Monday April 22, 2019

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Sunday April 21, 2019

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Saturday April 20, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Friday April 19, 2019

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Thursday April 18, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Wednesday April 17, 2019

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

Before U were thought of or time had begun,

God stuck U in the name of His Son.

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

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

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

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

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

It even takes U to spell crUcified.

Isn't it thrilling and splendidly grand?

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

The stones split away, the gold trUmpet blew,

and this word resUrrection is spelled with a U.

When JesUs left earth at His upward ascension,

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

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

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

So many great people are spelled with a U,

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

It all depends now on what U will do,

He'd like them to know,

But it all starts with U.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday April 16, 2019

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Monday April 15, 2019

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Sunday April 14, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Saturday April 13, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Friday April 12, 2019

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Thursday April 11, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Wednesday April 10, 2019

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Tuesday April 09, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Monday April 08, 2019

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Sunday April 07, 2019

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Saturday April 06, 2019

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Friday April 05, 2019

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Thursday April 04, 2019

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Wednesday April 03, 2019

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Tuesday April 02, 2019

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Monday April 01, 2019

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Sunday March 31, 2019

Well, it's the last day of March. How is the weather where you live? Here it is rainy and cold. We even saw a smattering of snow yesterday. This shouldn't surprise us, especially if you go by the weather predictor that relates to March; you know the one, if March comes in like a "lamb" it will go out like a "lion," and vice-versa. March came in more or less like a lamb this year, and it is going out like a lion. Now, I don't know who first made this observation, but it seems to run fairly true. Of course, as with all things relating to predicting future events, it is not 100% accurate. But we usually don't expect perfection when it comes to most things, especially predicting the future.

Now, this may be true for our predictions, but it was not true for prophets in the time of the Old Testament. Deuteronomy 18:3 tells us that perfection was the test of a true prophet, "If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him." Elsewhere, they were told to stone false prophets. That is a stern test!

What does this mean for us? It means that the prophecies found in the scripture are 100% accurate. It means that since we can see how prophecies have been fulfilled, we can expect prophecies that have not been fulfilled to be fulfilled in the same way - with 100% accuracy. Most prophecy yet to be fulfilled has to do with the coming of Christ. We can expect his coming to occur just as it has been prophesied because of the test of prophets and because of the examples of already-fulfilled prophecy.

In Acts 1:11, we read this prophecy given by two angels at the time of Christ's departure, "'Men of Galilee,' they said, 'why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.'" We can rest assured this will happen. We may not have known for sure that March would go out like a lion this year, despite the "prediction," but we know we can trust what the scripture tells us about future things because of God's hand and direction. Trust Scripture's predictions! I guarantee you will not be wrong!

Pastor Steve
Saturday March 30, 2019

I don t know if you have ever seen the film "Amazing Grace," but if you haven t, you should. The song, "Amazing Grace," and the song's author, John Newton, have significant roles in the film, but the focus is actually on the efforts of William Wilberforce to abolish the slave trade in Great Britain. The film was in theaters long ago, and has been on DVD and streaming services for a while. The story of Wilberforce's efforts to abolish the slave trade is marvelous.

It took many people, of course, to make this finally happen. But the efforts of one man, Wilberforce, were very important. It truly was "amazing grace." Yet, even as "amazing" as it was, it cannot compare to the efforts of One Man on behalf of the entire human race. Christ's ministry on our behalf is certainly "Amazing Grace."

Paul tells us the importance of the One Man in Romans 5:15 & 17: "But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ."

Through one man's leadership and efforts, many people experienced liberty and the ugly institution of slavery was defeated. Through One Man's efforts, all who live can experience liberty from an even greater and uglier institution sin. This is truly "Amazing Grace."

Pastor Steve
Friday March 29, 2019

On MARCH 28, 1885, the Salvation Army was organized in the United States. It was begun in England by "General" William Booth in 1865, who conducted meetings among the poor in London's East End slums. Originally named the Christian Mission, he designed uniforms and adopted a semi-military system of leadership. This regimented structure is rather ironic when you consider the fact that Booth was sort of a rebel.

He began his ministerial career in 1851. However, he came into disfavor with the powers-that-be in the Church of England over his views of evangelism. He favored taking the message to the streets instead of reserving it for the cathedrals of the church. As a result, he eventually left the church and continued preaching throughout England in tents and open air meetings. His efforts led to the formation of the Christian Mission. His ministry grew and was later renamed The Salvation Army. Ministering among the folks in the streets, Booths "army" won many converts. Today, the Salvation Army is the largest Christian relief agency in the world. It started with one man who was not afraid to step out and do what he knew needed to be done.

What ministry do you see that needs to be done? Don't be afraid to step out and get busy! You may not start another Salvation Army, but what you do will no doubt be a needed ministry. Paul talks about meeting needs in II Corinthians 9:12, "This service that you perform is not only supplying the needsof God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God." The desire to meet needs is what motivated William Booth to step out and start a ministry. Are you motivated?

Pastor Steve
Thursday March 28, 2019

You have probably never heard of Brian Davis. Davis was "journeyman" golfer on the PGA Tour from London. A number of years ago, he was involved in a sudden-death playoff with Jim Furyk in the Verizon Heritage Classic PGA Tournament on Hilton Head Island off the coast of South Carolina. On the first play-off hole, Davis hit his approach shot over the green into a waste area. During his attempt to hit the ball out of this area back onto the green, his club came into contact with a stray weed. "What's the problem with this?" one might ask. Well, it violates a rule of golf that says you cannot improve your lie in a hazard area by moving loose impediments. The result is a two-stroke penalty. Davis' contact with the weed would be a violation of this rule. I think they may have changed this rule just this year, but it was in force back then.

Now, his infraction would likely have gone unnoticed, but he notified a nearby rules official himself when he realized what he might have done. Sure enough, a check of TV monitors showed he slightly grazed a weed during his back swing. What did this mean for him? Well, he had put the ball onto the green with a long, but makeable, putt that would have probably allowed him to continue in the playoff. However, calling the penalty on himself meant he essentially lost the hole. His opponent, Furyk, was safely on the green very near the hole. Any chance of Davis' winning his first PGA tournament was gone.

This story invokes a number of responses - "Why do they have such a rule?" "What difference did it make?" Many might marvel that Davis would call attention to the penalty on himself at such a crucial time. He could have just let it go and play on - who would be the wiser? The nearby rules official didn't see the infraction.

Well, that isn't what Davis chose to do. He put his personal integrity on display by pointing out the miscue, in spite of how minor and ridiculous the miscue might have been. To Davis, the issue here was not winning or losing, but maintaining honesty and preserving integrity.

How are you at those little moments in life when a "minor infraction" has occurred? Do you allow honesty to rule the day, or sweep the issue under the rug as just a "little thing" and go on your way? Proverbs has much to say about honesty and how God feels about integrity. We read in Proverbs 11:1, "The LORD abhors dishonest scales, but accurate weights are his delight." Proverbs 16:11 says, "Honest scales and balances are from the LORD; all the weights in the bag are of his making." Dishonesty is right up there at the top of the list of things the Lord hates - read Proverbs 6:16-17, "There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue."

The next time you are tempted to "just let it slide," think of God's attitude about honesty. Think of the example of Brian Davis. His honesty only cost him about $600,000 and kept him from any chance of winning his first tournament. As I am sure you have heard, "Honesty is the best policy!"

Pastor Steve
Wednesday March 27, 2019

In electronics and electrical circuits, there is a little component known as a resistor. The purpose of this component is to "resist" the electrical current to make sure the right amount of current is flowing through the circuit in a consistent way. This protects devices and keeps things functioning the way they should. Without these parts, the current could be erratic and potentially harmful to the device that is using the electrical charge to perform a task. A good resistor keeps the energy flowing the way it should. A bad resistor allows harm to come to the device by either impeding the flow of energy too much, or allowing too much energy through.

We need good resistors in the church. We need folks who have the temperament and the wisdom to allow the energy to flow the way it should. We need folks to recognize the danger of harmful decisions and proposed changes without impeding the decisions and changes that are necessary and helpful. This is having and using the gift of wisdom, or another word I think fits is discernment. Paul speaks of having the gift of wisdom in I Corinthians 12:8, "To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom." In Psalm 119:125, the psalmist asks for discernment, "I am your servant; give me discernment that I may understand your statutes." In Proverbs 3:21, a father tells his son, "My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight."

We need to be this way as much as we can. If we recognize we have a shortfall in this area, make sure you work with and listen to those who seem to be good "resistors." There are times when we need the voice of reason. Let's pray that we are good resistors. Let's pray that God will provide us with good resistors. They know the best way to take "charge."

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday March 26, 2019

Construction projects fascinate me. It doesn't matter if it is a small shed or a towering skyscraper, I have always enjoyed watching the progress of a building job. For the past several months, there has been a project just down the street from the church. I have enjoyed watching the progress. The foundation went in; then the steel for the framework. Then, the framework was wrapped with materials that make up the outside of the building. These, in turn, were covered with the product that makes up the exterior.

