!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd"> First Baptist Church of Newton, IL
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Here at the FBC our desire is to delight God by developing a church full of people whose integrity is beyond question, whose faith is beyond reason, and whose compassion is beyond compare. So come on in, look around, and explore the world of Newton FBC. We sincerely hope you enjoy your visit!

Jim Brackett
Sam White
Brad Tarr
Eric Schmidt
Steve Fear
Sunday Morning Worship
9:00 AM
Sunday School
10:30 AM
Sunday Evening Worship
6:00 PM
Wednesday Bible Study
6:30 PM

Tue Aug 4 07:41:47 2015

In his classic novel, "Moby Dick," Herman Melville chronicles the relentless pursuit of a great white whale by a maddened Captain Ahab. Ultimately, his quest led to his doom as the rope on the harpoon he throws at the whale entangles him and carries him to his death. His obsession with a fruitless quest led to his demise.

We must be careful with what we pursue. Going after the wrong things in life can lead to our entrapment and can cause our spiritual downfall. If we are pursuing earthly goals and quests seeking things that will not last, our search will ultimately become pointless and may bring harm.

Jesus gives an example of just such a person in Luke 12. The owner of the ground thought he had a good life because of his abundance, but none of the abundance he pursued was worth anything to him when his life came to and end (Luke 12:14-21). This is why he encourages us to pursue that which will make us rich spiritually. He tells us, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19-21)."

Be careful what you pursue. Don't go after "white whales" that will only bring you harm. Pursue the things of God and you will find that which will last.

Pastor Steve

Mon Aug 3 07:09:09 2015

Today is a holiday. "Wait a minute," you say, "This isn't a holiday - and besides, there aren't any holidays in August." I beg to differ. Today is my birthday. So, for me, today is a holiday. Birthdays were a bigger deal for me when I was a kid, but I still enjoy the time. The only thing about having a birthday at this time of the year was I knew that when my birthday came around, it would not be much longer before school would start. That was not something I really looked forward to when I was a kid. It isn't that I didn't like school really, I just enjoyed the unstructured days of summer and being free to have days of just messing around.

Having a fun time during the summer, celebrating my birthday, and having holidays are fun, and actually necessary, but there does come a point when some learning needs to take place. School needs to happen so I could learn what I needed to learn to do what I needed to do for myself and for others.

Followers of Christ need to learn and we need to spend time in "school". School time is part of our experience our entire lives. There is never a time when we shouldn't be learning and spending time finding out more about God and what we can do to live more effectively for him. Psalm 119:33-35 tells us, "Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees, that I may follow it to the end. Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart. Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight." School is in - are you learning?

Pastor Steve

Sun Aug 2 07:42:48 2015

I am going to have the pleasure of conducting another baptismal service in our morning worship today. This is a significant time for the one being baptized, and also a significant time for the church. Part of what I say when I perform a baptism is "in obedience to His command and in following His example." In a succinct way, I am stating two compelling reasons for baptism. As I think about this, these are also two compelling answers to the question we sometimes ask, "Why pray?" We should pray because Christ tells us to pray (Matthew 6:5-7) and also gives us an example of prayer (Luke 11; John 17).

There are many other commands to pray found in the scripture. In I Thessalonians 5:17, we are told to "pray without ceasing." Romans 12:12 encourages us to continue steadfastly in prayer. According to Psalm 55:17 we are to pray morning, noon, and night. Luke 18:1 says, "Pray always and do not get discouraged."

In addition to these biblical injunctions about prayer, we have the examples of prayer warriors such as Daniel, who prayed despite great opposition (Daniel 6:10). Part of the narrative on which we focus as we celebrate the Birth of Christ includes the story of Anna, who prayed night and day (Luke 2:36-37). Paul encourages us to pray and writes often of his prayers for others (Romans 1:9). Cornelius was a God-fearing soldier who was also devoted to constant prayer (Acts 10:1-2).

"Why pray?" we sometimes ask. We pray because of the many commands to pray and the many examples of prayer we find in the scripture. Don't neglect prayer!

Pastor Steve

Sat Aug 1 08:45:16 2015

When I was a kid we used to make an annual sojourn to Somerset, Kentucky, the hometown of Mom's parents. Well, my grandpa was a "city kid," but my grandmother was raised in a rural area near Somerset. We usually stayed at a little motel named The Somerset Court. This motor inn was distinctive as it had been constructed in three phases. The original part of the motel was a brick structure, then later came a structure that was also brick, and a final phase was a Bedford stone building.

The quality of the rooms correlated to the age and, of course, prices increased based on the newness of the rooms. We usually didn't stay in the "plush" rooms. As a kid, I remember wishing that we could stay in the stone motel just once. Once we did, and I thought that was so cool. I thought we were really big shots. We had climbed the social ladder.

This little scenario reflects how life is on planet earth. There are many who live in huge mansions while some occupy tiny huts. There are many in our world that are even homeless. Life on earth indeed is a class system. Some folks barely get by, while others live in the lap of luxury.

Our heavenly home will be not be ordered in this way. There won't be levels of existence giving some occupants cause to look down at others with the "others" constantly wishing they could improve their status in life. Everyone in that eternal home are there because of one reason - they are recipients of the grace of God. I know there are rewards given based on how one has lived his life, but no one will feel as if they are a "second class citizen." We are all going to be in the stone section.

Exodus 15:17 tells us, "You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of your inheritance, the place, Lord, you made for your dwelling, the sanctuary, Lord, your hands established." Our eternal dwelling with God will be a place where all will be on equal footing regardless of where they are planted on the mountain of inheritance.

Pastor Steve

Fri Jul 31 07:38:23 2015

I get a kick out of the sign that is on the back of dump trucks at road construction sites: "Don't follow into construction zone." The signs would seem to be a glaring example of stating the obvious - you shouldn't be in the construction area. Yet, the signs are necessary as a safety measure and to ensure that unobservant motorists don't get themselves in a real pickle. I believe these signs were made necessary because a vehicle followed a truck into a construction area and caused some issues. Doing so will certainly cause some issues for the car that shouldn't be in the construction site. There is potential for a variety of damage and even injury to the occupants of the vehicle.

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

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

Pastor Steve

Thu Jul 30 07:32:33 2015

What are you known for by those who are close to you? Is it your intelligence? Your passion for golf? Your love of music? Your love of your family? If someone interviewed the ten people closest to you and asked them, "What does he really like?" what would they say? I read about a man who seemed to be consumed with a desire to build up frequent flyer miles. He once bought $3000 of the same kind of pudding because there was a promotion offering frequent flyer miles for purchasing this brand of pudding. He received 1.2 million miles for this. It seemed he was consumed with the acquisition of frequent flyer miles, and he was known for his desire to build up the miles.

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

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

Pastor Steve

Wed Jul 29 07:50:26 2015

For the most part, I am an "interstate" traveler. I usually prefer the shortest distance between two points, the fastest route, the most efficient path between the starting point and the desired location. However, there are times I take "the road less traveled" (with apologies to Robert Frost). This is a good thing to do. Going this route usually forces you to slow down, you have to pay more attention to the route, and you most likely will take in some pretty scenery you would have missed otherwise.

We need to do this on occasion. Doing this starts with a conscious decision to change our path. I enjoy taking the road less traveled. I rarely regret going the slower route as it brings me closer to experiences I wouldn't have enjoyed otherwise, such as the time I found an incredible ice cream shop when we took U.S. 40 from Indianapolis to Terre Haute rather than I-70.

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

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

Pastor Steve

Tue Jul 28 07:59:27 2015

Did you keep some sort of growth chart on your children as they were growing up? There was a dear lady in our church who did so even for her great-grandchildren. When I would visit with her, I could see the marks on a particular door facing that were records of the growth rate of the children. My folks kept records on me and my two brothers. We kept records on our two girls as they grew. We wanted to make sure they were growing correctly and maturing properly. I was very interested in my growth rate when I was young. I always wanted to be as tall as my uncle, my mother's brother, who was 6 feet 5 inches. I didn't get there.

We need to be captivated by another growth rate. We should be interested in how we are growing spiritually. We should be concerned with our progress and development. We need to make sure we are getting along at the correct rate. We need to come up with some sort of spiritual growth chart so ensure that all is going as it should be in our spiritual process of maturity.

Peter encourages us to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." (II Peter 3:18) We should be concerned about how "tall" we are getting. Where's your mark on the door facing?

Pastor Steve

Mon Jul 27 07:47:53 2015

Years ago I remember helping one of my daughters construct a model of the solar system for a project in her science class. The model was not all that elaborate, but it was good, and it was to scale with our solar system. The project took a little bit of time and care on our part to complete. We didn't just go out to the garage and whip it out in an hour or two. We worked on it over several days.

I didn't think too much about this until just recently as I was reading an article on the recent "fly by" of Pluto by New Horizons and the images being sent back to earth. The time we spent putting things together on just a model cannot be compared to the brief amount of time it took God to bring our solar system into existence and put it where it is in the universe. Another thing I thought about was, "Where is that model now?" I remember seeing part of it in the garage years ago, but now it has all disappeared. However, the creation of God continues, sustained by the presence of Christ.

Colossians 1:16 & 17 tells us, "For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together." The sustaining power of Christ holds our universe together and will continue to do so. All we can do is make flimsy imitations of our wonderful world and all that surrounds it. And remember, the one who sustains the universe is the one that sustains you. Isn't that something?

Pastor Steve

Sun Jul 26 08:21:14 2015

Recently I have seen a commercial on one of our local TV channels for a roofing business named "Honest Abe's Roofing." A Lincoln impersonator is seen in a variety of circumstances that all play off the well-known honesty of our 16th president. Two of my favorite involve stories about Lincoln's honesty that took place when he was a clerk in a store in New Salem, Illinois. One related how he walked to a customer's home after closing to return a few cents in change that he had held out inadvertently. Another involved Lincoln taking tea to another customer when he found he had weighed her request incorrectly.

Honesty is a character trait that should be desired and displaying, especially by those who call themselves followers of Christ. However, you can be honest and still not very nice. God wants us to be both.

In Exodus, the character traits of honesty and kindness are brought together as principles that should be practiced by the people of God. Exodus 23:3 says, "If you come across your enemy's ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to return it." Straying animals are to be returned to rightful owners, even if the animal belongs to an enemy. In verse 4 we read, "If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help them with it." Kindness is to be expressed to those in distress, even if we don't care for the person experiencing the problem.

Honesty and kindness are a good pair that should be on display in the lives of God's people. We can be honest but mean, and we can be kind but dishonest. Put them together and you get a formidable partnership.

Pastor Steve

Sat Jul 25 09:15:58 2015

"I'm too blessed to complain." Now, isn't that an intriguing perspective? I remember reading this unique statement somewhere, and it left an impression. We are usually so busy focusing on the rotten stuff that takes place in our lives that we forget to look at the things for which we should give thanks. We need to concentrate on developing an attitude of gratefulness (you probably thought I was going to say "attitude of gratitude there", didn't you?), but our tendency is to pile on with the negatives.

We should realize that for all the junk we face, there are many good experiences that need to be appreciated. Instead of lamenting what doesn't go our way, we need to focus on the gifts God has given to us. Psalm 107:8 tells us, "Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind." We should focus on our gifts rather than our "lacks." Even when we experience the lows of life, we should focus on what we receive from on high. We are certainly "too blessed to complain."

Pastor Steve

Fri Jul 24 07:50:13 2015

Have you ever been in a position where you feel that you just can't do anything right? That is probably how the lady we read about in Matthew 26 felt as she faced criticism for anointing Jesus. "While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table." (Matthew 26:6-7) As a consequence of her actions, she was roundly criticized by the disciples who wondered why she didn't sell the expensive contents of the bottle and give the money to the poor.

The response of Christ is mildly surprising, as we know he indeed is a champion of the poor. Instead of joining in the criticism, he defends her actions and said, "When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her." (vss. 12-13) Among other lessons he wanted to teach from the actions of the lady is the idea of taking advantage of the living while we still have them with us. The disciples needed to become aware of the fact that they were not always going to have Christ with them. Not long from that very moment, Christ would start the events that would lead to his departure. They needed to take advantage of his presence while he was still with them.

As we think about the application of this for us, we should not only be thinking of the great gift we have through the continued presence of the Spirit in our lives, but we need to take advantage of the people whom God has placed in our lives while we have the opportunity to do so. As we think about these people, a family member, a friend, a teacher, a co-worker, or perhaps a mentor, are there things we need to say to them? Are there expressions of appreciation we need to show them while we have the chance? Take advantage of their presence and make sure we learn what we can, say what we should, and demonstrate our care while we still have the time. Life is too short and too uncertain to live any other way.

Pastor Steve

Thu Jul 23 07:35:14 2015

In the vows that I use when I perform a wedding there is a time when I have the bride and the groom pledge their love to each other "in prosperity or in adversity." The pledge is to be true regardless of the circumstances. The idea is that in either extreme, their love and commitment will remain.

The extremes of either of these states can be dangerous. It can be just as harmful to experience an extreme in prosperity as it is to experience extreme adversity. This is true not just in the marriage relationship but in our lives in general. Having too little can be life-threatening, but having too much can be life-altering. A person who has too much can encounter as much difficulty as the person who does not have enough.

Agur writes in Proverbs 30:8-9, "Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the Lord?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God." He asks to be kept from extremes, only wanting that which will be enough to sustain him. He is afraid that either extreme would interfere with his relationship with God.

We certainly want to be able to live in such a way that we do not have to worry how we are going to live another day, but we also should not covet more than we need. We should be satisfied with what we have and not constantly desire more, thinking that this will bring us happiness and security. The next time you find yourself coveting what you do not have, take a moment to consider the danger you may be placing yourself in with your lack of satisfaction. Craving what we cannot have can lead us into a life of discontent and bitterness. Gratefulness for what we have demonstrates our faith and leads to a life of peace.

Pastor Steve

Wed Jul 22 07:36:50 2015

Do you remember the show "The Weakest Link?" This show featured a number of folks who were presented with questions. Based on their responses, a "weakest link" was determined and was eliminated from the competition. One of the most entertaining features of the show was when a contestant was eliminated and the host of the show, Anne Robinson, would say, "You are the weakest link," with particular emphasis on "weakest link."

What is your "weakest link?" The "weakest link" in our lives that Satan likes to exploit is bringing doubts to our mind about God and about our relationship with God. Great people of faith such as Martin Luther, John Knox, and Increase Mather wrote of periods in their lives when they struggled with nagging questions and doubt. Luther wrote, "For more than a week Christ was wholly lost. I was shaken by desperation and blasphemy against God." This is what Satan likes to see: believers doubting God and struggling in their faith.

Jesus said about Satan, "You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies." (John 8:44) Satan wants to work against us, to expose our weakest link, in order to bring about doubts and fear in our minds. When this happens, we need to say to him the same thing that Christ did to Peter when he recognized Satan's invasion into their conversation, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns." (Matthew 16:23) We also need to remember how Christ dealt with Satan when Satan tried to "get inside his head". Christ used scripture, and so should we (read Matthew 4:1-11). Of course, this means we need to immerse ourselves in scripture so that we know it and have this resource at our disposal to shore up our weak link.

Saturate your mind with God's word so your faith will be strengthened. Then you will be able to stand if doubts appear and strengthen your weakest link!

Pastor Steve

Tue Jul 21 07:44:25 2015

When I travel in the summer, I encounter the same thing that all travelers face - road construction. There are times when I am forced into a single lane of traffic on an interstate that I ask myself, "Didn't they have this section barreled off just last year?" The answer to this may be in the affirmative, or it may not be, but whether right or wrong, construction is something that is ongoing and necessary. Indeed, roads that have been repaired will indeed need to be repaired again at some point. Use of the roads takes its toll, and maintenance is required.

God is at work in us to do what is necessary to make us what he wants us to be. He will continue to work within us, shaping and re-shaping, producing his likeness in our lives. We need to cooperate in this process by obeying him, trusting him, and allowing him to perform his maintenance in our lives. Paul writes, "he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:8)

God is building withiin you in a positive way. He will never do anything to bring you harm. He wants to shape you into a person that reflects his character for his glory. Let him continue the construction.

