Sunday May 31, 2020

We need to always remember that God is our source of motivation and hope he is in control and we should let him be in control of our lives. Keeping this in mind can be of great benefit when we are struggling with life circumstances and aren t sure which way to go remember God is in control and is the source of our strength!

Ed Powell writes about Paganini, the world-renowned violinist, who was the featured artist at a Carnegie Hall concert. The Hall was packed with excited and enthusiastic music lovers who appreciated the artistry of this master violinist, acclaimed around the world for his musical genius. He appeared on stage and after the applause, quietly placed his instrument under his chin, only to make the alarming discovery that it was not his treasured Stradivarius. He excused himself and went to his dressing room to retrieve his famous violin, only to find that someone had stolen it and replaced it with a cheap replica.

After a moment of shock and reflection, he returned to the stage and told the audience of his misfortune. Then he said, "Ladies and gentlemen, with this cheap secondhand fiddle, I will show you that the music is not in the instrument, but in the soul." He then began to play as only he could, and that secondhand violin poured forth music that completely enthralled the audience. They were captivated by the music from the Master.

This is what God can do. He can take folks such you and me who have been damaged by the effects of sin and make us whole. He can use us to make "beautiful music" if we submit to His will and His control. He can take what is happening in our lives and turn what is disharmonious and distorted into wonderful symphonies. All it takes is the Master's Hand. Submit to His touch, and watch Him put a melody of praise in your heart!

Pastor Steve
Saturday May 30, 2020

I once read a story about something that happened in the aftermath of a 7.2 magnitude earthquake that hit eastern Turkey. A lieutenant in the Turkish Air Force became aware that his fiancée had been trapped under the rubble of the restaurant where she was eating at the time the earthquake hit. He traveled 60 miles to the location to direct rescue workers in an effort to find her. After 18 hours of arduous efforts, she was located and freed. In an interview afterwards, he said, "All I wanted was for her to live." This is a remarkable story of love and commitment.

A more remarkable story of love and commitment is found in the Scripture. God instigated a heroic effort to save us. He had to overcome the efforts of Satan and the indifference of humankind to pursue this effort. We were trapped under the rubble of sin, but God sent his Son to locate us and rescue us. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son; that whosoever believes in him will not perish but will have everlasting life." (John 3:16)

Please don't take for granted the heroic efforts of our marvelous Lord. I would imagine that if God were interviewed, He would say, "All I wanted is for them to live."

Pastor Steve
Friday May 29, 2020

Did you know that you can buy a talking Jesus doll? This sounds like an interesting product. According to what I understand, the doll delivers scriptural quotations and says things like, "I have an exciting plan for your life" and "Your life matters so much to me."

Now, there is nothing wrong with these statements. They are true, and certainly are some of the reasons why we need to follow Christ. But we grownups must remember that Jesus also said some things that are not all that "warm and fuzzy." Jesus also tells us, "It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble." (Luke 17:2) We read his words in Luke 9:62, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."

There are some things that Jesus said that are rather difficult. We need to make sure we follow the whole body of his teaching, not just what appeals to us or what we think sounds good. Sometimes his message is difficult, but is nonetheless his message.

Don't seek to tone down what Jesus said. Don't be choosy in what you study. We are often selective in what we use just to meet our own selfish needs. True blessing is only found in total obedience. Pay attention to all of his words because Jesus is much more than just a talking doll!

Pastor Steve
Thursday May 28, 2020

Alypius, a fourth-century musician, did not like the gladiator games and refused to attend. Still, at the urging of his friends, he went to a stadium to watch the gory spectacle. He really did not want to observe what was taking place, so he kept his eyes tightly shut until a piercing scream prompted him to open them. He did so just in time to see a fatal blow delivered. A fascinating thing happened at that point - he found himself joining in with the rest of the crowd as they howled their bloodthirsty approval of the scene before them. That experience changed Alypius. From that time on, he became a part of the crowd of onlookers always looking for more.

The story of Alypius demonstrates what can happen to us. His story shows what can happen even to the best of people when they have even a small taste of destructive pleasure. Sensibilities can be numbed and our conscience can be seared in the wake of our dalliance in wrong behavior.

Paul knew this tendency of people and so he wrote to Timothy, "Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart." (II Timothy 2:22)

Never underestimate what can happen if we allow ourselves the opportunity to be exposed to bad things. Joining the crowd is simply too easy. Pursue a path of righteousness and stay away from opportunities to behave badly.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday May 27, 2020

God does the work of God and humans do the work of humans. When we keep this in mind, our lives will go much better. God is the one who is responsible for results; our responsibility is faithfulness. When we think we are the one responsible for results, we can experience frayed nerves and a lot of stress. We will drive ourselves to an early grave with this thinking. God is the one who has the plan, our place is to maintain faithfulness as we live within his plan.

Saul is a good example of someone who didn't understand these role distinctions. He constantly leapt ahead of God in his movements and decisions and this led to his demise. This led God to send Samuel on a search for a new king. In reference to Saul, God told Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (I Samuel 16:7)

Keep the right order. Remember your job description as a child of God. Do what you know you should do and let God do what He does best!

Pastor Steve
Tuesday May 26, 2020

Despite all the claims of Gatorade and other drinks, nothing beats water. Water is still the healthiest all-around thirst quencher. Water is better for you, and water also has properties that other drinks do not. Would you want to take a bath in Gatorade? Would you prefer a Gatorade storm to refresh and renew the landscape like a rain storm? In one sense, Gatorade is just another example of a tendency we have that is not good - thinking we can improve upon what God has provided.

There is one area where we cannot improve upon what God has provided in any way the water He provides so that we might have eternal life. Christ uses water on many occasions as an analogy of what He offers to give us life. He said to a woman he encountered at a well in Sychar, Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:13-14) Later He declared, "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them." (John 7:37-38)

Obviously, this "water" that Christ provides needs no improvement and has no substitute. Drink Gatorade all you want to quench a physical thirst and preserve life, but when it comes to eternal life, there is only one drink that will satisfy!

Pastor Steve
Monday May 25, 2020

Today is Memorial Day. There are many thoughts as to how how this day was started. One of the most prominent is the proclamation by John A. Logan, commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, that May 30, 1868 be set aside as a day of placing flowers on the graves of those who had fallen during the recent War Between the States.

Over the years, this was the day generally used as Decoration Day. Both the name of the day and the time of observance were eventually changed. Now, as you well know, Memorial Day is the title used and the observance is the last Monday in May. In addition, the observance has broadened to that of a day of remembrance of all who have died, not just those who were killed during war.

Remembering those who have left us is a good idea. As believers, we can also use this as a time to remind us of the hope we have concerning those who have died in the Lord. We read in I Thessalonians 4:13-14, "Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of humankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him." Paul tells us in I Corinthians 15:19, "If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied."

It is good to take the time to remember those whom we have lost. It is even better to remember that for those of us in Christ, those whom we have "lost" are not gone for good. Celebrate their lives, but celebrate also the hope we have of eternal life through the gift of God. Make sure to give thanks to Christ for His gift that brings us hope of a future with Him! Happy Memorial Day!

Pastor Steve

Sunday May 24, 2020

I remember reading a story about an incident that took place during the Korean War. While engaged in an offensive, Baker Company was separated from the rest of their unit. For many long hours, headquarters waited anxiously for some communication from them. Finally, a faint radio message was heard.

Headquarters responded, "Baker Company, what is your situation?" The reply from Baker Company was, "The enemy is to the east of us. The enemy is to the west of us. The enemy is to the north of us. The enemy is to the south of us. The enemy is not going to get away from us now!"

Although in a precarious circumstance, Baker Company was thinking about victory, not defeat. This is how we can look at tough times in our lives. Whether we are engaged in a time of difficult spiritual warfare, or we are struggling with a set of circumstances that seem to have us surrounded, much like we seem to be now, we can focus on victory, not defeat.

Paul speaks about having an attitude of victory when things look bleak, "We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." (II Corinthians 4:7-9)

When we are surrounded by the enemy, remember the strength you can have through God's provision. Think, "The enemy is not going to get away from me now!"

Pastor Steve
Saturday May 23, 2020

Years ago, a video that went "viral" on the Internet was of a father lifting his son during a Major League baseball game so that the son could catch a foul ball. This took place at Yankee stadium during a game between the New York Yankees and the Cincinnati Reds. It was really something to see - you might be able to do an Internet search to find this clip and watch it. The son could not have caught the ball without the assistance of his dad. What a moment to share between a father and a son!

You and I could have many moments like this with our Heavenly Father if we will allow him to do what he would like to do for us. Now, it may not be lifting us up to catch a foul ball that was hit by a professional baseball player, but God does want to lift us up to enjoy other experiences. God delights in helping his children and we often miss out on many moments like this when we don't allow him to participate in our lives.

Psalm 35:27 says, "May those who delight in my vindication shout for joy and gladness; may they always say, 'The LORD be exalted, who delights in the well-being of his servant.'" This is a good thing to keep in mind in our current struggle. God is there, and He delights in the well-being of His servant. When we put our lives in his hands, He lifts us up to accomplish things and enjoy things that we could never accomplish or enjoy on our own. Let God lift you up!

Pastor Steve
Friday May 22, 2020

Moral courage is the resolve to do what is right even if no one knows. Regardless of the consequences. Even when you are weary. Even when there are extenuating circumstances and when everyone would understand if you caved. How we respond in ethical dilemmas when we know that others would be unaware of what we do reveals a great deal about our character. It is so easy to say, "no one is looking", and then proceed with an activity that we know to be wrong. "Well, no one will see us!"

Daniel is a marvelous example of moral courage. Daniel 1 records the capture of Daniel and his three friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Upon their arrival in Babylon, they are offered food that would violate the dietary restrictions in the Law of Moses. Who was there to bring him to accountability? What would be wrong with eating what was offered? For Daniel, there was no question what needed to be done. He refused the food.