There was work going on inside as well - walls were framed and finished. At first, unless you knew, you really didn't know what the building might be. Now it is evident what it is a medical office building. The finished structure stands as a testimony to the efforts of many people who thought about it, developed a plan, and then put the plan in motion. I'm glad there are those with these abilities because if left up to people like me, nothing would get built. I think this is why I am so fascinated with construction projects.

Isn't that the way it is with our lives? God is working on us to make us what we will become. We are still works in progress. Some of you may not be sure what you are going to be, but God is still at work in you to shape you and mold you. Sometimes there are setbacks - things happen that are out of our control or maybe there are issues that are our fault. We make bad decisions that take us away from God's work in our lives. However, God does not quit. He continues to move forward on the project. He continues to work within our lives to do what is necessary to shape us into what he wants us to be.

Paul says in Philippians 1:6, "being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." If you are a child of God, God is working in your life to make you into what he wants you to be. If you have not allowed him to begin this work in your life, why not turn over the construction plans to Him? He is the expert when it comes to building lives. None of us have that expertise. If you relinquish your life to him, I know you will be fascinated with the results.

Pastor Steve
Monday March 25, 2019

Recently, I read an article in which various models of automobiles were rated for their dependability. Cars from Asia generally received good scores. Cars made in the U.S. generally received positive ratings. Surprisingly, European cars were somewhat disappointing in their scores for reliability. I thought this was all rather interesting.

When I finished reading the article, I was struck by a thought. What if God rated us according to our reliability? How would we stack up? What kind of scores would we receive for durability and consistency? If he was to use the fruits of the Spirit as standards by which we are measured, how would we rate? How is our faithfulness? What about kindness? Where are we on the goodness scale? Would we receive high marks for patience?

Paul gives us the standards in Galatians 5:22-23, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law." I hope you would score high in these areas. If there are areas of weakness, let's do what we can to improve. God wants to be able to depend on us. Let's do what we should to make sure he can.

Pastor Steve
Sunday March 24, 2019

David asked a very important question about 3,000 years ago, "How long, O Lord? Will you be angry forever? Will your jealous wrath burn like fire?" (Psalm 79.5). As we go through this season of Lent, let's remember that Easter is the once-for-all-time answer to this question.

Jesus took our place on the cross to appease God's righteous anger. He went alone to be punished: separated from God and deserted by his friends. The drama of how this happened is the story of Lent. . .Before the Resurrection comes crucifixion; before crucifixion comes prosecution; before prosecution comes betrayal, doubt, fear, rebellion, and sin.

As we journey through this season of Lent, let's remember our part in Christ's passion (suffering). Let's never forget it was for us Christ died, it was because of our sin. Take some time to reflect on this the next few weeks as we approach the holiest day in the calendar of the Church. Take some time to reflect on our weakness and our inability to please God apart from Christ. Take time to reflect on the fact that we, like his disciples, would likely have fallen asleep as Jesus prayed for deliverance in the garden, and, also, that we would likely have denied knowing him as he silently accepted his death sentence. Take time to reflect upon that Christ, in spite of all of our sin and shortcoming, gave his all for us. Christ answered the question of God's wrath - make sure you let him answer that question in your life.

Pastor Steve
Saturday March 23, 2019

I don't know how it was where you happen to live, but yesterday was the first day it really felt a little bit like spring around here. We have had some warm days, but these were followed by arctic blasts. It is late enough in the season where we can reasonably think the arctic blasts may be over. Anyway, even though it was still a bit cool and windy, yesterday really did feel like a spring day.

Isn't it so nice to have a day of sun and warmth after the long, cold, dreary, icy, snowy days of winter? Days like yesterday sort of get your juices flowing make you think about gardening, getting outside, fishing, golfing, and other activities. Please forgive me, I digress.

What I intend to say is that days of sun after the long cold winter are wonderful. Often, this happens in our personal experience. We experience "days of winter" where things are not going well. We feel shut in, cold, maybe even depressed.

God promises us days of spring after these times of struggle. Psalm 30:5 tells us, "weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning." Psalm 126:6 says, "He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him." Isaiah 60:20 gives us the promise, "Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end." What great promises! Remember, if you are still experiencing winter spring will come!

Pastor Steve
Friday March 22, 2019

In an interview that took place a number of years ago, Sylvester Stallone (think "Rocky" and "Rambo") said, "If I were watching a home movie of my life, I would shake my head in despair and wonderment. It's a comedy of errors." I am amazed at Mr. Stallone's candor. Of course, one usually cannot argue with hard evidence such as a recording of one's actions.

What if your life was being filmed? What would others see? Oooo - that might be a frightening thought. For most of us, this could be quite interesting.

If we knew our lives were being filmed and would be played back later, are there any changes we would make? Would we treat others differently than we do now? Would we be a different person in our family? Would we talk differently? Would we go to the same places? Would we be more of a helper and an encourager to others and less of an obstacle in their path?

Paul tells us in Romans 14:9-13, "For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat. It is written: `As surely as I live,' says the Lord, `every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.' So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way."

Paul encourages self-judgment in order to avoid being judged by God. In one sense, God is "filming" our lives. He knows what we do and what we say. Therefore, we should do all we can to live for him and to live in a way so as to be a helper for others and not a "pain in their side." Now, you may not win an Oscar for the role you play in the film you are making, but living a godly life puts us in good stead with our Father, and helps us to put others ahead of ourselves. This is how we should want to live. In the words of Rocky Balboa himself, "Go for it!"

Pastor Steve
Thursday March 21, 2019

Most of you are aware that there are no snakes in Ireland. This probably makes many of you wish you lived in Ireland. No, they were not driven out by St. Patrick as the legend says; there have never been any snakes in Ireland.

Many people fear snakes. My wife, Scherry, is paralyzed if she encounters a snake. I understand the fear to an extent, but I can't truly relate as I have no fear of snakes at all. I used to hunt them for pets when I was a kid. Still, I do appreciate the feeling many have around snakes.

Why is there such a strong fear of these animals among many people? That is a good question. Recently, I came across an interesting article that says the fear of snakes is probably genetic. You can read all the "slithering" details (no, not slimy details, snakes are not slimy) if you search "fear of snakes." I really don't know what to make of this; I'm not sure I agree. But the fact that snakes cause fear among most of the populace is not to be denied.

I have often wondered if it has something to do with the temptation of Adam and Eve. This would be speculation as well, but it makes sense. Satan took the form of a serpent to deceive Eve, and God placed a curse on the serpent. "So the LORD God said to the serpent, 'Because you have done this, Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel (Genesis 3:13-14).'"

Verse 13 could explain the fear folks have of snakes. Verse 14 is the really important part, as it gives us the reason why we don't have to fear Satan, even if we are afraid of snakes. Verse 13 probably refers to the critters we see crawling in the grass. Verse 14 refers to the critter we call Satan, and how he is to be defeated

What guarantees his defeat? His defeat is guaranteed by Christ's death on the cross. The statement "you will strike his heel" is an allusion to Christ's death on the cross. So, as we commemorate Christ's crucifixion, remember you don't have to be afraid of Satan, even if you are afraid of snakes. His doom is sealed.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday March 20, 2019

Today is the first day of spring, but in some areas, there is still evidence that winter is trying to hold on. While traveling upstate the other day, I saw little piles of snow still present. They almost appeared defiant in spite of the inevitable - they were going to melt away. Yet, regardless of this, here they were, standing as a testimony to what had taken place earlier winter systems that had passed through and left large amounts of frozen precipitation in their wake.

Sometimes we may feel like this as followers of Christ - solitary voices in the midst of a wave of opposition to our principles and to our testimony. We sometimes feel like we are alone and wondering if there are others out there who feel as we do. We worry about whether we are being heard - and we should be concerned because of the message we want to communicate.

The Bible reminds us that to stand for Christ sometimes brings opposition. Christ told his disciples - "Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets (Luke 6:23-2)."

We don't ask for this, we don't want opposition, we don't like conflict. But conflict is inevitable at times. When this happens - stand firm, continue to speak in a way that shows how you believe, don't hide your faith. Stand as a testimony to what has taken place - that Christ came to give his life so that we might have life. It sometimes is difficult, and we may feel a little solitary and out there alone - but remember God's presence and continue to be God's witness. You are not alone. You will see results.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday March 19, 2019

A popular television show in the 80's and early 90's had a theme song that contained the lyrics "Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name." It is nice to be known, to have folks call you by name because they recognize you and know you. Anonymity is overrated. We are made for recognition. We do like being known by others, to have others call us by name.

God is aware of this, of course. This is the way he made us. And he doesn't disappoint us when it comes to recognizing us. The scripture says that the God of the universe, the one who is able to call every star by name, knows my name and knows your name. Isaiah 40:26 tells us, "Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing." This same God who can call each star by name knows me and is totally aware of what is taking place in my life

If you want to go where someone knows your name, you don't have to go very far. God knows you and He is everywhere. That means there is actually nowhere you can go where your name is not known! . Matthew 10:30 tells us, "And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered." When you are faced with a problem that doesn't seem to have an easy solution, remember God knows you and will be there to help. If he knows and takes care of stars, he can take care of you.

