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Here at the FBC our desire is to delight God by developing a church full of people whose integrity is beyond question, whose faith is beyond reason, and whose compassion is beyond compare. So come on in, look around, and explore the world of Newton FBC. We sincerely hope you enjoy your visit!

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

Sun Apr 20 05:00:41 2014

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Sat Apr 19 08:33:12 2014

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Fri Apr 18 07:15:35 2014

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Thu Apr 17 06:54:20 2014

Today is Thursday, Maundy Thursday, as we sometimes call it. The term "maundy" comes from the Latin word "mandatum" which means "command." This is a day when we reflect on Christ's final commands.

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

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

Pastor Steve

Wed Apr 16 07:16:24 2014

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Tue Apr 15 07:26:01 2014

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Mon Apr 14 07:30:23 2014

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

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

Pastor Steve

Sun Apr 13 06:12:37 2014

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Sat Apr 12 10:56:42 2014

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Fri Apr 11 07:27:58 2014

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

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

Pastor Steve

Thu Apr 10 07:28:33 2014

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Wed Apr 9 07:34:39 2014

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Tue Apr 8 07:23:35 2014

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

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

Pastor Steve

Mon Apr 7 07:39:10 2014

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Sun Apr 6 06:12:08 2014

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Sat Apr 5 08:37:51 2014

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Fri Apr 4 07:18:58 2014

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

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

Pastor Steve

Thu Apr 3 07:37:58 2014

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Wed Apr 2 07:08:53 2014

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

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

Pastor Steve

Tue Apr 1 07:34:15 2014

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

There is one who deceives that we know does not operate all in fun. With apologies and acknowledgement of Hal Lindsay, Satan is alive and well and living on planet earth. He loves to deceive, and he doesn't wait for April Fool's Day to ply his trickery. He does not play nice either. He seeks to deceive, delude, and destroy. Jesus had this to say about him, "He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies." (John 8:44)

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

Pastor Steve

Mon Mar 31 07:51:00 2014

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Sun Mar 30 06:21:22 2014

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

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

Pastor Steve

Sat Mar 29 08:40:24 2014

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Fri Mar 28 06:33:26 2014

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

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

Pastor Steve

Thu Mar 27 06:24:49 2014

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Wed Mar 26 06:50:01 2014

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Tue Mar 25 07:20:03 2014

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Mon Mar 24 07:33:22 2014

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Sun Mar 23 02:28:07 2014

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

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

Pastor Steve

Sat Mar 22 08:47:50 2014

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

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

Pastor Steve

Fri Mar 21 07:32:30 2014

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Thu Mar 20 07:16:44 2014

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

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

Pastor Steve

Wed Mar 19 07:26:37 2014

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Tue Mar 18 07:14:42 2014

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Mon Mar 17 07:44:27 2014

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

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

Pastor Steve

Sun Mar 16 06:11:49 2014

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Sat Mar 15 11:30:30 2014

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Fri Mar 14 06:25:29 2014

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Thu Mar 13 07:45:39 2014

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Wed Mar 12 07:51:58 2014

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Tue Mar 11 07:52:23 2014

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Mon Mar 10 07:35:26 2014

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

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

Pastor Steve

Sun Mar 9 07:18:51 2014

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Sat Mar 8 07:18:51 2014

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

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

Pastor Steve

Fri Mar 7 07:18:51 2014

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Thu Mar 6 07:18:51 2014

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

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

Pastor Steve

Wed Mar 5 07:18:51 2014

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Tue Mar 4 07:28:31 2014

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Mon Mar 3 07:27:51 2014

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

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

Pastor Steve

Sun Mar 2 05:54:06 2014

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Sat Mar 1 07:43:20 2014

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Fri Feb 28 07:00:47 2014

On my bucket list is a visit to Mt. Rushmore. I have been fascinated with that piece of artistic and engineering expertise since I was a little boy. The likenesses of four of our greatest presidents - Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt - secure the Black Hills and project an image of solidarity and strength. These 60-foot high images remind us of our heritage and also of the sacrifice often needed to preserve worth ideals.

God wants us to remember our heritage and remember the sacrifice needed to provide security for us. In Joshua 4, we read the story of the crossing of the Jordan by the Israelite people. After the crossing, God instructed the people to set up a monument of stones as a reminder to them and to future generations of his faithfulness and provision. He said, "when your children ask you, 'What do these stones mean?' tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever."

God wants us to remember. He wants us to rehearse what he has done for us so that we will never forget the great things he has done for us. Now, this is not because he wants to say to us, "Do you see how much you owe me?" as it is "Do you see how much I love you?" As we think of what he has done, we are reminded of what he will do. Put up some stones!

Pastor Steve

Fri Feb 28 06:59:45 2014

On my bucket list is a visit to Mt. Rushmore. I have been fascinated with that piece of artistic an engineering expertise since I was a little boy. The likenesses of four of our greatest presidents - Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt - secure the Black Hills and project an image of solidarity and strength. These 60-foot high images remind us of our heritage and also of the sacrifice often needed to preserve worth ideals.

God wants us to remember our heritage and remember the sacrifice needed to provide security for us. In Joshua 4, we read the story of the crossing of the Jordan by the Israelite people. After the crossing, God instructed the people to set up a monument of stones as a reminder to them and to future generations of his faithfulness and provision. He said, "when your children ask you, 'What do these stones mean?' tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever."

God wants us to remember. He wants us to rehearse what he has done for us so that we will never forget the great things he has done for us. Now, this is not because he wants to say to us, "Do you see how much you owe me?" as it is "Do you see how much I love you?" As we think of what he has done, we are reminded of what he will do. Put up some stones!

