Devotionals

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
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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
Monday September 30, 2019

Randall Atcheson is the son of a Southern Baptist minister who was raised in Alabama. To say he is an accomplished pianist is an egregious understatement. He started studying piano at 6, entered Samford University School of Music at 12, studied at Juilliard and became the first person allowed to pursue a degree in both piano performance and organ performance.

At a pre-concert in New York City, after navigating the difficult piano compositions of Beethoven, Chopin, and Liszt, he concluded by playing a hymn written by Elisha Hoffman: "What have I to dread, what have I to fear, leaning on the everlasting arms? I have blessed peace with my Lord so near, leaning on the everlasting arms."

While the compositions by the masters may have been more musically intricate, they did not offer the security of the hymn by Hoffman. The theme of this song is firmly based in scriptural reality. "There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, who rides the heavens to help you, And in His excellency on the clouds. The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms; He will thrust out the enemy from before you." (Deuteronomy 33:26)

We do a lot of things with our arms - help neighbors with projects, carry babies, give directions, give hugs, and so much more. However, the arms of God provide protection and assurance that our arms are unable to deliver. We are safe and secure in his arms, protected from our enemy and, at times, from ourselves! What a comfort to know we are in the arms of God. Whatever challenge or hardship we face, there is security and peace in God's embrace.

Pastor Steve
Sunday September 29, 2019

Since the 1950's, coyotes have made a rather dramatic comeback in the eastern United States. Once almost completely wiped out east of the Mississippi, they now exist in rather robust numbers. I live in a small town in Illinois, but on a clear night I can hear their howls. We have even seen them in our neighborhood.

Their resurgence has produced mixed reactions. On the one hand, there are many who are concerned about their impact on livestock and consider them a threat. On the other hand, there are many who have embraced their return. One farmer said, "We're happy to have them. The coyotes kill the mice and rabbits, which gnaw at the bottom of our trees." The coyote's presence is a dividing point and folks choose their position - does their presence pose a threat, or are they beneficial?

At times, we also need to made a choice with regard to the sharp-toothed people and thorny problems we face in our lives. We can either view these as problems that need to avoided or eliminated, or we can view their presence as opportunities to be sharpened and grow in our faith.

Paul, referring to the many struggles and adverse circumstances he faced, wrote, "If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness." (II Corinthians 11:30) Those situations that could be viewed as problems and difficulties Paul viewed as opportunities that would increase his perseverance and strengthen his faith and testimony. Ask God to help see opportunities for growth where others see hindrances.

Pastor Steve
Saturday September 28, 2019

I will never forget my visit to the Dead Sea when I was in Israel sometime back. The Dead Sea is one of the most fascinating places on earth. For one thing, it is the lowest place on earth. To get to the Dead Sea, you travel Highway 90, the lowest road on earth. The Dead Sea is 8.6 times saltier than the ocean, is the deepest hypersaline body in the world, and nothing except for a few bacteria can survive in its water. I didn't swim in the water, but those who do float very easily. To me, the water felt like WD40.

The Dead Sea is a terminal lake with no outlet, meaning water can only leave through evaporation. Water from the Jordan and its tributaries flow into the Dead Sea bringing with them all sorts of minerals, including salt. Since there is no outlet, the water in the Dead Sea evaporates, depositing the dissolved minerals. And since they have no place to go, the dissolved salt minerals continue to accumulate and concentrate in the sea. This is a basic explanation of why the Dead Sea has such a high content of salt and why the Dead Sea is a dead sea.

Unfortunately a similar phenomenon can be observed in the lives of many followers of Christ. Many attend Bible conferences, Bible studies, listen to Biblical music, and read many books on the Christian life, but are not fruitful because they have no outlet. Gaining knowledge is good, but we aren't doing what we should unless we are putting that knowledge to use. We need to be a source of living water. The Spirit wants to use us in service so that others may be refreshed and revived by the water of the Word. Jesus said, "Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them." (John 7:38) Make like the Jordan River, not the Dead Sea, when it comes to your life and service to Christ. Don't be just a repository of knowledge, be a channel of blessing.

Pastor Steve
Friday September 27, 2019

A man who flew his small plane into busy Toronto International Airport on a regular basis was asked if he ever encountered problems taking off and landing his plane at an airport dominated by big jets. The pilot said, "When I am taking off and landing, I have the same rights and privileges as any other aircraft, even the big jumbo jets." He did not experience any negative situations because preferential treatment was given to another aircraft.

The same can be said about us when we come to the Father in prayer. We will never experience any negative situation in our encounters with God as God does not afford preferential treatment of one follower over another. He listens and responds to all of his children on an equal basis.

In a world where we see preferential treatment being given to many in a variety of circumstances, it is good to know we don't have to fear when it comes to our position with God. With God, we are all flying "first class" when it comes to his willingness to hear us and respond to our prayer.

Psalm 145:18 tells us, "The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth." James 4:8 gives us this promise, "Come near to God and he will come near to you." We take a back seat to no one when it comes to God's willingness to hear us when we call upon him.

Pastor Steve
Thursday September 26, 2019

Occasionally I watch shows on HGTV or DIY and find them interesting. You can get a number of ideas from these shows. I used to get some suggestions I would try to implement, but my "do it yourself" days are pretty much behind me.

One of the shows on DIY I find somewhat ironic, not because of what is done on the show, but because of who is doing the work. The show is "The Vanilla Ice Project." I find it ironic because the show host and main contractor is Robert Mathew van Winkle, aka "Vanilla Ice".

I would imagine you know that "Ice" was a rapper" who had a major hit in the early 1990's with a song entitled "Ice, Ice, Baby". He was sort of a "one hit wonder" and later music projects never matched the success of his debut release. Now he has "The Vanilla Ice Project" where he refurbishes run-down homes.

Once, I was watching the show and "Ice" made this comment: "Every now and then you run into a problem for which there is no clear solution. That is when I am glad I have a good crew to back me up." When I heard this, I thought to myself, "Well, that is exactly what happened to all of us." The problem of sin can be described in this way a problem for which there is no clear solution.

Thankfully, God made plans for a remedy. We have more than just a good crew to back us up. We have the power and provision of our eternal Father. Our problem is taken care of through the work of Christ. Through the power of the Spirit we can overcome the continued temptation of sin and live strong lives as followers of God.

Something else I found compelling about the comments of Vanilla Ice was the fact he was giving credit where credit was due - to his crew. We need to do the same. We never could have overcome sin through our own efforts; therefore, we need to give total credit to our Savior. We should never forget that "at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. . .God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:6 & 8) There are no "do it yourself" answers for the problem of sin, so God stepped in to take care of the project.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday September 25, 2019

St Paul's Cathedral in London has a "whispering gallery", an interesting architectural feature that allows for marvelous acoustics. In the walkway that circles the inside of Christopher Wren s great dome whispered words can be heard clearly across 137 feet. You can be that far away from a companion and hold a conversation without ever raising your voice above a whisper. This is a circumstance where you certainly don't want to whisper any critical words or negative statements.

Actually, there isn't any circumstance where you should feel good about whispering critical words or negative statements. What we say in secret can travel just as quickly as those words uttered in a whispering gallery. We should avoid at all times the desire to gossip and participate in conversations where we are whispering unkind, and usually untrue, statements about someone else.

Proverbs 20:19 tells us, "A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much." Avoid gossip and let yourself be known as someone who does not participate in whispered conversations. Be known as a person who speaks kindly and hurts no one with what you say.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday September 24, 2019

I get a kick out of the proliferation of talent shows on TV - American Idol, The Voice, X-Factor, America's Got Talent, and others. Shows of this type have been around for years. In the early days of TV there were Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour and Arthur Godfrey's Talent Hour. Other shows that came along include The Gong Show in the 70's and Star Search in the 80's.

All of these shows were designed to find talented people and then through a period of competition narrow the group down to a single winner. Those who participate are seeking fame, fortune, and a secure future. Victory relies upon them being singled out and through the use of their talents distinguishing themselves above all others.

God wants us to use our talents as well, but not for the purpose of distinguishing ourselves above others. We are to use our gifts and talents to enhance others. God is not seeking the most talented or the most gifted, but wants us to use our talents and gifts to help build each other up and strengthen His church.

We don't need to audition for God; we need to applaud him through the use of the gifts he has given us. When we exercise our talents and our gifts, we bring glory to God and build up his people. This is why gifts have been given to us. I Corinthians 12:4 & 7 tells us, "There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good."

Talent shows have their place, but not in the church. Our talents and gifts are not just for us, but are for others as well.

Pastor Steve
Monday September 23, 2019

When I was young, I loved to explore things - old houses, caves, the woods surrounding our home or my grandparent's home, or any other interesting areas. Something you encounter when you enter a structure where no one else has been for a while are cobwebs. Whoever is leading the way in these exploratory adventures gets to encounter them and has to deal with them. Don't you just love cobwebs and the mess they make? I just love how they feel as I try to extricate myself from the gooey mess.

