyer miles. He once bought $3000 of the same kind of pudding because there was a promotion offering frequent flyer miles for purchasing this brand of pudding. He received 1.2 million miles for this. It seemed he was consumed with the acquisition of frequent flyer miles, and he was known for his desire to build up the miles.

What about you? For what are you known? What do others see as being the most important thing in your life?

There was no way to mistake the burning passion of the apostle Paul - he loved Christ and he wanted others to know Christ the way he did. Listen to what he says in Philippians 3:7-11, "But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead."

So, for what do you want to be known? Do you want to be known for your love of pudding, or your love of the Savior? Let others see your love of Christ in how you live for Christ. Leave the pudding for someone else.

Pastor Steve
Saturday May 18, 2019

Much has been written about folks having identity crises. Some folks experience times in their lives when they struggle with who they are, the relevance of their existence, their contributions in life, and what they are supposed to be doing in life. There seems to be three periods of life when this is most likely to occur. Teenagers sometimes struggle with how to fit in, finding a circle of friends, who they are. During mid-life, some folks struggle with things left undone, unfulfilled expectations, or a perceived failure to make what might be considered a significant contribution. As folks approach the twilight years, there are struggles with end of life issues, health failure, and what type of legacy they are leaving.

As followers of Christ, we can struggle with these feelings as well. However, we need to focus on the reality that our identity is linked with Christ and what he has provided for us. We need to concentrate on what he has given us when he redeemed us. We are forgiven (Acts 10:43); we are a new creation (II Corinthians 5:17); we are related to Christ (Matthew 25:37); we are reconciled to God (II Corinthians 5:18-19); and we are destined to become like Christ (Romans 8:29).

When you are struggling with an issue relating to your identity or how you are getting along in life, remember that "you are not your own; you are bought with a price." (I Corinthians 6:19-20) Christ has redeemed you to make you his - let this fact inform you and encourage you if you are struggling with who you are.

Pastor Steve
Friday May 17, 2019

On April 21, 1986, there was a two-hour long live television show entitled "The Mystery of Al Capone's Vault." Many of you may remember this. It was hosted by none other than Geraldo Rivera, an investigative journalist known for adding some dramatic flair to his reporting.

I don't remember all the details, but somehow Geraldo had come across a vault that was known to be in the possession of Al Capone at one time. He thought it would be good TV to have a special show on the opening of the vault and the revelation of its contents. I have no idea how he did this, but something that would take all of a couple of minutes was stretched into a two-hour broadcast.

I remember watching bits and pieces of the show and, of course, the dramatic moment when the door was finally opened to reveal - nothing! Well, a little trash, but other than that, nothing. Rivera handled this moment with his usual dramatic flair, but was quoted later as saying "Seems like we struck out."

Unfortunately, there are many people on the verge of saying just that. They are living their lives on the hope of that there is something there for them, yet they ignore the greatest offering of hope and abundance - the gift of eternal life through Christ. I hope you are not one of these folks - thinking you are filling up your life with meaningful treasures when all the while you are accumulating nothing. When the door to your life is opened, that will be exactly what is inside unless you allow Christ to fill your life.

Christ said, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-20) "Seems like we struck out" - don't make that your epitaph. Fill your life with the hope of Christ.

Pastor Steve
Thursday May 16, 2019

In generations past, something that would bring a good deal of excitement to a family was the arrival of a new catalog. Be it from Sears, J.C. Penney, Montgomery Ward, or wherever, a new "wish book" was highly anticipated as the pages were filled with items one could see and hope to obtain. I remember my great anticipation of the Christmas catalogs from Sear's and Penney's. I would thumb through the toy sections, looking at various items which I thought would look great under the tree on Christmas morning. There were always so many items I hoped to see in real life.

The Bible is a book that brings great hope as well. However, the hope it brings is of a more lasting nature and of greater consequence than the items one would see in catalogs. The Bible describes our need and God's provision. It outlines God's plan of redemption for humankind and the blessed hope that is ours when we come to God by faith.

What is contained in the pages of scripture is hope. The hope that is presented in the scripture is certainly not like the pictures in a new catalog - objects that we may or may not obtain. What is described in the Bible is a hope that is ours when we follow our Lord. Hebrews 6:18-19 describes this hope, "God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure."

Don't wish for things that you may not have - put your hope in God and what he tells us is ours when we follow Him. The Bible is not a book of wishful thinking; it describes a reality that is ours when we place our faith in Christ's provision. Looking at the pages of a catalog and wishing for things we want and then don't receive brings disappointment. Reading the Bible and placing our hope in what it says will never disappoint. What God says is ours is really ours - and no one can change it!

Pastor Steve
Wednesday May 15, 2019

Perhaps one of the most tragic characters in literature, Dr. Faustus is the central character in a 17th century play written by Christopher Marlowe. Faustus sells his soul to the devil in exchange for eternal youth, fame and riches, but finds that he has made a tremendous mistake.

A painting based on this character shows Faust on one side of a table involved in a game of chess with Satan. Satan is howling with glee as he appears to have won the game. The painting is simply entitled "Checkmate." A chess master studying the painting exclaimed, "It's not over! Faust has another move!"

Despite how much things appear to be "over" and Satan looks to be victorious, it isn't. Satan will not be victorious and he will never have the opportunity to proclaim himself as the victor.

In Romans 16:20, we read the proclamation of Paul, "The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet." This is the promise we have in Christ. So, no, it is not over. Not by a long shot. God is in control, and he will have the last move.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday May 15, 2019
Perhaps one of the most tragic characters in literature, Dr. Faustus is the central character in a 17th century play written by Christopher Marlowe. Faustus sells his soul to the devil in exchange for eternal youth, fame and riches, but finds that he has made a tremendous mistake.

A painting based on this character shows Faust on one side of a table involved in a game of chess with Satan. Satan is howling with glee as he appears to have won the game. The painting is simply entitled "Checkmate." A chess master studying the painting exclaimed, "It's not over! Faust has another move!"

Despite how much things appear to be "over" and Satan looks to be victorious, it isn't. Satan will not be victorious and he will never have the opportunity to proclaim himself as the victor.

In Romans 16:20, we read the proclamation of Paul, "The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet." This is the promise we have in Christ. So, no, it is not over. Not by a long shot. God is in control, and he will have the last move.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday May 14, 2019

On December 15, 1967, the Silver Bridge that spanned the Ohio River connecting Pt. Pleasant, West Virginia, and Kanauga, Ohio, collapsed with 37 vehicles on the structure. I know many of you reading this remember well this event. Forty-six people lost their lives in the worst bridge tragedy in the history of the United States.

Following the horrific collapse, engineers and others worked diligently to find the cause of the failure. What was determined was that a minute crack had developed in a critical eye-bar that held together two primary cables of the unique suspension design. Built in 1928, the bridge was the first structure constructed in the United States that employed this design feature. The crack that ultimately led to the failure was undetectable in inspections because of the limitations of the technology at the time.

We need to realize that minute "cracks" can develop in our lives that can lead to problems and failures. Sometimes these cracks are undetectable by ourselves. This is the reason that we need to allow God to be active in our lives reinforcing our character and searching our hearts and lives to find areas that need to be strengthened.