Pastor Steve
Monday March 18, 2019

I need to be careful when I speak these words, but it has been two years since I have been in the hospital. Well, as a patient at least. Recently, I read a post of a friend of mine who is a little older than me and was experiencing his first hospital stay. I thought that was marvelous. Not the fact that he was in the hospital, but that it was his first time. By the way, it sounds like all is going well for him.

I continue to have doctor visits, as most folks do, and I have one particular malady that needs to be monitored, but at least I have been able to avoid the place with the funny beds. As I stated earlier, at least as a patient.

One comment from my surgeon after one of my more recent procedures was, "I cannot make you a young man again." That is a true fact. We have surgeries and treatments and hope they will help us regain what we once had. In many cases, they won't.

For the follower of Christ, there is a promise that someday we will be better than we ever were. I John 3:2-3 tells us, "Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure."

I know physically I will never be as I once was. This is the nature of our existence. I know that more changes are in store for me in this regard. But God promises me a future where not only will I be restored to what I once was, I will actually be better than I ever was. That is our hope as believers. This spiritual surgery will take place at his appearance. To this I say, even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Pastor Steve
Sunday March 17, 2019

Are you wearing green today? If not, you are in danger of getting pinched. I am not sure where that custom entered into the things done on St. Patrick's Day, but it sits on the shelf all through the year just waiting to be renewed on this day, just like turning the Chicago River green, or eating corned beef and cabbage, or drinking green milkshakes.

I have heard that the "pinch" originated in America in the 1700's. Wearing green supposedly made you invisible to leprechauns, who had a penchant for pinching people (pardon the pun). The pinch reminded people of this.

In the midst of doing whatever you are doing today to acknowledge all things green, don't forget the life of the person who got this day started. James Martin states that we most definitely need to remember the Patrick behind St. Patrick s Day. Martin writes, "Certainly a man worthy knowing about. For the Christian, Patrick poses an important question: would you be willing to serve a place where you had known heartache? And how much is the Gospel worth to you? For everyone, he offers a challenge: can you forgive the people who have wronged you? Could you even love them?"

These are pretty heavy ideals for a day usually marked with some lighter activity. St. Patrick manifested many godly traits in his life: forgiveness, love, patience, determination, singleness of purpose, and, above all else, a devotion to the Gospel. I don't know if this is entirely accurate or not, but it is almost as if the spiritual characteristics which he felt were the weakest in his life are those he worked the hardest to develop. These became his strengths and are the traits for which he is remembered.

The apostle Paul comments about becoming strong in our weaknesses in II Corinthians 12:9-10, "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

Pinch yourself today even if you are wearing green. Let this pinch remind you to focus on the weaknesses you think you have in your character. Give them to God and allow them to become your strengths. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Pastor Steve
Saturday March 116, 2019

It is one of the most joyous and terrifying moments of your life. Your mind races with fear, excitement, hopes, dreams, and plans. You are exhilarated and exhausted, paralyzed but purposeful. You have never known another moment that compares with this one. And as you look into the eyes of your newborn baby, you realize you never could have dreamed how amazing it truly would be. I had that experience for the first time 36 years ago last Saturday, which is the birthday of our oldest daughter, Stephanie.

In the same way, though John had seen the risen Lord before and had spent a lot of time with Him during His earthly ministry, nothing could prepare him for what the Risen, Glorified Christ would look like in all His majesty; it was terrifying and awe-inspiring. He wrote about this in Revelation 1:17-18, "When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: 'Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.'"

Many of us have seen numerous images of what Jesus might have looked like during His time on earth and possibly what He looked like after the Resurrection, but just as John was paralyzed by the sight of the Risen, Glorified Savior, we too will find ourselves unable to comprehend the moment when we finally see what John saw.

Bart Millard, lead singer of "Mercy Me" does his best to describe that moment:

Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel?

Will I dance for you Jesus or in awe of You be still?

Will I stand in Your presence or to my knees will I fall?

Will I sing "llelujah!"?

Will I be able to speak at all? I can only imagine, I can only imagine.

That may be all we can do for now, but someday we will do more than imagine.

Pastor Steve
Friday March 15, 2019

This is a repeat from last year, but because of the date, I am posting it again.

"Beware the Ides of March" is a line found in "Julius Caesar," a play written by William Shakespeare. Shakespeare's play is based upon the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 B.C. The date of his murder corresponds to the 15th of March in our current calendar, the "Ides of March." In early Roman calendars, March was the first month of the year, and the Ides of March was an important religious holiday.

According to the historian Plutarch, Caesar had been warned by a seer to be careful of the Ides of March. As he was on his way to a meeting of the Senate on that date, he passed the seer and said, "The Ides of March have come." The seer replied, "Aye, but they have not gone." At the meeting, he was attacked and killed by more than 60 conspirators, including his friend Brutus.

During the course of our lives, we will receive advice from a number of sources. Some of this advice is solicited and some unsolicited. Obviously, it is impossible to listen to all the voices and apply all of the suggestions and guidance we receive. Therefore, it is important to listen with discernment. We do need advisors - people whom we can trust to give us advice that will be in our best interests. We need people who will not just tell us what we want to hear. This is important personally, it is important in our vocational lives, and it is important in our spiritual lives. In addition, we should remember good advice can come from sources that are unexpected. So, don't immediately dismiss insights given from sources that are other than usual. Take some time to investigate and use some common sense.

Proverbs 19:20 tells us, "Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise." Julius Caesar is a person who gives us a good example of what can happen when you don't listen to advice.

A biblical example of someone who failed to listen to advice is found in the life of Reheboam. Reheboam was the foolish son of King Solomon who caused a divided kingdom when he did not heed direction from sources not in his "circle." II Chronicles 10:8 tells us, "But he abandoned the counsel that the old men gave him, and took counsel with the young men who had grown up with him and stood before him." The results were disastrous. "Beware the Ides of March," may be good advice for us as well! Don't be afraid to listen to others!

Pastor Steve
Thursday March 14, 2019

Richard De Haan once wrote about Hudson Taylor: "During one of his sermons, Hudson Taylor, pioneer missionary to China, filled a glass with water and placed it on a table in front of him. While he was speaking, he pounded his fist hard enough to make the water splash onto the table. He then explained, 'You will come up against much trouble. But when you do, remember, only what's in you will spill out.'"

So, what spills out when you encounter a troublesome situation? Let's say you are mistreated or misunderstood, do you respond calmly with patience, or do you respond loudly with anger? Living under the control of the Holy Spirit can help us with our response when we encounter one of life's jolts. We are encouraged in Ephesians 5:18 to "be filled with the Spirit." When we are controlled by the Spirit of God, our response to life's little surprises will be dominated by patience and kindness.

We cannot control our situations, but with the help of the Spirit of God, we can control our response to our situations. Let your inner being be dominated by God's Spirit.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday March 13, 2019

Susan B. Anthony died on March 13, 1906. She was a follower of Christ who made a significant impact on 19th century life in the United States, so much so that there is a dollar coin which bears her likeness and there is a statue of her in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. One usually associates her with her efforts to obtain the right to vote for women, something that actually didn't take place until fourteen years after her death, but she was also an outspoken foe of slavery. As a result of her efforts, she faced a good deal of abuse including having things thrown at her, angry mobs, death threats, and even being hung in effigy.

Have you ever wondered what it is that motivates folks to vigorously pursue activities in spite of harsh, sometimes violent, opposition? Anthony tirelessly pursued freedom for slaves and voting rights for women in spite of what she faced. Most of us find such a mindset a little hard to understand.

We need to be thankful for those who energetically pursue avenues of change in spite of hardships. Without these brave souls, many needed changes would be delayed and might not even take place at all. Anthony's pursuit of equality was fueled by her strong belief of the words of the apostle Paul, another person well-acquainted with violent opposition. In Galatians 3:28-29, we read, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."

Let's be thankful for those who devote themselves to a needed change. Let's be willing to take a stand ourselves in order to see God glorified and bring about something to benefit others. Sometimes change comes with a price, and be grateful for those who are willing to pay.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday March 12, 2019
I remember an incident when I was a young boy in school when two of my classmates got into a scuffle during recess. I knew that if they continued, they would get in real trouble, maybe even be expelled from school for a time. So, I intervened and broke up the fight. Another of our classmates said to me, "Why didn't you let them fight? It was fun watching them!" I disagreed and, for some reason, quoted Matthew 5:9 to him. I think I had just learned it in Sunday School or our youth group or something. This verse says, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." My classmate looked at me as if I had two heads or something and just walked away.

Those who seek peace in their lives, and do what they can to settle differences between others are truly blessed. Conflicts are inevitable, what we need are those with cool heads who can speak to situations where reason is needed to head off a problem. We have enough "hotheads" in the world. We need those who will keep calm when tempers flare.

