Devotionals

Tuesday December 10, 2019

I have written about my grandparent's little farm in "Possum Holler" on a number of occasions. Actually, both of my parents lived on farms in Possum Holler. Dad grew up on a farm that was much larger than my Mother's farm. The farms were adjoining, and that is how Dad and Mom met. I'll have to tell more of this story at another time. My Dad's father died before I was born and that farm was in the hands of another family as I was growing up. All of my memories of Possum Holler are at my Mom's place. I spent a great deal of time there.

Papaw Mayfield always had a few cattle to take care of there. In the winter months I enjoyed going to the barn and throwing down hay from the loft to feed them. During this time of year, Papaw would remind me, "Jesus was born in a place like this." As he pointed to the feeding trough, he would say, "They laid him right there." Not literally "right there," of course, but in something similar.

From our reading of Luke 2, we know that Christ was born is some sort of a structure used for animals. It might have been a cave serving as a stable, or maybe even part of a house that was a shelter for animals. We do know He was born where the animals were kept, and then laid in the feeding trough, the manger. I always think about this a great deal at this time of year, and the birth of my new little granddaughter last week really brought some fresh thoughts about the description of Christ's entrance into the world.

The scripture tells us the reason for the location was because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7, says "And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn." Not only was Christ born in a place where animals stayed, he was born there because no room was available for him where people lived.

Doesn't that sound oddly ironic? It describes a reality that still exists today. For many people, there is no room for Christ in their lives. Even those of us who call ourselves followers of Christ at times can live in a way seems to say, "I have no room for you right now."

Don't let this be the case in your life. Make sure you have room for Jesus. Why was he born in such rude surroundings? One reason is that it shows he is not afraid to go where he will encounter filth. He is not affected himself, but he is not afraid to go where the dirt is found in order to clean up the junk and bring life. He isn't afraid to go into a barn. Don't forget this as you celebrate His birth this year!

Pastor Steve
Monday December 09, 2019

Some time ago, I was driving along a secondary road at an unusual hour. For those of you "local" readers, I was on 33 coming from Effingham. I was returning from the hospital where I had been with a family. I know this may raise a question or two, so I will say all was well in this instance. But, that is beside the point of this article. As I was driving along the road, I was mildly surprised by the number of other vehicles I saw. One would think the road would be more isolated at that time. In a position where I thought I would be isolated and alone, there actually were a number of folks around.

Are you struggling with some issues that make you feel as if you are isolated and alone in your problems? Remember this is not the case. You are not alone as there are many around you who would be willing to do what they can to help, or at least be there for you as you go along the road. There are even those who have faced, or are facing, similar conflicts. More importantly, as followers of Christ, we are never alone. God promised, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5)

Even at times when you think you are alone, you are not. There are people there, and do NOT take for granted the presence of Christ.

When I was young, I enjoyed watching "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol" every year when it was broadcast on TV. Who am I kidding? I still like watching this I even bought the DVD last month so I can watch it whenever I want.

There is a scene from this magnificent Christmas special where a young Ebenezer Scrooge is alone at his boarding school during Christmas. There is no one to take him home, and he sings "I'm all alone in the world."

For those of us who are followers of Christ, this couldn't be further from the truth. No matter how alone you may feel, remember that Christ is always with you. And if you look around a bit, I imagine you might be surprised at just who all is out there.

Now - a word from the flip side of this issue. As followers of Christ, we need to be sensitive about those who may be in a position where they feel alone. Don't do this just because it is Christmas, but why don't you pray that you might have the eyes of Christ to see those who are in need of the presence of others in their lives? If we claim to be followers of Christ, pray for the mind of Christ - "in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others." (Philippians 2:3-4) No one should feel as did young Ebenezer, "I'm all alone in the world."

Pastor Steve
Sunday December 08, 2019

As it is with many people, one of my favorite Christmas movies is "It's a Wonderful Life" starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. Jimmy portrays George Bailey, a man who had aspirations beyond the confines of the little town in which he was raised, but never made the jump to something better. Circumstances lead him to an act of desperation, but an "angel" intervenes and shows him that his life was indeed significant, in spite of his opinion to the contrary and the situation in which he finds himself. I've commented on this before, but let me be a bit more general.

If a movie was to be made about your life, what would be the central focus? Would your faith in Christ be a predominant theme, or just a secondary plot line in the film? If a Hollywood director would start asking questions of your family, friends, co-workers, and other folks, what would they say about your focus in life? Would your Christianity be a main topic of interest? Someone once said, "All the world's a stage." That is true to some extent, but we need to be doing more than acting when it comes to how we are living our lives. We should not be acting when it comes to our faith in Christ. And we need to let a genuine display of our love for him come through in every facet of our experience. We should not be so much concerned about how others view us, or how important we are considered in the eyes of others, as we are concerned about how Christ is being reflected in our daily walk.

Paul wrote, "But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him." (Philippians 3:7 - 9) What would a movie of your life reveal? What would be the central focus? "Quiet on the set. . .action!" You're on!

Pastor Steve
Saturday December 07, 2019

"DECEMBER 7, 1941- a date which will live in infamy- the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan." These were the words of President Franklin Roosevelt to a stunned nation after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor by 350 Japanese Imperial aircraft. Many alive still remember that incident. I don't, nor was I even alive at the time. However, my life was affected by these events as it changed the lives of the man and the woman who would become my parents.

Events have consequences, and events of this magnitude have consequences that are far-reaching. This is the 78th anniversary of the attack, and we still experience the consequences because of what this action caused.

One of the first things we need to learn in life is that actions do have consequences. Developing an understanding of cause and effect is important. Now, not every action will be a world changer in the way that Pearl Harbor was, but our activity does change things. This is why taking time to think about our actions and about possible consequences is always a good thing.

God advised those who were going to serve as judges in the land of Israel: "He told them, 'Consider carefully what you do, because you are not judging for mere mortals but for the LORD, who is with you whenever you give a verdict.'" (II Chronicles 19:6) God wanted them to use discernment because their decisions would affect lives. Regardless of the reality that we are not a judge, we still make decisions that affect others. Consider carefully your decisions knowing that your actions are a cause that will have an effect.

Pastor Steve
Friday December 06, 2019

Dr. Mark Bailey writes: "There is a cemetery in London called Bunhill Fields. A number of famous people are buried there John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim s Progress; Isaac Watts, the great hymnwriter; and Daniel Defoe, the author of Robinson Crusoe. Opposite the graveyard is the chapel of John Wesley and a monument erected to him. On the same property is John Wesley s house, where on March 2, 1791, Wesley, lifting a feeble arm in as show of triumph, opened his eyes and exclaimed for the very last time, upon his deathbed, these words: 'The best of all is this: God is with us.' God has promised to be with us in life, death, and for all eternity."

This is a point of emphasis at this time of year. We are celebrating the fact that God came to be with us. This is even reflected in one of his names. Matthew writes, "The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means 'God with us')." (Matthew 1:23)

This statement of God s promise found in the opening chapter of Matthew is echoed in the declaration of Jesus in the closing words of the book, "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (28:20) When Christ came into the world, he came for us. Let s make sure we live for him.

Pastor Steve
Thursday December 05, 2019

In a book about business strategies, the author makes this statement, "Solving tough organizational problems may require counter-intuitive strategies." Well, yeah, that sounds just like what we need. Except, uh, what in the world is "counter-intuitive?"

The word refers to things which go against the usual thinking, ideas which may even defy common sense. This is sometimes what is required. This even has a spiritual application. Paul states this fact in I Corinthians 1:18 - 25, 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. For it is written: 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.'. . .God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. . .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. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength."

The idea of God coming down to earth in the form of an infant is different from what one might expect from the all-powerful Creator of all that is. The Gospel does not make sense to a lot of people. It defies logic and goes against "conventional wisdom." But, as seen above, we even have examples from the business world where this is often necessary.

It certainly was when it came to offering a solution to the problem of sin. This required a "counter-intuitive strategy." We need to be thankful we have a God who knows that logic needed to be defied. This led to the strategy of the manger, the cross, and the empty tomb that leads to our deliverance, if we accept God's thinking. I think that would be a very wise thing to do.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday December 04, 2019

While doing some research for my writing some time back, I came across the following address by Harry Reasoner, a deceased TV newsperson who was respected highly by peers and listeners. In 1971 he gave the following commentary:

Christmas is such a unique idea that most non-Christians accept it, and I think sometimes envy it. Christmas is such a unique story that, in reality, it leaves you only three ways of accepting it. One is cynically -- as a time to make money or endorse the making of it. Another is graciously -- the appropriate attitude for non-Christians who wish their fellow citizens all the joys to which their beliefs entitle them. The third is reverently. If this is the anniversary of the appearance of the Lord of the universe in the form of a helpless babe, it is a very important day. It's a startling idea of course. My guess is that the whole story -- that a virgin was selected by God to bear His Son as a way of showing his love and concern for man -- in spite of all the lip service given to it, is not an idea that has been popular with theologians. It's a somewhat illogical idea, and theologians like logic almost as much as they like God. It's so revolutionary a thought that it probably could only come from a God that is beyond logic and beyond theology.

"It has a magnificent appeal. Almost nobody has seen God, and almost nobody has any real idea of what He is like. The truth is that among men the idea of seeing God suddenly and standing in a very bright light is not necessarily a completely comforting and appealing idea. But everyone has seen babies and most people like them. If God wanted to be loved as well as feared, He moved correctly. If He wanted to know His people as well as rule them, He moved correctly, for a baby growing up learns all about people. And if God wanted to be intimately a part of man He moved correctly here, too, for the experience of birth and family-hood is our most intimate and precious experience.

"So it comes beyond logic. It is either all falsehood or it is the truest thing in the world. It is the story of the great innocence of God, the baby. God in the person of man has such a dramatic shock toward the heart, that if it is not true, for Christians nothing is true.

"So even if you have not got your shopping all done and you are swamped with the commercialism and the frenzy, be at peace. The story stands."

Indeed the story stands regardless of anything else. We would do well to remember this as we celebrate Jesus this Christmas season. "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14)

Pastor Steve
Tuesday December 03, 2019

Yesterday was a special day for our family. My daughter, Megan, gave birth to Edith Rowan. This is no surprise to many of you as I have already posted a "birth announcement." She was 6 lbs. 15 oz. and 19 ½ inches. Edith is named after my mother, which is really special.

The name Edith evokes a lot of special feelings for me as I think of my Mom and all the special times I had with her. Now, I have another Edith in my life with whom I will share special times and for whom I have a tremendous love. My life will be different because of this little girl who is now with me. Well, not just with me, of course. I think her Mom and Dad will be spending some time with her. And, of course, her big brother, Sully, will be spending some time with her. Their lives will be different, in a really, really, good way, of course, because they now have Edith with them.

