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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
John Dryden
Sam White
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

Wed Aug 20 07:46:17 2014

We live in a very self-serving world. I think this is no more evident that in driving practices. Deliberately double-parking or parking in such a way as to prevent another vehicle from taking a space; parking in passenger loading and unloading zones so that they cannot be used as intended; refusal to yield to another car to allow them into a line of traffic; and parking at a pump at a convenience mart rather than moving your car before you enter the store are all examples of how self-serving we are. A humorous story serves to illustrate this point further. A single farmer wanted a wife so he put this ad in a local paper, "Single farmer, 35, wants woman, 25, with tractor. Send picture of tractor."

In Philippians 2:3-4, Paul tells us, "in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others." We need to live counter to the prevailing attitude of the world and live for others rather than ourselves. This goes against the grain of our society as illustrated in many ways, particularly in the common practice of the use of vehicles. Don't be a "double-parker!" Think of others! The Christ-like look is the outward look!

Pastor Steve

Tue Aug 19 07:29:46 2014

Church camp has been an important part of my spiritual life and spiritual development. I went to church camp as a kid, was a counselor as a college student, and then served as camp director for several church camps when I became a pastor. I was saddened many years ago when the camp was closed that kids from our church attended closed because of financial concerns. I remember that campground with a great deal of fondness.

One feature of the rustic chapel located at the camp was a sign that hung up front that read, "The Lord is in His Holy Temple." (Habakkuk 2:20) Now, from a human perspective, the chapel was, as I said earlier, rustic. Does God inhabit such a building? Of course he does! When God's children were in that building, God was there! I can attest to his presence as I saw many responses of faith in that place. God used that place to touch lives, challenge followers, and change people. God is where his people are.

It is fine that we want to have nice places to spend time in worship, but we need to remember that it is not the building that brings about the worship, it is the people that bring about the worship. God inhabited the temple in the Old Testament, now he inhabits his followers. Wherever we gather we can worship God. That marvelous little chapel at the south end of that camp was a beautiful place - not perhaps so much in its appearance, but because of the marvelous experiences of worship that took place there. Right there, in that very spot, indeed, "The Lord is in His Holy Temple."

Pastor Steve

Mon Aug 18 06:29:09 2014

To me, one of the most amazing aeronautical achievements ever was Charles Lindbergh's 1927 solo transatlantic flight. I became fascinated with this story when, as a young boy, I watched Jimmy Stewart in "The Spirit of St. Louis." I have never flown an airplane, but I can't imagine doing what Lindbergh did - making a flight across the vast Atlantic by yourself and entirely by instruments. The cockpit of "The Spirit of St. Louis" had been modified to carry a fuel tank which meant Lindbergh would be "flying blind." He would not be able to see where he was going or where he had been - he was totally dependent upon the wall of instruments before him.

As I have said, I am not a pilot. Yet I understand that when you are flying blind, you have to trust your instruments. Trusting your instruments is important even at times when a pilot is not intentionally "flying blind" as he or she may have encountered conditions such as low clouds or something which make it necessary to "fly blind." If a pilot has no visual reference, he or she could be flying an upside down aircraft and not even know it except for instrument readings. So, as a pilot, you learn to trust your instruments.

We need to learn this same degree of trust when it comes to our relationship with the Lord. There are so many times in our lives when we encounter conditions that force us to "fly blind." The only way we can avoid disaster is to trust the One who will not fail us. Just as a pilot learns to trust the instruments, we need to learn to trust our Savior. One thing with instruments is that they can be wrong. We will never have that problem with Christ. Proverbs 3:4-5 tells us "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding. In all our ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths."

You will never be "flying blind" if you place your trust in the Savior. Let him be the pilot, and you won't end up flying upside down!

Pastor Steve

Sun Aug 17 06:39:40 2014

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

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

Paul tells us that that the source of true comfort is God and God working through us to help others. He writes, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God." (II Corinthians 1:3-4) God provides the comfort we need, and wants to use us to bring comfort to others to help us live and thrive in a broken world. Enjoy comfort food for what it is, but when you face real struggles, let God be your source of comfort.

Pastor Steve

Sat Aug 16 07:53:39 2014

British statesman John Morley once traveled from England to Canada to deliver a commencement address at a university. He began his address by saying, "Ladies and Gentlemen, I have traveled more than four thousand miles simply to tell you there is a difference between right and wrong." This is indeed a basic reality yet we often need to be reminded of the "basics." Even with all of our cultural advances, we still face prejudice, dishonesty, violence and oppression in our society.

Evil is still very much with us and everywhere present. We need to guard ourselves in order to not be taken in by what we know to be wrong and we need to stand against what we know to be wrong. As followers of Christ, we are not immune to the effects of evil, but we do have the strength to avoid evil. Psalm 94:16 asks, "Who will rise up for me against the wicked? Who will take a stand for me against evildoers?" We, through the power of the Holy Spirit, are the ones who can rise up against the wicked and take a stand against evildoers.

There is indeed a difference between right and wrong. As followers of Christ, we know the difference. We need to resist what is wrong, point out evil when we see it, and stand firm in the power of the Lord. We need to tell others the difference between right and wrong, as basic as that may sound, because people need to be reminded. We need to be reminded. And we don't have to travel 4,000 miles to do it.

Pastor Steve

Fri Aug 15 07:36:17 2014

What is the greatest need in your life right now? When we focus on this question, it is easy to look at externals. Often we might answer this question by saying "My greatest need is for that person to change his or her mind" or "My greatest need is for this circumstance to change."

When Solomon was told by God to ask for whatever he wanted, he focused on himself. That is, he asked for discernment and wisdom that he might lead well instead of asking for better circumstances, more money, or better people with which to work. He asked that he would be able to see what was needed and that he would be able to change. We read in I Kings 3:5-9, "At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, 'Ask for whatever you want me to give you.' Solomon answered, 'You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day. Now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?'"

Solomon didn't ask for better circumstances, better others, or better things, he asked for a better self. This would help him as he encountered problems with people, circumstances, and things. Ask God to help you with your greatest need - a wiser self!

Pastor Steve

Thu Aug 14 07:58:36 2014

Well, the cicadas are back. It is that time of the year when they come out and announce their presence and also announce the end of summer. They let us know that it is the time of the year to watch for changing weather patterns and that the long, hot, usually dry days will be giving way to shorter, cooler, and sometimes a little wetter days. Now, this year has been quite different as we have enjoyed unusually cool temperatures. Nonetheless, you can still hear the song of the cicada telling us that summer is winding down and autumn is on its way. These cicadas are related to but somewhat different from the cicadas that come around every seventeen years. These noisy critters grace our forests every summer.

Some observations I have made about these insects are they are timely, they make their presence known, and they are resilient. They appear every year and are an indicator of an impending change. They make their presence known and their identity is unmistakable as no other creature makes quite the same noise. They are resilient as they appear just for a short time so they get done what they need to get done and then they bury themselves for another time.

Now, you might think this a bit odd, but I can see how we could learn some valuable lessons from the cicada. Cicadas, or locusts, are mentioned a number of times in the Scripture, including Proverbs 30:27 where we read, "locusts have no king, yet they advance together in ranks," so maybe it isn't all that odd that we use them for an example of how we should live.

We need to be timely in our lives with our presentation of Christ and bring the message of impending change that will be taking place. We need to make our presence known and make sure that our identity as a follower of Christ is unmistakable. Finally, we need to realize we only have a short time to get done what needs to be done so we need to get busy. We are hearing now the sound of an insect that offers for us some suggestions regarding how we should live. Let's make sure we are playing the right tune!

Pastor Steve

Wed Aug 13 07:58:22 2014

School is starting tomorrow. Hard to believe it is that time again. All over our nation, millions of students are preparing to return to classes. College students are getting ready to return as well and are sorting out their schedules to make sure they get the needed classes to keep them on track in their respective course of study. What helps in these situations is having a good counselor or advisor to offer thoughts on taking the correct classes. Ultimately, the choice of the class is up to the student, but having someone who has a wider perspective is very helpful.

Having good counselors to help us in decision making is important. We need folks who will give us good advice and not just give us advice they think we want to hear. It is wise to have those who are experienced and can help us make decisions based on familiarity and practice, not just speculation or even a desire.

Reheboam found this out the hard way. After the death of Solomon, there was turmoil in the kingdom of Israel. Reheboam had a chance to alleviate the turmoil and unite the kingdom if he would do the right thing. You can read the entire story in I Kings 11 and 12, but here is a part of the events: "Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who had served his father Solomon during his lifetime. 'How would you advise me to answer these people?' he asked. They replied, 'If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants.' But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him. He asked them, 'What is your advice? How should we answer these people who say to me, `Lighten the yoke your father put on us'?' The young men who had grown up with him replied, Tell these people who have said to you, `Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but make our yoke lighter'--tell them, `My little finger is thicker than my father's waist. My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.'" Reheboam rejected the advice of wise and experienced counselors, followed the advice of young men who wanted to please him and the result was a divided kingdom.

When you are faced with a decision, especially a decision that has the potential to end or continue a conflict, make sure you have good advisors and have the wisdom to listen. Not doing so can have bad consequences. The path of experience can teach us much.

Pastor Steve

Tue Aug 12 07:18:56 2014

Jesus was a people person. Jesus still is a people person. Of course, you might reply to my statement by saying, "Of course he was a people person - look at all that he did for people during his ministry, and he died for the entire world." Now, I certainly would not take exception to your reply. You are absolutely correct. However, Christ showed he was a people person in more than just his supernatural ministry for others. Remember how he responded when his disciples were holding off some children who wanted to see him? Christ said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them (Matthew 19:14)." Think about his implied comparison of himself to a shepherd in Luke 15:1-7. He, like the shepherd, is concerned about the "sheep" who is lost. We see his concern for people in his prayer for his disciples, both present and future, found in John 17.

If Christ was and is a "people person," we should be a people person as well. Often we let projects, things, tasks, deadlines, and other considerations come between us and doing what is necessary to develop relationships with others. We become "task oriented" instead of "people oriented." Use Christ's example as a model for us to follow when it comes to being a people person. Focus on others more than things or tasks - you will be doing what Christ did and what he does.

Pastor Steve

Mon Aug 11 07:51:46 2014

I do not use the fax machine in my office nearly as much as I used to. It is not that I send fewer documents to other places; I have just found that scanning the document into an email is more reliable and also allows for a transmission of an image that is much closer to the original, including the color. In addition I don't have to put up with those crazy electronic sounds and receive messages such as "Interference on line" that prevents the fax from going through.

Often our communication with God is inhibited by interference. A lack of focus can keep us from communicating with God in the way we should, and can keep us from hearing God's messages to us. We let interference from improper behavior, a lack of concern, and outright sin cloud the lines of communication and keep us from "sending" and "receiving" the way we should. We really need to upgrade to newer technology by honing our focus, improving our response, and clearing up our service. Christ proclaimed, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." (Mark 4:9) We need to make sure that we do away with the interference on the line so we can hear clearly what God has to say.

Pastor Steve

Sun Aug 10 06:22:59 2014

As I mentioned in this column earlier this week, this year is the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I. When the conflict ended and the armistice was signed, the map of the world was a bit different from what it was at the beginning of the war. This was the same after World War II, as well as other conflicts that have taken place over the history of the world. The maps of Europe and Asia are quite different now from what they were when I studied world geography in high school. They are different now from what they were just three decades ago.

We get accustomed to borders and how boundary lines fall, but we know in reality that they can change quickly. Civilizations appear on the world scene, then disappear. Even now from the perspective of all of time, our nation can be considered a recent addition. In contrast to the appearance and disappearance of nations and civilizations, the human soul is eternal. So, it would do us well to be more concerned about the state of the soul than the state of the state.

We should be concerned about the state of our own souls, and if we are followers of Christ and are assured of the destiny of our own soul through faith in Christ, we should be concerned about the destiny of the souls of others. II Corinthians 4:18 reminds us, "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." That which appears to us now as unmovable, unshakeable realities are in actuality fading entities that will not last forever. The soul of a human will go on forever. We need to be making efforts now that will have eternal consequences. Remember the words of the old Gospel song, "the soul of man never dies."

Pastor Steve

Sat Aug 9 09:35:33 2014

In the former Soviet Union, a story was told that illustrated the "official" position the government had regarding the existence of God. A commissar was visiting a collective farm and asked a tenant farmer about the status of the potato crop. "Ah, sir, the crop was wonderful. It reached up to the very foot of God." "Comrade," replied the commissar, "We are atheists! There is no God!" "Yes," said the farmer, "That is what I mean - no God, no potatoes!"

Of course, denying the existence of God is no laughing matter. I still struggle with the idea of atheism. I often wonder how an individual can totally deny the reality of God. Paul writes of some folks that "being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart." (Ephesians 4:18) They ignore the reality of scripture such as Psalm 136 that describes God as the source of all things. Colossians 1 refers to the creative work of God but does not create any special feelings of appreciation within those who look the other way.

Yes, you can choose to ignore God and ignore the evidence for the presence of God that is all around us, but you do so to your own demise. God is real, and that is no small potatoes!

Pastor Steve

Fri Aug 8 07:53:07 2014

The end of the story is a happy one for Mariam Yehya Ibrahim. Ibrahim was sentenced to death in Sudan last May because of her marriage to a Christian. Although raised by a Christian mother in Sudan, the Sudanese government considered her a Muslim as her father, who left the family when Ibrahim was 6, is Muslim. She was arrested as she was preparing to join her husband in the United States. The couple have a 20-month-old son and Ibrahim was 8 months pregnant when she was incarcerated and eventually convicted and sentenced to die because of her marriage. She gave birth while in prison and awaited her fate. However, through much prayer and intervention, she was recently released and has joined her husband in the United States.

The persecution of Christians is not a new phenomenon. Christian persecution started right from the beginning. Early converts in Jerusalem faced abuse. This came to a climax with the stoning of Stephen (Acts 8) and the killing of James by Herod Agrippa - "It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword." (Acts 12:1-2) Of course, this was just the beginning of persecution. Nero, looking for a scapegoat after Rome burned in 63 B.C., went on a rampage against Christians as the cause of the devastating fire that destroyed 2/3 of the city. He put them in coliseum games, used their bodies as torches, and most likely ordered the deaths of Paul and Peter. What was the result of this persecution? The Church grew, converts were realized, and the name of God was glorified.

As dichotomous as it seems, persecution of the Church leads to growth of the Church. This took place in the early years of the Church as the persecution of the Church actually led to the growth of the Church. In our time, we have witnessed this in such places as China where the Cultural Revolution in China led by Mao Tse-Tung that was intent on eradicating Christianity was a catalyst of growth as the Church moved underground. This is what takes place - Persecution leads to Power. In the early chapters of Acts we read that the church was dispersed through persecution. Throughout history, persecution has served to strengthen the church and spread the message. Of course, we don't desire persecution, but we need to remember the effects of persecution and pray for the persecuted.

Pastor Steve

Thu Aug 7 07:21:03 2014

August of 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the "War to end all wars," known otherwise as The Great War or World War I. Interconnected hostilities between several European nations, including Russia, came to a boiling point in 1914. England declared war on Germany at 11 p.m. on August 4, 2014, and devastation followed. By the time the United States entered the war in 1917, millions had died and the European boundary lines were altered tremendously. The intervention by the United States helped bring an end to the war at a cost of over 117,000 Americans. However, England alone lost over 1 million troops. There were over 17 million deaths brought about by World War I making it one of the deadliest conflicts in world history. Of course, humankind did little with the lessons learned from this conflict and three decades later engaged in another conflict that brought about the deaths of almost 3% of the world's population. And we still have learned little from this.

The Bible states that there will always be conflict until the time of the coming of the Prince of Peace. Mark 13:7 tells us, "When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come." Wars and conflicts are the epitome of the evidence of the fallen nature of man. Only the intervention of our Glorious Savior will bring about change. This is, of course, why we call him "Savior." As we see what seems to be a head-long plunge into oblivion, remember that Christ is indeed in control and will someday step onto the world's stage to bring about his Kingdom. As we await this time, let us continue to glorify him with our lives and bring his message to as many as we can. Indeed, someday there will be a "war to end all wars." As we await that time, continue to trust God!

Pastor Steve

Wed Aug 6 09:12:09 2014

A group called Jethro Tull recorded a song in 1969 entitled "Living in the Past." Some of the lyrics are, "Let us close our eyes; outside their lives go on much faster. Oh, we won't give in, we'll keep living in the past." The lyrics really don't make a lot of sense, do they? Well, neither does actually trying to live in the past.

Living in the past is really not a thing to do, whether the past is good or bad. The good things are things to cherish, but we need to take those good things and move on. The bad things we wish hadn't happened did, and no matter what we do, they will not change. Use what we can from our mistakes, or let other's mistakes go and go forward.

Paul says in Philippians 3:13-14, "Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." So, whether we have met with success in the past or failure, we must use what we can of what we have learned and go onward. Which way are you going?

Pastor Steve

Tue Aug 5 07:10:15 2014

A farmer placed a weather vane inscribed with the words "God is love" on top of his barn. One day a traveler stopped by the farm and watched the weather vane moving with the breeze. Then, with a smirk on his face, he asked, "Do you mean to say that your God is as changeable as the wind?"

The farmer shook his head and replied, "No. What I mean to say is that no matter which way the wind blows, God is love!"

The scripture states that God is Love. This means that the essence of God's character is love. It is just not something he does, that is, love us no matter what. Love is the essence of his being. We will never be able to plumb the depths of God's love. I don't think that we can fully appreciate God's love in this lifetime. John writes, "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. . .God is love" (I John 4:8-12; 16).

With God, no matter which way the wind blows, we know God is love. He will never be any other way because he cannot be any other way. He is love. We need to reflect God's love no matter which way the wind is blowing.

Pastor Steve

Mon Aug 4 08:25:30 2014

Yesterday was my birthday. This article would have been better-timed had it appeared in this column yesterday, but I just didn't get it done. Why? Well, I kept procrastinating about the writing of this piece and simply missed the day. So, I am putting an article about my birthday here on the webpage one day later.

In this instance, my procrastination is really not all that great of a problem. There are no dire consequences to experience because I am writing about my birthday a day after the actual date. However, there are times when procrastination about something can be problematic. Let's say you need to put your windows up in your car, but you simply put it off. Then, a sudden summer storm crops up unexpectedly and you are not where you can get to your windows. Now, you get to spend some time drying out the inside of your car. Last year the agent for Denver Broncos Elvis Dumervil procrastinated on filing his intent to stay with the Broncos with the NFL, missing the notification deadline by just minutes. As a result, Dumervil lost a lucrative contract with the Broncos and went elsewhere to play.

There are other circumstances that can be direr than simply losing out on some money. Are you putting off your decision to follow Christ? That is a bit of procrastination that is not wise. Consider the story of the rich farmer in Luke 12 who decided to enjoy life because of his large harvest and not prepare wisely for his death. Christ said of him, "You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?" (Luke 12:26) As followers of Christ, are there things you should be doing for him that you have delayed finishing? That is not a wise choice.

My putting off writing an article about my birthday so that it could appear on my birthday is not a real big issue. Delaying my decision to follow Christ is. Don't miss your "birthday" because of procrastination!

Pastor Steve

Sun Aug 3 06:09:22 2014

In our study today in our morning worship, our focus was on Pilate and the choice he had with regard to Christ. We have choices all throughout our lives. As followers of Christ, we need to learn to choose wisely. We need to make choices that reflect the character of Christ. We need to make choices that reflect our commitment to Christ. We must choose wisely. We must also choose inclusively. As we make decisions, we must realize our choices will have ramifications for others. Choices are not made in a vacuum and others are affected by how we choose. We often must choose quickly. This is especially true when we are speaking of our spiritual lives and making a decision that has to do with the eternal part of our being.

Joshua encouraged his people to "choose you this day whom you will serve" (Joshua 24:15), and we are told in Proverbs 16:16, "How much better to get wisdom than gold, to choose understanding rather than silver!"

Make good choices. Make sure your choices fall in line with Christ's example and teaching. Choose to serve Him!

Pastor Steve

Sat Aug 2 08:35:18 2014

There is a scene in Charles Dickens' 1838 novel "Oliver Twist" where Oliver tells the overseer of the workhouse where he lives at a meal, "Please, sir, I want more!" This is a really moving part of the story and is actually a very sad scene. Of course, Oliver really needed more!

Asking for more food when you are hungry is a legitimate request. However, we are often guilty of wanting "more" because we are greedy. We can get in a pattern where we want more money, more recognition, more achievement, more stuff. This can lead to frustration when we aren't able to get what we want, and many times when we do get what we want, we find out it is not all that satisfying. Actually, this is the key thought here: Having more does not lead to satisfaction. How many times have you found yourself wishing for something, and then when you get the something, you feel a little let down? The thing is, you are trying to satisfy a hunger for "meat and potatoes" by eating "cotton candy". It just doesn't work.

We do have a hunger for "more," but get the right "more" to take care of that hunger. Matthew 5:6 tells us "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." Go ahead - stuff yourself, but make sure you are getting the right stuff!

Pastor Steve

Fri Aug 1 07:16:06 2014

When I was younger I used be called "four eyes" because of my glasses. There is a species of fish found in Central and South America called the Four Eyed Fish, Anableps anableps. It is called the Four Eyed Fish because it has two lenses in each eye - one that enables the fish to look at the world above as it swims near the surface. The other set of lens allows it to see what is going on in the water. This sounds like a useful trait.

We don't have this physical attribute, but we need to develop a "four eyed" spiritual trait. We need to be able to look above, to train our focus heavenward so as to be aware of God and his desire for us and what he has in store for us. Paul states in Colossians 3:1, "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God." However, we should never lose our focus on our responsibility here and now. There are needs that should be met; there are things that need to be done. Christ spoke often of heaven and our place there (read John 14:1-6), but he also spoke of the need to seek justice and help meet needs now. We find Christ's words in Matthew 5:5-6, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy."

Do your best to develop four eyes. Train yourself to look above and look below. In this way we will keep ourselves encouraged as we think of what God has for us, but also keep ourselves involved in what is going on around us. Being "four eyed" is a really good thing!

Pastor Steve

Thu Jul 31 08:04:42 2014

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

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

What I find especially fascinating about these statements are that the Israelites are told to be honest with their enemies as well as their friends. Honesty should know no bounds and we need to allow the principle of honesty to drive us at all times and in all circumstances. Sir Edwin Sandys was certainly correct in saying that "Honesty is the best policy."