Pastor Steve

Mon Jul 20 07:58:58 2015

Today is the 46th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. The first time a person from earth set foot on a celestial body other than the earth took place on this day in 1969. As Michael Collins piloted the command module orbiting the moon, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped out of the lunar module onto the surface of the moon in the Sea of Tranquility with Armstrong declaring, "That is one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind." That was a special time in the history of man.

One of the men also thought it would be a good time to remember God. Buzz Aldrin, before the lunar module departed the surface of the moon, took the time to observe communion. He pre-arranged this with his pastor back on earth and had carefully packed the elements he would need for the observance. He called to Houston, "Houston, this is Eagle. This is the LM Pilot speaking. I would like to request a few moments of silence. I would like to invite each person listening in, wherever and whomever he may be, to contemplate for a moment the events of the past few hours and to invite each person listening, wherever and whomever he may be, to contemplate for a moment the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his own individual way."

We need to spend time on a regular basis rehearsing God's grace and the good things he has done for us. Psalm 103:2 tells us to "Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits." We should never forget what God has done for us. It should not take a momentous event such as a moon landing for us to spend time remembering God and all that he has done for us.

Pastor Steve

Sun Jul 19 08:07:19 2015

The weather this summer has made it tough to enjoy many of the usual summer activities that take place, however, people have found ways to get out and do things in between the monsoons we have had. I've missed being able to get out and enjoy these activities as well, although the reason for me is a bit different than most as I continue to recuperate. This begs a question - should I actually miss these activities or are they simply frivolous endeavors that we really shouldn't pursue in the first place? What about recreational activities or things we do simply for pleasure? Should these actually be part of our lives?

The desire for pleasure is not a bad thing. I cannot help but think that Paul must have been a fan of sporting activities as he used these for object lessons - read I Corinthians 9:24-27. He also writes about social events such as going out to dinner with other folks (read chapter 10). We are built to enjoy these things, and Paul also comments that God, "richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment." (I Timothy 6:17) We should enjoy activities simply for the sake of pleasure, but as with many things, we need to take care that our pleasurable pursuits do not become our primary pursuits.

King Solomon made this mistake and wrote, "I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure." (Ecclesiastes 2:10) Solomon stated that he put everything, even his work, ahead living to please God. Eventually he learned the emptiness of living this way and the folly of putting his own desires ahead of God's desire for him. He wrote, "He who loves pleasure will become a poor man." (Proverbs 21:17) Being involved in fun activities and pursuits that bring pleasure is not a problem unless we put them in the place of our pursuit of God. Solomon came to this conclusion: "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." (Ecclesiastes 12:13) This should be our conclusion as well.

Pastor Steve

Sat Jul 18 09:22:09 2015

Over the years, I have been blessed to visit some of the beautiful places that God has created on planet Earth. There are many I would still like to see, but I am grateful for some of the sights I have witnessed - rainforests in Costa Rica, sand dunes in Peru, mountains in the U.S., and other marvelous scenes.

Have you ever wondered what God looks at when he observes his creation? Have you ever wondered what he thinks about when he looks at what he has set in motion on Earth? What is it that draws his attention? The writer of Psalm 33 gives us an idea, "From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth--he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do. But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine." (vss. 13-15; 18-19)

God doesn't look so much on the wonders of nature as he does people - us. What does he see? What kind of view greets him? As he looks at his children, does what he see please him or does he wince at the sight of what is before his eyes? He looks at us with a heart of love and longs for us to trust him. He wants to help those whose hope is in him. He wants to deliver us and provide for us. Let's show him we appreciate what he does for us by giving him something really special to view!

Pastor Steve

Fri Jul 17 08:38:50 2015

There is a scene in the movie "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World" where Captain Jack Aubrey, played by Russell Crowe, tells his crew, "Although we are on the far side of the world, this ship is our home. This ship is England." Dennis Fisher commented, "Captain Aubrey's view of citizenship is based on loyalty, not location."

As followers of Christ, this needs to be our attitude about our current place of existence and where our citizenship actually lies. The writer of Hebrews talks about the attitude of people of faith, "All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country-a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them." (Hebrews 11:13-16)

We need to remember that though we are living on earth, our home lies elsewhere. Regardless of where we are spatially, as followers of Christ, home is somewhere else spiritually. Let's live as citizens of the land where we will be, not the land where we are.

Pastor Steve

Thu Jul 16 08:05:02 2015

Do you remember the t-shirts (and other objects as well) that read, "Virginia is for lovers?" Of course, you could substitute the name of any state. I just remember seeing these first in Virginia. That is putting a positive spin on the emotion of love. However, I read the other day a t-shirt that said, "Love is for losers." Quite a difference between the attitudes towards love expressed in these two sentiments. I think I prefer the former over the latter, and I hope you do as well.

Someone who would wear a t-shirt emblazoned with "Love is for losers" no doubt is someone who has been negatively affected by a relationship where love was expressed. Expressing love is not without its risks. People we love can hurt us, disappoint us, even leave us. You can experience loss from love. But that doesn't mean we should not love.

Paul is very explicit in how love should be expressed. He speaks of love that is expressed selflessly - not looking for anything in return, and has the best interests of those who are loved in mind. Scripture speaks better for itself here - listen to what it says about love, "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." (vss. 4 - 7)

We know this is the kind of love we are loved with by God. This is the kind of love we as believers should show towards others. This is the kind of love we should demonstrate in our relationships. Expressing and receiving this love would eliminate the "Love is for losers" mindset. According to Paul, this is love that "never fails." (vs. 8)

Pastor Steve

Wed Jul 15 08:03:13 2015

The recent Home Run Derby contest prior to the Major League All-Star Game was another tale of a local boy who does good. The All-Star game is being held in Cincinnati, Ohio, this year at Great American Ballpark. So, who ends up winning the home run contest? None other than Todd Frazier, the third baseman for the Cincinnati Reds, and the only member of the Reds who was voted to play in the game. What a great story, don't you think? The Cincinnati fans let folks know throughout the contest just who they were rooting for, and when Frazier hit the home run that won the contest, the ballpark went wild. Of course, this is as it should be.

Thinking of this brings to mind an incident where things weren't as they should be. Jesus had just finished being tested in the wilderness of Judea. He returned to his native Galilee, to his hometown of Nazareth. Luke 3:16 tells us, " He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read." He read from Isaiah and then told them that what they heard had been fulfilled that day. After some positive response, the interaction began to get testy when they started hearing some things from Jesus they didn't like. Tensions escalated, culminating with this scene, "All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way." (vss. 28-30)

Is that any way to treat a hometown boy who has done nothing but good? Not hardly - Christ certainly didn't get the "Todd Frazier" treatment that day. Of course, he rarely did. He endured a great deal of abuse and concluded with the cross. All of this for you and for me. Don't ever forget what Christ endured on your behalf - mistreatment beyond belief - even from folks in his home town.

Pastor Steve

Tue Jul 14 08:43:48 2015

Well, now, as opposed to global warming, a recent study released early this summer states that we are headed for a mini-ice age sometime between 2030 and 2040. According to an article in the Huffington Post yesterday, "Might want to start stockpiling those down jackets: The sun could nod off by 2030, triggering what scientists are describing as a 'mini ice age.' Professor Vlentina Zharkova of Northumbria University presented the frigid findings at the National Astronomy Meeting in Llandudno, Wales. Modern technology has made us able to predict solar cycles with much greater accuracy, and Zharkova's model predicts that solar activity will drop by more than half between 2030 and 2040."

So, which is it - are we going to get blistered by the sun because of the decline in the protective ozone, or are we going to freeze to death because the sun is going into a down time? Who do we trust?

I would imagine you know the answer to this question, and if you are having trouble coming up with a response, read Psalm 146:3-5, "Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God." When it comes to God's word against man's word, I know which one I will listen to every time.

Pastor Steve

Mon Jul 13 09:11:14 2015

Which is worse - telling someone you will do something and then not doing it or telling someone you will not do something and then doing it? Christ told a parable about this that gives us the answer.

In Matthew 21:28-32 we read, "What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work today in the vineyard.' 'I will not,' he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, 'I will, sir,' but he did not go. Which of the two did what his father wanted? 'The first,' they answered." Christ went on to say that tax collectors and prostitutes were entering into the kingdom ahead of those to whom he was speaking, the Pharisees, because they were acting and not relying on words.

Words can be powerful, but only when they are backed up with action. It is so easy to say we are going to help someone, but the proof of our intent is when we actually go help them load up their truck, or whatever. The same is especially true in our relationship with God. We can tell God how much we love him and how much we want to serve him, but we need to remember that the person who truly does his will is the one who actually does his will, even if he at first says he won't.

Which gets to you the most - people who tell you things but never back up what they say with actions, or people who help you, even if they at first said they couldn't? Remember your response the next time you make God a promise.

Pastor Steve

Sun Jul 12 12:13:29 2015

One of the many tasks I am unable to perform just now because of my recent surgery is taking out the trash. I am always happy to do this little chore as I want to eliminate the unwanted, unneeded, and undesirable as quickly as possible. This morning I watched as the trash truck came by, picked up our dumpster with the mechanical arm, and hauled away the refuse we did not want. It is always a nice feeling to see that stuff leave. Unfortunately, this is not a "one and done" instance. By next week, we will have the container filled again and have it out to be picked up and eliminated.

This needs to take place in our spiritual lives as well. We accumulate the unwanted, the unneeded, and the undesirable in our inner selves much in the way we produce these in our physical lives. We need to do regular "trash patrol" in our inner selves as well. There are impure thoughts that need to be disposed of, inappropriate fantasies that are dumpster worthy, and out-of-line feelings of anger or other emotions that should just be dealt with and put away.

These sins are that for which Christ died. When we turn these over to the Savior, we experience a feeling of satisfaction as we know we have done the right thing and have done what should be in order for us to continue to experience the fellowship with our Savior as we should. I John 1:9 tells us, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Make sure you take out the trash on a regular basis.

Pastor Steve

Sat Jul 11 07:10:15 201

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

This is what Christ does with us when we accept his gift. He does so much more than just simply "refurbish" us. Paul says he makes us new. II Corinthians 5:17 tells us, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" According to Paul, a new creation has come, the old has been completely removed. Isn't that marvelous? We are made new in Christ! No "refurbishing" here; nothing but new!

Pastor Steve

Fri Jul 10 09:42:03 2015

As most of you know, at this time I am recuperating from my most recent surgery - a total replacement of my left knee. I have a colleague of mine, Dan Smith, who is recuperating in a hospital in another city from a much more serious surgery to treat cancer. I can tell you of countless other friends being treated for various health conditions.

Some folks maintain that followers of Christ should not use medical treatments. According to their way of thought, using medical means indicates a lack of faith. Obviously, I disagree with their reasoning. Medicine is something given to us by God to be used as a means of improving our quality of life. We should be thankful to God for medical developments that help us to live more effectively and give us greater opportunity to glorify God through our lives.

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

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

Pastor Steve

Thu Jul 9 08:31:35 2015

A lot of chatter is being made about the relationship of Russell Wilson, NFL quarterback, and the well-known recording artist, Ciara. What has really increased the chatter is the revelation they are not having sex. In a recent LA Times article found on the internet, the following was reported:, "The Seattle Seahawks quarterback got all goofy about his lady in a sit-down with Pastor Miles McPherson at the Rock Church in San Diego on Sunday night, and in not so many words let it be known that he and Ciara had chosen to play it chaste. Despite the fact that he considers her the most beautiful, most kind, most engaging person in the world." Their decision to be chaste is being viewed as abnormal, which is not surprising.

Sex is an area we just don't get right. We really haven't since the beginning. God's intent is explicitly laid out for us in Genesis 2:24, "That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh." Sex was given to humankind by God for the purpose of procreation and enjoyment. This was to be enjoyed within the commitment of a monogamous relationship between a man and a woman. Of course, this is not the view of our society and because of pressure, we now have such actions as the recent Supreme Court decision re-defining legal marriage.

Alteration of mores and Supreme Court decisions do not nullify God's design nor his intent. I fear for a society that views the position of Wilson and Ciara as an aberration rather than norm. Of course, this debate will continue. Followers of God need to let God speak.

Pastor Steve

Wed Jul 8 09:43:49 2015

I have always enjoyed reunions, especially family reunions, whether of the "formal" or "informal" variety. Having moved from my home area along with my wife 37 years ago, these times of getting together with family and friends have proved precious over the years. These experiences allowed us to catch up with our family and friends, or simply to just spend time with family and friends, and enjoy each other's presence. The biggest down side to these events is that they didn't last. There was always a time when goodbye had to be said, and we would return home.

One of the great things about our experience in heaven is that when the gathering has been joined, it will not ever be dismissed. That will be one of the truly marvelous things about heaven. I cannot help but think that our time in heaven will be spent with loved ones and people with whom we will share stories and share our lives.

John writes, "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin." (I John 1:7) This verse describes what takes place in this life, and is something that will continue to take place in our lives in heaven because of what Christ has done for us. I know I will enjoy that reunion.

Pastor Steve

Tue Jul 7 09:51:57 2015

Pastor and author Eugene Peterson called the process of following Christ "a long obedience in the same direction." Every resolution to begin to obey must be followed by many decisions to continue.

We are constantly faced with issues calling for a decision to be obedient to Christ or to follow our own way and disobey. At times, weariness may set in because of constant confrontation calling for us to make decisions about our stand for Christ. We may wish this not to be the case and we may wish confrontations would just go away, but they won't. We live in a fallen world and our faith will constantly be tested.

Paul encourages us, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." (Galatians 6:9) Sometimes our constant battle against the influences that seek to pull us away from an obedient life can become very testing, even overwhelming. At those times, pray for the power of the Spirit to help you, continue to walk the right direction, persevere in obedience even though disobedience may be easier, and look ahead to the results that occur when you are obedient. Look forward to the harvest that obedience brings.

Pastor Steve

Mon Jul 6 08:49:53 2015

This is the first article I have actually written since my surgery last Tuesday. Well, I wrote all the others, but I wrote them before I went for surgery. I am creeping back into activities, and this is the essentially the first "ministry related" activity as it requires only the use of computer in my lap driven by the brain that I hope still exists in my head working through the fingers I have on my hands.

My experience thus far has been similar in most respects to my previous surgeries, but has also been a bit different in that I have found myself being surprisingly impatient. I don't know how to answer that, as you would think I would be familiar to the routine especially since this surgery was so close to my previous knee replacement. I have had surgeries this close together before - my back surgery in October of 2010 followed by my hip surgery of January 2011, but I don't recall the "antsyness" becoming so profound so quickly with those surgeries. I probably am just getting tired of surgery. Well, that may be so, but that doesn't have much bearing on reality, and I accept that. I needed the surgery, knowing it would mean I would have to start over again with my therapy.

This may be one issue - I had really just gotten to a place where my therapy was not so arduous and now, of course, it is. Regardless of the arduous nature of the therapy, and the fact I am "starting over," I will do the therapy, I know that the consequence to not doing the therapy is not good. And to know what is good to do but not do it is really dumb.

James writes about something similar to this in two locations in his epistle. First, In James 1:22 - 25 we read, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it--not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it--they will be blessed in what they do." We also find this blunt statement in James 4:17, "If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesnít do it, it is sin for them."

Despite my feelings of "restlessness" or whatever, it I do not do what I know I should, I will pay for it. So it is in our spiritual lives - we need to do what we know we should.

Pastor Steve

Sun Jul 5 07:10:15 201

When I was in college a professor made a mistake posting the final grade I received in his class. I went to speak with him about the mistake, and was assured that all would be taken of. However, when I checked after a period of time, the grade had not been changed. I went to speak to the professor and was assured all would be well. To make a long story short, it took a couple of more trips to the professor and a trip to the dean of the college before action was taken to alleviate the situation. I remember the dean's comments, "Well, don't be too hard on the professor. He is a good teacher, but he sometimes isn't all that dependable." Ouch. And I found out later that the dean was a good friend of the professor. He was also honest.