As I held little Edith for the first time, I thought "Grief, what an impact you have made already!" She certainly has. I look forward to the days ahead to see what kind of impact this little girl is going to have on my life. It is really exciting to think about that.

As you know, this month we are celebrating the birth of another Child that made quite an impact. I always marvel that God's Grand Plan of Redemption started with a tiny infant. Galatians 4:4-5 says, "But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to redeem us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children."

Thank you to all who have helped us celebrate the birth of Edith - by the way, she was born in the same month as her namesake. And I hope you have plans to celebrate the birth of Christ, who actually may not have been born in December, but we need to celebrate Him anyway, don't we?

Pastor Steve
Monday December 02, 2019

Yesterday, our church looked different on the inside than it did the week before because we decorated for Christmas. The abundance of decorations and lights really make the church take on a different appearance for the holiday season.

In addition to the decorations in the church, you now have lights on houses, there are ornaments on lamp poles, and there are decorations all over the place. We are in Galesburg with our youngest daughter for a special event - more on this tomorrow but, of course, many of you know what that special event is - and there are decorations all over the place here.

The abundance of decorations reminds me of the abundance of God. God loves us so much he lavishes his abundance on us in so many ways. He makes our cup overflow (Psalm 23:5). Ephesians 3:20 tells us, " 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." Because of his graciousness and his abundance, a psalmist declared, "How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings. They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house." (Psalm 36:7-8)

Do you see all the lights and the abundant decorations? Let them be reminders of God's abundance in your life. Let them be reminders of His Abundant Gift!

Pastor Steve
Sunday December 01, 2019

Today is the first Sunday in Advent. Advent is the time in our calendar when we prepare to celebrate the Birth of Christ. It is unclear when Advent was first developed, but it has been a part of church traditions for centuries. Of course, the biblical basis for the celebration centers on the many scriptures that foretell the coming of the Messiah. For followers of Christ, the Advent season is not only a time when we look back on what has taken place, but we look forward to the return of Christ we know will someday happen.

As we think about Advent, my mind is drawn to the appearance of Gabriel to Mary to tell her she was to be the mother of the Messiah. When she heard this news, she said, "I am the Lord s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled." (Luke 1:38) Later, when she visited her cousin Elizabeth who was pregnant with John, we read her song about her experience. During this song, which we call the "Magnificat," She rejoiced about the coming of the Savior; she reflected on many of the great deeds of God, and then she returned to her home to anticipate the birth.

We can do the same this Christmas season. We should rejoice in the goodness of God. We should reflect on God's great deeds done on our behalf. We need to return to our place of service if we have strayed. As we celebrate today, look forward to what God has in store for us. Even as Christ came the first time, he will come again. This is a good reason to celebrate.

Pastor Steve
Saturday November 30, 2019

Well, how was your Thanksgiving? Before you answer that, you may want to take a moment and think about it. If you have some negative comments about the food, the weather, the time spent preparing the meal, or whatever, you may want to take some time for some introspection. You may want to think about the reason for the day and the importance of giving thanks.

When we have negative feelings about a day that is intended to celebrate the giving of thanks, we have lost the spirit of the celebration. Remember the origins of the day - a long-ago commemoration by a small group of people who were expressing thanks that they were still alive. They had witnessed the demise of half of their original number since their arrival in this new land. Were it not for the help of some Native Americans who saw their plight, all of them could be dead.

We need to capture that spirit as we spend time celebrating during the holiday season which we are now experiencing. And even though Thanksgiving is past, we need to continue to reflect the spirit of gratitude in our lives. Doing so will counteract out tendency to be negative and will help lessen the blows that life can sometime deliver.

Dr. Billy Graham once said, "Ingratitude is a sin, just as surely as is lying or stealing or immorality or any other sin condemned by the Bible. The Bible says, 'For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.' (Romans 1:21) Nothing turns us into bitter, selfish, dissatisfied people more quickly than an ungrateful heart. And nothing will do more to restore contentment and the joy in our lives than a true spirit of thankfulness." So, how was your Thanksgiving?

Pastor Steve
Friday November 29, 2019

Got your boxing gloves on? Well, those may not be the best thing - you need to be able to grab things, and you can't do so with boxing gloves. And, if you waited until today to get in on those early specials, you may be too late, as Black Friday has been moved back into Thanksgiving Thursday. Anyway, the madness has begun.

The 2019 Christmas shopping season has officially started and maybe you were part of it. Wikipedia states "The day's name originated in Philadelphia, where it originally was used to describe the heavy and disruptive pedestrian and vehicle traffic which would occur on the day after Thanksgiving. Use of the term started before 1961 and began to see broader use outside Philadelphia around 1975. Later an alternative explanation was made: that retailers traditionally operated at a financial loss ('in the red') from January through November, and 'Black Friday' indicates the point at which retailers begin to turn a profit, or 'in the black'."

Online sales have perhaps made the day a bit safer, and have also taken the profit margins to new heights. Last year, there were over $6.2 billion in online sales alone. Yeesh.

Whatever your opinion on Black Friday, as followers of Christ, we certainly need to keep a proper perspective on buying and acquiring stuff in general. We need to make sure we are worshipping God who brings us the Gift, not the gods who bring us gifts. There is nothing inherently wrong in buying and giving gifts; what is wrong is buying into all the hype of buying and giving gifts.

I hope you don't lose your head today in all the hype. Of course, "losing your head" could have a literal meaning. Keep the day of pursuing gifts in perspective as we draw closer to the day we have set to give praise to God for his Greatest Gift.

Pastor Steve
Thursday November 28, 2019

On September 16,1620, 102 people on the Mayflower departed the Netherlands, the land that had been their home since 1607, to proceed westward to a land that was unknown to any of them and would become their new home. A sister ship, the Speedwell, encountered problems not long after the departure and had to return. The journey of 2,750 miles would take 66 days and be fraught with many problems. However, they were determined to reach this new land where they hoped they would be able to continue their lives free from the religious persecution they had experienced in their homeland of England.

Can you imagine what it must have been like for them? Actually, you probably can't. I know I certainly have no concept of what they must have been feeling, what thoughts they must have had, and the concerns that were theirs as they embarked on an unknown vessel across an unknown ocean to an unknown land. Courage was certainly not in short supply. Faith was not in short supply. Determination was not in short supply. It is a gross understatement to say they were a group of people who were not afraid to take risks.

Having the willingness to take risks and to step out courageously to do something new and different is a good thing. We need a sense of the pioneer to bring about change and to reach out boldly in order to see good things happen.

Paul is a biblical example of a person with the spirit of a pioneer - willing to step out, to take risks, and to go where others feared to venture. What fueled his spirit? He gives us a clue 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."

The desire to know more about Christ and to do more for Christ often requires a little bit of the pioneer spirit. Use the example of Paul and of the Pilgrims as role models for developing a desire to reach out in new ways for new results. Happy Thanksgiving!

Pastor Steve
Wednesday November 27, 2019

Recently I read an article about the worst TV series finales of all time. "Why would you read an article on this?" you might ask. Well, I read a bunch of stuff as I am always looking for ideas for my posts. The following is an example.

In the article I read about dreadful series finales, the last episode of "Seinfeld" was mentioned, along with the absolutely bonkers ending of "St. Elsewhere." The one that seemed to be generally agreed upon as the worst of all time was the finale of "How I Met Your Mother." Now, I would imagine some of you may not be familiar with the show, so I will try to sum it up as quickly as I can in order that my article will make sense.

The premise of the show is of a father telling his two teenaged kids how he met their mother. The series lasted for nine years, so a lot of stories were told along the way, which made for the respective episodes for the show. In the finale (spoiler alert), it is revealed to the audience through the story told to the kids that after the dad married their mother, and the children were born, the mother became ill and died. He then married their "Aunt Robin," who was actually not related, but a close friend who had been involved in their father's life for many years. "Robin" was a regular character in the series. This ending created a great deal of angst among those who followed the series. It was an attempt to end the show on a "feel good" basis, as many viewers actually wanted the dad to marry Robin.

Confused? Well, I would imagine you are, and my point is not to explain the series or the ending, but to simply create a scenario where I say this: What does it matter and why do so many people obsess over the ending of this show, or any other show? Years later, you can still find blogs and websites containing articles debating the ending of TV shows. This reveals one of the dangers of our world: we can become involved in pointless issues because we are missing the real issue of life. This example is just one of many pursuits that could be cited with regard to emphases on the unimportant or irrelevant. We can get caught up in what is unimportant or irrelevant so easily. Put these issues in their place, and focus of what truly is important.

Ecclesiastes 2 gives us a conclusion reached by Solomon over prioritizing our lives: "Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun. Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom, and also madness and folly. What more can the king's successor do than what has already been done? I saw that wisdom is better than folly, just as light is better than darkness." (vss. 11-13) True wisdom is found in seeking after God. Time spent in this pursuit is time not wasted. Put the finale of "How I Met Your Mother" in perspective and focus on the important!

Pastor Steve
Tuesday November 26, 2019

The cost of health care is certainly a topic of much discussion these days. Health care reform is something that you can read about in almost every news publication in existence. When President Johnson signed into law the bill that created Medicare in 1965, the estimated price tag for doctor's visits for those on Medicare was $460 million per year. Today that figure is almost $200 billion. This is why, as one publication's headlines read, there is a need for a "Big Fix."

Health care reform is an important issue, but aren't you glad that there isn't a need for a "Big Fix" because of an increase in the price of salvation? When God laid the plans for salvation in eternity past, he knew what the price would be - the life of his only Son. That would never change. Paying this price would mean that salvation could be offered to all people for all time. There would never be a need for reform. There would never be a need to analyze the plan because it was not adequate. There would never be a question about the cost or the coverage.

I have no idea what the future of health care is in our country. However, I know that the cost for my spiritual health has been paid. And it will not be subject to any spiraling increases. Romans 6:23 tells us, "the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Christ has paid the price. If you have received his gift, you are in good health.

Pastor Steve
Monday November 25, 2019

At our church some time back, we did a personal financial management seminar with Dr. Chris Stocklin, founder of Turning the Tide Financial Ministries. Dr. Stocklin offered a great deal of good advice on how to take control of our personal finances so that we might be better stewards of what God has given us.

