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

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

Mon Jul 6 08:49:53 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Sun Jul 5 07:10:15 201

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Sat Jul 4 07:10:15 201

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

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

Pastor Steve

Fri Jul 3 07:10:15 201

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

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

Despite all the advice otherwise, Job held on to this belief through his ordeal. He continued to exercise faith in God and kept in mind that the outcome of his trial was in God's hands. He said, "I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes--I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!" (Job19:25-27)

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

Pastor Steve

Thu Jul 2 07:10:15 201

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Wed Jul 1 07:10:15 201

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Tue Jun 30 07:10:15 2015

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

What is really compelling about this chapter is that as we look at those who are mentioned, we know what is written about them includes their failures as well as their successes. We see the bad and the good in their character and their actions. This is encouraging because we see that heroes are normal people that neither live trouble-free lives nor are perfect in any way.

So, in other words, you can be a hero. Now, you really should not seek to be a hero, but you should realize that you should seek to live faithfully. As you do, you will find yourselves at times called upon to respond in an unusual way in a difficult situation. God calls us to live by faith and realize that at times our faith will be tested. Our focus should be upon our life before God and following him, knowing that he will not be all that far ahead and is committed to leading you in the right path. Hebrews 11:1-2 says, "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for." Follow the path of a hero; follow the path of faith.

Pastor Steve

Mon Jun 29 08:24:36 2015

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Sun Jun 28 07:01:34 2015

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Sat Jun 27 07:10:15 2014

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Fri Jun 26 07:10:15 2014

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Thu Jun 25 07:59:13 2015

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Wed Jun 24 07:58:10 2015

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Tue Jun 23 07:54:16 2015

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Mon Jun 22 07:38:44 2015

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Sun Jun 21 06:22:10 2015

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Sat Jun 20 09:06:33 2015

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Fri Jun 19 08:04:54 2015

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

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

Pastor Steve

Thu Jun 18 07:54:50 2015

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Tue Jun 16 07:44:59 2015

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Mon Jun 15 07:37:11 2015

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

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

Paul told Timothy what he should tell the people at Ephesus, "Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share." (I Timothy 6:17-18)

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

Pastor Steve

Sun Jun 14 07:15:31 2015

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Sat Jun 13 07:32:26 2015

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Fri Jun 12 07:54:05 2015

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Thu Jun 11 07:52:10 2015

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Wed Jun 10 08:17:22 2015

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

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

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

The title of this article was "The Origin-of-life Story May Have Found Its Missing Link". I know the answer to that - God is the "missing link," and I pray they come to that realization before it is too late. They need to read and accept Ecclesiastes 12:13, "Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind."

Pastor Steve

Tue Jun 9 08:05:39 2015

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

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

Pastor Steve

Mon Jun 8 07:48:17 2015

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Sun Jun 7 07:25:30 2015

I don't know what it is with us when it comes to transforming items that are supposed to be just a convenience in our lives into items that more or less command our lives. We seem to be good at this. Take telephones for instance. Just a few short years ago, if someone tried to call you on a phone, you only knew about the call if you were physically present to answer it. Then came answering machines, followed by caller ID, and now, of course, cell phone usage is almost ubiquitous..

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

Indeed we have turned an item of convenience into something that dominates us. Why? Because we are good at doing this. We are good at taking that which should be a convenience or that which should be something that should be a relaxing pastime or simply a diversion, something that should not be a priority, and making it the boss of us. What is bad is that we do this with just about anything except what, or rather who, should be the boss of us - God. And what have we done with God? We have turned him into a matter of convenience. We attend church, if it is convenient. We give, if it is convenient. We help serve in the church, if it is convenient.

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

We need to beware of transforming an item of convenience into an item of command. Buck the trend - it's more than a matter of convenience.

Pastor Steve

Sat Jun 6 08:56:32 2015

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Fri Jun 5 07:32:19 2015

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Thu Jun 4 08:00:41 2015

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Wed Jun 3 07:49:53 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Tue Jun 2 07:50:53 2015

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Mon Jun 1 06:46:59 2015

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Sun May 31 07:08:29 2015

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Sat May 30 09:32:17 2015

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Fri May 29 08:00:10 2015

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Thu May 28 07:28:05 2015

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

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

Pastor Steve

Wed May 27 08:00:20 2015

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Tue May 26 07:46:36 2015

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Mon May 25 08:07:57 2015

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Sun May 24 07:50:41 2015

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Sat May 23 06:34:45 2015

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Fri May 22 08:29:09 2015

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Thu May 21 07:58:07 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Wed May 20 07:37:20 2015

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Tue May 19 07:54:38 2015

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Mon May 18 07:38:15 2015

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Sun May 17 07:19:13 2015

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Sat May 16 08:46:38 2015

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Fri May 15 08:09:17 2015

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Thu May 14 08:12:43 2015

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Wed May 13 08:05:05 2015

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Tue May 12 08:01:33 2015

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Mon May 11 07:53:47 2015

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Sun May 10 05:57:01 2015

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

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

Pastor Steve

Sat May 9 08:47:16 2015

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Fri May 8 07:56:22 2015

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Thu May 7 07:53:10 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Wed May 6 08:05:41 2015

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Tue May 5 07:53:26 2015

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Mon May 4 07:56:17 2015

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Sun May 3 07:32:17 2015

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Sat May 2 07:10:15 2014

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

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

Pastor Steve

Fri May 1 07:43:26 2015

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Thu Apr 30 07:50:58 2015

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Wed Apr 29 07:41:26 2015

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Tue Apr 28 08:03:13 2015

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

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

Pastor Steve

Mon Apr 27 07:55:57 2015

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Sun Apr 26 07:14:41 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Sat Apr 25 08:48:32 2015

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Fri Apr 24 08:12:39 2015

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Thu Apr 23 10:09:19 2015

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Wed Apr 22 08:07:35 2015

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Tue Apr 21 08:14:07 2015

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Mon Apr 20 07:59:21 2015

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Sun Apr 19 07:21:45 2015

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Sat Apr 18 07:35:28 2015

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Fri Apr 17 08:12:36 2015

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Thu Apr 16 08:03:28 2015

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Wed Apr 15 07:53:47 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Tue Apr 14 07:56:53 2015

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Mon Apr 13 07:51:03 2015

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Sun Apr 12 07:06:38 2015

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Sat Apr 11 08:16:29 2015

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

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

Pastor Steve

Fri Apr 10 07:42:51 2015

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Thu Apr 9 08:25:13 2015

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Wed Apr 8 07:50:54 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Mon Apr 6 08:54:37 2015

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

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

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

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

What is important is that you be like Christ and act like Christ, not look like Christ. Paul talks about emulating the attitude of Christ in Philippians 2:5, "Your attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus. . ." Colossians 2:6-7 says to us: "So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness." We don't know how he looked, but we do know how he lived, so we should want to live like Christ, not look like Christ.

Pastor Steve

Sun Apr 5 06:08:07 2015

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Sat Apr 4 09:07:54 2015

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Fri Apr 3 08:19:50 2015

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Thu Apr 2 08:08:48 2015

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Wed Apr 1 08:27:53 2015

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Tue Mar 31 07:55:11 2015

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 Mar 30 08:11:04 2015

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) Now, some think this actually may have happened today, which would have been Nisan 10, but I believe Christ's entry was on Sunday. People called out his name and showed their reverence for him as they treated him as a ruler returning home from a victorious military campaign. He entered the temple are and 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 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 Mar 29 07:14:23 2015

Today is Palm Sunday. Depending on how you reckon it, either today or tomorrow is the anniversary of Christ's entrance into Jerusalem when he was met by a mass of folks who were proclaiming his praises. According to Matthew 21:8 - 11, "A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, 'Hosanna to the Son of David!' 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!' 'Hosanna in the highest heaven!' When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, 'Who is this?' The crowds answered, 'This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.'"

This year, the days of our celebration of the last week of Christ's life match up with the very days these events occurred. Thinking about his only drives home for me the historicity of these events. Christ did live in Israel. He did come to Jerusalem on either Nisan 9 or Nisan 10 (March 29 or March 30). He did teach his disciples and others many things over these last few days. He was arrested on April 2. All these things did take place. They happened in real time. What are we doing in real time to show that we believe in what he did for us?

Pastor Steve

Sat Mar 28 09:39:26 2015

Guys, what are some of the ways you show your love and affection for your wife? There are a number of ways to show your care, but what is helpful is to find out the things that your wife appreciates. Some ladies like flowers, others not so much. Candy? Probably need to do your homework here. Spending time with your spouse is always a good thing. Jewelry might be good, but some ladies do some mental calculations and may wish the dollars were spent elsewhere. So, the best thing to do is to communicate with your wife and find out what is appreciated.

God knew what the best thing to do for us was in order to show his love. Of course, God was operating from the platform of omniscience and knew our greatest need. He knew that the highest expression of love towards us was to give his Son so that we might be with him. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in him would not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16) Yep, I think this would be an expression of love that would be universally accepted.

This, though, begs a question. Since God showed his love for us so wonderfully, what is the best way we can show our love for him? This begins through our acceptance of his expression of love. Then there are other ways our love can be appropriately expressed to him. For instance, I John 4:11-12 tells us, "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." There you are - if you want God to know how much your love him, show that you love others. This is an expression of love universally accepted by God!

Pastor Steve

Fri Mar 27 07:24:23 2015

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 26 07:32:52 2015

Fences can be looked at in two ways. They are there to keep something or someone in or they are there to keep something or someone out. Well, there is a third point of view. The fence could be there for both reasons. The bottom line is, for the most part, fences are there for protection. The boundaries they delineate are provided to allow a place of safety for those confined by the boundaries whether they are on the inside or on the outside. Now, this is not a completely fool-proof system, but for the most part, it works.

As much as society doesn't want to admit it, if God's boundaries were followed, life would improve. The idea of conforming to God's boundaries is usually looked down upon by our modern society. It is looked upon as an infringement on our rights. Yet the denial of the need for boundaries shows a great indifference to the rights of others. Our society is certainly not improved by the denial of boundaries. That is why we have boundaries. For the most part, those who adhere to the boundaries of God are intent on taking care of their lives and the lives of others.

A blessed life is one that delights in the boundaries of God. Psalm 1:1-2 tells us, "Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night." God puts up boundaries with our best interests in mind, not to mess with our mind. Observing those boundaries leads to a bountiful life.

Pastor Steve

Wed Mar 25 07:54:32 2015

This Thursday is a day that many of us locally have anxiously anticipated for quite some time. It is a day that some said wouldn't take place again. What is this day for which some have looked forward to so longingly? It will be an opportunity to dispose of unwanted electronic items that are no longer welcome through normal channels of waste disposal. A big question arose - how do you get rid of those old TVís and computers? A local organization has in the past sponsored a day for their disposal, but had reported this might not occur again because of the cost being imposed by the company that takes care of the products. It was proving too costly to simply allow folks to bring these items and get rid of them. So, the answer has been to charge a fee to dispose of certain items. I, along with a number of other folks I have spoken with, will gladly pay the fee in order to have a problem taken off of our hands and taken care of effectively. I just want the stuff to go away.

There is another problem in existence that needed to be eliminated but would not go away without a cost. This is the issue of sin. This is a problem that faces all of humankind, but we don't have the ability to pay the fee to eradicate sin. It is too expensive. This is where our loving God stepped in to take care of a great problem. We could not pay the price that sin exacted, but God could and he did. The price was high - it cost his Son his life, but Christ was willing to pay the price so that a great problem could be eradicated. II Corinthians 5:21 says, "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." What a Savior - what a salvation - and the price was paid for us because we couldn't pay it ourselves.

Pastor Steve

Tue Mar 24 08:20:38 2015

Ah, the good old days of seminary. I remember the start of each semester looking at the syllabi, wondering how in the world I would ever be able to cover all the assignments. Learning Greek, memorizing Hebrew vocabulary, writing papers, reading hundreds of pages, all while working forty to fifty hours a week was daunting and at times overwhelming. I learned early on in my seminary experience that what helps to make the impossible possible is to break down big tasks into small tasks. Someone once said, "It doesn't matter how big the rock is, just keep pounding. Sooner or later it's gonna bust."

How big is the task you have in front of you? Are you overwhelmed by some big problem? Do you feel yourself "under the gun" because of some daunting circumstance? Break it down! The same advice can help us in our spiritual lives as well. We can sometimes feel overwhelmed when we are faced with discouraging troubles, a nagging temptation, or a worrisome burden. What helps is to break things down. Keep pounding and you will see those imposing obstacles become manageable bumps.