A good reason to let God be our leader as we go on our exploratory adventures in life is the problem of cobwebs. As we walk through the old houses and caves and woods of life, we will encounter cobwebs. However, if we let God take the lead, he will deal with the cobwebs. Now, this is not the only reason why we should follow God. We should not follow him for the sole purpose of letting him take care of all the "sticky situations" we may encounter. But we need to remember that if we don't let him lead, we will deal with struggles and issues that may not have been a problem had we not tried to take the lead.

Paul tells us we should follow the Lord - "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." (I Corinthians 11:1) This is very good advice, and not only because he will take care of the cobwebs.

Pastor Steve
Sunday September 22, 2019

FedEx used to have a commercial that I thought was really interesting. A man is sitting at a large wooden desk in front of what appears to be an office in a high-rise that has a magnificent view. There are many other buildings in the background of his "corner office." He is speaking authoritatively to a subordinate who is standing in front of the desk, holding a FedEx box. The man who is seated is waxing eloquently on the characteristics that it takes to rise to the position he has attained.

Suddenly, a humming sound is heard, and the background scene of the skyscrapers begins to rise and disappear. It is only a facade that has been placed on the inside of a garage door. The door fully elevates, revealing the man's wife standing in the driveway with a bag of groceries. The man says something like, "Honey, you need to use the intercom for access." She replies, "Well, yeah, but these groceries are heavy."

Often we try to turn a garage into an opulent office in our lives. We try to make things appear in ways they are not. We dabble in making reality look differently in order to impress others. We do this with our personal lives, we do this with our possessions, and we do this in our spiritual lives. If this is indeed the case, we should realize that at some point someone is going to come along and hit the garage door opener, exposing our charade. Of course, God doesn't need to hit the opener. He knows the truth all along.

We need to be people of integrity and not put on airs with others. We should not try to be someone we are not, and we should not try to make it look as if we have something when we don't. There is a wonderful line from "The Wizard of Oz" spoken by the "wizard" when his ruse has been revealed, "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!" Deception didn't work for the "wizard" and it won't work for us.

Proverbs 10:9 tells us, "Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out." Don't try to make the inside of your garage look like an opulent corner office. At some point someone will open the door on you!

Pastor Steve
Saturday September 21, 2019

Are you a "Downton Abbey" fan? If you are, perhaps you joined others in watching the film yesterday as it was released in theaters. I did not see the movie yet, but probably will as both Scherry and I enjoy the "Abbey."

Among the recurring plot lines in the TV series, there was a delicious on-going "friendly feud" between Lady Violet, a character played by Maggie Smith, and Isobel Crawley, played by Penelope Wilton. In one episode, the two were trading verbal barbs in a well-mannered tiff regarding a young gardener that Lady Violet had accused of stealing a valuable letter knife. Evidence came forth that showed the gardener may not have taken the knife, but this did not change Lady Violet's position concerning the young man. Isobel said to her, "You just cannot accept being wrong, can you?" Lady Violet replied, "That is a sensation with which I am not familiar." Isn't that a great way to say, "I'm never wrong?"

Many of us have difficulty admitting we are wrong. We just simply do not want to show others that we have made a mistake. This can be a mistake in and of itself. When our pride gets in the way of admitting our failure and taking responsibility, at the very least we damage our reputation. In many cases, there may be repercussions for others. The ability to admit error and to correct one's mistakes reveals a great deal about one's character, and makes you easier to live with.

II Samuel 10 relates a story about a person who would not admit his error. Hanun, ruler of the Ammonites, humiliated a delegation of men sent by King David to encourage Hanun on the death of Hanun's father. Hanun misunderstood their intent. He compounded his error when he mustered his troops to fight with David rather than admit his error. He hired the Arameans to help with the battle. The consequence was thousands were killed, Hanun was humiliated, and he lost some valuable allies in the Israelites and the Arameans. II Samuel 10:19 says, "So the Arameans were afraid to help the Ammonites anymore." This was the result of not being willing to own up to a mistake.

Don't make this mistake about making mistakes. When you make an error, be willing to admit your mistake and then do something about it. This is a sensation with which you need to be familiar.

Pastor Steve
Friday September 20, 2019

It has been said that there are three things people need to truly be happy - something to do, someone to love, and something to look forward to. When we apply these with a biblical perspective, we see how true this can be.

As followers of Christ, we certainly have something to do. There are always ways we can serve Christ and serve others. I Peter 4:10 tells us, "As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace." We have been given gifts to serve God and others and we should never forget the need of spreading the Word of God to others. We need to be telling others of God's great love. We always have something to do.

As followers of Christ, we have others to love, and are loved by others. We have our family, and God wants us to promote and strengthen our family relationships. We should love God, and we are certainly loved by God. I John 4:19 tells us that "We love because he first loved us."

As followers of Christ, we certainly have something to look forward to. I John 3:2 tells us, "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." I would say that we do have all we need to make us truly happy.

Pastor Steve
Thursday September 19, 2019

I really enjoy the game of golf. I was never very good, but it was always enjoyable to get out with others and play. Now that I have trouble with my legs, I don't play anymore. But I still enjoy watching it on TV and, with apologies to Humphrey Bogart, I ll always have Quail Creek.

Have you ever wondered why a golf ball is dimpled? This may not be one of the great mysteries of the universe, but just so you can say you are informed, the reason a golf ball is dimpled is so it can travel farther. An undimpled golf ball would only go about half as far as one with dimples. So, the feature of the ball that makes it look a little different is the characteristic that enhances its purpose. An apparent "flaw" is actually a positive feature.

Many of us are quick to point out physical features that we believe affect our appearance adversely. We can be so quick to point out our flaws and wish we didn't have a particular "imperfection." When we struggle with these thoughts, we need to remember the biblical statements about our existence.

David writes "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful; I know that full well." (Psalm 139:13-14) God is the one who put you together. Paul writes that some physical imperfection he had was given to him to remind him of his relationship with the Lord: "Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh." (I Corinthians 12:7)

When you struggle with perceived "imperfections", remember that the perfect God is the one who created you the way you are. Putting your struggles in this light may bring you some perspective as to how you are to bring glory to God through what you consider to be "inglorious." Think of how your "dimples" may enhance your performance for the Lord!

Pastor Steve
Wednesday September 18, 2019

Sigmund Freud wrote, "At a time when great nations are declaring that they expect to find their salvation solely from a steadfast adherence to Christian piety, the upheaval in Russia . . . seems to promise a better future."

So, what did the "upheaval in Russia" bring? This upheaval brought a revolution that led to a plethora of bodies, inhumane treatment of enemies of the state, the Cold War, and economic ruin to millions. And this is the "promise of a better future?" I think Freud's psychoanalysis of the Russian Revolution was a bit off.

There is a promise of a better future, and it involves the message of Christianity. Freud was a bit off when it came to his prognostication. The scripture paints an accurate picture of what will take place, and none of the Bible's prophecies are any greater than those involving the Messiah.

Isaiah 53 tells the story of a Savior who is willing to endure great shame and pain on behalf of the people he loves so that they may live with him forever. Isaiah 53:5-6 says, "But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all." This was written 700 years before Christ came into the world. He brings the certainty of a better future for those who follow him.

The same Jesus who came into the world to give his life will return to bring peace to the world. This is the better future that is promised - and it has nothing to do with Freud.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday September 17, 2019

Professional sports contracts are interesting. There is a lot of drama going on right now in the NFL over contracts. Actually, there usually is a lot of drama going on in all of professional sports about contracts. Currently in the NFL, there have been and continue to be some hold-outs by players who want their contracts restructured. I have no comment on this as this isn't the actual point of my article, so I'm not going to offer any debate one way or the other on this. It is just something that happens.

One interesting occurrence with contracts is that often one team has to pay the salary of a player who is actually playing for another team because of trades. This just happened yesterday in a transaction. One team acquired a player for a draft pick, and the player's original team will be responsible for most of his salary for the next three years.

Even coaches are sometimes in on interesting scenarios. Let's say a coach is hired for three years at $2 million per year. But the coach does poorly and is fired after a year. The team still has to pay him what is left on his contract. So, he gets paid $2 million a year for doing nothing.

Some Christians seem to think they are in this position. "Hey, I am a follower of Christ and I am on my way to heaven, so I don't need to do anything to help God out." Wrong attitude. Yes, eternal life is a gift of God because we can't do anything to merit eternal life. But having the attitude that we need not do anything since we have life is incorrect, maybe even dangerous. One who has been changed by the Spirit realizes his eternal life is something he cannot earn, but it came at a great cost, and was certainly not free. Christ paid for our salvation with his life. To have the cavalier attitude that, "I'm on my way to heaven, so I don't need to do anything" is foreign to true Christianity.

God has plans for us to work, not to earn eternal life, but to honor his Son. If you don't see things this way, you need to check out your spiritual foundation. We need to live for him, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20) Live for God, not for yourself. Don't put yourself in a strange contract situation.