Pastor Steve

Thu Feb 27 06:49:39 2014

Joseph Turner was a well-known 19th century British artist. He became known as "the painter of light", because of his increasing interest in brilliant colors as the main constituent in his landscapes and seascapes. A lady once asked him, "Why do you put such extravagant colors in your pictures? I don't see anything like them in nature." Turner responded, "Don't you wish you did, Madam?"

We who have been changed by the Spirit of God are able to see things about life and about our Lord that those who have not been changed cannot. Paul writes, "these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person's thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us." (I Corinthians 2:10-12)

Spiritual insight is only possible with those who have spiritual eyesight. One who has entrusted his life to Christ has received the ability to see and perceive the things of the Spirit. We are able to see those extravagant colors. If you can't see the colors, you need the help of the Spirit that is yours when you put your life into the hands of Christ. Improve your vision - trust Christ!

Pastor Steve

Wed Feb 26 07:30:40 2014

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

Tue Feb 25 07:02:00 2014

February 25, 2014

I was trying to think of an idea for an article for today and my wife reminded me of the new Casting Crowns CD that I bought last week. I hadn't paid much attention to it and haven't had a chance to listen to it yet, but I imagine I will enjoy it a great deal as I enjoy Casting Crowns. She pointed out to me the significance of the cover art. The picture shows the root system of the tree as well as the above-ground portion that we normally see. When you view a magnificent tree, you need to remember that what you don't see is just as important as what you do see.

The root system of a tree performs many vital functions. In winter, it is a store-house for essential food reserves needed by the tree to produce spring foliage. Roots absorb and transport water and minerals from the soil to the rest of the tree. Roots also anchor the portion of the tree above ground. It is important to keep the portion above ground healthy to ensure an adequate food supply for the roots to continue their important functions. There is an interdependency of form, function, and appearance. The above-ground portion of the tree can only be as strong, resilient, and beautiful as the underground portion.

Too often, we forget about this interdependency in our lives. We forget that our outward appearance can only be as significant and beautiful as what we are on the inside. Psalm 1 points this out, "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. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither--whatever they do prospers." (1-3) Make sure to develop your roots. If you don't, the rest of you will suffer.

Pastor Steve

Mon Feb 24 07:23:55 2014

Well, the Olympics have come to an end. All the events are over and the Closing Ceremony was held yesterday. We will now wait another four years for the next Winter Olympic spectacle. The United States has done fairly well, but not as well as we did in 2010 at Vancouver. There we led the medal count with 37 medals. This year we were second to Russia and won 28 medals. We did not gain a medal in men's Ice Hockey nor did we win any medals in speekskating, the first time we have been shut out in that event since 1984. That is the way things are sometimes.

The athletes have trained hard for their competitions, and now will wait for other competitions in the future. Train is the operative word here. Every person who participated in these games trained for their respective competition. One would be foolish to think that you could enter an Olympic contest and do well without any training. To compete well, you need to train.

Most of us understand this, yet fail to realize that training is a necessary exercise when it comes to our spiritual development as well. John Ortburg of Willow Creek Church gives a definition of training - "Training is arranging my life around an activity or activities that enable me eventually to do what I cannot do right now by direct effort." We know it is unrealistic to think we could enter an Olympic competition without training and do well. We should realize that without training, we will not do well in our spiritual lives either... So, we need to arrange our lives around activities that will enable us to do what we need to do spiritually. Ortburg gives the example of using solitude, silence, and intentionally doing things more slowly, like driving in the slow lane of traffic, to help us develop patience. We can extend this spiritual exercise to other areas of our lives to help us to grow and thrive spiritually.

The apostle Paul speaks of the importance of training in I Corinthians 9:24-27, "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. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." To run well, one must train. To live well, one must train. Take the time to arrange things to train the way you should. Your life will be enhanced and God will be honored.

Pastor Steve

Sun Feb 23 07:18:20 2014

Following God has never been easy, and God does not intend for it to be. We tend to forget this at times and get a little side-tracked as we deal with issues and circumstances that come our way. When things are too easy, we tend to be ungrateful. When things are too easy, we tend to lose sight of our dependence upon God. When things are too easy, we tend to not give God the recognition due him. We need to learn that we don't live on bread alone, but on what God provides for us.

God reminds the Israelites of all the benefits they have received by following him. Then he issues this warning, "Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt." (8:11-14) The testing and the trials that they experienced along their way were there to remind them of the benefits they had received and will continue to receive by being obedient to God.

Keep this in mind the next time you face an event that causes you a little tension, or even a little pain. That event can help you grow. Along with the sunshine, we still need the rain.

Pastor Steve

Sat Feb 22 07:18:20 2014

Leadership Today writes: "Great men and women of faith are people of prayer. Prayer deepens our connection with our Heavenly Father, and leads to spiritual power and action. In prayer we seek God, worship Him, humble ourselves before Him, and receive His wisdom. As we spend time with Him, our lives increasingly reflect Him to those around us."

Great men and women of faith devote a great deal of time to prayer. They understood that they could not hope to accomplish all that needs to be accomplished without spending time in prayer. We see examples in the Scripture and examples in history of God's servants spending time with God in prayer. David was a man of prayer. Many of his prayers are seen in the psalms he wrote. Daniel was a man of prayer. Even in the face of the threat of death, Daniel still continued his custom of praying three times a day. We read in Daniel 6:10, "Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before." Jesus himself spent time in prayer regularly.

The history of the Church is filled with examples of people who understood time spent in prayer was time well spent. John Wesley rose at 4 a.m. each morning so that he might spend at least two hours in prayer before the day would start.