Note his response: "But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way." (1:8) Another translation of this is "Daniel purposed in his heart." When Daniel makes his stand, then God brings Daniel into favor. He gives him skill; He gives him a healthy glow.

When faced with moral challenges, we must do our part. Be obedient from the heart. And then trust God to do His part.

Pastor Steve
Thursday May 21, 2020

A woman bought a bottle of cod liver oil to give to her dog to help her pet have a healthier coat. However, she had some trouble when she tried to give it to her dog. Try as she might, she just couldn't get the dog to swallow the oil. He would simply lock his jaws and would have nothing to do with the substance. "I wish there was some way I could get him to realize the cod liver oil is good for him!" she thought. As she continued her efforts, she knocked over the bottle spilling the contents all over the floor. Her dog sniffed the fishy-smelling liquid and began lapping it up. The dog really liked the liquid; he just objected to being coerced.

We need to keep this in mind as we work with others. Whether it is a situation of parents and children, teachers and students, spouses, friends, staff members, committee members, or some other relationship, don't forget that folks don't like to be coerced. What we have for them - ideas, suggestions, concepts, even new food, we need to help others by providing situations where they discover that they like what is offered rather than trying to coerce them into acceptance.

We also need to keep this in mind as we share the good news of Christ with others. Share the news in love, and let the Spirit do the work of convicting and convincing. Remember that how you say something is just as important as what you say when it comes to effective communication. Paul tells us, "Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." (Colossians 4:6) Let love be your guide as you present the message and let the Holy Spirit show folks how much they need the message.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday May 20, 2020

I love the affirmation we find in Psalm 18:1 3: "I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, my defender; My God is my Rock, in whom I seek refuge, my shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I called to the Lord, who is worthy to be praised. I have been saved from my enemies."

For some reason, I can remember the first time I preached from this scripture. It was about 44 years ago at the Riverview Missionary Baptist Church in Sciotoville, Ohio. Clifford Gore was the pastor of the church. He is also the father of a high school classmate of mine, Terry Gore, whom many of you know. I was singing with my brothers and some friends in a group, "Get All Excited," at the time and Clifford had asked us to sing at the church. He also wanted me to speak.

That night, I preached the longest sermon I have ever delivered in my life. The message was about an hour and a half long. My youngest brother, Phil, played drums in the group and I remember him telling me, "If you ever preach that long again you will be looking for a new drummer." I have no idea why I preached that long I just did. Maybe I preached that long because there is so much that is said in these three verses.

It is a message that can be helpful at any time, and is certainly helpful during our present struggle. This passage tells us we stand on a firm foundation. "The Lord is my rock" tells us our foundation is sure. This is a statement of certainty that really encourages us in the midst of our uncertainty. I think of the words of a hymn we sing, "On Christ the Solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand."

Another truth we find in this psalm is that we are safe in God, "My God is my Rock, in whom I seek refuge." God has us wrapped up in His arms of care. He is our stronghold, our place of safety.

Finally, we see we will have victory over the obstacle we have in our path. David states, "I have been saved from my enemies." I am not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet, (no, I didn't get this from David Jeremiah I've been using this phrase for years), but there will be an end to our current crisis. This "enemy" will be defeated. There is a lot of hope in these short verses. The long message was because God is long in his care.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday May 19, 2020

Christianity is unique among all the religions of the world in that, in Christianity, we have the story of God's pursuit of humans to draw them to Himself. In all other religious systems, people pursue the god of that religion, hoping to attain favor and acceptance through their behavior, through rituals, through efforts done with the intent of pleasing the deity, and other exercises accomplished to gain favor. At the heart of Christianity is the reality that God seeks out people.

British poet Francis Thompson writes about this in his poem entitled "The Hound of Heaven." In his work, Thompson writes how that humans actually flee from God, but God, through His gracious pursuit, brings them hope and restoration. Here is a brief excerpt:

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days
I fled Him, down the arches of the years
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase
And unperturbèd pace
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy
They beat and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet

Thompson"s poem is based upon scriptural truth. Psalm 139:7 & 8 says, "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there." Christ came to the world to seek us. Christ says, "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." (Luke 19:10) We read Christ's words in John 12:32, "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself."

Paul attests to Christ's purpose in coming into the world, "God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law" (Galatians 4:4) Where would we be if God had not come for us? I think you know the answer to that.

Pastor Steve
Monday May 18, 2020

Many things have been altered by the pandemic we are experiencing. For one, students who are graduating this year are certainly having a different experience than what would normally be taking place. Alternative means of recognizing the graduates have been employed, which is as it should be. They have worked hard, and their accomplishments should be applauded. Congratulations to all of you who are graduating this year, and my prayer for you is that you will experience the blessings of God as you move forward.

Even though graduation exercises may be different, one thing that is still the same is those who are moving on to new experiences in their lives need to be sure to apply wisely what they have learned. The acquisition of knowledge is a good thing, but what needs to happen is to use what one has learned. This is true for everybody whether you are a recent graduate, or are down the road a little bit. The key to success in life is to wisely apply that which you learn.

Scripture is certainly vocal on the value of wisdom. Proverbs 3:13 - 18 tells us, "Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed."

This is true with knowledge in general, and is certainly true when it comes to our application of what we learn from our insights into the scripture. Wisdom is what helps us live a productive and enjoyable life that is pleasing to God. Seek wisdom as if you were looking for a precious jewel, because that is what it is. Make sure to learn all you can - and make sure you use wisely what you learn!

Pastor Steve
Sunday May 17, 2020

As you know, when you are working on your computer, there are programs working in the background other than the one you happen to be using at the time. That can be a positive thing in the case of programs that are needed to allow you to do whatever you are needing to do at the time. But it can be something rather unnecessary. So, it may be to your benefit to find out what you don't need and close those apps so that your computer will run more efficiently. Now, I am NOT writing a computer tutorial. Far be it from me to ever try to instruct someone else in the computer usage.

This thought does remind me of an important work of our Father about which I would like to comment. I hope you had the opportunity to read the statement that has been on our webpage recently, thanks to our webmaster, Kenny McCall. It read "You have been created by God and for God, and someday you will be amazed at the simple yet profound ways he has used you even when you weren t aware of it." This statement is very true. We believe in God, even though we do not see God, and we know that God is at work in our lives in ways that we do not see.

God is always at work in events that are taking place on a large scale. We can rest assured that he is at work even now during our pandemic experience. And he is always at work in our lives, often in unseen ways, that are vital to our existence and our ministry. I don t know if it is a profitable exercise for us to try to figure out how he is working I am not sure we can ever really know. Just rest assured that he is, that he has our best interests in mind, that he wants to use us in ways we don't, and maybe even can't, know about. We don't need to worry about "closing down the app," because we know what God is doing behind the scenes is good for us.

Jesus tells us, "My Father is always working, and so am I." (John 5:17) Later, he adds, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand." This latter verse is especially helpful to keep in mind. We need to be thankful that God is at work in our lives, even when we do not see, and do not fully understand. Actually, we should be especially thankful for his work in our lives at times we do not see because he has better vision than we do. Be grateful for the Spirit of God who helps us to live as we should even though we don t know He is there!

Pastor Steve
Saturday May 16, 2020

Our experience with this pandemic has left many feeling overwhelmed. Things that normally cause difficulty have been exacerbated, and there are more problems that have been caused directly by the virus. All of these circumstances and many others lead us to the brink where we simply throw our hands in the air and wonder what in the world we can do.

Moses could identify with us. In Numbers 11:14, we read his cry to the Lord, "I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me." He had run up against too much burden and too little Moses. God's response came immediately, "Bring me seventy of Israel s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the tent of meeting, that they may stand there with you. I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take some of the power of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them. They will share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone." (Vss. 16-17)

When we face burdens that overwhelm us, enlist the help of God. Then, enlist the help of others. In spite of having to practice social distancing, we can still reach out to others when we feel overwhelmed. Do not be afraid to do so. On the flip side, try to be aware of situations where you know of folks who are struggling and need some support. Reach out to them just to let them know they are not alone in their struggle.

Galatians 6:2 encourages us to "carry each other s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." God is always there for us, and he has put people in our lives to help us when we are struggling. Don't try to face your burden alone - let others in to help carry the load.

Pastor Steve
Friday May 15, 2020

J. Paul Getty was an oil tycoon who died in 1976. At one time, Getty was the richest person in the world. Although he was fabulously wealthy, he was extremely frugal. Of course, this could be one reason why he was able to become the richest person in the world. Let me give you two examples of his frugality, one rather amusing, the other, not so much.

The example that will perhaps bring a little smile to your face is that Getty, in spite of his wealth, installed a pay phone in his mansion for guests to use when they needed to make a phone call. Heh heh. He did not want to pay for their calls.

The other example is one that is not funny at all. Now, I must say at the outset that I am not presenting this so as to make a judgement about Getty's character; I simply want to use it to make a point, as you will see in a bit.

In 1973 when he was 16 years old, Getty's grandson, John Paul Getty III, was kidnapped by Italian mobsters. They issued a ransom demand for his release. At first, Grandfather Getty refused to pay the ransom. Getty gave in to the kidnappers' demands after his grandson's ear was mailed to him. Even then, Getty negotiated the demand down to an amount that would be tax-deductible.

Getty III experienced a good deal of abuse at the hands of the kidnappers in addition to losing an ear. He struggled with physical and emotional issues related to the kidnapping for the rest of his life. As I said earlier, I am not writing to cast any dispersion upon the senior Getty. He had his reasons for responding as he did.

I am just glad that when I was in need of a ransom to be paid so that my release from sin might be secured, the One who had the means to do this was not so reticent to take action on my behalf. If Christ chose not to pay the price that sin demanded for the release of those held captive by sin, a far greater consequence than some "physical and emotional struggles" would occur.