Romans 8:16 says, "The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God s children." Knowing this, we need to rely upon the Spirit of God to direct our lives, inform our hearts, and expose areas where we need correction and reinforcement. You really cannot hope to live as strongly and solidly for the Lord without the help of the Spirit. Let him be involved in keeping your suspension safe!

Pastor Steve
Monday May 13, 2019

Johann Sebastian Bach was born on March 21, 1685. His parents died by the time he was 10, and he was a church organist at the age of 18. He is perhaps the most famous of the "composer masters." He was succeeded by Mozart and then Beethoven; however, his work of more than 300 sacred cantatas is almost unparalleled among the composers.

Bach wrote, "The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul. If heed is not paid to this, it is not true music but a diabolical bawling and twanging." Our music is an important part of our worship of God.

Music is a gift from God and it is hard to conceive of worship without music. One of the longest books in the Bible is a compilation of songs composed for use in worship. Moses wrote songs, David wrote songs, and Isaiah wrote songs. Solomon wrote over one thousand songs (I Kings 4). One of the first things to be done after the crossing of the Red Sea was the composition of a song by Moses and his sister Miriam (Exodus 15).

Paul tells us "Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts." (Colossians 3:10) So, come on everybody, let's all sing along!

Pastor Steve
Sunday May 12, 2019

There is a story about a teacher who gave a lesson on magnets. She spoke of the characteristics of a magnet, how it can pick things up that are made of metal, and how the magnet has two poles. She gave a test to the class a short time after the lesson. One of the questions was "My name has six letters and begins with m. I pick things up. What am I?" Fifty percent of the class wrote "mother" as the answer to this question.

It is not surprising that many students put this down as the answer to that question. Of course, a mother does a great deal more than just pick things up, although I am sure there are many mothers out there who feel as if this is about all they get done! Mothers are so much more than a "quicker picker-upper."

Mothers give life to the newborn and sustain life as the little ones grow. Mothers are the earliest teachers of children who have an innate wonder of the world around them and have many questions begging for answers. Mothers develop a sense of well-being through giving comfort, encouragement, discipline, and assurance of safety.

Mothers are the first avenue of spiritual guidance in the Christian home. Paul comments on this in II Timothy 1:5, "I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also."

Mom is more than just a picker-upper, and we need to take time today to honor her and make her know just how much she is appreciated. Of course, this is something we need to do all the time, and I hope you have this pattern. Still, for all Mom does, a special day is such a little thing. Make today special for Mom. If you no longer have your Mom with you, do something for another mother that has a special place in your life. Happy Mother's Day!

Pastor Steve


Saturday May 11, 2019

Paul was imprisoned in Rome awaiting execution, perhaps in the infamous Mamertine prison, when he penned his last letter to Timothy. He asked Timothy to bring a person and some things to him if Timothy found he was going to be able to visit his mentor and friend. II Timothy 4:11 & 13 tells us, "Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry. When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments."

The request for Mark is noteworthy, as it shows an earlier rift between Paul and Mark had been mended. The other things Paul asks for are intriguing and interesting. Asking for a cloak is a practical request as it may have been rather chilly where he was being held. There must have been a back story here that we don't know - why did Paul leave his cloak where he did?

Asking for scrolls and parchments is also another interesting, yet understandable, request. The parchments were animal skins that perhaps were copies of the Old Testament scripture. The scrolls were papyrus and may have been letters or books of history, theology, or philosophy. Whatever they contained; Paul wanted them with him in his last hours. They would be a means of encouragement in his last days before his death at the hands of a Roman executioner.

Someone once wrote, "The wise men who have written before our time are travelers who have preceded us in the paths of misfortune, and who reach out to us their hands to invite us to join their society when all others have abandoned us. A good book is a good friend." Our reading is something that can give us encouragement, enlightenment, and entertainment as we journey through life. First and foremost, the Bible should be read on a daily basis. However, we should also read other material that provides knowledge, insight, challenge, and guidance.

In our day, we obtain information in so many ways, but reading is one that allows us to think critically, interact completely, and derive comfort. These were some of the reasons Paul asked for these materials at this time in his life. Cultivate good reading habits. "A good book is a good friend."

Pastor Steve
Friday May 10, 2019

Don't you hate being misunderstood? My wife and I often laugh at our impressions of each other when we first met. After our first date, we really didn't like each other all that much. That was over 45 years ago, so something must have changed a little bit.

Usually the reason that we are misunderstood is because we have not communicated properly. Consider this sign at an automobile repair shop, "Auto repair service. Free pick-up and delivery. Try us once, and you will never go anywhere else."

Christ was misunderstood during his ministry. Even those with whom he was close didn't understand all that he was and what he came to do. The questions his disciples asked the night he was arrested and betrayed convey their lack of comprehension of his real mission. One example is the question of Judas recorded in John 14:22, "Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, 'But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?'" As late as this, the disciples were still not totally clear as to why Christ had come into the world. A response given by Peter at an earlier time reveals they had come to grips with his identity, even if they were struggling with his intent. Matthew 16 tells us that Christ asked "Who do you say that I am?" Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God."

We need to be clear as to whom Christ is, and we need to be clear as to what we should do for him in light of who he is in our lives. Yet, at times our lives give mixed signals about our allegiance to him. We need to make sure that our actions match what we say. Show that you understand who Christ is by not being misunderstood because of how you live.

Pastor Steve
Thursday May 09, 2019

It has been estimated that the price tag to clean up all the nuclear waste sites where nuclear weapons were manufactured would be in the area of $300 billion. The clean-up efforts that took place in the Gulf of Mexico following the explosion of the oil rig Deepwater Horizon cost billions of dollars, and the effects will be felt for generations. Yet, as costly as these operations are and as devastating the results, they do not compare to the cost of the removal of sin and its effects. As far-reaching as these "waste problems" may be, they still fall into the category of a temporal problem. Sin is a contaminant that poisons eternally if not removed. The cost of removal was the death of God's only Son.

We wish there would be some way to remove the contamination of nuclear waste and oil, but it does not seem that conventional means will help entirely. However, the solution God provided for sin is thorough and complete. Peter tells us, "For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect (I Peter 1:18-19)."

Christ forgives us totally and completely. We are wiped clean, declared righteous in the sight of God, we are made totally new. In Revelation 21:5 God says "I am making everything new." No stains, residue, or left-over contaminant. What a wonderful reality!

Pastor Steve
Wednesday May 08, 2019

Have you ever encountered an optical illusion? You know, something that appears to be one thing but actually is something else or is hiding something else. The illusion is created by the use of colors, patterns, and other means. Through these means, objects that are actually stationary appear to move, straight lines appear warped, items are hidden, colors appear and disappear, all through the manipulation of factors in such a way so as to create an illusion. Many times, you can find these on the comic page of the Sunday newspaper. There are, of course, naturally occurring optical illusions created by light striking objects in just the right way, shapes that create a certain appearance, and other phenomena.

Optical illusions are usually harmless and are actually entertaining. They are fun to look at and provide a challenge as one tries to figure out just what is going on. How in the world do I see red when that box is green? Are those dots really moving? Why does that wall look crooked when it is actually straight? These are why they are illusions!

I do know someone who likes to try to make things appear different from what they really are. However, his ability to do this is not harmless, and he doesn't do it for fun. Satan likes to make the harmful appear harmless so he can injure the innocent. Paul warns of this in II Corinthians 11:13-15, "For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve."