How is your life being shaped by time with God? We have many biblical and historical examples of people whose lives made a difference and there is an important common denominator - they understood the importance of prayer. Do you?

Pastor Steve

Fri Feb 21 07:18:20 2014

My wife and I were preparing to return home after a visit with our oldest daughter and her family. A quick check of the weather made us realize that we were not going to take our usual route home. Going that way would bring us face to face with some rather intimidating weather conditions in the form of snow and ice. So, in this situation, the direct route was definitely not the best route. We weren't too happy that we were not going to be able to go the quickest and most direct route, but we had no choice. As we were taking the "route less traveled," we made a few neat discoveries. This route, though slower, was scenic and very interesting. It certainly proved to be a safer route as we heard of a great deal of problems along the way we usually travel. Had we gone that way, we would have been delayed an even greater amount of time than we spent going the alternate route.

We often find this to be the case in our lives. We have a path we wish to follow but some sort of circumstance arises and we have to go a different direction. When this takes place, we are a little frustrated and irritated. However, spend a little time reflecting on what is taking place when your route is changed and your plans are altered. There may be things you see and lessons you learn that would not have taken place had you gone the way your intended.

The most direct route may not be the best route. The most enticing route may not be the right path. There may be lessons to learn and situations to experience on the detours that would not have been available on the usual path. Proverbs encourages us make sure we are following the right path. We read in 23:19, "Listen, my son, and be wise, and set your heart on the right path." Make sure you are on the path that is right, not the path that you want.

Pastor Steve

Thu Feb 20 07:47:32 2014

The groans of a dying man kept him awake as he tried to sleep in an inn in New York. Although raised in the home of a Congregational minister, he was hardened to the plight of the man because of the skepticism he had adopted while in school at Brown University under the influence of a fellow student, Jacob Eames. The next morning he learned that the man who had kept him up had died. When he asked his identity, he was stunned to learn that the man was none other than his mentor, Jacob Eames.

This experience produced a revival within Adoniram Judson and caused him to return to the faith he had espoused during his younger years. On February 12, 1812, he, his wife Ann, and a few others departed New England bound for India, the first foreign missionaries from the fledgling United States. Their stay in India was brief as the British East India Company forced them to leave. They arrived in Burma (today known as Myanmar) in 1814 and began a ministry whose impact is still felt 200 years later. They endured incredible hardships, disease, loss of children, and imprisonment yet persevered to produce a Burmese translation of the Scriptures and plant many churches.

Judson's story is one that should be known by every contemporary follower of Christ as it is a story of faithfulness and reliance on God's strength. By his death there were 63 churches, 120 ministers and over 7,000 believers in Burma. The churches in Myanmar celebrate "Judson Day" each July as there still is a thriving Christian community in a land currently marked by turmoil and the ever encroaching specter of Islam.

Romans 5:3-5 are verses that describe the life of Judson, "Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." May we be found faithful as we continue to serve Him.

Pastor Steve

Wed Feb 19 07:19:55 2014

"Oh, good night, I can't believe I forgot that," I said to myself after returning home and realizing I had left an important article in my office. What made this worse is that I had just finished congratulating myself on getting everything done on my list before we left town on a short trip to my oldest daughter's. Now, I would have to go back and retrieve the forgotten item before we could leave. I made the short journey back to the church from my house, all the while yelling at myself because of my inefficiency. Upon arrival at my office, I discovered another item I had forgotten, and actually more critical that the original article. In addition, I also found a document I had been looking for for two weeks. Don't ask me how that happened. I shuffled some papers on the desk, and there it was! So, my little faux pas had a silver lining!

That is often how it is with our mistakes. We find that our errors can bring positive results. Now, I am certainly not advocating that we intentionally do something erroneously to try to cause a good thing, but when we do make mistakes, look for the positive.

There are many examples in the scripture where God uses people in spite of their shortcomings and their mistakes. Peter denied the Lord, just as Christ as predicted, but the result was, to put things candidly, a "better Peter." Through the denial he learned to be more reliant upon the Lord and this led to great effectiveness in his ministry after the departure of Christ. Christ confronted and encouraged him after the denial. We read their encounter in John 21, "Jesus said to Simon Peter, 'Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?' 'Yes, Lord,' he said, 'you know that I love you.' Jesus said, 'Feed my lambs.'" (vs. 15)

Our mistakes can lead to a "better us" and even greater opportunities to do good when we deal with our error and put the results in the hands of God.

Pastor Steve

Tue Feb 18 07:29:17 2014

So, how is your investment portfolio looking these days? There are so many commercials from investment firms telling you why you need to use them and follow their advice. I always enjoyed the one where an older person talks to a younger version of himself and advises him to stay on the path he is following and all would be well. There are many others – one company shows a green line appearing before a couple and follows their financial success as they follow the course laid out for them.

We normally spend a great deal of time looking at investment strategies and opportunities to make sure that our "future" is secure. A great deal of emphasis is placed on making sure we are making sound investments and putting our money in the right place. We should be careful with our money and be good stewards of what God has given us.; however, we also need to remember the importance of making sound spiritual decisions and spiritual investments as these are the ones that will truly last.

Jesus told his followers, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-21) We should be wise with our money and take care of how we invest; however, of greater importance is how we handle our spiritual investments. What we place in a bank stays in the bank when we leave this world. What we give to God will be there for eternity.

Pastor Steve

Mon Feb 17 08:07:31 2014

For many years, Washington's Birthday has been observed on the third Monday in February. Usually It is close to his actual birthday, February 22, but this year is a little removed. We use the popular term "President's Day" when referring to this holiday. Some have included Lincoln in this observance as opposed to having two celebrations. One can only have so many holidays, of course.