Do people say that about you? One of the most important characteristics we should manifest as believers is faithfulness. People need to know they can depend on us. We should be faithful in our lives before others and before God. We should show our heavenly Father that we are someone on whom he can depend.

Paul lists faithfulness as one of the fruits of the spirit that needs to be cultivated (Galatians 5:22). He also writes in I Corinthians 4:2, "Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful." Christ spoke of the need for faithfulness on many occasions, one being his parable of the faithful servants in Luke 12:35 - 46.

Be faithful! Show that you are a person upon whom others depend! I have not forgotten that professor. Can you guess why? Is this how you would like to be remembered?

Pastor Steve

Sat Jul 4 07:10:15 201

Today we celebrate liberty. We use this date as the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence that stated we no longer wanted to be ruled by England. England didn't like this, and the skirmish that had already started escalated into all-out war. The Colonists prevailed and became the United States of America. It is good we have this holiday, and I hope we use it as a time of reflection and celebration of an absolutely incredible event. That colonial uprising led to the establishment of a country that would eventually become the most powerful political force on the planet. Of course, with this position comes great responsibility. That is the way it is with liberty - we must realize liberty comes at a price and to truly enjoy liberty we must understand the responsibility that comes with that liberty.

Patrick Henry understood the significance of liberty when he said, "Give me liberty, or give me death." He knew liberty came at a price, and came with responsibility. As citizens of the United States, let us never forget this, and let us never forget this as citizens of the Kingdom of God. John 8:32 says, "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." Be glad for the liberty you have in Christ. Remember your freedom came with a price, and remember your responsibility in light of God's provision.

Pastor Steve

Fri Jul 3 07:10:15 201

The headlines read, "Errant Golf Shot Saves Man's Life." How could taking a golf ball off the side of your head save your life? Well, when Chris Logan went to the hospital to get checked out after being hit in the head by an errant shot from the driver of PGA tour professional Sean O'Hair, doctors found more than what they expected. Actually, Logan was not seriously injured by the golf ball that hit him in the right temple, but he could be killed by what was found lurking in his neck - a malignant thyroid tumor. The tumor was removed within weeks after being discovered and, one year later, Logan is doing well. The only problem now for Logan is taking a ribbing from fellow caddies who kid him about being struck down by what he had spent countless hours trying to avoid.

Being hit in the head by a golf ball is not good, but having one's life saved as a result of that "accident" is really good. I know some of you reading this could add your story about how an accident or a bad event led to a beneficial discovery. I know personally at least three individuals with stories similar to Logan's. We need to try to keep these incidents in mind when we experience bad situations. I realize not every bad experience may have this type of "silver lining," but many do. Sometimes the positive that can come out of a negative occurrence might not be so obvious. In addition, what we can learn or how we can benefit from a bad circumstance may not be evident right away. We need to keep this in mind when we are going through a difficult time. Try to hold on the perspective that what we are experiencing is going to lead to a positive outcome.

Despite all the advice otherwise, Job held on to this belief through his ordeal. He continued to exercise faith in God and kept in mind that the outcome of his trial was in God's hands. He said, "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; I myself will see him with my own eyes--I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!" (Job19:25-27)

When faced with a difficult trial, continue to trust God for the outcome and realize what you are experiencing can lead to a greater good, even if that greater good is not readily apparent. A golf ball to the head was not a good thing, but Chris Logan certainly was glad he was "beaned."

Pastor Steve

Thu Jul 2 07:10:15 201

When you look through a window, what do you see? Do you see just the wood, metal and glass of the window, or do you look through the window to see what lies beyond? Most likely, you are looking beyond the window to see what lies beyond. That is the purpose of the window - to allow you to see what lies outside or inside the window, to let light in, and to enhance the appearance and function of the structure where the window is found. A window is there not to call attention to itself but to enhance the experience of those who encounter the window. Now, folks do like to have attractive windows, and that is all well and good. But is a window doesn't do what a window is supposed to do (see above description), then the window isn't effective as a window.

As followers of Christ, we need to put ourselves in the place of a window. We must remember that we exist not to call attention to ourselves, but to enhance others' view of what lies beyond - our marvelous Savior and how a relationship with him should appear. We should point others to him and allow others to see him. If a window obstructs one's view of the marvelous vistas that lie outside, the window is not designed properly.

When we obstruct others' view of the Savior, we are not performing according to our design. Galatians 2:20 says, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." Since this is true, let's make sure we are a good window that allows others to see Christ, not us.

Pastor Steve

Wed Jul 1 07:10:15 201

Making his way to his bedroom, the little boy walked by his mother with a rather unusual bump under his clothing. Mom asked, "Billy, what do you have under your shirt?" "Nothing, Mom," was the reply. Well, upon further inspection, Mom found a pair of scissors that had been banned because of an earlier act of "redecorating." Mom had to stifle her laughter, but she also needed to exercise some appropriate discipline.

Why do we learn the art of deception at such a young age? Unfortunately, this is part of who we are because of our sin. We do things that are wrong, and then we attempt to cover them up as an act of self-preservation or simply because we don't want to look bad in the eyes of others. We do our best to conceal our faults and our sin, and we may be successful with some folks. However, we cannot fool everyone all of the time, and we certainly never fool God. God always sees the lumps.

This was a characteristic that Abraham, the "Father of Faith," carried with him when he left Ur of the Chaldees to follow God's plan for him to resettle in a land of promise. Along the way, faithful Abraham showed his dark side when he told Pharaoh that his wife Sarai was actually his sister because he feared Pharaoh's actions against him. Abraham's deception was discovered, and he was expelled from Egypt. What is ironic is that he repeated this deception with Abimelech, King of Gerar. We read in Genesis 20:1-2, "Now Abraham moved on from there into the region of the Negev and lived between Kadesh and Shur. For a while he stayed in Gerar, and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, 'She is my sister.' Then Abimelech king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her." Once again, the deception was discovered and Abraham had to go before the Lord and repent to avert the consequences that God had prepared to bring upon Abimelech. After the repentance and after the deception was cleared away, a positive relationship developed between Abraham and Abimelech. Later, God blessed Abraham and Sarah by allowing Sarah to conceive (21:1).

Beware of our tendency to sin and cover up, and realize the consequences you face when you practice deception. God has so many good things for us and will bless us abundantly when we deal with him in truth. Deception will only lead to dire results.

Pastor Steve

Tue Jun 30 07:10:15 2015

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 really 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

Mon Jun 29 08:24:36 2015

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

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

Short cuts in life are not always the best way. Many times there are lessons to be learned from the journey. We need to allow the process to continue to completion in order to glean what we need to know from the experience. In I Samuel 15, we read about Saul trying to take a short cut in his response to God's command. Samuel confronted him and said, "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams." (15:22) As appealing as they may appear, beware of taking short cuts. Often, they are not the best way.

Pastor Steve

Sun Jun 28 07:01:34 2015

I just finished spending a few days with both of my daughters and their families. Since we don't live near each other, times like this are very special. We made plans to meet at a campground in Indiana and spend days boating, swimming, maybe doing some fishing and sight-seeing. We knew we couldn't fit all of these activities in the short time we had together, but we had reasonable expectations that we would be able to do some of them. Ah, but then came the rain. A lot of rain had already fallen before we arrived, and when got there, it just continued to rain. The beach at the lake was closed - literally. The beach area was completely under water, the road to the boat rentals was under water. We had to alter our cooking plans because of the rain. We had a miserable time, didn't we? WRONG!

We had a blast! So what if planned activities were changed? We were together and we always have a great time when we are together. That was the crucial part. What we did together was in second place to actually being together.

What can help us to get over many of life's disappointments is to focus on what is truly important. We often are disappointed when plans get changed and things don't work out quite the way we hoped. This can happen at various levels. What is helpful to us is to realize plans get changed, things take place we did not expect, or are paths are altered. At these times, we need to focus on what is important. We need to decide what it is that really matters. This leads to greater contentment and greater joy since we don't spend "down time" bemoaning what didn't happen.

Paul gave us a clue as to the effectiveness of this outlook when he wrote, "for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." (Philippians 4:11) Focus on what is important and don't let the unimportant ruin your outlook.

Pastor Steve

Sat Jun 27 07:10:15 2014

I first heard the phrase, "I don't get mad, I just get even" when I was a freshman in high school. The reason I remember the timing so well is that I heard if from a camp counselor at the church camp I was attending after my freshman year of high school. We called him "Admiral Al" because he was a retired naval officer. Now, we respected him a great deal, but we did like to pull practical jokes on him. His response to our efforts was the aforementioned phrase, and we came to know him as a man of his word.

Many may think this about God when they read of his judgments in the scripture. To some it may seem that his judgments are a time when he will "get even" to those who have sinned and have not sought his repentance. However, God's judgments are not capricious and they are not in place simply because he wants to get revenge on those who have spurned him. Certainly his judgments are real, but they flow out of his character and his perfect nature.

God is a just God and cannot let sin go unpunished. He would have to deny his holy character in order to refrain from judging sin. How do we view this trait of God? The response of the saints found in Revelation 15 gives us some insight as to how to respond. In the midst of God's judgments we find these words of praise from those who were God's: Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the nations. Who will not fear you, Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed. (3 -4) His justice elicits praise from his followers.

We need to remember that God is a merciful God and is actually holding back his judgments so that others may come to him (II Peter 3:9). As we contemplate God's judgment, view it as a reflection of his character, and know that God is not looking to "get even."

Pastor Steve

Fri Jun 26 07:10:15 2014

A young mother was watching her 3-year-old toddler play with his toys. The little boy stopped playing for a bit, looked at his mother and said, "I love you, Mom." "Why do you love me?" asked Mom. Her little son replied, "Because you play cars with me." That sounds like a reasonable answer to me, and certainly an honest one.

This may be a good reason for a toddler to love his mother, but when it comes to our love for God, there needs to be a different motivation. We shouldn't love God because of what he does for us. We need to love him because he is our Father. Do we trust and love him when we see life taking difficult turns? Job wrestled with this. His wife asked, "Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!" (Job 2:9)

Job's reply revealed his character and the motivation for his relationship with God, "Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" (vs. 10) He did struggle with what was taking place in his life and he voiced his frustration. He had to listen to the interesting advice of his friends and worked to find his footing, but he proclaimed his certainty in God's presence and provision. He declared, "Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him;" (13:15) He knew his life was in God's hands, "I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God." (19:25-26)

Make sure your love for God is grounded on the right foundation. Don't love him just because he plays cars with you!

Pastor Steve

Thu Jun 25 07:59:13 2015

Today we are half-way between our Christmas celebration of last year and our Christmas celebration of this year. This would be a good time to sing some Christmas carols, don't you think? I have always wondered why we reserve these really neat songs just for Christmas. I suppose we do it to make the celebration more special, but they would be great to sing at any time because of their message and the music.

Carols contain great theology - think "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" - "Late in time behold Him come, Offspring of a Virgin's womb, Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, Hail the incarnate Deity, Pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel." They are great songs of praise - "Joy to the world, the Lord is come." They are songs that reflect God's character - such as when he chose the shepherds to be the first recipients of the news that Jesus was born ("The first noel, the angel did say, was to certain poor shepherds"). So, why do we put them off until Christmas? I think that is a great question, but I would imagine I will not see any earth-shattering response to this suggestion.

What I do hope to see is that we praise the Lord at all times, not just at Christmas. What I do hope to see is that we pledge to serve him at all times, not just at Christmas. What I do hope to see is that we promise to proclaim his message at all times, not just at Christmas. The message that begins, "Now it came to pass that in those days there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. . .(Luke 2:1)" should be proclaimed at all times.

We are half-way to another Christmas celebration, just don't live like you are only a half-Christian until we get there.

Pastor Steve

Wed Jun 24 07:58:10 2015

In a recent interview with Anderson Cooper, Stephen Hawking warned of the potential dangers in developing artificial intelligence and "smart machines." He said, "The development of full artificial intelligence (AI) could spell the end of the human race." Now, I am all for doing things that protect our survival, and I respect Dr. Hawking's intellect, but this is giving humankind way too much credit. Most "doomsday scenarios" that have humans being responsible for the destruction of ourselves give us too much credit.

Read carefully here, I do not advocate that we throw caution to the wind when it comes to our lives and how we live them, or the development of technology, or the stewardship of the environment, but I see that our future lies not within our own hands but in the hands of God. God has declared some pretty specific things about our future. There is the prediction of judgment and consequences for not following him are spelled out clearly in the Word he has given us. We do need to prepare for the future and we do need to make wise decisions, but we need to realize that preparation for the future involving only the survival of the human race falls far short of the future for which we need to prepare.

If we fail to make the decision to place our faith in the Son of God, our Savior, then our future is bleak. This is where Hawking's warnings fall short. He only warns about the destruction of humankind and the downfall of civilization. For those who fail to follow God, there is a much greater consequence. And you do not need "artificial intelligence" to figure this out - you only need to read God's Word. The Bible says, "It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10:31), but we do not need to fear God's judgment or our future if we place our faith in the One who holds our fate and is in control of our future. Trust Christ today and secure your future with Him.

Pastor Steve

Tue Jun 23 07:54:16 2015

I have always found it difficult to describe my emotions as I visit holocaust museums. They were particularly strong when I visited Yad V'shem in Jerusalem. As you are walking towards the entrance of the museum, you pass through the Avenue of the Righteous Gentiles. This is a tree-lined walkway with each tree representing a Gentile who provided help for the Jews during the Nazi persecution in World War 2. Names such as Oscar Schindler and Corrie ten Boom are to be found, along with many other lesser-known, but no less significant, people.

As we survey our lives, we can perhaps think of people who are important to us because of their contributions to us. Such people probably include parents and grandparents along with others who were particularly helpful and provided guidance for us. We should thank God for them

We should also thank God for so many others who have made sacrifices for friends, family members, or even complete strangers. Some have risked their lives, or even lost their lives, in their efforts to help other Christians. Paul speaks of two who fit this description, "Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them." (Romans 16:3-4)

We may not be in a place of risking our lives today, but let's do what we can to help struggling believers. Let's make sure we continue to reflect the same spirit of selflessness as did those who gave much to render aid.

Pastor Steve

Mon Jun 22 07:38:44 2015

I appreciate using the English language correctly. Now, I am not above using slang at times, and I will throw in the occasional "ain't" just for the fun of it, but I watch my grammar. And when I hear folks say "We was going to do something" or "It was me", I cringe a bit. We need to speak correctly and appreciate the beauty of fitly spoken words.

Speaking correctly is one thing we should be considerate of, but more importantly we should be careful how we walk. God asks of us to walk correctly and carefully. The language we speak with our lives is more critical than the language with speak with our mouths. Our actions should be correct, and give evidence of our desire to preserve God's design.

Paul wrote, "Follow God's example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." (Ephesians 5:1) We should be concerned about our speech, both with the structure of our speech and the content. We should be more concerned with our walk both how we walk and where we walk.

Pastor Steve

Sun Jun 21 06:22:10 2015

When the Lord gave instructions on how to pray, he also gave some insights into the character of God. And when he addressed God as his Father, he gave some insight into characteristics of a father that we earthly fathers would do well to exhibit. Certainly we cannot be the kind of Father that God is in that he is perfect, but we see elements of fatherhood that we should try to model as earthly fathers.

We find this prayer in Matthew 6:9 -13, "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one."

First we see that a father is there for us. Jesus said "Our Father in heaven." He knew where he was. Fathers need to be present with their children. The statement regarding God's will speaks to me of strength. Fathers should provide strength and direction for their families. Fathers need to provide, as God does, "Give us today our daily bread," Fathers need to be forgiving. Fathers should not do things to lead their children down the wrong path - "lead us not into temptation." Fathers need to provide protection, as God does.

Earthly fathers cannot be the Father, but that is not the intent. However, we find many elements of fatherhood presented in Christ's prayer that we earthly fathers can exhibit in our lives. Happy Father's Day!