Psalm 121:1 says, "I will lift up my eyes unto the hills. Where does my help come from?" The hills were a problem for the traveler to Jerusalem - how could one get over them safely? God can help the traveler break down big mountains into little molehills. This allows for safe passage, and helps us break down a big problem into a little inconvenience.

Pastor Steve

Mon Mar 23 08:37:02 2015

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

Now, at first glance, this seems to be punitive in nature. And, that is the intent to a certain extent. But it is also a comforting exercise. When Job is reminded who is in charge, there is a degree of contrition when erroneous thinking is corrected, but this is also an exercise in confidence. Job can be confident that all will be well because he IS NOT in control, GOD IS. He had expressed this confidence earlier when he declared, "I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyesóI, and not another." (Job 19:25-27)

We know who is in charge and when asked will give the right answer. Sometimes, as was the case with Job, we simply need to be reminded of this reality. This is not only an exercise designed to produce contrition, but also to provide comfort.

Pastor Steve

Sun Mar 22 08:10:19 2015

In his book "Comeback," Dave Dravecky speaks of his struggle trying to find the higher purpose of God when he lost his left arm to cancer. Dravecky, a successful Major League pitcher, tells his story in this book of how he faced a diagnosis of cancer, underwent surgery and treatment, then returned to the game. The cancer came back and his arm was eventually amputated, thus ending his professional career.

Dravecky speaks to the idea that although it was a good thing that the pathologists had an arm with cancerous tissue to study after his loss, it would have been an ultimate cruelty for God to have intended for him to contract cancer just so he could provide an arm for study. His ultimate conclusion is that there are times we simply do not and cannot know the higher purposes of the God we serve, but we know we can continue to trust him through the circumstances that are bringing confusion to our lives.

Paul writes about the ways of God, "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?" (Romans 11:33-34) We cannot know the mind of God, but we can know that God's mind is always on us. He does not lose his focus when it comes to dealing with his children, even though we, as his children, often struggle with our focus because of what we experience. We know that God does not do things to be cruel, and we need to leave our lives his hands.

Pastor Steve

Sat Mar 21 10:18:53 2015

Yesterday was the vernal equinox, or the first day of spring. This didn't occur to me until last night. Did any of you try to balance an egg or a broom? Did it work? According to theory, because of the alignment of the earth in relation to the sun at the time of the equinox, either vernal or autumnal, you should be able to align an egg, or perhaps other objects.

Well, it has never been proven that doing so is any more successful on these particular days than any other days. That is, you can balance an egg on its end, but not any more successfully on any one particular day than another. The universe was no more harmonious yesterday than any other day, in spite of what the 5th Dimension sang at one point. Children of the 70's, you remember, don't you? "When the moon is in the seventh house, and Jupiter aligns with Mars; then peace will guide the planets, and love will fill the stars. This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius."

Ah, yes, the eternal quest for peace and harmony. Well, this quest will not be satisfied by the correct alignment of the planets and the proper position of the sun. It will only be satisfied by the proper alignment with the Son. The only way to bring peace and harmony into your life is through a proper correlation with God's Son, our Savior. And the only thing that will bring universal peace and harmony is the return of the Son at a time that has been determined by the Father.

We long for balance and harmony in our lives, but we often are looking for this is the wrong way. The only search that will prove fruitful is one that involves following the Savior. Christ himself said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by me." (John 14:6) Don't worry so much about the alignment of the sun, moon, and the stars. Instead, focus on the One who is responsible for the alignment of the sun, moon, and stars.

Pastor Steve

Fri Mar 20 07:47:59 2015

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

As believers, we certainly have something to do. There are always ways we can serve Christ and serve others. We have been given gifts to serve God and others and we should never forget the need of spreading the Word of God to others. We need to be telling others of God's great love. Besides, knowing what we should be doing and not doing it is a sin. "If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn't do it, it is sin for them." (James 4:17) As believers, we do have others to love, and are loved by others. We have our family, and God wants us to promote and strengthen our family relationships. We should love God, and we are certainly loved by God. I John 4:19 tells us that "We love because he first loved us." As believers, we certainly have something to look forward to. I John 3:2 tells us, "Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is."

Yes, I would say that we do have all we need to make us truly happy.

Pastor Steve

Thu Mar 19 07:26:07 2015

We have many questions about heaven - what will it be like? What will we do? What will we see and hear? Randy Alcorn in his book "Heaven" attempts to answer some of these questions and does a good job with remaining true to scriptural insight. Of course, we really will not know what it will be like until we experience heaven for ourselves.

Revelation 22 gives us some insight into what we will do. According to 22:3, we will serve the Lord in heaven, "The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him." We don't know in what capacity, or exactly where, but we will be involved in service to our King. It may be on some distant star, but it seems our ability to travel will not be limited as it is now. Revelation 22:4 says something about what we will see, "They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads." We will be able to see Christ and others, and we will know others and be known (read I Corinthians 13:12). There will be no strangers there. Finally, Revelation 22:5 says that we will reign with him forever. We will be involved in the decision making process in some way, and in the governing of the order that exists.

We don't know exactly how all this will be or how it all will work out, but it sounds like we will be busy! And we do know that whatever will be involved, we will enjoy what we do.

Pastor Steve

Wed Mar 18 07:55:27 2015

The story was, unfortunately, all too familiar. Two people in a church got into a disagreement. The argument escalated without resolution. Soon, others in the church were being affected by the controversy. Some became involved in the give and take, others were "innocent bystanders" but were still involved as they felt uncomfortable in the wake of the tension brought about by the difference of opinion. So, where was this? It was in the first century church of Philippi. Even before the church finished the first century, there were church fights and church splits.

An argument between two ladies in the church had escalated to the point where even Paul was aware of the fight and how it was shaping the experience of the church in Philippi. He wrote, "I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life." (Philippians 4:2-3) Their disagreement had become a distraction to the entire church. And unless one of them would make the decision to break the cycle by confronting the other with an apology and a genuine plea for reconciliation, then the battle would continue to inform the lives of others.

When you are involved in conflict, be aware that the conflict affects more than just you and the "other person." Be concerned about what the Scripture says about conflict and dealing with conflict. Be committed to take the steps necessary to resolve the issue and heal the strife. Conflict will take place, but we should be committed to resolving conflict so that the church can continue with the spread of the message of Christ's peace.

Pastor Steve

Tue Mar 17 08:13:24 2015

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 "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 his 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

Mon Mar 16 08:47:45 2015

"The Big Bang Theory" actor Jim Parsons was just awarded a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame. He received this in the wake of winning four Emmys and one Golden Globe for his role on the popular show. When Fred Rogers was awarded a star for his work in Public Television on "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood", he wore his trademark sweater. In an interview afterwards, he was asked about winning the presentation and what he considered to be important. His response was that there was no one big thing that determined importance, or fame, or wealth, but the little things that we can do for others; things such as helping someone financially, or rearranging a schedule to give a friend a ride, or interrupting plans to spend time with folks that just received some bad news.

What do you consider important? Christ told a story to highlight what he considered important when he detailed how a man laying beside a road bleeding to death was ignored by two prominent passers-by and received help from an unlikely source. The helper described by Christ sacrificed his time, his lodging, and his money to make help a fellow person in distress. Christ said, "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" (Luke 10:36) You don't need to go far to see where help is needed. Spend time on the little things and you won't miss the important things.

Pastor Steve

Sun Mar 15 10:13:26 2015

"Beware the Ides of March!" was the warning of the soothsayer to Julius Caesar in Shakespeare's play, "Julius Caesar." The event in the play was inspired by a true life event written about by the historian Plutarch. The Ides of March refer to today's date - March 15 - and Julius Caesar was killed on this date. During meeting of the Senate in Rome in 44 B.C., Caesar was set upon by as many as 60 co-conspirators, including his supposed friends Cassius and Brutus. Plutarch wrote that Caesar had been warned by a seer about the Ides of March. Whether he was actually warned or not, he was indeed murdered on this date in 44 B.C.

We speak of early warnings in a number of circumstances - warnings about bad weather, warnings about health issues, warnings about impending financial problems, and other areas. Early warnings are only as helpful as the amount of attention we give to these warnings. Granted, in some situations, the warnings are spurious at best, perhaps Caesar felt that was about the statements of the seer. However, there are many times when warnings should not be ignored.

The Scripture gives us some signs to consider with regard to the harvest of folks who need the Gospel. In Matthew 9:36-38 we read, "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.'" We are the ones to pray for the workers, we are the ones who should be doing the work. To ignore the work is to ignore the warning of Christ about the need. Don't ignore Christ's plea! Be involved in the work!

Pastor Steve

Sat Mar 14 09:50:43 2015

In II Corinthians 7, Paul reflects his relationship with the Corinthians by calling them "dear friends" and telling them, "I am glad I can have complete confidence in you." (vs. 16) What is ironic about this is to remember how confrontational he was with them in his first epistle, especially when it came to a rebuke for a sexual sin among them that was being ignored. What made the difference is that the Corinthians confronted the wrongdoing, repentance followed, and the Corinthians forgave the person leading to reinstitution in the church and a reinforcement of God's design.

Sometimes we have a problem with being forgiven and accepting God's forgiveness. Even though we know God forgives, we often struggle with allowing God's forgiveness to infiltrate our being and rid us of the guilt we feel for the sins we commit. We cannot undo the past, but when we repent and receive God's forgiveness, we need to present him with the consequences and give this to him. He truly forgives us, and we can live as forgiven people. Fellowship is restored, and we can know we are his "dear friends."

Pastor Steve

Fri Mar 13 08:47:28 2015

This year we have back-to-back Friday the 13's as this occurs in both February and March. As most of you know, except in Leap Years, March will follow February's dating with a an additional three days. So, in 2015, we have the phenomenon of having a Friday the 13th in consecutive months. The last time this happened was in 2009. I don't know what you can do with calendar quirks like this but one thing that may happen is to use them as a reminder to take a look at what has happened since the last experience. I can list a number of significant events.

Since the last consecutive line-ups of Friday the 13th, we took a trip to Scotland, I took a trip to Israel, both of our daughters got married, my mother died, and both of us have had significant medical procedures. Scherry had open-heart surgery, and I am now recuperating from a knee replacement, which is my eighth medical operation since 2009. So, we have experienced a number of significant events.

What can be helpful is to stop upon occasion and evaluate what has taken place in our lives to allow us to look ahead in a more productive and positive way. We should not cling to past events and allow them to become anchors to weigh us down, but we should use what has taken place in a way to as to be more informed in our planning and more intelligent in our activity. We can learn from our miscues and negative experiences. As Thomas Edison once replied to a reporter who brought up the many misfires he had in producing the first incandescent light, "I have learned 10,000 ways to not build a light bulb."

Another thing that can be done is to take the time to rehearse the blessings of God that have been experienced. When I view the events that have transpired in our lives since 2009, I thank God for the blessings that are our sons-in-law, our grandchildren, the experiences of our travels, God's grace at the time of my mother's passing, and the many, many ways God intervened through our medical experiences. And this still does not take into account the growth in our spiritual lives through our continued interaction with the Father. Indeed, there is much we need to rehearse.

Asaph said, "I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old-things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us. We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done." (Psalm 78:2-4) There are some things in the past best left in the past, but there are many things of the past that can help our present and inform our future. From time to time, we need to stop and engage in a little exercise of cataloging the past to curry the future.

Pastor Steve

Thu Mar 12 08:39:54 2015

A recent television commercial features a large group of people along with a moderator who stands before two large boards with the headings "Past" and "Future". He asks the crowd to begin hanging small cards on which they have written events of either a positive or negative nature. The cards are color-coded to reflect either a positive or negative event. They are to place the event on either the "past" board if it had actually had taken place or on the "future" board if they anticipated its reality. What took place was the formation of a board that was roughly half and half in color, and another board that was predominantly one color. How do you think this came out?

What happened was that a board reflecting "past" events was roughly 50-50 in color, while the future board was colored almost entirely positively. The moderator said, "This little experiment shows that while we tend to have a positive outlook toward events in our lives, reality shows that we need to expect negative experiences. We need to plan for almost anything."