Do you have any big plans for observing President's Day? Most likely you don’t. It comes at a time of year that cookouts are not really an option, even for those of you in the South this year. Stores have big sales, of course, to lure those folks who are on holiday out to spend some of that hard-earned money, sort of balancing out those who get a paid holiday today.

On a more serious note, have you ever wondered how different our country might have been had it not been for our first president? What if someone else had been president? There are times in the history of our country when it seemed as if only one person could have been in that seat. Lincoln, of course, comes to mind, perhaps FDR. Washington certainly is in that category. It really is hard to imagine anyone else as our first president. Yes, I know, there were other capable individuals, and perhaps I am over-romanticizing his position, but Washington was indeed the right person at the right time.

Among other great qualities, Washington was a man of prayer. Here are the words of his inaugural prayer: "Almighty God; We make our earnest prayer that Thou wilt keep the United States in Thy holy protection; that Thou wilt incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government; and entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another and for their fellow citizens of the United States at large. And finally that Thou wilt most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without a humble imitation of whose example in these things we can never hope to be a happy nation. Grant our supplication, we beseech Thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

Washington also encouraged others to pray. He seemed to be a believer in James 5:16, "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." Certainly, others may have stood where he stood, but as we look back at history, we can affirm that they could not have stood any better.

Pastor Steve

Sun Feb 16 08:30:11 2014

I have always found the migratory habits of birds, fish, insects, and other creatures one of the most fascinating aspects of God's Creation. I was working in my office the other day and heard the unmistakable cries of geese as they were flying in their familiar migratory pattern on their way back to their northern domicile. I walked outside, looked up, and there must have been over a hundred geese flying in "V" formations, all heading north. 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

Sun Feb 16 08:02:11 2014

I have always found the migratory habits of birds, fish, insects, and other creatures one of the most fascinating aspects of God's Creation. I was working in my office the other day and heard the unmistakable cries of geese as they were flying in their familiar migratory pattern on their way back to their northern domicile. I walked outside, looked up, and there must have been over a hundred geese flying in "V" formations, all heading north. 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 15 08:36:42 2014

You do this 18 times a minute, 1080 times an hour, 25,920 times a day, without giving it hardly any thought at all. It doesn't take too much of a stretch to figure out that I am talking about breathing. By the time you are 40 years of age, you have already taken 378 million breaths. As I said earlier, we don't give breathing much thought, unless you have a condition that affects your breathing. When you do, you realize how precious those breaths really are.

In reality, we all need to look at these breaths as gifts from God. When you do so, you develop a new perspective on God's provision and his blessing. Stop for a few moments every now and then and simply concentrate on your breathing. This is a little exercise that helps you appreciate God's provision for you. Try this sometime - it really is an enlightening experience. As you focus on your breathing, you think about how necessary it is to be able to breath. You can't live without being able to breathe, God is the one who gives your breath, so thinking about your breathing helps you think about your dependence on God. Job 12:10 tells us, "In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind."

What should be our response to this knowledge? Well, we can turn to scripture for the answer to this. The very last verse of the very last Psalm says, "Let everything that has breath praise the Lord (Psalm 150:6)." God gives us life so we can give him praise. We should give him praise because he gives us life, and he wants us to give us eternal life so we can live with him forever. Knowing this about God should help us breathe easier! Thinking about God's gifts should cultivate a desire to praise him.

Pastor Steve

Fri Feb 14 06:51:47 2014

Chinese New Year and Valentine's Day are usually fairly close to each other. Sometimes they even occur on the same day. The last time this happened was in 2010. This year they are fairly far apart as Chinese New Year was January 31. They also have something else in common. On Chinese New Year, just as on Valentine's Day, it is customary to present gifts to loved ones. Typically on Chinese New Year hong bao (red packets filled with money) are given. These gifts are symbolic of the love one person feels for another, just as a Valentine expresses affection and, in many cases, love. It is another bit of irony that the color red is associated with both observances.

God demonstrated his great love for us through the presentation of a gift and, interesting enough, the color red is associated with his gift as well. Romans 5:8 tells us, "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." No other demonstration of love was ever so eloquent, powerful, or necessary. Christ comments in this great love, "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends." (John 15:13)

Those of us who have been recipients of this great love should not be silent about it, but should show our love to other followers of Christ in our lives. Christ tells us, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:34) Our love for others needs to be evident in how we treat them and what we say. Our love to those who do not know Christ needs to be evident in how we live before them and our presenting to them the good news of Christ's love and what accepting that love means. .

Let your love for others be evident. Express your love to others unselfishly and liberally. When we do this, we show what we have in common with Christ.

Pastor Steve

Thu Feb 13 07:41:26 2014

This winter has started wearing everyone down. The prolonged period of cold temperatures, snow, and "gray days" are taking a toll on us. Gray days are not unusual for this time of year. Some forecasters call the number of gray days a region can expect during the winter season "the gloom index." Some folks even experience seasonal affective disorder because of the gloomy days.

There are other factors which might cause a "gloom index." Consider the experiences of Paul and Silas in Philippi. You can read about this in Acts 16. They were roughed up when they healed a girl of a spirit that allowed her to see the future (vss.16-19); they were hauled before a court (vs. 20-21); they were stripped and beaten (vs. 22); they were thrown into prison and had their feet put in stocks (vss. 23-24). Any of these experiences could cause a significant "gloom index." However, Paul and Silas didn't let these things put them "under the weather." After all of this, they sang! Verse 25 tells us, "About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them." They were able to rise above their circumstances and change their environment. They were able to do this because when the times were gloomy, they looked at the sunshine beyond the gloom. They knew that the clouds covering the sun were only temporary - the sun was stll there, and it would indeed reappear. And their actions had an effect on others who were in jail with them.