Christ said, "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45) Paul wrote, "Christ Jesus gave himself as a ransom for all people." (I Timothy 2:6) I am glad Christ is not excessively frugal.

Pastor Steve
Thursday May 14, 2020

Sometimes we struggle with how to apply a scripture to our lives. We struggle with the meaning of a particular verse, especially when it comes to applying it practically. What can help in this process is simply writing things down. When you are wondering how to apply scripture to your life situation, look for scripture that gives help for the situation. Then, write the scripture down. When you have done this, begin to write down questions about the scripture.

Break the passage down phrase by phrase and ask questions. For example, Proverbs 3:8-9 says, "Trust in the Lord with all you heart and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths." After writing down "Trust in the Lord with all your heart" you could write down questions such as "What does trusting in the Lord with your entire heart look like?"; "Am I trusting in the Lord with all of my heart?" and so on.

In Deuteronomy, we find the Lord telling the people to "write this down." In Deuteronomy 27:8, God says: "And you shall write very clearly all the words of this law on these stones you have set up. He did so for a reason. God wanted the people to understand what he had said, and he wanted them to remember what he had said. When it comes to our understanding and application of scripture in our lives, a helpful exercise is to "write this down."

Pastor Steve
Wednesday May 13, 2020

During the time that I have been pastor at First Baptist in Newton, we have purchased property that was adjacent to what we already owned. One of the reasons for this was to provide some additional parking. I once read about a church that was in need of some additional parking space. They were located next to a business that was closed on Sundays, so the owner was approached about the use of his lot for parking for their services. "You sure can," he replied. "You can use it 51 weeks out of the year, but it will be chained off on the 52nd week." The folks asked the obvious question, "Why?" "Well," said the man, "I want you to remember who owns the property."

This is a really good thing to remember when we consider what we have received from God's hand and the blessings that he bestows upon us. Actually, in the Old Testament, God had a method to remind the folks about ownership. You can read about this in Leviticus 25. God told his people, "For six years you may plant your fields and prune your vineyards and harvest your crops, but during the seventh year the land must have a Sabbath year of complete rest." (vss. 3 & 4) This had a practical application as it would be good to give the land a rest, but it also was done to remind the folks who really owned the land.

A further application of this is found in verses 12 & 13, "(The fiftieth year) will be a jubilee year for you, and you must keep it holy. But you may eat whatever the land produces on its own. In the Year of Jubilee each of you may return to the land that belonged to your ancestors." God did this to keep folks from "hoarding" land and wealth, and to emphasize true ownership.

It is easy to take for granted all the material and spiritual blessings we have received from God. We need to remember what the scripture says about ownership. I Chronicles 29:11 echoes the truths of Leviticus 25, "Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours." Paul reminds us of this truth by saying, "You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies." (I Corinthians 6:19-20) Don't make God chain off the parking lot! Remember that what we have is actually His and we should live in a way as to honor this reality!

Pastor Steve
Tuesday May 12, 2020

Don't you just love driving in fog? Oh, yeah, one of my favorite experiences. When I was in college, I encountered a legendary Ohio River Valley fog one day on my drive to school. The main part of my daily commute took place on U.S. 52, a four-lane route that ran alongside the Ohio River in southern Ohio. On that particular day, this route was more or less a four-lane parking lot with as many cars on each side of the road as there were on the road.

I had almost zero visibility, but I could proceed forward as long as I focused on what I was doing, traveled along at a pace that was being dictated by the conditions, and kept my eyes on what I could see (which was not more than the center line) in order to keep oriented as to where I needed to be. I could not just proceed ahead willy-nilly at whatever speed I wanted, and I certainly needed to pay attention to what was happening.

We have these times in life, don't we? Times when we face a scary fog of uncertainly. Times when we have to slow our pace to match the conditions we are experiencing, focus our attention on what God is revealing to us regarding our direction, and keep our eyes on what He reveals as the right path. We face scary fog in our lives where we are unclear as to what lies ahead. What we need to do is follow this design I mentioned above in order to make progress towards where we want to be.

We are facing a pretty scary fog right now. So, we need to make sure we are slowing the pace to match the conditions, focus our attention on what God is revealing to us, and keep our eyes on what we can see. God is directing our paths. Psalm 2:2-3 reminds us, "He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His Name's sake." We need to trust God to lead us through the times when our lives feel like a "four-lane parking lot."

Pastor Steve
Monday May 11, 2020

Some time ago, I read a story about a practice of a medical school in Taiwan. In order that prospective doctors might have a greater insight into death and a greater appreciation for life, they are buried alive for ten minutes. Yeesh - talking about an exercise to produce empathy.

We need to appreciate the reality that we have been "buried" alive. When we follow Christ, Paul tells us that "we were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life." (Romans 6:4)

What this means is that, although we will not be able to live a perfect life as a follower of Christ, we should have a different attitude and outlook towards sin. A true follower will have a desire to avoid and overcome sin. If we don't have this desire, then we need to do some serious evaluation of our spiritual life. John tells us that "No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God." (I John 3:9)

Live as if we have been buried alive. How does that statement grab you? If you spend some time with the passages listed above, you will gain an appreciation for this idea.

Pastor Steve
Sunday May 10, 2020

One of the more fascinating stories in Scripture is the account of the mother of James and John and her request for her sons. She asked Jesus that her sons may sit on his right and his left in the Kingdom. (Matthew 20:20-28)

At face value, this looks like a rather selfish and arrogant request. If she had heard Christ's parable found earlier in Matthew 20, her proposition may have been based on her fear that her sons might not have a position of status in the kingdom. I do find it interesting that Jesus never actually rebuked her request, he simply pointed out the difficulty that would accompany such a position.

Her motivation may have not been completely clear, but it was tied into her desire for her sons to have the best experience possible. Moms, for the most part, tend to have feelings this way. They want the best for their children. Moms do want good things for their kids.

This desire is a reflection of what God wants for us - "How much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" (Matthew 7:11) The desire of a parent to see their child receive good things is seen in our Heavenly Parent. Mom - when you demonstrate this desire for your kids, you are reflecting the heart of God! Thank you, Moms, and have a Happy Mother's Day!

Pastor Steve
Saturday May 09, 2020

Drinking plenty of water is essential. Drinking at least 64 ounces a day promotes good heart health, digestive health, skin health, muscle health, and right on down the line. We should drink water even when we don't feel thirsty. It is just the right thing to do, yet many of us just don't do it. Why? This is a good question. Not drinking the right amount of water doesn't make good sense, but we seem to be prone to doing things that don't make good sense.

This carries on into our spiritual lives as well. Even as we need water to live, we need to drink in all we can of God and what he provides. Psalm 73: 25-26 says, "Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." This should be a description of our "thirst" for God. We should continue to immerse ourselves in the things of God beyond our perceived need.

Even as water is what is best to satisfy our human thirst, God is all we need to quench the thirst of our soul. Why is it that we often struggle with taking in all that we need? Even as we are prone to neglect our intake of the water we need; we are prone to neglect our intake of God. Drinking plenty of water is essential to promote physical well-being. Taking in all we can of God is essential to promote spiritual well-being. Don't neglect your intake!

Pastor Steve
Friday May 08, 2020

2020 started out rather benignly, and then - boom! - COVID-19 has created chaos. I would imagine you have seen the picture that has been circulating on the internet of a sign that reads - "We need to reboot 2020, it has a serious virus" - or something like that. We smile at this, a little levity is sometimes helpful, but there is a hard side to the message because of the truth of our circumstance.

As we face our struggle, it is helpful to remember that God is still in control. It is comforting to know that we have the Prince of Peace who is there for us and who can provide peace for us and a calmness of spirit as we think about His person and anticipate His return.

The Hebrew word for peace is "shalom." This word refers to more than just a peace from conflict, it speaks to harmony and goodwill in relations, freedom from anxiety, and a fullness of well-being. It comes from a root word that means "whole" or "complete."

When the Prince of Peace came the first time, He provided a way for us to be whole with God. His sacrifice brings reconciliation for all those who believe in Him. Paul writes, "But now he has reconciled you by Christ s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation." (Colossians 1:20) This is the peace we can experience now. Paul also tells us, "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:1)

When he comes again, the Prince of Peace will restore peace to all of creation. Isaiah 2:4 tells us, "He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore."

Keep your eyes on the Prince of Peace, not the chaos of the world. When you do, you will indeed experience true "shalom."

Pastor Steve
Thursday May 07, 2020

Most of us look for short cuts. When we hear we can get some place more quickly by following a short cut, we use it. When we are doing some work and figure out how to do the job faster, we employ our short cut. Short cuts are used to access computer programs more expediently. We enjoy using short cuts. However, a short cut may not always be the best way.

I remember reading about a couple who decided to take a short cut and not take apart a large desk they wanted to move down a narrow hallway to another room. They ended up having to replace a wall and repairing the desk because of damage caused in the attempt to employ a short cut. I recall taking a short cut on my way back from a hospital visit in a neighboring town and turning a 45-minute trip into a two-hour excursion. Indeed, a short cut may not always be the best way.

Short cuts in life are not always the best way. Many times, there are lessons to be learned from the journey. We need to allow the process to continue to completion in order to glean what we need to know from the experience.

In I Samuel 15, we read about Saul trying to take a short cut in his response to God's command. Samuel confronted him and said, "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams." (15:22) As appealing as they may appear, beware of taking short cuts. Often, they are not the best way.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday May 06, 2020

To me, one of the more fascinating stories in the Bible is one that you rarely hear about - the story of Abraham's search for a wife for his son, Isaac. You can read about this is Genesis 24. It certainly is not exactly how we discover our spouses in our society, but it is a story of God's direction, and people's faith, especially in the case of Rebekah, who would become the wife of Isaac.