Pastor Steve

Sat Jun 20 09:06:33 2015

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

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

Eternity is a concept that we are at once enamored with and confused by. How can we conceive of eternity? Yet we know that we are eternal beings, and that we are now living in a temporal life that will determine our eternal destination. Christ said, "Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." (John 17:3) I hope you know that you have eternal life. And those of us who do need to be involved in bring the news of eternity to others. We may not engage in the same practice as "Mr. Eternity," but we should be as diligent in bringing the news of Christ to others.

Pastor Steve

Fri Jun 19 08:04:54 2015

You may be familiar with the chorus, "I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart." Do you have real joy in your life? Joy is something we should desire and pursue. Joy is the result of developing contentment with our relationship with our wonderful Savior. Some want happiness and pursue what they think will make them happy. However, I'm talking about something that goes deeper than just trying for happiness.

Joanie Yoder wrote, "According to Bible scholar Ian Barclay, 'Happiness is not a biblical word at all. It is derived from the root to happen. Clearly, what happens to us will affect our happiness.' Joy, on the other hand, is a fruit of God's Spirit and is not affected by good or bad happenings. Joy is not dependent on our circumstances. It is dependent, as we ourselves need to be, on God Himself who dwells within us." We need to pursue joy in our lives without thinking about trying to do things, buy things, pursue things that will make us "happy." When we cultivate a relationship with our heavenly Father, we can truly have "joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart." Paul reminds us, "But the fruit of the Spirit is. . .joy." (Galatians 5:22) Fruit results from cultivation and growth - keep this in mind as you develop joy.

Pastor Steve

Thu Jun 18 07:54:50 2015

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

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

We don't draw closer to God just to make our lives better. We draw closer to God because that is what we should be doing in our lives. Drawing closer to God does not prevent rough times in our lives. "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." (II Timothy 3:12) We live for Christ for the purpose of living for Christ. "Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water." (Hebrews 1o:22)

Live for Christ for the sake of living for Christ not for the sake of a worry-free life.

Pastor Steve

Tue Jun 16 07:44:59 2015

Does telling little white lies or half-truths bother you? We need to be careful about how we view this practice. Often we think that just bending the truth a bit, or not telling all we know is not a problem, but we need to be better than that. We usually resort to this practice because we don't want to look bad in someone else's eyes, but even little seemingly insignificant lies can lead to significant consequences.

Let's say your manager asks you to pick up some supplies. He asks you to pick up the cheapest paper. When you go, you are in a hurry, and you pick up the first paper you see. The paper is a name brand and obviously not the cheapest. When he asks you "Was this the cheapest?" you reply, "Yep." Sometime down the road, you are up for a promotion but it is between you and another person with similar credentials and track record. When the manager is mulling over the decision, he remembers the paper incident. Need I say more?

Scripture has many examples of where half-truths brought significant consequences. Eve responded to Satan's taunts by adding to what God had said, "and you must not touch it, or you will die." (Genesis 3:3) Oh, did that give Satan an opening. Paul confronted the Judaizers because they were saying salvation was dependent not only on faith but following the law (Galatians 1:6). That created confusion and had great consequences. When Ananias and Sapphira sold some land, then only brought part of the price to the apostles. That would not have been a problem, but they told the apostles that there offering represented the entire amount they received from the sale (Acts 5:1-11)

This misrepresentation cost them their lives. Don't fall into the habit of misrepresenting the truth, no matter how inconsequential it may seem. There are always consequences and they will not be pleasant.

Pastor Steve

Mon Jun 15 07:37:11 2015

Many years ago I drove by a grain elevator with a friend who was visiting from another country. There had been an abundant harvest that year, and the elevator was having to pile up the excess grain on the ground and cover it as best they could with large tarps. My friend asked me what was going on, and when I told him, he said, "Oh, I wish I could have that in my country."

We do live in a country of abundance and often what we simply view as normal with regard to what we have and what we possess would be thought of as great wealth in other areas of the world. We who have been entrusted with so much, even though we may not consider it a great abundance, should be willing to share what we have with those who don't have.

Paul told Timothy what he should tell the people at Ephesus, "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. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share." (I Timothy 6:17-18)

We need to be willing to share. Those who have an abundance have been given a great responsibility. Handling riches requires great wisdom. Share what you have with those who don't have.

Pastor Steve

Sun Jun 14 07:15:31 2015

Some of you have perhaps been in a leadership position and have felt resistance to your ideas and your direction. At those times, we need to make sure our motives and thoughts are in the right place. We should speak the truth in love, but we need to make sure we are doing so from a position of grounded thinking that is not rooted in our own ego. This may seem to you advice that I need to take to heart, and it is. However, pastors are not the only ones in positions of leadership within the church.

When you are in a position of leadership, you need to lead by example, and follow the example you have before you. When we are in a position of leadership in the church, we need to always follow the example and teaching of Christ. We are imperfect people, but God can still use us and wants to use us but we need to be committed to his principles. We must never forget our accountability before God and we work with and as we lead others.

Jesus said, "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." (Luke 12:48) This has application to leadership roles. Lead the way Christ intends for you to lead.

Pastor Steve

Sat Jun 13 07:32:26 2015

My oldest daughter and her family are currently at the beach. She has been sending us pictures and videos of their activities, especially of our granddaughter. Some of these visual images have featured my daughter running down that little two-year-old who constantly wants to go off on her own and do things. Today, she sent me an email telling me that her daughter had asked her not to accompany her to the ocean because she wanted to go by herself. Isn't that great?

My little granddaughter was just doing what little ones do - try to go out on their own, not knowing that they have no idea what they are doing, and not fully appreciating the presence of a parent who is there to keep them in a position where they are getting the most out of their experience. A parent also wants to keep them from getting in over their head. Of course, this literally is the case for my daughter and granddaughter.

We often fail to appreciate God's leadership and guidance in our lives because we have not yet reached the stage where we understand what he does for us. We also fail to realize that what he is doing is for our best interest. Jeremiah 29:11 says, "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end." God is there to direct us, protect us, and help us grow. Don't work against him!

Pastor Steve

Fri Jun 12 07:54:05 2015

I have always found it hard not to stop for folks I see stranded on the road, so I do if it is safe to do so. I have been stranded myself on a couple of occasions, and I know it is great when others stop to help as they can. I also know what it is to be stranded and have no one stop.

Years ago I stopped for an accident on a country road in Ohio. There were three people in the car - two were outside the car with some minor injuries. The car had slid over a bank and was basically lying on its side, and one person was still in the car. He was unconscious, and we couldn't tell how badly he was hurt. Cell phones were only in works of science fiction at that time, so I drove to the nearest house to call for help. Soon, an ambulance was there along with law enforcement personnel. The young man who had been knocked out regained consciousness and would be o.k. - he did spend a couple of days in the hospital. They were appreciative that I stopped, and thankful they were not injured seriously. One said, "I don't know what we would have done if you hadn't stopped."

I know in our world, you need to be cautious doing things like this, but there are other ways where we can be helpful to those who are in need that do not involve stopping along a highway. What about a neighbor who is hurting because they just lost a loved one? What about a friend who just lost a job? How about someone at church who needs help with their kids because they need to take care of some things? And what about someone you know who needs to hear the Gospel?

There are a lot of ways to be a "Good Samaritan". I have always loved that story. Even as a kid I could never understand the actions of the priest and the Levite. I love the words of Christ at the conclusion, "'Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?' The expert in the law replied, 'The one who had mercy on him.' Jesus told him, 'Go and do likewise.'" (Luke 10:36-37) Let's go and do likewise.

Pastor Steve

Thu Jun 11 07:52:10 2015

When I was young we used to visit relatives in Kentucky who had peacocks. Those birds were really something, and something we didn't see all the time. A male peacock is really resplendent when he throws up his tail feathers and reveals his other "eyes." They were quite impressive - except they had ugly feet.

All of us have some sort of physical limitation. Paul speaks of some sort of limitation he dealt with, and he also gave us some insight as to his attitude towards his "thorn." He wrote, "I was given a thorn in my flesh . . .Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'" (II Corinthians 12:7-9)

Why was this present, and how did Paul view his limitation? He prefaced the above with this, "in order to keep me from becoming conceited". Paul knew that what some might view as a hardship was in his life to help him grow. We often view our limitations as hardships, but these things can help us grow if we develop the right attitude.

One of the great things about faith is God uses us in spite of our imperfections, and actually uses our imperfections to help us better serve him. When we find our strength in God, we are something to behold, not for our own sake, but for the sake of the Savior.

Pastor Steve

Wed Jun 10 08:17:22 2015

Oh, I just love these articles: "How did life on Earth begin? It's been one of modern biology's greatest mysteries: How did the chemical soup that existed on the early Earth lead to the complex molecules needed to create living, breathing organisms? Now, researchers say they've found the missing link."

Humans have tried to find an explanation for the origin of the universe and life on earth almost since the beginning. Rejecting the biblical account of God who demonstrates his creativity and love through the creation process, "evidence" of the origin of life has been collected, analyzed, and theories postulated. This effort stepped up a bit after Darwin's publications in the mid-19th century. Well, we can look all we want, but when we finally discover the truth, God will be there. Our search for the "truth" is an indicator of our character. We are fallen, sinful humanity and this is reflected in the never-ending quest for a storyline that doesn't include God.

The article I read continued: "Most scientists think the 'last universal common ancestor'-- the creature from which everything on the planet descends-- appeared about 3.6 billion years ago. But exactly how that creature arose has long puzzled scientists. For instance, how did the chemistry of simple carbon-based molecules lead to the information storage of ribonucleic acid, or RNA?" And they think the biblical account of creation is hard to accept? Well, I have an answer for their question as to how the chemistry of simple carbon-based molecules led to the information storage of RNA - God made it that way.

The title of this article was "The Origin-of-life Story May Have Found Its Missing Link". I know the answer to that - God is the "missing link," and I pray they come to that realization before it is too late. They need to read and accept 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 duty of all mankind."

Pastor Steve

Tue Jun 9 08:05:39 2015

There are many major sporting events in our world today - it is amazing how much that sports have become so much of our culture. The economic impact is really incalculable. You could debate the pros and cons of this from now on, but it is certainly reality. We just saw American Pharoah win the Triple Crown for the first time in 37 years, the NBA championship is currently being played, the NHL is going to get a new champion in a few day, the French Open tennis championship just concluded, MLB is going strong, and in gold the U.S. Open is just a couple of weeks away.

I had a professor who said, "A football game is 22 people who desperately need rest being watched by 50,000 people who desperately need exercise." Sometimes this is the definition of a church - a few people desperately busy with many people desperately unbusy. This is not the way it should be. In order for a church to grow as it should and to function as it should, folks need to work together. We all have jobs to do. As Paul wrote, "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow." (I Corinthians 3:6) As we do what we should, God will increase our efforts. Don't just be a spectator, participate!

Pastor Steve

Mon Jun 8 07:48:17 2015

In some areas, the title that accompanies your name is a really big deal. Some cultures value titles more than others. We don't pay attention to them in the United States the way others do, but still one's title can be significant at times. This is especially true in our government when the title "Secretary of State" or "Speaker of the House" and certainly "President" not only describes an office but identifies a person.

Paul was not into titles that much, but he did use the term "apostle" frequently in his writings. This demonstrated why he had the right to send the letters he wrote. For example we read in II Corinthians 1:1, "Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God in Corinth, together with all his holy people throughout Achaia." There were also other terms he used about himself. These were of a different nature. Paul had formerly been a "blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man" He said that he considered himself to be the "chief" of sinners. But because of God's mercy, he was now an apostle, one to whom "the King eternal" had committed the glorious gospel and whom He had sent out to share that gospel. (I Timothy 1:13, 15, 17)

There are terms that can be used to about us that are not so much titles as they are descriptions of character. "Liar," "sneak," or "two-faced" are titles we certainly don't want. Rather, we would hope that terms like "honest," "dependable," or "kind" could be used. These titles may not be "official", but they certainly are significant. These titles are up to us - we gain them through our lifestyle. So, what is your title?

Pastor Steve

Sun Jun 7 07:25:30 2015

I don't know what it is with us when it comes to transforming items that are supposed to be just a convenience in our lives into items that more or less command our lives. We seem to be good at this. Take telephones for instance. 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. I saw an illustration of this just yesterday 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 answer the call angrily. I thought to myself, "Why did he have to answer the call?"

Indeed 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 that which should be something that should be a relaxing pastime or simply a diversion, something that should not be a priority, 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 essentially they had turned that which was non-essential into essentials and ignored what was truly essential when it came to the worship of God. In the midst of the indictment of Christ against the Pharisees found in Matthew 23, 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. Buck the trend - it's more than a matter of convenience.

Pastor Steve

Sat Jun 6 08:56:32 2015

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Fri Jun 5 07:32:19 2015

There was a recent article making its way around the internet about a supposed sighting of a three-foot-long shark in the Tennessee River in Alabama. While the veracity of this particular incident is in doubt, it is possible for a shark to be found in freshwater. Bull sharks have the ability to live in both freshwater and saltwater, and one was indeed found in Lake Michigan several years ago. Still, these incidents are few and far between.

Don't you wish crisis events were few and far between? It seems hardships and difficult experiences are abundant in our lives. We wish there were as rare as freshwater shark sightings, or maybe didn't even occur at all, but they do. This is why Peter wrote, "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed." (I Peter 4:12-13) Peter writes that we should not be surprised at hardships, that they are not strange events, and that we should rejoice as we participate in the hardships. All of these concepts are somewhat difficult to understand, but they are what should take place as we are confronted with circumstances that bring difficulty into our lives.

A bull shark in the Tennessee River may be a rare occurrence, but it is not an impossible occurrence. Difficulties in our lives are neither rare nor impossible, so they should not be surprising. They are part of our experience. Learn to trust God through these times and don't deny their reality.

Pastor Steve

Thu Jun 4 08:00:41 2015

"Go ahead - just try it just this once. That couldn't be that bad, that couldn't be a real problem." This is a voice within us we hear at times. We are tempted to do something "just this once." Sometimes it may not be a bad thing - like taking a thrill ride, or going bungee jumping. But often that voice within is us calling on us to do something "just this once" that is bad. We are confronted with opportunities to do something we know we shouldn't but it looks so tempting. Visiting that internet porn sight "just this once" wouldn't be that bad, would it? Slipping a few dollars from the office discretionary fund "just this once" isn't really a terrible thing, is it? Telling this little white lie "just this once" is not going to be a big thing, is it?

All of these situations are examples of those "one time" incidents that we may not think are harmful, but could actually lead to life-long consequences. David's sin with Bathsheba led to issues the rest of his life.

The writer of Psalm 19 13 said, "Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression." The writer knew that "little sins" can lead to greater problems. They can take control of our lives. Don't let that take place - avoid those "just this once" situations.

Pastor Steve

Wed Jun 3 07:49:53 2015

I remember reading a story one time about a boy and his step-father who were having a little bit of trouble communicating with one another. Such is often the case in circumstances like this. The man decided to take his step-son on a fishing trip. The boy had never been fishing, and his step-dad thought it would be a good way for them to get to know each other better.

After one day, the boy hated it. He didn't want to tell his step-dad he was not enjoying the experience, so he wrote him a note and gave it to him. The man looked at the note, folded it up, and put it in his pocket. They stayed for four more days and continued to fish.

Upon returning home, the boy's mother asked him about the trip. The boy told the mom he didn't like fishing and had written his step-dad a note to tell him so and that he wanted to go home. His mom said, "Son, your step-dad can't read."

There are many barriers to communication and one is when we don't take the time to find out a little about the people with whom we need to communicate. Now, there are situations where this is not a real possibility, but in most cases there are opportunities to learn about those with whom we need to speak. Of course, this is supremely the case in our family relationships. This is the case with those with whom we work. It is also the case with our fellow worshippers.

As we take time to get to know others, our communication becomes more effective. Then we can more effectively "speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body." (Ephesians 4:25) Work to improve communication by taking the time to get to know others.