We can rise above our circumstances and overcome the gloom by remembering the presence of the Son. He is still there for us even though his presence may be obscured by the clouds of our circumstances. Rely on his presence, focus on his provision, remember his promise, "Never will I will leave you, never will I forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5). Doing this will help you overcome "the gloom index."

Pastor Steve

Wed Feb 12 07:15:48 2014

I imagine you have heard the expression "he (or she) got the short end of the stick." We usually use this saying to describe a situation where one individual receives the less desirable of two options. Fred Bauer tells a story that puts an interesting spin on this phrase.

There was a farmer who had a large basket of grain he wanted to take to market. However, the basket was too heavy for him to carry. He enlisted the help of his young son, but the boy was not big enough to help him carry the basket. So, the farmer cut a long stick and placed it through the handles of the basket. He positioned the stick so that the basket would be closer to one end of the stick. This allowed more of the burden to be shifted to that end. The farmer then picked up the shorter, heavier end of the stick and his son picked up the longer, lighter end. They positioned the stick on their shoulders and easily carried the basket to market. The father got the "short end of the stick," but he did so intentionally so that the task could be accomplished.

So it is with our Lord. He intentionally takes the "short end of the stick" to help us with our burdens. We do not walk alone when we have to shoulder heavy circumstances and events in our lives. Our Lord walks with us, and he will take the heavy part of the load in order to help us cope with the struggle. He is always there to help us accomplish jobs beyond our means and to lighten our wearisome assignments. In Matthew 11:28-30, we read the invitation of Christ: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Jesus will always take the short end of the stick.

Pastor Steve

Tue Feb 11 07:07:47 2014

A man who flew his small plane into busy Toronto International Airport on a regular basis was asked if he ever encountered problems taking off and landing his plane at an airport dominated by big jets. The pilot said, "When I am taking off and landing I have the same rights and privileges as any other aircraft, event the big jumbo jets." He did not experience any negative situations because preferential treatment was given to another aircraft.

The same can be said about us when we come to the Father in prayer. We will never experience any negative situation in our encounters with God and God does not afford preferential treatment of one follower over another. He listens and responds to all of his children on an equal basis. In a world where we see preferential treatment being given to many in a variety of circumstances, it is good to know we don't have to fear when it comes to our position with God. With God, we are all flying "first class" when it comes to his willingness to hear us and respond to our prayer.

Psalm 145:18 tells us, "The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth." James 4:8 gives us this promise, "Come near to God and he will come near to you." We take a back seat to no one when it comes to God's willingness to hear us when we call upon him.

Pastor Steve

Mon Feb 10 09:52:10 2014

I would imagine you have heard the saying, "A chain is only as strong as its weakest link." An interesting historical illustration of this involves the Great Wall of China. The massive wall stretched for 1,500 miles. It was 12 to 40 feet wide and 20 to 50 feet high. The wall was too high for the enemy to scale, too thick to tear down, and too long to go around. It was built, repaired, and rebuilt over many years. The intent was to protect the population of China from barbaric invaders. Yet, during the first 100 years after its completion, China was invaded three times. How? The invading armies bribed a gatekeeper and simply marched right in.

The strength of a church depends upon the strength of the people who make up the church. We need to remember this, and realize our responsibility as part of a larger body to do all we can to keep from being the "weak link" in a church body. Weak links manifest in many ways - creating strife, acting out in ways that hurt the testimony of the church, failing to keep commitments to serve. These are all ways one can be a "weak link."

Do all you can to grow in God's grace. Remember as part of the church of Christ, you can either make postive contributions that enhance the church, or negative contributions that hurt the church. Don't be the gatekeeper who accepts bribes. The results are not pleasant. Ephesians 6:10 encourages us to "be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might." No weak links!

Pastor Steve

Sun Feb 9 06:03:35 2014

I have always been fascinated with the story of Jonah. Jonah is a man who becomes frustrated with the grace of God. Thinking that the residents of evil Ninevah deserved judgment, he becomes angry when God relents in his punishment of Ninevah when the residents repent. Jonah preached a message calling for repentance, and his message was received and believed. Most preachers would be ecstatic with this result, but Jonah could not wrap his head around God's response. He said, "Isn't this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity." (Jonah 4:2) Why be unhappy about this? That is a good question, but Jonah certainly was an unhappy prophet.

We need to be careful about having this type of feeling towards those who have done wrong towards us or hurt us in some way. Our usual desire is to see justice done and others "get theirs" after they have hurt us in some way. However, when people repent, God responds in grace. We should be happy with this because we are all in need of God's grace. The words of Jonah are so true, that God is "gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love." Give thanks for this, and keep this in mind when you struggle with someone who has caused you pain.

Pastor Steve

Sat Feb 8 10:27:13 2014

Every January health club and gym memberships increase dramatically. The clubs and gyms fill up with "resolutioners" trying to fulfill their New Year's promise to lose weight. After a great start, attendance and participation drops off dramatically. This is attributed to the folks finding out that the extra pounds don't just come off because they spent some money on a gym membership. This requires hard work, discipline, and a fair amount of time. When these factors reveal their presence, the effort to fulfill the resolution goes by the wayside.

This is often true in our spiritual lives. Committing one's life to Christ is a decision based on what Christ has done for us. Showing our true commitment in our life in Christ requires hard work, discipline, and time. To be clear, our eternal life is based not on works but on our decision to trust the finished work of Christ; however, true discipleship means a willingness on our part to expend some effort to grow in Christ. We live in a culture that loves speed and efficiency. In our life in Christ, we want efficiency but the desire for speed needs to be eliminated.