Of the many comments he made about finances, one that has stuck with me is "we need to distinguish our needs from our greeds." This is such a basic principle we are prone to overlook it. It is so easy to convince ourselves of what we think we need. This leads us to push right ahead with ill-advised purchases and unwise acquisitions. "Of course, I need that new electronic automatic can opener!" "I really need that great new eyeball-controlled volume adjuster!"

Paul tells us, "God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:19) We can trust God to help us take care of our needs. And that is really the core of the issue. When we turn our "greeds" into our "needs", we are saying to God that we really don't trust him and his ability to take care of us. Doing this gets us into all sorts of trouble. Don't get into trouble - don't confuse you greeds with your needs!

Pastor Steve
Sunday November 24, 2019

John Ortburg authored "When the Game Is Over, It All Goes Back in the Box." He uses the game of Monopoly as a metaphor for life and what our attitude about life should be. The point of the study is to show that a philosophy of life based upon the acquisition and accumulation of stuff is incorrect because when the game is over, it all goes back in the box.

As I was thinking upon this one day, another game came to mind that perhaps reflects more accurately a philosophy of life we should have - Dominoes. The point of Dominoes is to lose all of your pieces. The first player to nothing is the winner. It is not good to have "bones" at the end of the game. This perhaps reflects more realistically the attitude we should have as followers of Christ. We should realize that, with regard to material things, we came into the world with nothing and we will leave with nothing. Job said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart." (Job 1:21) So, it is better to work on giving away what we have for the betterment of others. It is better to live to glorify God with what we have. The second part of Job 1:21 says, "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised."

If we need an example of someone who gave it all away, we need look no farther than our Savior. Christ gave all for us, and he also tells us, "What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul." (Matthew 16:26) Live to give!

Pastor Steve
Saturday November 23, 2019

A number of Christians serving in Japan in the 19th century was confronted by a shogun who demanded that they step on a picture of Jesus and renounce their faith or face death. He felt threatened by their presence and thought the message they brought would be a detriment to his regime. When the ordeal was concluded, 26 Christians who refused to recant were crucified in order to serve as an example of what would happen to those who followed the teachings of Christianity.

How would we respond if we were faced with such a predicament? That is a difficult question to answer. Peter did not stand up for his identity when he was faced with a challenge regarding his discipleship. He denied Christ three times; however, he later stood in front of the same people who called for Christ's crucifixion and challenged them with a powerful and plain message on Christ. Tradition holds that he was crucified upside down as he did not want to be crucified in the same way as the Savior.

What have you done when faced with a challenge to your faith? I would imagine the challenge you faced was far short of death or torture or any other physical consequence. Every day we are faced with situations or decisions that tempt us to betray our Lord by hiding our faith or choosing the world or not standing up for our convictions. We need to stand firm. As Paul says, "Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand." (Ephesians 6:13) Don't tread on the picture of Jesus, stand firm for the person of Jesus.

Pastor Steve
Friday November 22, 2019

"Getting a little big for your britches, aren't you?" Have you ever heard that expression? I did a time or two when I was younger. For those of you who aren't my age, let me translate. What this means is that you are forgetting who is really the boss.

God told Job he was "getting a little big for his britches." Well, he didn't use exactly those words. Actually, the words he used were a little scarier. God told Job in Job 38:2-3, "Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me." What God wanted to make clear to Job is that He was in charge, not Job. Job didn't have the answers, God did.

Every now and then, we need to be reminded of this as well. Don't make God use scary language with you. Keep in mind that he is in charge. In Job 38, God reminds Job that he is the one who has put the world in order. He is the one who has made things work the way they do. And what we need to remember is that since God is the one with the power and the ability to put our marvelous universe into working order, he can put our lives into order as well.

Pastor Steve
Thursday November 21, 2019

I know I have commented before about my affinity for The Andy Griffith Show. I enjoyed it as a boy, and I love watching reruns now. I remember a particular episode that featured a Hollywood producer visiting Mayberry and expressing a desire to make a movie there. At first, the mayor and the town council were reluctant; but Andy stepped in and showed them the movie could be a good thing. What happened next was rather interesting.

The town caught "movie fever." Store owners began to modify their store fronts. Residents started dressing a little fancier. Plans were made for a big welcome for the Hollywood crew that included cutting down a big oak tree in the middle of town that was deemed "unsightly."

When the crew arrived and saw the changes, they were aghast. The producer made it plain that it was the charm of the people that attracted his attention, and he wished for them to return to how they were. The fancy clothes, the sparkling store fronts, and the removal of the oak tree changed them from their genuine state. What the producer wanted was the town as it was, not "gussied up."

We need to avoid the temptation of putting on airs just to impress others. We should strive to be genuine. We need to be honest with others and not try to be what we are not in an attempt to impress them. In addition, we need to realize God sees us as we are anyway, and we can't impress him by being something we are not.

Our lives should model the principle found in Proverbs 12:7, "A truthful witness gives honest testimony, but a false witness tells lies." Don't be something that you aren't. Be honest and genuine before God and others. This makes the best impression.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday November 20, 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 to not have too strong a tie to our present home in this world. We will not live here forever, and we need to realize that allowing our present life to have too strong a grip on us keeps us from appreciating the joys of what lies ahead, and living the way we should now. We, like Abraham, 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." Many years ago, Petra sang a song based on this scripture that reminded us: "We are strangers, we are aliens. We are not of this world."

Scripture encourages us to have the right perspective on where we live currently. 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 place of residence. This hinders your relationship with God, and can hinder your ministry for him.

Keeping the right perspective can actually help us enjoy more our lives now as we look forward to what God has in store for us. We read the words of Christ in Matthew 6:19-21, "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." Don't be too attached to your present home - keep in mind it is not where going to be staying.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday November 19, 2019

Hugh Richard Sheppard, better known as Dick Sheppard, was an Anglican clergyman who served as a chaplain during World War I. In 1936, he founded the English Pacifist movement known as the Peace Pledge Union. He was appointed rector of Glasgow University just prior to his death in 1937.

In one of his publications, Sheppard recounts an experience he had during WWI. One night he was hiding in no man's land, close to enemy lines, when he heard someone approaching. He wanted badly to call out "friend or foe?" but he knew this could mean his death. Years later, as he was experiencing a dark emotional experience, he looked to God and was tempted to call out "friend or foe?"

There may be times in our lives when we find ourselves involved in just such an emotional struggle. In the blackness of our experience, we may be tempted to cry out to God, "friend or foe?" We struggle with the why of his intentions for our life and at times even his goodness. What we can do at times like these is to realize we can trust our loving God? We already know the answer to the question "friend or foe?"

One person in the scripture who had many occasions to make this cry to God was Joseph. He was mistreated by his family, falsely accused, forgotten in prison. But he never forgot God. He knew God would not forget him. His faith remained strong, and God honored his faith. His faith is seen in one of the statements he made to his brothers when they came to Egypt, "Do this and you will live, for I fear God (Genesis 42:18)." In spite of what happened to him, he knew God would turn his darkness to light. He came to grips with the realization that his experience allowed for good for many others. He told his brothers, "Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." (Genesis 50:19-20)

God has promised to never leave us or forsake us. He has proven himself faithful. Continue to remain faithful to him in spite of what comes along that tempts you to do otherwise God is a "friend that sticks closer than a brother." (Proverbs 18:24)

Pastor Steve
Monday November 18, 2019

Everyone likes to be complimented every now and then, providing the compliment is genuine. Being genuinely complimentary of others is a good thing. Being a "schmoozer" isn't. However, receiving a genuine compliment about one's appearance or one's activity is an uplifting thing. It makes you feel good; it makes you feel appreciated; and it can certainly help if received at a time when you have experienced someone who has been somewhat less than complimentary about something. So, don't be reticent to give deserved compliments - you probably will help to make someone's day!

We should strive to be worthy of receiving compliments from God. God does give compliments when they are due. Christ speaks of receiving compliments in the parable of the talents found in Matthew 25. He talks about the faithful servant receiving a compliment from his master in verse 23, "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!" The parable is meant as an encouragement for those of us who serve God to live in such a way in order that we may hear these complimentary words from our Father.

Are you good at giving others deserved compliments? Don't be stingy with your compliments when those compliments are deserved. Are you living in such a way so as to be deserving of God's compliments? God is not stingy about giving credit where credit is due. Strive to live to deserve God's compliments!

Pastor Steve
Sunday November 17, 2019

When I was young, I enjoyed playing in the hills that surrounded my grandparent's home. I have written about this on other occasions. There was a creek that ran through a valley in those hills. Once, my brothers and I cut down a fairly good-sized tree that lined the creek. It fell across the chasm and made a bridge for us to cross. I never felt really good about crossing that "bridge" - I always used caution and took my time so I wouldn't fall into the creek below. My fear led me to be careful and focus on my steps so that I wouldn't fall. I have no idea how many times I crossed that bridge, but I never lost my fear of falling.

We need to apply the same principle in certain situations in our lives. We should never lose our fear of falling into a chasm when it comes to temptation to sin. We should always realize we could fall, and allow this awareness to sharpen our focus and fuel our caution. We never lose the ability to fall into the trap of immorality or deception or other inappropriate behavior. Our fear of falling helps us to be cautious and walk carefully at times when we are tempted. Given the opportunity and the circumstances, any of us are capable of falling into any sin, so we need to take care.

Paul warned the Corinthians, "Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he falls." (I Corinthians 10:12) Don't ever lose your fear of falling!

Pastor Steve
Saturday November 16, 2019

Many years ago I attended a drag race featuring some Top Fuel dragsters. The fuel used in Top Fuel racing is 90% nitromethane and 10% methanol. Please don't try to use this fuel in your family car to improve horsepower. Your car wouldn't last very long with this in the tank. Engines in the dragsters are specially constructed to use this mix and, as you would expect, the car goes really fast. Another property about the fuel mix is when it burns, you can't see the flames. That can be dangerous. I remember watching a driver fly out of a car and start swatting himself all over. At first, it looked a little comical until you realized that he was on fire and could have been seriously hurt had the pit crew not reacted as quickly as they did and extinguished the invisible blaze.

Someone mistakenly said once, "What you can't see can't hurt you." Whoever said this ignored a great deal of harmful things that cannot be seen. Bacteria and viruses are not detectable with the naked eye, yet can cause a great deal of harm. In the spiritual realm, we know that our adversary is invisible and can cause us great harm if we are not vigilant. Satan and his allies cannot be seen, yet we know they are there and are bent on our destruction. Ephesians 6:12 informs us: "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."

So how can you keep from being harmed by an unseen foe? Being aware that he is there is one line of defense. Trusting in our powerful, yet invisible, Father is another. Paul proclaims trust in the invisible God in I Timothy 1:17, "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen." We depend upon our invisible God to help us against our invisible foe. Constantly lean upon Him and declare your confidence in God's hand of protection. He will keep you from being harmed by Satan s invisible flames.