Pastor Steve

Tue Jun 2 07:50:53 2015

We never seem to get caught up, do we? As Lewis Carroll wrote in "Alice in Wonderland,", "The hurrier I go, the behinder I get." This does nothing but increase our level of frustration. And it seems that technological advances are not doing much to alleviate our frustration level - actually, the more we advance, it seems the more frustrated we become (see the Carroll quote above).

There is a great solution to this - make sure our focus is on God, not the world. We need to live life through the wisdom of God, not the expectations of humankind. This was what Solomon was telling us in Ecclesiastes. He tells us, "And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person's envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind." (4:4) Trying to outdo others is part of our problem.

Another problem is sitting around doing nothing (4:5). A final problem is our lack of satisfaction with what we have, "Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind." (4:6)

Much of our frustration is created by ourselves when we pursue things we think we want and don't stop to think about what we have. We need to put God's perspective into our lives, and let his thoughts determine what is important. Put God at the center of your life and be thankful for what he has given you. What he has for you is all you really need.

Pastor Steve

Mon Jun 1 06:46:59 2015

Do you remember show and tell when you were a kid? You would bring an item to the classroom and then tell about it. Sometimes a classmate would forget their items. I have seen teachers make the person go ahead and describe the item even though they didn't have the item to show to the class. At times, this didn't go all that well as the student would struggle to try to describe the object. Having it in front of them to show would have been superior.

We need to do this with our relationship with Christ. We shouldn't just try to tell others about the importance of walking with the Lord, we should show them in how we walk. I have often quoted my mother, "Your actions speak so loud I can hardly hear what you are saying." We can be more effective speaking about life with Christ when we have a true life with Christ on display.

Christ did this for us. He not only spoke of love, but he demonstrated what love is by giving his life for us. On the night before he died, he said to his disciples, "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends." (John 15:13) He told about love, and then he showed love by allowing himself to be crucified.

How are we doing at show and tell? Do we have an effective object to go along with our lesson? If we don't, then we just are not doing show and tell right.

Pastor Steve

Sun May 31 07:08:29 2015

Most of us do not like to be offensive to others. We prefer to please others, and have others like us. We like to do our best Sally Field imitation and say, "You like me! You really like me!" Within reason, this is not a bad desire. However, as followers of Christ, we need to accept the reality that there are those who are offended at our claims.

Actually, they are not our claims, but they are the assertions of Christ that we espouse. When we make the claim that we have the only way to have a relationship with God, we are going to alienate some people. We should not be surprised by that, and we should not try to look for ways of compromise.

On the night that he was betrayed, Christ told his disciples, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me." (John 14:6) Earlier in his ministry, Christ demonstrated that not all would follow him and his message. After hearing his teaching, many who were once followers chose to depart: "On hearing it, many of his disciples said, 'This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?' Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, 'Does this offend you?' He went on to say, 'This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.' From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him." (John 6:60-61 & 65-66)

We are not looking to be intentionally offensive through being argumentative or hard to get along with. It is that the nature of the message of Christ is such that many will not be willing to accept. When we struggle with this, keep the experience of Christ found in John 6 in mind, and think of his statement in John 14:6. We are not being intolerant, we are being obedient.

Pastor Steve

Sat May 30 09:32:17 2015

Professional sports contracts are interesting. I read about athletes holding out and refusing to play to force their team to restructure their contract in order for them to make more money. Often one team has to pay the salary of a player who is actually playing for another team because of trades. Coaches often have interesting situations as well. Let's say a coach is hired for three years at $2 million per year. But the coach does poorly and is fired after a year. The team still has to pay him what is left on his contract. So, he gets paid $2 million a year for doing nothing.

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

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

Pastor Steve

Fri May 29 08:00:10 2015

The NBA Finals are set. It will be the Golden State Warriors facing off against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The best-of-seven series begins June 4. The Warriors are led by the 3-point shooting prowess of Stephen Curry while the Cavaliers are led by all-world Lebron James.

A commercial advertising the NBA Finals featured a close-up of one of the player's sneakers. On the side of the sneaker was written, "I can do all things." At first glance, this may seem a bit arrogant, but I assume the player was applying the phrase using the inspiration of Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things though Christ who gives me strength."

I am not going to debate the merits or the correctness of using this phrase in this context, but I do know that Christ does supply what we need in our lives to serve him. That could even extend to being a good witness for him on the basketball court. Paul wrote the verse in the context of being content in Christ regardless of what he may have to face for the sake of Christ. Take the time to read the entire fourth chapter of Philippians. You get a picture of a person who is supremely satisfied in Christ not because he is getting everything he wants in life and is not facing any rough spots. He is satisfied in Christ because he knows Christ is all he needs.

Whatever you face, Christ is there to provide the strength to face the challenge. You can do all things through Christ who gives you strength.

Pastor Steve

Thu May 28 07:28:05 2015

Most folks are really concerned with cleanliness which, in most cases can be stated as a normal desire. There is no problem with this. However, some folks get a bit carried away with the desire for clean, almost to the point of obsession. This can be a problem if this desire more or less takes over your life. Still, cleanliness is an important matter - according to someone, "cleanliness is next to godliness." The thing about cleanliness is that if you really want it, you will be constantly working to maintain the desired state. That which is clean usually won't remain that way and effort needs to be spent to restore the clean.

There is one area where all the effort in the world cannot restore cleanliness. You can't get your life as clean as it needs to be in order to have a relationship with God. That is a big problem - but one that God takes care of through the provision of his Son. David asked God to "Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. . .Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow." (Psalm 51:2 & 7) Only God can get you as clean as you need to be. Don't obsess over this, just seek God's forgiveness and trust in His Son. When you do this, you will be "whiter than snow."

Pastor Steve

Wed May 27 08:00:20 2015

Calamities take place and cause us to ask questions. A number of things have happened recently that have captured our focus. The earthquakes in Nepal, the tornadoes in the Midwest and southern United States, the flooding in the western United States, and other events give us pause and cause us to try to gain perspective. Many see these things as indicators of God's judgment, but is that really the case?

Even Christ warned against being too presumptuous about seeing Gods judgment where it is not. We hear his words in Luke 13:1-5, "Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, 'Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on-do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.'"

There are usually a complex array of factors behind calamities, and Christ tells us that we should use these times as times of personal reflection, not try to determine the presence of God's judgment. For the unbeliever, there needs to be a decision made that reflects repentance and a commitment based on faith in Christ. For a believer, these events should bring about self-evaluation and consideration of one's progress in spiritual development. Calamities in and of themselves are not good, but can bring about good when people come to faith in Christ, and faith in Christ is strengthened in those who know him.

Pastor Steve

Tue May 26 07:46:36 2015

The apostle Paul spoke many times of the wonders of heaven. He knew he had work to do here on earth, but he longed for his heavenly home. It is no wonder that he longed for heaven in the way he did as he was privileged to be given a glimpse of heaven's wonders. We read Paul's description of his experience in II Corinthians 12:2-6, "I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know--God knows. And I know that this man--whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows-- was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell. I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say." Paul was keenly aware that the only reason he had this experience, and the only reason he had the hope he would be going there to stay at some future time was the amazing grace of God. "For by grace we are saved. . ." he writes in Ephesians 2:8.

Another individual who had this same awareness was John Newton. Newton wrote that among the surprises that await us in heaven will be three astonishing ones. The converted slave-dealer, who wrote the universally loved hymn "Amazing Grace," perceptively foresaw what every sinner will feel who has been redeemed by Christ's atoning sacrifice. He wrote, "If I ever reach heaven, I expect to find three wonders there: First, to meet some I had not thought to see there; second, to miss some I had thought to meet there; and third, the greatest wonder of all, to find myself there!" Isn't that so true? Paul and Newton both understood the only reason for their presence in heaven was the Amazing Grace of God!

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

Pastor Steve

Mon May 25 08:07:57 2015

Today is Memorial Day. As you are reading this, my wife and I are preparing to return to our home in Illinois after visiting our oldest daughter and her family in Ohio. I wish we could stay a bit longer - I would like to attend the parade that is held in downtown Ironton, Ohio, not far from where my daughter lives. I grew up outside of Ironton and attended this parade every year. Ironton has had a Memorial Day parade every year since the first Memorial Day was declared in 1868. As a matter of fact, Ironton has the longest continuously-running Memorial Day Parade in the nation. Now that is something to boast about!

One usually needs to be careful about boasting. Boasting can get us in trouble at times, or at least put us in a negative light. I find it hard to be around someone who likes to boast about themselves.

There is someone about whom we would do well to boast. Paul told his readers, "God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things--and the things that are not--to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. 'Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.'" (I Corinthians 1:28 & 31)

Folks in Ironton do have a reason to boast when it comes to their parade. Followers of Christ have an even better reason to boast when it comes to the Savior.

Pastor Steve

Sun May 24 07:50:41 2015

Bill Gates has given over $28 billion dollars to various charities. When you read that, you can't help but say "wow!" Not to detract from Gates generosity and the magnitude of such giving, but we need to put things in perspective. Yes, he has given away over $28 billion, and plans on giving away a great deal more, but his net worth still exceeds $56 billion.

When you see large gifts such as these, there does need to be some perspective. As I said, I do not want to detract from the wonder of the gift, or the generosity of the giver, but how much sacrifice is actually involved in giving situations such as these?

Christ pointed out true sacrifice when he called attention to the widow who contributed "only" two small copper coins to the temple treasury. He said, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything - all she had to live on." (Mark 12:43-44) The amount of the gift is not nearly as significant as the sacrifice behind the gift. Consider your own giving - which example does it follow?

Pastor Steve

Sat May 23 06:34:45 2015

So, what are the two most wonderful words in the English language? Have you ever thought about that? Has anyone even ever asked you that? Well, you have been asked, so what do you think? Let me give you one suggestion as an answer to the question, "What are the most wonderful words in the English language?" I submit that the two most wonderful words are "But God" regardless of what language you use. Whether you say "pero Dios" or "mais Dieu" or "Aber Gott" or even "Kai Theos", these are the most wonderful words.

Perhaps you ask, "How are these the most wonderful words?" Let me submit a few reasons: "Because the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph, they sold him as a slave into Egypt. But God was with him" (Acts 7:9); "But God has helped me to this very day" (Acts 26:22); "But God had mercy on him" (Philippians 2:27). And how about, "But God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions." Wow - isn't that wonderful? This is possible because "But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him." (Acts 2:24)

We were headed down a path towards destruction, but God intervened. Now, where death ruled, we can celebrate life. There was no hope for us, but God gave us eternal hope. I don't know about you, but I think they are wonderful.

Pastor Steve

Fri May 22 08:29:09 2015

Last July, a 20-year-old mother exited a subway stop in Columbus Circle in New York pushing her 7-month-old child in a red and white stroller. Then, she left the stroller on the platform, re-entered the train through the still opened doors, and left. I don't know the complete ending to the story, but I do know the baby was rescued. The mother was spotted 12 hours later getting a latte at a Starbucks and was detained by authorities.

Stories like this just bring chills to me. How could you abandon your child? I cannot imagine what it would be like to be abandoned. I don't know how this child will react when she grows up and learns she was left behind by her mother. It would be a frightful feeling to not feel wanted and being left somewhere.

God promises us that he will never abandon us. Deuteronomy 31:8 gives this promise, "The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." What a statement of affirmation and assurance! Christ told his followers just before he returned to the Father, "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:20) Others may abandon you, leave you stranded, but that will never happen with God. He will never abandon you.

Pastor Steve

Thu May 21 07:58:07 2015

Have you ever used WD-40? This is almost a rhetorical question, as WD-40 is one of those products that almost everyone uses. Along with many other applications, I have used WD-40 to help loosen rusted bolts and to help install lateral files. This latter story would take too long to explain - just know WD-40 has an incredible variety of uses.

Do you know how it got its name? The developers were looking for a product that could be used in the aerospace industry. They found what they were looking for on their 40th attempt, and the product was great at Water Displacement. Get it? Had the group of engineers not displayed persistence in their efforts, we may not have this wonderful product today.

Persistence is such an important quality. Christ honored this characteristic by responding to persistent followers, and by speaking directly about how persistence should be desired and displayed. Christ commended a Canaanite woman for her persistence in seeking Christ's help for her demon-possessed daughter, "Then Jesus said to her, 'Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.'" (Matthew 15:28)

He spoke about the persistence of another woman who sought justice and used the story as an example of how we should be persistent in our pursuit of issues with the Lord. "And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:7-8)

Will he indeed find such faith in us? Our persistence in our pursuit of matters before the Lord reveals our faith and leads us to find grace and mercy in our time of need.

Pastor Steve

Wed May 20 07:37:20 2015

Bridges are an important part of our road infrastructure. When a bridge is out, it can be really problematic. A few years ago, a bridge on I-64 that connected Louisville, Kentucky, and New Harmony, Indiana had to be closed when some structural problems were discovered. This made for a long commute for local residents and a confusing detour for infrequent travelers. I traversed that road on my travels to Ohio to visit my family. The detour added a good bit of time to our trip. After the reopening of the bridge, I have never again taken it for granted.

We need bridge builders in the church. We need people who can help connect disparate circumstances and, at times, disparate people. Barnabas was just such a bridge builder. When Paul experienced difficulty being accepted by the folks at Jerusalem, Barnabas stepped in. You really can't fault the folks at Jerusalem, given Paul's background, but he had experienced the grace of God. Barnabas intervened on his behalf by building a bridge between Paul and the Jerusalem church. Luke writes: "When (Paul) came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles." (Acts 9:26-27)

Are you aware of a situation where a bridge is needed? Perhaps you can be that bridge and keep folks from taking unnecessary detours and going in wrong directions. I have always maintained that the church would benefit from more folks like Barnabas. Be a Barnabas and build some bridges.

Pastor Steve

Tue May 19 07:54:38 2015

Bill Engvall has made quite a living from a comedy routine that features "Here's your sign" jokes. We often ask for signs to help us make decisions and point us in the right direction in life. A good number of folks ask for a sign from God to prove he is real. They have a "to do" list for God they maintain that will theoretically prove his identity.

This is not a new thing. There were a large group of people seeking a sign from Jesus when he was on the earth. "What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'" (John 6:30-31) This was an ironic request on many levels. They asked for a sign, and he had just fed them along with thousands of others from a little boy's lunch. They used the example of their ancestors being miraculously fed in the wilderness as a sign they would accept. They had just been miraculously fed along the shore of Galilee. Christ could not have done more even if he had said to them, "Here's your sign."

God has given us the sign we need, and if we miss it, that's our problem, not his. Instead of waiting in doubt and disappointment for God to do the one thing we are demanding of him, open your eyes and see what he has already done and what he is doing even now as we are blindly asking "Where's the sign?"

Pastor Steve

Mon May 18 07:38:15 2015

A newspaper ad for a new model of Jaguar stated, "Once again envy will be standard equipment." It may not be wrong to own a Jaguar, but if my neighbor has one and I am overly envious of him, this is a problem. According to the apostle Paul, envy is a problem that ranks right up there with sexual immorality and drunkenness (Galatians 5:19-21) Envy motivated Joseph's brothers to sell him into slavery (Acts 7); Envy fueled the fires of those who wanted to destroy Christ (Mark 15); Envy led Paul's opponents in Thessalonica to incite a riot (Acts 17).

Envy left unchecked can lead to actions that are negative in intent and destructive in nature. We need to recognize envy in our lives and remove it from our hearts. Ecclesiastes 4:4 tells us, "And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person's envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind."

Don't let envy be standard equipment in your life. Control this attitude that can lead to awful consequences.

Pastor Steve

Sun May 17 07:19:13 2015

It is graduation time here in our community. We have students moving up to another level of their educational pursuits as they move into the high school training ground. There are students leaving high school to pursue educational and vocational goals. College graduates have come to the goal they have been pursuing for most of their lives. All along the way, there were teachers, counselors, administrators, and support staff who worked together to build into the lives of these young people so they might develop personally and prepare to contribute to the lives of others. Each of these mentors occupied a certain segment of the process - they took over from others who had been invested in the lives of the students earlier and then prepared them for what was ahead. In the majority of cases, folks involved in this process will never actually witness the "finished product," but are still committed to do what needs to be done to train young lives for the future.