Beware of Satan's tactics. Beware of his use of optical illusions. He is good at making things appear good when they really aren't. He is good at making harmful activities appear harmless. Don't fall for his tactics and tricks. Focus on what is real, and leave the optical illusions for the comic page!

Pastor Steve
Tuesday May 07, 2019

Bill Crowder wrote about a sobering experience he had during a speaking engagement in Jakarta, Indonesia. The elders of the church came to him before he was to speak and asked for his Bible. They said that they would return his Bible to him in front of the entire audience just before he spoke. They explained that, as elders, they were responsible for the message to the congregation and giving him the Bible in view of the congregation was a tangible expression of their role as guardians of what the church would hear. This act would symbolize that the elders were entrusting to him the teaching of God's Word for that service.

Do we give this kind of respect and honor to God's Word in our worship? I typically ask the congregation to stand as God's Word is read. By doing this, I hope the importance of what is about to take place is enhanced. Each time we open the Bible to study, we need to remember that we are looking at the very words of God.

Paul tells us in II Timothy 3:16 that "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness." Some translations render the word translated "God-breathed" here as "inspired." This is an accurate translation, but the literal "God-breathed" emphasizes who gave the inspiration.

As we read and study God's Word, we are handling the very breath of God. Keeping this in mind should cause us not to take lightly what we are doing when we open God's Word. You aren't reading Shakespeare or Mark Twain or even Chuck Swindoll, you are reading what God has written.

Don't lose sight of what you are doing when you read God's Word, either publicly or devotionally. Don't lose sight of the importance of the study of God's Word whether you are at church or in your home. The Creator of all that is communicates with us through what He has written. Handle with care!

Pastor Steve
Monday May 06, 2019

How do you respond when you receive criticism? If someone points out something wrong with one of your ideas or projects, or shows you what is flawed about something you are pursuing, what is your reaction? Most of us really don't like someone pointing out "the error of our ways," but there are many times where the error of our ways needs to be revealed. Professional athletes depend upon advice from coaches regarding their technique to keep them performing at their optimum level. Advice about a swing plane in golf, or arm movement in pitching or throwing a football, or footwork in defending in any number of sports, can be most helpful and can mean the difference between success or failure.

We need to realize helpful criticism to correct a fault in our behavior or whatever is a good thing. Solomon says the ability to accept constructive criticism is the path of wisdom. Proverbs 9:8 says, "Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you." In essence he is saying that if you aren't willing to receive correction, you are a bozo. A wise man is appreciative of someone who corrects him, understanding the benefit that correction brings. He will love the person who is willing to help him. Proverbs 15:31 tells us, "Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise."

Where do you fall? Are you willing to listen to correction, or are you a little stubborn in this area? Be wise! Listen to those who only want to help you do something better or be better or avoid a downfall because of a need to change. Show a little love to those who want to help!

Pastor Steve
Sunday May 05, 2019

Cinco de Mayo is celebrated as a holiday in Mexico and by many in the United States. Perhaps you use this day as a time for some celebrating. But just what is being celebrated? Many assume this is Mexico s Independence Day. This is not the case. That would be September 16th. Today is the anniversary of the Mexican Army s defeat of invading French forces at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. This victory was good not only for Mexico, but also for the United States. The French wanted not just to conquer Mexico, but to find a means of supplying the Confederate Army during the Civil War. Had they succeeded, well, our world today may have been quite different.

Let me get back to an earlier statement I made that many assume Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of Mexico s independence from European domination. As stated earlier, this assumption is incorrect. This highlights the dangers of assumptions. Now, assuming the incorrect reason for today's celebration may not be a big thing, but in other areas, incorrect assumptions can cause problems.

We make assumptions every day that are more or less necessary as a part of life. Most of us don t seek engineering specs on a bridge before we drive over the bridge. We assume the bridge will hold. However, erroneous assumptions can be problematic. Assumptions can cause missed opportunities. Assumptions can lead to misunderstandings. Assumptions can lead to errors in actions or judgments. We need to be careful about our assumptions so that we are not led into struggles with others based on faulty thinking. We need to pray for discernment and watch our assumptions.

Proverbs 18:2 says, "A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion." Be careful to gain understanding and watch your assumptions. Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Pastor Steve
Saturday May 04, 2019

The Bible is very explicit that we are to pursue rewards in our Christian service. While we do know that our focus is to be on Christ in our ministry, we are told to pursue crowns. Paul writes, "Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." (II Timothy 4:8) I Peter 5:4 says, "And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away."

Sometimes we struggle with this idea of rewards as it seems to put a level of competition in our Christian experience with which we are not comfortable. I came across a quote from Queen Victoria that helps to put this concept in perspective. She had this to say after hearing a message by a minister about the second coming of Christ: "Because of what you said about the coming again of the world's rightful King, I wish still to be here when He returns that I might lay my crown at His blessed feet!"

What the dear Queen said about her crown is exactly what we will do with the crowns we receive through our service for Christ. We covet crowns not for our own gain or our own benefit, but so that we may have a means of bringing glory to Christ when we are in his presence. There will be no boasting about our own accomplishments in heaven; only an opportunity to applaud our Savior for what he has done for us.

We seek crowns so that we may honor Christ. Revelation 4:10-11 describes this scene: "They lay their crowns before the throne and say: "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.'" I look forward to doing this - don't you?

Pastor Steve
Friday May 03, 2019

We all need certainties in our lives. We can deal with a certain degree of uncertainty, but what helps us with the uncertainty is the ability to have confidence in something. What is something in which we can always be certain? Well, God's love for us is a biggie.

God always deals with us on the basis of his love for us. Isn't that wonderful? Since we know that, we know he will always be fair with us, will always have our best interests at heart, will never leave us in the dark, and will not be hard to find when we are in need of his presence.

Psalm 6:4 tells us "Turn, O LORD, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love." We can always count on this truth. We can always count on God's love.

If you are facing a time of uncertainty right now for some reason, retreat to something that is certain - God's love. Knowing we can count on his love at all times gives us strength to face the things that are uncertain.

Pastor Steve
Thursday May 02, 2019

I would imagine that you have had the experience of losing something valuable and then embarked upon a diligent search to find the object you lost. Many years ago, we were returning from a vacation in South Carolina. On our way home, we stopped in Virginia to spend the night. We were at the pool and I was trying to get our video camera to work when I heard my sister-in-law, Sandy, shout, "Steve, get Stephanie!" I looked up at the pool and all I saw was the top of my then four-year-old daughter's head. Needless to say, I acted quickly.

I got my daughter out safely and really in very good condition - we were more frightened than she was. However, when I put her on the side of the pool, I noticed I had lost a contact. I wore the pricey hard contacts that was the only kind I was able to wear when I had contacts. So, it s gone, right?

Well, no, my other sister-in-law, Lorie, saw the contact on the bottom of the pool (Of course, I couldn t see anything). She and my wife took turns diving down, Eventually, Scherry plucked the contact from the bottom and brought it to me. Can you believe that? It was a little scratched but my optometrist took care of that on our return home. A diligent search led to a delightful discovery!