Pastor Steve
Friday November 15, 2019

According to an old legend, there was once a day when the sun didn't shine. At 6 a.m., there was no evidence of the sun. 7 a.m. came and passed by with still no sun. At noon it was as dark as if it was midnight. People began flocking to churches to pray. Fear gripped them as what should be was not. The sun always rose in the morning, didn't it? It was always there to provide light and warmth, wasn't it? Well, not this day. People prayed that God would send back the sun.

The next day, all the people gathered and faced east, hoping to see the familiar sight of the sunrise. When the sun appeared, a huge cheer rose from the massive throng. What was once taken for granted would be taken for granted no more.

We are prone to do this - take for granted things that shouldn't be taken for granted. We do that with God's benefits and blessings. They are always there, aren't they? Yes, God is always there and always wants to give us good things and provide many blessings. However, we should do all we can to make sure we don't take these things for granted.

What can we do to make sure we don't take God's benefits for granted? Do what David did in Psalm 103. He couldn't list all of God's benefits, but he listed as many as he could: "Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits--who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's."

We can't list all of God's blessings, but we should take time each day to think of some of them. In this way, we will avoid taking for granted what God gives us. It will keep our focus on the One who never withholds the sun, who never lets us down, who never leaves us alone.

Pastor Steve
Thursday November 14, 2019

There are many books that are written about how to be free in a variety of areas. Finances, attitudes, relationships, health and work are some of the more common topics of these "how-to" guides. They frequently are at the top of the best-seller s list. This demonstrates the desire of many people to be unshackled and unencumbered in their lives. We want control of our lives, and being free in these areas is important to having control.

In reality, there is only one Book that tells us how we can truly be free - the Bible. We may be totally in charge of all of the aforementioned areas of our lives, but unless we have solved a basic problem, we are not truly free. We have an issue with sin, and sin has us gripped like a vise. There are no solutions to this apart from what the Scripture says. We need to allow the Spirit of God to transform us through following Christ. Jesus says this is the way to true freedom. In John 8:32 & 36, "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. . So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed."

Regardless of what you think, the source of your greatest anxiety is the problem of sin that we all face. Only through God can we find a way to be set free from this. A friend of mine, Danny Jividen, wrote a song that said, "Make me your servant to I can know true liberty; chain me with your love and I will be free." Giving your life to God through faith in His Son is the path to real freedom. Trust him and your heart will be free!

Pastor Steve
Wednesday November 13, 2019

One of the most compelling stories in all of scripture is that of Hannah and her son, Samuel. Hannah was childless and prayed fervently not only for a child, but specifically asked for a son (I Samuel 1:9-11). She told the Lord that if he would give her a son, she would offer him to the Lord. She prayed, "O LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant's misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head (I Samuel 1:11)."

God honored her request, and Hannah kept her promise. When the child was old enough, she brought him to the house of God. She brought him there not just for consecration, but to present him to the Lord for good.

We don't need to go so far with our children today, but we do need to leave them in the hands of our Lord. We must do all we can to give them a strong spiritual and moral foundation so that when the call to follow other paths weighs heavily upon them. We need to teach them well so that the lessons that other factions try to put in their lives will fall upon deaf ears. Television, internet, peers, culture, all speak loudly. When these voices are speaking the wrong things, our children need to have the ability to make good decisions. This comes from their family and their family at church. We need to teach them well.

We "give" our children to the Lord through our prayer for them, our modeling spiritual behavior before them, and our teaching them to follow Christ. Give them to God so they will know the way of truth.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday November 12, 2019

We had a nice little winter storm yesterday that left the landscape, streets, parking lots, buildings, and vehicles blanketed in a nice coat of white. This is a little early, but not all that unusual. A couple of songs kept running through my head as I saw the growing pile of white. Bing Crosby kept singing, "Oh, the first snowfall of the winter. . ." Yes, Karen Carpenter did that one also. And then there was, "Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful. And since we ve no place to go, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow." No particular singer was ringing in my ears on this one. And I actually did have places to go, so there s the knock against what we experienced yesterday. Still, it did make for a beautiful picture.

I also had another thought as I was out amidst all this white bubbliness - I thought about how the scripture said this is what Christ makes me look like on the inside. Isaiah 1:18 is perhaps the best-known of these scriptures, "Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool." David speaks about this in his great confessional Psalm, "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." (Psalm 51:8) Revelation 3:5 gives a little different perspective on being cleansed, "He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels." This is the hope for all who yield their lives to him.

As I looked at the new coat of snow covering the surfaces of all you see, I thought about how Christ does this for those who come to him - cover everything that is unsightly and soiled. In reality, he goes a bit further than this He cleans us inside and out, and puts us in a place where we can enjoy him. What a beautiful thought to have on a snowy day. Actually, a beautiful thought to have on any day. Thank you, Lord, for your death on my behalf that allows me to be clean. As the song says, "Now wash me and I will be whiter than snow."

Pastor Steve
Monday November 11, 2019

Today is Veteran's Day. The day will be observed by work stoppages, bank holidays, and a postal holiday. There will also be parades and ceremonial observations. This day originally commemorated the end of World War I and was known as Armistice Day.

The Treaty of Versailles ended the Great War and was signed on the 11th hour of the 11th day of November in 1918. The Great War was supposed to be the war to end all wars. Most naively felt that there would never be another conflict of this nature and that on the signing of this treaty war would never be experienced again. Sadly, they were wrong. Those of us living today have reached a point where there are no living veterans of this great conflict. And war still rages.

Someday, war will cease. God has promised a day of his intervention when "He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire." (Psalm 46:9) Until that time we need continue to place our trust in the Sovereign God who controls all things. He knows when this final treaty will be ratified. It will not be so much of a treaty as a mandate.

Let us pay tribute to those whose lives have been profoundly affected by their participation in conflicts, or simply even their participation in forces that exist because of the presence of conflict. Let us pray for the time when all conflict will end. Thank you to all who have served. Your sacrifice has not gone unnoticed.

Pastor Steve
Sunday November 10, 2019

An evangelist went to a church in a rural area for a series of meetings. As he was talking with some of the people after the first night of the service, he met a lady who told him of her livestock. "How many pigs do you have?" he asked. "One hundred and ninety two," she replied without hesitation. "Are you positive?" the minister asked. "Yes!" she replied incredulously, "I know the names of all one hundred ninety-two!" Sounds like she knew them pretty well, doesn't it? How in the world did she know the names of all 192? Well, knowing the names certainly demonstrates her concern.

God knows my name. Tommy Walker wrote a really nice chorus that goes:

He knows my name

He knows my every thought

He sees each tear that falls

And He hears me when I call

Isn't it marvelous to know that the God of the entire Universe knows your name? David said in Psalm 139:1-4, "O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD." Jesus said in Matthew 10:30, "And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered."

God knows how many hairs we have, and he knows our names. What a wonderful and comforting thought to realize how great his care is for us. God knows our name, and he never tires of us calling upon his name.

Pastor Steve
Saturday November 09, 2019

The following story came from a post on a blog that was created to promote honesty: "While loading my groceries into the car one day a store employee pointed out that I had left my milk on the bottom of the cart. I immediately realized that I had forgotten to take it off of the cart during check out. I placed the children back in the cart and returned to the store in to pay for it. When I came out the employees were so impressed that they gave me $12.50 in coupons! At the time, my husband was in school and we were not well off. The free milk and cereal that I received by using the coupons was appreciated! The blessings of honesty are real. My children learned a great lesson that day too!"

Exodus 23 lists several scenarios of how honesty should be employed. The Israelites are told, "Do not spread false reports" (vs. 1); "Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong" (vs. 2); "If you come across your enemy s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to return it" (vs. 4); "Have nothing to do with a false charge" (vs. 7); and other directives concerning honest actions.

What I find especially fascinating about these statements are that the Israelites are told to be honest with their enemies as well as their friends. Honesty should know no bounds and we need to allow the principle of honesty to drive us at all times and in all circumstances. We should strive for honesty whether our efforts bring benefit to us or not. Doing so is simply the right thing to do. Sir Edwin Sandys was certainly correct in saying that "Honesty is the best policy."

Pastor Steve
Friday November 08, 2019

You perhaps remember in my post yesterday that I commented upon Stephanie and Megan seeking my help from time to time. Well, just after I arrived in my office, I received a text from Stephanie asking if I could print some copies for her. Why did my daughter who lives 400 miles from me ask me to do this for her? Her printer wasn t working and she and her family are coming to see us this weekend. So, the copies are ready for her when she arrives.

She asked me to do this because she knew I would do what I could to help her. Both of my daughters know this. They know I would do anything I could to help them whenever I can. I am limited physically now, but I still like to do all I can for them because I like to help them.

Many years ago, I gave driving directions to Megan when she was trying to find Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. This was before the proliferation of smart phones and she didn't have a GPS. So, she called me to see if I could tell her how to find Yale. Through MapQuest, I was able to guide her to her destination.

I delight in being able to help my daughters whenever I can. God also delights in being able to help his children. He delights in having a good relationship with his children. He delights in helping us with details in our lives that need to be addressed. He delights in helping us find the right path.

Psalm 147:11 says, "the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love." Micah 7:8 - 9, "Who is a God like you? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy." Zephaniah 3:17 says, "He will take great delight in you;"

God delights in his children who desire to follow him and seek his help. This brings him joy. He loves nothing better than to walk with us and help us along the pathway of life. God delights in his children. And his help, unlike mine, is limitless. Let's delight our Father by doing what we should.

Pastor Steve
Thursday November 07, 2019

I am thrilled when either of my two daughters call and say they are in need of help with something. I am thrilled because this doesn't happen all that often as their lives have taken them to other places and they have proven to be quite capable of taking care of themselves. We tried to raise our girls to be independent and be able to take care of themselves, and it looks like our efforts were successful. I sometimes joke about this and say I wish we had not done such a good job. It would be nice to have them closer, especially now that there are grandkids involved, but I am so happy to see them as they are.

The days of helping them with tying their shoes, fixing their breakfast, taking them to school, teaching them to ride a bike and even to drive a car are over. Now, they are getting to enjoy these times with their children. Those days went by fast. So, when they call and need some advice or ask us to help them with something on our next visit, I am thrilled. They are independent and capable of taking care of themselves, but our relationship is such that they feel totally comfortable asking for help when needed. And that is as it should be.