Those involved in the process are like the craft people who create fine musical instruments. Luis Antonio Rojas, who played double bass for the Mexico City Philharmonic, describes the process of creating a worthy instrument: "You must age the wood for 80 years, then play the instrument for 80 years before it reaches its best sound. A craftsman must use wood cut and aged by someone else, and he will never see any instrument reach its peak during his own lifetime." Isn't this an apt description of the educational process?

This process not only takes place in our schools and society, but takes place in our churches. We need to be committed to this educational model knowing that we may never see the "end product" but realizing how important it is to be committed to this process. We need to train others to carry on what has been done before and needs to be continued. This is why God said, "Now this is the commandment--the statutes and the ordinances--that the Lord your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy, so that you and your children and your children's children may fear the Lord your God all the days of your life, and keep all his decrees and his commandments that I am commanding you, so that your days may be long." When it comes to training others, we must be committed to the process in spite of the fact that we may never see the finished product.

Pastor Steve

Sat May 16 08:46:38 2015

"How Counterfeit Items Are Putting United States Families at Risk" proclaimed the headline. The news video went on to elaborate on the problem of counterfeit articles being sold to the public. Beyond the financial damage being done to the manufacturers and sellers of genuine articles, many items purchased that are not the real thing are dangerous. Electronic items that do not conform to safety standards or fittings and valves that control the flow of volatile gases and liquids that are unsafe are just two examples of products being sold that look like the real thing but aren't. They pose fire hazards and other dangers and put people's safety, maybe even their lives, in harm's way. What to do? Use only trusted products from reputable sources.

The same is true with regard to our spiritual lives. There are many counterfeit world views and teachings that need to be avoided. The Bible has many passages warning against false teaching: "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;" (II Timothy 4:3-4); " Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world." (I John 4:1); "For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ." (Jude 1:4); "But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privately shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction." (II Peter 2:1)

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

Pastor Steve

Fri May 15 08:09:17 2015

When I was young, I loved to explore things - old houses, caves, the woods surrounding our home or my grandparent's home, or any other interesting areas. Something you encounter when you enter an area where no one else has been for awhile, or maybe have never been, are cobwebs. Whoever is leading the way in these exploratory adventures gets to encounter them and has to deal with them. Don't you just love those cobwebs and the mess they make? I just love how they feel as I try to extricate myself from the gooey mess.

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

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

Pastor Steve

Thu May 14 08:12:43 2015

There is an object lesson I have used with children from time to time that involves a tube of toothpaste. I ask for a couple of volunteers to help me with the story. When I select the volunteers, I produce a tube of toothpaste and immediately start squeezing out the contents. When I have removed a significant amount, I tell my eager volunteers that what I want them to do is put the toothpaste back in the tube. Obviously, I get a great variety of responses. I even had one poor little girl start to do what I had asked (I didn't allow her to proceed too far - need to keep the parents happy!).

The point of my lesson is how we need to be careful with what we do and say as our actions and our words sometimes have consequences that are undesirable. When we "let the toothpaste out of the tube," it can't be returned. James tells us in James 3:5-6, "Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell."

Our words and actions towards others do have consequences. We need to be careful with what we do and say. Obviously, we do want to bring about consequences with actions and words, but we want to bring about desirable, not undesirable, results. When we do things or say things out of anger or spite to bring about harm, we can't take these results back. They won't go "back in the tube." So, remember this the next time you are tempted to do or say something that is going to have an ill effect on someone else. Proverbs 25:11 tells us, "A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver." Go for gold and silver, not toothpaste!

Pastor Steve

Wed May 13 08:05:05 2015

In the movie "Karate Kid", there is an implied analogy when Mr. Miyagi is seen tending to his bonsai tree as he is conversing with his protege, Danny Larusso. What is taking place with the tree is that which is going to take place with Danny - shaping and molding his character and his skill.

Bonsai is the ancient Japanese art of "tree sculpting." This dates back over 1,000 years. A small tree, usually an evergreen, is placed in a pot and then shaped and molded over time through careful pruning and other manipulations. This can extend over several years. Care is taken with the plant as too much force can break the tree and therefore ruin the effort. Too little involvement and neglect can return the plant to the wild. Training takes time, patience, and focused effort.

The same can be said about children. Discipline and care over time is what is important in raising children to be what they can be. Discipline needs to be firm and consistent, but there is harm if the discipline is too harsh, and there is harm if there is no discipline utilized. Adverse behavior and character concerns can be controlled through the correct application of care, love, discipline, and involvement over time.

The scripture reminds us, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it," (Proverbs 22:6) Those of you who are involved in this process should consider this wisdom. Those of you not in a position of raising children now should pray for those who are and be a support to the families around you. Our children are worth every bit of time we invest in their lives.

Pastor Steve

Tue May 12 08:01:33 2015

I just saw an ad for a new golf ball. The golf ball is supposedly "self-correcting". The design of the golf ball reduces hooks (the ball going to the left for a right-handed golfer) and slices (ball going to the right). The claim is that the ball will reduce these inerrant shots by up to 75% and allow for straighter drives. This is a great thing for the normal golfer. I don't know if I will ever be able to try this golf ball out, but perhaps someday.

Don't you wish life would be self-correcting? That is, when we start to go off to the right or go off to the left, we are designed to get back on the right track automatically? I really have my doubts about the "self-correcting" golf ball, but I do know for certain that some effort is required to keep us going correctly. There are forces within us - our struggle with our own sin nature - and there are forces outside of us in the form of Satan and his minions who constantly try to throw us off track.

We need to walk in constant dependence upon the Holy Spirit to help us with our inner struggles and with outer temptations. Galatians 5:16 tells us to "Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh." This is what we need to do. There is no automatic self-correction. We should constantly monitor our path.

Pastor Steve

Mon May 11 07:53:47 2015

My mother always told me "you get what you pay for." Mom always knew you should go for quality when you make purchases, although she never paid full price for anything. She didn't go for cheaper, bargain products. She just waited on sales to buy what she knew to be quality products at a reduced price.

I failed to heed this advice on a number of occasions, but one particular incident that comes to mind involved grass seed. I needed some grass seed so I bought some. I got some generic, cheaper seed. Grass seed is grass seed, right? Well, I "paid" for my mistake. The seed didn't germinate, even though conditions were great. So, I went back and got the good stuff. My lawn still might not be the envy of the neighborhood, but I have grass where I once had bare spots!

Sometimes we are like this when it comes to our Christian life. We like to search for "bargains;" we cut corners; we don't spend the time we should doing what we know is important to help us grow in the faith. Certainly, our salvation is free, having been paid for by our Savior, Christ. However, when it comes to growing in Christ, it requires some expenditures on our behalf. Time, effort, discipline, and more are helpful when it comes to our growth in Christ. We need quality "seed," not some bargain basement product. We need to give our best effort when it comes to our relationship with our Heavenly Father. Colossians 3:23 tells us, "What ever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men. . ." Go for the best!

Pastor Steve

Sun May 10 05:57:01 2015

One of the more fascinating stories in Scripture is the account of the mother of the sons of Zebedee asking Jesus that her sons may sit on his right and his left in the Kingdom. (Matthew 20:20-28) At face value, this looks like a rather selfish and arrogant request. If she had heard Christ's parable that is found in the earlier part of Matthew 20, her proposition may have been based on her fear that her sons would not have a position of status in the kingdom. I do find it interesting that Jesus never actually rebuked her request, he simply pointed out the difficulty that would accompany such a position.

Her motivation may have not been completely clear, but it was tied into her desire for her sons to have the best experience. Moms, for the most part, tend to have feelings this way. They want the best for their children. Unfortunately, there are examples of incidents where this desire led a mom to a questionable line of action. The point is, Moms do want good things for their kids. This desire is a reflection of what God wants for us - "How much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" (Matthew 7:11) The desire of a parent to see their child receive good things is seen in our Heavenly Parent. Mom - when you demonstrate this desire for your kids, you are reflecting the heart of God! Thank you - and have a Happy Mother's Day!

Pastor Steve

Sat May 9 08:47:16 2015

Lemon cake with raspberries - doesn't that sound delicious? Some of you may be saying, "Well, I don't know about that. How can lemon and raspberries taste good together?" To those who may be skeptical about this delectable dessert, I would say, "Don't knock it until you try it." Even though there is a great difference in the tastes of lemons and raspberries on their own, when you put them together in the right amounts and add other key ingredients, they make for pleasure for the taste buds.

I cannot help but think of the church when I think of this. The church is made of different people from different backgrounds. When you put those people together with the proper ingredients that God supplies of love, compassion, and forgiveness, there can be some wonderful results. God is what makes the church work through the power of redemption and the cohesive ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Christ prayed for this unity before he left the world, "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you." (John 17:20-21) God is good at combining what doesn't seem to really go together. Let's cooperate with him in the effort.

Pastor Steve

Fri May 8 07:56:22 2015

When I was in school, there was still a pretty strict dress code. I know there are still guidelines for dress at schools, but not quite like they once were. Girls had to wear dresses, and the dresses had to conform to certain standards. Boys could not wear jeans and had to keep their hair cut a certain length. Even the seminary I attended had dress codes - we were required to wear jackets and ties and the ladies had to wear dresses. One can debate the effectiveness and necessity of such codes but usually the issue is a moot point today.

Looking at scripture, we see there is still a dress code for followers of Christ. Colossians 3:12 - 14 tells us how to dress: "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness and love should be in the wardrobe of every believer.

I chafed a bit at the dress codes as a student, but I should gladly desire to dress in the manner prescribed by God. This wardrobe helps me please God and be beneficial to others.

Pastor Steve

Thu May 7 07:53:10 2015

Unless you live in a vacuum, you have heard of the horrific earthquake that hit Nepal April 25. The latest reports say that almost 8,000 people have been killed. This included local people and many there who were on Mt. Everest. People from all over the world have died. Among the many stories of death and destruction, there are many incidents that defy description, such as the survival of a baby trapped beneath rubble for days. Financial aid and manpower have been sent from all over the world to assist in the recovery process.

The tremendous efforts being made to save people's lives is as it should be. Yet, it makes the following all the more ironic. In 2006, a climber on Mt. Everest became disoriented and collapsed near the summit on his descent because he ran out of oxygen. As he lay dying, it is reported that at least 40 climbers passed him by. According to some, any attempt at saving the stricken climber would have been too risky.

The contrast between these two scenarios demonstrates an attitude that sometimes is prevalent in our thinking. At times we struggle with the worth of an individual over against a number of people needing aid. Let me be clear - what is taking place in Nepal even as I am writing this article needs to be happening. Every effort should be made to secure the safety of as many as possible, but the life of the man who ran out of oxygen trying to make his way down was valuable as well.

We need to remember this when it comes to our outreach for people. Rallies and revivals where we see many come to faith are marvelous; but we should never forget the importance of reaching out to one.

Christ didn't. He went out of his way and broke social customs of the day to reach a woman who was in need. Reading John 4:4 & 7 gives us the gist of the encounter that led to her salvation, "Now he had to go through Samaria. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, 'Will you give me a drink?'" Christ had preached to thousands, but he demonstrated the significance of the one. He went out of his way to bring good news to a lady with a sullied reputation and an interesting past. Don't overlook the importance of one.

Pastor Steve

Wed May 6 08:05:41 2015

As many of you know, I had surgery recently to replace a knee joint. If all goes well, I will have surgery in June to take care of the other knee. When they took the dressing off, I noticed I didn't have any sutures or staples in my incision. My wound was closed with "Super Glue." I think this is an interesting application for this substance.

Have you ever had super glue or oil-based paint on your fingers? Hard to get this stuff off, isn't it? As a matter of fact, these substances will stick and stick without the right agent to remove them. When the correct solvent is applied, the glue or the paint that seemed impossible to remove comes off easily.

We often face circumstances in life that seem to want to stick and appear to be impossible to remove. We sometimes face burdens and struggles that just don't look like they are going to go away anytime soon. Just remember that what seems impossible to remove will indeed come off if we do what we know we should - turn those sticky messes over to God. Our burdens and struggles, even those brought about by our sin, can be removed if we place our struggles in the hands of God. The Bible says, "Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you." (Psalm 55:22)

We face a lot of junk in our lives. Turn this junk over to our loving Lord and watch how he puts things in order. God knows how to take a mess and make a masterpiece.

Pastor Steve

Tue May 5 07:53:26 2015

On December 17, 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright changed the world. This was the date of their first motorized flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Six years later in 1909, Wilbur flew a motorized vehicle above New York Harbor to the sounds of people cheering and boats sounding their steam whistles. What a momentous achievement!

War broke out in Europe in August of 1914, a conflict that would become World War I. This was just 11 years after the first flight, and a scant 5 years after Wilbur's New York Harbor flight. Yet, aeronautics had advanced to the stage that World War I became the first war where airplanes were used as weapons.

I have always been amazed at how quickly flight machines were adapted for warfare after their invention. Yet, I should not be too surprised. Man's desire to utilize technological advancements as a means of inflicting damage on others has been around since the fall. Although a significant achievement that cannot be overestimated in its value to humankind, I think the invention of the airplane and its rapid development into weaponry reveals something else that cannot be overestimated - the depravity of man.

Because of the fall, we are all born in sin. The Bible tells us that "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) I find it ironic that one of man's greatest achievements demonstrating his creativity and inventive prowess also reveals his base nature. And as inventive and creative as man might be, there is nothing he can do to eliminate sin. That took someone else of much greater character and ability - our Lord Jesus Christ. Whatever you might consider to be man's greatest achievement, remember that we are helpless to do anything about our greatest problem. Only our great Savior can do anything about that.

Pastor Steve

Mon May 4 07:56:17 2015

This past weekend I attended the college graduation of a cousin in Ohio. I had been to the school before, and was familiar with the area, so I knew the route I needed to take to get to where we needed to be. Towards the end of the route, I knew we had to depart from the interstate we would be on and take some other roads. To be safe, I decided to use my GPS.

As we approached our destination, I began to question the GPS. As I said, I had been there before and was familiar with the route, or at least I thought I was. In my thinking, I was convinced that our destination was north of I-70, the interstate we were on. However, the GPS showed it to be south. I was skeptical of the accuracy of the GPS (they have been known to be wrong). So I pulled over and decided to check the directions on my phone. I used the phone's GPS. Guess what? It agreed with the GPS in the car. I looked up the destination on the phone and checked a map. You know what I found? The location was south of I-70. I called a number I had and asked about the location. The young lady was not certain at first whether she was north or south, but upon further questioning, she assured me she was located south of Columbus. So that meant they had to be south of I-70. I followed the directions I originally received and made it to where I needed to be with no problem. Had I gone on my knowledge, I would probably still be wondering around northern Ohio somewhere. My "little knowledge" proved to be a big detriment.

This can be a problem with our relationship with God. We sometimes let our "little knowledge" get in the way of God's knowledge to our detriment. We may think we know things, but we need to rely upon God for ultimate understanding, especially in matters where we don't have complete comprehension. We need to ask for help and rely on God. Often we question God because we think we know better, or we want to follow our own way rather than God's path. This is a big mistake.

We need to remember the wise words of Proverbs 30:3, "I have not learned wisdom, nor have I attained to the knowledge of the Holy One." We need to acknowledge this and let God's wisdom guide us. This will keep us from going north when we should be heading south. Actually, let me rephrase that - it would sound better - following God will keep us from going south when we should be headed north.

Pastor Steve

Sun May 3 07:32:17 2015

I remember reading a story about an incident that took place during the Korean War. While engaged in an offensive, Baker Company was separated from the rest of their unit. For many long hours, headquarters waited anxiously for some communication from them. Finally, a faint radio message was heard. Headquarters responded, "Baker Company, what is your situation?" The reply from Baker Company was, "The enemy is to the east of us. The enemy is to the west of us. The enemy is to the north of us. The enemy is to the south of us. The enemy is not going to get away from us now!"