There are many things that still require time, and becoming a true disciple means a willingness to spend time with Christ. Paul tells the Philippians to "work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose." (2:12-13) Our Father is completely committed to us; are we completely committed to him?

Pastor Steve

Fri Feb 7 07:41:10 2014

Last December the population of Ft. Worth, Texas, was outraged when a 16-year-old boy was sentenced to 10 years of probation and a stint in an expensive rehab center in California after being found guilty of vehicular manslaughter. They believed the sentence to be too light. In June of 1013, Ethan Crouch was driving his father's pick-up truck with a blood-alcohol level of .025, three times the legal limit for intoxication in Texas. He plowed into two vehicles that were pulled off the road because of car problems. Four people were killed and 9 were injured, including one young man who is paralyzed from the waist down. This was not Crouch's first violation of the law. When he was 15 he was pulled over while driving with a 14-year-old female passenger that was unclothed. There were at least eight other incidents, but each time Crouch was "let go", primarily due to the intervention of his wealthy father.

In the case cited above, Dr. G. Dick Miller, a psychologist testifying for the defense, said Ethan suffered from "affluenza," having been brought up by parents who allowed "freedoms no young person should have." Ethan's parents thought wealth meant privilege and a freedom from consequences. This seems to be a growing trend in our society, and not just among the wealthy. Many people come to a point where they separate consequences from actions, and they pass this thinking on to their children. They intervene whenever their children are in danger of facing a consequence brought on by a bad behavior to keep them from having to face the consequence. The situation cited above is an extreme example of this, but unfortunately not all that uncommon.

Proverbs 5:23 warns of the result of this attitude, "For lack of discipline they will die, led astray by their own great folly." We should not adopt this thinking for ourselves, and we certainly should not pass it along to our children. Whether you call it "affluenza" or just plain sin, it is still wrong.

Pastor Steve

Thu Feb 6 07:48:45 2014

This week Judy Lynn Hayman, aka Jamie Lewis, was captured by authorities 37 years after escaping from a prison in Michigan. Originally convicted and incarcerated in 1977 of attempted larceny, Hayman now faces new charges and will likely be placed in jail for a longer period that she would have originally served. Acting on information from the Michigan Department of Corrections, authorities in San Diego made the arrest at the apartment where Hayman was living. She had government credentials identifying her as Jamie Lewis, but the authorities who confronted her saw the resemblance to an old mug shot and arrested her.

Joe Louis said, "You can run but you can't hide." This can refer to a number of scenarios, and is certainly applicable to the story of Judy Lynn Hayman. It also applies when it comes to trying to conceal sin. We may be able to fool others, but the story of Judy Lynn Hayman shows how this is not a sure thing. And we need to remember that we can never fool God.

Moses warned the Israelites, "But if you fail to do this, you will be sinning against the Lord; and you may be sure that your sin will find you out." (Deuteronomy 32:23) There is no use trying to hide from God. If there is something in your life that needs to be changed, don't think you are fooling him for a moment. And you may not be fooling others whom you think you are fooling. Confess your sin and live to please God. Remember, you can run but you can't hide.

Pastor Steve

Wed Feb 5 08:29:07 2014

Recently a man bought some old albums at an estate sale for a couple of dollars. When he got them home, he received quite a surprise. As he was looking through the albums, an old passport dropped out of one of the album sleeves. The passport was from 1964 and it belonged to R&B legend Marvin Gaye. Gaye was known for such songs as "What's Goin' On" and "I Heard It Through the Grapevine."

This past Monday, the man went on the PBS show "Antiques Roadshow" and was told the passport was worth $20,000. Of course, it is worthless to Gaye as he has been dead since 1984 when he was shot by his father. When he was alive, the passport allowed him to travel freely and gain admission in other countries in the world. His death made the need of the passport null. When he died, he would need another passport to allow him to gain entrance into the heavenly country that God has prepared for those who place their faith in his Son.

Hebrews 12:14-16 speaks of that country: "People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country--a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them."

I cannot comment on Mr. Gaye's entrance into the heavenly country, but I can say for sure that those who trust in the Lord have the necessary passport that will allow them access to God's heavenly country. Do you have that passport? If you do, do you know others who need to hear of this passport? When we have received assurance through faith of our heavenly destination, we get our passport, and we certainly know "What's Goin' On."

Pastor Steve

Tue Feb 4 07:09:48 2014

We use the term "acid test" to refer to any sort of measure that is used to validate a statement, a person, or any entity. This phrase is derived from the practice of using nitric acid by gold assayers to determine whether the nuggets prospectors brought in were genuine. In the use of the acid, real gold would not be affected while other substances would crumble and melt.

I Peter 1:7.tells us that God is very interested in helping to prove our faith: "These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith - of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire - may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." We often are faced with an "acid test" - circumstances that try us for the purpose of strengthening our faith and proving our character. Someone once said that God is concerned about our character more than our comfort. We need to remember that God is not an arsonist but a refiner. He is not cruel and capricious, but he does want us to grow in our dependence and belief in him and his provision so he allows times of testing in our lives to develop our faith. If you are undergoing a time of testing, continue to focus on God and remember that this "acid test" is meant to purify you and prove your faith.