Truer words have never been spoken. While it is good that we have a positive outlook for future events, we need to be prepared. Reality shows that bad things happen. This commercial was for insurance, and while I think insurance is a good idea, I want you to think even a little bit farther and deeper. Knowing the reality of experiences, we should not be surprised by bad things when bad things happen. We should progress in a positive way, but with a realistic outlook, and a strong faith in a God who provides. He will always be there for us no matter what takes place. We find this promise in one of my favorite psalms, "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging." (Psalm 46:1-3) We can proceed confidently knowing that whatever we encounter, we will not be alone.

Pastor Steve

Wed Mar 11 08:39:54 2015

A period of insanity is now being conducted by the National Football League. This is the Free Agent Signing period when good sense seems to leave the minds of adult people and money rules the day. A player in the NFL can become a free agent when he has completed his contractual obligation to the team for which he currently plays and wishes to "test the market" to see if there are other teams who may pay him more money for his services than the one for which he currently participates. This is true of all major sport leagues. A player just signed to play defensive tackle for the Miami Dolphins for the next six years and will be paid up to $114 million to do so. I am sure these players develop a bit of swagger as they watch teams compete for their services.

Sometimes we live as if we are in the same position when it comes to our spiritual lives. We live with a bit of swagger as we contemplate how God might bid for us or how valuable we are to our church. When it comes to our spiritual position with God, we should never forget that God was indeed willing to pay a high price for our ransom, but that it was only through his grace that we have the opportunity to be ransomed.

As far as our attitude of our value to our church, we need to keep in mind the words of the Apostle Paul who wrote, "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 faith God has distributed to each of you." (Romans 12:3) We are where we are only through the grace of God, and we need to allow the graciousness of God to motivate us in our interaction with others. This results in true Free Agency.

Pastor Steve

Tue Mar 10 08:05:15 2015

Well, it looks as if I could have been a professional golfer. First of all, I have hit some pretty good shots in my golf career - chipped in from sand traps and the fringe, made birdies, and hit approach shots to within inches of the hole. I even backed up a shot from a 5 wood (Adams Tight Lie) on a green from 200 yards out. And then I observed something while watching the World Golf Championship sponsored by Cadillac this past weekend that convinced me that I could indeed be a pro golfer. The tournament was being played at Doral Country Club in Florida.

During Friday's round, Rory McIlroy deposited his three-iron second shot on the par-5 8th hole into the middle of an adjacent lake. He followed this up by launching his three-iron into the middle of the same lake. Shamefully, I have duplicated this feat. On the par-4 15th hole of Quail Creek Country Club, I threw my three-iron into the lake after my tee shot ended up in the water. This happened 30 years ago. I know this is weak, but I didn't realize the water of the lake wrapped around behind me when I threw the club. Of course, this is a poor excuse. Actually, I don't think this action indicates I could be a pro. What happened next with Rory's club didn't happen with mine. Donald Trump, the owner of the course, sent a scuba diver in after the club on Saturday. It was retrieved and presented to McIlroy as he was preparing for Saturday's round. My club is still at the bottom of the lake.

When I think about it, there are other reasons why I didn't play pro golf. A lot of other reasons. All those good shots I spoke of earlier? They were indeed good shots but they were certainly few and far between. To be a pro, I would have needed to be able to hit them much more often than I did. Consistency is the hallmark of the professional.

Consistency is something that is needed in our spiritual lives as well. We often talk a good game when we claim to be followers of Christ, but true followers of Christ give evidence of their relationship with Christ in consistent ways. A true follower is not simply someone who does something good every now and then. A true follower gives evidence of their position in Christ through their lives that are lived for him. Living a good life is not the reason for our position in Christ, that comes through faith, but the life we live is evidence of true faith.

Peter encourages us to "make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." (II Peter 1:10-11) Playing pro golf is more than just the ability hit a good shot every now and then. Being a true follower of Christ is more than doing a noble thing every now and then. A follower of Christ is one who trusts Christ completely. This complete trust is evident in a consistent life.

Pastor Steve

Sun Mar 8 08:50:20 2015

Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of "Bloody Sunday," a confrontation that took place at the Edmund Pettus Bridge just outside of Selma, Alabama. On Sunday, March 7, 1965, 600 marchers left Selma on their way to the capitol city of Montgomery in demonstration for voting rights for African Americans. At the bridge, they were stopped and assaulted by a group of local police and Alabama State Patrol. The march was eventually completed only when President Lyndon Johnson stepped in and provided protection for the marchers. As a point of irony in this event is that the date of March 7 had been chosen as it is the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party.

Bad race relations have been a part of our society from almost the beginning. As followers of Christ, we should understand that racism needs to be absent from our personal lives and from our churches. We should understand that equality in our society should be a given, and equality in our churches is a must. We sing the hymn, "In Christ there is no East or West, there is neither North nor South" but often we live otherwise. Paul wrote, "So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:26-28) This needs to be practiced in our lives!

Pastor Steve

Fri Mar 7 07:10:15 2014

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

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

Pastor Steve

Fri Mar 6 07:10:15 2014

One of the characteristics of our current society is our mounting personal debt. One source said the average debt per family in the United States is $210,000. That is a lot of money. I am not an economist, but you really don't need to be to know that too much debt is going to be a big problem. We really need to use God's wisdom and use our heads when it comes to debt.

Christ said, "Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you." (Matthew 5:42) From this statement, I understand that debt is not inherently bad. There are times when debt is justified. However, reason needs to be applied when it comes to the amount of debt one acquires. A basic fact is that you cannot spend more than you have, You need to keep your wits about you when you are making financial decisions. Seek out good advice in money matters. Keep your "want" list under control. Seek God's guidance in managing your money. Remember that "the borrower is servant to the lender." (Proverbs 22:7)

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

Pastor Steve

Thu Mar 5 07:10:15 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

Wed Mar 4 07:10:15 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

Tue Mar 3 07:10:15 2014

Today is the anniversary of the adoption of "The Star Spangled Banner" as our National Anthem. In 1931, the resolution passed in both the House and the Senate and was signed by President Herbert Hoover. The song had already had an influence on national policy. Abraham Lincoln's last official act was the signing of a resolution declaring "In God We Trust" as the national motto and authorizing that the phrase be included on all coinage. The fourth verse of Francis Scott Key's poem includes the line "in God is out trust." It is inscribed in chambers of Congress, the Dirksen federal building, and many other buildings in Washington.

Almost every president since Truman has affirmed the use of this phrase. At a ceremony recognizing the addition of this phrase to postal stamps in 1954, President Eisenhower stated, "Each of us...fastening such a stamp on a letter, cannot fail to feel something of the inspiration that we do whenever we...read 'IN GOD WE TRUST." In 1961, President Kennedy said, "The guiding principle of this Nation has been, is now, and ever shall be 'IN GOD WE TRUST."

; American Minute states, "On March 7, 2011, the Supreme Court denied a challenge by an atheist who was intolerant of the National Motto, by letting the decision of the Federal Appeals Court stand. On November 1, 2011, the House of Representatives passed an additional resolution in a 396-9 vote reaffirming 'IN GOD WE TRUST' as the official motto of the United States."

I hope that you are affirming "IN GOD WE TRUST" in your personal lives. It is good to have this as our national motto, but it needs to be more than that. Remember this each time you pull out some money to pay for something. We need to trust God.

Pastor Steve

Mon Mar 2 08:19:30 2015

I have spoken with a few folks who travel quite bit about how they get discount fares. One way to do this is to be willing to fly "standby". This means that when you choose your destination, you have to wait to see if there will be space available on the flight. Your baggage is set aside and marked "status pending." You have to wait until other passengers board to see if you have a ride or not. There is no guarantee.

Many are playing this sort of scenario with regard to their entrance into heaven. I hope you aren't one of them. You can have a guaranteed reservation if you will only follow God's way. I fail to see the issue with making this a done deal simply by accepting God's way - trust in Christ as your Savior. Doing so means there is no standby, there is no wondering. Some may say, "But how can you know?" You can know because Christ has given his life and has given his word.

John wrote, "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life." (I John 5:13) We do not need to be on standby. As a matter of fact, with God there is no such thing as standby. You either have a reservation or you don't. Which is it with you?

Pastor Steve

Sun Mar 1 12:14:56 2015

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

Sat Feb 28 09:25:36 2015

A sports article posted on the internet yesterday was accompanied by a video and this caption: "Mitch McGary is momentarily possessed by the spirit of Hakeem Olajuwon." Mitch McGary is the current-day starting center for the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA. Olajuwon is a retired Hall of Fame center who played with the Houston Rockets. They won the 1994 NBA Championship. He was known for his spin moves that left defenders befuddled. McGary scored using a move that was reminiscent of Olajuwon, hence the aforementioned caption.

Of course, McGary did this all on his own; the reference to the "spirit" was in jest. Besides, Olajuwon is still very much alive. However, this leads us into a more serious topic. I am often asked about spirits and whether people can be possessed by spirits. I am not in agreement with those who believe spirits of dead people come back to either haunt or possess contemporary individuals. I do believe in the existence of demons that can "haunt" or even possess folks.

Demon possession is something we read about as a reality in the New Testament, particularly in the Gospels. Satan and his forces are alive and well and living on planet earth. They want to do all they can to mess up the plans of God and possession is a real thing. Now, I DO NOT believe that a follower of Christ can be possessed by a demon, but I do know that believers can be influenced by Satan and his allies. That is why Peter wrote, "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings." (I Peter 5:8-9)

Don't mess around with a fascination about spirits and their existence. The spirits of dead people may not be a reality, but the existence of demons is. Believe in Christ and submit yourself to the control of the Holy Spirit. This is the way to deter their operation in your life. Demons do not play basketball, but they do like to mess with our lives.

Pastor Steve

Fri Feb 27 08:05:43 2015

When the Panama Canal was finished over 100 years ago, it stood as the most massive engineering and construction project ever accomplished up to that time. It stood as an absolute wonder of planning and building. Thousands of people operating hundreds of pieces of equipment moved millions of tons of earth, poured millions of yards of cement, and placed thousands of tons of steel to complete this project. More than 33 years were needed before the first ship could pass through a finished canal. Isn't that incredible? Well, maybe, but take a look at a globe or a world map sometime and locate the canal. How much of the world's surface does this project occupy? Just a smidgen.

How long did it take to create the world, along with all the other planets, stars, and the expanse of global bodies? Read Genesis 1: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And there was evening, and there was morning-the first day." With just a word, God brought the earth and all that we see and observe into being. I hope this puts things into perspective. And another thing - the canal needs to be updated as it isn't adequate. God's work doesn't need to be improved. God's work is truly magnificent and should inform us as to whom is actually in charge.

Pastor Steve

Thu Feb 26 07:10:14 2015

Do you know what a doppelganger is? In mythical terms, it is a paranormal entity that resembles a living person. In more realistic terms, the word has come to describe two people that bear a close resemblance to each other. The word is German and means "double walker," and is used for the supposed reality that each of us have a double of ourselves somewhere.

I just saw an article on the internet that showed the fascinating resemblance of well-known people from yesteryear and today. For example, Alec Baldwin bears a close resemblance to Millard Fillmore (the 13th president of the United States); Shia LeBoeuf looks a lot like a young Albert Einstein, and Brad Pitt bears an uncanny resemblance to Herman Rorschach, the inventor of the Rorschach Test famously used in psychotherapy. Some have tried to explain this phenomenon through the lens of the paranormal, but there is a more natural and simpler explanation. Why shouldn't there be the possibility of resemblance between two unrelated individuals as, in reality, we are all related to begin with?

Anyway, this idea of our bearing a resemblance to someone else brings another thought to mind. There is a person that we need to do our best to resemble in our lives - our Savior, Jesus. We should strive to be like him in every way that we can. As I am sure most of you know, the term "Christian" refers to this principle as "the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch." (Acts 11:26) It seems that the term was first used in a derisive way as people were intending to make fun of those who were trying to be "like Christ." In using this description, those intending to embarrass the followers of Christ were actually paying them a high compliment. They were trying to model the life of Christ so intently that others thought them foolish.

Could we be made fun of in the same way? Does our lives model the Savior's so closely that others would call us Christian? This should be our goal. We should strive to be a "doppelganger" of Christ.