Pastor Steve
Monday September 16, 2019

I think there are many sad stories in scripture, but I am not sure that any are sadder than the story of the disciples at Gethsemane. The night before he was crucified, Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him when he withdrew deeper into the olive trees to pray.

"Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, 'My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.' Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. 'Couldn t you men keep watch with me for one hour?' he asked Peter. 'Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.'" This scenario was repeated two more times.

I have often wondered how Christ felt after this incident, and it brings to mind a couple of things. First, we need to make sure we do not "fall asleep" in our relationship with Christ. Secondly, it reminds me that we need to take care not to wound others with our actions. We need to take care that others are not hurt by our indifferent activities, even if they are unintentional.

I remember a story about a father who really didn't like fish and didn't like to fish taking his son fishing. The son had pleaded and asked until the father relented. After about ten minutes of unsuccessful fishing, the father arranged some life vests in the boat and went to sleep. His young son was really hurt. The father had to do some damage control after the incident.

Our selfishness and lack of consideration can lead us to hurt friends and loved ones when we respond indifferently to them. Let your love for Christ and your love for others guide you and prevent you from acting thoughtlessly and inconsiderately. I Corinthians 13:9 tells us, "(Love) does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs." Let love reign to avoid sad stories in your life.

Pastor Steve
Sunday September 15, 2019

Little Victoria provided a great deal of frustration for her teachers. As they tried to instruct her in the subjects of mathematics, languages, and other things that were important to her future, they simply could not motivate her to take the studies seriously. So, they decided to tell her that one day she would be Queen. Her response to this was, "Well, then I shall be good."

Indeed she was, and she went on to become the one of the longest-serving monarchs in the history of Great Britain, and one of the longest serving female leaders in the history of the world. During her reign, the British Empire expanded to the point where "the sun never set on the British Empire."

King Saul is an example of a person who failed to understand his position. God sent him to defeat the Amalekites, yet he plundered them like a marauding pirate rather than the king of Israel. Samuel confronted him and his disobedience and said, "Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. And he sent you on a mission. Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?" (I Samuel 15:17-19) Saul's disobedience demonstrated that he did not understand his position.

We need to constantly remind ourselves of who we are. We are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). Our behavior should reflect who we are and who we will become. Like Victoria, let us declare "I will be good."

Pastor Steve
Saturday September 14, 2019

Have you ever bought a "refurbished" product? This is an item that for some reason has been sent back to the manufacturer. The product is repaired and then resold as refurbished. This can be a good deal, but of course, the item is not new. To make the item new, you would have to start from scratch.

Let me share a little side-story on a refurbished product. Doesn't really have much bearing on the point I want to make; this just came to mind as I thought about refurbished products. Many years ago, I bought my folks their very first cordless phone. It was a refurbished product that I had seen advertised. Because of the price, I thought it would be a good deal. And if they didn't like it, then not much money had been spent. Anyway, I installed it for them and it seemed to work quite well. That is until I fell on the receiver, taking care of the refurbished phone and doing some damage to me in the process. I ended up with some stitches in my chin. The refurbished phone would need to be refurbished again. Don't know that they ever did that.

Christ does so much more than just simply "refurbish" us when we receive his gift. Paul says he makes us new. II Corinthians 5:17 tells us, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" According to Paul, a new creation has come, the old has been completely removed. Isn't that marvelous? We are made new in Christ! No "refurbishing" here; nothing but new! And I don't think a blow to the chin will have any effect on what Christ has done!

Pastor Steve
Friday September 13, 2019

"How Counterfeit Items Are Putting United States Families at Risk" proclaimed the headline. The news video went on to elaborate on the problem of counterfeit articles being sold to the public. Beyond the financial damage being done to the manufacturers and sellers of genuine articles, many items purchased that are not the real thing are dangerous.

Electronic items that do not conform to safety standards or fittings and valves that control the flow of volatile gases and liquids that are unsafe are just two examples of products being sold that look like the real thing but aren't. They pose fire hazards and other dangers and put people's safety, maybe even their lives, in harm's way. What to do? Use only trusted products from reputable sources.

The same is true with regard to our spiritual lives. There are many counterfeit world views and teachings that need to be avoided. The Bible has many passages warning against false teaching: "For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths." (II Timothy 4:3-4); "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world." (I John 4:1); "For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord." (Jude 1:4); "But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them-bringing swift destruction on themselves." (II Peter 2:1)

Be aware of the counterfeiters! How do you spot them? Look to see what they say about Jesus. If they do not accept the biblical view of Christ, they are counterfeit. If they deny his deity, his virgin birth, his humanity, his resurrection, or that he is the only way of eternal life, then they are counterfeit. And counterfeit teaching puts more than one's life at risk.

Pastor Steve
Thursday September 12, 2019

"Steve, you really need to keep your eye as still as possible." When my ophthalmologist says that to me, I don't argue. I don't become defiant. I don't try to check out my messages on my cell phone. I don't try to be busy behind his back. Why? Because he is a reputable specialist and is trying to do what is needed to preserve my sight. I know he needs my cooperation, and I would be a little nuts to ignore his instructions.

So why am I not too cooperative in matters of spiritual stillness? Why is it that when God wants me to be still so he can do an important work in my life, I want to do anything but stay put? Being active in spiritual things is good, but we must remember that there are times when the best thing we can do is be quiet before the Lord and meditate on his person and the Word he has provided. This allows God to work on us and help us to see areas of our lives that need to be developed or changed.

Elijah had been zealous for the Lord, and had even won a challenge against 1,000 of the representatives of Baal. As a result of this, Ahab wanted his life. Elijah fled to Horeb, and there told the Lord, "I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too." (II Kings 19:10) God's response to Elijah was, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by." (vs. 11) He wanted Elijah to just be still for a bit as he was about to teach him some things. And if he wasn't still, he would miss them because God didn't appear in a wind, or an earthquake, or a fire (vss. 11-13), but in a gentle whisper (v. 12) Elijah needed to be still in order to perceive God's offerings.

When God tells us to be still, we need to listen. He has something very important on which we need to focus. Be still - God has work to do!

Pastor Steve
Wednesday September 11, 2019

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt declared that December 7, 1941 was a "date that will live in infamy." I have often wondered what he would have said about September 11, 2001. On September 13, 2001, President George Bush said, "In the face of all this evil, we remain strong and united, 'One Nation Under God.'" Those of us who were alive on that date will remember for the rest of our lives what took place.

I will never forget watching the smoke billowing from the North Tower of the World Trade Center on the grainy picture of a small black and white TV when another jet plunged into the South Tower. I watched in shock and disbelief as the towers tumbled.

We will never forget that day. We hoped that an act like this would never be repeated, but since that time, many other acts of terrorism, perhaps not as large in scale but nonetheless diabolical and violent with the claiming of many lives, have occurred. Many acts of domestic terrorism, claiming many lives. have taken place in our country at schools, malls, places of business, and even churches.

In the midst of such turmoil and evil, we are reminded that God is still in control and will someday bring justice to our world. Abraham declared, "Will not the judge of all the earth do right?" (Genesis 18:25) Indeed he will. Remember the importance of maintaining faith in God through the "infamous days" we experience.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday September 10, 2019

I don't know if you have ever heard the story about the career path of Justin Timberlake. You may not know who he is, and if you don't, don't worry about it. If I think about it much, the fact that I know who he is sort of surprises me. Anyway, Timberlake is a former member of the quite successful boy band "'N Sync." In addition, he has had a very successful solo career in pop music. He has also done some acting. What is generally known about him is that he started his entertainment career as a Mouseketeer on the Disney Channel. What is not as well-known are the circumstances that led to his audition and selection as a Mouseketeer.

When Timberlake was 11 years old, he competed and was defeated on the 80's TV talent show "Star Search." He lost to 10-year-old Anna Nardona. Driving home with his mother from the defeat, they heard an announcement on the radio about open auditions for the Disney Channel. Justin Randall (Timberlake's real name) went to the audition with his mother, made the cut, performed on Disney, later changed his name, joined 'N Sync, and the rest is history.

What about Nardona? She was knocked out of the Star Search competition by a cute 5-year-old and says this about her loss, "I was really embarrassed by it. And I lost it. I didn't lose my talent. I lost my interest. But I know deep down in my heart, I'm meant to sing." However, singing she is not.

So, we have two examples before us of how to handle failure. One person used failure as an opportunity to pursue a different direction in performance while another person used failure as a reason to not pursue what she wanted.

We are going to face failure in life. We fail in our day-to-day lives and we face failure in our spiritual lives. What we do in the wake of failure is up to us. We can overcome our failures by continuing to pursue new challenges or we can use failure as a reason to quit. Failure can be the backdoor to success or it can stymie our progress. We should remember that "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:13) Use failure as a stepping stone to new opportunity, not a reason to opt out. Reach for the stars even when your star has fallen!