Pastor Steve

Mon Feb 3 07:17:16 2014

I have developed an enjoyment of watching "Downton Abbey" on PBS. Among other plot lines, there is a delicious on-going "friendly feud" between Lady Violet, a character played by Maggie Smith, and Isobel Crawley, played by Penelope Wilton. On last night's episode, the two were trading verbal barbs in a well-mannered tiff regarding a young gardener that Lady Violet had accused of stealing a valuable letter knife. Evidence came forth that showed the gardener may not have taken the knife, but this did not change Lady Violet's position concerning the young man. Isobel said to her, "You just cannot accept being wrong, can you?" Lady Violet replied, "That is a sensation with which I am not familiar." Isn't that a great way to say, "I'm never wrong?"

Many of us have difficulty admitting we are wrong. We just simply do not want to show others that we have made a mistake. This can be a mistake in and of itself. When our pride gets in the way of admitting our failure and taking responsibility, at the very least we damage our reputation. In many cases, there may be repercussions for others. The ability to admit error and to correct one's mistakes reveals a great deal about one's character, and makes you easier to live with.

II Samuel 10 relates a story about a person who would not admit his error. Hanun, ruler of the Ammonites, humiliated a delegation of men sent by King David to encourage Hanun on the death of Hanun's father. Hanun misunderstood their intent. He compounded his error when he mustered his troops to fight with David rather than admit his error. He hired the Arameans to help with the battle. The consequence was thousands were killed, Hanun was humiliated, and he lost some valuable allies in the Israelites and the Arameans. II Samuel 10:19 says, "So the Arameans were afraid to help the Ammonites anymore." This was the result of not being willing to own up to a mistake.

Don't make this mistake about making mistakes. When you make an error, be willing to admit your mistake and then do something about it.

Pastor Steve

Sun Feb 2 06:16:58 2014

As most of you know today is Groundhog Day. I am writing this a little too early to know if the groundhog will see his shadow or not. As you know, if he does then we will have six more weeks of winter. Doesn't that excite you? Wouldn't you just love to have six more weeks of the winter like we have been having this year? Well, anyway, this little ceremony that is based on an observation of nature is rather interesting. When February 2 gets here, we know we will be getting warmer fairly soon. So, if Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow or not, we will look forward to a weather break.

We do know that there are some signs that indicate a weather change is on the way. We call these little clues harbingers. They are a means of predicting what should be taking place in the future, typically the near future. Christ spoke of harbingers on a few occasions. In Luke 21:29-31 we read, "Look at the fig tree and all the trees. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near." There are indicators around that God's plan is moving forward towards God's designed end. We need to heed these signs and make sure we are living for him in the way we should, and do what we can to encourage others to follow the truth. Yes, soon winter will be over and give way to spring. So it will be with the plan of God. Don't ignore the signs!

Pastor Steve

Sat Feb 1 07:18:09 2014

Michael Hutcher is a Virginia state champion wrestler who lost a wrestling tournament because of pizza. Hutcher wolfed down two pieces of pizza after winning a match at a meet. Usually wrestlers are pretty hungry after a competition. They don't eat before a match as it could cause them to be sick during the strenuous workout. In addition, often they have eaten only sparingly in the time leading up to the match in order to make weight. The problem with Hutcher eating when he did was that he was not finished wrestling. Unknown to him, he still had another match. Eating the pizza caused him to have indigestion during his final match and he lost for just the fifth time in his career. Two little pieces of pizza brought about his loss.

Hebrews reminds us that it only takes a little bit of sin to cause a lot of problems. Hebrews 12:1 tells us, "let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us." When we allow sin in, even what we think are "little sins", we become encumbered and unable to live for God as we should. It really doesn't take much, so we must be vigilant. Hutcher would never have eaten that pizza if he knew the consequences. We know the consequences when we fail. Be vigilant and avoid behavior that would keep us from victory!

Pastor Steve

Fri Jan 31 07:06:48 2014

John B. Watson (1878-1958) has been called the "Father of Behaviorism." He published a book entitled "Behaviorism" in 1930. This created quite a stir among academics. In this work he wrote, "Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I'll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select - doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief and, yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors. I am going beyond my facts and I admit it, but so have the advocates of the contrary and they have been doing it for many thousands of years." He felt that all behavior is learned by conditioning. By his way of thinking, there is no room for or no need for God as all human behavior can be programmed and therefore bad behavior can be prevented and eliminated.

This is a classic example of what man can come up with when he decides to go on his own and ignore what God has said. The problem with thinking is it is ultimately self-defeating and will result in tragedy. Watson, the "Father of Behaviorism", could not condition out adverse behavior from his own life, let alone condition others. He divorced his wife as a result of entering into an affair with one of his graduate assistants. This led to his dismissal from his position as Chairman of the Department of Psychology at Johns Hopkins University.

Twice in Proverbs we read this important truth, "There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death." (Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25) Man is so good at developing ideas and theories of how we should live and what is the best way to live. Unless they include what God tells us about how we should live we know where these ideas will lead. Follow your true Father, not the "father of behaviorism."

Pastor Steve

Thu Jan 30 06:51:58 2014

A man jogged by a corner donut stand every morning and tossed in fifty cents, the price for a donut, but never took a donut. This went on for several months. One day, the owner of the donut stand stopped the jogger after he tossed in his usual fifty cents. The jogger said, "You probably want to know why I jog by here every day and toss in fifty cents without taking a donut, don't you?" "No," replied the owner, "I want to tell you that the price for a donut has gone up to sixty cents."

Often our attitude towards God is like that of the owner. We have expectations to receive things without expressing gratitude for what we have, and then we want more. We are surprised when we face adversity and not abundance. We are surprised what we face struggle rather than safety. We feel God owes us good health, a comfortable lifestyle, and freedom from adversity. God owes us nothing, yet he has given us everything.