Pastor Steve

Wed Feb 25 07:34:32 2015

My mother, her sister, and her brother (for a time) were all teachers. I taught school before entering ministry, and now both of my daughters are involved in education.. I have never had a problem with the idea that learning for learning's sake is a good idea. I have always been fascinated with learning new things just to learn new things. I recently discovered a new way to fry a burger so as to make it level and done through and through without burning the outside. I was fascinated, as I am with all new thoughts and ideas that come my way

There are those who are not of the same persuasion, and really don't care much for learning new things. They don't wish to be challenged mentally, and don't really care to learn more about life. That may be all well and good when it comes to life in general, but it certainly should not be the attitude of a follower of Christ. We should have a strong desire to learn more about Christ and our relationship with him. In Philippians 3;10, Paul expresses the desire that should be ours, "I want to know Christ." Our desire to know more of God should be like that of the psalmist who asks ten times in Psalm 119 for the Lord to "teach me" - "Teach me, O LORD, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end. Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart." (Psalm 119:33-34)

When the War Between the States began during Lincoln's first term as president, he didn't know much about military strategy. The early losses suffered by the Union made it seem that his Union officers didn't know much either. Lincoln began reading copiously about warfare. What this helped him do was not just understand better what was needed to be successful, but how to appoint those who could lead more effectively. You know the rest of the story. What if Lincoln had not been willing to learn? Well, we don't have to answer that question, do we?

Develop a desire to learn more, especially to learn more about God and your relationship with him. Determine that this desire will never diminish. We need to know Him.

Pastor Steve

Tue Feb 24 07:57:32 2015

A lady found a wrinkled old baseball card and posted in on EBay, asking $10.00 for the card. She gave the card a second thought and then decided to pull the post while she had it checked out. After consulting with an sports memorabilia appraiser, she found out the card was an authentic 1869 Cincinnati Redlegs baseball card - the first team in professional baseball. It sold for $75,000.00 at auction, even though it was wrinkled and worn. The value was in its authenticity.

We need to be real in our Christianity. Being authentic is what determines value. Paul remained true to his faith in spite of getting worn around the edges from mistreatment. He wrote, "We put no stumbling block in anyone's path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger." (II Corinthians 6:3-5) Paul was determined to allow the authenticity of the Christian message continue to shine through him despite being treated roughly.

We need to allow the truth of Christianity to shine through our lives even though we might get battered around because of the message. We need to remain authentic!

Pastor Steve

Mon Feb 23 07:51:53 2015

I played football from the time I was in the fifth grade through high school. I may have gone one to play college football but thought better of it because of a couple of injuries I had received in high school. With all the aches and pains I have now, I'm glad I quit when I did. However, I still enjoy the game, and I am happy I played. I remember watching high school football players when I was in grade school and wondering at their skill and athleticism. They were my heroes. I thought they were the biggest, toughest, fastest players around. But were they really that good? Well, they were good, but when you compared them to college players or professionals, they weren't that big or that fast. Their level of proficiency was relative - it was dependent upon to whom they were being compared.

We need to be careful of this in our spiritual lives. We look at our lives and think, "I am not doing so badly" because we are comparing our lives to others. Paul tells us it is a mistake to do this. He writes, "We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise!" (II Corinthians 10:12) We should look to the scriptures, not the lives of others, to determine how we are progressing in our Christian life. How you are going is determined by what God thinks as he looks at you: "For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends." (vs. 18) Live to please God and compare yourself to his standards, not the lives of others.

Pastor Steve

Sun Feb 22 07:29:32 2015

Do you enjoy brain-teasers? I came across this one the other day:

Imagine that you are a school bus driver. A red-haired student gets on the bus and begins combing her hair with a green brush. At the next stop two more students get on and say in passing that they like the color of the driver's new blue cap. As they walk to the rear of the bus, the shorter of the two shouts back, "I wouldn't let that red-head stay on the bus if I were you. Her brush clashes with your hair!" What color is the bus driver's hair? (Hint: Remember that you are the bus driver!)

Nathan confronted King David with a brain teaser about a rich man who took the lamb of a poor man to feed a visitor who stopped by. David's response was "As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity." (II Samuel 12:5-6) Nathan's response to David after hearing this outburst was "You are the man!" (vs. 7) We are prone to not see our own faults, even those we might consider "major". This is why we are encouraged to examine ourselves (I Corinthians 10:28 - "Everyone ought to examine themselves.") and to not be judgmental of other's faults when we don't see our own (Matthew 7:3).

Don't leave yourself out of the picture when you wish to correct wrong-doing. Don't be overly critical of others while you ignore your own weak points. As Nathan said, "You are the man!" By the way, if you still did not get the opening brain teaser, check your own hair color.

Pastor Steve

Sat Feb 21 08:27:48 2015

This may sound like a Christmas message, but it is appropriate at any time of year. I have always been amazed at the response of Mary when she encountered the angel Gabriel and he told her news that would bring about great changes in her life. Mary was an ordinary Jewish girl who was living a normal life and then one day found out she had been chosen for an extraordinary position - to be the one who would bear the Son of God. One thing was for sure - she viewed this as a privilege and an honor. Her response indicated her willingness - "I am the Lordís servant. May your word to me be fulfilled." (Luke 1:38) She believed what someone has written, "To know God's will is a treasure; to do God's will is a privilege."

Do you look at your work for God as a privilege? Many of us don't give this a thought, and often we simply go a different direction rather than walk in obedience. We fail to see that serving God is not a chore, but an honor. Follow the example of Mary and do God's bidding! Look at opportunities to do Godís work as a privilege. There is no higher honor than to serve the King!

Pastor Steve

Fri Feb 20 08:08:04 2015

I will never forget my driver's ed instructor and his tips on how to parallel park a car. He led me through a number of steps that I still use to pull my vehicle in an available space. I even used the tips to parallel park a 22-foot bobtail truck in downtown Dallas when I worked there several years ago.

As I think about parking cars, I recall a statement I have heard, "God cannot steer a parked car." I am not sure where this statement originated. It is a well-meaning attempt to motivate followers of Christ into action. We do need to be active in our walk with the Lord, but there are times when we need to park it. There are times in our lives when God wants us to stop and listen rather than run and do.

We see this principle demonstrated throughout scripture. There are times when the cloud leading the people of Israel stopped and let the folks stay in one place for awhile. "At the Lordís command the Israelites set out, and at his command they encamped. As long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle, they remained in camp. When the cloud remained over the tabernacle a long time, the Israelites obeyed the Lordís order and did not set out." (Numbers 9:18-19) We see example after example in the Scripture of God's people being put in a position where all they could do was wait. Even Christ spent times of waiting, talking with his Father, rather than moving among the people to teach and to heal. Christ often withdrew to solitary places and "parked it" for a time. Luke 4:42 tells us, "At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place."

Yes, we need to be active as Christ's followers, but there are times we need to stop and wait for his direction. There are many reasons for down times, and we should not be afraid of waiting. Psalm 27:14 reminds us to "Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart." Learn to park!

Pastor Steve

Thu Feb 19 08:56:55 2015

Chaos is usually the result when you leave systems on their own without adding outside energy. If you put 6 cars in a walled arena with the accelerators pinned down and no drivers, they will run in random patterns until they crash into a surface or another car. Without a driver to guide them, it is hard to tell which way the car will go.

This was the state of the internet in the early days. It didn't take long for engineers to realize that there needed to be some sort of order introduced to the operation of the internet or computers would not be able to communicate with each other in meaningful ways, thus rendering useless the new technology. Standards had to be introduced. When they were, the internet technology became a useful tool.

The presence of laws and standards is necessary to prevent chaos. Without guidelines and restrictions in society, anarchy will result. Moses reflected this knowledge in his comments in Deuteronomy 4. There he said, "See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the Lord my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, 'Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.'" (vv. 5 & 6)

When we as followers of Christ submit to the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2), we can be a testimony to others through our demonstration of unity and obedience. Help bring order out of chaos - follow the law of Christ!

Pastor Steve

Wed Feb 18 08:02:39 2015

We need more than "bumper sticker" Christianity. It may be popular to have bumper stickers on our cars that reflect Christian messages, or to have a "fish" symbol emblazoned on our license plate that shows our belief in Christ, but let's make sure that our actions and our conduct match our symbols. An article I read recently was written by person who related how he had been flashed a vulgar gesture by a person driving a car with a "Smile! Jesus loves you!" sticker. He had inadvertently cut off the driver in traffic and was given the sign of the driver's displeasure. Which spoke louder about the person's character - the sticker or the sign?

I am not against the use of symbols to portray our faith; let's just make sure that our actions back up our logos and our words. Our character should govern our actions and responses. If you truly wish to make your convictions known, live your convictions. In answering critics to his behavior, Paul wrote, "Was I fickle when I intended to do this? Or do I make my plans in a worldly manner so that in the same breath I say both 'Yes, yes' and 'No, no'?" (II Corinthians 1:17) Paul wrote this to show how important it is for our actions to match our words.

Our actions should match any visible indications of our stand with Christ. If they don't, then our attempts to demonstrate the importance of Christ are in vain.

Pastor Steve

Tue Feb 17 08:13:14 2015

NASA is working on a project to send a vehicle to study Europa, the fourth largest of Jupiter's 67 moons. The purpose is to look for signs of life. Studies have shown there might be a liquid ocean underneath the frozen surface. And, according to the statement of one researcher, "if we've learned anything about life on Earth, it's that where you find the liquid water, you find life." The thought is that this type of study will give us more understanding about the origins of life on earth. The hope is to launch the craft in 2025 that will do the exploration. Millions of dollars have already been set aside in the 2016 budget to finance the beginnings of this project.

As a science major, I am not against space exploration and ventures of this sort. However, the idea that we are going to learn things from these endeavors to help us find out more about our origins is really, pardon the pun, over the moon. Humans have been trying to do things of this sort almost from the beginning of our existence which, of course, started in the Garden of Eden. God completed the creative process by giving life to Adam and then Eve.

To me, it sounds a good deal like the efforts we read about in Genesis 11: "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves." (vs. 4) Here we have a group of people trying to find out about things and pursuing projects without God in their plans. This is the way of man, and regardless of what we think we will find or what we think we can do, if we leave God out of our plans whatever we hope to accomplish will be of little benefit. We did not get here on our own, whether there is water on Europa or not. God brought us here. Many ignore this, and they do this to their peril if they persist in their pursuits that ignore God. God will frustrate our plans if they do not include him. You think we would have learned this by now.

Pastor Steve

Mon Feb 16 09:07:42 2015

Karl Barth was exiled to Switzerland during World War II. Upon his return to the University of Bonn when the war was over, he began his first lecture with the words, "I believe in God." This is a basic, but powerful, affirmation. These are the first words of the Apostle's Creed. As believers, it is an affirmation that is assumed, however we need to make sure we add clout to this affirmation.

First of all, we do need to make this affirmation, and make it loudly. I do believe in God. Secondly, we need to make sure we believe in the right God. That is, we need to make our concept of God is correct, and that we aren't conjuring up what we think God should be and using this as a basis for our belief. Study to know what God has said about himself in Scripture. Develop a correct view of God so that when you say, "I believe in God," you are making an accurate affirmation. Finally, let your actions back up your words. If you say you believe in God, this should show in how you live. It should show in how you relate to others. It should show in your character. Saying you believe in God should mean something, and the best way to make this affirmation meaningful is to live what you say.

God acknowledges those who believe in him, and ignore those who don't. Hebrews 11:6 says, "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." He doesn't need man's belief to confirm his existence, but he does reward those who truly believe.

Pastor Steve

Sun Feb 15 07:04:59 2015

I have always found the migratory habits of birds, fish, insects, and other creatures one of the most fascinating aspects of God's Creation. There have been copious numbers of geese traveling through our airspace recently making the way back to their northern domiciles. Watching these birds fly in the familiar ďvĒ pattern is simply a marvel. I never tire of that sight.

How in the world do the geese know when it is time to move along? Well, evolutionary theory would tell us that the behavior was learned over a great deal of time as a means of increasing survival. Obviously, followers of God know better. This is evidence of God taking care of his world - of programming behaviors into his creatures to enhance their existence. How do the geese know when to move along? They listen to God's voice, so to speak. Listening to the "voice" that God puts within them allows them to perform activities that help them live more successfully.

We need to take a lesson from the geese. God speaks to us and lets us know when it is time for us to move to do things, to make plans, to perform activities that will enhance our lives and help others. If the geese don't listen to the voice telling them to move, they would jeopardize their survival. When we ignore God's voice, we jeopardize our survival. We jeopardize our ability to be more effective for the glory of God. Moses told the people, "Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life. . ." (Deuteronomy 30:19-20) Listening to God's voice will enhance our lives. Listening to God's voice will preserve our lives. The geese have it right!