Pastor Steve

Wed Jul 30 07:55:26 2014

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

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

He knows my name

He knows my every thought

He sees each tear that falls

And He hears me when I call

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

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

Pastor Steve

Tue Jul 29 07:22:36 2014

When I was a kid, I always thought the music and the grand graphic that appeared at the beginning of a Twentieth Century Fox production was so cool. The fake spotlights and the blaring trumpets just really caught my fancy. When I see this now, I wonder if it being "outdated" is really a good idea. I read somewhere recently that having a twentieth century logo in a twenty-first century world is really not such a good idea from a marketing standpoint. Obviously, that is their problem and not mine. I still think the music and the graphic are cool.

I am glad I am following a Savior whose name will never go out of date. Revelation gives us his timeless name. John writes, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End." (Revelation 22:13) The timeless name ascribed to the Savior reflects his timeless nature. We know that our Savior and his provision will never be out of date. His provision is current, his help is never late. Jesus is not bound by time and his provision is always what we need at just the time we need it. And, by the way, he doesn't need impressive music and graphics to announce his presence in our lives. He is real and he is always there for us when we need him.

Pastor Steve

Mon Jul 28 08:20:55 2014

When I was a teenager, I once had counselor at church camp who would say, "I don't get mad, I get even." This was to ward off any attempts by us to, well, "bend the rules," especially when it came to doing something directed at him The warning of his revenge was meant to be a deterrent to bad behavior.

Do you really feel like revenge accomplishes anything? Our usual line of thought is that we need to "get back" at someone for what they have done to us. However, this usually compounds the issue, lowers us to the level of the person who perpetrated the wrong-doing to begin with, and could produce regrettable consequences. Followers of Christ need to work at following the high road when it comes to situations where one might normally might seek revenge. Benjamin Franklin said, "'Tis more noble to forgive, and more manly to despise, than to revenge an Injury." Christ, who is a somewhat higher authority than dear Mr. Franklin, tells us, "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic (Luke 6:27-29)."

Revenge is something best left in the hands of one who knows how to deal with bad behavior - our Father. God tells us he will seek vengeance when vengeance is warranted (see Romans 12:9). He knows how to handle these situations far better than us. Don't go down a path that can lead to further injury and bitterness, follow a path that shows you want to be like Christ. Leave the vengeance up to God.

Pastor Steve

Sun Jul 27 06:47:44 2014

As he looked upon the wreckage of his demolished home, John Lokitis Jr. felt a little sick and a little bitter. He had worked hard to try to stay in his home in Centralia, Pennsylvania, where he had lived for all of his 39 years. However, circumstances had dictated otherwise. Circumstances dictated otherwise for the entire town. In 1962, a fire at the town dump had ignited an exposed vein of coal. The fire spread underground and is still roaring today, fed by millions of tons of anthracite coal. Because of this, the town has had to move as fumes from the fire were creating serious health issues, not to mention the sinkholes created when seams of coal were burnt. So, with the assistance of federal and state governments, the town relocated. Some fought the relocation because of their strong ties to the town, but relocation was inevitable. They simply could not live there. Nonetheless, for many, their ties to their town made for a difficult move.

The scripture warns us to not have too strong a tie to our present home in this world. We will not live here forever, and we need to realize that allowing our present life to have too strong a grip on us keeps us from appreciating the joys of what lies ahead, and living the way we should now. We, like Abraham, are people of faith who need to remember that we are aliens here. We read of this in Hebrews 11:13-16, "All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country--a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them."

This scripture encourages us to have the right perspective on where we live currently. It is not our home - our home is yet to come. Don't have such a strong tie with what you have now that your fail to realize this and focus too much on what your present place of residence. This hinders your relationship with God, and can hinder your ministry for him. Keeping the right perspective can actually help us enjoy more our lives now as we look forward to what God has in store for us. We read the words of Christ in Matthew 6:19-21, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Don't be too attached to your present home - keep in mind it is already condemned.

Pastor Steve

Sat Jul 26 08:20:56 2014

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

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

A final way that we should be a "feet" kind of Christian is being sensitive to sin. We should be able to see areas that could be problems and avoid them. When we do sin, we need to seek forgiveness and not allow sin to remain and grow. No matter how "tough" your feet become, your foot is always sensitive to foreign objects present that may present a problem if left where they are. A tiny pebble in our shoe drives us nuts until we take the time to remove the pebble. We need the same sensitivity to the presence of sin. God told Cain, "sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it." (Genesis 4:7) We need to develop a sensitivity to sin that helps us to avoid the thorny issues sin causes. Be a "feet" kind of Christian! Support yourself and others well, bring the news of Christ to those who need to hear, and avoid sin!

Pastor Steve

Fri Jul 25 07:57:28 2014

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Thu Jul 24 07:34:38 2014

"The hurrieder I go the behinder I get" said the White Rabbit in Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland." At first glance, this actually sounds a bit oxymoronic. However, any of you who have lived any length of time at all know the truth in this statement. When you get in a big hurry, it often is the case that circumstances occur causing you to lose time rather than gain time in your endeavor. In most situations, a little bit of time spent in planning and forethought usually offers a much greater advantage to plunging ahead with no strategy as to how to proceed. If you don't have time to do something right the first time, when in the world are you going to have time to do it over? Take some time to lay out a procedure - you will be glad you did. Taking some time to lay out some strategy keeps us focused and helps us to be more productive.

If we want an example of someone who plans before he acts, we need look no farther than our Heavenly Father. There are examples throughout the Scripture of God setting out plans for how something is to be done. He does this for many reasons, not the least of which is the idea that when things are done with purpose, it allows for productive time for worship and service. An example of this is found in Numbers 1:50-51, "Appoint the Levites to be in charge of the tabernacle of the Testimony--over all its furnishings and everything belonging to it. They are to carry the tabernacle and all its furnishings; they are to take care of it and encamp around it. Whenever the tabernacle is to move, the Levites are to take it down, and whenever the tabernacle is to be set up, the Levites shall do it."

God laid out some plans for how things were to be moved when the Israelites would set out during their journey. Mapping out strategy ahead of time meant there would be less time spent "spinning their wheels." It caused them to focus on an activity given to them by God that would remind them of where their focus needed to be. It would keep them from random activities that could bring about frustration and cause them to focus elsewhere. Take time to plan - you will be glad you did!

Pastor Steve

Wed Jul 23 08:12:46 2014

I remember building a bookshelf several years ago. When I got it finished, I loaded it up with books. However, I noticed that the shelves sagged a little bit because of the weight of the books. I hadn't done anything out of the ordinary or unusual with the shelves. This is what bookshelves are for. But the cumbersome load produced extra stress and caused the shelves to sag. So, to take care of the problem, I reinforced the shelves and the issue was solved.

We often find ourselves sagging under the pressures and weight of life. There may not be anything unusual or out of the ordinary going on; but the day-to-day cares and typical problems are combining to weigh us down. When this happens, we need to be reinforced. That reinforcement can be found in the relationships we have with others and through the help that others can give. I want to make two observations here. First, unlike the bookshelves, we are able to ask for help, and we should when we find ourselves beginning to sag. Just don't wait too long to do this as waiting can make the resolution more difficult. Secondly, look for evidences of "sagging" in others. When you see this, do what you can to help.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says, "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." This verse demonstrates the principle of reinforcement. Don't try life alone; you will start to sag under the weight.

Pastor Steve

Tue Jul 22 07:43:24 2014

In The Imitation of Christ, Thomas a Kempis wrote, "The further the soul is from the noise of the world, the closer it may be to its Creator, for God, with his holy angels, will draw close to a person who seeks solitude, and silence. It is better to remain alone and to care for your soul than to neglect yourself and work miracles."

As I read about getting away from the "noise of the world," I wondered what a Kempis would think about the noise level of our current society (he died in 1471). Yet, the words he wrote are just as true today. We need to make "alone" time with God. There is no good reason to not do this. I have written before on the example of Christ in this regard. We also have the example of Paul. In Galatians 1:15-16 we read, "But when God, who set me apart from my mother's womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia."

We need time with God. We need time with God alone. Through intentional withdrawal into silence and solitude we process and assimilate what God is doing in our lives. Richard Foster writes, "Solitude is both a 'vacation with God' and a 'furnace of transformation.'" Make time for God.

Pastor Steve

Mon Jul 21 07:15:57 2014

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

How do you respond when someone else treats you harshly? We usually want to retaliate when someone has done something hurtful to us. It is usually difficult to respond any other way, but Christ encourages us to control our desire to retaliate and respond much in the same way as did Billy. We read Christ's words in Matthew 5:38-40, "You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well."

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

Pastor Steve

Sun Jul 20 06:19:48 2014

One of my summer jobs as I was working my way through college was clearing right of ways for the local county highway department. There were several college students on the crew, along with a permanent county highway employee who was our supervisor and took us to jobsites. One of his favorite lines was "It all pays the same." He usually responded with this when someone would complain about a job assignment, or even when questioned about his particular job.

We often feel ourselves involved in meaningless activities in our jobs. One way to respond to this, I suppose, would be to invoke the philosophy of my former supervisor. That is indeed the case with some of our activities - we feel they are meaningless and have no point. We feel that we are in a situation where our activity is actually getting us nowhere.

This is also a description of a life without God. A life without God is indeed meaningless and not going anywhere. There is no earthly solution to this - even the wisdom of my supervisor has little meaning in this case. This was the question of the Teacher when he wrote, "'Meaningless! Meaningless!' says the Teacher. 'Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.' What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun?" (Ecclesiastes 1:2-3) After pondering over all the possibilities, the Teacher concludes, "Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man." (Ecclesiastes 12:13) The Teacher realized that life had little meaning apart from God and a relationship with him. With God, you will find that it does not "all pay the same."

Pastor Steve

Sat Jul 19 08:48:47 2014

Many of us have experienced an adrenaline rush to some extent. This is when we get a shot of adrenaline in response to a situation that causes a "fight or flight" response. It may be some sort of fright, it may be some sort of emergency situation, it may be in response to a perceived threat, or some other situation.

The most extreme example of this I have ever witnessed was in my youngest brother. This incident happened when we were kids about 8, 10 and 12 years of age. My middle brother was playing on what was left of a large tree that had been felled in the front yard of my grandparents' home. As he played on top of the log, it suddenly fell off the stump on which it had been resting, rolled over, and pinned my brother beneath it. My youngest brother sprang into action and rolled the large log off his brother. Thankfully, my middle brother was scared and shaken up, but unharmed. What was strange about this incident was when we calmed down, we all tried to move the log again. We couldn't budge it one inch, let alone move it the way my youngest brother had done all by himself just a few minutes earlier.

There are times when we need a "spiritual adrenaline rush" to help us accomplish some task the Lord has given us. We need to remember that God will always provide the strength to move the logs that need to be moved. Moses proclaims in Exodus 15:2, "The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him." Do you have a need? God can provide the strength to help meet that need. When you need "spiritual adrenaline," God will provide it.

Pastor Steve

Fri Jul 18 07:09:30 2014

We know we should pray. We know the importance of prayer. I Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to "Pray continually." Yet we often struggle with our prayer life. Prayer is a conversation with God, not a "formula," yet there are times when having a pattern for prayer can be helpful. This is one reason why Jesus gave us "the model prayer" which we call "The Lord's prayer." It is helpful to see how Christ prayed and for what he prayed and keep this in mind as you pray.

Anne Cetas gives some good tips on our prayer. She calls it "the Five Finger Pattern for Prayer." These are here tips:

* When you fold your hands, the thumb is nearest you. So begin by praying for those closest to you - your loved ones (Philippians 1:3-5).

* The index finger is the pointer. Pray for those who teach-Bible teachers and preachers, and those who teach children (1 Thessalonians 5:25).

* The next finger is the tallest. It reminds you to pray for those in authority over you - national and local leaders, and your supervisor at work (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

* The fourth finger is usually the weakest. Pray for those who are in trouble or who are suffering (James 5:13-16).

* Then comes your little finger. It reminds you of your smallness in relation to God's greatness. Ask Him to supply your needs (Philippians 4:6,19).

Keep this in mind, use it, especially if you feel your prayer time needs a boost. It is important to pray, use these tips to keep us focused on this vital part of our Christian experience.

Pastor Steve

Thu Jul 17 07:35:38 2014

A church organist was practicing a new piece. The practice was not going very well. The piece was by Felix Mendelssohn and was a little tricky to play. After awhile, the organist became a little frustrated and decided to call it a day. He didn't notice that someone had entered the church and was sitting in the back row.

"Could I try the piece?" the man asked. "No," replied the organist, "I do not allow anyone to touch the organ." After a couple more polite requests, the organist finally gave in and allowed the stranger to play. And play he did - magnificently and flawlessly. When he finished, the organist asked the man, "Who are you?" "I am Felix Mendelssohn." said the man. The organist almost denied the composer the right to play the music.

Make sure you are not preventing the Composer from playing the music. God's plans will not be ultimately thwarted, but we can really mess things up when we try to do things on our own and don't allow him to work in our lives the way he wants. We need to remember what Paul said in Philippians, "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6) He also states that "we are his workmanship." (Ephesians 2:10) Let the Person who wrote the work complete the work! If you do, you will make some beautiful music!

Pastor Steve

Wed Jul 16 06:56:39 2014

In a book about business strategies, the author makes this statement, "Solving tough organizational problems may require counter-intuitive strategies." Well, yeah, that sounds just like what we need. Except, uh, what in the world is "counter-intuitive?" The word refers to things which go against the usual thinking, ideas which may even defy common sense. This is sometimes what is required. This even has a spiritual application. Paul states this fact in I Corinthians 1:18 - 25, "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.'. . .God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. . .we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength."

The Gospel does not make sense to a lot of people. It defies logic and goes against "conventional wisdom." But, as seen above, we even has examples from the business world where this is often necessary. It certainly was when it came to offering a solution to man's sin. This required a "counter-intuitive strategy." We need to be thankful we have a God who knows that logic needed to be defied. This led to the strategy of the cross, which leads to our deliverance, if we accept God's thinking. I think that would be a very wise thing to do.

Pastor Steve

Tue Jul 15 07:31:57 2014

One of my favorite movies is the Coen brothers' "Oh Brother Where Art Thou?" The storyline is loosely based upon Homer's epic poem "The Odyssey." In one scene of the movie, the 3 main characters are enticed by 3 young ladies who are washing clothes in a stream. This harkens to the event in the Odyssey where Odysseus knows his ship is going to pass by some coastal waters inhabited by "sirens." Sirens were mythical creatures that enticed sailors with their alluring songs, causing them to jump overboard and drown. To keep his men from being affected by the "Sirens' Song," Odysseus commands his men to tie him to the mast, and then stuff wax in their ears. The ship passes by safely as the sailors are oblivious to the song of enticement. In "Oh Brother," the characters are not so fortunate as they hear the songs of the "sirens" and find themselves in quite a predicament.

We are constantly being enticed by the "songs of sirens" meant to tempt us to follow our desires and disobey God. Temptation is always there. However, Paul assures us that "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it (I Corinthians 10:13)."

Do you feel the allure of the world? Are you facing some temptation which seems to be constantly wooing you to do something you know you shouldn't? Tie yourself to the mast! Put wax in your ears! In other words, do what you know you should to avoid this temptation. Remember the words of the scripture - God has provided a way out. Find the way out and stick to it! Follow the example of Odysseus, not the one of Ulysses S. McGill, and avoid the trap of sin.

Pastor Steve

Mon Jul 14 07:10:45 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Sun Jul 13 06:10:39 2014

Haddon Robinson shares the story of an elderly lady who lived in Moorefield, West Virginia, during the War between the States. Because of its location, the occupation of the town changed almost daily. One day it was in Union hands, the next it might be controlled by the Confederate army. A knock came on her door one morning. It was some enemy troops, and they demanded to be fed. She had them come in and cooked breakfast for them. When they sat down, she said, "I always read the Bible and pray before breakfast. So I will do that now."

She opened her Bible and randomly selected Psalm 27. She read, "The LORD is my light and my salvation--whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life--of whom shall I be afraid? When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, then my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident." Then she prayed. At the conclusion of the prayer, she raised her head and found that all of the soldiers had left.

What enemies are you facing? When you have foes in your home demanding breakfast, take time to read Psalm 27, pray about what you face, and trust God for the outcome.

Pastor Steve

Sat Jul 12 08:06:31 2014

"My God, what will become of me? I have no desire but to die!" wrote the 30 year-old lady in her diary. Obviously struggling with depression and grief, what was to become of this person who had come to the end of her emotional rope? Well, what became of her was being a pioneer in the use of antiseptics and chloroform which relieved much human suffering. What became of her was becoming the founder of the modern-day nursing profession. Florence Nightingale did much to improve the practice of medicine and lived to the marvelous age of 90 before leaving this life for the life to come. What changed was discovering a purpose outside of herself, outside of her suffering. What changed was channeling her suffering and grief into activity that led to the relief of the suffering and grief of others.

Do you feel like you have come to the end of your emotional rope? Look around - who can you help? Remember that in the work of helping others, our own pain can give way to healing. Like Nightingale, Job came to a place where he wish he had never been born. Job 3:1-3 tells us, "After this, Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. He said: 'May the day of my birth perish, and the night it was said, A boy is born!'" Also like Nightingale, Job worked through his personal grief and pain. His story has become an inspiration to many others who struggle with grief and suffering.

Facing a painful time? Remember the examples of Florence Nightingale and Job. They worked through what they experienced and were blessed because of their faith. You can do the same.

Pastor Steve

Fri Jul 11 07:44:44 2014

As a student, young Leonardo da Vinci was encouraged by his elderly teacher to finish a painting that the teacher had started. Out of respect for the teacher and actually not feeling he was up to the task, da Vinci declined at first. However, his teacher would not take no for an answer and told da Vinci that he trusted his ability. So, with fear and trepidation, da Vinci began his work. At first, his strokes were timid and limited. Then, his confidence began to build. As the strokes became bolder and the colors flowed da Vinci's genius began to manifest in the work. Soon the painting was done. The teacher looked at the painting and said, "I paint no more." What an endorsement!

Many of us are like da Vinci when it comes to our service to the church. We often use the excuse that we "just don't have the talent" or "we just don't have the gift" to accomplish something. Don't use this as an excuse not to participate in the work of the church! Talent levels do vary. Certainly not all of us are "da Vincis," but we need to realize that we have talents and abilities God has given us. God does not hold us responsible for using the talents he hasn't given us - he holds us responsible for using the talents he has given us. We need to be good stewards of what God has given us. Paul tells us in I Corinthians 4:2, "It is required in stewards that one be found faithful."

Are you a good steward of what God has given you? Use what he has given you. Don't make excuses for what you can't do. Glorify God with your gifts!

Pastor Steve

Thu Jul 10 08:13:47 2014

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Wed Jul 9 08:15:04 2014

Stress seems to be in abundance in our lifestyles in these days. Most of us have significant levels of stress in our lives, and learning how to manage stress is certainly important. Joanie Yoder writes that this is something she is often asked to address at her speaking engagements. Her biggest advice to help deal with stress: Get Some Sleep! Stress certainly can lead to sleeplessness, but one of the biggest contributors to stress is the failure to make sure you are getting the amount of rest you require.

We may be living in a "24/7 world," but God did not make us to be 24/7 people. Why do you think he had something called the Sabbath? Genesis 2:2-3 has always fascinated me, "By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done." Wait a minute, what do you mean "he rested?" He's God, why does he need to rest? Well, it means what it says - God rested, and he expects us to rest. That is how we are made.

When Elijah fled from Jezebel, we see that God brought him to a place where he could get some sleep. Then, he gave him some food. After he ate, God let him get some more sleep (I Kings 19:1-7). This was what Elijah needed - and it is what we need. Stern tests were ahead for Elijah, and God needed to talk to him about the way he had been thinking. But before all of this, he let him rest.

So, do you feel stressed out? Start with making changes to ensure that you get the rest you need. This isn't being "lazy," it is being smart. It is taking care of things in the way God intends for us to take care of things. Psalm 4:8 says, "I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety." Sleep may not be the full answer for our stress, but when we have adequate rest, it helps us to see more clearly the answers that are there to help with our stress. Make sure you are getting your "zzzz's!"

Pastor Steve

Tue Jul 8 07:10:15 2014

I was in junior high school when I first drank Gatorade - a drink designed to restore lost electrolytes in those who had been involved in intense physical activity. It was named Gatorade because it was developed by a researcher at the University of Florida, home of the "Gators."

I recently read a story about another type of "gator aid." It seems some recruits at an armed services training facility in Florida were making a habit of slipping off a rope into a pond during a training exercise to "cool off" in the hot climate. To change this habit, a drill instructor had a large alligator put in the pond. From then on, the recruits would swing all the way across the pond without slipping. Wonder why?

God sometimes uses similar tactics to bring us in line with his plan. The use of unfavorable circumstances to mold and shape our character and encourage obedience is seen in scripture and in our personal experience. Hebrews 12:6 tells us "the Lord disciplines those he loves." Sometimes that means putting an alligator in the water as a form of "gator aid." David says in Psalm 119:71, "It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees."

Remember this the next time you feel that God is using "gator aid" with you. It shows that he loves you. It shows he wants you to be, in the words of the Armed Services, "all that you can be." A friendly reminder - don't let go of the rope!

Pastor Steve

Mon Jul 7 07:10:15 2014

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Sun Jul 6 07:10:15 2014

When my girls were younger and we would be walking, sometimes they would say, "Daddy, I am tired. Would you carry me?" "Of course I will," I would tell them. Then, I would lift them up on my shoulders and carry them for as long as they wanted. I really miss those times. Now, I know my girls still love me and still need me as their father. They still depend on me to do things for them they need, but that act of dependence reflected in their request for me to carry them is something I truly miss. They have outgrown their need for this.

My girls may have outgrown the need to be carried by their father, but we should never outgrow the need to be carried by our Father. God is always willing to pick us up and carry us when we get tired and are unable to continue on our own. Unlike our children who come to a point where this is no longer necessary, we should never try to achieve a point where we lose this dependence upon our Heavenly Father. Deuteronomy 33:12 tells us, "Let the beloved of the LORD rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the LORD loves rests between his shoulders."

Are you "resting between his shoulders?" Don't ever think that you get too big to do this. We are dependent upon God, and we never outgrow the need to rest between his shoulders. He wants us to do this, and we need his care.

Pastor Steve

Sat Jul 5 07:10:15 2014

Well, did you celebrate well yesterday? We did along with others here in Charleston, South Carolina, where we are currently visiting. I spent some time thinking about the fact of being able to celebrate in the way we did, and also spent some time giving thanks to God for the privilege of being where I was. Of course, it is great to talk about "being where you are," but what needs to be done is to show our gratitude through what we do. Many of us are glad we are where we are - good family, good job, good neighborhood, good church, but what are we doing to make sure we contribute to all of these? We should be more than "stand by observers," we should be activists!