Abraham, advanced in years, sends his servant to find a wife for his son, Isaac. He tells him where to look and what to observe. The servant did as Abraham instructed and he came upon Rebekah and, subsequently, her family. When he told the family who he was and what he was doing, they agreed, but the ultimate decision was left to Rebekah.

Can you imagine what must have been going through her mind? Even in a society where such arrangements were customary, she had never seen Isaac, she had never been where he lived, she had no idea what to expect. The decision was left to her. Her response (found in verse 58): "I will go." Her family had felt this was of the Lord, and she agreed, in spite of all the unknowns. What faith!

We face many unknowns, and that is a call for faith on our part. We are facing a major unknown even as I write this. We must always remember our faithful God is going before us, as he was going before Rebekah, to prepare the way. Following God does require faith, but we know that our faith will be rewarded. Follow the example of Rebekah and say, "I will go."

Pastor Steve
Tuesday May 05, 2020

Today is Cinco de Mayo. Many observe today as a holiday of sorts. The day may not be a universal celebration, but it is widely recognized in the United States and Mexico as a day celebrating freedom and liberty. It isn't the day Mexico celebrates their independence from Spain, that would be September 15, but it is nonetheless a significant day.

The event that inspired today s celebration was the defeat of vastly superior French forces by the Mexican Army under the leadership of General Ignacio Seguin on May 5, 1862. The battle took place in the Mexican state of Puebla, and it is there that this day is really given a lot of importance. Mexico suspended debt payments, leading to military reprisal by France. However, the French Navy and ground troops were rebuffed through the strategy of General Seguin; The French had to pack their bags and head for home.

It is fitting to celebrate liberty and a release from tyranny. We look forward to the time when we can celebrate our release from COVID-19. I would imagine there will be a good deal of celebrating then.

As followers of Christ, something else we can celebrate now is our release from sin's tyranny. We would do well to celebrate this on a regular basis. Read the words of Christ about being free: "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. . .very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. . .so if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." (John 8:31, 34, 36) Paul says, "For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin because anyone who has died has been set free from sin." (Romans 6:6-7) </p.>

Those who follow Christ have been set free from sin - that is a wonderful thing. So, celebrate your spiritual "Cinco do Mayo."

Pastor Steve
Monday May 04, 2020

Just last week, I saw a post that contained a picture of a banner that said, "Bloom where you are planted," with the caption, "This has taken on a whole new meaning." That is an accurate observation. We are where we are, not able to do all that we would like to do, our lifestyles altered from what they were just weeks ago, and facing struggles we had not anticipated we would encounter.

The adage "bloom where you are planted" is usually applied in a circumstance when we find ourselves in a place or a position that is not really our first choice, but we are unable to change the circumstance. That would be a pretty accurate description of what is taking place now. What we would do at those times where the adage "Bloom where you are planted" fits would be something we can do now. Actually, there are several "somethings." Some of these are from an article written by Paul Chernyak. Most of what I will say is simply a reminder of suggestions I have written before, but sometimes reminders are helpful.

A good place to begin is to remember that we are in control of our thoughts. Acknowledge that you can take charge of your attitude about the situation. Another "something" we can do is to acknowledge the change that has occurred. There have been changes, and will be others. Of course, we can include our realistic hope that this circumstance will change in a positive way at some point. Thirdly, focus on what you have, not on what you don't. Look for things you can appreciate. Another "something" is to try to learn from what you are experiencing. Now, I know it is easy to say, "Grief, do I have to go through this to learn that?" Yes, this is difficult, but this is all part of trying to channel what we are experiencing in such a way as to decrease frustration, not elevate it. Finally, focus on acceptance. I hope some time of reflection on these thoughts will be helpful to some who may be struggling.

Let me conclude with some biblical perspective. Jonathon is a good example of someone who "bloomed where he was planted." Although he was Saul's son, and according to the prevailing practice at the time would be next in line for the throne of Israel, he accepted God's decision to choose David as the successor to his father. Jonathon chose to be David's friend and supported him in any way he could, even working against his father to save David's life.

We read about Jonathon's decision in I Samuel 18:1-4, "After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself...And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt." He learned how to bloom where he was planted.

Learning how to bloom where we are planted is good advice for us in a number of situations. Practicing these principles and following the example of Jonathon is something that can be helpful as we are experiencing a time that has given new meaning to an old phrase.

Pastor Steve
Sunday May 03, 2020

This morning in our time of worship, I continue to explore the post-resurrection appearances of Christ that are found in the scripture. As to which one I talk about this morning, well, you will just need to join in the worship time with us to find out!

There are a number of people who do not believe in the resurrection. I addressed this somewhat in an earlier message. I remember reading about a lady in Germany who did not believe in the resurrection. However, in case there was one, she left instructions that large slabs of granite be placed over her grave and secured with steel straps. The irony here is evident - what is the reason for preparing for something, or against something, that you do not believe is real? Another bit of irony in this story is that, over time, an oak tree grew underneath the granite slabs, breaking the steel straps and the granite slabs they held. The power of life in the mighty tree was too much for the inanimate slabs placed on her grave.

As we celebrate the resurrection, we should be thankful for the power of God that gives us hope for eternal life. The dear lady mentioned above did not believe in this awesome power. I always find it interesting when I speak with those who think they can thwart God's plans and God's power, or simply are indifferent to his presence. I always pray that their heart will be changed.

Regardless of the opinion or belief of an individual, God has brought hope to us through the person of his Son. Paul writes in Colossians 2:10 & 12, "and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. . .having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead." God raised Christ from the dead, and He will raise those of us who have faith in Him from the dead.

Because of belief in Christ, we have the power of Christ within us, and know that we have the hope of life because of his power. The power of Christ in us will be too much for the constraints of death upon us. An old song says, "Ain't no grave gonna hold my body down." This may be bad grammar, but it is good theology. You will be raised from the dead if you trust in the power of God. No power on earth can deny that hope.

Pastor Steve
Saturday May 02, 2020

Upon a number of occasions, I have written about being silent before God. There is another time when silence is a good thing - those times when we are prone to say the wrong thing. We need to learn this discipline in our lives. We need to learn that it is often good to not say anything. We need to remember words can sometimes come out of our mouths that have the force of little missiles. There are times when we need to speak up and be heard, and there are times when the best thing to say is to have nothing to say.

This is especially good to remember at times when tensions are running high, or we feel as if we are under a great deal of pressure, or perhaps we are angry about something that doesn t seem to be going our way. Times of high emotion can cloud our judgement and lead us down a path that we usually would not want to follow. When this happens, we may make someone experience the brunt of careless speech and that is not good.

Job got to the point where he felt that way about what his "friends" had been telling him. We read part of his response to them in Job 13:4-5, "You, however, smear me with lies; you are worthless physicians, all of you! If only you would be altogether silent! For you, that would be wisdom."

In a 1964 song, The Four Seasons said, "Silence is golden, golden." Yes, it can be. Make every effort to strike gold when it comes to control of your speech.

Pastor Steve
Friday May 01, 2020

Today is the first day of May. I have always felt this should be a holiday for some reason. It probably wouldn t hurt to declare today to be a holiday. A little diversion might be a good thing for us right now, even though we would have to be creative in how we celebrate.

In the past, May 1 was a day of celebration. During the Middle Ages, there were some pagan observances associated with this day. In some countries, this is the day that is used to acknowledge labor and workers. Many years ago, there was an effort in the United States to try to get Labor Day switched to May 1 so that it would be in line with observances in other countries. That didn't get very far. For us, this is sort of just another day and not a "special day." But then again, maybe it is.

Psalm 118:24 says, "This is the day that the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it." So, regardless of our designation about this day, this is still a very special day as it is a day that has been made by God. This is a day when we can spend some time rejoicing in God's provision, and a day when we can be glad for God's presence. Now, because of our current predicament, we may not feel as if there is much to celebrate, but there is. When we focus of God's involvement and God's provision, there is always a reason to celebrate. We don't need for a day to have a special name or have a special significance attached for us to be able to celebrate. Yes, indeed, today is a holiday!

Pastor Steve
Thursday April 30, 2020

A new commercial by Pfizer starts out marvelously positive - "At a time when things are most uncertain, we turn to the most certain thing there is. . .science." The commercial contends that science knows how to ask the right questions that can lead to the right answers to help us solve the most difficult problems, including pandemics.

Now, you must understand, I appreciate the positive nature of this assertion, and I have no problem with talking about the importance of science. I like science - my undergraduate degree is in biology. Science has done great things. Careful research has led to vaccines for smallpox, diphtheria, measles, and polio. I hope, along with the rest of the world, that science can find an answer to COVID-19 to allow us to live our lives a little more comfortably. However, I would not go so far as to say that science is the most certain thing there is. There is a limit to the answers that science can give.

As people of faith, we follow a Savior that takes things up several notches when it comes to certainties. Science, along with all other disciplines that rely upon answers that humans can derive, falls short when it comes to absolute certainty about our life here and now and the hope of life to come. There is nothing wrong with wanting to enjoy life here and now and be comfortable in our lives here and now. We just need to remember that as good as life can be here and now, there will a time when life is no more.

That is why Paul says, "If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied." (I Corinthians 15:19) Science can provide certainties in many scenarios. I hope science might be able to provide an answer to our current dilemma. But science falls short in being able to provide an answer for the greatest question there is how can we live after we die? Christ has the answer here. He tells us, "Truly I tell you the one who believes in me has eternal life." (John 6:47) He is indeed "the most certain thing there is."

Pastor Steve
Wednesday April 29, 2020

"Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" Oh, grief, now I can't get that crazy song out of my head! "Which came first? The chicken or the egg? The egg or the chicken or the chicken or the egg?" Well, let me use my dilemma to start a conversation.