Pastor Steve

Sat Feb 14 08:22:30 2015

I sometimes wonder if we really understand the command to love. We readily confess our deficiency in the area of faith, often bemoaning our lack of faith. However, we don't feel we have a deficiency in love. We feel we are as loving as the next person, that we demonstrate genuine concern for folks as well as the next person. Do we?

We really need to look inside ourselves and honestly answer the question, "Am I truly obedient to the command to love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, and mind? And do I truly love my neighbor as myself? " Christ said this is the greatest commandment. He said, "All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:40)

Genuine love goes beyond feeling into actions. If you truly love others, you will show that love, not just talk about love. Love without deeds is useless; love must be expressed. Don't let your love for others simply be potential, it must be kinetic. This needs to be true at all times, not just today on "The Day of Love." Show others that your truly are their Valentine by putting your love to action!

Pastor Steve

Fri Feb 13 07:54:35 2015

I know it is a little past Christmas, but I was thinking about a movie today that has become a Christmas staple (thanks to TBS), "A Christmas Story." The movie is set in the late 1930', but there are so many situations depicted that remind me of my childhood. One particular scene that really resonates with me is when the mother tells Ralph "You need to eat your dinner - there are starving people in China that would love this food!" My Mom didn't refer to China specifically, but she would often remind my two brothers and me of the reality of the many who would enjoy the abundance that was before me. Mom was trying to instill within me the need to be grateful for what I had, as there were so many who did not have.

Are we as thankful during our times of want as we are during our times when we have all we need? Do we thank God as much for the times we don't receive answers as we do for the times when the correct path is evident?

Read the words of Habakkuk found in Habakkuk 3:17-18, "Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:" Habakkuk knew what lay ahead - invasion by a foreign power that would be the instrument of God's judgment. In spite of impending struggles, Habakkuk chose to be thankful to God for the work of his hands. He declared that he would be grateful whether circumstances were good or bad. He chose to pursue the path of "unconditional thanksgiving."

This is the path we should choose to follow. We should decide to express our thanks to God whether things work or not. A heart of thanksgiving is a means to healthy living!

Pastor Steve

Thu Feb 12 08:02:20 2015

What is the most important characteristic for a follower of Christ? It may not be number one, but from a number of passages we learn that humility is highly regarded by God. Last night in our Bible study we found out that one of the characteristics that made Moses a friend of God was his humility. God said about Moses, "But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?" (Exodus 12:7-8)

For what was Moses most noted? We read in verse 4, "Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth." This was pointed out as God was preparing to confront the brother and sister of Moses, Aaron and Miriam, because of their jealous treatment of Moses.

God honors those who are humble. James 4:6 states God's attitude towards pride and humility - "God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble." Do you want God's opposition, or his favor? Now that's a rhetorical question if there ever was one.

Pastor Steve

Wed Feb 11 07:36:16 2015

Conflict is an inevitable part of life. We often try to deny this, and many feel that conflict is simply a manifestation of sinful behavior and should be avoided. Conflict can be sinful, but we cannot avoid conflict and we need to learn how best to take care of disagreements rather than trying to avoid it. At times, conflict needs to take place because something needs to be corrected. Issues and circumstances arise that cannot be ignored but must be confronted and resolved.

Paul expressed his disappointment with Peter when Peter acquiesced to the Judaizers and disassociated from the Gentile believers. Paul was not a fan of conflict, but he knew he could not avoid the confrontation with Peter. Galatians 2:11 - 13 describes the situation, "When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray." What was Paul's response? Further reading reveals, "When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, 'You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?'" (vs. 14)

We should not seek out nor should we relish conflict, but when confrontation is needed to correct error and put things right, we should use the example of Paul. Don't pursue conflict, but don't compromise when truth is at stake.

Pastor Steve

Tue Feb 10 08:08:53 2015

Do you think you would enjoy running a 430-mile race in the Yukon? I can't run three feet so this is a moot question for me. I don't know how many folks, including runners, would enjoy such a race. There are some that do. Diane Van Deren is one such person. She trains for the Yukon Arctic Ultra by running from 10 to 12 hours through the mountains near her home in Sedalia, Colorado, while towing a 50-pound sandbag on a sled. This is to prepare her for the grueling task of the Yukon Arctic Ultra where participants run for up to 20 hours at a time while pulling their gear on a sled. The race is held in February and offers four distances - a standard marathon, 100 miles, 300 miles, and 430 miles. Van Deren, when she was a participant, won the 300 mile race, and was the first female to complete the 430 mile run. This year, 85 runners from all over the world will compete.

Participating in, let along completing, such an arduous contest requires the highest order of discipline, training, and perseverance. Even before this, you must decide you want to do this - you need to want to be in this for the long haul.

As followers of Christ, how well we run in the race in which we are involved is up to us. We must decide to run well, and then have the discipline to follow the training, along with demonstrating perseverance, that allows us to compete well. Comparing our Christian experience to a race is not an original idea with me - Paul writes about this in I Corinthians 9:24-25, "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever." Whether you are running a 400 meter, or 430 mile, race, you must be willing to train. So it is with our race for Christ. We must be willing to train. Run the race well!

Pastor Steve

Mon Feb 9 08:03:47 2015

I remember watching "The Incredible Shrinking Man" when I was a kid. The movie fascinated me then, and still fascinates me. The story is about a person who gets covered by a mysterious dust while on a boat off the California coast. This causes him to shrink, presumably eventually to nothing, although the film ended with him still alive but very tiny. The last lines of the film are delivered through a voiceover by the main character. He laments, "And I felt my body dwindling, melting, becoming nothing. My fears locked away and in their place came acceptance. All this vast majesty of creation, it had to mean something. And then I meant something, too. Yes, smaller than the smallest, I meant something, too. To God there is no zero. I STILL EXIST!"

At times we perhaps feel like the "Shrinking Man". We feel as if we are not important, or as if our opinion counts for little, or as if our absence would not be noticed. Yet, the last lines from the fictional work are so true, "To God there is no zero!" We are known to God and as his child, we are important and significant.

The words of David in Psalm 139 reinforce this reality: "You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful." (vv. 1 & 14) God has created us and knows all about us. And when we come to him by faith in His Son, we become his child and are placed in his care. We are important and significant because of what he does for his children and because of our relationship with him. In His eyes, we most certainly are not a zero.

Pastor Steve

Sun Feb 8 06:51:59 2015

Being on the wrong end of unfair or unjust criticism is not a pleasant experience. It may be a fellow parent in the PTO that isn't impressed with our handling of the Fall Festival, or it may be someone who is unhappy with how we handled the publicity for an upcoming event, or it may be any number of other scenarios where we are trying to perform a job and someone isn't happy with how we are taking care of business. It is a shame to realize, but these circumstances even take place in church. This is not as it should be, but when you live in a fallen world, it can happen.

How do you respond to such criticism? We can take a lesson from David. During the time he was in conflict with Absalom, he came to the town of Bahurim. There, a man named Shimei came out and started cursing him. Shimei was apparently a fan of Saul, and was not happy that David was king. He was glad for David's troubles and said, "The Lord has repaid you for all the blood you shed in the house of Saul." (II Samuel 16:8) David's companion, Abishai, wanted to behead him. David responded, "Leave him alone, let him curse." (vs., 11)

It is good to look beyond our critics to the one who loves us in spite of anything else. It is good to focus on God's work in our lives rather than man's words. We need to think that what we are experiencing has an upside and we need to trust that God will use our negative experience for our good. Look to him as you struggle with others. His hand is always upon us.

Pastor Steve

Sat Feb 7 09:18:30 2015

"The Bucket List" is a 2007 film starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman as two terminally ill men who go on a road trip to accomplish as many things on their wish lists as they can before they "kick the bucket." The two men meet in the hospital. One is a billionaire (Nicholson) and one is a mechanic (Freeman). Their relationship is rather tenuous at first, but a friendship develops as they pursue their goals.

I came across a list of things that we need to strongly consider putting on our spiritual bucket list. As a matter of fact, the list is entitled "Seven Things that Can Only Be Done In This Life." Here they are: 1. Love and pray for your enemies (Matthew 5:44). 2. Walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). 3. Love God by enduring temptation (James 1:12). 4. Through love serve one another (Galatians 5:13). 5. Lay up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19-20). 6. Share the gospel with the lost (Matthew 28:19-20). 7. Exercise your spiritual gifts (Romans 12:6-8).

We know our time in this life is limited and we need to live realistically and wisely. We need to do what we should while we have the opportunity. This involves practical matters of life, and it also involves important matters of faith and spirituality. Jesus reminds us, "As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work." (John 9:4) Take care of that bucket list!

Pastor Steve

Fri Feb 6 07:40:04 2015

I just finished watching a show where one of the plot lines involved trying to restore the memories of an adult woman who had experienced a traumatic incident at the age of four and had repressed the recollection. This involved both the use of therapeutic techniques and drugs. The results were only mildly successful - it was better for the show if not everything was revealed all at one time.

As I saw this somewhat interesting fictional portrayal, I thought of something real - there is no amount of therapy or artificial means that will make God remember the sins for which we have been forgiven. I know comparing God's gracious forgetfulness to an unrealistic TV show is a bit unrealistic in and of itself, but it still amazes me when Scripture tells me that God really does put my sins in a place where they are not brought up again.

Isaiah 1:18 tells us, "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool." David writes in Psalm 103:12, "as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us." Micah 7:19 gives us the promise, "You will again. . .hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea."

God does hold us accountable for our lives and our sins, but when we come to him and seek forgiveness, God deals with us and does away with the sin. I John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." The sins are gone, and not to be brought back up through any means. This is a "voluntary repression" on God's part, and a reality for which we need to be thankful.

Pastor Steve

Thu Feb 5 07:52:49 2015

Recently I read of a centenarian who had a practice of telling his age in terms of days. At the age of 100 years, he was 36,525 days old. What was the purpose of this practice? He based it on Psalm 90:12, "Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." The gentleman simply wanted to remind himself that he needed to live each day wisely.

Do you give this much thought? Do you remind yourself on a regular basis how important it is to live each day carefully and with some thought as to how you want to spend that day? Each day we live should be viewed as a gift. None of us are promised the next day. So, maybe we should adopt the practice of the aforementioned person who gave his age in terms of days. Right now, I am 21,371 days old. I have 15,154 days to go to make it to 100 years. I want to number each of those days correctly. How are you at numbering your days?

Pastor Steve

Wed Feb 4 08:09:29 2015

Do "know-it-alls" bug you? You know - the folks who think they have a handle on information about subjects and aren't afraid to let you know how much they know.? Now, these folks may not know as much as they think they know, but that doesn't matter. They just enjoy listening to their own voice.

We need to avoid this attitude in general, and especially when it comes to our spiritual lives. We need to avoid the trap of thinking we know it all when it comes to our Christian life. There is always room for learning.

We need to reflect the attitude of Apollos. He was an intelligent man and a gifted speaker: yet when he was confronted with the realization that there were things he did not know he took the time to learn what he needed to know. Apollos didn't try to gloss over his ignorance. We read about him in Acts 18:24-26, "Meanwhile, a Jew named Apollos, an eloquent speaker who knew the Scriptures well, had arrived in Ephesus from Alexandria in Egypt. He had been taught the way of the Lord, and he taught others about Jesus with an enthusiastic spirit and with accuracy. However, he knew only about John's baptism. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him preaching boldly in the synagogue, they took him aside and explained the way of God even more accurately."

Apollos revealed his intelligence by being willing to spend some time getting caught up and getting involved in some continuing education. As a result, he became even more effective in his work for Christ. We need to be willing to learn so that we may become even more effective for Christ. Don't be a know-it-all!

Pastor Steve

Tue Feb 3 08:03:08 2015

I recently changed medications in order to better control a heart condition I have. One of the side effects of the medicine is a metallic taste I have pretty much all the time. This is mildly annoying, but as I experience the metallic taste, I ask myself, "Which is worse, a metallic taste in your mouth or your heart beating like a runaway freight train?" I think I can live with the metallic taste. The taste also is a consistent reminder of my dependence on the medicine so I have an alert to help me take the medicine as directed.

Paul talks about a circumstance that he faced that was a perpetual reminder to him of his current state of dependence. He writes, "Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christís power may rest on me." (II Corinthians 12:7-9)

It sounds as if Paul had more than just a metallic taste in his mouth that served as a constant reminder of his dependence on the grace of God. The "thorn" was there to help him remember that his power came from the hand of the Lord. This led him to exalt in his status of weakness and put his experience in perspective. He was driven to a place where he knew he could not continue without God's help.