One of the stories in the scripture that has always tickled my thinking is the account of David and Goliath in I Samuel 17. Now, most of you are familiar with this story, but I do encourage you to read it again. What captiviates me about his story is not the usual idea of the little boy slaying the big ogre, rather I am intrigued as to why a little boy was put into the position of having to face a big ogre. David was there because no one else would step up. None of the fierce, battle-hardened soldiers in Saul's army, not even Saul himself, would stand up to the challenge of the giant. Instead, they watched as a little shepherd boy marched down into the valley to face a 9-foot tall warrior. Why? Because they weren't willing to do it themselves. I am sure there were many reasons for this, but all the same reasons could have applied to David, in addition to the fact that HE HAD NEVER BEEN IN BATTLE!

This happens in our churches as well. We face challenges, but many shrink from the challenge and the responsibility. Too often what happens is someone comes along who is willing to take on the challenge, and they end up not only taking care of that particular responsibility, but anything else that comes along! We are like the characters in "The Little Red Hen" (read this at http://www.feministtheatre.org/littleredhen.html), we don't show up to grow wheat, make flour, or bake bread, but we sure want to eat it when it is done!

Be more than a stand-by observer in your church! We celebrated yesterday because a large group of people were willing to take on a Goliath. Let's not send out someone else when we should go ourselves!

Pastor Steve

Fri Jul 4 07:10:15 2014

Today is Independence Day, July 4. Just after the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the first Continental Congress on on this day in 1776, John Adams said: "I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty." Well, it is celebrated as a "great anniversary Festival," but not with "solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty." We don't usually consider this day to be a "religious holiday," but along with our cookouts and our fireworks, it would be good to take time to thank God for all the blessings we enjoy because of living where we do. There are so many in our world today who still languish under totalitarian regimes while we enjoy freedoms that are often taken for granted. Don't do that! Be mindful of the price that was paid for us to be able to enjoy life the way we do.

We should not take our spiritual freedom for granted as well. Adams spoke of commemorating the anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence as the Day of Deliverance. We should celebrate our spiritual Day of Deliverance. On Friday, April 14, 33 A.D., our Lord died on a cross to pay the price for our spiritual deliverance. Now, I know the date I have given may not be exact, but it is close. Just as certainly as the Declaration of Independence being adopted in 1776 led to freedom for the inhabitants of the 13 colonies, Christ's death for our sins during the Passover in A.D. 33 leads to freedom for all who believe. Galatians 5:1 says, "It is for freedomthat Christ has set us free." John speaks of our freedom in Christ in chapter 8 of his gospel, "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. . .if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed (vv. 32 and 36)." We are free in Christ if we commit our lives to Christ.

As you celebrate today, remember to give thanks. As we remember our freedom in Christ, use this as a time to give thanks as well. Happy Independence Day!

Pastor Steve

Thu Jul 3 07:10:15 2014

Several years ago we made trip to Scotland to visit our youngest daughter, Megan, who was living there at the time. Our oldest daughter, Stephanie, met us there.. What a trip it was! The landscape was beautiful and the people were fantastic. We stayed at two wonderful guest homes. What was hard was having to leave our daughters. First, we had to say goodbye to Stephanie who was flying back to the states. Then, we had to say goodbye to Megan as she was staying in Scotland, of course. Many of you who live away from family members know these can be difficult times. What helps is knowing that we will see them again.

This is comforting knowledge. It is knowledge that can help us even at times when we have to say a final goodbye to a loved one who has slipped away from us through death. Those of us who know Christ believe we will see these loved ones again. This is what Christ told his disciples when they were coming face to face with their time of separation. Christ promised them in John 14:1-6, "'Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.' Thomas said to him, 'Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?' Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'"

Christ promised his disciples a reunion in a place he would prepare for them. This promise is for us as well. When our oldest daughter was a little girl, we were having to say goodbye to some family members who had just spent some time with us. This always made her sad. She said, "Why don't we just build a big house so we can all live together?" Good idea. And that is exactly what Christ is doing for all those who know him. As wonderful as our guest homes were in Scotland, I am sure they pale in comparison to the provision we will have with Christ. In addition, we will never have to check out! I hope you have your reservation!

Pastor Steve

Wed Jul 2 07:10:15 2014

In a number of his writings, Paul tells us to offer encouragement to each other. This is usually not a difficult thing, as we know others who need encouragement, and we know we appreciate supportive words and deeds when we are in a position of need. However, Paul also tells us to offer words of correction when necessary. This is a little bit stickier. For a great many reasons, corrective encounters can be difficult. Still, they can be helpful and can be a form of encouragement.

In I Thessalonians 5:14-15, Paul tells us, "And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else." Here we see Paul giving instructions to offer words of correction where correction is needed and words of support where support is needed. He also tells us a little about the spirit in which this should be accomplished, "Be patient with everyone." In other words, don't withhold correction, but don't rush to judgment either, and make sure you do this in the right way.

When correction is needed, three things need to be kept in mind: 1) The nature of the problem must be considered; 2) Our motive and approach for correction must be thought through, and 3) God needs to be involved from start to finish. Galatians 6:1-2 offers further comment on this, "Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." In both of these passages, we see Paul's comments on not only what should be done, but how it is to be accomplished.

Correcting others is usually more difficult than encouraging others, but in Paul's mind they are linked. Both should be done with a view to helping someone else grow in their faith. We all have times when correction is necessary because we all are prone to mistakes. When we find ourselves on one end or the other of this scenario, remember to make room for God's involvement. In this way, correction can be corrective without causing controversy.

Pastor Steve

Tue Jul 1 07:10:15 2014

In his book, "The Pursuit of God, " A.W. Tozer wrote, "Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned not to each other but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshipers [meeting] together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be were they to become unity-conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship."

Tozer's comments were designed for worship experiences, but what he said is true in all facets of our relationships with other believers. When we are in tune with Christ and walking with him, it is difficult to find ourselves at odds with other believers. Turning your focus upon Christ can help avoid much of the petty things that tend to cause friction with others. Developing a rich relationship with Christ helps us to develop our relationships with others and allows us to see the insignificance of our differences with others.

Paul reminds us in I Corinthians 12:12-13, "The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink." When we are connected to the head, then everything else works as it should. Keep in tune with Christ, and you will keep in tune with others!

Pastor Steve

Mon Jun 30 07:10:15 2014

One of the keys of parenting is realizing that your children are different. For example, they have different likes and dislikes, they respond differently to things, and they may require different disciplinary techniques. I have two daughters who were born two and a half years apart, yet were sometimes mistaken for twins, especially as they grew older. Despite their similarities, there were obvious differences, at least obvious to me as a parent. For one thing, they had markedly different personalities which meant they responded differently to given situations. As they were growing up, I had to keep this in mind as I dealt with them over circumstances. This was helpful and necessary for them and for me.

God does the same thing with his children. We may ask why we see God working in someone else's life in a different way than he is working in our own. We need only look as far as our own child-rearing for the answer. If we as earthly parents have the wisdom to know we should deal differently with our children, don't you think God realizes this as well?

God's knowledge of this showed up in how he dealt with Peter after Peter's denial. Christ confronted Peter on the shore of the Galilee in a unique way (see John 21). And when Peter questioned Christ about what would happen with John, Christ responded by saying, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me (vs. 22)."

God places us in different situations for different reasons. We need to acknowledge that he knows best and does this for our best interests. We need to quit comparing ourselves with others and let God be the parent he wants to be.

Pastor Steve

Sun Jun 29 07:10:15 2014

I enjoyed watching the show "I've Got a Secret." Now, I know I am dating myself a little bit, but I prefer the original show hosted by Bill Cullen to the revivals that took place in the 70's and the 2000's. To those of you who are unfamiliar with the premise of "I've Got a Secret," a contestant with a "secret" was brought out before a panel of celebrities. The contestant would whisper his or her (or their) secret to the host and this was revealed to the studio and TV audience. A hint was given, and the panel would begin asking questions to try to determine the "secret." The deeper the questioning went without the secret being revealed, the more money the constestant would win.

Sometimes we feel as if God has a secret and that we are in a position where we are trying to determine just what his secret is. Indeed, there are things that God chooses not to reveal to us. We really know little about our future, even though we are aware that God has full understanding of what is going to take place in our lives. Sometimes things happen that make us ask why. For some, these can be is a source of frustration. However, we need to realize there is a point to this, and that we need to turn our lives into God's hands. Keep in mind that he knows what he is doing. Deuteronomy 29:29 says, "The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law."

What we should do is focus on that which has been revealed to us, and leave what is unknown in God's hands. There are "secret things" that belong to God, because he alone knows what is best when it comes to those matters. We need to show a little more trust and faith in him. Job admitted, "Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know (Job 42:3)." Realize God does have secrets which will be revealed, but only at just the right time. Don't get into a cosmic "I've Got A Secret" game with God. It will cost you too much.

Pastor Steve

Sat Jun 28 07:10:15 2014

Most of us would really like to be content. How is it that we can be content? Job gives us the first hint when he says, "If they obey and serve him, they will spend the rest of their days in prosperity and their years in contentment (Job 36:11)." Now, think about who is saying this. This is coming from a man who has lost just about everything. Yet, he affirms that contentment comes not from life circumstances, but from being settled in God. Solomon continues this line of thinking in Proverbs 19:23, "The fear of the LORD leads to life: Then one rests content, untouched by trouble." Paul reflects this same thinking when he writes, "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:11-13)." Where was Paul when he wrote this? In jail! That is where he was when he encouraged Timothy, "But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that (I Timothy 6:6-8)."

With all of these men, contentment came not from what they had, where they were, or what they were experiencing. Contentment came through their relationship with the Lord and the settled-ness that comes from trusting in his way. When this is done, one will be content.

Pastor Steve

Fri Jun 27 08:10:15 2014

Haddon Robinson wrote that when Alexander the Great defeated Persia, he headed east looking for more countries to conquer. Robinson cites historian Halford Luccock who said that Alexander "marched off his maps" when he pursued more victories.

Following God sometimes has us "marching off our maps." We make plans and have ideas for out future, but God may have a different plan or idea for us. He may lead us in way we have never considered or sometimes considered in a negative fashion. We need to be sensitive to his leadership and acknowledge that his path is always the best path for us.

There are several biblical characters that we could say "marched off their maps" as they were following God. Abraham, Moses, Daniel, and David are some people that come to mind when you think of those who stepped out on faith. And what about Esther? You can't forget Esther when you talk of those who stepped out on faith in a big way and saw their faith rewarded. Reluctant at first to approach the king about the deadly plot against her kinsmen, she stepped out courageously after being admonished by her cousin Mordecai when he said, "Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:13-14) Esther really hadn't bargained for this when she took her role as a wife of Xerxes, but she did what she knew she had to do, risking her life, in order to protect the lives of her countrymen.

God may have you marching off your map, but just realize that when he does, he will go before you every step of the way. You may not be certain where you are going, but God is. Trust him completely, he will not guide you wrongly.

Pastor Steve

Thu Jun 26 07:23:03 2014

It has been estimated that the price tag to clean up all the nuclear waste sights where nuclear weapons were manufactured would be in the area of $300 billion. The clean up efforts that are on-going in the Gulf of Mexico following the explosion of the oil rig Deepwater Horizon will cost billions of dollars, and the effects will be felt for generations. Yet, as costly as these operations are and as devastating the results, they do not compare to the cost of the removal of sin and its effects. As far-reaching as these "waste problems" may be, they still fall into the category of a temporal problem. Sin is a contaminant that poisons eternally if not removed. The cost of removal was the death of God's only Son.

We wish there would be some way to remove the contamination of nuclear waste and the oil, but it does not seem that conventional means will help entirely. However, the solution God provided for sin is thorough and complete. Peter tells us, "For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect (I Peter 1:18-19)."

Christ forgives us totally and completely. We are wiped clean, declared righteous in the sight of God, we are made totally new. In Revelation 21:5 God says "I am making everything new." No stains, residue, or left-over contaminant. What a wonderful reality!

Pastor Steve

Wed Jun 25 06:57:31 2014

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Tue Jun 24 07:16:40 2014

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Mon Jun 23 07:00:21 2014

The crew of the Citation was elated. They had just won the Big Rock Blue Marlin Fishing Tournament held off the coast of North Carolina June 11-19, 2010. First prize for the tournament is 1 million dollars. Not a bad prize for catching the biggest fish - of course, the big fish was a 880 lb. marlin. However, in post-contest interviews, it was discovered that one of the members of the crew did not have a valid fishing license. This violated the rules of the tournament and, of course, is illegal. So, the catch was disqualified and the crew got nothing, all because one person forgot to purchase a $15 fishing license.

Most of us would think this turn of events was rather foolish - how could a fisherman forget to purchase a fishing license? Well, many are in danger of making an even more foolish mistake. They are in danger of forfeiting eternal life because they have failed to receive the free gift provided by God's Son. You don't even have to go to a store to make a purchase - eternal life is free to all who call on the name of the Lord (see Ephesians 2:8-9). Failure to do so leads to disqualification and the loss of something more valuable than a million-dollar prize. Paul speaks of making sure that he has made the right decision in following Christ and living for him "so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize (I Corinthians 9:27)."

Losing a million dollar prize on account of a failure to purchase a $15 license is ridiculous. Losing eternal life because of one's failure to receive God's free gift is ludicrous. So, don't be ludicrous or ridiculous - receive God's gift!

Pastor Steve

Sun Jun 22 06:04:31 2014

I have never had to stand before and judge and jury, and I don't ever want to stand before a judge and jury. I have been called for jury duty on a couple of occasions, and remember once being dismissed along with all the other potential jurors because the sight of the jury being formed was a little too much for the defendant and he worked out a plea bargain. Standing before a judge and jury would be intimidating.

I don't want to stand before a judge and jury, but I do know I will one day stand before God. The scriptures tell us "Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment (Hebrews 9:27)." We know that those who die without Christ will face a final judgment sealing their eternal state of punishment (Revelation 20:11-15). Those of us who follow Christ will be judged for our works to determine our state in eternal life with Christ. II Corinthians 5:10 tells us, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad."

Thinking of these judgments can be frightening. Avoiding God's judgment described in Revelation 20 can only be done through accepting Christ's gift. The ability to stand before Christ without fear when believers are judged for what they have done is determine now to do what we know we should do. Facing judgment can be a frightening thing. Following Christ eliminates the fear.

Pastor Steve

Sat Jun 21 08:33:14 2014

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Fri Jun 20 06:45:36 2014

"It is no longer enough that we pray that God may be with us on our side. We must learn to pray that we may be on God's side." Isn't that a great statement? Do you wonder who made it? Think it might have been some well-known theologian or a popular preacher? Well, actually it was one of the most famous scientists of the 20th century - Wernher von Braun. He developed the V-2 rocket for Germany which was used in warfare in WWII (no, he didn't design the rocket for this application). He later immigrated to the United States where he became the father of the space program. He had a profound effect on the history of a large part of the 20th century. While his intelligence is obvious from his accomplishments and contributions, equally obvious is his profound understanding of his relationship with God.

Many times we pray to try to "change God's mind" and to ask him to cause something to happen in a way we think is best. Instead, we need to be praying that we learn to come into conformity with what God desires and what he has designed. We need to let him act in the way he knows is best. Praying in this way shows that we trust him and that we understand his concern and commitment to our well-being. Matthew 7:9-11 gives a commentary on this understanding, "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"

Von Braun understood this. He knew we should trust God and get on the same page with God, instead of trying to convince God to get on the same page with us. This isn't "rocket science" (oh, I couldn't resist that). It is just a matter of trusting God!

Pastor Steve

Thu Jun 19 06:52:53 2014

This is a story I have told before, but indulge me. It is one of my favorite stories. When my grandfather was a young boy, he and 2 of his older sisters were walking home from a trip to the general store. Now, this would have been around 1907 and it was in a rural setting in central Kentucky. There were no street lamps, no paved roads, just a path through the woods from the store to where they live. Darkness fell, and they lost their way. They had absolutely no idea which way to go until they saw a light in the distance and heard the voice of their mother calling their names, "Hattie! Luinda! Johnny! Can you hear me?" Well, they did, they followed the sound of her voice and the light until they met their mother who led them safely home.

God looks for his children as well - those who are lost in the darkness of sin. He calls to them and brings light into the darkened world to show us the way to go home. All we need to do is heed his call and follow the light he provides for us - the light that comes from his Son who is the one bringing light into the world. Have you followed him, or are you still walking in the darkness? John says about Christ, the Light, in John 1:4-5, 9: "In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.. .The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world." Christ shows the way when we follow his light. He is calling you today - let him lead you safely home!

Pastor Steve

Wed Jun 18 06:57:54 2014

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Tue Jun 17 07:28:48 2014

I have never understood the attitude of some who think they are just "too cool." Why does one individual think they have any reason to view themselves as better than someone else? I have often wondered what fuels some people's attitudes and thinking. This has been a part of human experience almost as long as humans have been around. Paul warns about this in Romans 12:3, "For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you."

As believers in Christ, we need to go against the grain in this regard. We need to have a realistic opinion of who we are. We need to have a realistic view of others. We need to mirror the attitude of Christ as we relate to others. Treat others with respect; treat yourself with respect by making sure you don't think "more highly of yourself than you ought." That is just not cool!

Pastor Steve

Mon Jun 16 07:13:48 2014

I have always enjoyed Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Chocolate is just fine by itself, and peanut butter is just fine by itself. However, when you put those two together, oh, my, you really have a treat. Peanut Butter cups were developed by H.B. Reese, an employee of Hershey's Chocolate Company, in the 20's. He left the company to go on his own, and did well in the candy industry all because of his idea to put chocolate and peanut butter together. The two products can "stand alone," but being together provides some unique characteristics that wouldn't be there if they weren't combined.

That is the way it is in the church. We can "stand by ourselves," but when we blend our gifts, talents, and abilities, we see combinations that are different, stronger, and in many cases, more appealing and productive that when we work as individuals. Paul noted this in several places in his writings. He comments on the importance of unity and the advantage of "blending" our lives in Ephesians 4:3-6, "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit-- just as you were called to one hope when you were called-- one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."

You have gifts and abilities you can use for God on your own, but remember how much more might be done when you work with others. An old ad campaign for Reese's was "You got peanut butter on my chocolate! You got chocolate in my peanut butter! (taste, taste) Hmmmm!" Remember this as you work for the Lord - peanut butter in chocolate is a good thing!

Pastor Steve

Sun Jun 15 05:25:55 2014

My dad was my hero. Now, dad was a hero in the classical sense of the word - the medals he was awarded during WWII evidenced his status. However, for me he was a hero for another reason. He was always there for me. He always let me know that I was important to him. Proverbs 22:6 talks about training your children - "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." Implied in this verse is the idea that you need to spend time with your children. How else will you fulfill this exhortation to train them? Dad was there for me.

My dad was my guardian. He provided oversight and care and protection for me. The idea of guardian is just what I stated - a person who provides oversight and care and protection for another. Parents do this. My dad did this for me. I always felt safe when Dad was there. I always felt like things were going to be just fine. I never worried if I was going to be cared for or not - Dad made sure I was taken care of. Probably the best term I can use here is secure. With Dad, I always felt secure. Luke 11:11 offers an indirect commentary on the role of a father as a protector and provider, "Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?" Dads are to be guardians - my dad certainly was.

My dad was my mentor. Dad didn't instruct with words so much as he did with actions. He modeled for me the life of someone who was strong, intelligent, confident. He was a man of the utmost integrity. My dad taught me so many things about how to live. His life was incredibly eloquent. The scripture addresses this idea of the father as teacher and mentor both directly and indirectly. Proverbs 22:6 which is cited above is the direct statement. You can read some indirect statements about the father's role as teacher in passages such as Psalm 44:1 or Isaiah 38:19 where we read, "The living, the living--they praise you, as I am doing today; fathers tell their children about your faithfulness." My dad was my teacher.

Today we honor our fathers. I certainly want to honor mine. Dad has been gone for many years now, but what he gave to me is still with me. Dads - that should be our desire - to pass on to our children what will help them even years after we are gone. Happy Father's Day!

Pastor Steve

Sat Jun 14 08:57:02 2014

The first Father's Day celebration was held on June 19, 1910. Sonora Smart Dodd had heard of Mother's Day celebrations and wanted to honor her father, a Civil War veteran who had raised 6 children on his own after the death of his wife. The idea caught on, and eventually morphed into a Sunday celebration on a permanent basis in 1966 when President Lyndon Johnson declared the third Sunday in June as Father's Day.

On Father's Day in 1988, then President Reagan said, "Children, vulnerable and dependent, desperately need security, and it has ever been a duty and a joy of fatherhood to offer it. Being a father requires strength...and more than a little courage...to persevere, to fight discouragement, and to keep working for the family." Reagan continued: "With God's grace, fathers find the patience to teach, the fortitude to provide, the compassion to comfort, and the mercy to forgive. All of this is to say that they find the strength to love their wives and children selflessly." (source: American Minute).

When Barack Obama was running for president, he delivered the Father's Day message at the Apostolic Church of God in Chicago. He said, "Good morning. It's good to be home on this Father's Day with my girls, and it's an honor to spend some time with all of you today in the house of our Lord. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus closes by saying, 'Whoever hears these words of mine, and does them, shall be likened to a wise man who built his house upon a rock: the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house, and it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock.' [Matthew 7: 24-25]. . .Of all the rocks upon which we build our lives, we are reminded today that family is the most important. And we are called to recognize and honor how critical every father is to that foundation. They are teachers and coaches. They are mentors and role models. They are examples of success and the men who constantly push us toward it. . .We also need families to raise our children. We need fathers to realize that responsibility does not end at conception. We need them to realize that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child - it's the courage to raise one."

Tomorrow as you celebrate Father's Day, give thanks for dads. Dads, heed the words of the two men above who spoke so truthfully about fatherhood. We need you!

Pastor Steve

Fri Jun 13 07:23:36 2014

Do you suffer from paraskevidekatriaphobics? This is fear of Friday the 13th. The reasons why this day is considered "unlucky" are not really all that clear. The actual thought of Friday the 13th being a day that needs to be avoided doesn't seem to appear until the 19th century; however the roots behind this fear may go back further according to some historians. Many trace the concern for the day back to the time of Christ as Christ was crucified on Friday, and Judas was the 13th person at the celebration of the Last Passover.