Pastor Steve
Monday September 09, 2019

Author Evinda Lepins wrote, "Complaining is my biggest weakness." It really is difficult to live complaint free. Being complaint free reveals a good deal about our inner character. One thing it reveals is our level of contentment. Paul tells us in Philippians 4:11-13, "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength."

Being able to live complaint free means we are demonstrating faith - that we are trusting in God to help us and encourage us in any and all circumstances. Something that is helpful is to internalize the intent of verse 13 above - "I can do everything through him who gives me strength." God is faithful to us - he is going to be there for us. Paul truly lived by this reality he knew he could accomplish great things through the power of the living God!

Being able to live complaint free means we have assimilated a realistic view of life. We understand that not all things will go exactly the way we want. We understand the limitations of this life. Paul expressed this reality in I Timothy 6:6-7 "But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it." This is not a negative statement, or a statement of a desire for more, it is simply a statement of the reality of life that we need to understand. There are things in life that will not go our way. There are also things in life that we think we need, but we don't. Living without these things will not be detrimental. Living this way will help us to be more dependent upon God, to live more faithfully before God, and to be less prone to complain about circumstances.

Pastor Steve
Sunday September 08, 2019

On a hillside near my childhood home in Ohio there is a boat. The boat has been on the hillside for years. I saw it this past summer during a visit to Ohio. It is a ski boat that could be used to cruise on the nearby Ohio River, but it just sits there on the ground high up on a hill and is never moved. It lists (is that the proper term since it isn't in water?) to one side and there is not a trailer anywhere. Many of you reading this know about the boat and have seen it and maybe you have the answers to some questions I have about the boat. When was the boat put there? Who put the boat there? Who owns it? How was the boat put there? Of course, the most compelling question in my mind is: why is the boat there?

There may be more improbable locations where one would find a boat, but I am at a loss to think of any at the moment. It isn't by a road it s just there in the middle of the hillside so some effort was expended getting it where it is. There are no visible clues as to how it got there. Even though it is out in the open, I have never seen anyone near it. Why would anyone pull a boat up on a roadless hillside away from any semblance of natural "boat" surroundings and abandon it? Someone somewhere had a good reason to do what they did. The presence of the boat attests to this reality.

To spend much time speculating about possible answers to these questions would be pointless. The best thing would be to seek the person who could supply the answers.

Whoa! Where have we heard that before? So many times, we struggle with issues and situations that have no real answers apart from relying upon the One who has created all there is and is directing our lives. Sometimes a boat on a hillside far away from where it should be only makes sense when we know that there is an answer and we acknowledge that now may not be the time when the answer can be obtained. This is true with other questions in our lives.

Waiting on God is a profitable exercise. If we are not willing to wait, we can create more problems. Samuel told Saul to wait until the right time: "Go down ahead of me to Gilgal. I will surely come down to you to sacrifice burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, but you must wait seven days until I come to you and tell you what you are to do. (I Samuel 10:8) However, Saul was unwilling to wait, and his reign went down from there.

Wait on God to deliver the answers to the mysteries you face. A willingness to do so is the best way to go. (Sorry for the rhyme - it just came out) At some point, the boat on the hillside will make sense.

Pastor Steve
Saturday September 07, 2019

Have you ever sprained your ankle? Sprains can be quite painful, although we sometimes don't take them seriously enough. We need to treat sprains with RICE - rest, ice, compression and elevation. Not treating them correctly can lead to further problems, even down the road a little bit, as not allowing the ankle to heal properly can make it more susceptible to future problems.

We experience spiritual hurts as well - injuries brought on by our failure to oversee our spiritual lives, a wrongdoing that doesn't appear to be all that grievous, or a lack of care of our character. These seemingly minor things can become big problems if not allowed to heal properly through the proper administration of care, or RICE - repentance, invocation of God's help, care for our growth, and eliminating wrong behavior. Sometimes we face discouragement because of hurts we have received because of the error of others. We need healing from these wounds as well that involves allowing our Father to elevate us above our experience and cure the wound.

Jeremiah wrote, "Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people?" (8:22) Yes, there is balm in Gilead, if we allow God to bring healing to us. If we allow him to accomplish in our lives the work he needs to do, he will bring healing. A song inspired by Jeremiah 8:22 goes, "There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole; There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul. Sometimes I feel discouraged, and think my work s in vain, but then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again." Take the time to allow your wounds to heal. You will be stronger than before if you do, and be more effective in your ministry in Christ.

Pastor Steve
Friday September 06, 2019

I get a kick out of the sign that is on the back of dump trucks at road construction sites: "Don't follow into construction zone." These signs would seem to be a glaring example of stating the obvious - you shouldn't be in the construction area. Yet, the signs are necessary as a safety measure and to ensure that unobservant motorists don't get themselves in a real pickle. I would imagine these signs are necessary because at some point a vehicle followed a truck into a construction area and caused some issues. There is danger to many if this happens.

You know, I think a great idea would be if Satan and his minions were required to wear "Don't follow" signs. This would make them more obvious by stating the obvious. It should be obvious that we shouldn't follow Satan, but, unfortunately, we often ignore the obvious and follow him anyway. This, of course, is just fine with him. If we follow him into areas where his influence can bring about injury and harm, he is a happy creature.

Don't make Satan happy! Observe the "Don't Follow" signs, even when they aren't obvious. Be aware of his presence and his tactics and take steps to avoid his influence in your life. Don't forget his practice of deception: "And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light." (II Corinthians 11:14) Don't forget this, and make sure to heed the "Do Not Follow" sign!

Pastor Steve
Thursday September 05, 2019

The story of Arthur Stace is captivating. He was born in poverty in New South Wales in 1885. His parents were alcoholics, and he became an alcoholic by the time he was in his teens. He became homeless and was put in jail at the age of 15. He later served in World War I and, after his discharge, led a more productive life, although he still struggled.

In 1930, he converted to Christianity and became fascinated with the concept of eternity. This fascination led to a practice that became his enduring legacy. Beginning in 1932, Stace would walk the paths of various locations in Sydney and chalk the word "Eternity" in copperscipt on the sidewalks. He did this until his death in 1967. He received the nickname "Mr. Eternity." He became very well-known, and there are numerous stories of lives that were touched through this practice.

Eternity is a concept that we are at once enamored with and confused by. How can we really grasp the idea of eternity? Yet we know we are eternal beings, and that we are now living in a temporal life that will determine our eternal destination. Christ said, "Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." (John 17:3)

I hope you know that you have eternal life. And those of us who do need to be involved in bring the news of eternity to others. We may not engage in the same practice as "Mr. Eternity," and we admit we don't fully understand the concept of eternity, but we need to let it be an important part of our conversation!

Pastor Steve
Wednesday September 04, 2019

I always maintain that I am not much of a beach person but whenever I travel to a beach, I always have a good time. Actually, the beach is where we spend most of our vacations. Of course, what makes it a good time is that I am with my family and any time spent with family is a good time. This past summer, we had a great time with several members of our family at Gulf Shores, Alabama.

Anyway, I remember that on one trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, many years ago I decided to get on a float and relax. Relax I did, losing track of time and my position. When I decided to check my location, I saw that I had floated about half a mile down the beach. The float trip was great, but I had to hoof it back up the beach to our condo. If only there had been some way to anchor my raft in one spot - that would have been great.

I am glad that my spiritual hope is not at the whim of unpredictable waves and untrustworthy winds. My spiritual hope is anchored in the person of Jesus Christ who died for me. My hope is tied to the promises of God. Whatever forces there are that may try to cause me to drift away from my home base are countered by the power and strength of our marvelous Savior. My hope is in the Rock Christ Jesus who is steadfast and unmovable. His limitless love holds me safe and secure.

Hebrews 6:17-20 tells us, "Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf." The anchor holds.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday September 03, 2019

A man decided it was time to get in shape, so he started working out. Day one went well with some weight-lifting and a mile run. On day two, he ran a mile and a half. Day three included more weight-lifting and a run of two miles. When he woke up on day four, he had a sore throat and a headache. His conclusion? Exercise had caused his affliction and wasn't good for him, so he stopped working out. Doesn't this sound a little goofy?

This isn't any goofier that what some followers of Christ think. They start reading the Bible and spending more time in prayer, then decide to stop because their lives don't improve. They still face struggles and rough patches. Why try to get closer to God if you still have troubles?

We don't draw closer to God just to make our lives better. We draw closer to God because that is what we should be doing in our lives. Drawing closer to God does not prevent rough times in our lives. "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." (II Timothy 3:12)

We live for Christ for the purpose of living for Christ. "Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water." (Hebrews 1o:22) Live for Christ simply for the sake of living for Christ; not for the sake of a worry-free life. It doesn't "work out" that way.

Pastor Steve
Monday September 02, 2019

Today we celebrate the conflicted holiday of Labor Day. I call it conflicted because many folks get a day off from work on a day set aside to celebrate work. Whether you are working or have the day off, I hope you are enjoying your Labor Day.