God often gives us reminders of our status. We need to gain perspective and appreciate them from a positive point of view. These reminders are contributors to our spiritual development. Let God use the "thorns" to shape our character!

Pastor Steve

Mon Feb 2 07:51:03 2015

Today is Groundhog Day - will the dear old furry critter see his shadow or not? If he does, then we've got six more weeks of winter. If he doesn't, well winter is supposed to be ending sooner. What will it be?

The origins of the day go back into Europe insofar as the belief that the weather on February 2 is a predictor of the ending of winter. An old Scottish poem says, "If Candlemas Day is bright and clear, There'll be two winters in the year. If Candlemas be fair and bright, Winter has another flight. If Candlemas brings clouds and rain, Winter will not come again." The first reference to "Groundhog Day" in America is found in a diary entry from 1841: "Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas day, the day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate." Regardless of what happens today with the groundhog, we do know that winter will end and spring will come.

This is something we can be sure of when it comes to God's care for us. We know his care will come, regardless of what the circumstances. Regardless of what other distractions are there; regardless of what other "celebrations" may be going on; we can be sure that the provision of God will come. Just as there really is no causality between the groundhog and winter, there is no causality in situations we experience and God's presence. God does not say, "Oh, my, I can't step in here, the logistics are simply not right. The predictors are against me. I can't do it." This will simply not happen.

The writer to the Hebrews reminds us, "'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.' So we say with confidence, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?'" Shadow or not, God will not fail us.

Pastor Steve

Sun Feb 1 06:48:46 2015

In his book "Well Done", the founder of "Wendy's", Dave Thomas said, "Roll-up-your-shirtsleeves Christians see Christianity as faith and action. They still make the time to talk with God through prayer, study Scripture with devotion, be super-active in their church and take their ministry to others to spread the Good Word." He went on to say they are "anonymous people who are doing good for Christ may be doing even more good than all the well-known Christians in the world."

We probably do not need to worry about whether we are doing more good than "well-known Christians", but we should worry that we are doing good. James says, "If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and does't do it, it is sin for them." (James 4:17) Dave Thomas seemed to have it right. We need to do good, but we shouldn't worry about who knows what we are doing and why we are doing it. We simply should be concerned that we are doing good for God. If we do something just for the attention, we might as well not do it. So, we need to make sure we are doing good, and that we are doing good in the right way. Be a "do-gooder" and do your best to do it quietly!

Pastor Steve

Sat Jan 31 07:52:40 2015

LPGA golfer Paula Creamer demonstrated her inner mettle at the 2008 ADT Championship. She experienced severe stomach pain at the outset of the tournament. She was diagnosed with peritonitis, an inflammation of the lining of the abdomen. She even spent a night in the hospital. In spite of the pain she continued to play, finishing third. At the very least, this was a true demonstration of her perseverance.

We are often called upon to persevere in life. Health problems, family struggles, emotional issues, financial situations, and other factors create scenarios where we have choices to make. We either continue to go forward, or we relent in light of what we are facing. James offers the idea that the battles we face in life can actually be viewed as blessings. He wrote, "As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy." Those battles we face can be turn to blessings when we decide to persevere and continue to grow and go forward in spite of our struggle.

Even when life is hard and hurts, we can persevere because God is there. He never leaves us alone, especially in times of pain.

Pastor Steve

Fri Jan 30 11:15:31 2015

There is a difference between knowing and doing. Sometimes ignoring the difference can be a real problem. My wife knows there are things she needs to avoid in her diet that may cause problems. She knows she needs to limit her intake of carbs, trans-fat, and sodium. Actually, we both need to avoid sodium because of health issues. Just knowing what needs to be avoided is not enough. We can recite all the problems with various diet items including what foods have elevated carbohydrates or sodium or whatever, but we will not benefit from this knowledge unless we actually avoid the foods. One source said that more than $1.8 billion in medical bills could be avoided annually if doing followed from knowing.

In so many circumstances, it is not what we know that is important, but what we do. Christ spoke a great deal about service, which is simply translating knowing into doing. Christ told his disciples on the night he was betrayed and arrested, "I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them." (John 13:15-17) Let's make sure that we are translating knowing into doing in our lives. "Knowledge is power" is a quote attributed to Sir Francis Bacon. The power is actually when what we know affects what we do.

Pastor Steve

Thu Jan 29 07:50:37 2015

I used to sing this song when I was a kid, I taught it to my kids, and we are teaching it to our granddaughter: "Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he. He climbed up in a sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see. And as the Savior passed that way he looked up in the tree. And he said, 'Zacchaeus, you come down from there. For I'm going to your house today. I'm going to your house today.'" What a neat song - and, oh, what a deep and revealing story it tells.

With Jesus, there was intent. "Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today." (Luke 19:5) This reveals that not only was Zaccheaus looking for Jesus; Jesus was looking for Zaccaheus. There was also identification - Jesus knew who Zacchaeus was even before he met him. And there was involvement. Jesus knew what Zacchaeus did, he intended to meet Zacchaeus, and he became involved in his life for the purpose of bringing redemption to Zacchaeus.

This is what Jesus wants with us - to become involved in our lives in order to save us and bring us to a life of fellowship with him. Luke 19:10, "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost." This is the intent of Christ. He showed this in the example of Zacchaeus. He knew his name, he knows our name. He wants to come to our house as he did with Zacchaeus. Christ is keenly interested in your life and wants you to be involved in his. Climb that tree!

Pastor Steve

Wed Jan 28 08:06:42 2015

We who follow Christ must do so by faith. It is a step-by-step process that requires us to rely on him even when, actually especially when, we cannot see what lies ahead. When I think of our journey of faith, I often think of Charles Lindbergh's trans-Atlantic flight that took place in May of 1927. In order to have enough fuel for the flight, the wings were modified to hold more.. The retooling meant that Lindbergh was unable to see forward in "The Spirit of St. Louis." He had to "fly blind" and depend upon his instruments. Through trusting his gauges, he was able to navigate safely the flight path from New York to Paris.

As we move through life, we need to trust Christ in order to navigate safely the path we need to follow. There are so many times we will not be able to see the way clearly and there are times when we encounter obstacles. Therefore, we need to trust blindly in Christ - we must have faith. This is the essence of our relationship with Christ. This is the nature of the Christian life.

Hebrews 11:1 tells us "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." We read in II Corinthians 5:7, "For we live by faith, not by sight." If we truly live by faith, we are not actually "flying blind." We have the best eyes in the universe looking out for our way. Trust them.

Pastor Steve

Tue Jan 27 08:09:02 2015

When I was young, my Dad used to take us three boys on drives to give Mom a break from us. Of course, I didn't realize until I was much older the intent of these drives, at the time I just knew I enjoyed going on drives with Dad. One road we would take was a road that basically went nowhere. This gravel-covered road veered off the main road and then followed a ridge for a few miles and ended up back on the main road. No one lived on the road, but there was an old deserted house that was kind of cool, an old deserted school bus with no windows or tires, and an old cemetery. We sometimes would take food and stop to eat somewhere along the road.

Years later, after I was married and had moved away, I was visiting one time and thought it would be neat to follow that old road again just for the fun of it. I veered off the main road as I had done countless times before with Dad, went up the hill and around the curve to start following the ridge, and slammed on the brakes. There was no road. The road just stopped. Up ahead was nothing but tall weeds, young trees, and other undergrowth, but no road. After years of no use and neglect, the road was overgrown and blocked. I had waited too late to take my nostalgic trip. I went back onto the main road, followed it to where the gravel road came out and "backtracked", but I had the same result. After a bit, I stopped because the road simply was no longer there.

I hadn't remembered this until just recently and a thought occurred to me. The road to heaven is now open for those who wish to follow it through faith in Christ. However, you need to follow the road now while you live. Death closes the road for you and there is no way to open it once it is closed. You need to "make the trip" now while you have the opportunity. Waiting will only close the road. Jesus said, "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." (Matthew 7:13-14) Travel that narrow road now before it is too late!

Pastor Steve

Mon Jan 26 07:55:13 2015

The DVR is a piece of electronic equipment about which I feel the way I do about a number of other pieces of modern technology. When introduced to these gadgets, I wondered about their usefulness. Then as I become more familiar with the techo wonder, I wondered how I got along without it. This may be an exaggeration, but it is fairly accurate when I am speaking of things like smart phones and whatnot. Anyway, the DVR is something that used to spark questions of usefulness within me, then when we obtained this technology, we have used it quite a bit.

One function of the DVR is setting it to record a series on television. Within the settings there is a feature that allows the operator to prioritize the various series in order to avoid conflicts that may jeopardize the recording of favored shows. The creator of the DVR recognized the need for prioritization.

We need to have the same recognition with other issues in life. There are many things in our lives that need we need to prioritize more so than television shows. We need to spend time reflecting on what is important and get priorities in order.

Christ had a great deal to say about priorities. He tells his followers, " But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." (Matthew 6:33) He reminds them of the need to not worry when he says, "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat." (Luke 12:22) He talks of the ultimate priority when he says, "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Luke 12:34) Set you priority list correctly in your life. And remember this is much more important than the priority list in your DVR.

Pastor Steve

Sun Jan 25 07:01:50 2015

A man was facing a surgery to amputate his big toe on his right foot. Years of cigarettes had taken their toll, and the arteries to the toe had completely collapsed. His nephew and his nephew's wife decided to use the traumatic circumstance to teach their little son about the dangers of smoking. Not long after the surgery, the parents heard their son telling another family member they should quit smoking or their big toe would fall off.

This story is somewhat humorous, but it is truthful and gives us a picture of another reality - there are consequences to our bad habits.

The nation Israel was going to face the consequences of their bad habits. They were unfaithful to God and had gone after other gods. Jeremiah 2:11-13 tell us, "But my people have exchanged their glorious God for worthless idols. My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water." As a result, they were going to be taken captive by foreign invaders. "For this is what the Lord says: 'At this time I will hurl out those who live in this land; I will bring distress on them so that they may be captured.'" (Jeremiah 10:11)

God will bring consequences for behavior that is contrary to his nature, but God also longs to deal with us and restore us. He will when we come to him and repent. Remember there are consequences to those bad habits - let God help you deal with them and strengthen your life. Don't risk losing your big toe!

Pastor Steve

Sat Jan 24 08:22:55 2015

There are situations and circumstances that arise in our walk with the Lord where all we seem to be able to do is say "I don't know." We face health issues, emotional crises, financial issues, and other life events that cause us to ask, "What is going on?" and cry out to God for intervention.

As we struggle through these times when we say "I don't know", it is helpful to focus on what we do know. We know that God loves us. We know that God has not forgotten us. We know that God is aware of what is taking place. We know that God has nothing but our best interests in mind. We know that God directs events for his glory. As we focus on our points of knowledge, we may not find concrete resolution to the "I don't know", but we can develop confidence and attain contentment through continuing to trust in what we do know about God.

Korah cried out in Psalm 44:9-10, "you have rejected and humbled us; you no longer go out with our armies. You made us retreat before the enemy, and our adversaries have plundered us." He continued to trust and knew that God would not ultimately forsake his people.

Korah's hope was expressed several centuries later when Paul cited his statements as he proclaimed the confidence we can have in the provision of God. Paul writes, "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered" (Romans 8:36), which is a direct citation of Psalm 44:22. God does know about our lives and our future, so even at times when we say "I don't know" we know we can know!

Pastor Steve

Fri Jan 23 08:03:13 2015

The Israelites were finally leaving Egypt. Four hundred years earlier, their patriarch Jacob had entered the land along with his family. They were now leaving as a nation over a million strong. God saw to it that they were not going to leave empty-handed for all the work they had supplied over the 400 years they had been there. He directed the people to seek compensation from the Egyptians: "The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. The Lord had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians." (Exodus 12:35-36)

God provided for their future by giving them good things. However, it was not long before they abused the gift they were given. We read in Exodus 32 how they took the gold and jewelry that God had provided and they made a golden calf which they worshipped. How sad.

We need to be careful that we are not guilty of the same thing. "Wait a minute," you say, "I don't have a golden calf sitting around my house." This is no doubt true, but we need to be careful that we don't abuse the good things God has given us and use them for us rather than for the sake of God. God does give us good things, and we are often guilty of misuse of the blessings he gives us. He gives us good things so that we might bless others and glorify him, but often we use our abundance for our own pleasure. Make sure that you use what God has given you wisely and in accordance with his desire. You do not need a golden calf!