This needs to be the character of our search for the wisdom of God. In Proverbs, Solomon encourages his son to search for wisdom diligently. We read in Proverbs 2:4-6: "and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding." We need to pursue the knowledge and wisdom of God. We need to gain spiritual insight and understanding. The only way this will be done is through a diligent effort on our part to discover the things of God.

I remember so well my desire to find my contact, my focus on the pursuit, and our diligence in our search. Do you remember this when you were searching for that something you had lost? This is how we need to search for the wisdom of God. Search diligently and energetically - you will not be disappointed in what you find.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday May 01, 2019

Today is May Day. That is about an obvious a statement as I will ever make, isn't it? In ancient Celtic cultures, this was a spring holiday. The newness of life and a return to more enjoyable conditions were what was celebrated in ancient festivals. It is still observed in a historical way in British culture yet today.

I am sure that you are also familiar with the term "mayday" which sounds like May Day but has an altogether different meaning. The former term is a universal distress signal that was developed by sea travelers well over a century ago. The origin of this expression may (no pun intended) have its roots in the French word "m'aider" which means "help me." The pronunciation of "m'aider" is similar to "mayday".

Throughout the Psalms, we find several "maydays". Several times the writers of the Psalms, including David, spoke of incidents where God had intervened and, based upon God's past intervention, they offered prayers calling out for help in a present circumstance.

David wrote a psalm for the dedication of the then-future temple that included this statement, "Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me." (Psalm 30:2) Other statements of God's help can be found in Psalm 46:1, "God is our refuge and strength; an ever-present help in the time of trouble", and Psalm 121:1, "I will lift up my eyes to the hills; where does my help come from?"

Indeed God is a source of help for us. However, it seems we abuse his help in a couple of ways. For some unknown reason, either we ignore his help when it is offered, or we simply view God as a "genie in a bottle" and only call on him when we need help. Either abuse is reflective of a dysfunctional relationship with God. We covet his help, but we should look to experience his help because we are walking consistently with him, not just following him in fits and starts.

Don't use God simply as a resource to be there only in times of trouble. God is more than just a cosmic mayday responder!

Pastor Steve
Tuesday April 30, 2019

Bison are made in such a way that it is hard for them to look up. A giraffe is made in such a way that looking down is not all that easy. Bison graze on grass while giraffes munch on the leaves on trees. You won't see too many bison eating tree leaves and you usually won't see a giraffe grazing in a pasture. They each have their own special features and abilities. All throughout God's creation, we see "specialization." We see unique abilities and habits of the various creatures that populate our planet.

We also see this principle among people. God has created us with unique abilities and gifts. Even as there is no creature that "does it all," neither is there a person that has all abilities. There are people who are good at managing and there are people who are at creating. There are some folks who see the big picture while others are more detail-oriented. God has given various abilities and gifts for positive reason. He has created diversity to bring about unity. We need to work to enhance this feature of God's creation. This principle certainly applies to the ministries of the church as well.

Remember the words of Paul, "For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others." (Romans 12:3-6) We need to work together to get things done. Let those who look up enhance those who look down and those who look down enhance those who look up!

Pastor Steve
Monday April 29, 2019

A flower mix-up took place once in Binghamton, New York. A bank was moving into a new building in the city. A rival bank sent flowers in honor of their opening. However, the florist made a mistake and sent flowers with a card that read "With our deepest sympathy." Can you imagine the reaction of the family at the funeral home who received the flowers with the card that read, "Congratulations on your new location"?

The sentiment expressed by this floral confusion may have been done in error, but it does state a reality. Those who die in the Lord can certainly be congratulated on their new location. We face a struggle when we lose loved ones, but when our loved ones are people of faith, we know they are in the presence of the Lord.

Paul talks about his desire to be with the Lord in Philippians 1:21-23, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far." Paul knew his new home would be far superior to his old one. This is the hope for everyone who trusts in the Lord.

The florist who made the mistake no doubt felt badly about the error. However, for those who are followers of Christ, "Congratulations on your new location" would be most appropriate.

Pastor Steve
Sunday April 28, 2019

For the most part, I am an "interstate" traveler. Usually, I prefer the shortest distance between two points, the fastest route, the most efficient path between the starting point and the desired location. However, there are times I go against my inner inclinations and take "the road less traveled" (with apologies to Robert Frost). This is a good thing to do. Making this choice forces you to slow down, you have to pay more attention to the route, and you most likely will take in some pretty scenery you would have missed otherwise. We need to do this on occasion. Doing this starts with a conscious decision to change our path. I rarely regret going the slower route.

This is an effort we need to take in our spiritual lives as well. We need to take a slower route so that we can take more time to listen to Christ, to pay more attention to the things he has for us, and to take in what God has for us. It is so easy to fall into a self-absorbed pattern when we are flying through life and not giving the time we should to our life with Christ.

When Christ's disciples had gone through a rather intense time of ministry, he told them to "Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while (Mark 6:31)." We can benefit from taking a slower route in order to take more in. We can benefit from taking a slower route, as it requires more attention to what we experience around us. Don't be afraid to take the road less traveled. There is a lot to see on that path!

Pastor Steve
Saturday April 27, 2019

I have written before about a heart issue that I have for which I need to use a regimen of medication. In order to correct the problem and maintain "sinus rhythm," I take a beta-blocker. I remember one time thinking I might not need this medication anymore, so I stopped taking it. Bad mistake. I went into atrial fibrillation, ended up in the doctor's office, and almost ended up in the hospital. Regular use of the medicine is mandated because of my heart condition.

We all have a heart condition that mandates regular use of a counter agent. As followers of Christ, we know we have our sins forgiven and have the assurance of eternal life, but to maintain fellowship with God we must consistently address our heart condition. We still have the "old nature" within us that wants us to do things we know we shouldn't.

Paul speaks of this in Romans 7:19-20 when he says, "For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it." How do you control this? You need to address your "heart condition" by consistently doing what you know you should - yielding to God's power in your life. In order for me to live as I should physically, I need to consistently take my medicine. In order to live as we should spiritually, we need to consistently take God's "medicine" by seeking forgiveness and asking for his help with our lives.

When my heart goes into atrial fibrillation, I know it. When our heart is not as it should be spiritually, we know it. Do what you should to keep your heart beating the way it should!

Pastor Steve
Friday April 26, 2019

I saw an article the other day that reported on a "taste test" of hamburgers from different franchises. What amazed me about the article was that there are so many hamburgers to compare.

We are so used to having choices in so many areas of our life. We get used to the opportunity to "pick and choose" when it comes to hamburgers, laundry detergent, cars, vacation getaways, and so many other things. I remember a certain peanut butter commercial that acknowledged there were choices available, but stated that "Choosy Moms choose Jif."

Having an abundance of choices may be good when it relates to these areas of life, but we must remember we need to exercise caution with options when it comes to what God asks of us and what is necessary for pleasing him. We can't just "pick and choose" what we want from God's Word and expect to please him. It is great to be able to pick and choose in many areas, but remember not to apply this mindset in our relationship with God.

Just before his death, Joshua challenged the people, "choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. . But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD (Joshua 24:15." He went on to remind the people, "You are not able to serve the LORD. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you (Joshua 24:19)."

God wants what is best for us and knows that there are areas where it is fine to have choices, but when it comes to serving him, a restriction of choice is necessary. So, go right ahead and experiment with those hamburgers. Just don't experiment with God.