Which comes first - the heart or the head? Does our thinking transform our heart, or does the heart transform our thinking? According to Paul, spiritually speaking, the condition of the heart influences the working of the mind. He writes to the Ephesians, "So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts." (4:17-18)

Allow the love of God to work on your heart. A humble heart, transformed by the Spirit of God, is what is necessary in order for us to think clearly. Letting God transform your heart is what is necessary for you to align with God. Letting God transform your life allows you to put your mind to working with him to bring the message of transformation to others. Follow God with your heart and he will help you get your head straight!

Pastor Steve
Tuesday April 28, 2020

The other day, I was watching a robin in the front yard of our church. I enjoy watching robins as they hop around and pull those fat worms out of the ground. After their tasty meal, they fly to a nearby tree and trill a song of thanks for the bounty they have received. You never hear them complain about what they receive. They are content with what they find. They delight in what the Father provides.

We could take a lesson from the robin. Being content with what we have and with what we receive is the way to joy and peace in our lives. Being a chronic grumbler is not a good thing. I have shared the story of the malcontent who was never happy with anything. One morning his wife asked him what he wanted for breakfast. "Eggs," he barked. "How do you want them cooked?" she asked. "Scramble one and fry the other," he growled. The wife placed the plate with the perfectly cooked eggs in front of the grump. He took one look and complained, "You scrambled the wrong one!"

Paul says, "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 all this through him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:11-13) Keep this in mind the next time you want to complain.

Pastor Steve
Monday April 27, 2020

John points out a number of interesting little details in his Gospel. On many occasions, he is specific about time, numbers, and places. One significant detail he includes in the story of the encounter of Nicodemus and Jesus is that "He came to Jesus at night." (John 3:2) Why did Nicodemus do that?

Some have said it was cooler at night. Others point out that there would be fewer distractions. Many think it was because he wanted his visit to be secret; he didn't want to be seen. This last reason may have been the case at the time of Nicodemus visit, but if it was, there was a change in him that was indicated by his future behavior.

The next time John speaks about Nicodemus as the "one who came to Jesus at night," it was when Nicodemus was requesting the body of Jesus, along with Joseph, to prepare Christ for his burial. John 19:39 tells us, "(Joseph) was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night." If he was concerned about his first meeting with Christ, he certainly was not concerned now.

A true follower of Christ is one who will not "come to Jesus at night" to avoid being known. If you have had an encounter with Christ, you want others to know. We have been called to tell others. I Peter 2:9 is plain about that: "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." You came to Jesus at night, now step into the light!

Pastor Steve
Sunday April 26, 2020

On April 26, 1607, English settlers landed at the site of Cape Henry, named for Prince Henry of Wales. I will never forget this fact from history. When I was in the fourth grade our teacher, Mrs. Williams, asked for us to prepare for a test. We got out a piece of paper and wrote our names and the date at the top.

"OK, class, here is your first question. What is the first permanent English settlement in the New World?" "I know this!," I said to myself, then I blurted it out to all the class. "Jamestown!" Mrs. Williams just looked at me, her hands on her hips, and said, "Well, thank you. At least everyone in class will get one answer right!" This was just one of my many impulsive actions as I was growing up.

What was the immediate response of those who landed on the shores of what would later become known as Virginia? Their first act was to erect a wooden cross and commence a prayer meeting. Then, they ascended the James River, named for King James, and settled Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in America.

When you embark on new adventures or achieve success in new ventures, what is the first thing you do? Those who established the "first permanent English settlement in the New World" give us a model to follow in these scenarios.

In every way and in all situations, we need to acknowledge the primacy of the cross and the presence of Christ in our lives. Those who landed at what became known as Cape Henry could have done any number of things as their first act, but they chose to acknowledge the Savior and give thanks to God for their safety and for his continued leadership. When you experience success, or any good circumstance, or actually in whatever you do, what is the first exercise you pursue?

Let Christ know that you put him first in your life. Let your actions, whether they could be considered a "first act" or not, speak loudly about the place Christ has in your life. You may not be exploring a "new world," but make sure you speak clearly about your new life!

Pastor Steve
Saturday April 25, 2020

Researchers at the University of Virginia found that people often have difficulty determining the slope of a hill, especially when they are tired and are carrying a load. Most folks rated a 5-degree slope at 20 degrees and a 10-degree slope at 30 degrees. The hill just looked steeper to them than it really was.

This can happen in our everyday lives as well. When we are tired and worn down, problems can look bigger than they really are. Little issues that in reality are not all the difficult can appear to be insurmountable obstacles in our path. This is why we need the encouragement of God's Word, and the help of a tireless God. Isaiah 40:28-29 says, "Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak."

Right now, we are facing an issue that has the potential of wearing us down and causing us to be mentally, spiritually, and physically tired. This is especially true for the medical personnel and others who are experiencing longer hours and increased diligence because of COVID-19. We are facing a formidable foe, but it can look bigger because of our fatigue. Remember that when we face hills that look really steep, God will help us. With the sustaining power of God, we will reach the top. He will indeed "give strength to the weary and increase the power of the weak."

Pastor Steve
Friday April 24, 2020

I get a kick out of the theology you find in some pop songs. Needless to say, it usually isn't all that accurate. Take the song "The Last Kiss," originally recorded by Wayne Cochran in 1961. "Grief," you say, "that's old." I know, but I am an old(er) guy. Excuse me for the digression - back to the song.

The version of the "The Last Kiss" that was most successful commercially was the 1964 recording by J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers. It reached number 2 and earned the group a gold record. Pearl Jam covered the song in 1999. But enough rock trivia, what about its theology?

The song is about a young man whose girlfriend is killed in an automobile accident while they are on a date. The chorus states, "Oh, where or where can my baby be? The Lord took her away from me. She's gone to heaven so I got to be good so I can see my baby when I leave this world."

One could have a heyday with these lyrics, but one must remember that pop songs are not meant to be theologically accurate. However, they do reflect beliefs and opinions that are often widely held. I find the statement, "so I got to be good so I can see my baby," really frightening as I believe it reflects the thinking of too many.

I have found through personal experience that when you ask folks how you reach heaven, the majority of those who care to answer demonstrate the belief that heaven is attained by good living. Nothing could be further from the truth. All of us who know better need to do all we can to spread the truth. Ephesians 2:8-9 plainly states, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast."

"The Last Kiss" reflects a sad scenario - the loss of a loved one. However, the message of hoping for a reunion based on living good is sadder still. This will not happen. We cannot be "good enough" to attain eternal life. If we could, then Christ did not need to die. Reunions are assured through the work of Christ, not the works of people.

Pastor Steve
Thursday April 23, 2020

Hope means different things to different people. A bride, a cancer patient, a student before an exam, a sports fan, each has a different perspective on hope. Hope for some means having a positive perspective. For others, hope is a secret longing that is cultivated and nurtured. And for some people, hope is a wish, a possibility, or a preferred ending to some saga.

Followers of Christ live everyday with all of these varieties of hopeful thinking; but we also have another perspective to hope. We who trust in the promises of God have a hope that is created and nurtured by the Holy Spirit through faith in the statements of God's Word. Christian hope is more than optimism or a wish or a dream for a desired outcome. Hope sees the promises of God as an accomplished reality. Hebrews 11:1 speaks to this: "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." When we speak of hope, we speak of what is real, not what might be.

Hope is a wonderful reality. Having hope can help us deal with the question that comes up when we face a situation such as we are now experiencing with COVID-19. "Why?" is a question that appears in our lives as we struggle with an issue for which there is no readily obvious explanation. Hope helps us when there is no apparent answer.

The only time you read about any interaction from the Apostle Judas, the one who was not Iscariot, he asks a question at the last Passover that is not answered. He asks Christ, "But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?" (John 14:23) Christ continues his teaching, but does not answer his question. There is never any clear reason as to why Christ doesn't respond directly to Judas.

Judas is not alone in this experience. We share in this when the question "why" comes up in our lives and there is not a clear answer. We have a hard time understanding "why". This is a question being asked right now. Why are we facing this COVID-19 crisis?

Asking "why" is a natural human response to many situations. However, a more productive response would be willingness. We would do well to develop a willingness to realize there are things that take place for which there is no present answer to the question "Why?". This is not an easy thing. We want certainties and assurances. We can be so bold as to think we are entitled to explanations. But God sometimes chooses not to give us answers.

This is where hope comes in. This is where the issue of faith is important. We may not know the answer to the question, "Why?", but we do know for certain that we can depend on God and his love. I know this is a struggle for all of us. It is a struggle for our little community that has recently been hit hard with COVID-19. We struggle for answers and we struggle with our inability to do more.

Let's focus on hope - we are in the strong hands of God. "They who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will mount up with wings as eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint." (Isaiah 40:31) We need to do this because the opposite of hope is despair, and that will not be helpful for anyone.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday April 22, 2020

I am going to revisit an article I wrote some time back that has taken on new meaning because of the COVID-19 shutdown. In that article, I wrote about a house that I would pass frequently when I drove through a neighboring town. I drove by there earlier this week and was reminded of my earlier article. In my writing, I commented that, at one time, the house just seemed to need something. It looked unfinished. I couldn't put my finger on what it was, but it needed something.

Then, another house was constructed on the lot next door. The new construction seemed to be just what the original house needed as the appearance of the new house changed the appearance of the original structure. The older house looked more complete.

My point in my original article was that we, like the house, need others to help us be more complete. Even as the original house was enhanced by the presence of the new one, our lives are enhanced by the presence of others. If we didn't believe that before, our present circumstance certainly bears that out, doesn't it?

One of the aspects of our struggle right now is the issue of being confined and out inability to be with others. Something that we sort of took for granted has become one of our major issues.

If you find yourself struggling with this issue, focus on some of the positives that applying this technology has produced. I encourage you to do all you can to interact with others as much as you can using the means we have. Here are some positives I have been able to derive from the adjustments we have had to make. We have had more "family meetings" where we are all involved than we did before. I have been able to watch friends and family leading worship experiences. I have connected with childhood friends and even participated in worship experiences with them (virtually, of course). As much as I used the phone before, I use it even more now just to check of folks.