As followers of Christ, we also should learn to "stand on our own two feet" by growing in him. However, we should never lose sight of our dependence on him. We need to remember that we will never be totally independent of God and his resources for our lives. When we try to live in this way, we get into trouble.

Christ trained his disciples to carry on his ministry after he was gone, but he also reminded them, "Without me you can do nothing." (John 15:5) God wants us to grow in our faith and become mature, but always with the idea that we need his continued input into our lives.

Paul chastised the Corinthian believers for not progressing in their faith, "Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready." (I Corinthians 3:1-2) However, growing in faith and dependence on God are not mutually exclusive. We are to gain maturity in the Lord, but always recognize our dependence on the Lord to help us mature.

My girls have grown into resourceful, capable, intelligent young ladies, but they still recognize the resource they have in their parents. This is what we should do as followers of Christ - grow in faith and knowledge in Christ but never forget our need for the resources only Christ can provide.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday November 06, 2019

A real estate agent was showing a dilapidated property to a prospective buyer. It was an old warehouse that had most of its windows broken out, doors that were hanging loosely, ceilings falling in, and a great deal of masonry in need of repair. The agent said, "The seller will repair all the windows as well as make all other updates should you decide to buy this property." "Don't bother," said the businessman, "I'm not interested in the building, I want the site. The building is to be torn down so I can build something new."

Like the prospective buyer of this property, Jesus is not interested in what you can bring to him, he is interested in what he can do for you. Many people labor under the mistaken assumption that we need to try to be good enough, to be able to contribute enough money, to be able to offer enough in the way of service to the church, or many other efforts, to somehow appease him and gain entrance into eternal life. Christ wants to do away with the old in your life and build something new.

Many years ago I was with a group in Peru. I was with moy oldest daughter, Stephanie, doing some shopping. We engaged in a conversation with a young shop keeper about her relationship with Christ. She told me she didn't have enough money to be able to be part of Christ's church. In my broken Spanish I told her, "Jesus no quiere tu dinero, Jesus quiere tu corazon" (Jesus does not want your money, Jesus wants your heart).

Paul tells us, "If you declare with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, 'Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.'" (Romans 10:9-11)

I hope you realize this - you can bring nothing to Jesus that will obtain his acceptance. You have nothing of value he wants except your heart. He wants you and wants to do something for you. If you have not allowed him access to your "site," why not do so today?

Pastor Steve
Tuesday November 05, 2019

Many years ago, a missionary who was working among a tribal group gave a mirror to an individual from the people he was serving. When the person realized he was looking at himself in the mirror, he smashed the mirror. He didn't like what he saw.

James tells us that God's Word is a mirror into which we can look to see what we look like on a spiritual level. We read in 1:23-24, "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."

When we see ourselves in the mirror of God's Word, who is looking back? Do we like what we see, or do we see a visage that makes us want to "break the mirror?"

God's Word exposes our flaws and shows what we need to change. So, in actuality, we shouldn't be too quick to do away with the image that can help us make needed adjustments in our character and in our actions. We should use what we see to help us better reflect Christ's character. Use what you see in a positive sense, even if what you see is a negative. This will help you turn the negative into a positive.

Pastor Steve
Monday November 04, 2019

Folks who don't believe in God give a lot of reasons for their skepticism. However, when you condense all of these reasons, a common thread may be found. Folks do not believe in God because God doesn't match who they think God should be. So many times I have heard, "If there is a God, then why do bad things happen?" and similar questions. Raising the questions provides justification for denying God's reality. Woody Allen said, "If only God would give me a sign, like making a large deposit in my name at a Swiss bank." The intent of this remark may have been humorous, but it reflects a serious issue - a denial of God for who he is and our position before him.

As followers of Christ, often we fall into a different sort of trap. We tend to put God in a box. We must realize that God is who he is - he is not what we think he should be. When we make the mistake of trying to "think for God" and making plans for him, instead of letting him make plans for us, we can get into some real trouble. When we focus on what we think God is not doing, we miss what he is doing.

There were a group of people in Christ's day that did just that. Even after the Pharisees witnessed Christ's provision of food for thousands using what was intended just for one, they doubted God's presence. They asked, "What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will You do? Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.' (John 6:30-31). Isn't that ironic?

God does not exist because people believe in him, nor does he exist just to fulfill people's plans. "I am who I am," he declared to Moses (Exodus 3:14). We are so much better off when we remember who God is and that he is more than just a cosmic genie in a bottle excising only to supply our whims. Focus on God, not what you think God should be doing. Then you won't miss a thing.

i Pastor Steve
Sunday November 03, 2019

I shared the following story with my church last Sunday. There has been an issue with security guards at JFK Airport in New York that have been caught sleeping on the job. So, how safe are you at the airport if the guards aren't paying attention? Stephen Jackson, a former manager for FJC Security, which employs about 300 security guards at JFK Airport, said it was actually surprisingly common to see JFK guards dozing. According to The Inquisitor, one incident was particularly embarrassing. Jackson said Suhas Harite fell asleep twice while assigned to a remote post near Jamaica Bay. In August a jet skier who became stranded breached a 6-foot-tall fence built as part of the New York Port Authority s $100 million Perimeter Intrusion Detection System. The jet skier managed to walk across two runways undetected. Yeesh!

According to Psalm 121, we never have to worry about this with God: "He will not let your foot slip-he who watches over you will not slumber; he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night." (Vss. 3 & 6) No one will cross any runways while God is around! He offers continued protection, so we know our lives are secure! I'm glad God is watching me rather than JFK Security!

Pastor Steve
Saturday November 02, 2019
For just about as long as I can remember, something I do at this time of year is check the college football rankings when they came out on Sunday. I used to have to wait until Monday to check them in newspapers; now I can find them on the internet. The poll system is rather interesting now since a play-off system (of sorts) was introduced into Division 1 football, but the two polls with the most history are the AP poll that started in 1934 and is based on the votes of sportswriters and the Coaches poll based on the votes of 62 Division 1 coaches. This latter poll has been around since the 1950-51 season.

The polls are subjective, of course, and are based on the performance of the teams. The subjectivity means these two polls rarely match totally.

Aren't you glad that our standing with God is not determined by some poll that is based on a subjective measure of our performance? Our relationship is based on God's loving provision of a Savior for us through his Son, Jesus Christ. Our relationship is based on our decision to follow this provision. Opinions are not considered, and God does not rate our performance to see where we rank on his scale.

Poll ratings are good to determine the position of a college football team, but have nothing to do with our position with the Lord. Christ told Nicodemus the criteria that determines our relationship with God, "Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again." Polls do not determine this. You determine this through your faith in Christ.

Pastor Steve
Friday November 01, 2019

We should aspire to be a "feet" kind of Christian. First of all, as the feet are the first line of support for us, we need to stand firm in our position with Christ. Paul encourages us to "stand firm in the faith" (I Corinthians 16:13) In addition, we need to be supportive of others and encourage others to stand firm in the Christian life. Paul tells us to "encourage one another and build each other up" (I Thessalonians 5:11) We need to develop an "others-centered" mindset and help to support our fellow believers.

We should aspire to be a "feet" kind of Christian by being willing to go where we need to go to bring the Good News of Christ to others. Paul writes in Romans 10:15, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" We need to have "beautiful feet" and be involved in telling others about what Christ has done and what he will do for them when they trust him as their Savior. Do you have beautiful feet?

A final way that we should be a "feet" kind of Christian is being sensitive to sin. We should be able to see areas that could be problems and avoid them. When we do sin, we need to seek forgiveness and not allow sin to remain and grow. No matter how "tough" your feet become, your foot is always sensitive to foreign objects present that may present a problem if left where they are. A tiny pebble in our shoe drives us nuts until we take the time to remove the pebble. We need the same sensitivity to the presence of sin.

God told Cain, "sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it." (Genesis 4:7) We need to develop a sensitivity to sin that helps us to avoid the thorny issues sin causes. Be a "feet" kind of Christian! Support yourself and others well, bring the news of Christ to those who need to hear, and avoid sin!

Pastor Steve
Thursday October 31, 2019

The feud between the Hatfield s of Mingo County, West Virginia, and the McCoy s of Pike County, Kentucky, spanned 18 years (1863 - 1891) and claimed a dozen lives. It is the epitome of "family feuds", and shows what happens when misunderstanding and anger replaces knowledge and cooperation in interpersonal interactions. Of course, this is an extreme example of a feud, and feuds do not need to be deadly to be destructive. Once they start, they can do irreparable damage to families, friendships, and fellowships.

James writes about the danger in feuds, "What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures." (4:1-3)

Feuds start and are fueled by one's desire to have what they want without any consideration to the wants and needs of others. When we jealously protect our own interests and concerns to the point where others' interests and concerns are cancelled out, we are laying the groundwork for a feud. This was essentially the trouble with the residents along the Tug Fork of the Big Sandy River. And until folks finally became more reasonable and began to consider others' interests along with their own, the feud continued.

Do what you can to prevent feuds in your family, with others, and in your church. Doing so reflects God's interests and allows for more productive relationships.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday October 30, 2019

Some time ago I was in Ohio and went to my brother Kevin s home to help clean out a drainage trap next to his garage. He brought out a brand-new shop vacuum that he had received as a Father's Day present. I commented on the appearance of the vacuum and noted that it was a powerful tool that should help speed up our process. Theoretically, this was true, but in reality, we experienced the opposite.

The vacuum simply didn't perform the way it should. It had suction, but it was very weak. We checked the filter, cleaned out the hose, and did all that we could think of to make it function properly. Nothing we did improved the machine's performance. After several procedures, we made an enlightening discovery - the vacuum hose was installed backwards. This made for loose fittings that decreased the suction. The suction was being created with the hose placed in the wrong direction.

This often occurs in our relationship with God. We get things "backwards" and have things flow the wrong direction. Instead of allowing insight and guidance to flow from God to us, we try to give God insight and guidance. This is even crazier than trying to get a vacuum to work with the hose installed backwards.

God warned Job about getting things backwards. In Job 38:2-3, we find God asking Job, "Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me." This is the way it should be, but Job sort of had things backwards. This could be blamed on all the misinformation he had received from his friends, but the responsibility was his to get things in the right perspective. When it comes to our communication and our interaction with God, let's make sure we have the hose installed in the right direction.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday October 29, 2019

I get a kick out of the term "comfort food." Most of you are familiar with this concept - food that induces a degree of "comfort" because of the nostalgic or sentimental feeling the food produces when you enjoy it. The food is usually high in carbohydrates and is simple to prepare. Things like pot roast, beef stew, hamburgers and French fries are considered "comfort food."