All I can say is, don't try to blame this inordinate fear on Christianity. Although it was day of cruelty suffered by the Savior, what took place that day certainly had nothing to do with bad luck. The day of crucifixion had been planned from eternity past as a day when Christ would become the necessary sacrifice for the sin of all of humankind. Paul tells us a plan for salvation was determined since before the beginning of time, "This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." (II Timothy 1:9-10)

You may have a problem with Friday the 13th, but you certainly can't blame it on the message of Christ! If you have trusted in Christ as your Savior, the fact that Christ came into the world to die for your sin makes you one of the most "lucky" people alive! Of course, salvation has nothing to do with luck at all, but everything to do with the love and grace of our wonderful Savior! And remember that there should be no fear either as "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear." (I John 4:18)

Pastor Steve

Thu Jun 12 07:03:21 2014

Hugh Richard Sheppard, better known as Dick Sheppard, was an Anglican clergyman who served as a chaplain during World War I. In 1936, he founded the English Pacifist movement known as the Peace Pledge Union. He was appointed rector of Glasgow University just prior to his death in 1937. In one of his publications, Sheppard recounts an experience he had during WWI. One night he was hiding in no man's land, close to enemy lines, when he heard someone approaching. He wanted badly to call out "friend or foe?" but he knew this could mean his death. Years later, as he was experiencing a dark emotional experience, he looked to God and was tempted to call out "friend or foe?"

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

One person in the scripture who had many occasions to make this cry to God was Joseph. He was mistreated by his family, falsely accused, forgotten in prison. But he never forgot God. He knew God would not forget him. His faith remained strong, and God honored his faith. His faith is seen in one of the statements he made to his brothers when they came to Egypt, "Do this and you will live, for I fear God (Genesis 42:10)." In spite of what happened to him, he knew God would turn his darkness to light. God has promised to never leave us or forsake us. He has proven himself faithful. Continue to remain faithful to him in spite of what comes along that tempts you to do otherwise - God is a "friend that sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24)."

Pastor Steve

Wed Jun 11 06:53:49 2014

Prayer meetings can sometimes be depressing. Now, this may seem to be a strange statement for a minister to make. But, sometimes as we gather for prayer and list all the things for which we need to pray, we can be overwhelmed by the many needs we have. What is wrong here is that we are focusing too much on the problems instead of on the One who is greater than the problems. To keep prayer times, whether personal or group times, from being times when we get depressed because of the overwhelming need, start by focusing upon the power of the Person to whom you are praying.

Focusing upon God leads to praise for who he is and a realistic understanding that he is in control of whatever situation about which we need to pray. Psalm 102:17 tells us, "He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; he will not despise their plea." Coming to God with this realization helps us to understand more deeply why it is we are praying. God does hear us, and when our focus is upon him, we are developing the mindset that the outcome is in the hands of someone much more powerful than we. Focusing on the problem instead of the one who can heal the problem can lead to depression. Focusing on the one who can heal the problem leads to dependence.

We know God deals with us in mercy. Change the attitude of your prayer and change the attitude of your prayer meeting. There is too much depression anyway! God is in control!

Pastor Steve

Tue Jun 10 07:14:41 2014

Today is the anniversary of the ending of the Six-Day War in Israel. On June 5, 1967, Egypt sent 80,000 troops and 900 aircraft to annihilate Israel. Cairo radio announced "The hour has come when we will destroy Israel." Jordan and Syria were part of this attack on the Holy Land. In a surprise move, Israel destroyed 400 Egyptian aircraft. They followed this by driving Syria out of the Golan Heights and capturing all of Jerusalem. Many have viewed this incredible victory as a display of the sovereignty of God and the protection of God over Israel.

The scripture tells us that the nations surrounding Israel are bent towards Israel's destruction (Ezekiel 38-39). We know that in the last days, there will be a massive push towards Israel. In 1967, the war brought about much discussion of the need for peace, yet we do not see much effort being made by Israel's neighbors towards a peaceful resolution and a declaration of the right of Israel to exist. Why? Because they really don't want peace - they want Israel gone. We should not be surprised by this; as already stated, the Scripture declares the attitude of Israel's towards her.

After almost 50 years since the Six-Day War, we see that tensions have not abated at all. What does this tell us? Simply this - God is not through with Israel. Things are taking place just as the Scripture has declared, and that we must depend on God who is in control and will indeed usher in a time of peace when it pleases him. Until that time, follow him and "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem." (Psalm 122:6)

Pastor Steve

Mon Jun 9 07:09:59 2014

We know we should pray. We know the importance of prayer. I Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to "Pray continually." Yet we often struggle with our prayer life. Prayer is a conversation with God, not a "formula," yet there are times when having a pattern for prayer can be helpful. This is one reason why Jesus gave us "the model prayer" which we call "The Lord's prayer." It is helpful to see how Christ prayed and for what he prayed and keep this in mind as you pray.

Anne Cetas gives some good tips on our prayer. She calls it "the Five Finger Pattern for Prayer." These are here tips:

1) When you fold your hands, the thumb is nearest you. So begin by praying for those closest to you— your loved ones (Philippians 1:3-5). 2) The index finger is the pointer. Pray for those who teach—Bible teachers and preachers, and those who teach children (1 Thessalonians 5:25). 3) The next finger is the tallest. It reminds you to pray for those in authority over you—national and local leaders, and your supervisor at work (1 Timothy 2:1-2). 4) The fourth finger is usually the weakest. Pray for those who are in trouble or who are suffering (James 5:13-16). 5) Then comes your little finger. It reminds you of your smallness in relation to God's greatness. Ask Him to supply your needs (Philippians 4:6,19).

Keep these tips in mind and use them, especially if you feel your prayer time needs a boost. It is important to pray and these tips can keep us focused on this vital part of our Christian experience.

Pastor Steve

Sun Jun 8 14:29:15 2014

Today is Pentecost, a time set aside to commemorate the entrance of the Holy Spirit into the lives of believers in a new form of ministry. This was promised by Jesus before he left the earth – "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses first in Jerusalem, then in Judea and Samaria, then unto the uttermost parts of the earth." (Acts 1:8). We use the term "Pentecost" to refer to this day because the Holy Spirit came on the first day of the celebration of the Feast of Weeks in the Jewish calendar. This feast was often called the Feast of Pentecost because it takes place 50 days after the Feast of Passover.

What took place through this special manifestation of the Spirit was essentially the birthing of the Church. Now God would reside in all of those who followed him and were baptized by the Holy Spirit as a result of the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives through salvation. According to John 15 and 16 (please take the time to read these chapters today), the Holy Spirit would help them in their witness to others; would teach them as they followed him, would encourage them in their service to Christ, and minister to them in many other ways. He will do this for us when we submit our lives to him. Too many times we fail to utilize this power because we fail to pursue this power.

We often sing the song "Greater Is He that Is In Me." The first verse goes, "On the day of Pentecost, a Might Rushing Wind; came into the upper room and baptized all of them. With a power greater than any earthly foe; I’m so glad I got it too and I want to let the whole world know." The Power of the Holy Spirit is available to you as you make yourself increasingly more available to him! Let Him do His work in your life!

Pastor Steve

Sat Jun 7 10:40:56 2014

I read a story once about some thieves in France who got away with more than $3.5 million. There was one problem: It was all in coins, none worth more than $2. That's right - coins - 17 tons of them. How in the world would they spend that? How could you buy a car or anything of value with coins? Think that would make the seller a little suspicious? They may have been rich, but they couldn't use their wealth for anything worthwhile.

Most of us would think those thieves to be a bit foolish. However, many of us are doing the same thing - we are putting too much effort into the acquisition of worldly goods and wealth while forgetting to "store up treasure in heaven," as Christ advised us to do. We read in Matthew 6:19-20, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Don't drag around that heavy treasure! It won't do you any good - it really is "useless" treasure. Make sure you are acquiring true wealth!

Pastor Steve

Fri Jun 6 06:34:24 2014

Today is the 70th anniversary of D-Day. On June 6, 1944, 156,000 Allied troops under the command of Gen. Dwight Eisenhower stormed the beaches of Normandy in the largest invasion in history. There are a few who were involved in the invasion still living, but the number of survivors is decreasing dramatically. It was a daring invasion, and a costly one. However, Hitler's armed forces needed to be defeated in order to stop the reign of tyranny that he had imposed on the European people. From the takeover of countries to the slaughter of civilians, his war machine had exacted a terrible toll. He needed to be defeated, even if it meant using drastic, costly measures. This was the reasoning behind the invasion.

A greater enemy than Hitler needed to be stopped. Sin had taken all mankind captive and had exacted a terrible toll - death was the consequence that all faced because of sin. Sin had to be defeated even if it meant using drastic, costly measures. God was aware of this - He had been aware of this even before time began. He knew that at some point something would need to happen in order to stop the reign of tyranny that had been imposed on all mankind. However, His plan did not involve a large invasion with many participants. His plan involved a single person - His only Son. Paul writes about this in Romans 5:12-19. We read in verse 18, "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."

D-Day was one of the most important interventions in the history of man. Were it not for this act that led to the defeat of Hitler, our world would be a much different place. However, as important as D-Day was, it's significance pales in comparison to the importance of Christ's intervention on behalf of mankind. Indeed, the world would be a different place had not Christ followed through on His plan of redemption. Were it not for His actions which led to the defeat of sin, we would be without hope.

Give thanks today for all of those courageous men who took part in an invasion that led to the liberation of Europe. We have no idea what might have happened, and we really don't want to know that might have happened, had they not made this great sacrifice. More importantly, give thanks to Christ who sacrificed all for us. We know what would have happened without his act. We know what can happen because of his gift - don't forget to give him thanks!

Pastor Steve

Thu Jun 5 06:37:24 2014

David McCasland tells the story of Irish flutist James Galway. He is a classical music superstar. As he neared the age of 50, he looked closely at his life and decided he was not going to fall into the trap of "getting old and famous and playing bad concerts." So he started practicing for several hours every day. He began his personal overhaul by playing scales. He said it was the biggest shock of his life to discover how out of shape he was. "I could play concertos and repertory pieces. But the scales were stiff, and they were inconsistent from key to key." James Galway--master of the flute--playing scales!

We should take a lesson from this. No matter how "old in the faith" we are, we should never forget the basics. We should always remember how important a daily discipline of prayer, Bible reading, meditation and even a personal time of praise are to us and our continued growth in the faith. Reading and rehearsing the "Sunday School stories" of David and Goliath, Daniel in the Lion's Den, Joseph in Egypt, as well as others, are good things to do to keep us constantly aware of God's provision and "limbered up" spiritually. So, no matter how long you have been with the Lord, don't forget to play your scales!

Pastor Steve

Wed Jun 4 07:34:37 2014

We often need some triggers to help us with our recall. This is the thought behind the "tie a string around your finger" thing. Colors are often a good way to help with our recall. When we associate something with a color, it helps us remember whatever that something is. God knows this about us. Of course, he probably should remember this about us since he created us. That is why God uses this principle to help with recall. We read in Numbers 15:38-39, "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: `Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel. You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the LORD, that you may obey them. . .'" The blue cord was there to remind them who it is they served.

A contemporary example of a memory trigger would be something like Petra's song from 1980, "The Coloring Song." Some of the lyrics of this song are "Red is the color of the blood that flowed. . ." I cannot help but think of Christ's sacrifice every time I see the color red. The color blue was special for the Israelites - whenever they saw the color blue they were reminded of God and his love for them as well as their responsibility to him. We can and should do the same. We sometimes think we will never forget - but don't take the chance! Use colors or songs or other kinds of "memory triggers" to help you remember the wonderful promises of God. Happy memories!

Pastor Steve

Tue Jun 3 06:51:39 2014

"The Old Man of the Mountain" was a rock formation in New Hampshire's Franconia Notch State Park that once attracted thousands of tourists every year and inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story "The Great Stone Face" in 1850. Hawthorne wrote that the face was "a work of Nature in her mood of majestic playfulness." However, on May 3, 2003, the Great Stone Face collapsed. A news release from just after the collapse stated, "The Old Man of the Mountain, the enduring symbol of the State of New Hampshire, is no more. Sometime between Friday evening and Saturday morning, the stone profile that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors to Franconia Notch State Park each year collapsed. On Saturday, May 3 at approximately 7:30 a.m., two Franconia Notch State Park employees noticed that the Old Man of the Mountain had collapsed. At this time it appears as though the forehead and the nose are missing." What was once an enduring symbol that inspired pride and identity was gone. There have been efforts to try to restore "the Old Man," but it will never be the same.

This event speaks to the nature of life. So many times we see things change, even things we thought were changeless and would continue to endure. This happens to "natural formations," and it also happens to man-made entities. Even now we are witnessing drastic changes in huge companies that are on the verge of collapse, companies that one might have thought would "endure forever." These events remind us there is nothing that will last forever. Well, except for something that is really important. Keith Green wrote about this in his 1980 song "Grace by Which I'm Saved." He said, "And how I wish it had been explained, that as you're growing you must remember, that nothing lasts, except the grace of God, by which I stand, in Jesus."

Indeed, nothing will endure except for God and his mercy, God and his grace. God is a rock upon whom we can depend. He is a rock that will never change. Psalm 18:2 tells us, "The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold." God is a rock that will never "lose face." He will never change. Trust the never-changing God!

Pastor Steve

Mon Jun 2 06:59:22 2014

"Who's in charge here?" This is a question that is asked to determine the person who is in control and is probably the best one to answer a question, provide information, take care of a problem, or to give an explanation as to why things are as they are. Some may ask that after events in our world leave us wondering who is in charge. Of course, we know who is in charge, and we know that God will bring things about according to his perfect plan.

A story found in I Kings 1 reminds us that indeed God is in charge. David was old, and a potential successor was taking steps to ensure his place on the throne. David's oldest living son, Adonijah, had gathered a sizeable constituency to promote his position as the next king. However, David, through God's leadership, had chosen Bathsheba’s son, Solomon, as his successor. Adonijah's actions posed a serious threat to the plans that had already been made. In I Kings 1, you can read and see how God's choice is preserved through his sovereign ordering of events that lead to Solomon being placed on the throne.

God is indeed in control. We need to follow the advice given in I Kings 2:2 and "observe what the LORD your God requires: Walk in his ways, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and requirements, as written in the Law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go." We need to walk in God's ways and trust in the sovereign Lord. Doing this will keep us from wondering just who is in charge.

Pastor Steve

Sun Jun 1 05:54:13 2014

To me, one of Christ's most fascinating characteristics was his humility. He certainly was a "take charge" person when this was necessary, but we see him model humility in so many ways. His submission and obedience to his Father was certainly one of the ways his humility is seen. His prayer in the garden on the night of his betrayal and arrest shows his humility and submission to his Father's will. In Philippians 2, Paul writes that we should emulate his humility in our lives.

Developing a spirit of humility is not all that easy. This really goes against the grain of how we are typically. We want our "rights," we want things done our way, we want our ideas to be used, we want our voice to be heard, we want to be in charge. These are things we need to keep in check as we develop true humility in our lives. Humility may not be easy, but it is certainly the path by which the greater good can be accomplished. Paul instructed Titus, "Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men (Titus 3:1-3)."

How are we at showing "true humility toward all men?" Be honest - and be humble!

Pastor Steve

Sat May 31 08:23:15 2014

I get a kick out of the phrase "Have a good one." This is a tremendously common expression and perhaps you use it. When I hear it, I find myself wanting to ask, "Have a good what?" Now, the most obvious answer to this is that the phrase is simply another way of saying "Have a good day." This would seem to me to be the most likely meaning. When we use this phrase, we are politely saying to someone that we hope all goes well with them.

How can you ensure that you are going to have a good day? The best way is to make sure that you allow God to be involved in each day of your life. God has made all of our days, and we need to let him be in charge of each event during the days of our lives. He has control over all the events of our days, even the difficult events. Allowing him control of our days will ensure that each day we have is a good day.

The psalmist said, "This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it." (Psalm 118:24) Since God is the creator of our days, he is the one who can make each day a good day.

Pastor Steve

Fri May 30 07:18:34 2014

Have you ever polished tarnished silver? I had a silver plaque that was given to me by my aunt when I graduated from college. It was really attractive, and I put in on the wall of one of our bedrooms in the home where my wife and I lived at the time. We moved, and I packed the plaque away. I found the plaque sometime later, and it was not the attractive, shiny piece it once was. Without intervention, the tarnish would worsen and at some point become irreversible. I purchased some silver polish and went to work. After some effort and the operation of the polish, the plate that was made brown and dirty-looking by the tarnish was restored to its silvery brilliance.

Our souls are tarnished by the effects of sin. We can do nothing about this on our own, and without intervention, the condition will continue to worsen, even to the point of becoming irreversible. However, if one allows Christ to begin his work in his or her life, the process of restoration is begun. There is an immediate and complete transformation of the inner soul. "Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has past, all has become new." (II Corinthians 5:16) There is still a struggle with the "old self", but Christ continues to work within the believer to bring the believer in conformity to himself. The believer is involved in this process by putting off undesirable behaviors and putting on new behaviors that reflect our position in Christ. We are told to "Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry)". (Colossians 3:5) We are also told "Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony." (3:14)

We know that we will one day be totally changed through the completed work of Christ in our lives. Be grateful for the work that has begun in you and cooperate fully with the ministry of the Spirit that will someday result not just in a restoration, but in a complete transformation.

Pastor Steve

Thu May 29 07:31:06 2014

At the bottom of the Declaration of Independence is a group of signatures. These signatures reflect the willingness of these individuals to do what was necessary to establish a society based on their desire to be free from the influence of an entity that was placing unrealistic expectations on their lives. Their signatures made known their willingness to be used in whatever way necessary to make changes to their life situation. They were willing to stake their fortunes, make sacrifices, and risk losing all to bring about a new life.

Jesus had a group of people who were willing to do the same thing. They wanted to change the world by proclaiming the Good News of Christ and what he will do for those who follow him. They had come to the realization that Christ was all-important, and they wanted others to know this.

When we "sign on" to follow Christ, we are putting ourselves in a position to be used by him. Christ wants to use people to further his ministry. He has chosen to use people to bring the news of his provision to the world. However, he only uses those people who are willing to be used by him. "Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me." (John 12:26) Are you willing to help change the world?

Pastor Steve

Wed May 28 06:53:08 2014

Sometimes it seems that the most difficult people to reach for Christ are members of our own families who are not followers of Christ. I find this a somewhat ironic, but very realistic circumstance. The difficulty is caused by a number of factors. We usually spend a good deal of time with our family members, and our family members usually don't have any trouble brushing off our attempts to share the message of Christ. We often feel guilty because of our inability to win those closest to us and we are perplexed by our struggle to be effective in our witness.

There are three observations I want to share regarding this that come from both my own personal experience and from what I see in God's Word. First, we need to be patient and continue to pray. We are concerned about our loved ones, but patience in a virtue helpful in so many of life's realities and certainly in this circumstance. Prayer is an important and vital key. Secondly, we must never forget it is the work of the Holy Spirit that is most important here. We are to model the Christian life before others and share verbally when we can, but the Holy Spirit is the One who draws others to Christ. Finally, remember that even Christ experienced family rejection in his earthly ministry. During his lifetime, his family thought he was a little off and "When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, 'He is out of his mind.'" (Mark 4:3) His brothers tried to give him advice on how to run his ministry but "even his own brothers did not believe in him." (John 7:5) However, we learn from Acts 1:14 that his brothers became followers as they were gathered with the apostles in Jerusalem awaiting the Holy Spirit after the departure of Christ.

In my own experience, I think of two of my family members that came to faith after years of patient witness and prayer. We can't compel our family members to come to faith but we can continue to pray and love them. We need to leave the results in the hands of our loving God.

Pastor Steve

Tue May 27 07:14:28 2014

I am in the first generation that grew up with TV. My parents did not have TV growing up and we didn't have a TV until just before I started school. TV had been around a few years when I came along, so I and folks just a little older than me are the first "TV babies."

Almost right from the beginnings of TV came the negative statements about TV. Comments from "Don't sit so close to the TV - you will go blind" to "TV is corrupting the morals of our kids" became part of our culture with the delivery of the first TV set. Now, the former statement above is dubious at best while the latter statement is true only if we let it be true. I do not disagree with the reality that there are programs on TV that reflect loose moral conviction and negative values. The common response to this is to rant against the programming and those who create the programs. There is much said about how there needs to be reform among the production of shows because of the terrible influence that TV has. And, of course, we can expand this to computers and the internet as well.

The thing is, we don't have much control over who does what on TV, the internet, or any other form of media or entertainment that has an influence in our lives. What we can control is how we use these avenues of media. We can use discernment and self-control in our utilization to monitor their influence in our lives and in the lives of our children. I find it interesting that we sometimes get so distracted by circumstances and influences we can't control that we forget what it is that we can control. For some reason, this seems to be especially true when it comes to media sources and entertainment and the part they play in our lives. All of these devices that bring all of this "negative influence" into our lives do have on/off buttons. We need to exert the power to power them off when we discern that what we see and hear is not what we should be seeing or hearing.

Ephesians 4:20-24 reminds us of the source of this power, "That is not the way you learned Christ! For surely you have heard about him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus. You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness." TV has been around for over 60 years now and has influenced our society and made an impact on our lives. We should not forget that we can control just how much influence it has on us and how much of an impact it can make on our lives. Use this power!

Pastor Steve

Mon May 26 08:36:44 2014

I am writing this from Ohio as we are visiting our kids and granddaughter. Today is Memorial Day and time for the Memorial Day Parade in Ironton, Ohio. This is the oldest continuously running Memorial Day parade in the nation. The first Memorial Day was declared by Gen. John A. Logan on May 30, 1868. In honor of this declaration, the good citizens of Ironton got together and planned a celebration complete with a parade that was held on May 31, 1868, making Ironton the site of the very first Memorial Day parade. Each year since then, they have had a parade. I haven't been able to attend in some time, and won't this year as we will be heading home.

The parade is a source of pride for Irontonians - to be the first at something can be something to talk about. In most instances, being first is something to be proud of, something to brag about, something to be desired. In the case of the people of Ironton being proud of their parade, they should be. However, there are times when desiring to be first is not the right pursuit.