This brings up another thought - spend some time checking on others. Are there folks you know that don t have some of what technology has to offer? Perhaps they have a phone - give them a call! We can also write each other! Cards and notes are good anytime, but this timeless means of communication is still an effective way of providing encouragement. Let's especially not forget those who are on their own - reach out to them and see how they are doing. We are better because of having other people in our lives; we just need to be creative on how we interact with others at this time.

I see many messages through television and online that remind us that "we are all in this thing together." Yes, we are, and let's continue to think of others as we struggle within ourselves. We are experiencing the truth John Donne gave us years ago, "No man is an island." No, we aren't. We look forward to the time when we can be with each other again in the way we want to be with each other. Until that time, don't forget that we still have each other, and we have God's presence with us always.

God says to us, I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. (Joshua 1:5) Christ told his followers just before he left to go back to Heaven, And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:19) His presence enhances our lives. Even in this time of social distancing, let's see what we can do to allow our presence to enhance someone else's life.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday April 21, 2020

Chuck Colson, author of "Born Again" and founder of Prison Fellowship, died eight years ago today at the age of 80. People of my generation and older remember Colson as part of the Watergate scandal. Colson was an advisor for President Richard Nixon and was one of the "inner circle" that committed illegal activities as part of the Watergate scenario. These events led to the resignation of Nixon and jail time for others.

During the investigation, Colson became a follower of Christ after reading C.S. Lewis' "Mere Christianity." His conversion was met with skepticism and even criticism; however, the passage of time and his continued work in Christian circles, along with books he published, demonstrated the validity of his conversion. He became a staunch advocate for prisoners as well as an eloquent apologist for the Christian world view. During the waning days of the 20th century, he was one of the most recognized faces in evangelicalism.

Colson's life demonstrated the principle of redemption. His ministry demonstrated what God can do with someone who yields their life to Him. He would say, in the words of John Newton, "I once was lost, but now I am found."

This is the marvel of God's grace. No matter who we were, we can be changed by grace. What made Colson's ministry so powerful was that he never forgot who he once was and that he was only who he was in the present because of God's grace. Don't ever forget that it is not our efforts that have brought us to where we are, but that we have been "justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." (Romans 3:24).

Pastor Steve
Monday April 20, 2020

What is your reaction to being "slightly off?" Does hearing a musical note that is slightly off-pitch bother you? What about that cut you just made on the wood molding you are installing? Is it slightly off? Is that picture you just hung slightly off? Our degree of perfectionism usually determines how we respond to these situations where being slightly off is really not a major issue.

There are other times when you really don't want to be slightly off. Being slightly off in a turn you are making in a car could mean the difference between hitting someone standing on the curb or not. Do you want your surgeon to be slightly off when he is performing a procedure that is near some vital areas like a nerve bundle or a vital organ? The person who is the "target" in a knife-throwing routine certainly does not want the one throwing the knives to be "slightly off."

Another area where we do not want to ignore something that is slightly off is our behavior. Sometimes we dismiss certain offenses because they "really weren't all that bad." Sometimes we overlook a sin by saying "it wasn't that big a deal." This can be a dangerous attitude. Ignoring sin, whether considered "big" or "little", is not a good practice.

In I Samuel 13, we find Saul had that problem. Instead of waiting on Samuel, he offered up a burnt offering on his own when things looked bad for his army. Samuel confronted him about this and he replied, "When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Mikmash, I thought, 'Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the LORD s favor.' So, I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering." (vss. 11:12) Saul informed him that God had already found his replacement, someone after his "own heart." (vs. 14)

The issue here was obedience, and there is no such thing as being slightly off in our obedience of God's commands. We need to realize how important it is to follow God in the way that God tells us to follow him. Doing so brings blessing. Not doing so can lead to issues. Try not to be slightly off when it comes to placing your life in God s hands.

Pastor Steve
Sunday April 19, 2020

It has been a week since the resurrection and what a week it has been! We know that sometime during the evening a week ago, Christ appeared to his disciples in the room where they were staying (hiding?) They were overjoyed by his appearance. Perhaps there were other times during the week when they had encounters with him. Well, all of them except one.

John gives us the best outline of the week - "Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, 'We have seen the Lord!' But he said to them, 'Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.' A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, 'Peace be with you!' Then he said to Thomas, 'Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.' Thomas said to him, 'My Lord and my God!' Then Jesus told him, 'Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.'" (John 20:24-29)

Thomas was absent of the first Sunday, and when he heard about the appearance of Christ, he was a little incredulous in his response. I don't know what all Christ did the next week, but obviously he was never where Thomas was, until the next Sunday. Then comes one of the most fascinating meetings recorded in the Gospels. When Thomas sees Christ, his recognition is immediate. Christ really did not chide him for his "unbelief," but it was almost as if he said, "You need to believe whether you see me or not."

Many often remark, "Oh, if only I could actually see Christ!" To those who say this, Christ's response is like that to Thomas - believe me whether you see me or not! Christ is alive - don't use not seeing him as an excuse for not believing. It won't work. For more on this, join us in our worship time this morning.

Pastor Steve
Saturday April 18, 2020

Who is it that has made a difference in your life? Who is it that is making a difference in your life now? We sometimes get confused about who it is that really makes a contribution to our lives and the lives of others. Many think that those with power, authority, money, and influence are those who really make a difference in life. We mistakenly think that the only way we can make an impact on others' lives or to make a real contribution with our lives is to fit these criteria.

Some time back, I came across the following quiz in a newsletter of a church in a neighboring town. Taking this quiz should help us understand who it is that makes a real impact on others. Here are the questions:

Who are the ten wealthiest people in the world?

Who are the last ten Heisman trophy winners?

Who are the last ten winners of the Miss America contest?

Name eight people who have won the Noble or Pulitzer Prize?

Name the last ten Academy Award winners either for best actor or for best actress?

Name the last decade's worth of World Series winners?

How did you do? Unless you are a real trivia buff, you probably didn't do very well. Now, take this quiz:

Who are three people you enjoy spending time with?

Who are ten people who have taught you something worthwhile?

Who are five friends who have helped you in a difficult time?

List four teachers who have aided your journey through school.

Name half-a-dozen heroes whose stories have inspired you.

You probably did a bit better with this one. This goes to show us who it is that truly makes a difference. As someone said, "The people who make a difference are not the ones with the credentials, but the ones with the concern." I Thessalonians 5:11 tells us to "encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing."

We have a group of people who are striving to make a difference even now as we endure this pandemic. I am sure you know some of these people. Folks such as medical professionals and health care workers on all levels, first responders, food service workers on all levels, postal workers, teachers and other educational personnel who are doing their best to provide educational experiences for our children, and so many others who continue to provide essential services so that, even with existing restrictions, we have these services. They indeed are on the second list.

Don't forget to pray for these folks and don't forget to thank them when you have the opportunity. They are bringing encouragement in more ways than one. One thing I hope we can take from what we are now experiencing is a renewed understanding of who it is that actually makes a difference.

Pastor Steve
Friday April 17, 2020

For most of humankind's history, long distance communication was accomplished through written communication. Since the latter part of the 19th century, there has been an explosion of electronic communication methods that now include the ability to see each other while we talk regardless of where we happen to be on the planet. This has proven to be a marvelous asset during this time of separation. In our case, as with many others, Scherry and I are still able to see our kids and hear their voices.

I think about this a good bit as I wonder what it must have been like during the pandemic of 1918. The telephone was in use at that time, but certainly was not universally available. Folks did not have the ability to see and hear from each other during that time of separation.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both forms of communication, but one thing that vocal communication does have on written is that you can hear each other. Sometimes it is just good to hear someone's voice.

This is something we need to keep in mind as we think of prayer. Some often wonder "why pray when God knows what we are thinking?" Well, to put it simplistically, God wants to hear our voices. A great part of the joy of communication is hearing one's voice. God likes to hear our voices. This is why worship is not done in silence. We sing, testify, speak, and pray not just for us but to glorify God who wants to hear our voices. David makes a point of God being able to hear his voice when he writes, "In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly." (Psalm 5:3)

Now, God hears our prayers whether we pray silently or audibly, but I encourage you to pray audibly at times when it is just you talking with God. You don't have to do this every time you pray, but do it on a regular basis. An impetus to prayer is realizing what prayer does for us, and praying so that you can hear your own voice will remind you that you are actually speaking to a person. God wants us to pray. Let God hear from you, whether you pray audibly or silently. He really likes to hear your voice!

Pastor Steve
Thursday April 16, 2020

These are trying times because of the distance we have to put between other people and us. We are created to be with other people, and right now that basic act which we normally think nothing about is something we are thinking about a lot because it isn't happening. We anticipate greatly the time when things go a different direction and we are able to be with each other.

We also look forward to the time when the distance between God and us no longer exists. Now, we know that God is with us. We know that He is walking by our side, but we also know that we actually cannot be in His presence because of the limitations placed upon us by the fall. There is distance spatially and spiritually because of our current state. God told Moses, "You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live." (Exodus 33:20)

In the new heaven and the new earth, the distance between God and us will be removed. In the Old Testament, people saw God's glory as a brilliant light, but were unable to look upon Him. People saw God when Jesus came into the world, but His glory was hidden by His human form.

In the new heaven and the new earth, the veil will be lifted and we will be able to see the glory of God. The distance between God and us will be removed and we will be able to worship God and fellowship with God forever. Revelation 21:1-5 gives us a brief description of what this will be like: "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. . .And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Now the dwelling of God is with people, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.' He who was seated on the throne said, 'I am making everything new!' Then he said, 'Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'" What a great day that will be - no more distance!