Pastor Steve
Thursday April 25, 2019

I get a kick out of one of the recurring themes on spy/investigative shows on television - the "rivalry" that exists between the intelligence and investigative agencies in the U.S. Sometimes information is withheld from one agency by another. A member of one agency will tell a member of another agency that requested information is being withheld because it is on a "need to know" status, or some other strange reasoning. The basic issue involved here is trust.

I know these are just staged events, but the issue of trust is something that is very real in our lives. It is important to trust others, and it is important that we learn to trust God. Something we know is that God will never play games with us. At times we may feel as if God is responding to our inquiries on a "need to know" basis. But don't ever forget that God is on our side and has our best interests in mind. We need to trust him.

Someone who seemed to have learned that really well was Abraham. Consider his response when God asked him to sacrifice his son. Here is the "meat" part of the story, "Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, 'Father?' 'Yes, my son?' Abraham replied. 'The fire and wood are here,' Isaac said, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?' Abraham answered, 'God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.' And the two of them went on together (Genesis 22:6-8)."

What an incredible display of trust. Was Abraham lying when he told his son God would provide the lamb? I don't think so at all. God had promised this son to him and Abraham knew God would not go back on his promise. He trusted him completely. We can trust God to supply a lamb when a lamb is needed. God knows we "need to know," and he will not disappoint us.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday April 24, 2019

Juliette Gordon Low could have been another casualty of adverse life circumstance. As a young lady, she lost hearing in one ear because of improper treatment of an ear infection. Then, her hearing was impaired in her other ear when a piece of rice thrown at her wedding lodged in her ear and burst her ear drum. While she loved children, she never had any of her own. Her husband was unfaithful and they were estranged at the time of his death in 1905.

What was her response to all of this adversity? Well, many of you have already recognized her name and know her as the founder of Girl Scouts of America. In 1912, she gathered 18 girls together in Savannah, Georgia, initiating a movement that became the Girl Scouts of America. A meeting with Sir Robert Baden Powell, the founder of Boy Scouts, in England in 1911 provided the inspiration leading to the Georgia gathering. Low had been searching for "something to do with her life," and she found it.

Low's life could have gone a drastically different direction. She could have given in to her circumstances and become embittered. Instead, she searched for "something to do with her life," and what a discovery she made.

Over the years more than 50 million girls all over the world over have been influenced through their experience as Scouts. And how about the impact of Girl Scout Cookies? The thin mint variety is my favorite. The point I am making is that in Low we have an example of someone who refused to allow problems to shape her life. Instead of being overcome with adversity, she overcame adversity and made an incredible impact. She didn't let self-destructive bitterness creep in when life circumstances became negative.

This poem was found in her journal after her death:

Only thyself, thyself can harm.

Forget it not - and full of peace,

Ignore the noise and world's alarm,

And wait till storm and tumult cease.

We usually do not have a choice when it comes to the adversity that comes our way in our life. However, we do have a choice when it comes to our response to the adversity. David gives a perspective on dealing with adversity in Psalm 3:5-6, "I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me. I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side." Avoid bitterness and allow God to help when adversity strikes.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday April 23, 2019

Most of us are really ready for spring. Our winter just sort of hung in there this year and we and we are really ready for the green, the flowers, and trees budding, and the warmer temps. But even as I say this, I can hear my Mom's voice, "Don't wish your life away." We so often say, "If only this would happen then I could. . ." or "When this takes place, I will. . ." or "I would be happier if only. . ." Does this sound familiar?

In longing for a future event, we often forget to enjoy the gift of today. Each day is a gift from God and is filled with opportunities to serve him. When we spend time longing for the cloud with the silver lining, we miss the golden moments we have now. Ron Ash wrote, "We are where we need to be and learning what we need to learn. Stay the course because the things we experience today will lead us to where He needs us to be tomorrow."

Solomon shares with us this wisdom, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens." (Ecclesiastes 3:1) We need to keep this in mind and apply this wisdom at those times when we find ourselves wishing for a better something down the road. Psalm 118:24 reminds us, "This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it." Do just that! Rejoice in what today has for you and glorify God with what you do in it!

Pastor Steve
Monday April 22, 2019

Have you ever had an experience of worrying about or dreading a task ahead of you only to discover that someone else had stepped in and took care of it for you? That is a wonderful feeling, isn't it?

When the ladies were on their way to the tomb, they were concerned about a very practical issue: On the way to the tomb, "they asked each other, 'Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?'" (Mark 16:3) That was a reasonable question. How could these ladies hope to push away a massive stone? But, when they arrived at the tomb, they found that their anxieties were unfounded - "But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away." (vs. 4) What had appeared to be a difficult, perhaps even insurmountable, task was already accomplished.

As we face circumstances that are difficult and perhaps even impossible, we need to place these in God's hands and allow him to alleviate our anxiety. We worry too much about prospective difficulties that God removes or helps us overcome. We need to focus on our service for him and allow him to deal with those things that are in our path that obstructs our service for him. We can be confident that God will always go before us and will help us with those difficult tasks, or perhaps even remove them altogether. God can roll the stone away.

Pastor Steve
Sunday April 21, 2019

Happy Day of Resurrection! I have always found it fascinating that Mary Magdalene is mentioned in all four Gospel accounts of the resurrection, and that both Mark and John (Mark 16:9; John 20:1) point out it was to her Christ first appeared after he arose. What an incredible privilege!

Even though we did not have this special privilege, we still have the marvelous hope that Christ's resurrection brings to us. Paul speaks of this in I Corinthians 15:21-23, "For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him." Mary may have had the privilege of being the first to see the risen Lord, but all of us who have hope in him know we will see him. John tells us in I John 3:2, "we shall see him as he is." We look forward to that time with great anticipation.

This is a blessed day. It was on the first day of the week, on a Sunday, that Christ came back from the dead and appeared to his companions to show he was alive. This was a fearful, yet incredibly exciting time. This is an exciting day as we think of our hope in him. Rejoice and celebrate! Christ is alive! And because he lives, we will live as well. Happy Day of Resurrection!

Pastor Steve
Saturday April 20, 2019

Jesus is dead. There was no doubt about that. The disciples had watched as the authorities had taken him away Thursday night. If they watched at all on Friday, it was from afar. The only one of them spoken of in scripture as being present at the crucifixion was John (John 19:26-27). The events of this day, Saturday, the Saturday after the crucifixion, are not mentioned in Scripture. The Gospel accounts go from his burial to the events of Sunday morning. But this is Saturday - what is going on?

Well, for most people, life is going on as usual. However, for those who had an attachment to Christ, or had a part to play in the events surrounding his crucifixion, I am sure this day is not "life as usual." I am sure the Jewish leaders thought their threat was gone. The Romans perhaps had thoughts - Pilate still mulling over the events and his decision; the centurion still thinking about what he had witnessed; perhaps the soldiers were still talking about how quickly the man had died.

There were guards at Christ's tomb passing time away, maybe wondering why they were guarding a dead man's tomb. And the disciples, oh my, can you imagine what was going on in their minds? From what we see later, they seem to still be together. Fear has gripped them - what is going to happen next? Mary - those who have experienced the loss of a child can relate somewhat to what she is feeling. Except she not only lost a child - she had witnessed most of his ordeal.