Jesus spoke about this in Mark 10:31. There he says, "But many who are first will be last, and the last first." There are many situations to which this statement applies. But the basic meaning is that human values and God's values are often not the same. Actually, they rarely are the same. What is important to us, God would consider unimportant. This is certainly true when the values of God are compared and contrasted with the values of the secular world. They do not match up. There is very little common ground. However, it is also true in some cases when the values of a believer's life are compared to the values of God. We must exercise great caution as to what we consider valuable, as to what we consider to be 'first' in our lives. It is so easy to fall into the trap of trying to make the insignificant significant. There are times when what me might consider 'last' should be considered 'first', and the only way we can make the right decision is by putting it to the test of God. Another application of this is I Samuel 16 - read this! Remember, there are times when being first should be the last thing you should be thinking about.

Pastor Steve

Sun May 25 07:17:52 2014

Little Victoria provided a great deal of frustration for her teachers. As they tried to instruct her in the subjects of mathematics, languages, and other things that were important to her future, they simply could not motivate her to take the studies seriously. So, they decided to tell her that one day she would be Queen. Her response to this was, "Well, then I shall be good." Indeed she was, and she went on to become the longest serving monarch in the history of Great Britain, and the longest serving female leader in the history of the world. During her reign, the British Empire expanded to the point where "the sun never set on the British Empire."

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

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

Pastor Steve

Sat May 24 08:54:50 2014

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Fri May 23 07:02:53 2014

The Memorial Day weekend is here - the "official" beginning of summer, regardless of the summer solstice. How does your summer look? Busy already? My personal calendar is pretty full for the next three months, and we do have a number of activities on the church calendar. So much for taking the summer off!

The apostle Paul was a person who did not like to be inactive. Even at times when he would have a good excuse to 'take some time off,' he didn't let up in his ministry for the Lord. When he was in jail, he didn't quit speaking about God (see Acts 16); when he was involved in a shipwreck, he didn't take time off (see Acts 27); when he was in 'house arrest,' he didn't quit talking about God (see Acts 28).

If there was anyone who ever lived who had a good reason to quit working for God, Paul did. However, he never used his hardships or his setbacks as a reason to not be involved in ministry. He kept going, regardless of what he experienced. He writes in II Corinthians 4:16-17, "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all."

We experience things in life that we might consider setbacks. But we should not use these circumstances as an excuse to become inactive in our service for the Lord. We must realize that God is going to see us through, and our ministry for God is something we should look upon as a privilege and an honor. We should not forsake our ministry or 'put it on the back burner.' Paul continued in his ministry fueled by the realization that opportunities may only come once, and he needed to use the circumstances that he experienced as times to be active for God. Whatever setbacks he experienced were simply 'light and momentary troubles.'

Being active for God is never a bad thing, and sometimes we will find we are strengthened in bad times when we are active in His work. Keep working for His glory!

Pastor Steve

Thu May 22 06:53:08 2014

Although the best-known version of "The Anchor Holds" is by Ray Boltz, it was actually written and first recorded by a Pastor Lawrence Chewning. Pastor Chewning writes "The story behind the writing of this song begins in 1992 when my wife and I experienced what we now call our year of sorrows." He describes the difficulties he and his wife encountered during that year including the death of his father and his wife's third miscarriage. This song was born out of those experiences as they took time to come before God and seek his guidance and strength.

I will never forget the first time I heard the song "The Anchor Holds." It was neither of the recordings mentioned above, but rather a live performance by a good friend of mine in my mother's living room. I hadn't seen Bill Leibee for many years when he and his family appeared at the front door of my mom's home while we were visiting during the summer of 2003. Bill and I went to school together and sang together in Gospel group along with my brothers during the 70's. Bill had a voice that could be instructive to angels. He sang "The Anchor Holds" that evening and I remember by the time he finished, my face was wet with tears. I had never heard the song before, and frankly, Boltz never did justice to the song in the way in which Bill Leibee did. After he sang, we continued to catch up with each other and spoke of needing to get back together when I returned. We were unable to make that a reality as Bill died due to a heart attack in September of 2003 at the age of 49. His family was understandably devastated.

When I heard the news, I could not help but think of the song I heard him sing just a couple of months before his death. The hope this song expressed was what helped his grieving family through a difficult time. "But it was in the night through the storms of my life. That was where God proved His love for me - the anchor holds in spite of the storm."

Are you facing storms in your life? God will be there to help you and allow you to persevere in spite of the storm. Something ironic - while I am writing this article I can hear the distant thunder of an approaching storm. I don't have to fear, though. God will not let me face the storm alone. Hebrews 10:36-37 tells us, "Patient endurance is what you need now, so you will continue to do God's will. Then you will receive all that He has promised. For in just a little while, the Coming One will come and not delay."

Pastor Steve

Wed May 21 07:30:56 2014

Near where I live there is an intersection that has the potential for being a rather dangerous place. A county-maintained blacktop that runs north-south joins a state road in the middle of a severe curve in the state road. Drivers traveling north on the county road have a stop sign, but must take care when pulling onto the state road that there are no cars coming into the curve. Visibility is limited because of the topography at that junction. Because of the nature of the intersection, drivers traveling south on the state road actually have a straight shot onto the county road if they are heading that way rather than following the curve of the state road.

As drivers on the state road approach this point of decision, it would be good for them to signal which way they wish to travel even if they intend to follow the state road. Technically, if you are staying on the state road you are not making a turn, you are actually following the curve. However, because of the nature of the intersection it would be a good idea to use your signal. This is especially true if there are north-bound vehicles either stopped at the intersection or approaching the intersection. Using your signal would be a matter of courtesy, and not actually demanded. It would simply be a good idea.

There are so many instances in life where this is the case - doing something that really isn't demanded, but just would be a good idea based on courtesy and consideration for others. It seems in our society this is a trait that is sometimes lacking. I feel it is a trait that needs to be manifested more, and certainly should be part of the way of life for a follower of Christ. We should practice consideration for others at all times and do things for others just because it would be a nice thing, not on account of a demand. Romans 12:10 says, "Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves." Paul tells us, "No one should seek their own good, but the good of others." (I Corinthians 10:24) Take the danger out of life by putting others first!

Pastor Steve

Tue May 20 06:44:29 2014

I really enjoy the game of golf. I was never very good, but it was always enjoyable to get out with others and play. Now that I have trouble with my legs, I don't play that much. But I still get out and "chase the dimpled ball" every now and then.

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

Many of us are quick to point out physical features that we believe affect our appearance adversely. We can be so quick to point out our flaws and wish we didn't have a particular "imperfection." When we struggle with these thoughts, we need to remember the biblical statements about our existence. David writes "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." (Psalm 139:13-14) God is the one who put you together.

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

Pastor Steve

Mon May 19 07:18:02 2014

Charles Russell played basketball for the University of Alabama. He was a starter on the teams that won back-to-back Southeastern Conference championships in 1974 and 1975. A couple of years after he graduated, he gave his 1974 championship ring to a friend who needed money. The plan was for the friend to pawn the ring, and then get it back when he had the money. However, during before this could happen, Russell moved to Mexico City to play basketball professionally.

Russell played in Central and South America for twenty years. By the time he returned, the ring was forgotten and he had no idea of the whereabouts of the buddy that pawned the ring. He really hadn't given it much thought, but then again, what can you do?

In March of this year, there was a reunion of the 1974 championship team at the University of Alabama, celebrating the 40th anniversary of their SEC championship. After the festivities, Martha Wyatt approached Russell and said, "I have your ring, and I want to give it back to you." The 71-year-old Wyatt had come into possession of the ring several years ago when a friend who knew of her love for University of Alabama basketball saw it at an antique store (not the same pawn shop mentioned above) and bought it for her. Wyatt built a little case for the ring, and treasured it.

As long as she was in possession of the ring, Wyatt knew she probably should try to return it to the owner. However, she had no idea how to find Russell. Then came the reunion. She approached Russell about the ring, and they arranged to meet so she could give him back what was his.

This is a remarkable story of "lost and found." We read of stories such as this on occasion and marvel at the circumstances that unfold where lost objects are returned to rightful owners. One thing we can be sure of in our lives as Christians is that this scenario will not happen with us.

When our lives are placed in God's hands, we know he will not "lose" us. He will never lose track of us and wonder where we are. John 10:27-29 tells us, "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand."

There may be times when we don't live the way we should be living as his followers, but he will not lose sight of us and will do what is necessary to guide us to where we should be. Hebrews 12:5-6 addresses the issue of wayward children, "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son." We may have the tendency to lose things, but God doesn't lose his children.

Pastor Steve

Sun May 18 06:19:34 2014

There are many examples in nature of things that are beautiful, but can actually be deadly. A puffer fish looks so cute, especially when "inflated", but is the second-most venomous animal on earth. A tiny dart frog looks like it wouldn't harm anything, but the poison on its skin is deadly. Early Native Americans used the poison on their darts to create more effective weapons. Belladonna and Rhododendron are attractive plants, but can be lethal if ingested. Belladonna is particularly devious in that it produces lovely berries that really look good enough to eat.

These deceptive things in our natural world serve as a reminder of something, or rather someone, else that mimics the pattern of having an attractive appearance but is actually quite deadly. Christ commented on the character of Satan when he called him the "Father of lies." (John 8:44) Paul wrote this about Satan, "And no wonder! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light." (II Corinthians 11:14)

The statement of Paul about Satan is found in a larger warning about those who proclaim false messages. There are those who proclaim attractive messages but what they are saying is not truly rooted in the reality of scripture. We need to be aware of this and be discerning when it comes to folks who are making claims supposedly based in scripture but are not true.

I John 4:1 offers this advice, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world." This was good advice for John's readers, and still applies today as we still have those who use the scripture for their own means. Remember, even that which is beautiful can be deadly!

Pastor Steve

Sat May 17 09:28:23 2014

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 product.

Pastor Steve

Fri May 16 07:35:32 2014

One of the hardest things I believe I ever had to do was to help restrain my 18-month-old daughter while an emergency room physician worked carefully to extract a pearl from her ear. The pearl was from a necklace of her mother's that had broken. We thought we had picked all of the pearls up, but obviously we hadn't. We had just one child at the time, and she found a pearl we had missed and placed it in her ear. She wanted to put on an earring as she had watched her mother do many times. When we discovered what she had done, we had no choice but to take her to the emergency room as we realized we could not get it out of her ear safely.

The hospital staff was great, but wanted one of us to assist in an attempt to keep our daughter calm. This didn't go so well, but I stayed until the doctor completed the task. As difficult as this was, I knew I needed to trust the doctor's skill. He knew much better than I the anatomy of the ear and was better trained to accomplish this procedure without doing permanent damage to my little girl's ear. My patience and restraint was rewarded when the pearl came out and our daughter was fine.

We need to trust our lives to the Savior who knows better than we what is needed to deal with our brokenness and our deficiencies. Too many times we take matters into our own hands rather than allow the Lord free rein to accomplish the procedures that would enhance our lives. Sometimes the procedures are uncomfortable and hard to bear, but as with my little girl, our Lord knows what is needed to make us whole and restore us to health. Jesus said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick." He as the Great Physician knows exactly what we need to make us well. Put your life in his hands, he knows what needs to be done.

Pastor Steve

Thu May 15 06:59:07 2014

Yesterday was the 66th anniversary of the re-establishment of the State of Israel. From about 70 A.D. until May 14, 1948, Israel did not exist as an independent state. The country ended in violence in 70 A.D. with the onslaught of the Romans, and the country was immediately met with violence when the Transjordanian Army, the Arab League, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq, attacked Israel on May 15, 1948, after the proclamation that Israel was now a sovereign country. Yes, after only one day in existence, Israel was at war. The war continued for over a year and was ended when an armistice was signed in July of 1949. All of the attacking countries signed except Iraq, which simply withdrew its troops.

Incredibly, Israel was victorious, albeit at the expense of 6,000 lives. The Arab alliance lost just over 7,000 troops; however, just as damaging was the bitter taste of defeat that affected the morale of the countries involved. The armistice was brokered by American Ralph Bunche who became the first African-American to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

How did the infant nation Israel survive the attack that came from all directions? Israel was well-prepared militarily at the time of the declaration of statehood. David Ben-Gurion, the Prime Minister and Defense Minister, was aware of the possibility of retaliation when the announcement of statehood was made. In contrast to the high level of communication among the Israeli forces, the Arab forces did not have a central command and no communication between the various factions. This led to confusion and eventually defeat. Was this simply an oddity of war?

The confusion described among the Arab forces reminds me of other incidents when Israel survived attacks by superior forces. Gideon defeated a far-superior Midianite army with only 300 men because God caused confusion among the attackers. You can read about this conquest in Judges 7. II Kings 19 describes the defeat of the Assyrians as they are poised to take Jerusalem. One cannot help but think that there was more involved than superior military prowess in the 1948 victory. The same can be said about the 1956, 1967, and 1973 military conquests.

God has a plan for Israel. Ezekiel 37 speaks of the gradual renewal of the nation. What took place in 1948 and continues to this day seems to be the "fleshing out" of the bones. That being said, we realize God is at work. He is bringing the world to a dramatic conclusion. We need to voice this news loudly and clearly so others will know what God is doing. We need to be like the watchmen described in Isaiah 52:8, "The voice of your watchmen—they lift up their voice; together they sing for joy; for eye to eye they see the return of the Lord to Zion."

Pastor Steve

Wed May 14 06:58:00 2014

Sorrow and grief are never easy. We really don't like to experience sorrow. Yet it is in times of sorrow that we often are the most teachable. Sorrow helps us to learn more about ourselves, explore our innermost thoughts, examine our hearts and look at motives, and drives us to recognize our dependence on God and others. Job spoke of what he learned through his grief, "My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you." (Job 42:5)

Jesus was not unacquainted with grief, the Bible says about him that he was a "man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." (Isaiah 53:3) He learned and grew through his suffering and gave us a role model of how to respond to pain and grief. Hebrews 5:8 tells us that "he learned obedience through his suffering."

The author of Ecclesiastes wrote, "Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better." (Ecclesiastes 7:3) We need to let sorrow do its work in us. We need to learn and grow from times of sorrow and grief. Sorrow forces us to look inside and to look to sources of strength and help we may not pursue otherwise. We are made to look at our great dependence on God and the resources he provides. We should not deny it, explain it away, downplay our feelings, or smooth it over. Don't reject sorrow; embrace it and accept the lessons that are there for us to learn.

Pastor Steve

Tue May 13 07:06:18 2014

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

When he was 11 years old, Timberlake competed and was defeated on the 80's TV talent show "Star Search." He was defeated by 10-year-old Anna Nardona. Driving home with his mother from the defeat, they heard an announcement about open auditions for the Disney Channel. Justin Randall (Timberlake's real name) went to the audition with his mother, made the cut, performed on Disney, later changed his name, joined 'N Sync, and the rest his history. What about Nardona? She was knocked out of the competition by a cute 5-year-old and says this about her loss, "I was really embarrassed by it. And I lost it. I didn't lose my talent. I lost my interest. But I know deep down in my heart, I'm meant to sing." However, singing she is not. So, we have two examples before us of how to handle failure. One person used failure as an opportunity to pursue a different direction in performance while another person used failure as a reason to not pursue what she wanted.

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

Pastor Steve

Mon May 12 06:53:51 2014

I hope all of you ladies had a marvelous Mother's Day and were treated royally by your family! Last night we looked at how Christ treated his mother by studying the interaction between Christ and Mary. Although the circumstances were certainly far from usual, we observed that Christ had a normal, and wonderful, mother-son relationship with Mary. She was entranced at her conception (Luke 1:46-55); she was enamored at his birth (Luke 2:19); she was attentive to his spiritual upbringing (Luke 2:22-40); she was concerned about his welfare (Luke 2:41-50 & Mark 3:20-21); she encouraged his ministry (John 12:1-12); she was heartbroken at his death (Luke 2:35 & John 19:25-27); and she followed him in the new ministry of the church (Acts 1:12-14).

Jesus cared for his mother as one of his actions at the time of his death was to ensure her future care (John 19:25-27). Among all the observations about the relationship between Christ and Mary is their similarity in obedience. When Mary was faced with the prospect of being an unwed mother and bearing a Son, her response was one of obedience: "I am the Lord’s servant, May your word to me be fulfilled." (Luke 1:38) When faced with the prospect of the cross, Christ responded in obedience, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." (Luke 22:42)

Mary was the kind of mother Christ needed. Once again, thanks to all of you mothers that are just what your children need! God bless you all!

Pastor Steve

Sun May 11 05:07:22 2014

Richard De Haan once wrote about a teacher who gave a lesson on magnets. She spoke of the characteristics of a magnet, how it can pick things up that are made of metal, and how the magnet has two poles. She gave a test to the class a short time after the lesson. One of the questions was "My name has six letters and begins with m. I pick things up. What am I?" Fifty percent of the class wrote "mother" as the answer to this question.

It is not surprising that many students put this down as the answer to that question. Of course, a mother does a great deal more than just pick things up, although I am sure there are many mothers out there who feel as if this is about all they get done! Mothers are so much more than a "quicker picker-upper."

Mothers give life to the newborn and sustain life as the little ones grow. Mothers are the earliest teachers of children who have an innate wonder of the world around them and have many questions begging for answers. Mothers develop a sense of well-being through giving comfort, encouragement, discipline, and assurance of safety. Mothers are the first avenue of spiritual guidance in the Christian home. Paul comments on this in II Timothy 1:5, "I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also."

Mom is more than just a picker-upper, and we need to take time today to honor her and make her know just how much she is appreciated. Of course, this is something we need to do all the time, and I hope you have this pattern. Still, for all Mom does, a special day is such a little thing. Make today special for a Mom. If you no longer have your Mom with you, do something for another mother that has a special place in your life. Happy Mother's Day!

Pastor Steve

Sat May 10 09:30:47 2014

A few years ago we took our teens to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, for the Smoky Mountain Youth Bible Conference. We actually made this trip three or four times. One year, we were looking for something to do to kill some time between the morning and evening sessions. We had heard there was a hiking trail back to some waterfalls that was a "must-see" experience. We loaded up the van and headed up the mountain. By the time we got there, it was raining cats and dogs, and it was a fairly significant hike from the parking area back to the falls. We had purchased some of those cheap plastic ponchos, so we decided to go ahead and make the jaunt.

On the way there I was wondering if this effort was really worth all of the trouble. The rain kept coming down, the walk was not incredibly difficult but it was strenuous. One of our adult leaders started having some leg problems. We almost turned back; however, we decided to continue on. Finally, after one last bend in the trail, there were the falls. About all we could say at first was "Wow!" The view was definitely worth the hike.

Paul sort of reached this point when he wrote Romans. He comes to a point when it seems as if he could only say "wow." He is rehearsing some of God's attributes and has a significant "wow" moment. We read this in Romans 11:33 - "Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them? For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen." Here he recites God's infinite wisdom (vs. 33); his boundless knowledge (vs. 34); and his unequaled grace (vss. 35-36).

We should never lose our "wow" factor when it comes to God. Moses wrote, "Who is like You, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?" (Exodus 15:11) We do indeed serve a marvelous God!

Pastor Steve

Fri May 9 07:23:32 2014

Are you frustrated by some of the statements of the scripture? Does it seem to you that sometimes the Bible makes statements that just don't pan out in experience? For example, Jesus tells his followers, "And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it." (John 14:13-14) So, if it is true that Jesus will do anything for us that we ask in his name, why is it that some of our requests go unanswered? This illustrates why we need to pay attention to what scripture is saying and not what we want scripture to say.

First, we need to study and consider the context of the passage. In the passage associated with the verses above, Jesus is preparing his disciples for life after his departure. He wants them to be assured of his presence with him. The idea of asking for something is asking for something that would relate to them being able to fulfill their positions as representatives of Christ. A second consideration as we look at scripture is to study its meaning in relation to other scripture. Scripture does not contradict itself. With regard to the issue of asking for "anything," we need to consider other realities reflected in scripture. For example, Paul states that he asked for a resolution to his "thorn" three times and did not receive his request (read II Corinthians 12:6-10). A final consideration is to realize that God is the center of the universe, not us. Too many times we approach scripture with the idea of "what is in it for me?" What takes place in our lives is to bring glory to God - we need to focus on that reality. Our attention needs to be turned towards God and his purposes, not our own plans and desires.

When you find yourself frustrated by a scripture that does not seem to play out the way it reads, take some time to really get to know the scripture. There is no need to be frustrated by what God has said. Remember that God is the author of scripture and he does not make mistakes.

Pastor Steve

Thu May 8 07:34:49 2014

Much has been written about folks having identity crises. Some folks experience times in their lives when they struggle with who they are, the relevance of their existence, their contributions in life, and what they are supposed to be doing in life. There seems to be three periods of life when this is most likely to occur. Teenagers sometimes struggle with how to fit in, finding a circle of friends, who they are. During mid-life, some folks struggle with things left undone, unfulfilled expectations, or a perceived failure to make what might be considered a significant contribution. As folks approach the twilight years, there are struggles with end of life issues, health failure, and what type of legacy they are leaving.

As believers, we can struggle with these feelings as well. However, we need to focus on the realization that our identity is linked with Christ and what he has provided for us. We need to concentrate on what he has given us when he redeemed us. We are forgiven (Acts 10:43); we are a new creation (II Corinthians 5:17); we are related to Christ (Matthew 25:37); we are reconciled to God (II Corinthians 5:18-19); and we are destined to become like Christ (Romans 8:29).

When you are struggling with an issue relating to your identity or how you are getting along in life, remember that "you are not your own; you are bought with a price." (I Corinthians 6:19-20) Christ has redeemed you to make you his - let this fact inform you and encourage you if you are struggling with your identity.

Pastor Steve

Wed May 7 07:19:12 2014

Last year when we visited Israel, I was able to see the Dead Sea for the first time. The Dead Sea is one of the most fascinating places on earth. For one thing, it is the lowest place on earth. To get to the Dead Sea, you travel Highway 90, the lowest road on earth. The Dead Sea is 8.6 times saltier than the ocean, is the deepest hypersaline body in the world, and nothing except for a few bacteria can survive in its water. I didn't swim in the water, but those who did floated very easily. To me, the water felt like WD40. The Dead Sea is a terminal lake with no outlet, meaning water can only leave through evaporation. Water from the Jordan and its tributaries flow into the Dead Sea bringing with them all sorts of minerals, including salt. Since there is no outlet, the water in the Dead Sea evaporates depositing the dissolved minerals, and since it has no place to go, the dissolved salt minerals continue to accumulate and be concentrated in the sea. This is a basic explanation of why the Dead Sea has such a high concentration of salt and why the Dead Sea is a dead sea.

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

Pastor Steve

Tue May 6 07:21:12 2014

Have you ever felt ashamed because of something you did? Perhaps you lied to a friend, or betrayed a trust. Maybe you helped spread some rumors about someone else that weren't true. You sinned and you knew it and now because of your sin you feel guilt and remorse. That is a natural response to doing something we know we shouldn't and it is a good thing that your feel that way when you sin.