Can you really derive comfort from food? I suppose to a certain extent, you can. Of course, there is a problem when you try to derive comfort from food through overindulgence. This is a problem that can be extended to a number of other items - alcohol, drugs, money, pleasure, or power. When one tries to seek a level of comfort through overindulgence in anything it reflects a deep problem that requires a deep solution.

Paul tells us that the source of true comfort is God and God working through us to help others. He writes, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God." (II Corinthians 1:3-4)

God provides the comfort we need, and wants to use us to bring comfort to others. This helps us live and thrive in a broken world. Enjoy comfort food for what it is, but when you face real struggles, let God be your source of comfort.

Pastor Steve
Monday October 28, 2019

I remember reading a story about a man in Minnesota who risked his life to save a deer that had fallen through the ice on a frozen lake. Carol Slygh was browsing Facebook when she saw a post from a neighbor saying that he had just seen a deer fall through the ice on nearby Lake Nichols. Carol told her husband, Jeff, who had been working in the yard.

Jeff loaded his canoe on his truck and drove to the lake where he soon saw the deer struggling in the frigid water. He immediately grabbed his canoe and made his way to the deer, placed her in the canoe, and carefully inched back towards the shore where she was released into the woods to live another day.

It truly is amazing what we will do when we see creatures that are in harm's way. Some folks will go great lengths to protect the life of a living creature. That is a good thing.

As followers of Christ, we need to have this same desire and instinct. All around us there are folks who have "broken through the ice" and are struggling because of sin. We have the good news of God's love that can free them from the grip of sin and allow them to have eternal life.

When you see folks who are struggling, what will you do? Christ said, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10) We need to let others know of this abundant life that Christ can give them. Take the time to do for folks what Slygh did for the deer. You don't even need a canoe!

Pastor Steve
Sunday October 27, 2019

It seems as if we are always looking for ways to make tasks and other pursuits more convenient. Banks advertise about convenient on-line banking. Stores show how they have made shopping easier. Satellite and cable companies advertise about recorders in every room. There are drive-thru experiences for just about everything, including weddings. Convenience is the name of the game for just about everything. Speaking of drive-thrus, yes, of course, there are drive-thru churches. What once was one of the largest churches in America started as a drive-in church at a former drive-in movie theater.

Unfortunately, there are too many people looking for "convenient Christianity." They want a short, once-a-week service, minimal giving, and no effort on their part. This is not Christianity. Our life with the Savior is an everyday lifestyle, not an every now and then life experience. Christ wants more from us than a few minutes a week and a couple of dollars we really don't need. True followers understand this and recognize their need to put Christ in all areas of their life, not just a small compartment they access only when it is convenient.

Christ said, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it." (Luke 9:23 24) Now, this may sound inconvenient, but this is true discipleship. Make sure your life in Christ reflects true Christianity, not convenience.

Pastor Steve
Saturday October 26, 2019

The story of Jonah has always intrigued me. I would imagine it has you as well. It's not every day that someone survives being swallowed by a fish. However, the incredible aspects of this tale are not what command my attention. I am surprised by Jonah's thinking - he really believed he could run from God and get away with it. Of course, this led to the events that are more well known.

Jonah had a problem with what he knew he should be doing, so he simply ran from his obligation. Jonah 1:3 says, "But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish." Not the thing to do. God dealt with him in a very creative and unique way.

God will deal with us in a very creative and unique way if we choose to run from him. Are you resisting God's call on your life? Is there something he wants you to do that you just aren't sure about? God doesn't make mistakes - he wanted Jonah to preach in Nineveh, and he wants you to do what he asks. Don't run from him - God knows how to use big fish!

Pastor Steve
Friday October 25, 2019

David spent a significant part of his life running from Saul. Originally Saul had taken David into his house as a friend, advisor, and to provide encouragement when Saul had a "spell." Psalm 57 speaks of David's search for refuge and safety when he faced the fear brought about by Saul's pursuit. He sought refuge in a cave and said, "Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed." (Psalm 57:1)

We may not face the same enemy as did David, but we still face enemies that bring fear. We may be struggling after the loss of a loved one. Health issues crowd our lives and cause great anxiety. Financial concerns sometimes rob us of joy in our lives and bring sleepless nights as we struggle with thoughts of how to make things work.

How can we face these fears? We do so by seeking refuge in the shadow of the wings of the Lord. We take refuge in God's hiding place until the circumstance goes by. When we fear something in life, remember there is nothing we face that God has not seen. He will help us "till the storm passes by."

Pastor Steve
Thursday October 24, 2019

A child once asked, "What does God do all day?" This is a legitimate question for which there is no general answer. What God does all day is pretty much up to the individual. What God does in your life is up to you. Now, God is sovereign and he will bring about his plans. He is at work doing that, and we see his hand in so many activities. When it comes to our lives, God should be in control, but he chooses to let us determine the degree of the control.

I find this fascinating, and really a bit scary. From a logical point of view, leaving our lives totally in God's hands is the correct thing to do. However, we humans can sometimes be extremely illogical and, when it comes to relinquishing control of our lives to God, we can get a little goofy. If we don't let God work in our lives, he may decide to go to others who are more willing to defer to his control.

This is illustrated in the earthly ministry of Christ. When he revealed himself in his hometown of Nazareth, he was met with hostility and unbelief. Mark 6:4-6 records the result, "'A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.' He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith. Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village."

Because of the unbelief in his hometown of Nazareth, Christ moved his home to Capernaum. The resistance of the people led him to go elsewhere. Do you realize how much Nazareth missed because of this fateful decision? Do you realize how much you are missing by not allowing Christ to work in your life? Let him do what he wants to do. He will keep busy in your life all day!

Pastor Steve
Wednesday October 23, 2019

Love INC is a national organization dedicated to programs of assistance for a number of needs. Today, they have over 40 different programs channeled through 155 affiliates in 30 states. INC doesn't stand for the usual "incorporated"; rather it stands for "In the Name of Christ". This is a great and appropriate use of the name of Christ; however, there are a number of organizations that misuse the name of Christ, or to be more specific, the name Christian.

Some groups have the name "Christian" in their title, yet they are committed to racist philosophies and use violence and intimidation as part of their methodology. This is certainly not a means of demonstrating the main character trait of a Christian - that of love.

If we are true followers of Christ, we will manifest the love of Christ is tangible ways. Calling yourself a Christian and then demonstrating anti-Christian values and actions is abhorrent. The Word of God is saturated with teaching and demonstrations of love. The greatest demonstration is, of course, Christ's sacrifice for us that was motivated by love.

Jesus declared, "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one s life for one s friends." (John 15:13) We should show love In the Name of Christ to a world that desperately needs love. The misnomers of many organizations demonstrate how strongly the love of true Christianity needs to be displayed.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday October 22, 2019

John B. Watson (1878-1958) has been called the "Father of Behaviorism." He published a book entitled "Behaviorism" in 1930. This created quite a stir among academics. In this work he wrote, Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I'll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select - doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief and, yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors. I am going beyond my facts and I admit it, but so have the advocates of the contrary and they have been doing it for many thousands of years."

Watson felt that all behavior is learned by conditioning. By his way of thinking, there is no room for or no need for God as all human behavior can be programmed and therefore bad behavior can be prevented and eliminated.

This is a classic example of what humans can come up with when we decide to ignore what God has said and go on our own. The problem with this path is that it is ultimately self-defeating and will result in tragedy.

Watson, the "Father of Behaviorism", could not condition out adverse behavior from his own life, let alone condition others. He divorced his wife as a result of entering into an affair with one of his graduate assistants. This led to his dismissal from his position as Chairman of the Department of Psychology at Johns Hopkins University.

Twice in Proverbs we read this important truth: "There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death." (Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25) We are good at developing ideas and theories of how we should live and what is the best way to live. Unless they include what God tells us about how we should live we know where these ideas will lead. Follow your true Father, not the "father of behaviorism."

Pastor Steve
Monday October 21, 2019

I have a real struggle with folks who are all about themselves and what they have or what they can do or simply just so "me-centered" that they don't see what is happening with others. Recently I read a humorous story about a fellow who had just purchased a gas-saving automobile. His incessant talk about his great car led to action among his friends. They started filling his tank without him knowing it. This, of course, led him to the conclusion that he was getting really great gas mileage.

He was trying to convince others that he was averaging almost 90 miles per gallon. After a time, the friends stopped adding the extra fuel, and his mileage dropped dramatically. He was totally exasperated, but also a little less boastful about his car.

Don't make your friends go to extreme lengths to shut you up about yourself. Show more concern for others and less concern about your own position. Proverbs 27:2 says, "Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips." An old adage states, "Less brag, more fact." That is a good line of thought. We need to be less self-centered and more motivated to focus on others. This will make you a little easier to live with.

Pastor Steve
Sunday October 20, 2019

This is a story I may have told before, but indulge me. It is one of my favorites. When my grandfather was a young boy, he and 2 of his older sisters were walking home from a trip to the general store. Now, this would have been around 1907 in a rural setting in central Kentucky. There were no street lamps, no paved roads, just a path through the woods from the store to where they lived.

Darkness fell, and they lost their way. They had absolutely no idea which way to go until they saw a light in the distance and heard the voice of their mother calling their names, "Hattie! Luinda! Johnny! Can you hear me?" Well, they did, they followed the sound of her voice and the light until they met their mother who led them safely home.

God looks for his children as well - those who are lost in the darkness of sin. He calls to us and brings light into the darkened world to show us the way to go home. All we need to do is heed his call and follow the light he provides for us - the light that comes from his Son who is the one bringing light into the world.

Have you followed him, or are you still walking in the darkness? John says about Christ, the Light, "In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it...The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world." (John 1:4-5, 9) Christ shows the way when we follow his light. He is calling you today - let him lead you safely home!

Pastor Steve
Saturday October 19, 2019

Recently, I read a fascinating article on the internet. The title was "Self-Professed Bible Scholar Makes Explosive Allegation About Jesus That He Believes Could Rock the Christian Faith to Its Core." The article continued with the subtitle, "Is this the beginning of the end of Christianity?" The article was about a work penned by Joseph Atwill entitled "Covert Messiah" Atwill presented his article to a symposium that convened in London.

According to Atwill, Jesus was a person who was invented by the Roman Empire in an attempt to pacify their subjects in the Middle East. Atwill supposedly discovered some "ancient confessions" that proves the Romans conjured Jesus as a political tool to control the masses. His findings are based upon his examination of "Wars of the Jews", a first-century historical work written by Flavius Josephus.

The works of Josephus have long been used as a valuable source of information about life in Palestine at the time of Christ. Josephus was a Jew who became a Roman citizen and was an advisor of Titus during his conquest of Jerusalem. Atwill claims that intensive study of the writings of Josephus led him to further research resulting in his conclusion about Christ.