Although in a precarious circumstance, Baker Company was thinking about victory, not defeat. This is how we can look at tough times in our lives. Whether we are engaged in a time of difficult spiritual warfare, or we are struggling with a set of circumstances that seem to have us surrounded, we can focus on victory, not defeat. Paul speaks about having an attitude of victory when things look bleak, "We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." (II Corinthians 4:7-9)

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

Pastor Steve

Sat May 2 07:10:15 2014

Dr. M. R. DeHaan writes about Phillips Brooks: "Phillips Brooks (1835-1893), the great preacher, asked the operator of a local livery stable for the best horse he had. Brooks explained, 'I am taking a good friend for a ride and I want the very best for the occasion.' As the livery man hitched up a horse to a buggy, he said, 'This animal is about as perfect as a horse could be. It is kind, gentle, intelligent, well-trained, obedient, willing, responds instantly to your every command, never kicks, balks, or bites, and lives only to please its driver.' Brooks then quietly said to the owner, 'Do you suppose you could get that horse to join my church?'"

This is an interesting observation. If we would strive to develop these qualities, then we would be able to make quite an impact for God with our lives. We should be as gentle and intelligent as we can be. Ephesians 4:2 tells us to "Be completely humble and gentle." We need to be willing, obedient and responsive to God's call. Isaiah 1:19 tells us "If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land." We need to "live only to please our driver." Our desire should be that of the Psalmist who wrote, "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer (Psalm 19:14)." We need to be willing to serve Christ and to serve others. If the church is full of people with this attitude, you will see the results in the effectiveness of the church's ministry!

Pastor Steve

Fri May 1 07:43:26 2015

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

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

Throughout the Psalms, we find several "maydays". Several times the writers of the Psalms, including David, spoke of incidents where God had intervened and offered prayers calling out for help in a present circumstance. David wrote a psalm for the dedication of the then-future temple that included this statement, "Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me." (Psalm 30:2) Other statements of God's help can be found in Psalm 46:1, "God is our refuge and strength; an ever-present help in the time of trouble", and Psalm 121:1, "I will lift up my eyes to the hills; where does my help come from?"

God is indeed a source of help for us. However, it seems we abuse his help in a couple of ways. We either ignore his help when it is offered for some unknown reason, or we simply view God as "genie in a bottle" and only call on him when we need help. Either abuse is reflective of a dysfunctional relationship with God. We do indeed covet his help, but we should look to experience his help because we are walking consistently with him, not just following him in fits and starts. Don't use God as simply a person to be there only in times of trouble. God is more than just a cosmic mayday responder.

Pastor Steve

Thu Apr 30 07:50:58 2015

A little boy was wondering why he had to be thankful for things he didn't like. "Why do I have to thank God for asparagus? I don't like asparagus." If it was a hamburger or spaghetti, that would be fine, but why asparagus?

We often face the same dilemma in our adult lives. There are many things we experience for which we find it hard to give thanks. Yet Paul writes, "give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (I Thessalonians 5:18) Greg Simas writes, "Giving thanks in all circumstances is the most reliable indication of my spiritual health." God gives nothing but give good gifts. Sometimes we may be confused by what we receive through our experiences, but we need to trust God.

There are reasons why we face struggles and why we face pain - they are not mistakes, and they are not meant to tear down but to build up. As we trust in God, this will become apparent. The best way we can show that our trust in God is to follow the admonition of Paul and give thanks - even for asparagus.

Pastor Steve

Wed Apr 29 07:41:26 2015

It is so easy to be pessimistic in today's world. Even as I am writing this, another U.S. city is struggling to restore order after rioting and looting. There are so many folks out of work and I just read that gas prices are going to start going up. You do not have to look long to find bad news on TV, in newspapers, or on the internet. We hear about accidents, struggles among countries, struggles in our government, wars. What are we supposed to do?

David offers a solution in Psalm 4. He says, "Many, Lord, are asking, 'Who will bring us prosperity?' Let the light of your face shine on us. Fill my heart with joy." David knew that the only source of true joy and true prosperity is the Lord. He chooses to focus on what God will bring about rather than pursue some temporal fix for the problems of man. He encourages the worshippers to "Offer the sacrifices of the righteous and trust in the Lord."

Only in the Lord will true peace and hope be found. There are no others who can provide answers. The pessimism of our world can turn to a positive outlook through the power of God. When we do this, we can have the same sense of well-being as did David: "In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord,make me dwell in safety."

Pastor Steve

Tue Apr 28 08:03:13 2015

Do you try to take advantage of God? Sounds like a crazy idea, but for some reason some folks try it. They try to take advantage of God in light of his grace. Some mistakenly think, "We have been forgiven through God's grace and therefore, we can live how we please since we will be forgiven." Jude 4 describes folks who "are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only sovereign and Lord."

Don't think you can do this and get by with it. God knows how you are living, and he knows if you are trying to take advantage of his grace. Paul writes, "Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!" (I Corinthians 6:1-2) Don't fool yourself into thinking you can live how you want. If you think this way, that is exactly what you are doing - fooling yourself. And you will be the only person you will fool. You certainly will not fool God.

Pastor Steve

Mon Apr 27 07:55:57 2015

100 years ago at this time, one of the most horrific atrocities in the history of humans was taking place. Over a period that started in 1915 and continued through the end of World War I in 1918, 1.5 million Armenians were killed by the Ottoman government. The reasons for this were several, but essentially it was a response of the declining Ottoman Empire to their waning influence. Their rage was vented against the Christian population of Armenia and other areas that were freeing themselves from Ottoman rule.

Christians have suffered since the beginning of the Church in the first century. From a human standpoint, there are no good reasons for this. However, we know that Satan is bent on doing all he can to destroy the people of God, and has the power to influence those in authority to carry out his evil plans. Over the years, this has led to many horrific circumstances, including that one that began 100 years ago this month. We do know that this does not escape the eye of the all-seeing God.

Scenarios like this continue to take place, and will take place until the end. We read in Revelation that war against Christians will continue until the time of Christ's return. Revelation 7:13-14 describes the martyrs who will lose their lives during Satanic oppression in the Great Tribulation, "Then one of the elders asked me, 'These in white robe--who are they, and where did they come from?' I answered, 'Sir, you know.' And he said, 'These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.'" Times of great atrocity towards Christians do not escape God's. And we know from words of Abraham, "Will not the judge of all the earth do right?" (Genesis 18:25) God will make all things right. Let's continue to pray for our oppressed brothers and sisters.

Pastor Steve

Sun Apr 26 07:14:41 2015

Sometimes trying to explain to someone else what you mean is frustrating. There are times when communication just seems to break down and we experience difficulty in describing to someone else what we are thinking or how to do something or how to find something.

Christ was having that experience with a group of people who really didn't like what they were hearing. They did not understand at all what he was saying. Their reaction was hostile and revealed their underlying attitude towards him. He said to them, "Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say." (John 8:43) In essence, they simply did not want to hear what he had to say. As believers, we can hear what Christ is saying to us. However, we need to be careful that we don't fall into the trap of not hearing simply because we don't like what we are hearing.

As we study God's Word, we often encounter principles and precepts that inform us of needed changes in our lives. Because we don't want to make those changes, we allow for a communication breakdown and ignore what we are hearing. I don't know how much this frustrates Christ, but I do know it isn't a good idea.

I have a two-year-old granddaughter that is pretty well along the normal path of communication development. Her speech is normal for her age, and so is her hearing. However, at times she has a "hearing issue." You can try to get her attention all you want, but she will just continue to do what she is doing as if she doesn't hear you at all. Usually, this is a humorous thing, but sometimes it isn't when some real issue is involved.

We can be like my granddaughter at times - but we shouldn't be. Work on your hearing when it comes to Christ's words. They are important and we really need to hear what he is saying!

Pastor Steve

Sat Apr 25 08:48:32 2015

I read an article recently that said, "With few exceptions, the major highways in Michigan follow ancient trails that were blazed by Native Americans hundreds of years ago." Imagine that - modern roads following the path that was determined so many years ago.

Successive generations will follow the paths that we are blazing now. What kind of routes are we choosing? Which way are we directing those who will follow our lead? We see this principle in the scripture. Proverbs 4:18 tells us, "The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day."

Are we making paths that are "like the morning sun" and will be easy to follow? Our children, both physical and spiritual, will be following the paths we create. We need to make sure that we are cutting a righteous, wise, and clear trail. We want to make the kind of trail that will someday turn into a highway. What kind of path are you cutting?

Pastor Steve

Fri Apr 24 08:12:39 2015

I have used the following story on a number of occasions. A young boy was trying to lift a large stone. He pushed, he pulled, he tugged, he huffed, he puffed, but try as he might, he could not move the stone. His father was nearby watching his efforts and asked, "Son, can't you move the stone?" "No," his son replied. The father continued, "Have you done everything you can to move the stone?" "Yes," said the boy. The dad said, "I don't think you have - you didn't ask me to help."

Who is helpful to you in the work that God has called you to do? Who walks alongside you so that together you can accomplish more than you could on your own? I think it really interesting that one of the first things Christ did as he began his earthly ministry was recruit some men to go with him on the journey. Now, I realize there were many reasons for this but I think it important to realize that even the Son of God did not want to walk alone when he was on the earth to accomplish his Father's plan. He had trusted companions that may have worked in fits and starts at times, but were there nonetheless to learn, to assist, to walk with the Savior so they could continue the work. Paul had companions on all of his journeys. He told Timothy to "Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry." (II Timothy 4:11)

Ecclesiastes 4:8-10 tells us, "There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up."

Find friends who can help you walk and work the road of God's calling together. Family members and friends who are there for you and have you there for them to share burdens, share ministry, celebrate joys, and experience life are vital. Don't walk alone.

Pastor Steve

Thu Apr 23 10:09:19 2015

Filters are good things. Water filters make the water we drink safer. Oil filters keep the oil in an engine in better condition to do what oil should do. Gas filters take out things that would make an engine underperform. Sometimes we need filters on our mouths as well. Have you ever met someone who doesn't seem to have a filter? Of course, before we go looking at others in this regard, we might want to see if our filter is in good working order.

We need to watch what we say. We need to avoid inappropriate remarks, hurtful comments, saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, and saying more than should be said. Paul encourages us to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) but we should do it correctly. Examine your heart and your motives before you apply this principle.

Job had some friends who lacked filters. They said more than they needed to say and most of what they said was poor advice. They started out pretty well by just sitting with Job in silence, but when they opened up they miss the mark in what is said. God rebukes them for what they say - "After the Lord had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, 'I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.'" (42:7)

Before you give advice, examine your motives and your heart and think about what you have to say. Before you make comments on others' actions or circumstances, use your brain. When I did my student teaching, my supervising instructor had a sign on the wall in front of the room that read "Be sure brain is engaged before mouth is set in motion." This is great advice. Make sure your filter is working properly!

Pastor Steve

Wed Apr 22 08:07:35 2015

Did you ever have a bird in your house? Now I don't mean a domestic bird like you would have in a cage, but a wild bird that got in the house inadvertently. I have a couple of experiences with this. Each time it happened, the poor bird was terrified and flied around wildly, banging into walls and windows. We opened all the doors and windows and tried to guide the bird to an escape route. The bird was in a odd place - a place it should not have been - and this led to confusion, fear, and other negative consequences.

When you read the story of Jonah in the Bible you read an account of a person who ended up in an odd place, a place he should not have been. Spending some time in the inside of a large sea creature was not what Jonah set out to do. But when he chose to disobey God and go a different direction, the result was finding himself in a strange place struggling with strange circumstances.

This is what can happen when we choose to go a different direction other than the path God has for us. When we walk in disobedience and fail to follow God, we can end up in a precarious predicament. Jonah eventually ended up in the right place when he called to God and confessed his sin. Job cried out, "In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry." (Job 1:2)

If you find yourself in a strange place because you have chosen to walk on your own rather than walk with the Lord, confess your sin and seek his help. If you are out of fellowship with the Lord, seek his forgiveness (I John 1:9) and get in a good place. Then you won't feel like you are banging your head against a wall, or maybe the inside of a fish.

Pastor Steve

Tue Apr 21 08:14:07 2015

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

Why is it that so often when God wants me to be still so he can do an important work in my life, I want to do anything but stay put? Being active in spiritual things is good, but we must remember that there are times when the best thing we can do is be quiet before the Lord and meditate on his person and the Word he has provided. This allows God to work on us and help us to see areas of our lives that need to be developed or changed.

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

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

Pastor Steve

Mon Apr 20 07:59:21 2015

Worry is an interesting thing. It is something that most of us do at one time or another and there are those who tend to worry more than others. How many of the things that you worry about actually happen? How many things happen that you hadn't worried about? We often worry about things we think will be a reality, and then the reality is circumstances occur that were not even on our radar. Don Herold said, "If I had my life to live over, I would perhaps have more actual troubles but I'd have fewer imaginary ones."

I read a story recently of a World War II paratrooper who had survived more than 50 missions only to break four ribs in a fall upon his return home after the war was over. He worried about his missions, but then something happened about which he had never even given a thought - he tripped on a rug! Worry cannot change circumstances which are happening, nor can it prevent circumstances from taking place. This is why Christ said, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life (Matthew 6:25-27)?"

Christ wants to take care of our needs (read the rest of Matthew 6). Temper your worry with the reality that God is in control.

Pastor Steve

Sun Apr 19 07:21:45 2015

Many people mistakenly think that God must not be as involved in people's lives today as he once was because we don't see the miraculous events we read about in scripture occurring on a regular basis today. The operative word in my opening sentence is "mistakenly." Just because we don't see events happening that we might describe as "miraculous" does not mean that God is not working. Yes, we believe that the canon is closed - that there is no more direct revelation that has been given we would consider on the same level as scripture, but that does not mean that God is not as operative now as he was in the days when scripture was written.

There are some things to remember here. Remember that the scripture was written over a period of more than 1500 years, so it spans a great deal of history. Another thing to remember is the reason scripture was written - to give future generations a look at our Heavenly Father and his wonderful plan for us. At times this required miraculous involvement to bring about his purposes. And certainly we need to remember that the coming of God's Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, was the culmination of his redemptive plan that continues to work out in the lives of individuals since Christ's time here on earth. We read in Hebrews 1:1-2, "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe." Finally, we do see miraculous events happening. There are things that take place that cannot be explained other that the fact of God's involvement in a supernatural way. I remember well the Six Day War of 1967 when Israel defeated various more powerful forces bent on her destruction. Many consider this the work of the Hand of God. The thing is, we don't have the privilege of a scripture commentator telling us that "And God said. . ." in this instance. There are other events that fall into this category, most not on the same scale, many on a more personal level, events that defy description.

So to say that God is not as involved now as he was in "Bible times" is erroneous. He is involved. He is taking part in what happens. He is there. God in times past "spoke to our forefathers through the prophets" - sometimes in an audible voice, sometimes through a miraculous deed, sometimes by writing on tablets of stone. Now he speaks to us through His Son who is alive and resides within us. Listen - can't you hear him speaking?

Pastor Steve

Sat Apr 18 07:35:28 2015

When trees are damaged, they ooze sap to the affected area to form a barrier against invasive bacteria and insects that would use the injured area as an access for them. This, of course, would cause further damage. Often, the scarred-over areas form rather interesting patterns that are attractive and compelling. The marks are there, but the healing process has transformed them into a positive feature of the tree.

When God heals us, those scars of the past created by our miscreant ways and our sins can become marks of beauty. When we repent of our sins, seek forgiveness, and leave them in the hands of our loving Lord, he can take what is broken and turn it into something beautiful.

Bill Gaither wrote, "Something beautiful, something good, all my confusion, he understood. All I had to offer him was brokenness and strife, but he made something beautiful of my life." This is exactly what God can do when we turn our lives into his hands. Isaiah wrote, "'Come now, let us settle the matter,' says the Lord. 'Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.'" (Isaiah 1:18) Let God transform those scars of sin into marks of beauty for his glory.