I read an article recently about some of the more dangerous occupations. Jobs such as underwater welders, pilots, and loggers are very high on the list. Farming is also listed as a hazardous occupation as there are many dangers associated with this job. My wife, Scherry, lost her father in a farming accident when she was 13. So, those of you who are laboring, please be safe out there!

As I think of being conflicted, I think of the life of Christ. Christ came as a peaceful man, yet there have been many who have given their lives for Christ. A study done in 2016 stated that someone loses their life for Christ every 9 minutes. That year alone, more than 90,000 followers of Christ were killed because of their faith. Christ died for us, and now many are dying for him. This is the way it has always been and always will be.

Christ speaks of the division he causes. Matthew 10:34 says, "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." Think of those who are giving their lives for him and pray for the persecuted. We must put this in God's hands, and know that he is in control. Serving Christ is a hazardous occupation for many. Let us continue to offer prayer for them and know that God has their lives in his hands.

Pastor Steve
Sunday September 01, 2019

Do you believe that God is all-knowing? "Well, of course I do!", you might reply. If this is the case, then why don't you do what he asks you to do? If you believe he knows everything, why do you not answer his call to work for him? Why do you do things you shouldn't do right in front of his face? When we do this, it shows that we really don't think God is all-knowing, that he really can't see what we are doing.

When we don't answer his call to do something he wants us to do, it reflects a lack of trust in him. Our disobedience says, "I really don't think you can take care of me and I don't think you will help me do what you have asked me to do." Is this really what we want to say to God?

Our disobedience, whether it is doing something we shouldn't do or not doing something we should do, reveals a lack of trust and a lack of belief that God is who he is and will do what he says. Paul proclaims, "The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it." (I Thessalonians 5:24) Show that you believe in the faithfulness of God. Show that you believe that he is indeed all-knowing. Answer his call and be obedient. Live before him a life that shows you trust his care.

Pastor Steve
Saturday August 31, 2019

I am currently recovering from my latest medical procedure. I had a cardiac ablation a little over a week ago and am still feeling the effects of this. I am up and around and doing things, but I am a little more restricted at this point than what I thought I would be. I have had two similar procedures in the past, but this one was a little more involved. I have also had a couple of issues post-op that have needed to be addressed. But, all in all, I am progressing and I know I will continue to improve and gain strength.

Some folks maintain that followers of Christ should not use medical treatments. According to their way of thought, using medical means indicates a lack of faith. Obviously, I disagree with their reasoning. Medicine is something given to us by God to be used as a means of improving our quality of life. We should be thankful to God for medical developments that help us live more effectively and give us greater opportunity to glorify God through our lives. I do not walk very well anymore, but if it weren't for medical intervention, I would not be walking at all. I have taken full advantage of modern-day medicine. My ablation is the 20th procedure I have experienced.

Medicine is not a new thing. The use of medicine is a practice found in the scripture, albeit not too abundantly. Hyssop was used a purifier (Numbers 19:18; Psalm 51:7). The Israelites were instructed to use quarantine, sanitary procedures, and other practices related to the containment of organisms that caused infection and illness. Paul encouraged Timothy to "Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses." In addition to his encouragement of the use of wine medicinally, earlier he wrote, "For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer." (I Timothy 4:23-24)

As we use medicine, we need to remember to use it correctly and appropriately. We should not misuse our knowledge and our compounds. And we should take the advice of Paul and receive these things "with thanksgiving." Give thanks to God, and live as healthy as you can!

Pastor Steve
Friday August 30, 2019

Today is a rather ignominious anniversary. On August 30, 1780, American General Benedict Arnold conspired with British General Clinton to turn over West Point for the sum of 20,000 pounds ($1 million in today's money). The blueprints of West Point were handed over to British Major John Andre. Through some rather unusual, some would say providential, circumstances, Andre was discovered before he could cross the British lines. He was executed for his efforts.

Arnold escaped, lived out the remainder of his life in Great Britain, unable to return to his home. He never really gained acceptance in his "adopted" country. Why was he not appreciated in England? Well, what would be your opinion of a traitor?

Betrayal is hurtful, and being betrayed by a friend or family member is especially arduous. Christ himself knew the sting of betrayal because of Judas.

Perhaps you have felt the sting of betrayal - someone you considered a friend said something hurtful about you, or went behind your back to do something that caused you harm. Perhaps a family member did something that betrayed your trust. Why do people do things like this? The answer to this is simple - we live in a fallen world and people can do some really nasty things.

Our Lord will never betray us. And if you experience betrayal, trust God to help you work through the consequences you face because of the betrayal. Ask God to help you with your feelings about the betrayal and the betrayer. Try not to harbor bitterness as this will only bring injury to you.

In Isaiah 33:1, God warns betrayers, "Woe to you, O destroyer, you who have not been destroyed! Woe to you, O traitor, you who have not been betrayed! When you stop destroying, you will be destroyed; when you stop betraying, you will be betrayed." There are stern consequences for those who betray. God will vindicate those who have been betrayed. Let him stand by you to help you if you are struggling with the consequences of a betrayal.

Pastor Steve
Thursday August 29, 2019

Sometimes we need to be put in our place. We need to come to a point where we realize who has things in control. This is the intent God had when he sat Job down and began to ask him questions that were rhetorical in nature, but were very pointed in their intent. God asks, "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?" (Job 38:4-7)

Now, at first glance, this seems to be punitive in nature. And, that is the intent to a certain extent. When Job is reminded who is in charge, there is a degree of contrition on his part when his erroneous thinking is corrected.

This is also an exercise in comfort and confidence. Job should draw comfort from the fact that responsibility for world events lies elsewhere. Job can be confident that all will be well because he IS NOT in control, GOD IS. He had expressed this confidence earlier when he declared, "I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes I, and not another." (Job 19:25-27)

We should know who is in charge and, when asked, we can give the right answer. There are times, as was the case with Job, we simply need to be reminded of this reality. We can be confident that all will be well because we are not in control, God is. Usually, we may not enjoy getting "put in our place," but when it comes to God, that is a good thing.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday August 28, 2019

When we pray, we ask for things. That is not a problem in and of itself. The Father tells us to ask. However, he also tells us that we need to pray that his will be done. In other words, as we ask for things, we need to remember that the asking needs to fall in line with his will.

Now, we often get a bit confused about this because we think we need to know God's mind in order to ask the right thing. What seems to be a better way of understanding this is to realize that we should go ahead and do the asking, but remember God answers according to his will. So, what we receive may not be what we ask for, but we know what we receive is God's will for us.

Often we have difficulty relinquishing our desire and accepting God's will. We need to keep in mind the prayer of Christ in the garden of Gethsemane. Christ prayed, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." (Luke 22:42) Christ asked for the alleviation of his suffering, but relinquished the outcome to God.

A little boy prayed, "God, please help me to quit sucking my thumb." Then he added, "Never mind, God, you know I don't want to quit sucking my thumb." We need to pray in such a way as not to try to figure out his will ahead of time, but pray and know that the answer will come according to his will. Always remember to pray, "Not my will, but yours be done."

Pastor Steve
Tuesday August 27, 2019

A few weeks ago, Scherry took our granddaughter, Maddie, and our grandson, Cullen, to get new backpacks for school this year. When they started school last week, they were all ready to go. At the end of the first day, however, Cullen wasn't too happy. Maddie is in first grade, and will be bringing her backpack home with her each day. Cullen is in pre-school, and is to leave his backpack there and bring it home at the end of the week. He did not want anything to do with this. He wanted to bring it home every day just like Maddie does. After some negotiating, an agreement was reached in this issue.

Cullen doesn't realize this but he should count his blessings that he doesn't have to carry his backpack with him daily. He should realize that his life is made easier because he can leave his burden elsewhere.

We have that same opportunity. When we face heavy loads of concern and worry that bring us down, we need to remember we can leave them elsewhere. We need to learn how to turn these things over to the Lord. We should realize we can leave them with the Lord and let him take care of them.

Peter writes about leaving our burdens with the Lord. Peter wanted his readers to see that trying to bear our burdens on our own is a form of pride and needs to be resolved. "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." (I Peter 5:6-7) God wants our concerns to be placed on him. Carrying overweight backpacks can produce real problems; carrying heavy burdens can produce real problems as well. God wants to help you with the burdens you have leave them with him and let him take care of them. Let God help you with that heavy load!

Pastor Steve
Monday August 26, 2019

"Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few" are the words of Sir Winston Churchill in an address given on August 20, 1940, paying tribute to the efforts of the Royal Air Force during the Battle of Britain. Were it not for their extraordinary efforts, the German war machine could very well have overrun Great Britain and changed the course of World War II. This took place more than a lifetime ago, yet there are millions of people whose lives would not be what they are today if not for the intervention of the Royal Air Force.

I would agree with Churchill's comments to a point, yet there is one obvious exception to his statement. Christ's sacrifice for humankind certainly overshadows the marvelous efforts of the RAF. All of humankind owe to Christ a debt of gratitude on account of his intervention on our behalf. Churchill's comments about the efforts of the RAF can be applied to Christ s efforts on behalf of all people.