What are we to make of all this? In my humble opinion, not much. This is simply another attempt to discredit Christianity given by a misguided scholar who apparently has nothing better to do with his time. I find it sad and unfortunate, especially for Atwill, as the fate of Christ's critics is well documented in God's Word. I hope Atwill will at some point come to a different conclusion.

Romans 1:18-19 tells us, "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them." Those who exchange what should be evident for ideas and theories that make one wonder "What was he thinking?" will answer to someone else besides the millions who know better. Philippians 2:10-11 tells us, "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." My prayer is that Atwill's research will someday lead him to a different finding.

Pastor Steve
Friday October 18, 2019

In October of 1991, a firestorm ravaged over 1500 acres near Oakland, California. The fire started when a small brushfire was not completely extinguished and re-ignited. The maelstrom that followed caused over $1.5 billion in damages, destroyed hundreds of homes, and claimed 25 lives.

On the Sunday following this horrific event, a congregation that had lost their church building still met for worship. During the service, the pastor held up a porcelain pitcher. "This is about all that was recovered from my home after the fire," he told the people. "This pitcher survived because it had passed through fire once before."

The fiery trials of life can actually lead to blessing. When we go through testing, we are purified by the flames and are prepared to face trials in the future. Peter wrote, "In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." (I Peter 1:6-7)

Fires come into our lives uninvited but not without purpose. They are hard to endure, but they provide opportunities for growth, to purify our faith, and to bring praise to Christ. Our experience in fires in the past makes possible our survival in the future.

Pastor Steve
Thursday October 17, 2019

Several years ago, the Orlando Sentinel wrote an interesting article about Moshe Ben-Meir, director of the dead-letter office in Jerusalem. Ben-Meir takes care not to make fun of the mail that ends up in his office. In the interview, Ben-Meir said, "You see the most - how shall we say it? - peculiar letters we get are addressed to God." Many letters addressed to "God" or the "God of Israel" or other ways end up in Ben-Meir's office.

These letters are varied in nature, but many of them are requests. One person asked God to bless his business. Some ask for forgiveness for things they have done. Others ask for direction in their personal lives.

I can think of a better way to communicate to God than sending him a letter that ends up in the dead-letter office of the Jerusalem post office. When we have a genuine request or a desire to communicate with him, all we need to do is pray. Psalm 65:2 shows that God answers prayer, "You who answer prayer, to you all people will come." Whether we say our prayers silently, voice them aloud in a public worship setting or when we are along somewhere, or write them, they go directly to God without the need to mail them.

We need to leave it up to God as to how he responds to our prayers. He knows best what we need and will always answer with our best interests at heart. He also knows when prayers are misguided or inappropriate and he will respond accordingly.

Sin can keep our prayers from him. Psalm 66:16 - 19 gives us insight about prayer, "Come and hear, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me. I cried out to him with my mouth; his praise was on my tongue. If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and has heard my prayer."

God knows the deepest needs of our heart, but we are asked to pray. When we want to communicate with him, we don't need to address a letter to the "God of Israel," all we need to do is pray.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday October 16, 2019

Some of you may be like me and have had about a gazillion different types of exploratory medical tests. I have had x-rays, CT scans, MRI's, nuclear scans, heart monitor tests, biopsies, bone scans, and many others. All were designed to allow medical professionals to see things they would not be able to see through simple observations. I had a laryngoscopy one time. The doctor numbed my throat with a spray and then snaked down an instrument that had a tiny camera. He wanted to see if there were any problems with my vocal cords and also see if there was any scarring in my throat.

Most of these tests were not painful, but they can be uncomfortable. However uncomfortable they may be, they are necessary in order to find problems that may exist.

There are times when we need to have some incisive examination of our spiritual lives. The Scripture is the means to expose any trouble areas. Hebrews 4:12-13 says, "For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account." This process can be uncomfortable at times as weaknesses and problems are exposed, but we should be grateful for this reality. God's Word exposes our areas of need and offers awareness so that we can take steps to make corrections. We should be thankful for the diagnostic ability of the Word of God.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday October 15, 2019

The homepage of the website of the Hayden Planetarium contains this statement, "Our mission is to bring the frontier of astrophysics to the public via exhibitory books, public programs, and online resources." Many years ago, the Planetarium took this up a notch by making a mock offer for moon trips. Over 18,000 people responded to the fake advertisement for the 240,000-mile trip. One lady wrote, "It would be heaven to get away from this busy earth . . . and just go somewhere that s nice and peaceful, good, safe, and secure." A psychologist who studied many of the letters said they were from people who were looking for an escape from the struggles of the life they were now living.

Many critics of Christianity have contended that Christians are emotionally weak people seeking escape from the struggles of their current existence. Karl Marx infamously wrote, "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of the soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people."

When you study the lives of many of the followers of Christ who have endured great persecution on account of their beliefs and their convictions, you find that Marx's quote is erroneous. Far from being an "opium", Christianity is the essence of their existence because they knew the reality that life here and now is not a final destination. Christians know we are "strangers in a strange land" and our allegiance is elsewhere. You can read about many of the struggles of saints in Hebrews 11. Chet Bitterman, Jim Elliot, and John Knox are all people who died because of their Christian testimony. If you were to ask them if they were looking for as escape when they embraced the message of Christ, I am sure you would get a resounding, "No!"

The Christian view that our current existence in only temporary and that we are moving towards a new life is firmly rooted in reality, not escapism. We are following the lead of Abraham as he "made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God." (Hebrews 11:9-10) Frank Sinatra may have been dreaming when he sang, "Fly me to the moon," but we certainly aren't when we say "This world is not our home."

Pastor Steve
Monday October 14, 2019

Today is Columbus Day. Actually, this is the day that has been observed as Columbus Day since an act of Congress in 1971 set the second Monday in October as the day to observe Columbus Day. This conveniently made a three-day weekend for federal employees, and employees and students in areas that observe Columbus Day. The day is set aside to acknowledge the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas. This occurred on October 12, 1492. I don't know if you have a day off or not, but if you do, I hope you enjoy it!

Two days before his landing, Columbus wrote in his journal, ""Here the people could stand it no longer and complained of the long voyage...but the Admiral...added that it was useless to complain. He had come to the Indies, and so had to continue until he found them, with the help of Our Lord." Columbus had written earlier in a letter to the King and Queen of Spain that one of the express purposes of his journey would be to encounter the residents and discover "the manner in which may be undertaken their conversion to our Holy Faith." He really felt he was fulfilling a request that had been made almost 200 years earlier by Emperor Genghis Khan for 24 teachers of the Christian faith. This request was never honored, except in part by the Italian explorer Marco Polo. We can only speculate on how things might be different if the request by Khan had been honored. It would seem as if Columbus, in some way, wanted to see a difference. Of course, the Americas were the results of his efforts, not Asia or India.

History is full of "what ifs?". We can't do a thing about what ifs, but we can do something about what is to be. Take advantage of the opportunities you have to make a difference for Christ. Ephesians 5:15-16 tells us, "Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil." Follow Paul's advice. Minimize your focus on the "what ifs" of the past and do all you can now to make a difference for the future.

Pastor Steve
Sunday October 13, 2019

According to a recent study, Norway leads the world in quality of life. The study considered several factors including life expectancy, annual income, educational averages, as well as other factors, in determining where the best place to live in the world would be. Life expectancy in Norway is 81 years. That's pretty good from a human standpoint, but when compared to eternity, it doesn't even scratch the surface.

Maybe this research makes you want to move to Norway. The thing is, moving to Norway or not, your life here on earth will someday end. In light of that, you need to be concerned about more than just your quality of life here. You need to be concerned about your quality of life after your death. Oh, yes, you will live on. The question is: where will you live?

The scripture is full of many examples of people who show little concern for their quality of life when their life here on earth is finished. Consider the rich landowner of Luke 12. God said of him, "You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?" (Luke 12:20) Then there is the rich man who went away sad when Christ told him, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." (Matthew 19:21) Finally, what about the rich man who died and found himself in hell and cried out to Father Abraham, "Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire?" (Luke 16:24) He certainly found out that he should have been concerned for the quality of his life after his death on earth.

Most of us are concerned about our quality of life here. That is all well and good. However, we also need to be concerned about our quality of life in our eternal state. Our life expectancy does extend beyond what we experience here and now. Make sure you have made the right choice through choosing Christ. This will ensure your quality of life in the life to come!

Pastor Steve
Saturday October 12, 2019

I have always been fascinated by those who formulate some rather interesting theories of biblical interpretation. For example, there are those who espouse biblical numerology. That is, through elaborate numerical analysis, they show hidden meanings in certain texts of scripture. I read once about a theory that Shakespeare actually helped translate the King James Bible. Offered as proof was the idea that he had installed a cryptogram in Psalm 46 to show his presence in the work of translation. The 46th word from the beginning of the psalm is shake, and the 46th word from the end is spear, hence shake spear. Obviously, there is no credible evidence that supports this idea.

Why do people try to make understanding the Bible so difficult? Many say they don't read scripture because "it is so hard to understand." Well, actually, it isn't all that difficult to understand. What makes it hard is that we try to insert our own ideas and thoughts instead of just letting the Bible speak for itself. Paul wrote plainly about the origin and purpose of scripture when he said, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness." (II Timothy 3:16) We should read the Bible and let it speak for itself.

I had a seminary professor who told us regarding scriptural interpretation, "When the plain sense makes the best sense, seek no other sense lest it result in nonsense." How true! Read your Bible, and don't try to make it say things that aren't there! Let it speak for itself, and when you do, the message will come through loud and clear!

Pastor Steve
Friday October 11, 2019

One of Satan's greatest allies is doubt. Christ called Satan "a liar, the father of lies." (John 8:44) What he loves to do is use our doubts and fears against us. He tries to get us to think that maybe we can't trust God. This was his method when he tricked Adam and Eve in the garden (read Genesis 3). If he can get us to doubt God, then he can manipulate us for his purposes.

Don't let periods of doubt and fear allow you to fall into Satan's snare. Many whom we would consider great people of the faith talk about times in their lives when they went through a time of fear and doubt. Scottish reformer John Knox confessed that he passed through a dark time when his soul was filled with "anger, wrath, and indignation, which it conceived against God, calling all His promises in doubt." Increase Mather writes in his diary about his struggles with atheism. Martin Luther writes about a week when he struggled with his position with God. All of these people worked through these times of questioning by continuing to trust God and realizing He is true. They realized the truth of the Word and allowed this to bolster them in their times of struggle.