When you have guilt over an activity then it drives you to do something about it. Confession is the first step to take when you have done something you know you shouldn't. We need to confess to God our wrongdoing, and then we need to confess to those who have been affected by our sin our sorrow and ask for forgiveness. We should not try to justify what we have done, or place the blame on someone else; we need to confront our behavior and deal with it appropriately. Guilt and shame have their place in letting us know that what we have done is wrong and needs to be set right. However, we should not let guilt and shame come between us and doing what we know we should for the Savior. Often, we use our guilt as an excuse to not go on and do other things we should be doing because "we have done something terrible."

When you follow the steps of confession and receive forgiveness, you need to accept the cleansing that the Lord offers to us when we say we are sorry. John wrote, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (I John 1:9) Guilt and shame are good when they drive you to the cross; do not compound the issue by not accepting the forgiveness Jesus offers because he "endured the cross, despising its shame." (Hebrews 12:2) Remember that when Jesus forgives, he forgives completely.

Pastor Steve

Mon May 5 07:46:15 2014

I get a kick out of a TV commercial for FedEx that is running right now. A man is sitting at a large wooden desk in front of what appears to be an office with a magnificent view in a high-rise building. There are many other buildings in the background of his "corner office." He is speaking authoritatively to a subordinate holding a FedEx box that is standing in front of the desk. The man who is seated is waxing eloquently on the characteristics that it takes to rise to the position he has attained. Then, a humming sound is heard, and the background scene of the skyscrapers begins to rise and disappear. It is only a facade that has been placed on the inside of a garage door. The door fully elevates, revealing the man's wife standing in the driveway with a bag of groceries. The man says something like, "Honey, you need to use the intercom for access." She replies, "Well, yeah, but these groceries are heavy."

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Sun May 4 06:19:51 2014

I think there are many sad stories in scripture, but I am not sure that any are sadder than the story of the disciples at Gethsemane. Jesus took the "inner three", Peter, James, and John, with him when he withdrew farther into the olive trees to pray. "Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, 'My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.' Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. 'Couldn't you men keep watch with me for one hour?' he asked Peter. 'Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.'"(Matthew 26:39-41) This scenario was repeated two more times.

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Sat May 3 06:33:27 2014

Frank Sinatra made a lot of money with his recording of "My Way" in 1969. After almost four decades of recording music, he found his signature song. The song was written specifically for him by Paul Anka upon Sinatra's revelation to Anka that "he was quitting the business." The song tells the story of a man who is nearing death and proudly proclaims he had lived his life "his way." It truly is a testimony to self-will and in one sense is inspiring, but in another sense is a little dangerous. We need to be determined, decisive and directional in our lives, but we should never totally depend upon our own resources. If we leave God out of the planning, we are in for big trouble. We need to follow the advice of Proverbs 16:9. "In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps."

Christ was very artful in how he informed his disciples of this fact. We read in Luke 5 what he did when he called Peter to become one of his followers: "When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, 'Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.' Simon answered, 'Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.' When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' knees and said, 'Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!' For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon's partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, 'Don't be afraid; from now on you will catch men (Luke 5:4-10)." Christ was telling Peter, "I want you to do it my way." Christ reminded Peter of this after the resurrection when Peter had returned to fishing - read John 21.

When I am tempted to do things "my way," I remind myself of these biblical incidents. Self-reliance and self-motivation are admirable and desirable traits, but they must be tempered with an understanding of our dependence upon Christ's leadership. What made for a great song is not always the best advice for our lives. We need to remember to live our lives "His Way."

Pastor Steve

Fri May 2 07:08:44 2014

I get a kick out of the proliferation of talent shows on TV - American Idol, The Voice, X-Factor, America's Got Talent, and others. Many may not know that shows of this type are not new. In the early days of TV there were Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour and Arthur Godfrey's Talent Hour. Other shows that came along include The Gong Show in the 70's and Star Search in the 80's. All of these shows are designed to find talented people and then through a period of competition narrow the group down to a single winner. Those who participate are seeking fame, fortune, and a secure future. Victory relies upon them being singled out and through the use of their talents distinguishing themselves above all others.

God wants us to use our talents as well, but not for the purpose of distinguishing ourselves above others. We are to use our gifts and talents to enhance others. God is not seeking the most talented or the most gifted, but wants us to use our talents and gifts to help build his Church. We don't need to audition for God; we need to applaud him through the use of the gifts he has given us. When we exercise our talents and our gifts, we bring glory to God and build up his people. This is why gifts have been given to us. I Corinthians 12:4 & 7 tells us, "There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good."

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

Pastor Steve

Thu May 1 07:45:46 2014

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

Wed Apr 30 07:35:39 2014

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

Tue Apr 29 07:41:35 2014

I would imagine that you have had the experience of losing something valuable and then embarked upon a diligent search to find the object you lost. Many years ago we were returning from a vacation in South Carolina. On our way home, we stopped in Virginia to spend the night. We were at the pool and I was trying to get our video camera to work when I heard my sister-in-law shout, "Steve, get Stephanie!" I looked up at the pool and all I saw was the top of my then four-year-old daughter's head. Needless to say, I acted quickly.

I got my daughter out safely and really in very good condition - we were more frightened than she was. However, when I put her on the side of the pool, I noticed I had lost a contact. Now, back then, this was long before disposable contacts; these were the pricey hard kind. So, they are lost, right? Well, no, my other sister-in-law saw the contact on the bottom of the pool (Of course, I couldn’t see anything). She and my wife took turns diving down, and Scherry (my wife) plucked the contact from the bottom, and brought it to me. Can you believe that? It was a little scratched but my optometrist took care of that on our return home. A diligent search led to a delightful discovery!

This needs to be the character of our search for the wisdom of God. In Proverbs, Solomon encourages his son to search for wisdom diligently. We read in Proverbs 2:4-6: "and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding." We need to pursue the knowledge and wisdom of God. We need to gain spiritual insight and understanding. The only way this will be done is through a diligent effort on our part to discover the things of God.

I remember so well my desire to find my contact, my focus on the pursuit, and our diligence in our search. Do you remember this when you were searching for that something you had lost? This is how we need to search for the wisdom of God. Search diligently and energetically - you will not be disappointed in what you find.

Pastor Steve

Mon Apr 28 07:46:21 2014

To me, one of Christ's most fascinating characteristics was his humility. He certainly was a "take charge" person when this was necessary, but we see him model humility is so many ways. His submission and obedience to his Father was certainly one of the ways his humility is seen. His prayer in the garden on the night of his betrayal and arrest shows his humility and submission to his Father's will. In Philippians 2, Paul writes that we should emulate his humility in our lives.

Developing a spirit of humility is not all that easy. This really goes against the grain of how we are typically. We want our "rights," we want things done our way, we want our ideas to be used, we want our voice to be heard, we want to be in charge. These are things we need to keep in check as we develop true humility in our lives. Humility may not be easy, but it is certainly the path by which the greater good can be accomplished. Paul instructed Titus, "Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men (Titus 3:1-3)."

How are we at showing "true humility toward all men?" Be honest - and be humble!

Pastor Steve

Sun Apr 27 06:54:43 2014

Haddon Robinson wrote that when Alexander the Great defeated Persia, he headed east looking for more countries to conquer. Robinson cites historian Halford Luccock who said that Alexander "marched off his maps" when he pursued more victories.

Following God sometimes has us "marching off our maps." We make plans and have ideas for out future, but God may have a different plan or idea for us. He may lead us in way we have never considered or sometimes considered in a negative fashion. We need to be sensitive to his leadership and acknowledge that his path is always the best path for us.

There are several biblical characters that we could say "marched off their maps" as they were following God. Abraham, Moses, Daniel, and David are some people that come to mind when you think of those who stepped out on faith. And what about Esther? You can't forget Esther when you talk of those who stepped out on faith in a big way and saw their faith rewarded. Reluctant at first to approach the king about the deadly plot against her kinsmen, she stepped out courageously after being admonished by her cousin Mordecai when he said, "Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:13-14) Esther really hadn't bargained for this when she took her role as a wife of Xerxes, but she did what she knew she had to do, risking her life, in order to protect the lives of her countrymen.

God may have you marching off your map, but just realize that when he does, he will go before you every step of the way. You may not be certain where you are going, but God is. Trust him completely, he will not guide you wrongly.

Pastor Steve

Sat Apr 26 07:47:53 2014

Most of us have had a number of "If only. . ." scenarios in life. These events are precipitated when we have a certain undesirable experience that could have been avoided if we had done something differently or if some circumstances had proceeded differently. These experiences usually range from the mildly frustrating to the truly devastating.

Jameson Painter had just such an experience. The high school senior hit a home run in the bottom of the eighth inning that led to a victory for his baseball team. However, his celebration was muted when he arrived at his car and discovered that the ball he hit had smashed his own windshield. What made this an "if only" moment was that before the game he had moved his car from where he had originally parked at the suggestion of his coach who thought it was in harm's way. In moving the car, he unwittingly placed it in a position that would cause damage. Now, there are good responses to the many "If only" statements this occurrence invoked, but it was still difficult for him to not think "If only I hadn't moved my car."

The apostle Paul has a good thought to combat our tendency to dwell on the "If onlies." In Philippians 3:14 we find his philosophy for dealing with "If only": "Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead." He had a few "If only" events in his life. One was his penchant for persecuting the followers of Christ. Yet, he concluded it was unprofitable to dwell on what had happened that could not be changed. Rather, he decided to "press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (vs. 15)

This is good advice for us. We will have a number of experiences that, in our way of thinking, could have been changed had something been done differently. The reality is the experience can't be changed. When this happens, remember Paul's statements and make a conscious decision to move forward.

Pastor Steve

Fri Apr 25 08:07:38 2014

A year ago today, I wrote the following article: “Yesterday was a rather eventful day in the life of my family. Our oldest daughter gave birth to her first child, our first grandchild. What a wonderful blessing! The birth, however, was not uneventful. I have spoken often of the need to expect the unexpected, and this was indeed the case with her delivery. Stephanie experienced a fairly rough couple of weeks during the latter part of her pregnancy. She was watched fairly closely, but what started out as a routine delivery changed dramatically when she manifested signs of HELLP syndrome. This condition is experienced in about 5 percent of the pregnancies in the U.S. and is fatal in 25 percent of these cases. Among other things, it is marked by a substantial decrease in the platelet count, the factor in the blood that controls clotting, and increased liver enzymes. An emergency C section was warranted, and a time of anxious waiting ensued. God was gracious to us. Stephanie delivered a beautiful baby girl and as of this time, both the mom and her newborn are doing well.

I am writing this to express my gratefulness to God for both my beautiful daughter, and her little girl, my beautiful granddaughter. God sent people to us who were so helpful: the staff at the hospital, friends and relatives who called, and my son-in-law's aunt, whose presence was Heaven sent. We learn to trust God in all circumstances, and we know we can lean on him. I simply need to thank him, and thank him publicly for his goodness. A verse I use so often, and quoted to myself over and over during yesterday's events is 'They who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles. They shall walk and not grow weary, they shall run and not faint.' (Isaiah 40:31) Indeed we will."

I reprinted this article because it is good that we remind ourselves of times when we have seen God's hand at work in our lives. Rehearsing these events helps us to remember God's faithfulness and grow in our faith in him. Both my daughter and my granddaughter are doing well. If I did not take the time to reflect on this reality and give thanks, I would be remiss in my duty to God. Don't forget to thank God for his faithful work in your life!

Pastor Steve

Thu Apr 24 06:43:34 2014

Redemption is in the very heart of God. I think one of the most elaborate displays of redemption occurs in John 21. Christ seeks out the recalcitrant Peter who has returned to his former life and, in effect, says "Peter, you are not going back to what you were. You have come too far to go back, and I have invested too much to allow you to go back." That is why he asks him, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" (John 21:15) He wanted Peter to remember that he had been bought with a price, he had been called to a new walk of live, and he had a destiny to fulfill. We need to remember that we are in the same shoes, or should I say sandals, as Peter.

Chris has invested in us heavily. His life was given to bring redemption - and we need to live as redeemed people. We need to sing and soar, much like the birds in a story told by a preacher of the last century, A.J. Gordon. Gordon encountered a young boy walking along the road in front of Gordon's church with an old cage that contained a few birds. He asked the boy, "Young man, what are you going to do with those birds?" "I am going to play with them and then feed them to my cat." "How harsh!" replied Gordon. "How much would you take for the birds, cage and all?" Gordon told the boy he would give him two dollars for the birds, cage and all (remember this took place many years ago). The boy replied, "Why so much? The birds are not worth anything - they don't make a sound!" Gordon told what happened when he took the birds, opened the cage, and set them free. "They sang!" Gordon exclaimed, "As only those who have experienced the grace of being set free can!"

We have been set free, and since that is the case, we need to sing like a bird. We need to sing as only those who have experienced God's redemptive grace can. "Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it; redeemed by the blood of the Lamb! Redeemed and so happy in Jesus; his child and forever I am?" Christ asks us, as he did Peter, "Do you love me?" If we do, we will fly and sing!

Pastor Steve

Wed Apr 23 06:38:16 2014

I read an article this week in the Christian Science Monitor that says scientists are upset, really upset. It seems there is unsettledness in the scientific community that so many people in the United States still disavow the Big Bang theory, the principles of natural selection, and the ideas of evolution. The article states, "Those results (of opinion polls) depress and upset some of America's top scientists, including several Nobel Prize winners, who vouched for the science in the statements tested, calling them settled scientific facts. 'Science ignorance is pervasive in our society, and these attitudes are reinforced when some of our leaders are openly antagonistic to established facts,' said 2013 Nobel Prize in medicine winner Randy Schekman of the University of California, Berkeley." The article compared ignoring the science behind origins to ignoring the science demonstrating that cigarette smoking causes cancer. Quite a comparison, don't you think?

I am sorry that some are upset, but I am not sorry enough to ignore the statement of the scripture that God exists and that he is the one responsible for my being here. My observation of this continued debate is that it is an embodiment of Paul's description in Romans 1 when he writes, "They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator-who is forever praised. Amen." (Romans 1:25) What I have always found fascinating is that there are so many who choose to believe that all that we see in our universe is simply a product of some random act that took place billions of years ago. As followers of Christ, we need to promote the truth and pray for the enlightenment of those whose minds have been darkened by "scientific fact."

Pastor Steve

Tue Apr 22 06:53:13 2014

Mart DeHaan cites a National Geographic article on behavior among chimpanzees. Researchers observing a group of chimps watched a lowly male become the leader of the group when he manifested some rather interesting behavior. He started throwing around some empty kerosene cans and banging around a heavy metal box. His behavior intimidated the rest of the chimps, including the dominant males, so much so that he became the head chimp.

This is a behavior that we non-chimps often emulate. Those who make the most noise are often the ones that take the lead because we have a tendency to follow the loudest voice. We must remember that a big personality and flashy behavior do not necessarily indicate divine blessing.

God warns against using outward appearance as a predominant criteria in determining leadership or position. God told Samuel, "People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (I Samuel 16:7) Paul warns against this as well, "You are judging by appearances." (II Corinthians 10:7) Make sure you are following the right leaders, not mere flashes in a pan. If you are in a position of leadership, do more than just make a lot of noise. Make sure your desire is to honor God and bring glory to him.

Pastor Steve

Mon Apr 21 07:16:37 2014

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Sun Apr 20 05:00:41 2014

I came across an interesting comment this week in an internet news story: "Leaders of a national atheist group say the best spot to find a nonbeliever is in a place of faith." Now, whereas this may be true, being a nonbeliever is a rather risky stance.

This weekend, there is more focus on Christ and his life and death than at any other time in the year, including Christmas. The story of the Resurrection evokes responses from the most devout believer to the rigid nonbeliever. The story of the cross is what polarizes people. The message emphasized at Christmas about an unusual birth does produce a great deal of debate, but not nearly that of the news of one rising from the dead. The scripture maintains belief in Christ's death and resurrection is that which brings salvation. Believing in his birth, that is simply believing in the existence of Christ, does not bring justification. Only through belief in the death, burial, and resurrection can one obtain eternal life. And this is what atheists shun. You cannot argue with the existence of Christ; but you can deny his ministry and his deity. Actually, you don't need to be an atheist to do this. This is why the statement above is so sad and so true. You do not have to be an atheist to acknowledge that it is possible to sit in a church week in and week out and still not be a true follower of Christ. Acknowledging and accepting his reality is not sufficient for eternal life; one must acknowledge and accept his deity and ministry.

Christ did live, and he was crucified, and he did rise from the dead. Paul asserts the truth of this in I Corinthians 15:3-8, "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born." This was what Christ did on the first day of the week after his crucifixion. Believe this and live; reject it and forfeit life.

Pastor Steve

Sat Apr 19 08:33:12 2014

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 18 07:15:35 2014

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 17 06:54:20 2014

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 commands on Thursday before his crucifixion. Matthew 26 tells us how he gave the disciples instructions on where to go and what to say in finding a location for them to celebrate Passover. Verse 18 says, "Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, 'The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.'" Before celebrating the Passover, he washes their feet and later tells them, "A new command I give you: Love one another." (John 13:34) During the Passover observance, he gives them bread and tells them "Take and eat; this is my body." (Matthew 26; 26) After the supper he gave them the cup and said, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." (26:27-28) He tells them to "do this in remembrance of me." (Luke 22:19) Later, they would leave the room where they shared this last Passover and go to Gethsemane. There he would talk with His Father, chide his disciples for falling asleep, come face to face with his betrayer, be arrested and taken before the Sanhedrin.

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

Pastor Steve

Wed Apr 16 07:16:24 2014

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

Tue Apr 15 07:26:01 2014

Monday night of the week of Christ's crucifixion seems to have spent at the home of Jesus' friends - Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. He returned to Jerusalem on Tuesday morning and spent the day in teaching, in confrontations with the religious leaders, and in preparation of his disciples for life without him. He told the story of the talents. He wanted to remind his followers that they had only one life and they should choose to spend it wisely. They had an opportunity to determine how they would live; they should choose to live for the Lord. We have the same choice. He also spoke of paying taxes - I just had to mention that in light of today's date. How are you doing on your taxes, by the way?

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

When they arrived at the Mount of Olives, they asked him when these things would take place. There, Christ spent some time talking about a future time and what would take place. He gave signs that indicate when future things would take place. He emphasized the need for readiness by telling the parable of the Ten Virgins. Then, they walked back to Bethany to spend the night.

Pastor Steve

Mon Apr 14 07:30:23 2014

Today is Monday of Holy Week. Yesterday we celebrated the entry of Christ into Jerusalem to the accolades of a huge crowd. (Matthew 21:1-11) People called out his name and showed there reverence for him as they treated him as a ruler returning home from a victorious military campaign. There he cleared the temple of the moneychangers, demonstrating that God wants purity in worship. (Matthew 21:12-17) He feuded with the religious leaders and used scripture to show that what was taking place had been predicted.

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

Pastor Steve

Sun Apr 13 06:12:37 2014

I would imagine you have heard of the horrific accident involving a tour bus and a tractor-trailer that occurred in Northern California this past Thursday. The truck, engulfed in flames, side-swiped a car traveling the same direction, then crossed the median and crashed head-on into a tour bus carrying 44 students on university visits. Ten people died in the fiery crash and many others were injured. Investigators are still trying to pinpoint the cause of the terrible tragedy.

When events such as this take place, folks are usually drawn in one of two ways. They either embrace their hope in God, or they question God and wonder why he would let something like this take place. Oswald Chambers wrote, "No man is the same after an agony; he is either better or worse, and the agony of a man’s experience is nearly always the first thing that opens his mind to understand the need of redemption worked out by Jesus Christ. At the back of the wall of the world stands God with His arms outstretched, and every man driven there is driven into the arms of God. The cross of Jesus is the supreme evidence of the love of God."

Above all else in this life, we need to believe in and receive the love of Christ. In spite of what happens in our lives, we need to be aware that the most compelling issue is not why tragedies take place but how we might respond in such an event in light of the provision of God to us through the love of Christ.

When you are up against the wall, when you are facing a circumstance that tries your soul, remember that Christ is there for you with open arms. Nothing can ever separate us from the love of Christ. Romans 8:35 tells us, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?" When the worst thing happens, remember the love of Christ.

Pastor Steve

Sat Apr 12 10:56:42 2014

I remember watching TV footage of the 1968 Olympic Marathon. Now, I don't recall watching it live, but on more than one occasion I remember seeing footage of the last person to finish the race. His name was John Stephen Akhwari from Tanzania. Akhwari had a tumble during the race and experienced some significant wounds, including a leg injury. In spite of this, after being treated, he continued to run. He completed the course an hour after all the other runners and was greeted by only a few remaining spectators. When asked why he continued to run even after he was injured, he responded, "My country did not send me to Mexico City to start the race. They sent me here to finish." What a marvelous statement of perseverance!

We need to apply this same spirit of fortitude in our lives; perhaps not in a literal physical way, but certainly in our service for the Lord and our spiritual lives. We often face experiences !hat may test our mettle - a lack of success in a pursuit, a setback brought on by a mistake, or even an issue with age. We should not let these be obstacles to our service for God. Success needs to be left up to God's discretion. We should not use our mistakes as excuses to continuing to push forward in our spiritual lives. And we certainly should not let age be a reason that we give for not serving God the way we should.

We need to continue to grow, mature, and pursue opportunities to minister until we are called home. To not pursue service because we think we are "too old" is to rob the church of significant gifts. There is still much to be done. There is still service to be offered. Job 12:12 tells us, "Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?" We need to persevere in our service and not let obstacles, real or perceived, prevent us from finishing well. B.C Forbes said, "How you start is important, very important, but in the end it is how you finish that counts."

Pastor Steve

Fri Apr 11 07:27:58 2014

On December 15, 1967, the Silver Bridge that spanned the Ohio River connecting Pt. Pleasant, West Virginia, and Kanauga, Ohio, collapsed with 37 vehicles on the structure. Forty-six people lost their lives in the worst bridge tragedy in the history of the United States. Following the horrific collapse, engineers and others worked diligently to find the cause of the failure. What was determined was that a minute crack had developed in a critical eye-bar that held together two primary cables of the unique suspension design. Built in 1928, the bridge was the first structure built in the United States that employed this design feature. The crack that ultimately led to the failure was undetectable in inspections because of the limitations of the technology at the time.