Eric Liddell, after his Olympic championships, served as a missionary to China for 20 years. He died in a Japanese concentration camp during World War II. During his time there, he made a profound impression on those in the camp because of his efforts to preserve peace in stressful times. Even the guards noticed his penchant for conflict resolution. One guard upon his death commented, "He was a Christian, wasn't he?"

Are you known as a peacemaker or a trouble maker? You and only you can determine what you make.

Pastor Steve
Monday March 11, 2019

One of the things I learned from my mother was this, "Your actions speak so loud, I can scarcely hear what you are saying." Now, Mom said that to me over and over as I was growing up; and she reinforced the importance of this principle through how she lived before me.

Maxie Vaughn was an NFL linebacker who played in the 60 s and early 70 s. He played for the Eagles, Rams, and the Redskins, and was voted All-Pro 9 times. He also played in 9 Pro Bowls. Once, while playing for Los Angeles, he came to the sidelines and slammed his helmet to the ground after a rather bone-headed play. TV cameras caught the action. Sometime later, he was watching his young son play Junior League football. After making a mistake on the field, his son came to the sidelines, took off his helmet and gave it a fling. Vaughn confronted his son about this after the game. "But Dad," the son replied, "I saw you do this on TV!" Vaughn's response was, well, actually, he had no response.

Make sure your actions back up what you say. It is so easy to talk one way while we are walking another way. You aren't fooling anyone but yourself when you do this. We need to "practice what we preach." James puts it this way, "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? (James 2:14) Mom was right. Actions speak louder than words goes a lot further than "Don't do as I do, do as I say."

Pastor Steve
Sunday March 10, 2019

Many years ago, a charity fundraiser was held in Rochester, New York. Thirty people were involved in a "Touch-a-Thon." They were required to touch a red dot on a car. The person who kept "in touch" with the car the longest would win a new automobile. They could not break contact with the car at all, except during the 15-minute breaks they were given every four hours. After four days of competition, one woman and one man were left. The woman lost the competition when she reached into her purse to find a fingernail file. Once could say that she was "out of touch."

It is dangerous to become "out of touch" with God. Sometimes we let desires get in the way of our relationship with God. We let cares cause us to drift. We allow concern about trivial things to cause us to lose touch with God. Solomon warned against this in Ecclesiastes. There he writes of his own experience of losing touch with God because of his pursuit of all things worldly. We read in Ecclesiastes 2:10-11, "I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun."

Losing touch with God led Solomon on a pathway of discovering the meaningless. After a while of this pursuit, he realized that the most important path for a person is the one which keeps us in touch with God. He writes in Ecclesiastes 12:13, "Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man." In other words, the best thing a person can do with his or her life is to make sure to keep in touch with God. We often say to someone "keep in touch" just as a parting gesture. When God says "keep in touch," he really means it!

Pastor Steve
Saturday March 09, 2019

Behind every great discovery there is usually a story of great persistence, even when the discovery is "accidental." How many light bulbs did Edison make before he got it right? How many formulas did researchers go through before finding the most effective propellant for rockets? Did the Wright brothers fly on their first attempt? WD 40 is called WD 40 because it took 40 attempts to develop the right "water displacement" lubricant for aerospace applications. Persistence is an important quality when seeking the right result.

Another area where persistence is important is in our life with Christ. There are a number of examples of Christ honoring persistence among those seeking his aid. Some examples are the woman who had suffered from bleeding for 12 years (Mark 5:25-29); the centurion who sought aid for his servant (Matthew 8:5-13); and the Canaanite woman whose daughter was afflicted by a demon (Matthew 15:22-29).

Christ also spoke of persistence in our prayer life. Luke 18:1 says, "Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up." The story that followed was of a widow who continued to pursue a decision from a judge about someone who was giving her trouble.

Christ tells us to continue to pursue him with regard to matters about which we are concerned. The process of asking, seeking, and pursuing provides benefits for us. Often, we don't understand the process or the need for such persistence, but we need to remember that Christ is working with us through this time. What is being accomplished in our lives through our persistent prayer is in our best interests. Never forget that Christ will always deal with us through grace and mercy in our time of need.

Christ asks for persistence as we seek him. We demonstrate this trait in many areas of our lives - make sure we demonstrate persistence in our pursuit of Christ's will.

Pastor Steve
Friday March 08, 2019

On March 13, 1964 in Queens, New York, Kitty Genovese was attacked and fatally stabbed. What made her murder so compelling is that there were at least 40 witnesses to the crime who ignored her cries for help and simply let her die.

History repeated itself in Queens on April 30, 2010. Hugo Tale-Yax stepped in to help a lady being assaulted on the street. The knife-wielding attacker turned on Tale--Yax, stabbing him several times in the chest. Both the assailant and the female victim fled the scene.

Twenty-five people walked by Tale-Yax as he lay bleeding on the sidewalk without stopping to help. A 911 call sent helpers to the wrong address. Tale-Yax died from his wounds and his body was eventually discovered by emergency personnel responding to another call.

Events such as this are simply inexplicable. Much has been written about "the by-stander effect" and why people don't respond. To me, the answer is simple - people simply do not care. Apathy towards the plight of others is a real problem in our society.

We need to pray and work to make sure this attitude does not infect us. We need take steps in our lives to make sure that we are caring people who demonstrate caring principles in times when others need attention. Turning your heads from others and simply "walking by" should be an action that is foreign to the follower of Christ.

We need to be caring people because we serve a caring God. I Peter 5:7 says, "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." Indeed, He does. And since God cares for us so deeply, we need to emulate this trait in our lives and show deep concern for others. We need to show concern for others' spiritual, physical, and emotional well-being.

Don't let the "by-stander effect" pollute your behavior when you see others who could benefit from your help. Proverbs 29:7 informs us of the caring attitude we should have, "The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern." Be righteous - show your care for God and for others!

Pastor Steve
Thursday March 07, 2019

Some years ago, I found out that our house needed a new roof. I was a little taken aback by this, as the roof was not that old. I remembered that the roof had a guarantee, so I talked to the merchant where the shingles were purchased. The company that manufactured the shingles had gone out of business. So much for the lifetime guarantee.

We encounter this circumstance many times in life. Human promises can only go so far. However, God's promises will go as far as they need. His word is secure and when He speaks of a guarantee, we know bankruptcy is not possible. One thing that God guarantees is our eternal life with Him when we have trusted Him. II Corinthians 5:2 says, "Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come." Hebrews 7:22 tells us, "Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant."

When God speaks of a guarantee, we know we can put this down as something that is already done. What God has promised will be the way it is because God will never go out of business.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday March 06, 2019

"If you don't use it, you lose it." I know you have heard this statement many times. And, for the most part, this statement is true. We may have abilities to do a number of things, but if we don't keep doing them, we tend to become less adept in our performance. This is true with playing an instrument, operating machinery, speaking a language, just about anything you can think of.

I can think of many examples for me, but one that comes to mind is my botany skills. My undergraduate degree was in biology. I really enjoyed botany. Once upon a time, I could take you through an area of woods, grassland, or other terrain, and could identify just about every plant we might come across. I could tell you the family of the plant, the genus and species, and in many instances, a couple of beneficial characteristics about the plant. Well, that was 40 years ago. I am sorry to say that I have let that ability slide. I didn't use it; therefore, I have pretty much lost it.

The same can be said about our spiritual gifts. God has given to each of us. Ephesians 4:7-8 tells us, "But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: 'When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.'" Many of us fail to utilize our spiritual gifts, and are in danger of losing the benefit we derive from the gift. If we say we don't want to do something, or don't want to utilize the gift God has for us, God says, "Fine, I have other people with that gift. I'll use them!"

Don't lose your usefulness! Take the time to identify your gift and exercise your gift! God has given it to you not only for your benefit, but for the benefit of others. When you fail to utilize that which God has given you, you fail others! God gave you your gift, and he doesn't make mistakes!

Pastor Steve
Tuesday March 05, 2019

Paul and Silas were in jail in Philippi because they had released an evil spirit from a young girl that had allowed her to be clairvoyant, thus eliminating her ability to make money for her master. They had been beaten severely, put in chains, and imprisoned (Acts 16:22-24). At midnight, they were singing praises to God when an earthquake was sent that opened all the doors and released all the prisoners from their chains. The jailer was about to take his own life when Paul intervened, telling him no one was gone. Not one prisoner had left his cell. All these events - the singing, the earthquake, the fact that no one ran - had an effect on the jailer because his question was, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved (Acts 16:30)?" Paul's response was, "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved - you and your household (vs. 31)."

Those of us who are followers of Christ know the truth in this statement, yet we often allow the idea of belief to grow a little stale and cold. We almost take this act for granted. We take for granted the impact that our belief in Christ has on our lives. We don't allow our belief to grow and we forget what our belief means for us - we are saved! We are saved from a fate worse that what the Philippian jailer would have experienced at the hands of the authorities should the prisoners have escaped. We have become a new creation (II Corinthians 5:17).