Pastor Steve

Thu Jan 22 07:31:02 2015

Memory is a funny thing. We all struggle with remembering things. According to Karen Bolla, a psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins, these are the things we forget the most: Names (83%); where something is (60%); telephone numbers (57%); words (53%); what was said (49%); faces (42%). and whether you've just done something (38%).

Followers of Jesus Christ often have a problem of forgetting. We forget what he has done for us. We forget the power he has for us. We try to deal with temptation in our own power. We forget what we should be doing for him. We forget our responsibility to others. We forget what our lives should be as believers in Christ.

We need to turn our lives into his hands and allow his power to guide us so that we can be solid followers of him. Don't forget to walk in the power of Christ! David wrote, "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God." There are times we cannot trust our memory because we are forgetful. There are times we cannot trust our own abilities because we are unable to stand on our own. We need to trust "in the name of the Lord our God." Don't forget!

Pastor Steve

Wed Jan 21 07:48:22 2015

We are in the midst of another winter, albeit a rather mild one so far. In our neck of the woods, November was far worse than January has been so far as we had very cold temperatures and snow during November. I realize this is not the case for others, and even though we have had a mild January to this point, it is still winter and there haven't been many days where outside activities could take place. Would this be the time of year to plant crops or bring in crops? No, not hardly.

Talking about this makes me think about ants. "Ants?" you may ask, "Where did this come from?" Well, it comes straight from the Bible. Proverbs 6:6-11 says, "Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest-- poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man."

As I read this, I think that at this time of the year it would be good to be an ant. If I was an ant, I would have been busy last summer and early last fall gathering stuff to prepare for this winter. And that would have been a very good thing because now I would have plenty to eat and the harsh weather would not bother me so much. The point is, like the ants, since we know winter is coming, we need to prepare. This is good in a literal sense, and it is good in a figurative sense. We need to be industrious, working people. This principle is true in our day-to-day lives, and it is true in our spiritual lives.. We need to pattern our lives after the ant so we can get things done for the Lord. Yes, it is good indeed to be an ant.

Pastor Steve

Tue Jan 20 07:55:25 2015

Hudson Taylor, the pioneer missionary to China, scrawled this note as he neared the end of his life: "I am so weak that I cannot work; I cannot read my Bible; I cannot even pray. I can only lie still in God's arms like a child, and trust."

When it comes to our relationship with the Lord, we need to remember that childlike faith is what we need. As a child, I don't remember worrying about too many things, except for maybe the amount of chocolate milk that was in the refrigerator. I trusted that my folks would take care of me. Actually, I really don't remember having a conscious thought about trusting my folks, I just did. That is the essence of childlike faith, which is what we should have.

We read in Matthew 18:2 - 4: "He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: 'I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.'" We need to learn to trust. Actually, we know how to trust, we just need to get back to that level of trust we had as kids when it comes to our relationship with Christ. Faith like a child is what we need to have. It takes the worries away!

Pastor Steve

Mon Jan 19 08:35:53 2015

When I was young, I enjoyed playing in the hills that surrounded my grandparent's home. I have written about this on other occasions. There was a creek that ran through a valley in these hills. My brothers and I cut down a fairly good-sized tree that lined the creek. It fell across the chasm and made a bridge for us to cross. I never felt really good about crossing that "bridge" - I always used caution and took my time so I wouldn't fall into the creek below. My fear led me to be careful and focus on my steps so that I wouldn't fall. I have no idea how many times I crossed that bridge, but I never lost my fear of falling.

We need to apply the same principle in certain situations in our lives. We should never lose our fear of falling into a chasm when it comes to temptation to sin. We should always realize we could fall, and allow this awareness to sharpen our focus and fuel our caution. We never lose the ability to fall into the trap of immorality or deception or other inappropriate behavior. Our fear of falling helps us to be cautious and walk carefully at times when we are tempted. Given the opportunity and the circumstances, any of us are capable of falling into any sin, so we need to take care.

Paul warned the Corinthians, "Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he falls." (I Corinthians 10:12) Don't ever lose your fear of falling!

Pastor Steve

Sun Jan 18 07:11:38 2015

I came across the following article in a January, 2007, edition of Our Daily Bread. The article was written by Dave Branon. With our CIA group headed to Chicago to work at the Pacific Garden Mission, I thought it would be a worthwhile article to share:

Every night, Howard and Mel frequented the cheap bars in Grand Rapids, Michigan, hoping to drown away another miserable day. Finally, the pain of a wasted life was too much, so Mel hopped a train for Chicago, where he hoped to end it all.

But as he walked barefoot through a Chicago snowstorm in 1897, heading for a self-imposed demise in Lake Michigan, he was stopped by a worker from the Pacific Garden Mission. Mel went inside, heard the gospel, and accepted Christ as his Savior.

Later, Mel went back to Grand Rapids to start a mission. Howard heard that he was saved and sober. But instead of trusting Jesus, Howard just laughed at "Old Mel." To him, "the message of the cross [was] foolishness" (1 Cor. 1:18). Finally, the drinking took its toll on Howard, and he committed suicide.

More than 100 years later, the Mel Trotter Mission still welcomes people who need a place to stay and who need Jesus. And 100 years later, our family is still saddened by Howard's demise. He was my wife's grandfather.

Like Mel and Howard, we have a choice. "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him" (John 3:36). What do you choose?

Pastor Steve

Sat Jan 17 09:05:36 2015

Many years ago USA Today reported on a mural that had been painted by two college students in Moorhead, Minnesota. The Mural depicted a school of fish all swimming in the same direction with one fish being painted going in the opposite direction. According to the students, the fish was a representation of Christ. The symbol of a fish has been used since ancient times to represent Christ and Christianity. The Greek word for fish is icthus and in the Greek, the letters form an acrostic for "Jesus Christ, God's Son, Savior." The symbolism was not lost on the administration of the college and the students were forced to paint over the mural.

As followers of Christ, we will often find ourselves going against the flow of society. This is becoming increasingly truer in the United States, a country that was founded on the principles of religious freedom. More and more, we find those freedoms being encroached upon; therefore, we will find ourselves more and more "swimming against the grain." Add to this the decaying mores of our society, and we will find ourselves going in a different direction in many circumstances.

This is not a new phenomenon, it has always been true for followers of Christ. Peter wrote, "Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do - living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you." (I Peter 4:1-4)

Don't be surprised to find yourself marching to the beat of a different drummer. Christians are not meant to fit in with society, but to change society through the message of the Gospel of Christ. Don't be afraid to swim upstream!

Pastor Steve

Fri Jan 16 08:55:08 2015

In 1966, The Beatles were riding a wave of unprecedented popularity worldwide. During an interview by a journalist in the United Kingdom, John Lennon proclaimed that The Beatles were "more popular than Jesus Christ." The remarks were met benignly in the United Kingdom, but when they were published in the United States, the reaction was profound. Over three decades later, Liam Gallagher of the group Oasis made the same claim regarding his group.

These remarks do indeed warrant a strong response and criticism; however, at the risk of sounding heretical, could these gentlemen be right? Sad to say, among certain segments of individuals, Lennon's and Gallagher's comments may be accurate; however, we know that Christ is not involved in a popularity contest and there are consequences to this line of thinking.

As followers of Christ, we need to make certain this is not true in our personal lives. I am not referring to our opinion of Gallagher or Lennon, but to anything that we allow to vie for the attention we should be giving to Christ. It is one thing to say you are a disciple of Christ, but another thing to truly give Christ the place he deserves in your life. We may be appalled by the statements of Lennon and Gallagher, and we should be; but examine yourself carefully to see if this is true about other matters. Is there anything that keeps you from placing Christ first in your life? Is there anything to which you devote more time and attention than to the matters of Christ? Nothing in our lives should occupy the place that belongs to Christ. Our desire should be that of the apostle Paul who declared as his primary goal: "I want to know Christ--yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death." (Philippians 3:10) Who or what occupies the principal place of popularity in your personal life?

Pastor Steve

Thu Jan 15 08:05:35 2015

The story of Melchizedek has always intrigued me. You can read about him in Genesis 14. The story starts with Abramís nephew, Lot, in a rather precarious predicament. He and his family were captured by a group of marauders led by a coalition of kings from the area. They attacked Sodom and carried off Lot and his household. A man escaped the violence and made his way to the plains of Mamre where Abram, was residing. When Abram heard of Lot's trouble, he recruited some assistance and then rescued his nephew Lot by defeating the forces of the four kings in a battle north of Damascus.

On his return to his home, Abram was met by the king of Salem, Melchizedek, who proclaimed, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand." Melchizedek sort of appears out of nowhere, but the meeting was not by chance. He met with Abram to bestow upon him a special blessing. Melchizedek received a tithe from Abram from the spoils Abram had acquired in his victory. This action demonstrated that Abram understood the position of Melchizedek not only as a king but as a priest; therefore, Melchizedek was the representative of God on earth.

According to Hebrews 6:20, Melchizedek, as both a king and a priest, foreshadows Christ who is also both a King and a Priest, "(Christ) has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek." One of the great points of this story is that after all he had gone through, Abram finds that he is not alone. Seemingly out of nowhere, Melchizedek appears to encourage him and bless him. What a marvelous provision for Abram after all he had experienced!

This is the way of God. At just the right time and in ways that often seem mysterious, He comes to us to encourage us and bless us when we faces times of duress and struggle.. Abram had been successful, but his efforts no doubt left him drained and in need of strength. God provided this for him through this beneficent appearance of Melchizedek. Abram gave tithes to Melchizedek to show his appreciation and his allegiance. God will always provide for us what we need when we need it. Our response to him should be worship and appreciation.

Pastor Steve

Wed Jan 14 07:41:50 2015

I drove by a house during my recent visit to Ohio. The house was a place where I spent a great deal of time when I was growing up - it as the home that at one time was owned by my mother's parents. In the front yard, there is a large cedar tree. I remember well when my grandfather planted it. That was almost fifty years ago. It was a small slip of a thing that looked as if it needed to be pitched rather than planted. My grandfather had dug it up from a wooded area in south-central Kentucky near the home where he was raised. Although it looked as if the journey to southern Ohio had pretty much done it in, once it was planted, it began to thrive. Drawing in nutrients from the soil as well as needed moisture, the tree put down roots, took in carbon dioxide and put out oxygen, and grew. It is now a stately, impressive tree that is something to behold, all because my grandfather took the time fifty years ago to plant it.

We should never forget this basic concept - before something can grow it first needs to be planted. Nothing will grow unless planting takes place. Christ refers to the act of planting on many occasions. Paul says about planting, "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow." We are to be involved in the act of planting the seed of the Gospel. That impressive cedar would not be there had my grandfather not taken the time to put it in the ground. God uses us to plant the seed of the Gospel and then he brings about the results. Get your planting tools working!

Pastor Steve

Wed Jan 14 07:41:50 2015

I drove by a house during my recent visit to Ohio. The house was a place where I spent a great deal of time when I was growing up - it as the home that at one time was owned by my mother's parents. In the front yard, there is a large cedar tree. I remember well when my grandfather planted it. That was almost fifty years ago. It was a small slip of a thing that looked as if it needed to be pitched rather than planted. My grandfather had dug it up from a wooded area in south-central Kentucky near the home where he was raised. Although it looked as if the journey to southern Ohio had pretty much done it in, once it was planted, it began to thrive. Drawing in nutrients from the soil as well as needed moisture, the tree put down roots, took in carbon dioxide and put out oxygen, and grew. It is now a stately, impressive tree that is something to behold, all because my grandfather took the time fifty years ago to plant it.

We should never forget this basic concept - before something can grow it first needs to be planted. Nothing will grow unless planting takes place. Christ refers to the act of planting on many occasions. Paul says about planting, "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow." We are to be involved in the act of planting the seed of the Gospel. That impressive cedar would not be there had my grandfather not taken the time to put it in the ground. God uses us to plant the seed of the Gospel and then he brings about the results. Get your planting tools working!

Pastor Steve

Tue Jan 13 07:36:00 2015

Because of physical limitations, there are many activities I used to enjoy in which I can no longer participate. Just this past week, my orthopedic surgeon looked at me and said, "You have to struggle just to walk, donít you?" Yes, that is indeed the case. Walking is one of those activities I used to enjoy daily. There are so many benefits to walking - weight control, stress control, walking just helps you feel better.