Yes, today is a silent day in one respect. However, we know it is far from normal for many people. This is a day of reflection. This is a day to think about what has taken place and what will happen next. This is actually something we should do as well. We do have a different perspective from that of Christ's contemporaries as we know what will happen. Nonetheless, why not use today as a time to meditate on Christ's ministry for us?

They could no longer see Christ, but he was still active in the plan of redemption. We may not be able to see him, but we know he is active on our behalf, interceding for us and living for us still. Paul speaks to us in Romans 8:34, "Christ Jesus, who died--more than that, who was raised to life--is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us." Take some time to think about this. This is a silent day, so it is a good time to do some thinking.

Pastor Steve
Friday April 19, 2019

This is the day - the day planned from eternity past as the day when our hope of redemption was obtained through an act of God. The term "act of God" is often used to speak of some natural occurrence that has some sort of effect on the plans of humans. For example, a snowstorm that causes schools, roads, and businesses to close is often called an "act of God." Well the Act of God that occurred on that special Friday so many years ago certainly has an effect on the plans of humans.

A statement by John in John 1:11-12 is, He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." On this day, Christ was tried before the high priest, tried before Pilate, tried before Herod, tried again before Pilate. All of this took place before mid-morning because by about 9 a.m. (read Mark 15:25), Christ was hung on a cross of crucifixion, enduring perhaps the worst form of death humans have ever devised. Yet, this was not an act of humans, but an Act of God planned even before humans were around (see Ephesians 1).

Through this Act of God, we have the hope of redemption, the hope of life, and the hope of a home with God forever. This would not be possible without the Act of God that took place on a special Friday long ago. Christ's crucifixion brings us life. Because of what Christ did for us, we can say, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me (Galatians 2:20)." I hope you have allowed this Act of God to change your plans.

Pastor Steve
Thursday April 18, 2019

At the end of the 1995 season, Sam Wyche was fired as the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. George Stewart, special teams coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, made a rather interesting statement. USA Today printed his comments as he waxed a little philosophical, "I guess it had to come to this. For anything to grow, something else has to die. I guess the departure of Sam will help the Bucs grow." Grow they did, eventually winning the Super Bowl.

What Stewart said was true. Land once occupied by trees and prairie grass must be given up in order that crops might be planted. Land once used for farms must be given up in order for cities to grow. For people to grow, animals and plants must give up their lives.

In order that we might grow in Christ, there are things that we must give up. Old habits, bad behavior, and adverse character traits need to be dealt with in order that we might go forward in Christ.

Colossians 3:5-8 tells us to "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips."

For us to go forward in Christ, we must do away with certain things. The departure of these things will help us grow. You may put it this way, "In order for us to grow, there are things that need to go."

Pastor Steve
Wednesday April 17, 2019

Some time ago, I received an email containing a really interesting poem that I would like to share with you. We live in such a "me-centered" world, it is important to remember we don't have a "me-centered" Savior. Also, it should go without saying that our focus should be less on ourselves and more on others, Proverbs 11:25 tells us, "A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed." Enjoy the poem!

Before U were thought of or time had begun,

God stuck U in the name of His Son.

And each time U pray, you'll see it's true,

You can't spell "Jesus" and not include U.

You're a pretty big part of His wonderful name,

For U, He was born; that's why He came.

And His great love for U is the reason He died.

It even takes U to spell crUcified.

Isn't it thrilling and splendidly grand?

He rose from the dead, with U in His plan?

The stones split away, the gold trUmpet blew,

and this word resUrrection is spelled with a U.

When JesUs left earth at His upward ascension,

He felt there was one thing He just had to mention.

"Go into the world and tell them it's true

That I love them all - Just like I love U."

So many great people are spelled with a U,

Don't they have a right to know JesUs too?

It all depends now on what U will do,

He'd like them to know,

But it all starts with U.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday April 16, 2019

We have storms in our forecast for later this week. I know I have mentioned before that I do not like storms. I am not a brave person during thunderstorms. I cringe with each "boom." Perhaps what I need to do is to read about thunder in the scripture.

God speaks of his deliverance of his people in Psalm 81:7, "In your distress you called and I rescued you, I answered you out of a thundercloud." When God's people were in distress in Egypt, he answered them with the loud sound of deliverance. So, the sound of thunder in this instance is really a comforting sound as it is the sound associated with God's help and comfort. I need to remember that.

Another example of thunder being associated with God's provision is found in John 12:28-29 where Jesus says, "'Father, glorify your name!' Then a voice came from heaven, 'I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.' The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him." So, maybe I should reevaluate how I feel about thunder. These verses associate thunder with God's power and his provision.

We know that we can count on God's provision and his power to be with us when we need them. God is with us; he will care for us. As we hear the sounds of thunder, may this sound be a reminder of God's presence in our lives. When we are experiencing times of sorrow and distress, when we are in trouble, we can cry out to God and he will answer us "out of a thundercloud." He is there for us and we know we can always count on him.

Pastor Steve
Monday April 15, 2019

Here we are again - Tax Day! Isn't that just absolutely thrilling? Taxes are one of those things that we outwardly disdain I really don t know anyone who enjoys paying taxes. But we do enjoy the benefits we receive from the taxes roads, jobs, education, social services, and a plethora of other items.

There were a number of changes to the income tax procedures this year, including changes in the forms. I found that out when I sat down to do our taxes. I had some ideas on how I needed to proceed as I worked on the report, but after a bit, I thought I should take the time and read the instructions. Usually, that is a good idea, and it was in my case. There was a new form I needed to utilize and the way I intended to put it into play was entirely wrong. So, there you go. Something I knew all along was something I needed to do - read the instructions!

It doesn't hurt to do this when it comes to our relationship with God. God has given us a perfectly marvelous guide to follow as we live for him, but, for some reason, we try to do things the way we think they should be done and ignore what he has sent us. This was not a good idea for me when it came to filling out the tax forms, and certainly is not a good idea when it comes to living for God. The Bible is full of thoughts, ideas, even examples from others (both positive and negative) that we need to know and follow. If we expect any kind of benefit, it would be good to heed the instructions.

Take the time to read what God has provided. A good example of the consequences of following or not following God's instructions may be found in Matthew 7:24 - 27. Why don't you take the time to read these few verses? The person who follows God's instructions is described in this way, "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock." (vs, 24) Following the instructions he has provided can keep your house from crashing. It also will keep you from having to survive an audit.

Pastor Steve
Sunday April 14, 2019

A young girl in Africa gave her teacher an exquisite seashell as a Christmas gift. "Where did you get this?" the teacher asked. "These shells are only found on a beach that is far away," the girl replied. Realizing that the girl had walked a long way for the gift, the teacher told her she shouldn't have traveled so far. The girl replied, "The walk was part of the gift."

Many people go to great lengths to help others or to find a particular gift for others. They consider the journey part of the gift. Christ's gift to us included the long journey from heaven to earth.

Dottie Rambo once wrote in a song, "He left the splendors of heaven, knowing his destiny, was the lonely hill of Golgotha, where he laid down his life for me. If that isn't love. . " Certainly, that is love!

Paul speaks of the journey in Philippians 2:5-8, "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross!"