Christ extends this invitation to all: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28) The efforts of the RAF preserved a favorable way of life for many; Christ's sacrifice offers the hope of eternal life to all who follow him.

Pastor Steve
Sunday August 25, 2019

We need to thank God for friends. A true friend is one who accepts us as we are, warts and all. A true friend is one who is willing to listen to us even if what we have to say isn't all that interesting, or if what we have to say is about an event that has left us emotionally devastated. A true friend is one who isn't looking for something in return, but is someone with whom we want to share our lives. A true friend is someone we can trust with our lives.

In the scripture, we find a good example of friendship in Jonathan. What a tremendous display of friendship! There were times when David's life would have been so much more difficult without his good friend Jonathon. This is what friendships can do - provide a source of help during times when difficulties are encountered. Of course, good friendships provide so much more.

Often we need helpful criticism - this comes better from a friend. Proverbs 27:6 tell us, "Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses." We need accountability. Proverbs 27:9 says, "Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice." We need the companionship of a friend. Proverbs 18:24 says, "One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother."

I hope you have friends like this. I hope that you are a friend like this for someone else. God intends for this to be part of our lives. Develop true friendships.

Pastor Steve
Saturday August 24, 2019

You perhaps have heard about the study by a couple of economists at Princeton University that stated a $75,000 annual income is what is needed to keep you happy. According to the study, one's happiness decreases markedly the lower you fall beneath this benchmark. I thought this quite interesting.

Now, to some, I realize that $75,000 annually is not a great deal of money. But there are many, both here and in other parts of the globe, that are living contented and joyful lives on significantly less than $75,000 a year. I could cite a number of examples but one person I recall vividly is a dear lady whom I met in Peru who was living on less than $1000 a year (U.S. dollars). Spending time with her helped you get a grasp on what it meant to be joyful and content.

Money "can't buy me love" (with apologies to Lennon and McCartney) nor can it truly buy happiness. One whose happiness depends on their bank account will at some point be supremely disappointed.

Paul reminds us in I Timothy 6:6 - 7 & 10, "But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. . .For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." Avoid the mindset that your happiness depends on your cash flow. Our source of joy should come from the hand of God.

Pastor Steve
Friday August 23, 2019

I remember reading an article one time that talked about the nature of Singapore - a small, densely populated island, just north of the equator at the southernmost tip of continental Asia. It is so densely populated that the article cited a letter written by a man to his fiancee: "Space is limited. Therefore . . . you must always have that sense of space around you. You should always step aside to ensure you are not blocking anyone. The key is to be considerate."

Having consideration for others is always a good thing. We should have consideration for others in general, and this is certainly a good thing with it comes to our life in the church. As followers of Christ, we should always have thoughts for others. How can we be of help to someone else? Is there someone who is struggling? What can I do to be of service to someone else?

Thom Rainer writes in his excellent book "Autopsy of a Deceased Church" that one of the characteristics of a declining church is a failure to eliminate "me first" thinking. When we think that the church is about us and our preferences, we are heading in the wrong direction. He writes, "When a church moves from (the focus from others to themselves), it is headed for decline then death. . .A church cannot survive long-term where members are focused on their own preferences."

Christ told us the kind of thinking we should have when he said that the second greatest commandment is to "love your neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 22:39) Paul told Timothy to "Remind the people. . .to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone." (Tiitus 3:1-2) Remember, "The key is to be considerate." Pastor Steve Willis


Thursday August 22, 2019

I recently read an interesting story of how a pod of hippos saved a hapless gnu. The gnu had jumped into a river to swim across and was instantly attacked by a waiting crocodile. Usually this would be lights out for the gnu, but some hippos came to his rescue. It isn't usual for animals to intervene in this way, although gnus aren't really enemies of hippos. Hippos can actually be rather fierce - more people are killed annually by hippos than lions. Anyway, these hippos sort of went against the grain of their natural inclinations and attacked the crocodile. The hungry croc released the gnu and swam away. The hippos even helped the gnu out of the water.

We are constantly needing to go against the grain in our lives. Even as believers, we still have our sinful nature that is constantly calling us to do things we shouldn't. We need to be aware of this and make an effort to go against our natural inclination to sin. Paul describes the struggle in Romans 7, "So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me." (vss. 21-23)

We do not have to face this conflict on our own; the Holy Spirit is within us to help us overcome the temptation and the propensity to sin. We need to be diligent and "go against the grain" to gain victory over our sinfulness.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednessday August 21, 2019

Does it bother you when you discover folks have not listened to you? I have this experience at times as I have had more than one encounter with an individual who has said to me, "I didn't know that" in response to an inquiry related to something I had announced to the church.

The fact that folks don't listen to me is mildly annoying, and can cause some minor problems. However, if this happens when God is talking, there is a real problem. I have some important things to say at times, but God always says important things. Anything that comes from God is something that needs to be heard and heeded.

John writes about the significance of hearing, "Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God." (John 8:47) That pretty much gives us a clear picture of the significance of hearing. When we fail to hear what God says, it is an indicator of a spiritual need - we need to examine our relationship with God. Hearing and doing are what demonstrates genuine belief. Matthew 7:24-29 is a story of the importance of hearing. This familiar tale about a wise man and a foolish man building a house is a statement on the need for good hearing. Do not drive God crazy - make sure you hear what he says and do what you hear.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday August 20, 2019

"Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few" are the words of Sir Winston Churchill in an address given on August 20, 1940, paying tribute to the efforts of the Royal Air Force during the Battle of Britain. Were it not for their extraordinary efforts, the German war machine could very well have overrun Great Britain and changed the course of World War II. This took place more than a lifetime ago, yet there are millions of people whose lives would not be what they are today if not for the intervention of the Royal Air Force.

I would agree with Churchill's comments to a point, yet there is one obvious exception to his statement. Christ's sacrifice for humankind certainly overshadows the marvelous efforts of the RAF. All of humankind owe to Christ a debt of gratitude on account of his intervention on our behalf.

He extends this invitation to all: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28) The efforts of the RAF preserved a favorable way of life for many; Christ's sacrifice offers the hope of eternal life to all who follow him.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday August 19, 2019

Do you often think about some theological questions? I read once about a 5-year-old who asked her father, "Daddy, do angels sleep?" After a little bit of thought, the father replied, "Well, honey, I think they do." The girl said, "Then how do they get their pajamas over their wings?"

We need to be inquisitive and ask questions about things that are theological in nature. Now, we don't need to go overboard and obsess on items that are of little consequence, but we should be curious about circumstances of a spiritual nature. God wants us to know about his presence in our lives and his ministry in our lives. We should have a natural curiosity about his dealings with us. Just don't get sidetracked by pursuits that lead us away from really understanding him. Paul wrote to Timothy, "Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels." (II Timothy 2:23) Avoid those things that are pointless and only lead to controversy. Focus on the important issues and truly coming to know Christ.

Many years ago, there was a group of "scholars" who debated really important issues such as "How many angels can dance on the head of a needle?" If you read this question and say, "I don't get the point of this," then you get the point (pardon the pun). Pursuits such as this are a waste of time. Focus on issues that are beneficial to our spirituality. Don't try to find a needle in a haystack!

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday August 18, 2019

In October of 2004, Iranian Ameneh Bahrami was brutally attacked by a spurned suitor, Majid Movahedi. Movahedi threw a bucket of sulfuric acid in her face. The attack left her disfigured and blind. She has had to endure many reconstructive surgeries as a result of the attack, and medical personnel have not been able to restore her sight. Movahedi was arrested and, after years of legal wrangling, he was convicted and sentenced in 2008.

The original sentence was death, but Bahrami sought qisas (retribution) which, in this case, literally meant an eye for an eye. This led to more legal back-and-forth but, in 2011, the sentence was to be carried out. Movahedi was to be anesthetized and Bahrami herself would drop sulfuric acid into his eyes. The day came and the necessary parties assembled at the hospital where this act was to be done. Movahedi was prepared and the countdown started. At the last minute, Ameneh decided not to follow through on the sentence and pardoned her assailant.

Bahrami certainly took the high road in her actions. Then again, perhaps she considered what toll this might have taken on her as she knew she would not only have to deal with the consequences of her physical disabilities, but with her emotional response to the sentence imposed upon Movahedi. Would such an action bring closure for her? Would there be a sense of satisfaction through this action of retribution? Bahrami thought not, and chose the path of forgiveness.

Bahrami paid a high price to forgive, but then we as Christians should understand this. Christ paid a high price so that we might be forgiven. Philippians 2:8, "And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death even death on a cross!" Sometimes forgiving someone else may seem like it is going to cost us a great deal, but it is often the deal that makes the most sense.

Pastor Steve
Saturday August 17, 2019

As I wrote earlier, this year marks the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong stepped off the Lunar Landing Module onto the surface of the moon. As he did so, he uttered these memorable words, "That's one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind."