A Bible translator working in Africa was having a problem translating the word "believe." He achieved a breakthrough when his assistant from the tribe suggested he use a word that translated "the heat in my heart." This is how belief should translate in our lives - the heat in my heart. There should be a constant burning because of what our belief means for us, because we have been freed from sin and the chains are gone. There should be a burning to do God's will and to walk more closely to him. There should be a burning to see others come to Christ. There should be a passion for the Savior and for his ministry. There should indeed be "heat in our hearts." We need to be like Jeremiah when he said, "his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot (Jeremiah 20:9)."

Let the fire of belief burn brightly in your heart - so brightly that you cannot hold it in but need to let it out! Others need to feel heat in their hearts!

Pastor Steve
Monday March 04, 2019

A few years ago, summer road construction projects were in danger of not being completed. The reason for this was a shortage of the special paint that is used for road striping. To be more accurate, there was a shortage of the additives that give the paint its special reflective properties. Consequently, since the striping couldn't be done when the roads were completed, the projects were in danger of being shut down as it would be dangerous for folks to travel on unmarked roads.

We need to make sure that we don't have a shortage of reflective properties in our lives. As followers of Christ, we need to reflect the character of Christ in our lives. Sometimes it seems as if we have a shortage of that which helps us reflect Christ to others.

Make sure you don't have a shortage of these properties in your life. People need to see Christ. The way they see Christ on earth is through our lives. Paul speaks of living in Christ in Philippians 1:20-21, "I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ." I hope you live for Christ, and I hope that for you to live is Christ. In this way, you will reflect his life for others with no danger of a shortage!

Pastor Steve
Sunday March 03, 2019

Some years ago, John Ortburg wrote a book entitled, "When the Game Is Over, It All Goes Back in the Box." We used a Bible study based on this book at our church. In the book, Ortburg uses the game of Monopoly as a metaphor for life and out attitude about life. The point of the study is to show that a philosophy of life based upon the acquisition and accumulation of stuff is incorrect because when the game is over, it all goes back in the box.

As I was thinking about games that are metaphors of our lives, one that comes to mind reflecting the philosophy of life we should have is Dominoes. The point of Dominoes is to lose all of your pieces. The first player to nothing is the winner. It is not good to have "bones" at the end of the game.

This reflects more realistically the attitude we should have as followers of Christ. We should realize that, with regard to material things, we came into the world with nothing and we will leave with nothing. Job said, Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart (Job 1:21)." So, it is better to work on giving away what we have for the betterment of others. It is better to live to glorify God with what we have. The second part of Job 1:21 says, "The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised."

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

Pastor Steve
Saturday March 02, 2019

Did you ever see the movie "Somewhere in Time?" The movie, which stars Jane Seymore and the late Christopher Reeves, is about a man who goes to sleep in a room in a hotel. He wakes up and finds that he is in the same room, but it is about a hundred years earlier. He meets a young lady with whom he becomes quite intrigued. Of course, the problem is she is in one "time zone," and he is in another. This makes for some interesting situations.

We don't have any choice as to what time period in which we are born. However, we can choose how we are going to live during our time in history. How are you choosing to live your life?

Mordecai pointed out to Esther that she was born for the time in which she lived. Esther faced a great dilemma - a dilemma that called for her to literally put her life on the line for the sake of her people. Mordecai encouraged her to make the right decision when he said to her, "Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this (Esther 4:13-14)?"

Living close to God will allow us to find ourselves in situations where we may have the opportunity to intervene in a positive way. We cannot choose when we live, but we can choose how we live. And "who knows but that you have come (to this circumstance) for such a time as this?"

Pastor Steve
Friday March 01, 2019

Today is March 1 and, where I live, March seems to be coming in sort of on the lamb side, but it looks like it is going to get lion-ish this weekend. Speaking of March 1, I find it hard to believe it is March 1 already! Wasn't it just yesterday that we celebrated New Year's Eve?

Virgil said, "Time flies never to be regained." Isn't that the truth? Let me throw something rather cosmic at you. Today is March 1, 2019. Yesterday we anticipated tomorrow being March 1, 2019. When March 1, 2019 arrived, it would be a momentous event in that it would be the first March 1, 2019, to ever be experienced. We are experiencing it right now (If you are reading this on March 1, 2019). However, tomorrow will be March 2, 2019 and March 1, 2019, will have passed into history, never to be experienced again. We will never again have an opportunity to do something on March 1, 2019. No one will ever be able to do something on March 1, 2019. It is gone. So, how are we doing with the day we have?

Of course, what I just wrote applies to every day we have. Bottom line: do what you can to make each day count. Psalm 90:12 advises us, "Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Ephesians 5:15-16 says, "Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity." Life is short - handle with care, or as someone further defined - life is short, handle with prayer. Have a happy day!

Pastor Steve
Thursday February 28, 2019

I have always heard that while Rome burned, Emperor Nero played his violin. Well, he more than likely played his lyre, as the violin was not developed until the 16th century. Why would he have been so nonchalant? Well, some historians think he may have set the fire himself. He wanted to burn the city so that he could rebuild the city and name it after himself. After the fire, he needed a scapegoat. Christians proved to be a convenient target for his false accusations. Nero was responsible for a horrendous outbreak of persecution against Christians. Christians were used as human torches, made to face wild animals in coliseums, and brutalized unmercifully. He likely was responsible for the deaths of Paul and Peter.

The results of the persecution were not what one might expect. In the wake of the incredible suffering, the Church grew, multiplying tremendously. Other times of persecution followed, each serving to cause the opposite of expected results. The message of Christ spread and thrived as a result of the persecution.

Historically, the church has thrived under persecution. God has a purpose for persecution. What would seem to be something that would destroy is used by God to bring growth. Yes, this is hard to understand, and this is why we need to look to God and not to circumstances in our lives.

Emily Sper wrote "The purposes of God are right, although we may not see, just how He works all things for good, and transforms tragedy." I Peter 4:12-13 says, "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed." Persecution is not desired, but those who think it is a means to destroy God's work are clueless to God's design.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday February 27, 2019

On August 1, 2007, the I-35W bridge across the Mississippi River near Minneapolis, Minnesota, was not able to handle the additional stress of rush hour traffic and collapsed. Thirteen people were killed and several more were injured. The stress was just too much, and harmful consequences were the result.

Humans face additional stress at times as well. We are designed to handle stress, but sometimes we may feel that we are approaching the point where we are exceeding the load limit. When this is the case, make sure you are doing what you need to deal with the stress. Get your rest, seek help from others, break the problems down into manageable events, and, most importantly, seek God's provision. God will allow stress in our lives, but trust in Him to not put more on us than we can handle. Trust in His provision, as did Paul. Paul referred to the promise of God, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (II Corinthians 12:9)

God will be there to provide strength when we face times of stress. Put the load on Him. Let God help you with what you face. In this way, harmful consequences can be avoided.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday February 26, 2019

I believe I have written about this before, but it bears repeating. We are good at transforming items that are supposed to be just a convenience in our lives into items that more or less command our lives. The telephone is a good example of this. Just a few short years ago, if someone tried to call you on a phone, you only knew about the call if you were physically present to answer it. Then came answering machines, followed by caller ID, and now, of course, cell phone usage is almost ubiquitous.

Cell phones were at one time an item of convenience, but now they rule our lives. No matter where we are or what we are doing, if that phone rings, we need to answer it. Recently, I saw an illustration of this in the parking lot of a food store. A man exited the store with a number of bags in both hands. As he got to his car, his cell phone rang. I heard him say something that I would not repeat orally or in print, drop all of his bags, pull out his phone and angrily answer the call. I thought, "Why did he have to answer the call?"

We have turned an item of convenience into something that dominates us. Why? Because we are good at doing this. We are good at taking that which should be a convenience or something that should be a relaxing pastime or simply a diversion, and making it the boss of us. What is bad is that we do this with just about anything except what, or rather who, should be the boss of us - God. And what have we done with God? We have turned him into a matter of convenience. We attend church, if it is convenient. We give, if it is convenient. We help serve in the church, if it is convenient.

The Pharisees did this. This may be an over-simplification, but they turned non-essentials into essentials and ignored what was truly essential when it came to the worship of God. In Matthew 23, we find a rebuke of the Pharisees given by Christ. In the midst of this rebuke, we find this statement that pretty well sums up the problem: "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices--mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law--justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel." (vss. 23-24)

We need to beware of transforming an item of convenience into an item of command. We should concentrate on that which is truly important. Buck the trend - it's more than a matter of convenience!

Pastor Steve
Monday February 25, 2019

Heroes are people who respond to a period of great duress in a strong and aggressive way to prevent a wrong from taking place or to do what is right. Hebrews 11 records the names of several people we might consider heroes because of the way they responded to negative circumstances and made a real difference. A common element these people shared was their faith. This is mentioned several times throughout the chapter. By faith these people made a difference in their lives and in the lives of those around them. They had a profound relationship with God that drove them to act in a way they knew was in line with who they were as a child of God in spite of whatever else they experienced or encountered

What is especially compelling about this chapter is that as we look at those who are mentioned, we know what is written about them includes their failures as well as their successes. We see the bad and the good in their character and their actions. This is encouraging because we see that heroes are normal people that neither live trouble-free lives nor are perfect in any way. So, in other words, you can be a hero. Now, you really should not seek to be a hero, but you should realize that you should seek to live faithfully. As you do, you will find yourselves at times called upon to respond in an unusual way in a difficult situation.