As you think of what Christ has done for you, remember that the walk was part of the gift!

Pastor Steve
Saturday April 13, 2019

Not long ago, I saw some pictures of some eagles that were taken along the Mississippi near Alton, Illinois. The photographer had made his way to where he thought he might be able to see some eagles to capture some shots. The pictures were magnificent - of course, the eagles looked very regal.

Eagles really are incredible birds. They can fly almost straight up. They have the ability to look directly into the sun without being blinded because of a special structure on their eye. They can dive at tremendous speeds. For such a large bird, they never seem clumsy; they always seem to be in command.

As I looked at those pictures, my thoughts were drawn to one of my favorite verses in the Scripture. Isaiah 40:30-31 says, "Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." This passage was written to encourage some people who were facing uncertain times.

The message for us is just as true - when we face times of uncertainty and times of trouble, we should continue to focus on our Lord who will continue to provide for us and will someday lead us skyward out of the mess in which we currently stand.

When you are struggling, think of the eagle and remember that God has promised to restore you to a position of strength. Regardless of how "clumsy" you might feel now - someday you will be in command.

Pastor Steve
Friday April 12, 2019

Perhaps you have had the experience where you get the tune of a certain song in your head and, try as you might, you just can't seem to quit thinking about it. Actually, the harder you try to forget it, the more "present" it seems to be. That is the way it is with our thoughts - the more we concentrate on trying to not think about something, the more we think about something. The only way to move on to something else is to concentrate on something else.

This especially holds true with thoughts that bring us anxiety and worry. There are things that cause us to worry, and sometimes we spend sleepless nights trying to rid ourselves of these thoughts. What is helpful is to develop a different focus. I Peter 5:7 tells us to "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." When we have something that is crowding our thinking and creating fear, we need to focus on God and his goodness. In this way, we give these anxious thoughts to God and release our minds to focus on more positive things.

Paul tells in Philippians 4:6, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." Christ himself addressed this issue and told his followers, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6:34)

That this issue was addressed so many times in scripture shows it is a common experience, but with each of these statements comes sounds advice for us to follow. Focus on the goodness of God. Concentrating on God and his provision will help us release anxious thoughts. God does care for you!

Pastor Steve
Thursday April 11, 2019

"Why me?" is often a question asked when one experiences times of distress. We wonder why we have to face a time of great struggle, or perhaps a number of circumstances build up and cause us to ask the question, "Why me?"

I read an article on Arthur Ashe once that brings an interesting perspective to this. Arthur Ashe was a professional tennis player who won 3 Grand Slam Titles in his career, including Wimbledon in 1975. Ashe contracted AIDS in 1988. The source of the AIDS was traced to a blood transfusion he had received in 1984 during his second heart surgery, before donated blood was screened. He died of complications due to AIDS in 1993.

During his illness, rather than becoming bitter and morose, he continued to display gratefulness. His life was illuminating and inspirational. Asked about his attitude once, he explained, If I asked, 'Why me?' about my troubles, I would have to ask, 'Why me?' about my blessings. Why my winning Wimbledon? Why my marrying a beautiful, gifted woman and having a wonderful child?"

What an attitude! Ashe's perspective is one we should seek when we face times where we are tempted to ask, "Why me?" When we experience times of struggle, remember to reflect on those things we have received as blessings from God: family, friends, food, shelter, spiritual blessings, and many other aspects we should not forget.

Job 36:15 tells us, "But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction." Allow God to speak to you in your times of affliction by altering your focus of the "Why me?" question. Focus on the blessings you have received and ask "why me?" This will help you as you face a life trial where you are tempted to ask, "why me?"

Pastor Steve
Wednesday April 10, 2019

I once heard of a group of churches who omitted any reference to the cross in their advertising for an upcoming Easter observance. When asked about this omission, a church official replied, "The cross carries too much cultural baggage." I find this rather intriguing, especially in light of Paul's comments in I Corinthians 1:18, "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."

The symbol of the cross is a symbol of God's provision. Yes, it is offensive to some. Philippians 3:18 states there will be enemies of the cross, "For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ." In our attempts to be "politically correct," we should not compromise our position on the cross of Christ.

This Lenten season, reflect on the cross. Remember what the cross means to us. For some, it is a "stumbling block." However, to those who believe, it is a symbol of salvation. Paul's words in I Corinthians 1:23-24 are, "but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." Censoring the stumbling block does not change the provision of God.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday April 09, 2019

We like to use acronyms to refer to certain people of things. One that has come to be used quite a bit is GOAT. This, of course, stands in for the descriptive phrase, "Greatest Of All Time." You can find many articles about who is the GOAT in a given scenario such as a sport or political leader or CEO or whatever.

What if I were to ask you to tell me your thoughts as to the GOAT when it comes to a scripture verse? Now I know this is a bit off the path, but just go along with me for sake of discussion. So, what would it be?

In my way of thinking, one that would have high consideration is John 3:16. My reasoning for this is that it delineates a number of "greatests" within its parameters. Here are some listings of the "greatests" described in John 3:16:

This is the greatest miracle. The all-wise, all-powerful Creator made himself known as a human being to our little planet among all the trillions of bodies in our vast universe.

This is the greatest gift. According to the ancients' thinking, to give your son was to give all. God had only one Son and He gave His only Son to us. Never has any gift been so completely undeserved. "For God so loved that world that He gave his only begotten Son..."

This is the greatest purpose. God gave His Son so that He could gather people to himself for all eternity. "that everyone who believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."

The great thing about this great truth is that it is not just reserved for the "greats." This message is for all, "that everyone..." Isn't that great?

Pastor Steve
Monday April 08, 2019

When Pilate said about Christ, "I find no fault in him," that was an incredible statement. Pilate was referring to Christ's innocence of the specific charges that had been brought against him, but he unwittingly spoke a truth that could be applied to Christ and no other. No one else has ever lived about whom this could be said - there was no fault in him!

There are those who are good at pointing out the faults in others and ignoring their own weaknesses. Christ warned against this in Matthew 7:1-5, ""Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, `Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."

Christ alone lived without fault. Therefore, we need to avoid the extreme of "fault finding." This injures relationships and can cause bitterness and dissension. The next time you are tempted to start pointing out someone else's faults, remember the words of Pilate about Christ. Remember they apply to him and him alone. This should cause you to think carefully before you bring accusations. This should cause you to look at yourself to see if your vision of someone else's speck isn't influenced by your own plank!

Pastor Steve
Sunday April 07, 2019

When my daughters were growing up and even now, I do the best I can to help them when help was needed. I have always tried to be there for them. When they had questions as they were growing up, and even now, I try to provide answers for them. However, there were times when I was unable to provide them with all the help they need or answer all the questions. That is just simply the way it is because of human limitations.

Although there are times when I am limited in my ability to provide help to my daughters, we have a Heavenly Father who is able to help us in any situation we face and can provide answers when human limitations hinder us. God knows our needs and has promised to provide our needs. Philippians 4:19 tells us, "And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus."

God promises rest for the weary (Matthew 11:28-29); he promises to love us (John 15:12-13); he promises to guide us (Psalm 48:11:14); he promises to forgive us (I John 1:9). All these things he will provide and so much more because he is able to do more for us than we can ever do for ourselves and more for us than we really need.