It has been 50 years since that incredible day - and I often wonder just how far man has actually leaped in those 50 years. There have been many technological and medical advances as well as improvements in many other areas, but we still face many of the same problems. Problems such as poverty, unemployment, armed conflict, racism, and others are still with us.

Even the program that brought about the great accomplishment of putting someone on the moon is not what it was. Billions of dollars were spent in the space shuttle program, and I certainly do not want to downplay the accomplishments of that program especially since 14 people were killed during that era, but the moon is as far as we have reached and there is no capability of replicating this in the near future. All this goes to show the limitations of man in spite of abilities to do great things. There are still many things we cannot do.

This is why we need to continue to rely upon God. We need to realize that an even greater thing than man walking on the moon was God walking on earth. Man walking on the moon led to some significant advances, but also demonstrated limitations. God walking on earth leads to new life for all who will believe and demonstrates God's limitless power. Remember that your "help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth." (Psalm 121:2)

All of the problems listed above will vanish through God's intervention. Man's greatest problem - the problem of sin - was dealt with through God's visit to earth in the person of Jesus Christ. We have the ability to enjoy the giant leap into eternal life because of the step God made towards us. We need to thank God for being willing to make that step.

Pastor Steve
Friday August 16, 2019

One of the characteristics of our current society is our mounting personal debt. One source said the average debt per family in the United States is $137,063. That is a lot of money. I am not an economist, but you really don't need to be to know that too much debt is going to be a big problem. We really need to use God's wisdom and use our heads when it comes to debt.

Christ said, "Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you." (Matthew 5:42) From this statement, I understand that debt is not inherently bad. There are times when debt is justified. However, reason needs to be applied when it comes to the amount of debt one acquires. A basic fact is that you cannot spend more than you have.

You need to keep your wits about you when you are making financial decisions. Seek out good advice in money matters. Keep your "want" list under control. Seek God's guidance in managing your money. Remember that "the borrower is servant to the lender." (Proverbs 22:7)

Paul provides a good statement about our finances that we should keep in mind: "Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another," (Romans 13:7-8) If we let our greatest debt be our love for others, then we will find ourselves in pretty good shape fiscally and otherwise.

Pastor Steve
Thursday August 15, 2019

Schools are back in session pretty much everywhere now. I came across a story about a grandmother who asked about her 5-year-old grandson's first day at kindergarten. Her daughter, the boy's mother replied, "Well it was eventful." "What happened?" said the grandmother. "Well, Billy was in line for lunch and another little boy spat at him because he wanted Billy's place. But Billy took care of the situation. He looked at the other boy and said, 'If you do that again, you can't be my friend.' I was surprised when Billy told me all of this because when I picked him up from school, he was walking arm in arm with the other little boy out of the school. You would never know there had been a problem between those two."

How do you respond when someone else treats you harshly? We usually want to retaliate when someone has done something hurtful to us. It is usually difficult to respond any other way; but Christ encourages us to control our desire to retaliate and respond much in the same way as did Billy.

We read Christ's words in Matthew 5:38-40, "You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well."

Christ is encouraging a new way of thinking. He wants his followers to be less vengeful and more forgiving. The easy route when someone offends or hurts you is to do something of a similar manner in return. It takes a great deal of spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical discipline to look at someone after you have been wronged and say, "If you do that again, you can't be my friend." Let's do what we can to manifest the spirit of Christ when we really would rather do something else.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday August 14, 2019

Recently, I heard a story about Albert Einstein. The math genius was living in Princeton, New Jersey, and teaching at Princeton University at the time. Each day, Einstein would take a train from his home to the university and then back to his home at the end of the day. On one occasion, a young boy was waiting for him when he arrived at the station.

The boy was having trouble with some math problems and asked Dr. Einstein for help. Dr. Einstein took the boy's book, placed in on the hood of a nearby car, and helped him solve the problems. Imagine that - getting help with your math homework from the man who developed the theory of relativity.

Daily we will have similar opportunities to serve. However, we often miss many opportunities because we "can't take the time to do this." We may not be given a place in history because of some great scientific discovery, but we can be remembered for the kindness we displayed when we took the time to help someone else. Not only do we mimic Dr. Einstein when we do such things, we are displaying the heart of God.

Getting assistance from one of the most brilliant math minds that has ever existed is great; but the Creator of all there is and ever will be stands ready to help us at any time. Let's make sure we display this compassion for others in our lives. Christ's statement in Matthew 7:12 should inform our thinking on helping others, "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you." Display this thinking in your response to others when they ask for help.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday August 13, 2019
In the English language, the shortest verse in the Bible is John 11:35, "Jesus wept." I, like many others, have always found this verse very compelling. This verse shows Christ's humanity, of course, and portrays Christ's emotional connection to us humans as well.

As we think of Christ's response to the scene at the tomb of Lazarus, we see a picture of his involvement with the people he created. There is no emotional detachment here; Christ loves us and feels what we feel because he put himself in a position to experience what we experience.

This is why Hebrews tells us, "For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people" (2:17) and "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are yet he did not sin." (4:17)

We need to thank God for his involvement in our lives, and for sending Christ to live among us, experience what we experience, know our struggles, know our pain, and then provide hope that we can be victorious over the enemies we face, especially the enemy of death. Jesus wept because, as a human, he felt the loss along with the family of Lazarus. However, as God, he turned that loss into victory. That is what he can and will do for those who trust him. John 11:35 may be the shortest verse, but it is long on significance.

Pastor Steve
Monday August 12, 2019
Henry Bosch tells the story of an elderly woman in England who endured the nerve-shattering bombings during World War II. Her neighbors and friends were amazed at her peacefulness and her serenity in the midst of such harrowing times. When asked to give the secret of her calmness amid the terror and danger, she replied, "Well, every night I say my prayers. And then I remember that God is always watching, so I go peacefully to sleep. After all, there is no need for both of us to stay awake!"

How well do you sleep? Do you lose sleep because there are circumstances that are make you anxious and fearful? Ask God to give you the faith you need and the confidence you need in him to allow you to relax and rest peacefully. Let God do what he does best - control your life and control the things that are keeping you from being quiet in your spirit and having a calm heart.

The confidence the psalmist exhibits in Psalm 4:8 can be ours when we turn our fears over to the Lord: "I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety." Psalm 121:3 tells us that God never sleeps, "He will not let your foot slip--he who watches over you will not slumber." Since God doesn't sleep anyway, as the dear lady said, let him be the one to stay awake!

Pastor Steve
Sunday August 11, 2019

I once read an article about a lawsuit in California involving a mother, her son, and her current husband. The lady sued both her son and his step-father claiming they cashed in a winning lottery ticket that was actually hers. The lottery prize was $51 million dollars. From the article, it sounds like there was a real legal mess in Bakersfield.

Money can do crazy things to people, including influencing a mother to sue her son, and perhaps a son to steal from his mother. Actually, it isn't the money, of course, but it is our mindset about money. If you do not get control of your money and your attitude about money, it could very well control you.

Money is a topic follower of Christ should not avoid. Jesus spoke more about money than just about anything else, including the warning to avoid being under the control of money: "No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money." (Matthew 6:24)

Paul gives a further warning: "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." (I Timothy 6:10) The writer to the Hebrews gives this encouragement: "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'" (Hebrews 13:5) This verse tells us that our attitude towards money is indicative of our confidence in God's care. Show that you trust God by demonstrating a healthy mindset about money.

Pastor Steve
Saturday August 10, 2019

The natural curiosity of children is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, their desire to discover is a learning tool that helps them to acquire necessary skills. On the other hand, their exploration of new things can sometimes lead to dangerous circumstances.

I read about a 7-year-old in Michigan who found a half-barrel by a small lake. He found a piece of wood to use as a makeshift paddle and he made his way to the middle of the lake in the barrel. Then the barrel developed a leak and began taking on water. Thankfully, there were people who saw his plight and rescued him.

In Isaiah 43, God reminds the people of Israel that they are like immature children who have not called upon him. God tells them they were following a path of disobedience in their pursuits of what they wanted instead of seeking what he wanted for them. God tells them: "Yet you have not called on me, Jacob, you have not wearied yourselves for me, Israel." (vs. 22)

Following our own immature pursuits can have serious consequences. Having a natural curiosity is a good thing, but we need to temper this with God's wisdom. Call upon God for his wisdom and avoid paddling out in lakes.

Pastor Steve
Friday August 09, 2019

A man touring the Far East came across a rather unusual scene. A young boy was pulling a plow while an old man held the handles and guided it through the rice paddy. "My," the man said, "those people are so poor!" "Yes, " replied the guide, "They are poor. They sold their only ox last autumn to help build a new church."

That is quite a sacrifice, don't you think? I think that the idea of sacrifice is lost on us. Sometimes we are not even willing to give up a candy bar in order to be able to give something back to the Lord. What we have in the example above is the embodiment of sacrifice. God wants from us a spiritual sacrifice that resonates with his willingness to sacrifice. God delights in deeds that spring up from a desire to serve him. Galatians 5:6 says, "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love."