Pastor Steve
Wednesday April 15, 2020

Yesterday, the internet was abuzz with pictures of a rainbow that formed over New York City at about 7 p.m. on Monday night. One writer pointed out that this was the time New Yorkers opened their windows and started making noise as a way of applauding all the folks on the "front lines" of the pandemic. This is an action that is gaining momentum all across the country. Another comment was that the appearance of the rainbow seemed to be a timely reminder of the hope that exists for the end of the struggle. Yes, it is.

Although rainbows are fairly common, they still command our attention when we see them. Something that is much rarer than a rainbow is a moonbow. Moonbows are phenomena that take place at just a few of the world's waterfalls. They are created when the light of the moon strikes the mist that arises from the cascading water of the falls.

The only waterfall east of the Mississippi where moonbows occur is Cumberland Falls near Corbin, Kentucky. I have visited these falls many times, but have never been able to view personally a moonbow. The conditions need to be just right in order to view a moonbow. The moonbow is only possible during a full moon on a clear night; there has to be enough moisture arising from the falls; the humidity must be in a certain range, and other factors weigh in for a moonbow sighting to take place. You have to be at the falls at just the right time, and you need to be at just the right place to see the moonbow.

As believers, we are in the right place to be able to see Jesus for who he really is. We can see Christ the right way because this ability is enabled through the supernatural operation of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Paul writes in I Corinthians 2:14, "The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit." So, Christ has made it possible to see Christ for who He really is.

Often, our view of Christ is obscured. We allow circumstances to get in our way of seeing Christ in the way that we should be seeing Him. We take our eyes from Him because of circumstances and situations that distract us and command our attention, present problem included.

Peter did that. Do you remember what happened as he was walking out to Jesus on the water? Matthew 14:30 tells us, "But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, 'Lord, save me!'" Taking his eyes from Jesus and focusing on the things that were happening around him put Peter in a precarious place. Christ responded, "Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. 'You of little faith,' he said, 'why did you doubt?'"

Does Jesus have to say that to you at times? Let's keep our focus on Christ in spite of what takes place around us. Actually, what takes place around us should drive us to focus on Christ. When we do that, we are in the perfect place to see the moonbow!

Pastor Steve
Tuesday April 14, 2020

I know you have heard the expression "A picture is worth a thousand words." This has been demonstrated to be true. We are far more likely to retain things when they are illustrated through a picture or a demonstration than things that are conveyed to us simply through the spoken word.

Some time ago, I read a story about two teachers in Texas that give evidence of the truth of this statement. Susan Willson and Al Balmer are chemistry teachers at the same high school and won the honor of Teacher of the Year at their school in consecutive years. Both of their rooms are marked with the evidence of demonstrations and experiments conducted to illustrate scientific concepts. Willson was quoted as saying, "If I can make a point with an explosion, I do."

God made a point with us not with an explosion but with something far more emphatic. Romans 5:8 says, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." What more do we need to show us that God's love for us is immeasurable? Through the message of the cross, God showed us how much He loves us. We just celebrated this demonstration of love. If a picture is worth a thousand words, what is the value of God's demonstration of love?

Pastor Steve
Monday April 13, 2020
Yesterday, church buildings all over the world were empty. Since yesterday was Resurrection Sunday, this statement has a little bit of oomph to it. No one alive has ever experienced an Easter Sunday like yesterday. Churches, for the most part, were empty, but through a number of sources and in a variety of ways, we were strongly reminded that the building is NOT the church. This is so true. Christ still reigns, and we have much for which we need to praise the Lord.

I wrote the following article about 8 years ago. So, of course, it is not a direct commentary on today's environment, but I still think it makes some good points for our contemporary experience. Let me share it with you.

I always feel a bit of sadness whenever I come across a church that has been closed. Now, I realize this is inevitable and that there are a variety of causes behind closings - population shifts, move to another location, internal problems, or a merger with another congregation. I know the closure is not always an indication of a deficiency or a failure, and not always a negative.

An important truth to remember that the building is not the church. The people make the church. When I see an old church, my thoughts turn to all the people that used that building as a place of worship for so many years. I think of the joy the building experienced during times of revival, baptisms, weddings, and other worship celebrations. I think of the sorrow felt there during funerals and other times of sadness.

Then, I am reminded that the church will thrive. This is the promise we read in the New Testament. Jesus said, "And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it." (Matthew 16:18)

Bill Gaither, reflecting on this promise, wrote the following song lyrics:

It's built on the rock, it's got a firm foundation,

It's been through the flood, it's been through the fire,

But one of these days this church is gonna move up higher,

It's the church triumphant oh Lord,

And it's built by the hand of the Lord

The existence of empty buildings is not an indication of the doom of the church. The emptiness of church buildings we now see is not an indication of the doom of the church. The church will thrive because of the existence of Christ. Built by the hand of the Lord, the church will continue through good times and bad.

Pastor Steve
Sunday April 12, 2020

John 20:11 says, "Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying." If you were reading this for the first time, you would not find anything unusual about this statement. Millions of people have done just what Mary did - stand beside a tomb and weep. I have both witnessed this and experienced this. Standing beside a tomb is somber and sad, and it is not surprising to find Mary crying beside the tomb of Jesus. However, reading further gives information that is surprising - the tomb is empty! John writes: "(The Two Angels) asked her, 'Woman, why are you crying?' 'They have taken my Lord away,' she said, 'and I don t know where they have put him.' (John 20:13) An additional cause for sadness for Mary was the apparent theft of the body of Christ.

Well, we know that didn't happen, don't we? Before Mary has additional time for her sadness to increase, a voice pierces the early morning air: "Jesus said to her, 'Mary.'" (20:16) Jesus was alive! Since this was true, if Mary wanted to continue to cry, it would have to be for a different reason.

Because of what Christ has done for us, the tears that appear when we stand beside a grave will change. As a matter of fact, because of what Christ has done for us, tears of sadness will disappear. Revelation 21:4 tells us, "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Christ's empty tomb means the tombs of all believers will someday be empty as well. No more tears! Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Pastor Steve
Saturday April 11, 2020

During the week of the crucifixion, today is a day of mixed emotions and reactions. There must have been a widespread amazement to the events of the day before - the darkness, the rending of the veil between the Holy Place and the Holiest of Holies, and the resurrection of many dead people. The followers of Christ are confused, devastated, and afraid.

The disciples found a retreat in a room somewhere in Jerusalem. Most of the soldiers involved probably went about their lives - they had done this before, although Matthew 27 tells us that some of them were deeply moved by the events.

I don't know what was going through the minds of Pilate and Herod - neither were strangers to crucifixions - but this one was different. Pilate had to think about the events of Friday as the religious leaders wouldn't let him alone even though he had done there bidding. They were worried. The scripture tells us they were worried that Christ's followers would come and try to take the body. So, "The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. 'Sir,' they said, 'we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, After three days I will rise again. So, give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.' 'Take a guard,' Pilate answered. 'Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.' So, they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard." (Matthew 27:62-66)

What about Christ? That is a good question. Many teach that He "descended into hell" to release captive saints that were waiting His deliverance. This is based on Ephesians 4:8 and I Peter 3:18-20. I take these verses to refer to His descent to the earth and His ministry there, not a descent into hell. We do know that He went to paradise - remember his promise to the dying thief? (Luke 23:43) As to what else He did during this time - well, we don't know everything about Him, do we? Oh, but we know what He will do tomorrow! My, what tomorrow will bring!

Pastor Steve
Friday April 10, 2020

What happened on this day, Friday, during the "last" week of Christ's life should go without saying. However, we need to say it; we need to rehearse the details to remind us of the incredible path that God chose that would lead to redemption for those who choose to follow. After the arrest in Gethsemane, there was a night of interrogation and abuse through the trials of the Sanhedrin.

As dawn broke, Jesus was taken to Roman courts before Pontius Pilate, then Herod, then back to Pilate. Pilate gave the people a choice - Jesus or Barabbas. We know whom they chose. Events raced forward like a flood - the scourging, the crucifixion, the darkness, the earthquake, the veil of the temple torn in two, the graves of dead saints opened, the seven statements from the cross, the spear, Christ's death, and, of course, the burial. All in one day - a day we call Good Friday.

Christ was born at night and it became day; he was crucified during the day and it became as dark as night. A divine exchange took place - he bore our sins upon him so that we may have freedom from sin. "Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous." (I Corinthians 5:12; 18-19) This is why we call today Good Friday.

Pastor Steve
Thursday April 09, 2020

Today is Thursday, Maundy Thursday, as we sometimes call it. The term "maundy" comes from the Latin word "mandatum" which means "command." It is the word from which we get our modern word, "mandate."

This is a day when we reflect on Christ's final commands. Christ gave his disciples some pretty definitive instructions on Thursday before his crucifixion. Matthew 26 tells us how he told the disciples where to go and what to say in finding a location for them to celebrate Passover. Verse 18 says, "Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, 'The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.'"

Before celebrating the Passover, he washes their feet and later tells them, "A new command I give you: Love one another." (John 13:34) During the Passover observance, he gives them bread and tells them "Take and eat; this is my body." (Matthew 26; 26) After the supper he gave them the cup and said, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." (26:27-28) He tells them to "do this in remembrance of me." (Luke 22:19)

Later, they would leave the room where they shared this last Passover and go to Gethsemane. There he would talk with His Father, chide his disciples for falling asleep, come face to face with his betrayer, be arrested, and taken before the Sanhedrin.

We need to remember his final commands as they tell us how we should relate to ourselves, our fellow believers, and our marvelous Savior. Make every day a "maundy" day by choosing to live by the commands of Christ.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday April 08, 2020

Wednesday of the week of Christ's crucifixion was a very significant day. Of course, all of these days are significant. Wednesday is significant as it is a day of planning and plotting. According to John 12:47-50, "Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. 'What are we accomplishing?' they asked. 'Here is this man performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.' Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, 'You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.'"