We need to realize that minute "cracks" can develop in our lives that can lead to problems and failures. Sometimes these cracks are undetectable by ourselves which is why we need to allow the Holy Spirit to be active in our lives reinforcing our character and searching our hearts and lives to find areas that need to be strengthened. Romans 8:16 says, "The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children." Knowing this, we need to rely upon the Spirit to direct our lives, inform our hearts, and expose areas where we need correction and reinforcement. You really cannot hope to live as strongly and solidly for the Lord without the help of the Spirit. Let him be involved in keeping your suspension safe!

Pastor Steve

Thu Apr 10 07:28:33 2014

The Bible is very explicit that we are to pursue rewards in our Christian service. While we do know that our focus is to be on Christ in our ministry, we are told to pursue crowns. Paul writes, "Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." (II Timothy 4:8) I Peter 5:4 says, "And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away."

Paul van Gorder cites this quote of Queen Victoria made after she heard a message by a minister about the second coming of Christ: "Because of what you said about the coming again of the world's rightful King, I wish still to be here when He returns that I might lay my crown at His blessed feet!" What the dear Queen said about her crown is exactly what we will do with the crowns we receive through our service for Christ. We covet crowns not for our own gain or our own benefit, but so that we may have a means of bring glory to Christ when we are in his presence.

There will be no boasting about our own accomplishments in heaven, only an opportunity to applaud our Savior for what he has done for us. We seek crowns so that we may honor Christ. Revelation 4:10-11 describes this scene: "They lay their crowns before the throne and say: "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.'" Oh, I want to do that, don't you?

Pastor Steve

Wed Apr 9 07:34:39 2014

Most of us are really ready for spring. We have had a long, cold winter and we really would like to see the brown give way to green, some flowers instead of dead sticks, and the trees leafing out. But even as I say this, I can hear my Mom's voice, "Don't wish your life away." We so often say, "If only this would happen then I could. . ." or "When this takes place, I will. . ." or "I would be happier if only. . ."

Does this sound familiar? But,in longing for a future event, we often forget to enjoy the gift of today. Each day is a gift from God and is filled with opportunities to serve him. When we spend time longing for the cloud with the silver lining, we miss the golden moments we have now. Ron Ash wrote, "We are where we need to be and learning what we need to learn. Stay the course because the things we experience today will lead us to where He needs us to be tomorrow." Solomon shares with us this wisdom, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens." (Ecclesiastes 3:1) We need to keep this in mind and apply this wisdom at those times when we find ourselves wishing for a better something down the road.

Psalm 118:24 reminds us, "This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it." Do just that! Rejoice in what today has for you and glorify God with what you do in it!

Pastor Steve

Tue Apr 8 07:23:35 2014

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

Actually, there really isn't any circumstance where you should feel good about whispering critical words or negative statements. What we say in secret can travel just as quickly as those words uttered in a whispering gallery. We should avoid at all times the desire to gossip and participate in conversations where we are whispering unkind, and often untrue, statements about someone else. Proverbs 20:19 tells us, "A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much." Avoid gossip and let yourself be known as someone who does not participate in whispered conversations. Be known as a person who speaks kindly and hurts no one with what you say.

Pastor Steve

Mon Apr 7 07:39:10 2014

I am so glad that salvation is in the hands of God and not men. I am glad that our salvation is not based on what we have done but on the grace of God that we appropriate through our faith in Christ. Folks need to trust God before it is too late, but it is never too late to trust him when we come to him in faith. This allowed my uncle Don the opportunity to come to Christ just before he died of cancer. This allowed me to lead my father-in-law to the Lord just weeks before he passed away. Some have objections to this, but Christ has an answer.

First of all, remember the thief on the cross. In addition, in Matthew 20 we read a parable about the owner of a vineyard who paid his hired laborers the same amount regardless of how long they had worked. When those who had worked all day complained about receiving the same wages as the workers who were hired just before the day was ended, the owner replied, "I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?" (Matthew 20:13-15)

Now, if you have not made the decision to trust Christ, do not put this decision off any longer. Don't prevail upon the grace and patience of God when it comes to your soul. Remember the fate of the man in Luke 12, "This very night your life will be demanded from you." (vs. 20) On the other hand, know that it is not too late for you to make this decision even if you have put it off. Just don't procrastinate - someday it may be too late.

Pastor Steve

Sun Apr 6 06:12:08 2014

My wife enjoys watching home shows on Saturday mornings. She will flip between HGTV, DIY, and sometimes take a glance at the Food Network. The only problem I have with this is all the ideas she comes up with that she would like to implement. Of course, the implementation process usually involves a significant contribution from me. So, I get to add more projects to my already-burgeoning "to do" list.

I do find many of the shows interesting and watch them myself upon occasion. One of the shows on DIY I find somewhat ironic not because of what is done on the show, but who is doing the work. The show is "The Vanilla Ice Project." I find it ironic because the show host and main contractor is Robert Mathew van Winkle, aka "Vanilla Ice". He is also a "rapper" who had a major hit in the early 1990's with a song entitled "Ice, Ice, Baby". He was sort of a "one hit wonder" and later music projects never matched the success of his debut release. Now he is featured on a DIY show entitled "The Vanilla Ice Project" where he refurbishes run-down homes.

I was watching this show yesterday morning and "Ice" made this comment: "Every now and then you run into a problem for which there is no clear solution. That is when I am glad I have a good crew to back me up." When I heard this, I thought to myself, "Well, that is exactly what happened to all of us." When sin came into the world we ran into a problem for which there was no clear solution. Thankfully, God had already made plans for a remedy. We had more than a good crew to back us up. We had the power and provision of our eternal God. Our problem is taken care of through the provision of Christ.

Something else I found compelling about the comments of Vanilla Ice was the fact he was giving credit where credit was due - to his crew. We need to do the same. We could never have overcome our situation through our own efforts; therefore we need to give total credit to our Savior. We should never forget that "at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. . .God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:6 & 8)

Pastor Steve

Sat Apr 5 08:37:51 2014

I would imagine you have seen the following outline of John 3:16 before, but I came across a copy the other day and would like to share it with you: God—the greatest lover; so loved —the greatest degree; the world —the greatest company; that He gave —the greatest act; His only begotten Son —the greatest gift; that whoever believes —the greatest simplicity; in Him —the greatest person; should not perish —the greatest promise; but—the greatest difference; have—the greatest certainty; everlasting life —the greatest possession.

As we continue in our season of Lent moving toward our celebration of Christ's selfless act of sacrifice on our behalf, we need to spend some time thinking about the great love of our wonderful God. A mother was reading John 3 to her daughter. The mom paused after verse 16 and said, "Don't you think that is amazing, honey?" "No," the little girl replied. "It would be amazing if it were anyone else but God. But, Mother, it is just like God!" I do agree with the little girl, but I still find God's actions amazing.

We should never lose our amazement or our appreciation for God's great demonstration of his great love. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." I still find that truly amazing.

Pastor Steve

Fri Apr 4 07:18:58 2014

Often we are ambivalent about our sin. We want to be forgiven, and we really don't want to feel guilty, so we pray for forgiveness and then maybe walk away for awhile. But then we return to the behavior when we are tempted and circumstances present themselves. We do not truly turn away from the sin - there is not true repentance. I read a story once about a man that went to pray about a problem he had. He would go forward at the end of service and prayer, "God, remove the cobwebs." On one occasion, his pastor prayed, "God, kill the spider."

Sometimes it takes radical action to break a sinful habit. This begins by truly wanting to change our behavior and move away from the sin. Praying for forgiveness when we yield to the temptation is a good step, but we need to make sure to take whatever steps are necessary to not repeat the sin. We need a true change of mind that comes from a genuine pursuit of holiness and avoidance of what takes us to the behavior. This is what Christ meant when he said, "If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away." (Matthew 5:29) It is good to pray, "God, remove the cobwebs" but we also need to pray, "God, kill the spider."

Pastor Steve

Thu Apr 3 07:37:58 2014

Many have commented how ironic it is that even with all the snow we have had, we still needed some moisture. Well, yesterday probably took care of a little bit of the problem and we are supposed to get more rain today and tomorrow. After the copious amount of rain we have received, we have seen flooding in a way that we have never seen it before. Ditches are overflowing, water is over the roads, and last night the power went out. We got creative at church as the lights were out. Thankfully, we did get to finish the meal. We had to send the kids home and cancel services, but everyone got home safe and sound and then the lights came back on! So, we had an interesting experience and everyone was safe.

In our lives we know that when the storms come, the wind howls, the floods rise, and the lights go out, we are safe with God. God told Noah how to build an ark so that he would be preserved through the coming maelstrom. He has given us a provision through Christ so that whatever comes our way, we know we will be preserved. Even as Noah had to experience the effects of the flood, we too may experience the effects of the adversity that comes our way. However, in the end, we know that the waters will recede, the storms will abate, and the lights will come back on.

Noah received the sign of the rainbow as a promise of God's faithfulness. We have received the same promise, and we know we can trust God. God promises to be with us and watch over us, and we know we can trust his promises. We read in Psalm 119:140, "Your promises have been thoroughly tested, and your servant loves them." Indeed, God's promises have been tested and they never fail. Even in our darkest hour, we know the light will come on again.

Pastor Steve

Wed Apr 2 07:08:53 2014

We have many opportunities in our lives to show whether we are acting wisely. We face situations and circumstances that call for correct thinking and good decisions. We can always make bad decisions and apply faulty thinking, but we would rather not do that. We have the option to choose wisely when we face events that are potentially life-changing. We have opportunities to make decisions that go against the grain of what is usual and common, but more accurately reflect the mind and attitude of God.

We need to order our lives and make choices that reflect our obedience to God and honor him. Sometimes the choices are not easy choices, so we need to proceed wisely. We need to act in agreement with the wisdom of God. Pray for that wisdom. James 3:17 tells us, "But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere." Ask God for that wisdom so that you might act wisely when you face a difficult decision.

Pastor Steve

Tue Apr 1 07:34:15 2014

Ah, yes, April Fool's Day! So, who are you going to trick today? This is a day that turns common people into jokesters, and common jokesters into downright diabolical deceivers. Of course, it is all in fun, and it gives us a nice distraction from the usual. I have written before about the origins of April Fool's Day, and they are not clear. However it started, it has become one of those days that we anticipate, some more than others. Be careful in your jokes however, and make sure it is all in fun.

There is one who deceives that we know does not operate all in fun. With apologies and acknowledgement of Hal Lindsay, Satan is alive and well and living on planet earth. He loves to deceive, and he doesn't wait for April Fool's Day to ply his trickery. He does not play nice either. He seeks to deceive, delude, and destroy. Jesus had this to say about him, "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)

Don't be an April fool, or a fool anytime, and fall for Satan's deception. Follow the truth of God and avoid the deceit of the devil.

Pastor Steve

Mon Mar 31 07:51:00 2014

I don't know how it is where you are, but it looks as if March is going to go out like a lamb where I live. If you subscribe to the adage that March follows the pattern of "in like a lion, out like a lamb" (or vice-versa), then you would have been accurate this year as our March pretty much came in like a lion with cold temperatures and snow. We claim to be able to predict the weather pattern at the end of March based on how what it was like when March began, and that seems to hold true most of the time. However, there are occasions when this does not hold up, and the whole "in like. . .out like" theory is pretty much discredited.

There is one area where you can make a more accurate prediction of the outcome based upon a prior reality. If you obey God, there will be blessing but if you disobey God, there will be punishment. That is a theme that is found throughout the entire scripture, but is especially emphasized in Deuteronomy 28. There God tells the people of Israel, "If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God. However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you." (Verses 1 & 15) This was a command specifically given to his chosen people, Israel, but the principle is true for all of his followers. As mentioned earlier, the idea of consequences for disobedience is carried all through the scriptures. Hebrews 12:5-6 says, "My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son."

We can predict God's response to us based on our obedience of him much more accurately than the weather patterns of March. Live a life of obedience so that God will respond to you like a lamb and not a lion!

Pastor Steve

Sun Mar 30 06:21:22 2014

Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 3:11, "He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men." Humans sometimes struggle in life because we want to know as much as we can about the whole, the purpose of things, the meaning of life so to speak. We have a desire to know the point of it all. This desire stems from who we are and how we have been created. This desire is one of the aspects that sets us apart from all the rest of God's creation. Many folks get frustrated because they can't seem to find answers. The reason for the frustration is because they are not taking into consideration what Solomon has said is "in (their) hearts" - eternity. The meaning and reality of life cannot be fully understood and appreciated apart from considering life from the perspective of eternity.

We are eternal beings. If we are looking for meaning and purpose in our present existence alone, we will be frustrated. Cultivating an eternal perspective is necessary for us to truly see life as it really is. There is more to our existence than what we experience here and now. We know this from our study of scripture and from listening to what God says. However, we often fail to apply this truth to all aspects of our lives. We need to look at our experiences with an eternal eye, we need to live our lives in such a way as to show that we truly believe in eternity. Our belief in eternity should influence how we make decisions, what we do, where we go, our relationships, and everything else. We need to live our lives here and now with the perspective of eternity. Doing this will make all the difference in the world. Our frustration will be diminished because we are living the way we should - with "eternity in (our) hearts."

Pastor Steve

Sat Mar 29 08:40:24 2014

There has been a lot of back and forth about the recent release of "Noah." I am not speaking about the folks who made the movie personally in any way, but in all sincerity when you see the cast and the crew behind the production, did you really think that we would see a film with a realistic Biblical message? I read one review this morning who said it was "one of the funniest comedies I have seen in a long time." "Noah" seems to be good science fiction entertainment, but don't go looking for true biblical exposition.

There is concern among evangelical leaders about how this film might affect some followers of Christ. This demonstrates how important it is that the truth is taught. Our source of authority on what took place in the events leading up to and taking place during the flood is the Bible. Those who are followers of God should know what the Bible says, especially when it comes to stories that are as familiar as Noah. Noah is an extremely important figure in the plan of God. His faith in God led to his salvation. The Hollywood epic that has been created about the man seems to focus on Noah being a character rather than on his character. The movie was created to entertain and to make money. We need to keep this in perspective.

Let's make sure the true tale is told and the message is clear - salvation comes through God alone. We need to let God tell the story - not those whose primary purpose is to entertain. Let's use the Noah of scripture, not the Noah of Hollywood, as a role model. "Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God." (Genesis 6:9)

Pastor Steve

Fri Mar 28 06:33:26 2014

I used to love to walk. What I mean by that is a daily walking regimen for enjoyment and exercise. Since I have suffered some nerve damage that has affected my legs, I can no longer walk long distances as I once did. One thing I miss about walking was the ability to really take in the surroundings as you sauntered along. You are able to see much more and really observe things that you do not see when you are driving or even riding a bike. When I was in Jerusalem a year and half ago, we did a great deal of walking as that was what was necessary to be able to see the marvelous sights and truly learn from and enjoy the experience.

We need to develop this attitude and approach in our walk with the Lord. We don't need speed when it comes to interacting with God's word, spending time in prayer, or conversing with others about insights we have derived from our observations of the Scripture. Our outlook should not be to see how swiftly we can get from point A to point B, but how much we can absorb from our sojourn. We can take the easy route, or we can choose to take the time and effort to really get to know God better. Psalm 119:2 tells us, "Blessed are those whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord. Blessed are those who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart." Walking with the Lord leads to strength and growth. Take a walk with the Lord!

Pastor Steve

Thu Mar 27 06:24:49 2014

"Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears!" calls Mark Antony during his oration at the funeral of Julius Caesar in Shakespeare's play. He had something to say and he wanted others to listen.

Maybe you know someone who has something to say and you need to listen. It might be a confession of an error, an old joke, a comment on the weather, a piece of important information that needs to be passed along, or just a comment on an article of clothing. Listening to others is such an important part of life. This is especially true in our relationships with those we love, but it is also true with many other circumstances.

We should express our care for others and the best way to do so is to "lend them our ears." Paul tells us that we "should have equal concern for each other." (I Corinthians 12:25) We do this by exercising the gifts that God has given us to benefit others. This needs to be accompanied by open ears. Of course, above all else, we need to listen to God. Listening is something all of us need to do. It is the privilege and responsibility of us all. Someone out there has something to say to you - are you listening? Lend them your ears!

Pastor Steve

Wed Mar 26 06:50:01 2014

Don't you hate being misunderstood? My wife and I often laugh at our impressions of each other when we first met. We really didn't like each other all that much at our first encounter. Of course, that must have changed a little bit after almost 37 years of marriage. Usually the reason that we are misunderstood is because we have not communicated properly. Consider this sign at an automobile repair shop, "Auto repair service. Free pick-up and delivery. Try us once, and you will never go anywhere else."

Christ was misunderstood during his ministry. Even those with whom he was close didn't understand all that he was and what he came to do. The questions his disciples asked the night he was arrested and betrayed convey their lack of comprehension of his real mission. One example is the question of Judas recorded in John 14:22, "Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, 'But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?'" As late as this, the disciples were still not totally clear as to why Christ had come into the world; however, a response given by Peter at an earlier time reveals they had come to grips with his identity. Matthew 16 tells us that Christ asked "Who do you say that I am?" Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God."

We need to be clear as to whom Christ is, and we need to be clear as to what we should do for him in light of who he is in our lives. We need to make sure that our actions match what we say about him. Show that you understand who Christ is by not being misunderstood because of how your live.

Pastor Steve

Tue Mar 25 07:20:03 2014

Yesterday we spoke of Paul's final imprisonment in Rome and what he asked for before his execution. There were some specific things he wanted, and also a specific person. He asked Timothy to bring Mark to him, "Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry." (II Timothy 4:11) If you are aware of the history between Paul and Mark, you would find this request ironic. Going back a few years from Paul's imprisonment to the period just before Paul's second evangelism tour, you find an incident that makes Paul's request rather interesting.

Mark had been with Paul and his mentor Barnabas during the first round of church planting. Mark was Barnabas' cousin, but he found the journey a little too much and left. When Paul and Barnabas began preparations for a second journey, Barnabas wanted Mark to accompany them. Paul was not in agreement with this because of Mark's past performance. The scripture says that the dispute escalated to the point that Paul and Barnabas decided to part ways. We read in Acts 15:39-40, "They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord." And the rest is history; however, part of that history is that Mark and Paul reconciled. We don't know when or how the reconciliation took place, but it did. The scripture we read from II Timothy shows us that fences were mended. Mark was helpful to Paul and went on to become one of the authors of the scripture.

Conflicts arise, but we see from this example that the resolution of conflict is possible and powerful. If you are experiencing a conflict in some way, work for a resolution. The person with whom you have a conflict could become a person of true meaning to you when the conflict is resolved.

Pastor Steve

Mon Mar 24 07:33:22 2014

Paul was imprisoned in Rome, perhaps in the infamous Mamartine prison, awaiting execution when he penned his last letter to Timothy. He asked Timothy to bring a person and some things to him if Timothy found he was going to be able to visit his mentor and friend. II Timothy 4:11 & 13 tells us, "Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry. When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments."

The request for Mark is noteworthy, and we will explore why in our discussion tomorrow. The things Paul asks for are intriguing and interesting. Asking for a cloak is a practical request as it may have been rather chilly where he was being held. There must have been a rather interesting back story here that we don't know - why did Paul leave his cloak where he did? Asking for scrolls and parchments is also another interesting, yet understandable, request. The parchments were animal skins that perhaps were copies of the Old Testament scripture. The scrolls were papyrus and may have been letters or books of history, theology, or philosophy. Whatever they contained, Paul wanted them with him in his last hours. They would be a means of encouragement in his last days before his death at the hands of a Roman executioner.

Someone once wrote, "The wise men who have written before our time are travelers who have preceded us in the paths of misfortune, and who reach out to us their hands to invite us to join their society when all others have abandoned us. A good book is a good friend." Our reading is something that can give us encouragement, enlightenment, and entertainment as we journey through life. First and foremost, the Bible should be read on a daily basis. However, we should also read other material that provides knowledge, insight, challenge and entertainment. In our day, we obtain information in so many ways, but reading is one that allows us to think critically, interact completely, and derive comfort. These were some of the reasons Paul asked for these materials at this time in his life.

Cultivate good reading habits. "A good book is a good friend."

Pastor Steve

Sun Mar 23 02:28:07 2014

I read a very sad story about a lady in Connecticut who is trying to sue the state because of damages she suffered when a chimpanzee owned by her friend attacked and mauled her severely. She is left without hands, sight, and a wound in her head that refuses to heal. What happened to her is tragic and my heart goes out to her. However, how could the state have had any bearing the situation to prevent the incident from taking place? According to her reasoning, one department of the state knew about the animal and how dangerous it was and should have taken steps to subdue the animal before it could hurt anyone. What makes this story a bit more tragic is that she was attacked by the animal when she responded to a call from her friend to come help her subdue the animal because it was agitated and running free. What seems to be the case is that even she knew of the danger, yet put herself in harm's way through her response.

We have to be careful that we don't do the same thing. We know the danger that exists in the world and the problems temptation can bring about. Yet we often put ourselves in harm's way because we don't take proper steps to avoid temptation. Instead of doing what is the prudent thing to avoid what could be detrimental to us, we pursue that behavior and end up getting hurt. Amos 5:14-15 tells us to "Do what is good and run from evil so that you may live!" What happened to the dear lady is Connecticut is terrible and she does need support following her harrowing experience. What makes it even sadder is that it could have been prevented if proper help had been sought. Take the proper steps to avoid what can bring you harm. This is good advice from both a practical and a spiritual perspective.

Pastor Steve

Sat Mar 22 08:47:50 2014

Johann Sebastian Bach was born on March 21, 1685. His parents died by the time he was 10, and he was a church organist at the age of 18. He is perhaps the most famous of the "composer masters." He was succeeded by Mozart and then Beethoven. However, his work of more than 300 sacred cantatas is almost unparallel among the composers. He wrote, "The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul. If heed is not paid to this, it is not true music but a diabolical bawling and twanging." Our music is an important part of our worship of God.

Music is a gift from God and it is hard to conceive of worship without music. One of the longest books in the Bible is a compilation of songs composed for use in worship. Moses wrote songs, David wrote songs, and Isaiah wrote songs. Solomon wrote over one thousand songs (I Kings 4). One of the first things to be done after the crossing of the Red Sea was the composition of a song by Moses and his sister Miriam (Exodus 15). Paul tells us "Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts." (Colossians 3:10) Lift your praise to God in song!