Although I am hindered in this physical activity, I can still participate in the important spiritual activity of walking with God. There are many benefits to walking with God - stress control, weight control, walking with God just helps you feel better. You may wonder "I can see the idea of feeling better but weight control? Stress control?" Walking with God helps you deal a great problem to the spiritual life - sin. Walking with God helps you rid the weight of sin. Stress control comes about because trusting in God helps you to obtain peace of mind and confidence of spirit.

Scripture speaks of two men who walked with God. "Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years." (Genesis 5:22) We read about Noah, "Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God." (Genesis 6:9) Both men are commended for their faith in Hebrews 11.

Walking with God means we don't run ahead of him or lag behind him. We stay with him regardless of what we encounter, knowing that he will lead us through any circumstance we face. There are many benefits to walking with God - start enjoying them today!

Pastor Steve

Mon Jan 12 07:56:31 2015

As a youngster, one of my favorite things to do was to skip stones on bodies of water. There was a creek near my grandparents' home where water would pool in a number of areas that made great places for this purpose. When I skipped stones, I had two goals: First, I wanted to get the rock all the way to the other side. Secondly, I wanted the ripples to spread out to all the land areas around the water. I would imagine that I was changing the shorelines with the ripples I created.

Although my efforts probably didn't have any effect on the shorelines in my youth, our lives do produce ripples that have an effect on us and on others. We always need to remember this as we make decisions and interact with others. Who we really are and who we are becoming show up in the choices we make.

Paul encouraged believers to make good choices. He wrote, "And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ," (Philippians 1:9-10) We will make ripples - make sure they are good ones.

Pastor Steve

Sun Jan 11 06:42:16 2015

You are probably familiar with the old expression "That's the pot calling the kettle black." This refers to a situation where one is accusing someone else of a questionable behavior while actually being involved in a questionable behavior as well. Mart DeHaan tells about a husband who accused his estranged wife of bigamy. He was correct in his accusation, but he was accused by the wife of being guilty of the same crime. This was indeed the case - both the wife and the husband were married to other people.

We need to be careful how we judge other people, especially when we do not take our own faults into account. In Matthew 7:1-5 we find Christ's warning about this: "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."

We need to avoid the temptation to find fault with others while all the time struggling with similar sinful activities. Christ shows mercy to us when we confess our sins, but he also will judge us when we focus on the sins of others without taking care of our bad behavior. Let's make sure we take care of our own lives and not be involved in the arrogant hypocrisy of finding fault in other's.

Pastor Steve

Sat Jan 10 08:05:51 2015

Have you ever experienced deja vu? This is a French term that is loosely translated "already seen." It refers to a phenomenon where an individual has a strong feeling that a current activity or experience feels oddly familiar - as if they had been where they are before, or have done what they are doing before. This is not just a matter of repeating a former activity, like playing the same song on the same piano, but actually playing the song on the same piano in just the exact way as the contemporary experience. These seem to be a little more prevalent at this time of year with all the "looking back - looking forward" emphases.

The Israelites might have experienced deja vu as they stood on the east side of the Jordan listening to Moses speak to them before they entered the land. He told them, "Observe therefore all the commands I am giving you today, so that you may have the strength to go in and take over the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, and so that you may live long in the land the Lord swore to your ancestors to give to them and their descendants." (Deuteronomy 11:8-11) Forty years earlier, their parents and grandparents stood on the verge of entering the land, but failed to do so, expressing concern about possessing the land because of the people who lived there. As a result, they were not allowed to enter the land. We read God's words in Numbers 14:23, "not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it." Now, they were called upon to not repeat their error and to go possess what God intended for them to possess. They had the same opportunity as did their ancestors - they had the opportunity through this repeat circumstance, this "deja vu" experience, to go a different direction.

You may never have a literal deja vu experience, but if you have a do-over of some past experience, use it to your advantage and don't repeat the mistakes of the past. Make sure you move forward and get things right!

Pastor Steve

Fri Jan 09 07:10:15 2015

John Mellencamp once wrote in a song, "Life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone." This seems to be an apt description for many people today. If you have a chance to visit an amusement park, you will see this illustrated. At the park, you will find scores of kids running around having a blast while many of the adults look as if they are at the worst place on earth. What is the situation? The kids are there to have a good time; the adults are simply there, they have the wrong focus.

We often struggle in life because we are looking at the wrong perspective of why we are here. We are here to enjoy Christ and develop a deep relationship with him. Through this are true joy and the abundant life that Christ said he came to bring to those who follow him. When we take our eyes off of this and focus on health issues, money issues, relationship issues, and so many other things, we are missing the point of life. Our life is not summed up by our experiences, our life is summed up by our experience in Christ. This is why Paul said his chief focus was Christ. We find his manifesto in Philippians 3:10, "I want to know Christ√Ę‚ā¨‚ÄĚyes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death." Having this focus helps to put life in proper perspective and allows us to enjoy the abundance of life spoken of by Christ in John 10.

We can enjoy life and should enjoy life. However, this comes about when we our focus is correct. Develop a desire to know Christ!

Pastor Steve

Thu Jan 8 08:07:53 2015

"The eyes are the window to your soul" is a quote found in a number of writings including those of Shakespeare and DaVinci. After the recent Sugar Bowl game, an article appeared that stated "Ezekiel Elliot's eyes on long run say it all for the Ohio State Buckeyes." This was in reference to his glance at the Jumbotron to see if anyone was behind him as he ran for a touchdown. The article spoke of his glance at the giant TV screen and the subsequent look of glee in his eyes as he realized no one was going to stop him from scoring.

Your eyes do tell a lot about your thoughts and your demeanor. You can infer a great deal about someone's attitude and emotions by watching their eyes. What do your eyes reveal about your spiritual position? Do they reflect joy and confidence about your relationship with God? Do they reveal trust in the Savior? Do they reveal a pure heart and committed mindset in your life; or if someone would study your spiritual eyes would they find deceit, apathy, and a lack of compassion?

Jesus said about the eyes, "The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!" (Matthew 6:22-23) Do your eyes reveal your inner light, or darkness? I hope your eyes are shining brightly!

Pastor Steve

Wed Jan 7 05:44:08 2015

Discouragement is often one of our greatest adversaries. Sometimes it is hard to stave off discouragement when we are facing setbacks because of our job, financial struggles, health problems, or other personal issues. In the midst of times that bring discouragement, we need to look for positive news. Christ said our journey would be hard at times. He tells us to continue to trust when we are discouraged. We should not be surprised by circumstances that bring discouragement and we should focus on that which can help us when we are discouraged - our relationship with Christ.

One of Job's "friends" said, "But now trouble comes to you, and you are discouraged; it strikes you, and you are dismayed. Should not your piety be your confidence and your blameless ways your hope?" (Job 4:5-6) When we struggle with discouragement, it is our place in God's plan that can be of great help. Reminding ourselves that we are still in God's eyes and still in his care can help us face and overcome those times when we feel discouraged. Remember you will have times when you will be discouraged, but remember also that you will never be absent from God's presence. This will give you a positive outlook in a time of struggle.

Another source of inspiration is realizing that we can be of help to others when they see us stand firm in the face of encouragement. Remembering that we can have a positive impact for God through our continued faithfulness especially in the face of discouragement is a means of overcoming our discouragement. Psalm 27:14 reminds us to "Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord." As the song says, "Be not dismayed what'er betide, God will take care of you." Indeed he will.

Pastor Steve

Tue Jan 6 07:53:31 2015

Do you have any New Year's traditions? In Scotland, people gather together as families and friends and then exchange gifts shortly after midnight. In Japan, people dress in new clothes and decorate their houses with pine branches and bamboo. In Greece, children leave their shoes by the doors and wait for St. Basil to fill them with gifts.

My family usually gathers at a home with extended family and friends. This year we were at the new home of my niece. We enjoy family, friends, food, football, and other fun. My personal tradition is to always eat a hot dog with slaw. This is not anything I do to keep in line with any tradition from years past that comes from other sources; it is something I do because my earliest memories of New Year's celebrations from my childhood include eating hot dogs with slaw.

The times, the seasons, the days, the months, and the years, including this year are in God's hand. Psalm 31:14-15 says, "But I trust in you, Lord; I say, 'You are my God.' My times are in your hands." We are in the hands of God, no matter what may come along. Last year at this time, we would never have imagined that the past year would bring. And that is as it should be. We need to trust in God and know that whatever may come, whatever happens in the coming year, we are in the hands of God. That is one tradition we need to make sure is part of not just our celebrations, but part of our entire life.

Pastor Steve

Mon Jan 5 07:45:37 2015

The month January is named after a god in the Roman pantheon named Janus. Janus was depicted as a being with two faces - one to look ahead, one to look back. Janus was the god of beginnings.

Looking ahead to new beginnings and new possibilities is a good thing. Being two-faced is not. Folks that speak one way and act another and cannot be trusted because you really don't know what "side" they represent are frustrating. James reflects the attitude of God about two-faced folks, "Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do." (James 1:8)

Now, we have no control over others who manifest this undesirable characteristic; however, we do have control over our own behavior. We must make every effort to present ourselves as someone who can be trusted and is not two-faced. We want others to know that we don't speak out of both sides of our mouth.

Proverbs 19:3 says, "Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool." One face is enough - don't try to keep up two at the same time. You donít want to look like Janus.

Pastor Steve

Sun Jan 4 07:38:05 2015

All of our lives we have had to be ready for something. As kids we prepare for meals by washing our hands, prepare for bed by brushing our teeth, and prepare for school by getting homework done and laying our clothes. As adults, we prepare for work, meetings, appointments, arrival of guests, and many other things. Scherry and I just returned from a visit with family in Ohio. Knowing this was approaching, we prepared to leave. Then, as the time for our visit to end was drawing closer, we prepared for our return. Much of our lives is spent preparing for something that is going to happen.

As followers of Christ, we need to spend time preparing for his return. John writes, "we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure." (I John 3:2-3) One of the most important things we can do as followers of Christ is to prepare for his coming. Doing so has a purifying effect on our lives as we concentrate on him and his provision and what our lives should reflect as we think of our relationship with him. As we think about the possibility of his return, let us examine our lives and prepare for this event. Preparing for coming events is part of our everyday lifestyle. Don't you think we should be preparing for what will be the most important event to ever take place? Prepare well!

Pastor Steve

Sat Jan 3 09:36:07 2015

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Fri Jan 2 09:12:15 2015

In the final scene of "The Lord of The Rings: The Return of the King," Frodo and his friends are gathered to watch Bilbo and Gandalf prepare to sail to a place that has been accorded to them by the elves, their "eternal home," so to speak. Then, just before the boat sails, Gandalf turns to Frodo and says, "It's time, Frodo." Frodo's hobbit friends learn that he, too, will be leaving for his final home. They are distressed by this, but realize it is what has to be. Frodo hands a leather-bound book to his closest friend, Samwise Gamgee; a book that was started by Frodo's uncle, Bilbo, and then continued by Frodo. Frodo says, "The last pages are for you, Sam." This begs the question: "What will you write and how well will you write, Sam?"

The same question may be posed of followers of Christ. We have been given pages to write - what will we write and how well will we write? There is always the need for times of evaluation in our lives, times when we take stock as to what we are doing and how well we are doing.

As we start a New Year, this would be a good time to do just this. We need to constantly remind ourselves that God has given us the task of continuing the work of Christ in the world. We need to take time to reflect and ask ourselves "How well am I doing?" Lamentations 3:40 encourages us to "Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord!" I Corinthians 11:28 & 32 says, "Let a person examine himself, then. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged." The last pages are for you - how well will you write?

Pastor Steve

Thu Jan 1 09:07:23 2015

Well, we are in a New Year now - 2015! Can you believe it has been 15 years since the time of "The Great Agitation" when a nervous world awaited the changing of the clock into a new millennium? We were all supposed to disappear or something like that. Obviously we didn't, and we are still here.

What about your resolutions this year? Did you make any? How about doing something different in the resolution department this year - why not let God make your resolutions for you? Why not seek his leadership and allow him to determine what you should be doing differently? I have often used a phrase that is not original with me, "If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans." Now, it isn't that we don't want to please God; it is just that we don't want him to double over in fits of uncontrollable laughter as we outline our intentions. What would please God the most is for us to say, "God, you know what is best for me, so I want you to choose for me that path I need to follow." Now, that may take God by surprise (not really as he already knows everything, but just go with me here), but it won't make him laugh.

We should let Proverbs 20:24 become a reality for us, "A person's steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand their own way?" We can't understand our own way, and that is why it is best to let God order our steps. If you want to make a make a really wise resolution this year, let God make your resolution for you.

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