There it is - minds are made up, a decision is made, now the only thing left to do is to determine how to implement the decision. And, as this is being debated, in walks a man with just the ticket to put the scheme in motion. Judas "went to the chief priests and asked, 'What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?' So, they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over." (Matthew 26:14-16)

All is coming together for the religious leaders. What they do not realize is that they are setting in motion a plan that had been put together long before their present meeting. What happened on "Spy Wednesday," as some call this day, is not going to be a surprise to Christ. Still, when you think about it, all the diabolical plotting gets to you, doesn't it? How could they be so blind? A good question, but their actions will have consequences they would never expect.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday April 07, 2020

Monday night of the week of Christ's crucifixion seems to have been spent at the home of Jesus' friends - Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. He returned to Jerusalem on Tuesday morning and spent the day in teaching, in confrontations with the religious leaders, and in preparation of his disciples for life without him. He also spoke of paying taxes.

On Tuesday evening, Jesus and his disciples left the temple area, crossed the Kidron Valley, and made their way up to the Mount of Olives. As they were leaving the temple area, his disciples called to his attention the buildings they saw. To this, Christ replied, "'Do you see all these things?' he asked. 'Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.'" (Matthew 24:2)

When they arrived at the Mount of Olives, they asked him when these things would take place. There, Christ spent some time talking about a future time and what would take place. He gave signs that indicate when future things would take place. He emphasized the need for readiness by telling the parable of the Ten Virgins. (Matthew 25:1 13) He told the story of the talents. (Matthew 25:14 30) He wanted to remind his followers that they had only one life and they should choose to spend it wisely. They had an opportunity to determine how they would live; they should choose to live for the Lord. We have the same choice. After Christ finished his teaching, they walked back to Bethany to spend the night.

Pastor Steve
Monday April 06, 2020

Today is Monday of Holy Week. As I said yesterday in my message, we are going to walk along with Christ this week as he heads toward the cross. Yesterday we celebrated the entry of Christ into Jerusalem to the accolades of a huge crowd. (Matthew 21:1-11) Some think this actually may have happened today, which would have been Nisan 10, but I believe Christ s entry was on Sunday. People called out his name and showed their reverence for him as they treated him as a ruler that was being inaugurated.

After his entrance into the city, Christ went into the temple and cleared the temple of the moneychangers. He did this to demonstrate that God wants purity in worship. (Matthew 21:12-17) He feuded with the religious leaders and used scripture to show that what was taking place had been predicted.

As the day closed, Christ returned to Bethany, the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, to spend the evening. (21:17) He returned to Jerusalem on Monday. On the way to Jerusalem, he cursed a fig tree that was barren of figs. The disciples were amazed at how rapidly the tree withered. The tree is a symbol of outward goodness that does not come from the heart. We must realize that God wants service from people who have changed hearts. Unless one allows Christ to transform the heart, there will be no fruit. The result of no fruit is judgment - remember the teaching of Christ found in John 15:1-7? Fruitless branches are pruned, gathered, and burned. Remember that bearing fruit shows that we are in Christ, "This is to my Father s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples." (John 15:7) Let Christ clear your heart so that you can bear a lot of fruit!

Pastor Steve
Sunday April 05, 2020

When Jesus rides into the city of Jerusalem on a donkey, why does the crowd rush out to greet Him? The answer is found in Jewish culture and history. In Old Testament times, one of the ways a king was inaugurated was to get on a donkey and have a large retinue of people walk along behind him shouting, "Long live the King!" The crowd in the temple wants to make Jesus king. When they see Him riding toward them on a donkey, they use it as an opportunity to precipitate a coronation.

Sometimes we still do things to try to get Jesus to "do what we want." We often bargain with God to try to convince him to act in certain ways. When Christ came into Jerusalem the way he did in A.D. 33, he was doing so to show the people who he was, not to be who the people wanted him to be. His entrance into Jerusalem fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9, "Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey."

He indeed was the king, but before the coronation could take place, there needed to be the cross. It was important for us that Christ did not avoid the cross. Remember to take time to thank him for doing things his way, especially in light of what it cost him.

Pastor Steve
Saturday April 04, 2020

I have always been amazed at the testimony of Joni Eareckson Tada. Perhaps you are familiar with her. On July 30, 1967, 17-year-old Joni dove into Chesapeake Bay. Tragically, she had misjudged the depth of the water and hit the bottom with her head, fracturing her neck. She was paralyzed from the neck down.

After two years of rehabilitation, Joni came to grips with what had taken place and began a ministry that has reached millions with the news of how God provides enablement for us in our darkest hours. She has written 40 books, recorded several albums, paints, directs a ministry for folks with disabilities, and is an advocate for the disabled.

Joni writes, "This paralysis is my greatest mercy." She writes, "Heartache forces us to embrace God out of desperate, urgent need. God is never closer than when your heart is aching." She has helped countless people through her ministry. She encourages others with these words, "The times we find ourselves having to wait on others may be the perfect opportunities to train ourselves to wait on the Lord."

A favorite Scripture passage is Philippians 1:25-26, "Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me." Her desire is to help others and she uses her gifts that have been honed through her unique experience to do just that.

We are facing a time that has all the elements of a circumstance that could really bring us down. We were not seeking or expecting to be where we are now. Think of the advice Joni gives us and continue to look ahead with hope, look to God for help, and look at others to serve as best we can. Remember to "continue with (others) for their progress" in spite of what you think are limitations in your experience.

Pastor Steve
Friday April 03, 2020

Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 3:11, "He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart." Humans sometimes struggle in life because we want to know as much as we can about the whole, the purpose of things, the meaning of life so to speak. We have a desire to know the point of it all. This desire stems from who we are and how we have been created. This desire is one of the aspects that sets us apart from all the rest of God's creation.

Many folks get frustrated because they can't seem to find answers. The reason for the frustration is because they are not taking into consideration what Solomon has said is "in (their) hearts" - eternity. The meaning and reality of life cannot be fully understood and appreciated apart from considering life from the perspective of eternity.

We are eternal beings. If we are looking for meaning and purpose in our present existence alone, we will be frustrated. Cultivating an eternal perspective is necessary for us to truly see life as it really is. There is more to our existence than what we experience here and now. We know this from our study of scripture and from listening to what God says. However, we often fail to apply this truth to all aspects of our lives. Developing an eternal perspective starts with placing our lives in God's hands through receiving the gift of eternal life he has given us in the provision of His Son.

We need to look at our experiences with an eternal eye. We need to live our lives in such a way as to show that we truly believe in eternity. Our belief in eternity should influence how we make decisions, what we do, where we go, our relationships, and everything else. We need to live our lives here and now with the perspective of eternity. Doing this will make all the difference in the world. Our frustration will be diminished because we are living the way we should - with "eternity in (our) hearts."

Pastor Steve
Thursday April 02, 2020

I think I have used the following article before, but I could not find out for sure. I know I came across the story as I was going over some of my writing. I thought it might be helpful as we find ourselves in a situation where we can do little more than wait.

Scripture is replete with stories of folks who had to wait. Abraham and Sarah had to wait 25 years for a child. Joseph languished in an Egyptian cell for almost two decades. Moses spent 40 years in training before returning to Egypt. David waited 20 years to ascend to the throne of Israel. Do you see a pattern here? There are times when God calls upon us to wait.

Waiting is a faith-building process. There are times we do not have full understanding in the waiting process, but that is often the point. These are times when we learn to trust whole-heartedly in the wisdom of God.

Job declares in Job 14:14-15: "All the days of my hard service I will wait for my renewal to come. You will call and I will answer you." We may not like to wait, but know there is always a purpose for our waiting. God does not act randomly or capriciously. As we are patient, God shows us what he wants to teach us and helps us to build character. Through these times, he shapes and molds us into what he wants for us to be. Don t forget that God is working for us, not against us. "We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield." (Psalm 33:20)

Pastor Steve
Wednesday April 01, 2020

Yesterday, I was sitting in my chair in our front room contemplating the recent news of the extension of our "furlough" when a thought hit me, "This seems oddly familiar." I had sort of a déjà vu moment. Then, I realized the reason for the familiarity. Three years ago at this time I was doing essentially what I am doing now - working in my front room in the very chair I am sitting in now because I am more or less confined to my house.

Actually, three years ago I was a bit more confined because I was significantly less mobile. I had fallen and broken my leg. I had surgery to repair the break and was unable to put weight on the leg for six weeks. So, for six weeks, my activities were restricted, much like they are now. Now, the two events aren't exactly the same, of course. Everyone is confined now. Back then, church services still continued and I was back in the pulpit two weeks after surgery. Well, my wheelchair was my pulpit. Some guys would lift me up to the platform and I would get to preach to a live audience. That wouldn't work now - we are unable to meet at church.

As I thought about that time, I realized that some of the lessons I learned from my experience three years ago can help me now. I would like to share some of my thoughts with you with the hope that you may find them to be of benefit.

First, I learned to accept that I was in a situation about which I could do nothing to change. I could complain all I wanted, I could get irritated, I could get angry. But, much like now, none of these would change the circumstances. Acceptance seemed to be the best path.

Secondly, I learned to re-tool my thinking. Since I was unable to get out and do what I was accustomed to doing, what are some things that I could do? This attitude can serve us well right now. As Bing Crosby (among others) sang, 'You've got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative. Latch on to the affirmative, don't mess with Mister In-Between.'

Finally, I continued to focus on God and meditate on His promises. Concentrating on God and the Word God has given is something that helps us to cope with situations that are beyond our control. I have encouraged this before and I encourage this again we need to turn what is happening over to God. In the scripture, we are encouraged to "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." (Proverbs 3:5 - 6)

I saw God at work in my individual experience three years ago I know that He is still at work now. Some things may be different, but in many ways, they are the same. One thing I know; God brought me through what I experienced three years ago and He can bring us through what we are all now experiencing.

Pastor Steve