With what deeds of sacrifice have you been involved? We need to look for ways to "sell our ox." We should look for ways of service, look for ways to sacrifice. These should not be done to call attention to ourselves, but to call attention to God's ministry. He is the one who deserves the attention and merits our sacrifice.

Pastor Steve
Thursday August 08, 2019

Many of you have had the experience of moving into a newly constructed house. It is an interesting experience when you see the house completed and you get to move in knowing that you are the very first occupants of that structure. Some of you have had the experience of being in a church during a building project when a new place of worship was built. This is also a marvelous time, but it can have drawbacks as well. The beauty of a structure does not guarantee beautiful worship.

God, of course, knows this. When Israel was preparing to move to the temple to worship from the tent that had been used for many years, God cautioned his followers.

When the temple was finished, God commended Solomon for its construction, and also warned him of two things. First, he told him that the temple was a special place only because of God's presence: "I have consecrated this temple, which you have built, by putting my Name there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there." (I Kings 9:3) A second warning is that the temple would only be a special place for them as long as they are obedient to God. The presence of God's temple was not a guarantee of God's blessing. Only their obedience could ensure God's presence among them and his abiding hand on their lives.

He warns them of the consequences of disobedience: "But if you or your descendants turn away from me and do not observe the commands and decrees I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land I have given them and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name." (I Kings 9:6-7)

As we worship with others in the facility that God has provided, remember that it isn't the building that brings us close to God, it is the attitude and obedience of the people in the building! Worship is made beautiful not by the appearance of the building but the actions of the occupants.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday August 07, 2019

When Scherry and I lived in Dallas during the early 80's. there was a bit of a building boom taking place. As a matter of fact, I worked for a company that benefitted from this building boom. My company, Design Resource Group, installed movable wall systems, reconfigured existing systems, and handled the installation of conventional office furniture. When we moved from Texas in 1983, there were about 25 buildings at various stages of construction in downtown Dallas alone.

I was fascinated with the construction of those tall buildings. As I observed the work, one principle was evident: the taller the building was going to be, the deeper they went with the substructure. Tall buildings call for deep foundations. This is a good principle for us to remember as we develop our spiritual lives: the higher we want to climb on the spiritual ladder, the deeper we need to sink our foundation.

Psalm 1 refers to the benefit of having a good foundation when it compares a spiritual person to a tree planted by streams of water. The righteous person "is like a tree planted by streams of water (Psalm 1:5)." These trees have roots that run deep and are nurtured by the water that is always present. They have a good foundation.

If we want to grow tall and strong, we need deep, well-planted roots. We need deep foundations if we want to have tall buildings. Dig deep!

Pastor Steve
Tuesday August 06, 2019

I heard a story about a lady named Lydia who made amazingly delicious chocolate chip cookies. When asked her secret to producing the delectable treats, her reply was, "I give each cookie a personal touch." When pressed to elaborate, she replied, "While the cookie is still warm and soft after just being removed from the oven, I scrunch it with my fingers. You try to make it look like a bulldog." Indeed, it was the touch that made all the difference.

A touch can make all the difference. We who have experienced the wonderful touch of God's amazing grace need to make sure to pass the touch along to others. Daniel 10:18 talks about a touch, "Again the one who looked like a man touched me and gave me strength."

God is good at this - touching us and giving us strength. And we who have experienced this can provide strength for others by passing along the strength of God. God wants us to pass along his loving touch to others. Who do you know who needs God's touch?

Pastor Steve
Monday August 05, 2019

"What is that in your hand?" were the words of God to a reluctant Moses when Moses balked at the call of God. Moses asked, " What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, The Lord did not appear to you ? (Exodus 4:1) He was a little concerned about how things would go because of his past failure and his current circumstance.

Moses was a little "out of touch," being far away from the land where his people were located and far away from the place of his birth. God reminded him it was not his past predicament nor his current position that would guarantee his success - it was God's provision. God showed him that the simple staff in his hand would be a powerful tool in God's hand.

We need to have faith in God's provision as we put ourselves in position to be used by him. I have a plaque in my office a friend gave to me many years ago that reads, "The will of God will never lead you where the grace of God cannot keep you." What a wonderful promise that is so true. What is that in your hand?

Pastor Steve
Sunday August 04, 2019

I have always been fascinated by Christ's response to Peter when Peter asked Christ, "Lord, what about him?" (John 21:21) Peter was making reference to John in this question. Christ responded, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me. (vs. 22)

Some may take Christ's response as sort of saying "none of your business," but that was not Christ's meaning. What Christ did want to emphasize was that Peter needed to focus upon his place and his role in Christ's plan. Christ had work for both John and Peter; there was a division of labor and responsibilities. What we learn from Christ s words is that we should show concern for others, but don't use concern for others as an excuse to be sloppy with our own lives.

Christ was not promoting self-importance or selfishness. He wanted Peter to develop the correct priority. In our work in the ministry, we obviously need to work with each other and show concern for each other. Just don't be so involved with someone else's work that you neglect your own.

Pastor Steve
Saturday August 03, 2019

Well, today is my birthday. Birthdays are interesting things. They provide you with a reason to celebrate and be the center of attention for a little while. Birthday parties are always nice and offer a chance for folks to get together. Those of us with birthdays this month can make the claim that we are the reason for celebrations in August, as there are no official holidays.

As you get a little older, birthdays also provide some other opportunities. Birthdays can serve as a reminder of how fast our lives are progressing. It can't be my birthday again, can it? Birthdays can offer us a time to reflect on what is going on in our lives, what has taken place, what we would like to see take place, and other considerations. Birthdays highlight relationships that we have. Our celebrations are with those with whom we have a relationship. Birthdays remind of our "links" with other people - people on whom we can rely and have a significant role in our lives.

As you think of this latter provision of birthdays, remember the "link" you have with God. David says in Psalm 22:10, "From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother's womb you have been my God." We can read later in Psalm 71:6, "From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother's womb. I will ever praise you." Your birthday can serve as a reminder to you about the price God paid so that you can have this link to him. It was the gift of his Son that makes this relationship possible. That is quite a birthday present, isn't it? If you have received this gift, this is something you can celebrate not only on your birthday, but every day of the year!

Pastor Steve
Friday August 02, 2019

A wife was silently fuming at her husband because they had almost missed an important appointment. The reason they were running late was because the husband had taken time out of the morning to meet a friend for coffee. On the drive from the appointment, the wife was accumulating some ammunition for a knock-down-drag-out with her husband when they got home.

When they arrived at their house, she took time to open the mail before beginning her assault. She opened a Christmas card from a couple who had known her husband since his birth. A note in the card read, "We have always admired Terry because of his patience and commitment. We remember how difficult it was for him when he was young because of his spina bifida and problems with his feet. Through dealing with these, he learned patience. He always has time for others." What could the wife say now? Well, not much. She was able to get a portrait of her husband through the eyes of others. This can be helpful.

Are you struggling with someone? Are they driving you nuts with some of their quirks and behavior? Maybe trying to get a perspective of them from another point of view - other friends, family, whoever - might be a good thing. This will help us to learn something, and perhaps even gain insight as to what is behind the behaviors with which you are having trouble. Sometimes we need to pray for open eyes in our relationships with others. Asking God to "Open my eyes that I may see" (Psalm 119:18) can have application to many circumstances.

Pastor Steve
Thursday August 01, 2019

The apostle Paul spoke many times of the wonders of heaven. He knew he had work to do here on earth, but he longed for his heavenly home. He said, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21) It is no surprise that he longed for heaven in the way he did as he was privileged to be given a glimpse of heaven's wonders.

We read Paul's description of his experience in II Corinthians 12:2-6, "I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know--God knows. And I know that this man--whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows--was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things; things that man is not permitted to tell. I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say."

Paul was keenly aware that the only reason he had this experience, and the only reason he had the hope he would be going there to stay at some future time, was the amazing grace of God. "For by grace we are saved. . ." he writes in Ephesians 2:8.

Another individual who had this same awareness was John Newton, the author of the hymn "Amazing Grace". Newton wrote that among the surprises that await us in heaven will be three astonishing ones. The converted slave-dealer perceptively foresaw what every person who has been redeemed by Christ's atoning sacrifice will feel.

Newton wrote, "When I reach heaven, I expect to find three wonders there: First, to meet some I had not thought to see there; second, to miss some I had thought to meet there; and third, the greatest wonder of all, to find myself there!" Isn't that true? Paul and Newton both understood the only reason for their presence in heaven was the Amazing Grace of God!

Don't ever lose sight of this truth. We need to be grateful for God's grace, and the hope we have because of God's grace. Paul gave us a glimpse of heaven; Newton gave us a perspective about heaven; God gives us His grace as a means of entering heaven. Give thanks to God!

Pastor Steve