God calls us to live by faith and realize that at times our faith will be tested. Our focus should be upon our life before God and following him, knowing that he will not be all that far ahead and is committed to leading you in the right path. Hebrews 11:1-2 says, "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for." Follow the path of a hero; follow the path of faith.

Pastor Steve
Sunday February 24, 2019

Do you like brain teasers? I sort of like them. Anyway, I came across this one from Mart De Haan : "Imagine that you are a school bus driver. A red-haired student gets on the bus and begins combing her hair with a green brush. At the next stop two more students get on and say in passing that they like the color of the driver s new blue cap. As they walk to the rear of the bus, the shorter of the two shouts back, 'I wouldn't let that red-head stay on the bus if I were you. Her brush clashes with your hair!' What color is the bus driver's hair? Think about it." Yeesh.

There are riddles and brain teasers found in the scripture. Remember the story of Samson? He was into riddles. How about this on: "Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet"? Read Judges 14 if you don't recall this story. Of course, his thing with riddles was one of his habits that got him in trouble.

Another place in scripture where we find a riddle is in Nathan's confrontation of David after the debacle with Bathsheba. You can read about this in I Samuel 12. David demanded to know the name of the man that Nathan spoke about in his "brain teaser." You perhaps recall Nathan's blunt response to David's request for the man's identity: "You are the man!" (12:7)

Ouch. I would not have wanted to be the answer to this brain teaser. However, if you see yourself in some of the word pictures in Scripture, don't fume. Do something to make the necessary changes so you won't be the answer. The scripture has been given to show us what we need to do, how we need to live, and what we are doing wrong. If a scriptural teaching hits close to home, or "steps on your toes" as we sometimes say, then conform to the scripture! You don't need to be the answer to a riddle! By the way, the answer to the riddle in the opening paragraph is your hair color. Remember, you are the bus driver.

Pastor Steve
Saturday February 23, 2019

I have had a few hospital experiences and remember a question I was asked often, especially after surgeries: "What is your pain level?" The home care people who treated me asked me the same question. They want to know this in order to determine if I needed any pain medication. Usually my answer to this was that I was not in any need of meds. My pain level was tolerable or absent altogether.

None of us like pain. However, pain is an important reality at times. Experiencing pain when we don't know why we should be in pain is an indication that something is wrong that needs to be corrected. The location of the pain gives us an indication of what area is affected. The level of pain usually alerts us to the level of response that is necessary. The continuation of pain in the face of treatment usually indicates the need to go a different direction in the treatment. We wish we did not have to experience pain, but pain is necessary and can be beneficial.

Sometime ago, I was experiencing numbness in my fingers. Before I underwent a procedure to correct this, my inability to feel pain meant I had to exercise caution when touching certain things. I could touch something hot enough to burn my flesh without being able to sense that my flesh was being burned. The inability to feel pain was a detriment in this case.

God allows pain in our lives for a number of reasons. We do not like to feel pain, but pain is what helps us determine that something is wrong. We sometimes experience pain because of what we are doing. If this is the case, the pain is useful to warn us that we need to make corrections. Pain can also serve to remind us of what we should remember. Pain can be useful to show us what we need to do to change our character to become more like the character of Christ. Pain reminds us that our current existence is not all there is, and we need to have our eyes on more than just what we see.

Pain can also remind us of the pain that Christ endured on our behalf so that we might have hope of a life with him. Peter speaks to the presence of pain, "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you." (I Peter 4:12)

Remember, as much as we don't like pain, there are reasons for our pain and paths to be followed because of the pain. The pain you experience may help you guide someone else who is dealing with pain. Pain along our path is there to shape the path.

Pastor Steve
Friday February 22, 2019

On a number of occasions I have written that life has many "unexpecteds." Usually, I am referring to a negative event when writing or speaking about these incidents. However, they do not have to be negative. Often, they are of a positive nature, and often they are opportunistic. What I mean by this is an unexpected incident that gives rise to an unexpected opportunity for service.

Some time ago, a family on their way to services at our church had a flat tire, and didn't have a spare. I wasn't expecting a phone call of this nature that Sunday morning, but that phone call turned into an opportunity for service for the many that responded and helped the folks.

Philip wasn't expecting to encounter anyone when he, at the behest of the Lord, started making his way from Jerusalem to Gaza on the main thoroughfare (read Acts 8:26-40). On the way, he encountered someone who needed his explanation about the way of salvation. As a result, the day ended with a baptism.

We don't know what encounters we might have that will lead to an act of spiritual or physical service. We don't know what lives we will intersect by chance that will bring us an opportunity to help. We should pray each day, "Lord, help me to be prepared for those encounters I will have that I did not expect that will be an opportunity of service to others and to you." Titus 3:1 tells us, "Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good." Ask the Lord to help you to be ready!

Pastor Steve
Thursday February 21, 2019

A poor European family had saved for years for tickets to America. The father brought bread and cheese for them to eat on the passage. After some time, his young son said, Father, I cannot eat just bread and cheese any longer!" His father gave him some money for some ice cream. After a while, the son returned. "Did you enjoy your ice cream?" his father asked. "Yes," said the boy, "and also the steak, potatoes, and vegetables." "How did you afford all that?" asked the dad. "We get food with the price of the ticket," said the son.

I have heard a number of variations of this story, but all with the same point. As Christians, we often fail to take advantage of the provisions we have at our disposal. Paul encourages his readers: "So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority." (Colossians 2:6-10)

Don't overlook what Christ has for you in your Christian walk! Call upon him and depend upon him as you develop in your faith and strengthen your resolve. You have the ticket, bought for you by your Savior, and you don't have to live on just bread and cheese!

Pastor Steve
Wednesday February 20, 2019

Oliver Stone produced the movie "JFK" in 1991. The movie was controversial because Stone fudged on many of the historical details of John Kennedy's life and his death. When confronted about this, Stone replied that his attention to detail was not all that important. What he wanted to portray was the "mythic sense" of the details. This was his interpretation of what actually took place.

Now, there is a certain degree of poetic license available in the retelling of tales, but not when you supposedly intend to portray actual history, as did Stone. What took place happened in a certain way. Fidelity to the facts of what happened is the only way to preserve true history.

Paul struggled with this in the first century. Just a few years after Christ's death and resurrection, already many were starting to claim that it was not important to focus on a literal, bodily resurrection. According to some, one could maintain the event as a "spiritual resurrection" and be true to the event. I don t think so. When you want to portray historical accuracy, attention to what actually happened is important. This is especially true when you are speaking of the resurrection. In this situation, our future is entirely dependent upon an event of the past.

Paul maintains the truth of the resurrection in I Corinthians 15:3-8. There he writes, "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born."

Our future hope is based upon the reality of this historical truth. If it did not happen this way, our hope is jeopardized. Paul maintains the historical accuracy of the resurrection event. It happened, and we can have confidence in our position in Christ. There is no room for a "mythic sense" here. As a former professor of mine said, "When the plain sense makes the best sense, seek no other sense lest it result in nonsense." Makes perfect sense to me!

Pastor Steve
Tuesday February 19, 2019

I threw shot put and discus in high school. Now, I wasn't all that good, but I wasn't all that bad either. I usually placed pretty high in the meets and, occasionally, I would even win. When I first started, I was terrible, which is not all that unusual. I started getting stronger by lifting weights and practicing a lot. I started getting better with my throws. Then, there came a time with both endeavors when I sort of leveled off in my improvement.

I kept practicing, kept lifting weights, kept throwing, but nothing seemed to help me get any better. My coach (Lairmore Pearson - some of you may remember him) gave me some advice that proved to be beneficial at the time, and is something I have put into practice in other endeavors. He told me that when you get to a place where nothing in your routine seems to be helping you to move upward, you probably need a change in your routine. As a thrower, that meant I needed to change something about my technique to tweak my performance. I tried his advice, and it worked! Now, as I said earlier, I was never devastating in either of these disciplines, but following his advice, I did improve and became competitive.

I have put this advice in practice in other areas in my life, including my spiritual growth. When I feel I am getting in a rut and not progressing the way I would like in my spiritual development, I begin look for areas to make a change. For example, in my Bible study, maybe it means trying to get the meaning of a certain passage by looking at it from a different perspective. Sometimes taking on a new spiritual challenge, such as a new ministry endeavor, can be a change that can help break the routine and "tweak" my performance.

I encourage you to try this advice. Maybe there is some new service you haven't tried that you should. Maybe you need to change your prayer habits a bit to enrich your prayer experience. Perhaps you need to try a different pattern of Bible reading. Little changes can sometimes be the difference that will lead to big results! You know, even God speaks of doing "new things" for his people. Isaiah 43:19 says, "See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?" Try something new - you may be pleasantly surprised at the results!