Pastor Steve

Fri Apr 17 08:12:36 2015

Yesterday was Holocaust Remembrance Day. Rabbi Ben Eckstein of The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews wrote the following:

Each year Jews around the world observe Yom HaShoah Holocaust Remembrance Day - commemorating a horrific chapter not only in the history of the Jewish people, but also in the history of the world. Motivated by a fanatical hatred of Jews and a desire to rid society of "undesirable" elements, the Nazi regime that ruled Germany during the mid-20th century engaged in a systematic and brutal campaign to destroy the Jewish people. Harvesting the fruits of seeds sown through centuries of anti-Semitism, they nearly succeeded, murdering six million Jews, or about one third of the world's Jewish population at the time. The full name of Holocaust Remembrance Day in Hebrew is actually "Yom HaShoah Ve-Hagevurah," meaning "Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day." This reminds us that even though many ignored evidence of Nazi crimes, there were those who went to great lengths to save Jews. Many of these heroes are remembered today as "righteous gentiles." In Holland, Corrie ten Boom sheltered those fleeing Nazi oppression. In France, Pastor Andre Trocme helped to make an entire town, Le Chambon, a safe haven for persecuted Jews. Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish Christian, rescued thousands of Jews from the Nazi death machine. And there were, of course, many more who are less well-known, but no less deserving of our gratitude. Some say the Holocaust is too terrible to remember. But there is a reason why the Jewish people have vowed to "never forget." They remember so that they may prevent such horrible events from ever occurring again.

We know from Revelation that God has a plan for the Jewish nation. When Jesus returns to earth, he will return to Jerusalem. Zechariah 14:4-5 tells us, "On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south. You will flee by my mountain valley, for it will extend to Azel. You will flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him." In that day, all that has happened will be set right. Let us look forward to that time and know the future is in God's secure hands.

Pastor Steve

Thu Apr 16 08:03:28 2015

We use a lot of olive oil in our home as we use it almost exclusively in our cooking. We enjoy the taste, and it is supposed to be better for you. Olive oil is still an important commodity in our world today, but in ancient times it was really important. Someone once wrote that the Roman empire ran on olive oil - cooking, heat, light, medicine and many other uses. The oil came from southern Spain in clay pots. Once the oil was consumed, the pots were discarded.

On the bank of the Tiber River in Rome there is a "mountain" called Monte Testaccio that is made from the fragments of millions of discarded pots. The Romans used what was valuable and discarded the pots that were of little value.

Paul wrote about this reality in the Christian life: "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." (II Corinthians 4:7) Paul was reminded his readers that what is important about our lives is not the temporal, fading, frail external body, but the internal being. Our greatest treasure is the inner working of Christ within us.

There is such a premium placed on our bodies in our society today. And I am not saying we should neglect the care of the body, or view the body as bad while the good part of us is inside. What I am saying is that we should focus on developing the inner being and our bond with Christ. We need to live so that others can see the glory of Christ in us. We should reveal our inner treasure by radiating the love of Christ.

Pastor Steve

Wed Apr 15 07:53:47 2015

"Sometimes you have to take the bad with the good," someone once said. Well, April 15 is a good example of this. Today is TAX DAY - now how can that be good? Just hold on to that thought for a minute.

On this day in history, some pretty significant good things took place. In 1923, insulin was introduced. In 1945, British troops liberated the Nazi concentration camp Bergin-Belsin. McDonalds got its start on this day in 1955 when Ray Kroc opened his first franchised restaurant in Des Plaines, Illinois. Some might say this was not such a good thing.

There are some things that took place on this date that are unquestionably negative. Abraham Lincoln died on this date in 1865. The Titanic sank on this date in 1912. Libyan ruler Mohammar Gaddafi launched the Green Revolution in 1970. So, good things and bad took place on the same day.

We struggle with the bad we experience in life, but we know that the bad we experience can bring about good. Earlier I referred to the "badness" of this day because of taxes, but those bad taxes are used for good things - schools, roads, programs to help folks, and other items.

We see biblical examples of how God can use a bad experience to bring about good. Joseph declared this to his brothers in reference to the bad he experienced because of their actions, "Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." (Genesis 50:19-20) We struggle to see the good in bad things, but take the time in the midst of your struggles to seek God's face and his guidance to provide perspective on your experience.

Remember the statement of Paul found in Romans 8:28, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Let God help you see the good in the bad that takes place. This is not so much taking the bad with the good as it is acknowledging that good can come from bad.

Pastor Steve

Tue Apr 14 07:56:53 2015

With the launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik, 1957, humankind entered into a new era. We also created a new place to trash - outer space. There are over 100 million objects 1 micron or larger currently orbiting the earth that are there due to the destruction of satellites, the deposit of debris from space missions, and collisions between orbiting bodies. Space agencies have to constantly monitor this debris to allow for course corrections by the orbiting international space station and other carriers such as space shuttles in order to avoid collisions. Still, some collisions do occur. This is a dangerous consideration as a small fleck of paint no larger than the size of a watch battery is traveling so fast that it hits with the force of a 5.5 lb. hammer. Efforts to clean up this mess are still being sought, but no effective solution has ever been reached.

The effects of sin in our lives can be devastating as well. Achan lost his life because he chose to disobey and keep some of the plunder from Ai. Joshua 22:20 tells the consequences, "When Achan son of Zerah was unfaithful in regard to the devoted things, did not wrath come on the whole community of Israel? He was not the only one who died for his sin." The scripture tells us that we affect our lives and the lives of others when we sin. David and his family experienced consequences from his affair with Bathsheba. We see God's grace operative in both of these incidents, nonetheless there was fallout from what had taken place.

We need to make course corrections in order to avoid "sin debris." Make wise choices to eliminate the creation of sin debris. We have a tendency to create trash - let's do what we can to reverse this trend in our spiritual lives.

Pastor Steve

Mon Apr 13 07:51:03 2015

Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743. His presidency was eventful, to say the least. He oversaw the Louisiana Purchase and commissioned Lewis and Clark to explore the new lands acquired in this purchase. He was a scientist, a poet, and a great statesman. And, lest you think that our struggles against Muslim terrorists are a recent development, Jefferson sent Marines to Tripoli ("to the shores of Tripoli" goes the Marines' theme song) to do battle with Muslim Barbary Coast pirates that had been raiding ships in the Mediterranean.

Our new nation had started paying ransom to a confederation of North African countries in 1785 for protection against the pirates. Jefferson disliked this practice and discontinued it in 1801 after becoming president. Tripoli declared war on the United States and for four years the conflict raged, ending with a victory for the United States in 1805. I think it is rather ironic that one of our most recent conflicts is with an Islamic North African state and, of course, we continue to fight in Afghanistan to root out Islamic terrorists. The threat of ISIS is real and there are other cells of Islamic terrorists.

Inscribed in the Jefferson Memorial are these words of Jefferson, "God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?" We should never take for granted the liberty we enjoy as citizens of this country. In addition, we should never take for granted our relationship with our Father, and the liberty we have in Christ. Romans 8:2 reminds us, "through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." We have been liberated from sin and the sentence of death. We have been set free to enjoy life and eternal life.

We should be grateful for the freedom we enjoy as citizens of the United States. As Thomas Jefferson stated, these liberties are the gift of God. Enjoy your liberty, don't take it for granted, and give thanks to God for what we have. Continue to pray for those who are fighting that they would be safe, and that they would be successful in their endeavors.

Pastor Steve

Sun Apr 12 07:06:38 2015

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Sat Apr 11 08:16:29 2015

Samuel DiPiazza wrote a book about building integrity, trust, and believability in relationships in the business world. He wrote, "either you have it or you don't." He promotes a culture of transparency and accountability. A good question is: Can you acquire integrity if you are a person who has demonstrated that you are less than believable at times? Certainly you can by demonstrating character and trustworthiness. DiPiazza contends that you cannot acquire this characteristic if you aren't a person with inherent integrity. I disagree.

With the work of the Holy Spirit within you, a fundamental change in character is indeed possible. David asked God "teach me your statutes." (Psalm 119:124) Proverbs 11:3 says, "The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them." Such integrity is something that comes from within, but is a trait that can be acquired and developed. Through turning our lives into the hands of the Lord and trusting the work of the Spirit, we can see our character transformed and our hearts made right. Develop integrity through trust in God's hand in your life. He will guide your ways.

Pastor Steve

Fri Apr 10 07:42:51 2015

What do you want to do for the Lord today? Many of you may be saying, "Well, I really haven't given that much thought." Therein lays the problem. We spend way too much time on trivial pursuits and not enough time on really important considerations.

In an episode of "Everybody Loves Raymond," Debra confronts Raymond about his lack of desire to do something worthwhile. One of her statements is, "You said the church carnival really wasn't your thing because you didn't think the Lord wanted you to try to fleece other people for money." Her complaint is that he really didn't want to do anything.

We are often like that in our service for God. We have a number of excuses and reasons why we aren't doing anything. We want to do what we want to do and are not concerned about what God wants us to do. We have "Raymond excuses" and I really don't think God wants to hear them. This is just wrong, and it is an attitude that needs to be eliminated.

Moses tried this - he had "Raymond" excuses when it came to doing what God wanted him to do. We read in Exodus 3:13-14, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' Then what shall I tell them?" God said to Moses, "I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I am has sent me to you.'" God eventually said to Moses, in effect, "Quit making excuses and do what you know you should!" He says that to us as well. We need to quit making excuses and do what we know we should.

Pastor Steve

Thu Apr 9 08:25:13 2015

Have you ever misplaced something? If that is not a rhetorical question, I don't know what would be a rhetorical question. At times we all have had the fun experience of trying to locate something that we have put somewhere but cannot remember where that somewhere is. We are preparing for a baptism this Sunday at church and just yesterday I had to ask for the spelling of the names of those who are to be baptized because I had misplaced the note where I had written the names.

This got me to thinking. We often allude to our name being in the Book of Life when we have a relationship with Christ. The idea of our names being in a book is spoken of in many places in Scripture. Psalm 69:28 tells us, "Let them be blotted out of the book of the living; let them not be enrolled among the righteous." Christ refers to this when he says, "Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." (Luke 10:20) Paul speaks of the book, "together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life." (Philippians 4:3) Perhaps the best-known, and certainly the most ominous, is found in Revelation 20:15, "And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." Especially after reading this last reference, I am glad that God has written my name in His book and, unlike me, will NOT misplace the book.

Is your name in the Book of Life? You can know that it is through making a decision to trust Christ as your Savior. If you have, you can be assured that God knows your name, he knows it is written down, and he will not misplace where it is written.

Pastor Steve

Wed Apr 8 07:50:54 2015

To whom do you attribute your successes and accomplishments? In today's climate of rationalism and humanism, you would be hard pressed to find a researcher or inventor that would allow for God's hand in their accomplishments. Such has not always been the case.

Samuel F. B. Morse graduated from Yale in 1810. He founded the National Academy of Design and served as president for twenty years. He, of course, invented the telegraph, along with Morse code, but struggled to find financial backing for this invention. He wrote his wife, "The only gleam of hope, and I can not underrate it, is from confidence in God. When I look upward it calms my apprehensions for the future, and I seem to hear a voice saying: 'If I clothe the lilies of the field, shall I not also clothe you?' Here is my strong confidence, and I will wait patiently for the direction of Providence.'" Sounds like he was aware of the source of this powerful knowledge!

Eventually, Congress began to realize the power of Morse's invention, and provided backing for the installation of telegraph lines. In 1844, Morse allowed the young daughter of a colleague to choose the first message to be transmitted over the newly-erected system. She chose Numbers 23:23, "What hath God wrought?" This was an appropriate statement about the technology being revealed, and one with which Morse wholeheartedly agreed. He attributed his success to God, and was not ashamed to proclaim this message.

Can you imagine this attitude in our secular society today? We are in a climate where attributing to God one's accomplishments is met with disdain and scoffing. Actually, the idea of the existence of God is met with great skepticism. My response to this? God knows who is in charge - I pity the folks and pray for the folks and proclaim truth to the folks who do not see this as the reality of his being. Folks will either acknowledge God in this life, or will acknowledge him later. "That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:10-11) The only problem is if they wait until then, it will be too late to provide any benefit for them.

Follow the lead of Morse! He made such an incredible contribution to the world - but he did not forget to acknowledge the source of that contribution!

Pastor Steve

Mon Apr 6 08:54:37 2015

I donít know if you watched any of the specials that were on because of the Easter season, but I always find it interesting to see how Christ is depicted. We really donít have any idea what he actually looked like, but artists throughout the centuries have provided us with their thoughts.

The most popular image of Christ ever produced is Warner Sallman's "Head of Christ," which he painted in 1941. This image has been reproduced over 500 million times. Mr. Sallman had been working against a deadline to produce an image of Christ. He struggled with the image, how should Christ be depicted? He awoke in the middle of the night, just hours before the image was due, and penciled the rough image that would become "Head of Christ."

It is no wonder that Sallman struggled with what to paint. The New Testament does not contain any description of Christ at all. . Was he tall or short? Was his hair curly or straight? Was he homely or handsome? We really don't know. Our desire to know what he looked like is so strong that we sometimes accept images such as Sallman's as reality. This, or course, is a mistake. It really is good we don't know what Christ looked like. This makes us concentrate on what we do know something about - his ministry and his character.

The New Testament says quite a bit about both of these. And since it does, these are the aspects of Christ on which we should focus. I'm glad we have no actual physical description of Christ. If we did, we would want to emphasize this in our study of Christ. We would want to imitate his physical appearance. In our appearance-crazy age, I would imagine we would do all kinds of things to "look like Jesus." I am sure that even plastic surgery would be in the mix.

What is important is that you be like Christ and act like Christ, not look like Christ. Paul talks about emulating the attitude of Christ in Philippians 2:5, "Your attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus. . ." Colossians 2:6-7 says to us: "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." We don't know how he looked, but we do know how he lived, so we should want to live like Christ, not look like Christ.

Pastor Steve

Sun Apr 5 06:08:07 2015

Today is "The Day" in the calendar of the Christian Church. This is Resurrection Sunday - a day of celebration of the great Gift of God. Today is the day we celebrate the resurrection of Christ and his departure from the tomb in which his body had laid since Friday. As we have pointed out on a number of occasions, this year Sunday is the very day that Christ came forth from the realm of the dead. We know this because this year the celebration of Passover, which gives us our timing of the events we observe, coincides with our celebration of Easter.

"After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, 'Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said." (Matthew 28:1-6)

What a Day! Be thankful for this day - a Day that provides hope for us that we may have many days to live and to express our praise to our Risen Lord!

Pastor Steve

Sat Apr 4 09:07:54 2015

During the week of the crucifixion, today is a day of mixed emotions and reactions. There must have been a widespread amazement to the events of the day before - the darkness, the rending of the veil between the Holy Place and the Holiest of Holies, and the resurrection of many dead people. The followers of Christ are confused, devastated, and afraid. The apostles have found a retreat in a room somewhere in Jerusalem. Most of the soldiers involved probably went about their lives - they had done this before, although Matthew 27 tells us that some of them were deeply moved by the events.

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

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

Pastor Steve

Fri Apr 3 08:19:50 2015

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Thu Apr 2 08:08:48 2015

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

Before celebrating the Passover, he washes their feet and later tells them, "A new command I give you: Love one another." (John 13:34) During the Passover observance, he gives them bread and tells them "Take and eat; this is my body." (Matthew 26; 26) After the supper he gave them the cup and said, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." (26:27-28) He tells them to "do this in remembrance of me." (Luke 22:19) Later, they would leave the room where they shared this last Passover and go to Gethsemane. There he would talk with His Father, chide his disciples for falling asleep, come face to face with his betrayer, be arrested, and taken before the Sanhedrin.

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

Pastor Steve

Wed Apr 1 08:27:53 2015

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

My Favorite Bible Verse
Sam & Karen White
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Psalm 19:14
Dr. Steve Willis
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29:11