What should we do when we face times of doubt and fear? Psalm 56:3-4 gives us good advice: "When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid." Trust God, believe his Word, know that He is true. Let Him help you deal with your doubts. Knowing God and knowing His Word helps us deal confidently with whatever Satan throws our way.

Pastor Steve
Thursday October 10, 2019

A National Geographic survey revealed the geographical illiteracy of folks in the United States. 63% of adults aged 18 - 24 were unable to locate Iraq on a map of the Middle East. Their understanding of U.S. geography was not any better. One-half of folks in that age group could not locate New York State, 30% could not find Louisiana, and 48% failed to locate Mississippi.

Many believers aren't much better when it comes to "Bible geography." What books come before and after Obadiah? In what book would you find the story of the birth of Moses? Where would you read about Elijah's showdown with the prophets of Baal? In what book does Paul say, "There is not condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus?" Granted, we can't know where to find everything; but followers of the Lord should have some "basics" when it comes to Biblical geography.

There are many major stories and teachings that we should know their location. More importantly, we need to apply these teachings to our lives. However, if we don't know where they are or how to find what we need to know, an all-around deficiency will take place in our lives. Spend some time getting to know your way around in the Word of God!

Paul encourages us to "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth." (II Timothy 2:15) Let's start by learning our way around the word of Truth!

Pastor Steve
Wednesday October 09, 2019

The old car sat in the corner of the lot looking very forlorn and forsaken. Having seen its better days, it had dents in all four fenders, faded paint, and a cracked windshield. The fact that it was a 1966 Pontiac GTO was lost on the customers who came looking for newer, shinier, models that were ready to drive off the lot and make an impression on family and friends.

Then one day a collector happened to be driving by and almost caused a wreck when he slammed on his brakes. He made his way into the lot, negotiated a really low price with the owner, and took the car home. There, under his skilled hands, the GTO was transformed into what it once was and then some. Actually, it was more compelling and complete than it ever was before. This happened because the car was placed in the hands of one who knew what was needed to restore the glory.

We are a lot like that classic car. We are damaged and dented, bruised and broken as a result of sin. We are forlorn and forsaken with no ability to do anything about our condition. The only hope for us is in the arms of Christ. When we give our lives to him, he begins a work in us that will lead us to being better than the original. No matter in what shape he finds us, he can totally transform and restore us to be like him.

John writes, "Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure." (I John 3:1-3) This is our hope because of Christ's willingness to restore us. We may be a wreck now, but Christ can make us a classic. All we need do is trust in him.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday October 08, 2019

Locally, the harvest is in full swing. This has been a rather challenging year, but there are crops that need attention. So, combines are busy mowing down the plants and separating the grain from what is not wanted. Trucks and tractors are hauling the grain to grain elevators and storage bins. The rain we got this past weekend may have slowed the work down a little, but soon folks will be back to work.

How do you know when it is time for harvest? Well, you look at the fields - the plants will tell you when they are ready. When farmers see the evidence that the harvest is ready, they begin the effort to bring in the grain. They don't discuss options, ideas, or theories, they get to work because they know the window of opportunity is limited.

When Jesus saw the masses that needed to be reached, he was moved with compassion. Matthew 9:36-38 says, "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.'" We need the same sense of compassion and urgency. The harvest is ready and the window of opportunity is limited. There are people that need the message of Christ. Waiting is not an option; we need to be working.

Pastor Steve
Monday October 07, 2019

Have you ever had someone do something for you or give something to you that you didn't deserve? I taught only one year of high school but, at the end of the year, I was made an honorary graduate of the school. I appreciated what was done for me, but I felt undeserving of that honor.

As marvelous as that honor was, I am the recipient of something else that makes my honorary diploma pale in comparison. I am the recipient of the grace of God. And while I did not feel deserving of the recognition of being declared an honorary graduate, I certainly am not deserving of being declared a recipient of God's grace. For one thing, the action by the school district was on account of actions on my part they felt were worthy of recognition. I could never, ever, do anything that would be worthy of God's grace. I am not trying to be humble here; this is a statement of fact. This fact applies to all of us, yet God still wants to lavish us with his grace.

God's Word shows us why we are not worthy of God's grace. Isaiah 64:6 says, "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags." In spite of our sin, though, God displays his grace to us. Ephesians 2:4-6 tells us, "But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus." This is something that we don't deserve, and we should never forget that we don't deserve what God is willing to do for us. Give thanks for God's grace, and don't take it for granted!

Pastor Steve
Sunday October 06, 2019

When the Israelites came through the Red Sea, they were led into the wilderness where they encountered a shortage of water (Read Exodus 14 15 when you can). After a time of God's great deliverance, why were they led by God into a time of great want? Well, he could do this because he is God and can do anything he wants, but he is not capricious in his dealings with his children. He does things for a reason.

God wanted his people to know that life is a combination of bitter and sweet, triumph and disappointment. He also did not want them to get too comfortable where they were because they had not reached their final destination. Along the way, there would be times of great plenty and times of dire need, and they had to trust God for his provision in either situation. They had to entrust into the hands of God the outcome of any circumstance.

How they responded to their circumstances would reveal their hearts. Their response to the test they experienced in the desert showed they were walking by sight, not by faith. They needed to remember that God was in control in any event and he knew exactly where they were. He was not unaware of their need, as his provision of water in the wilderness revealed, and he wanted them to trust their need to him.

God told them, "I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions." (Exodus 16:4) If you find yourself in a position of testing, continue to trust God, he will lead you from the place of want into a place of provision.

Pastor Steve
Saturday October 05, 2019

Albert Schweitzer was an interesting individual. I have written about him before. Schweitzer was trained as a musician and was a church organist. Then he studied philosophy and theology and became a pastor and a professor.

At age 30, specifically so that he could go labor in Africa, he entered medical school and became a physician. He labored in Africa for decades: building clinics, developing treatments, and working among a people so poor that they were barely able to stay alive.

When he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952, he used the proceeds to build a leper colony in Gabon. Schweitzer wrote, "The only ones who will be really happy are the ones who have found how to serve." His life was certainly an embodiment of this statement.

Have you found how to serve? So many folks seem to express discontent with their lives and unhappiness. The remedy to this lies in finding how to serve. When you determine to live the life of a servant, you find that you have no work of your own, no worth of your own, but you also find that you have few worries of your own as your life is dedicated to others.

Christ is the supreme example of this and calls us to be servants not only through his statements, but through his life. "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 20:28)

Why is it that we who claim to be followers of Christ fail to see the emphasis on service in the life of Christ? This failure means we don't place a premium on service in our lives and therefore find ourselves missing the mark of living for Christ. We don't need to train in a new profession to serve him, just produce service through what we have!

Pastor Steve
Friday October 04, 2019

Recently, I was driving in my hometown when I noticed a person walking across the street some distance ahead of me. The individual was far enough away that at first, I could not see who it was. But, after I saw the person take a few steps, I knew who it was. When I got closer, my recognition was confirmed. I was able to identify the mystery walker from their walk. Many of us have a distinctive gait as we walk. You can sure identify me from the limp I have now. And I was able to determine who the person was simply by watching how they walked.

This got me to thinking. Can others recognize my relationship with the Savior by watching my walk? How we walk spiritually should be just as telling about our identity in Christ as our physical walk is with regard to our physical identity. Even as people can tell who we are by the way we walk; our spiritual gait should give evidence of our position in the Lord.

Paul writes, "So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh." (Galatians 5:16) John tells us to "walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin" (I John 1:7) and to "walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love." (II John 2:6) Make sure that your walk gives away who you are as a follower of Christ!

Pastor Steve
Thursday October 03, 2019

The Isles of Scilly that lie just northwest of Britain are known for their beauty and for their temperate climate. The climate is this way because of the path of the North Atlantic Current. The Isles are also known to be somewhat treacherous to navigate because of the currents that are sometimes almost imperceptible.

This was a greater problem in years gone by as modern technological navigational advances have eliminated much of the guesswork in determining positions and directions. Before this, ships traveling around the isles needed to take care. More than one ship's crew made the mistake of not allowing for the effect of the currents and wrecking. The problem was, as mentioned above, the currents were hard to detect. By the time the ship was caught in the current, it was too late to do anything about it. < /p>

That is how our lives could be if we are not careful. If we allow ourselves to drift too much spiritually, we can be caught in the influence of negative currents and experience difficulties. Spiritual drifting is a slow and imperceptible process. We need to be diligent in our efforts to remain on the proper course.

Paul warns of this in a number of places in his writings. He writes to Timothy, Some people. . .have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (I Timothy 6:10) Remain passionate in your search for the truth and in your pursuit of godly knowledge. Have a great desire to resist evil and temptation in order to avoid the trap of sin. The currents of the "Isles of Sin" are just as treacherous as the Isles of Scilly if we don't remain diligent.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday October 02, 2019

I have always maintained that one of the most effective ways to communicate our testimony is through our work. I am not referring to what we might say at our work but how we go about performing our work. The Lord has blessed me with a number of jobs through the years from helping on farms to teaching to working in the business world to ministry. Each one offered opportunities to glorify God. This is why we should work - not just to draw a paycheck but to bring praise to the One who gave us the capability to work.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote, "Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve, and hope without an object cannot live." Where do we find that hope? What gives our work hope? Our Heavenly Father supplies this for us through the efforts we pursue.

Paul writes in II Thessalonians 2:10, "For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: 'he one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.'" He also wrote, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters." (Colossians 3:23) Have a healthy attitude towards your work. Use your work as a means to give praise to God and communicate your love of the Lord.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday October 01, 2019

Many of us struggle with the desire to be accepted by others. We often do strange things in order that we might gain the favor of others. We wear clothes we might not like, accept invitations we would rather decline, work long hours when we need to be home, and pay way too much for stuff we don't need all because we want to impress other folks. Too many of us live as if we are pledging a fraternity or sorority and we do crazy things in order to join. Regrettably, we sometimes follow a crowd that influences us in the wrong way and we listen to advice from the wrong people.

Reheboam had this problem. He was asked to alleviate some of the pressure that had been put on the people by his father, King Solomon. He was told by the elders who had known his father that if he would do this "you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants." (I Kings 12:7) However, he rejected this advice and listened to his "friends", men his age with whom he had grown up. Apparently, he was more concerned about impressing his peers than being prudent. As a result, the kingdom divided.

We need to decide how we want to live. Whose acceptance is most important to us - God or our peers? Galatians 1:10 tells us which should be important to us: "Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ." Make sure you are listening to the right counselor!

Pastor Steve