Pastor Steve
Monday February 18, 2019
Amway has a slogan "If you look for something positive, you will create something positive." Now, I am not an Amway representative, but that is a really good attitude. Johnny Mercer wrote a song entitled "Accentuate the Positive." Some of the lyrics are: "You've got to accentuate the positive. Eliminate the negative and latch on to the affirmative, Don't mess with Mister In-Between." That is sometimes a little hard to do when we are facing circumstances that are dark and bring us down. Yet the words do offer a line of thinking that can be of help in times when we are struggling.

What can help you do this? First, develop a positive outlook. You are in control of your attitude, so make a decision to take control. What can help? Well, cultivate a desire for happiness and be willing to make changes if that would be helpful. Don't look at the circumstances and think that is all you have. A second activity that can help is to smile. Smiling makes things easier to bear. Third, learn to laugh at troublesome circumstances rather than brood over what you face. Another thing is to realize you are not alone. There are others facing what you are facing, and there are others facing things much worse. Developing a support system is an important choice. Family, friends, counselors, a pastor, are some who should be in your system.

Finally, remember the greatest source of support you have in times of trouble is your Heavenly Father. Now, I have placed this advice at this point in the list for no real reason. Looking to God for help is something that really doesn't need a place - this is something that should be understood. God is always there for you and will provide strength. In the midst of his despair, Job affirmed, "I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God." (Job 19:25-26)

One other thought - look for others you might be able to help. Giving of yourself is a way that can help strengthen you. This will help you consider what you have and remember who you are.

An example from scripture of some folks who maintained a positive attitude through a negative time are the residents of Jerusalem in Nehemiah. Nehemiah 4:6 tells us, "So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work." This positive outlook helped them overcome the criticism and interference of their neighbors, the ridicule of their enemies, the great odds of obtaining the materials and accomplish all the work needed to build and be victorious.

Do your best to look for the positive - it will help you overcome the problems and accomplish your goals.

Pastor Steve
Sunday February 17, 2019

A family was very excited about an upcoming trip to go visit an exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Dead Sea Scrolls are manuscripts that were discovered in caves along the Dead Sea between 1947 and 1956. They contain much of the Hebrew Bible and other texts and provide the oldest known manuscripts of the Old Testament in existence. They provide evidence of the accuracy of Scripture.

The family was thrilled at their upcoming opportunity to see them. They spoke of it often. Their little pre-school aged son got in on the excitement as well. He told a visitor, "We are going to see the Dead Sea squirrels!" Well, he was accurate in the excitement he conveyed in his announcement, even if he was not quite right as to what they would be seeing.

Do you convey excitement about God's Word to your children? We want our children to know God's Word and to use God's Word in their lives. One of the things we need to do in order to ensure that this happens is not only teach them what the Bible says, but show them how excited we are about God's Word. Values are transmitted to our children through not only what we say, but through the emotions we express. If we want them to have an excitement about learning the Word of God, our excitement about the Word of God needs to show.

Romans 15:4 addresses the importance of learning God's Word, For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Let's show our excitement about what has been written!

Pastor Steve
Saturday February 16, 2019

Artists amaze me in the way they can take lifeless materials and "create" life. They know just how to mix colors to give realistic effects. They know techniques that give a 3D effect on a 2D canvas. They can convey warm emotions through the use of materials that are actually lifeless and, in one sense, cold. Looking at the finished work of an accomplished painter is a moving experience, even though the object at which you are looking is stationary.

What amazes me even more is what God can do with that which is lifeless. Ephesians 2:1-5 tells us about his creative activity: "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions it is by grace you have been saved."

We need to be thankful that we have been made alive with Christ. If not, we would be just a mass of stuff with no future. Even as an artist can turn benign materials into a timeless masterpiece, God can turn hopeless individuals into people with a very bright future with Him.

Pastor Steve
Thursday February 14, 2019

Valentine's Day has been observed for a long time. The Church started observing St. Valentine's Day in A.D. 500. The day was established to honor Valentine, a cleric who was martyred by Emperor Claudius II in A.D. 269. According to many stories, he was executed because he refused to honor a ban on marriages declared by the emperor. The veracity of this is not substantiated, but Valentine was certainly real, and he was executed for some reason.

During the Middle Ages, the day became associated with romantic love. Later, lovers began sending love notes, i.e. "Valentines", to each other on St. Valentine's Day. Cards began to appear in the 19th century. Then, in the 20th century, Hallmark worked its magic on the holiday, and there you are.

Whatever the real story behind St. Valentine's death, it is indeed a story of love and faith. He was put to death because of his faith and his love for Christ, which made him a target of persecution by the political power at the time.

As you celebrate Valentine's Day this year, you can use it as a day to celebrate love for others, but also let the day be a reminder of the love God has for us. A love that was so great that he enacted an incredible plan for our redemption totally apart from our ability to do anything for him. In Psalm 31:21, David declares, "Praise be to the LORD, for he showed his wonderful love to me." Indeed, God has shown his wonderful love to all of us. We need to remember that love and celebrate that love. David also wrote, " How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings." (Psalm 36:7) That is so true! Consider this as you celebrate today! Happy Valentine's Day!

Pastor Steve
Wednesday February 13, 2019

A copy of the first Action Comics comic book which featured the introduction of Superman once sold at auction for $2.16 million dollars. The scarcity of the book makes it valuable. There are only 100 of these still in existence, and only a handful are in good condition. Scarcity of an item is what often sets the value. Diamonds, gold, silver, and other "precious" metals and gems are valuable because of limited availability. This is the case with many commodities.

I can think of something that is extremely valuable and is not in short supply - the grace of God that provides for us a hope of eternal life. You could not even begin to estimate what God's grace is worth. I Timothy 6:17 tells us something about what is valuable and what our perspective should be regarding value: "Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment."

God provides for us abundantly. God's grace is very valuable, but it certainly is not in short supply. Romans 5:17 says it this way: "For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!" God's invaluable grace is never in short supply!

Pastor Steve
Tuesday February 12, 2019

Jesus was on the road to Jericho, just days before he would enter Jerusalem for the final time. He had an encounter with a blind man. We read of this in Mark 10:46-52: "Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means 'son of Timaeus'), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, 'Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!' Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, 'Son of David, have mercy on me!' Jesus stopped and said, 'all him.' So, they called to the blind man, 'Cheer up! On your feet! He s calling you.' Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. 'What do you want me to do for you?' Jesus asked him. The blind man said, 'Rabbi, I want to see.' 'Go,' said Jesus, 'your faith has healed you.' Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road."

Cloaked within the obvious elements of this story - the question Jesus asked, the answer the beggar gave, and the response of the beggar after he was healed - is something not so obvious. Note the change in the address the beggar used. First, he called Jesus by his name, and called him "Son of David." Then, when Christ answers, the beggar responds by getting physically, spiritually, and emotionally nearer the Savior. This is inferred in from the term he uses to address Jesus after Christ's question, "Rabbi." The use of this term implied that he wanted a relationship with him. He wanted to not only get closer to Christ physically so he could be healed, but he wanted to show his trust and faith in him.

We should have the same desire. Christ has called out to us through the cross. Our response should be one indicating our desire to develop a relationship with him and to show we trust him and have faith in him. Call to the "Rabbi" today to show your desire to know him more.

Pastor Steve
Monday February 11, 2019

For most of man's history, long distance communication was accomplished through written messages. 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. Vocal communication is superior to written for a number of reasons. For one thing, it is just good to hear someone's voice.

That 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 voice. A great part of the joy of communication is hearing one's voice and 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)

Let God hear from you - he really likes to hear your voice!

Pastor Steve
Sunday February 10, 2019

It seems that you have to be careful if you are relying on a compass for a navigational tool. Since 1989, the earth's northern magnetic pole has been shifting towards Siberia at a rate of 34 miles per year. That has accelerated from 4 miles per year in 1904. So, one needs to be careful when using a compass. You might want to consider a GPS instead, as this device relies on technology that is a little more stable and therefore more trustworthy.

We have to be careful in our spiritual lives as well. We have to be careful with shifting values and standards. Society likes to adjust what is considered to be acceptable and right. We have seen a great moral shift in our culture in the last several years. We should not rely upon societal norms when it comes to what we accept as wrong or right. We need to trust something that is more accurate and not subject to change. God has given us a moral code in the Scripture, and we should rely upon what the Bible says when it comes to living a life that glorifies Him.

Living a righteous life is a sign of maturity. The writer of Hebrews says, "But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil." (5:14) Train yourself to distinguish good from evil. Follow the right instrument.

Pastor Steve
Saturday February 09, 2019

Complete dependence upon God is an absolute necessity if we are going to experience his power and his provision. Often, we only learn about complete dependence though bitter experience. When George Muller, a minister in the 19th century, was informed by the governing board of the orphanage he oversaw that there was no more money for the orphanage, he rejoiced. He told them their utter helplessness would make them depend more upon God. They did, and God met their needs.

Jacob was completely terrified about a planned meeting with his brother, Esau, whom he had wronged many years earlier. He knew that Esau was coming with 400 men the next day. Fearful of the consequences, he devised a plan to ensure the survival of half of his family.