Pastor Steve

Fri Mar 21 07:32:30 2014

Just because you don't believe something doesn't mean that it isn't real. Many people don't believe in the resurrection. A lady in Hanover, Germany, had her grave covered with massive slabs of granite held together by steel straps so that she would not be disturbed in case there was a resurrection. She had written on her tombstone, "This burial place must never be opened." A seed sprouted just underneath the edge of one of the granite slabs. The seed gave way to a little tree that grew into a bigger tree, eventually bursting open the granite slabs and tearing the steel clamps from their sockets. The powerful life-force in a tiny seed was more than enough to destroy the barrier constructed to protect the grave.

The Bible teaches that all who have died will be resurrected. Those who have followed the Lord are resurrected to life. Those who have not followed him are resurrected to judgment. In John 5:28-29 we read, "Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come ou--those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned." There is nothing that can be done to hold in the body to keep this from happening, and nothing that can be done to the body to prevent this. Those who have been cremated or lost at sea or have had their bodies destroyed through some act of violence will be resurrected. The re-creation of the body poses no problem to the One who spoke this world into existence. For those who have followed the Lord, this is a great promise. For those who have not, this is a warning.

We will all be resurrected and while we live we have the ability to choose the resurrection of which we will be a part. We will either be resurrected to life, or resurrected to face the Second Death. I hope you choose life.

Pastor Steve

Thu Mar 20 07:16:44 2014

I get a kick out of the proliferation of warnings on products because of the fear of law suits. On a coffee cup, "Warning: Content is extremely hot." On a plastic bag, "Warning: Possibility of asphyxiation." On a Batman costume, "Warning: Cape does not enable wearer to fly." Really - this was a warning. Sometimes the prevalence of warnings has a negative effect on us - we begin to ignore them because they are everywhere. That is not a good idea. The warnings are there for a reason.

So it is with the Bible. The Bible has many warnings for our lives. We are warned to not "grieve the Holy Spirit." (Ephesians 4:30) We are told to "abstain from every form of evil." (I Thessalonians 5:22) We are told to not judge others self-righteously (Matthew 7:1-5) Don't take these warnings for granted and don't allow yourself not to take them seriously. God has given them to us for a reason - don't lose sight of their importance because of their prevalence.

Pastor Steve

Wed Mar 19 07:26:37 2014

Sigmund Freud wrote, "At a time when great nations are declaring that they expect to find their salvation solely from a steadfast adherence to Christian piety, the upheaval in Russia . . . seems to promise a better future." So, what did the "upheaval in Russia" bring? This upheaval brought a revolution that led to a plethora of bodies, inhumane treatment of enemies of the state, the Cold War, and economic ruin to millions. And this is the "promise of a better future?" I think Freud's psychoanalysis of the Russian Revolution was a bit off.

There is a promise of a better future, and it involves the message of Christianity. Freud was a bit off when it came to his prognostication. The scripture paints an accurate picture of what will take place, and none of the Bible's prophecies are any greater than those involving the Messiah. Isaiah 53 tells the story of a Savior who is willing to endure great shame and pain on behalf of the people he loves so that they may live with him forever. Isaiah 53:5-6 says, "But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all." This was written 700 years before Christ came into the world. He brings the certainty of a better future for those who follow him.

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

Pastor Steve

Tue Mar 18 07:14:42 2014

It is so easy to get an improper perspective of reality in our troublesome world. The problems and concerns that we have in our personal lives along with the struggles on the world's scene can cause anxiety and fear in our lives. If we focus on all the things that are going wrong and all the bad that we see, we can become insecure and worried. When we allow this to happen, our worry undermines our confidence and brings stress and strain. This is why we need to focus on the certainly of God's promises instead of the presence of the world's problems.

Isaiah 40 addresses this issue. Here God reminds the readers that "the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust." (15) God asks us, "Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded? He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in." (vss. 21-22) .

We need a proper perspective on struggles that are personal and problems that are global. Don't make mountains out of molehills, especially when you claim to trust in God who is able to level tall mountains and smooth rough paths. Our hope is in the Lord, and trusting him brings peace. He tells us, "They who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles. They shall run and not grow weary; they shall walk and not faint." (vs. 31) Live like you believe that nothing is bigger than the God that you serve!

Pastor Steve

Mon Mar 17 07:44:27 2014

Patrick was a young man living with his family in Britain during the fourth century A.D. At the age of sixteen, Patrick was kidnapped by a band of Irish raiders and sold as a slave to an Irish chieftain. He wrote about his experience in his "Confession". He also wrote of his conversion, "But after I came to Ireland--every day I had to tend sheep, and many times a day I prayed--the love of God and His fear came to me more and more, and my faith was strengthened. And my spirit was moved so that in a single day I would say as many as a hundred prayers, and almost as many in the night, and this even when I was staying in the woods and on the mountains; and I used to get up for prayer before daylight, through snow, through frost, through rain. There the Lord opened the sense of my unbelief that I might at last remember my sins and be converted with all my heart to the Lord my God who...comforted me as would a father his son."

He spent several years there before escaping back to him homeland. After his return, he trained for ministry and eventually returned back to the island of his captors and introduced Christianity to the largely pagan population. By the time of his death, there were 120,000 Christians in Ireland and over 300 churches. In the next century, Irish missionaries went to Europe and evangelized hundreds of unbelievers there. This was the result of one man who took to heart and put into practice the words of Paul found in Ephesians 4:32, "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." We need to do the same. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Pastor Steve

Sun Mar 16 06:11:49 2014

Can you feel it? "Feel what?" you may ask. "Can you feel the change that is coming?" In this statement I am referring to the change we literally can feel as we are experiencing, at least in fits and starts, warmer weather and more sunshine. We can feel the change in a tangible way, but there are also feelings involved that are not based on that which is tangible. The longer days, more sunshine, and warmer weather evoke feelings within us of an emotional nature. We sense the change not only based on experiential evidence, but we sense a change within us that is an emotional response to what is taking place.

We must never forget that we are emotional beings. Often in our worship we downplay and speak against the emotional component of our relationship with God because we want to focus on the facts rather than the feelings. We want to emphasize the rational over against the emotional. Now, what we believe about God should be based on facts. We should not use our feelings to develop thoughts about the character of God or about what is important in our response to God. However, we need to realize that God has created us as emotional beings and we need to allow our "feelings" to be part of our response to him in our worship.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 & 4 tells us, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance." David didn't seem to have a problem with emotions and displaying his emotion. He wrote about his feelings and we see him displaying his feelings in observable ways. II Samuel 6:14 tells us about his display of joy at the return of the ark, "Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might'" You may not be into dancing, and that is just fine; however, don't downplay the place of emotions in our worship of God. God made us as emotional beings, and that is an important part of who we are and how we should respond to him. Let your joy show!

Pastor Steve

Sat Mar 15 11:30:30 2014

"Beware the Ides of March" is a line found in "Julius Caesar", a play written by William Shakespeare. Julius Caesar was killed in 44 B.C. on a date that corresponds to the 15th of March in our current calendar. In early Roman calendars, March was the first month of the year, and the Ides of March was an important religious holiday. In reality, Caesar had been warned by a seer to be careful on that date. According to some historians, as he was on his way to a meeting of the Senate, a meeting at which he would be attacked and killed by more than 60 conspirators including his friend Brutus, he passed the seer and said, "The Ides of March have come." The seer replied, "Aye, but they have not gone."

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

Proverbs 19:20 tells us, "Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise." Julius Caesar is a person who gives us a good example of what can happen when you don't listen to advice, but if you want one that is more biblical, you need not look any farther than Reheboam, the foolish son of Solomon who caused a divided kingdom when he failed to listen to advice from sources not in his "circle." You can read about this in II Chronicles 10. "Beware the Ides of March," may be good advice for us as well! Don't be afraid to listen to others!

Pastor Steve

Fri Mar 14 06:25:29 2014

In generations past, something that would bring a good deal of excitement to a family was the arrival of a new catalog. Be it from Sears, J.C. Penney, or Montgomery Ward, a new "wish book" was highly anticipated as the pages were filled with items one could see and hope to obtain. I remember my great anticipation of the Christmas catalogs from Sears and Penney's . I would thumb through the toy sections, looking at various items which I thought would look great under the tree on Christmas morning. There were always so many items I hoped to see in real life.

The Bible is a book that brings great hope as well. However, the hope it brings is of a more lasting nature and of greater consequence than the items one would see in catalogs. The Bible describes man's need and God's provision. It outlines God's plan of redemption for mankind and the blessed hope that is ours when we come to God by faith. What is contained in the pages of scripture is hope. The hope that is presented in the scripture is certainly not like the pictures in a new catalog - objects that we may or may not obtain. What is described in the Bible is a hope that is ours when we follow our Lord. Hebrews 6:18-19 describes this hope, "God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure."

Don't wish for things that you may not have - put your hope in God and what he tells us is ours when we follow Him. The Bible is not a book of wishful thinking; it describes a reality that is ours when we place our faith in Christ's provision. Looking at the pages of a catalog and wishing for things we want and then don't receive brings disappointment. Reading the Bible and placing our hope in what it says will never disappoint. What God says is ours is really ours - and no one can change it!

Pastor Steve

Thu Mar 13 07:45:39 2014

Once in an interview Sylvester Stallone ("Rocky", "Rambo") said, "If I were watching a home movie of my life, I would shake my head in despair and wonderment. It's a comedy of errors." I am amazed at Mr. Stallone's honesty. Of course, one usually cannot argue with hard evidence such as a videotape of one's actions.

What if your life was being filmed? What would others see? Oooo - that might be a frightening thought. For most of us, this could be quite interesting. If we knew our lives were being filmed and would be played back later, are there any changes we would make? Would we treat others differently than we do now? Would we be a different person in our family? Would we talk differently? Would we go to the same places? Would we be more of a helper and an encourager to others and less of an obstacle in their path?

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

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

Pastor Steve

Wed Mar 12 07:51:58 2014

C.P Hia wrote, "The practice of tipping is commonly accepted in many countries. But I wonder: Has this courtesy influenced our attitude toward giving money to the church?" Consider some of the aspects of tipping: It is often considered just an optional act by many, although the person being tipped depends upon what is given for their livelihood; the amount of the tip is influenced by the service one has received; and once a tip is given, there is no consideration of any further obligation the tipper has towards the one receiving the tip.

We need to be careful that our attitude towards our stewardship is not affected by our attitude towards tipping. Our giving to God is not an optional exercise. Our giving is an important part of our worship and our spiritual relationship with our Father. We should not let the amount be controlled by our perception of what we have received from God. We need to remember that in actuality, all that we have belongs to God and our obligation to him certainly extends well beyond what is given financially.

God tells us, "for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. For the world is mine, and all that is in it." (Psalm 50:10 & 12) Our giving needs to be viewed as more than a gesture we make towards God for service he has rendered towards us. Our giving reflects our spirituality and our walk with the Lord. It reveals a great deal as to how much we trust God and how much we have entrusted to God. Jesus showed us what giving should look like when he used a widow's giving as an illustration. Mark 12:44 tells us, "They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on." Paul gives us an example of what our giving should look like when he used the Macedonian churches as an example, "In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity." (I Corinthians 8:2)

Our giving should be more than tip. What does yours look like?

Pastor Steve

Tue Mar 11 07:52:23 2014

One of the most exciting times in the life of a parent is when their little one learns to walk. I recall this time with both of our daughters and now we are getting to experience the process again with our granddaughter. . It is such a thrill watching the first feeble attempts at this exercise called walking to being able to "toddle" all around the house. Of course, this brings new challenges. This ability means they are more capable of "getting into things." However, our need for increased diligence is a worthwhile price to pay to watch them be able to move around freely. This is what they were supposed to do.

Our Heavenly Father is pleased when we "learn how to walk" spiritually. There are some allusions to this in God's Word. Hosea 11:3-4 says, "It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them." Here God refers to his role in Israel's development, but laments Israel's disobedience. God want his children to learn to walk spiritually, even though he knows at times this might mean disobedience. He wants us to have the ability to decide to follow him on our own. Giving us the ability to walk on our own puts us in the position where we choose dependence upon him as opposed to being in a position where our dependence is forced upon us, so to speak.

He wants to help us learn to walk, to be there for us when we fall, to encourage our steps and guide our ways. He wants us to be able to go "on our own," yet realize we have a bond with him that will never be broken and voluntarily depend on him for guidance. Don't be discouraged when you fall - he will help you back up. Don't stray too far from him, and if do, walk towards him, he is there for you. Walking in this way keeps us productive, and is pleasing to our Father.

Pastor Steve

Mon Mar 10 07:35:26 2014

I remember reading an interesting proverb that said, "If your Bible is not falling apart, you will." There is a great deal of truth in this pithy little statement. God gave us the Scriptures in order that we might know Him. The more we know the Scripture, the more we know about God and his faithfulness, protection, care, and love. Developing a deeper relationship with God provides a strong foundation for our lives that will help us through whatever we encounter along our journey. Psalm 119:15-16 gives us a model of our Biblical activity, "I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word."

Do not neglect God's Word. It is a source of strength and help, but we shouldn't use it like some sort of spiritual life preserver. The way our proverb above becomes true in our lives is when we spend time on a consistent basis in God's Word. Cracking it open only when we are looking for something leads to the attitude, "I can't find anything in there of any help." Do not neglect God's Word!

Pastor Steve

Sun Mar 9 07:18:51 2014

Today is the first Sunday of Lent. Lent means many things to different people and is often about sacrifice. Lent is a 40 day period prior to Easter that originated for practical reasons: in days gone by food stored away in the previous autumn was running out or had to be used before it went bad in storage and little or no food crop was expected soon. Since it precedes Easter it is a way to identify with Jesus in His suffering until its culmination on Good Friday. Lent is followed joyously by the celebration of the resurrection on Easter Sunday. Sundays aren't considered in the time period as that was the day Christ arose. This is how you end up with 40 days, in case you are counting.

The period of 40 days is significant for a number of reasons: It rained for forty days prior to the flood (Genesis 7:4-17); Moses was on the mountain for forty days when God gave him the Law (Exodus 24:18); Christ's fast and temptation at the beginning of his ministry lasted forty days, "Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry (Luke 4:1-2)"; and Christ's ministry on earth after the resurrection lasted forty days (Acts 1:3).

During this time, sacrifice is emphasized to recall the sacrifice of Christ. It is also a good time for reflection on one's life and one's service, a sort of "spiritual check-up." Lent is also a time of anticipation as we look forward to the end of Lent culminating in the celebration of Christ's resurrection. As you journey through this season of the year, spend some time to recall, to reflect, and to rejoice. This exercise helps to keep us focused and also helps us to learn new things as we concentrate on the activities of Lent. Use this time productively!

Pastor Steve

Sat Mar 8 07:18:51 2014

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., was born on March 8, 1841. A graduate of Harvard, he fought in the Civil War, edited the American Law Review, taught law at Harvard, and became the Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court. In 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt appointed him to the United States Supreme court. His served over 30 years to a more advanced age than any other justice in history, eventually becoming Chief Justice. He was nicknamed "The Great Dissenter" because of his unusual opinions. In 1931 when Holmes was 90 years old, a young reporter asked him what he considered to be the basis of his success. He replied, "Young man, the secret of my success is that at an early age I discovered that I was not God."

Oh, the wisdom of that statement. Now, most of us would not be so ludicrous as to openly assert our position is on the same level as God, let along claim to be God himself. However, we often live in such a way as to indirectly proclaim we believe we are God. That is not smart. An intelligent plan is to make sure we turn our lives over to God and his control and not think that we are in charge. God wants and honors our obedience. Our obedience allows him to do his best for us. Samuel said "To obey is better than sacrifice." (I Samuel 15:22) We need to learn this truth and put it into practice. We need to make sure we aren't trying to be God because there already is a God who is more than capable of taking care of us and taking care of everything else as well. Make sure you know your identity!

Pastor Steve

Fri Mar 7 07:18:51 2014

I have always been fascinated by the story of Christ's baptism. There are so many wonderful aspects to this story. Luke records the presence of all three persons of the Trinity at the time of the baptism: "When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: 'You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.'" (Luke 3:21-22) Can you imagine being present at that baptism? Can you imagine what must have gone through the mind of John as he performed the baptism?

Of all the aspects of the baptism, one that catches me is the "passing the torch" theme. John said himself that the one who would follow him would be greater than he. He told his listeners he wasn't even worthy to loose Christ's sandals. The baptism almost said, "I now relinquish my ministry to Jesus. He is now in charge." Then Christ took up the ministry and did what he came to do.

I think we should look at our baptism from this perspective. We should view our baptism as an act of "passing the torch." Christ intended for us to "take over" the ministry he began. The question is: How are we doing? Are we doing what we need to do to continue the ministry of Christ? When Christ was preparing to depart, he told his disciples, "You shall be my witnesses." (Acts 1:8) That responsibility has been passed down to us. We may be 2000 years removed from the command, but it is just as binding on us as it was for those first century followers. How are we doing?

Pastor Steve

Thu Mar 6 07:18:51 2014

Theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg is quoted as saying: "The evidence for Jesus' resurrection is so strong that nobody would question it except for two things: It is a very unusual event, and second, if you believe it happened, you have to change the way you live." If you truly believe in the resurrection of Jesus, you will live differently. A case in point is a transformation that occurred just after the resurrection of Christ. Peter refused to acknowledge his relationship with Christ just after Christ was arrested. When questioned about his identity, Peter replied, "I don't know the man!" (Matthew 26:72) When we read about this incident, we wonder how it could happen. Regardless of the how, the fact is that it did occur. Peter denied Christ. However, a little over a month later, we see this same man who vehemently denied even knowing Christ stand up before a group of hostile people, perhaps even some of those who heard his denial, and declare, "This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross." and "God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact." (Acts 2:23 & 32)

The reason for Peter's transformation is found in the last verse quoted above - the reality of the resurrection. The reality of the resurrection transformed his life. The reality of the resurrection should make a change in your life. If that change is not there, you really don't believe in the resurrection. As Pannenberg said, you cannot truly believe in the resurrection and it not make a difference in how you live. Have you allowed the power of the resurrection to make a change in your life? Does your life reflect your belief in the resurrection? As in the case of Peter, you are the one who has the say in this decision. But remember, God will have a say if you make the wrong choice.

Pastor Steve

Wed Mar 5 07:18:51 2014

One of the key to any team's success is getting all the different personalities to work together. A big struggle is making those who are incompatible compatible. Egos, differences of opinion, differences of technique, and different goals are among the many factors that can sometimes pose challenges to the concept of "team," that is, everyone working together at the same time for a common goal. The success of a team depends upon getting the many to act as one.

Peter encouraged his readers: "Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing." (I Peter 3:8-9) Working out differences, sacrificing on behalf of others, laying aside dislikes, and dealing with negative feelings are all part of what needs to be done in the church so that the church can be effective in ministry. Someone has compared the church to a family of porcupines trying to huddle together for warmth on a cold night. This is not all that inaccurate.

Our individuality is significant. Our likes and dislikes are important. However, these need to be tempered for the greater good of outreach. Let's do what we can to turn incompatibility into compatibility.

Pastor Steve

Tue Mar 4 07:28:31 2014

Have you ever heard of the Twisted Sisters? No, not "Twisted Sister", the 80's rock group featuring Dee Snider. I am talking about a group of six ladies who live in Rock Island, Illinois. They went to high school together, graduating more than 35 years ago, and adopted "Twisted Sisters" as a nickname for their group. Since their graduation, they have remained very close. They stood up for each other at marriages and been there for each other during pregnancies. They have attended graduations, parties, ball games, and many other functions featuring their children, and now their grandchildren. They vacation with families and go on day trips together. They have provided comfort and help when parents, siblings, and other family members have died. They have supported each other through all of life's transitions. This is what friends do.

The Bible has quite a bit to say about friendship and gives a number of examples of friendship. The scripture even says that someone who is friendless is to be pitied: "If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!" (Ecclesiastes 4:10) Abraham is called the friend of God in II Chronicles 20:7. Moses would speak face to face with God "as a man speaks with his friend." (Exodus 33:11) The friendship of Jonathan and David is the stuff of legend. David would have been hard pressed to endure the abuse of Saul were it not for the support of his friend, Jonathan, Saul's own son! Christ spoke a great deal about friends, and called his followers his friends (John 15:15)Indeed, having friends is something to be desired and a friend is something we should be.

I hope you have a friend. I hope you are a friend. Going through life without friends, and not being a friend to someone else is certainly a lonely and a malnourished existence. Work on your friendships!

Pastor Steve

Mon Mar 3 07:27:51 2014

My youngest daughter started out as a voice major in college. Even after she changed her major, she continued singing with the university's choir. I always loved going to her concerts and was always enthralled with the performances. Occasionally, she would have a solo and I would get to hear her voice alone. However, whether she was singing solo or joining her voice with the other fifty voices in the chorus, I could always pick out her voice. How could I do this? Because I knew my daughter's voice. I had heard her sing since she was a little girl, and I had no trouble distinguishing her voice from all the others.

God has no trouble picking out our voice from among the many other voices that are calling out to him. Are you ever concerned about God's ability to hear you among all the other voices that are present? You don't need to be. He knows his children and he knows the voice of his child. You never need fear if he hears you or not; God is always able to distinguish the voices of those whom he loves. Psalm 3:4 tells us, "I cried to the Lord with my voice, and He heard me out of His holy hill." Something else about the voice of those we love - I never got tired of hearing my daughter's voice. God never gets tired of hearing ours, so lift up your voice in praise, in prayer, and in petition.

Pastor Steve

Sun Mar 2 05:54:06 2014

There are many things that to some cause great fear, but to others pose no problem at all. Take heights, for instance. There are many who wouldn't climb a ladder for love nor money. However, others have no fear as they regularly scale heights as part of their work, or for recreation, or for some other reason. Some fear electricity and wouldn't attempt to work with anything electrical, while others work with "power" daily.

I have an inordinate fear of storms, yet the scripture tells us that God has no fear of storms at all. As a matter of fact, the author of Psalm 97 uses the imagery of storms to describe God and his power. Of course, God has no fear of storms as he is the one who created the forces underlying the storms. Psalm 97:1-4 tells us, "The LORD reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice. Clouds and thick darkness surround him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. Fire goes before him and consumes his foes on every side.His lightning lights up the world; the earth sees and trembles."

Yes, there are many things that bring fear to some, but to others pose no threat as they have the skill, ability, and knowledge to utilize the "scary" things in a positive way. There are many circumstances and situations in our lives that bring us fear. That is why we need to trust our scary lives into the hands of Someone who knows how to change what brings fear to us into something good. BOO! Did I scare you? Trusting God with our lives will reduce fear in our lives.

Pastor Steve

Sat Mar 1 07:43:20 2014

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

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

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

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