Paul tells us in Ephesians 3:20-21, "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." God can and will provide.

Pastor Steve
Saturday April 06, 2019

Do you have difficulty retaining facts about the scripture? Do you struggle with understanding things in the Bible? A student once complained to his professor that he was having difficulty remembering the subject matter in a class. "Do I need a tutor?" he asked. "No," replied the professor, "You need a pupil." The professor knew the best way to help retain information is to pass it on to someone else.

If you have trouble with scriptural knowledge, maybe you need to focus on passing what you know to others. We read Paul's words in II Timothy 2:2, "And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others."

What are you doing about sharing you know? This is God's desire for us - he doesn't want us to keep what we know a secret. Whether it is in a setting like a class or a one-on-one situation, we need to pass on what we know. It will help those whom we teach, and it will be a reinforcement to us about what we know.

Are you involved in teaching others? There are others who need to know what we know. We need to know better what we know. In this way, everyone will benefit. This, of course, is the purpose of II Timothy 2:2. Now that is indeed beneficial knowledge!

Pastor Steve
Friday April 05, 2019

To me, Elijah is one of the more colorful and fascinating individuals in the scripture. In I Kings 18, we find Elijah a little "beaten up," and depressed. He had just experienced one of his greatest accomplishments besting the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel and bringing rain to the drought-stricken land. Jezebel, the wife of wicked King Ahab, took issue with his victory over Baal's representatives and set out to kill Elijah.

Elijah ran all the way to a cave on Mt. Sinai in the desert. Here, he collapsed from exhaustion and depression. Why was he now a hunted man after such a great triumph? That is a good question; one that Elijah is asking himself.

God was not going to have his prophet wallow in his self-doubt and fear. God asked him why he felt the way he did and then told him that he was going to make himself known to the prophet. Standing outside the cave, Elijah witnessed a great wind, a great earthquake, and a great fire. But God was not in any of these. Instead, God came to Elijah through a gentle whisper - "And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, 'What are you doing here, Elijah?'" (I Kings 19:12-13). That was God calling to him. If he had not been listening, he might have missed it, because it was just a gentle whisper.

I thing we often miss God's voice in our lives because we are expecting some great, powerful display, and instead God comes to us in a gentle whisper. Psalm 46:10 tells us, "Be still, and know that I am God." Often our busyness, preoccupation with other things, and our focus that is misdirected keep us from hearing what God has for us. Listen! Especially if you are "hiding in a cave," listen! God has something to say to you. Let Him speak.

Pastor Steve
Thursday April 04, 2019

Why is it that the grass always seems greener on the other side of the fence? When I was a kid, my grandpa had a cow that seemed to always want the greener grass. This led to a big problem for her. Once, she stuck her neck through the barbed wire at a place where the fence ran along a steep bank. The fence gave way, her head entangled in the wire as the rest of her fell down the bank. I will spare you the details of her grisly end. Suffice it to say that Papaw lost a good cow that day.

This sad incident mirrors an issue that many of us struggle with in our lives. We can be the same way. Not content with what we have, we are constantly trying to "graze elsewhere" - bigger house, better car, different job. The desire to better ourselves is not a problem in and of itself. But when we let this become the driving force in our lives to the point that we cannot seem to be content with what we have, it is a problem. God calls it coveting - and coveting other things leads to discontent.

Of the many things we can learn from Psalm 23, one is the idea of being content. The first 3 verses of this psalm speak to this: "The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake."

Let your relationship with God be your source of contentment, not your possession of property or anything else. This will lead to a more peaceful, settled mindset. It will lead to true happiness and fulfillment. Besides, do you realize what barbed wire can do to your neck?

Pastor Steve
Wednesday April 03, 2019

When my girls were little, we used to play the game "I Spy." I would imagine you have played it as well. We now get to play it with our grandchildren. You know how it goes. One person says, "I see something that you don't see, and the color is . . ." (or "I spy with my little eye " I preferred the "I see ) The object is to guess what the person has "spied," given only the color as a clue. My girls were rather adept at this game. It helped to pass the time, especially as we would be waiting during visits to the doctor.

Often, Christ would play a form of "I Spy" with his disciples. For example, listen to his statement to them after the feeding of the multitude: "Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, 'You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? Do you still not understand? Don't you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? How is it you don't understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.' Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matthew 16:8-12)."

Christ wants to teach us things, but often we fail to see his hand at work. Don't overlook things he wants you to see! Ask God to give you eyes to "see" Christ's hand at work in both the extraordinary events and in the everyday events where he is at work. If you pay attention, you will see him working where others see nothing. Do you best to see what God wants you to see!

Pastor Steve
Tuesday April 02, 2019

I know you have times in your life that you look back upon and remember it as an experience when you learned how to do something for the first time, or you learned some lesson that still makes a difference in your life even now. One of those times for me was when I broke an antenna off my grandpa's 1954 Ford sedan.

I don't remember how old I was, but I was fairly young. Papaw was at our house, so his car was in our driveway. I saw the car, I knew the radio didn't work, so why did he need an antenna? Off came the antenna! Do you know what my grandpa did? He sawed a piece off an old broom handle, drilled a hole in the center of the wood, put the antenna in the handle, and made a rather unusual, but usable, fishing pole for me. Then, he took me fishing. Believe it or not, I did catch fish with that pole!

Not only did I learn how to catch fish, I also learned the importance of forgiveness, of second chances. My grandpa was good at doing this - forgiving people. He developed this characteristic through his desire to emulate God. God is also good at forgiveness. He is good at second chances. If we could not depend upon the forgiveness of God, we know we would not have a hope of eternal life. Psalm 130:3-4 tells us, "If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness. . ."

I learned about this in many ways - but one of the first lessons and one of my most memorable lessons about God's forgiveness came from a broken antenna. I still have the pole in my office. I have never forgotten the lesson I learned from this pole - and I never will.

Pastor Steve
Monday April 01, 2019

Today is April 1, a.k.a. April Fool's Day. There are several explanations of the origins of this day. One is provided by Joseph Boskin, a professor of history at Boston University. He explained that the practice began during the reign of Constantine, when a group of court jesters and fools told the Roman emperor that they could do a better job of running the empire. Constantine, amused, allowed a jester named Kugel to be king for one day. Kugel passed an edict calling for absurdity on that day, and the custom became an annual event.

Whatever the explanation, I hope you don't get "buzzed" too badly today. Of course, in order to avoid this, you need to be alert to the possibility that someone might actually try to play a trick on you. Now, this is all in fun (I hope), and is relatively harmless (except perhaps to your ego). However, I can think of one person who would love to play you for a fool today or any other day, and he is certainly not harmless. I am talking about none other than our main nemesis - Satan.

Satan would love to make a "fool" out of folks by turning off belief in God altogether. It is indeed foolish not to believe in God - Psalm 14:1 says, "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.'" Usually, Satan will employ more subtle tactics just to keep us from really being effective for God. He realizes a "full frontal assault" is recognizable and avoidable. So, he uses more elusive means to trip people up and make "fools" out of them. This is why Peter warns his readers, "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (I Peter 5:8)."

Be aware of Satan's antics. Avoid things that will hinder your relationship with God, with your church, with your family, and with your friends. Don't be an April (or any other kind of) fool!

Pastor Steve