That night, he met a "man" by a stream. The "man," of course, was God in human form. Jacob wrestled with him all night until the "man" touched Jacob's hip and caused it to be dislocated. Exhausted and in great pain, Jacob could only hold on to the "man" and plead for his blessing. Free from his own efforts and after expressing total dependence upon God, God told him, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome. (Genesis 32:28) The change in name indicated there was a change in Jacob. He was indeed blessed by God, and went on from there with God's blessing and a perpetual reminder of God's intervention.

You don't need to wrestle with God all night to receive his blessing. All you need to is declare your total dependence upon him. Then you can receive his power and his favor.

Pastor Steve
Friday February 08, 2019

There is now available 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 many sayings of Jesus that are 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 very challenging. Matthew 10:34 says, "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword."

Don't seek to tone down what Jesus said. Don't be selective in what you study. We are often picky in what we use to meet our own selfish needs. True blessing is found only in total obedience. Pay attention to all of his words! I have nothing against a talking Jesus doll, but remember Jesus is more than just a "talking head!"

Pastor Steve
Thursday February 07, 2019

Jim Thompson was an American who founded the Thai Silk Company, reviving what was a moribund industry in Thailand and providing jobs for thousands. On Easter Sunday in 1967, he strolled into a Thai jungle while on vacation and was never seen again. To this day, his demise is a mystery. However, this is only part of the story of his life. Since his death, it was discovered that Thompson was more than just a silk entrepreneur.

Even more mysterious than his death was the revelation that Thompson was perhaps a "double agent." While providing information to the U.S. Government concerning Communist activities in Southeast Asia, he allegedly was something of a Communist sympathizer who was involved in aiding Communist governments in that part of the world. Where does the truth lie concerning his life? This may never be known.

While it may be possible to have an "unknown life" and keep secrets from others, we must realize we can never keep anything secret from God. God knows the inner thoughts of our minds and knows what lies in the depths of our heart. Don't ever labor under the assumption that you can keep something hidden from God. This is just not possible. Luke gives us the words of Jesus: "For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open." (8:17)

The next time you think about engaging in an activity you think it going to be kept secret, remember these words of Christ. There are no Jim Thompson's when it comes to what God knows about us.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday February 06, 2019

God does the work of God and man does the work of man. When we keep this in mind, our lives can go much easier. 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.

King 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 went 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 February 05, 2019

Many times when I am on a long drive and still have quite a distance to go before I reach my destination, I think of the words of Robert Frost's poem, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening." Frost wrote, "The woods are lovely, dark, and deep. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep."

These words remind us of a character trait that is helpful in the completion of lengthy trips and tasks - perseverance. Perseverance is helpful in working through situations that are lengthy and may even be undesirable.

We often face tasks and experiences that require perseverance because they require time to resolve or complete. Driving a long distance is not one of my favorite things to do, but if I want to get where I want to be, I must be willing to endure the journey. Often it is that way with a situation in life. In order for the circumstance to be resolved, I must persevere.

Perseverance is also an important characteristic in achieving goals in life. Attaining a desired result often requires that we persevere. Markita Andrews was a young girl with a dream - she wanted to win a contest so that she and her mother could travel the world. At the age of 13, she set out to win the contest. She discovered that the secret of successful selling was perseverance. And persevere she did. Going door-to-door after school for hours each day, she shared her dream with potential customers and asked them, "Would you like to invest in my dream by buying one or two dozen boxes of cookies?" That year she sold 3,526 boxes of cookies and won her trip. Since then, she has sold more than 42,000 boxes of cookies, more Girl Scout cookies than anyone, ever. She realized she had "miles to go before I sleep," and sold cookies!

In Ephesians 6:18, Paul asks us to "Pray always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints" Paul taught that perseverance in important in our prayers and in our lives in general. Develop this character trait, and conquer those miles!

Pastor Steve
Monday February 04, 2019

In a TV special entitled "Child Hunger Ends Here," Al Roker reported that in our country 17 million children under the age of 18 go to bed hungry each night. This is happening all around us. This is happening in the richest country in the world. This is happening in the same nation that is struggling with an obesity issue. There are millions of children who are severely malnourished. Does this make sense to you?

I agree that there are a lot of issues and circumstances in our society that do not make sense but for me, this one, pardon the pun, takes the cake. As followers of Christ, we need to be concerned with such issues and do all we can to help others who are struggling to have enough food.

James tells us, "Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, 'Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?'" (2:15-16) The words of Christ should constantly ring in our ears, " Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you? He will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'" (Matthew 25:44-45)

Numbers such as I gave above sometimes overwhelm us. So, don't look at the numbers - look at people around you. I guarantee that you will not have far to look to see where you can do some good. And when you see where you can do some good, be sure to do it!

Pastor Steve
Sunday February 03, 2019

Are you going to watch the Big Game tonight? The Super Bowl, which will be played in Atlanta, will determine the NFL Champion. This year's game features a bit of controversy. Many think that the wrong team is representing the National Football Conference this year. In the NFC Championship game that was played two weeks ago, there seemed to be an infraction that was missed by the referees that led to Los Angeles defeating New Orleans and gaining a spot in tonight's event. Towards the end of the game, Nickell Robey-Coleman, a cornerback for Los Angeles, seemed to have committed a pass interference infraction against TommieLee Jones, a receiver for New Orleans. The referees did not make a call on the play and Los Angeles was given the opportunity to win the game.

Now, I don't have the time or the space to describe or discuss this occurrence any further, and my purpose is not to debate this play, so that is all I am going to say about that (thank you Forrest Gump). The debate still rages, and you can discuss this all you wish with others. What I would like to do is focus on one thing - the response of Robey-Coleman after the game. I do this not to "clear up the controversy," but to make a point based on his response.

Robey-Coleman admitted that he did it - that he indeed committed interference. He said he did so because he was beaten on the play, and wanted to stop a touchdown. He said, "I expected to see yellow after I knocked him down."

What the cornerback did was something we need to do. No, I'm not talking about refraining from committing pass interference. I'm talking about admitting fault if we do something wrong.

We all know the uncomfortable feeling of suddenly realizing that mistakes have been made, and the mistakes were our own. That feeling is almost always followed by the realization that there's a choice to make. You can admit the mistake, and take whatever consequences might be forthcoming, or you can try to hide your culpability and hope that no one notices. The latter path often seems to be the easiest path to follow, but it is not the best path. Being willing to admit your error shows that your value truth above falsehood. Being willing to admit your error shows that you don't feel that an admission of wrong is a sign of weakness. These are important principles in building trust in relationships. They are important principles in our relationship with the Lord.

Proverbs 28:13 tells us, "Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy." Be willing to admit your wrong when you do something wrong. This will clear up a lot of controversy.

Pastor Steve
Saturday February 02, 20192

Well, today is Groundhog Day. Isn't that exciting? If the groundhog sees its shadow, then it is six more weeks of winter. Usually, we would not want that. However, if we have six more weeks of what we are experiencing right now, that wouldn't be so bad. Of course, the first day of spring is March 20, so technically we would have six more weeks of winter whether or not Mr. Groundhog sees his shadow.

Groundhog Day originated in Europe and was brought to this country by immigrants in the late 18th century. Southeastern Pennsylvania was where it got its start here, and, as you might know, that is where the most famous Groundhog Day celebration is held each year in Punxsutawney. As with most traditions of this sort, it perpetuates because of our desire to know what is coming in the future.

Christ spoke to his disciples about times that were to come. He spoke of his return and the Day of the Lord that would be ushered in at some point in the future. He spoke of signs that would be harbingers of these events. He says in Matthew 24:32-33, "Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door." We don't know dates, we don't know exactly when, but we do know Christ will return. Christ, Paul, John, and Peter all encouraged followers to be prepared for this. We do well to listen to them, and we do even better when we encourage others to prepare. It has nothing to do with seeing one's shadow, but it has everything to do with believing God's Word.

Pastor Steve
Friday February 01, 2019

Haddon Robinson told the following story: "A soldier was standing at attention during a parade drill when he waved to one of the spectators. The drill instructor went over to the young man and growled, 'Soldier, don t ever do that again!' But as his company marched past the reviewing stand the young man waved a second time. When the troops got back to the barracks, the drill instructor barreled in and barked at the soldier, 'I told you not to wave! Aren t you afraid of me?' 'Yes sir,' the private replied, 'but you don t know my mother!'

The Scripture tells us there is wisdom in a healthy fear of God. Solomon wrote: "Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind." In Proverbs 15:33, "Wisdom s instruction is to fear the LORD."

Whom do you fear? We often live as if we fear people more than we fear God. We are more worried about our status with others than obeying God. Our fear of others often keeps us from speaking for Christ when we should, living for Christ in the way we ought, and standing for the Lord when the situation calls for us to show our faith.

Peter and John summed it up well when they faced officials who wanted them to keep silent about Christ. Peter said, "Which is right in God s eyes: to listen to you, or to Him? You be the judges!" (Acts 4:19) When our faith is challenged, we need to say, "You need to know my Father!"

Pastor Steve