Don't forget to thank him for the blessings of each day. The psalmist said, "This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it." (Psalm 118:25) Each day is a gift from God. Give thanks for what we have are realize all we have is a blessing from God.

Pastor Steve

Wed Jan 29 07:15:35 2014

I have always enjoyed the story of the fellow who told a friend about throwing out some old books that he found in the attic of a house he just bought. The friend asked "What kind of books did your find?" The man replied, "Oh, just some old ones that were worthless. I did find an old Bible that was printed by some guy named Guten-something." "Not Gutenberg!" said the friend. "Do you realize that a Gutenberg Bible brought over two million dollars at an auction at Sotheby's last year?" "Oh," the man said, "They wouldn't have gotten a dollar for this one. It was scribbled all over in German by some guy named Martin Luther."

We have to be so careful to not treat as worthless that which is priceless. So many of us are guilty of doing this when it comes to what the Lord has for us. Esau was guilty of doing this. He sold his birthright for a pot of stew. He said, "Look, I am about to die, What good is the birthright to me?" (Genesis 25:32)

We need to beware of having the same attitude about the things of God. We should concentrate on things that have eternal value and do away with our affections for things that are temporal. Paul encourages us to "Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth." (Colossians 3:2) Don't miss out on what is valuable while being enamored with things that have no worth!

Pastor Steve

Tue Jan 28 07:01:28 2014

At our church we just finished a two-day conference on personal financial management with Dr. Chris Stocklin, founder of Turning the Tide Financial Ministries. Dr. Stocklin offered a great deal of good advice on how to take control of our personal finances so that we might be better stewards of what God has given us. Of the many comments he made about finances, one that has stuck with me is "we need to distinguish our needs from our greeds." This is such a basic principle we are prone to overlook it. We can so easily convince ourselves of what we think we need that we push right ahead with ill-advised purchases and unwise acquisitions. "Of course I need that new electronic automatic can opener!" "I really need that great new eyeball controlled volume adjuster."

Paul tells us, "God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:19) We can trust God to help us take care of our needs. And that is really the core of the issue. When we turn our "greeds" into our "needs", we are saying to God that we really don't trust him and his ability to take care of us. Doing this gets us into all sorts of trouble. Don't get into trouble - don't confuse you greeds with your needs!

Pastor Steve

Mon Jan 27 07:10:11 2014

Randall Atcheson is the son of a Southern Baptist minister who was raised in Alabama. To say he is an accomplished pianist is an egregious understatement. He started studying piano at 6, entered Samford University School of Music at 12, studied at Juilliard and became the first person allowed to pursue a degree in both piano performance and organ performance. At a pre-concert in New York City, after navigating the difficult piano compositions of Beethoven, Chopin, and Liszt, he concluded by playing a hymn written by Elisha Hoffman: "What have I to dread, what have I to fear, leaning on the everlasting arms? I have blessed peace with my Lord so near, leaning on the everlasting arms."

While the compositions by the masters may have been more musically intricate, they did not offer the security of the hymn by Hoffman. The theme of this song is firmly based in scriptural reality. "There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, Who rides the heavens to help you, And in His excellency on the clouds. The eternal God is your refuge, And underneath are the everlasting arms; He will thrust out the enemy from before you." (Deuteronomy 33:26)

We do a lot of things with our arms - help neighbors with projects, carry babies, give directions, give hugs, and so much more. However, the arms of God provide protection and assurance that our arms are unable to deliver. We are safe and secure in his arms, protected from our enemy and, at times, from ourselves! What a comfort to know we are in the arms of God. Whatever challenge or hardship we face, there is security and peace in God's embrace.

Pastor Steve

Sun Jan 26 06:26:04 2014

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

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

We also need to keep this in mind as we share the good news of Christ with others. We can sometimes come on a little strong in our conversation with others. We need to make sure to create opportunities for people to hear, not confront them in a way that makes them feel buttonholed. Share the news in love, and let the Spirit do the work of convicting and convincing. John 16:8 tells us, "And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment." Let love be your guide as you present the message and let the Holy Spirit show folks how much they need the message.

Pastor Steve

Sat Jan 25 09:03:06 2014

Can you believe that we are a month removed from Christmas? Time goes by so quickly it seems. January with all of its snow has been a rather eventful month. Speaking of snow reminds me of an article I read this past holiday season that shed a great deal of light on the issue of kindness.

A man wanted his ten year old son to see snow for the first time. His son, whom he and his wife had adopted, was raised in East Africa where there is no snow. Many of us might wish for more of the East African climate just now in light of all the snow we have experienced this winter. Be careful what you wish for! But I digress; let me return to my original story.

The man with the son who had never seen snow arranged a trip to the western part of the United States during Christmas time in order to experience a white Christmas. They arrived at the house where they were to stay with a garage door opener to gain entrance as the owners were away for the holidays and were allowing the man and his son use of the house. However, they could not use the opener because a snow storm had knocked out the power. There was no other way, short of breaking in, to enter the house. This was a rather ironic situation as the snow they had come to see was the cause of the dilemma they were now in. They had no choice but to go to a neighbor's house and explain their predicament, which is just what they did.

It was 9:30 on Christmas eve, but the neighbors graciously invited them in, welcomed them warmly, told them the guest room was theirs', and fixed them something to eat. They woke up the next morning to a huge breakfast and stockings stuffed with gifts. What an act of kindness! These folks had never met the man and his son before, but opened their home to them as if they were long-lost family. They demonstrated the hospitality of Job who said, "Those of my household have never said, 'Who has not been filled with Job's meat?' but no stranger had to spend the night in the street, for my door was always open to the traveler." (Job 31:31-32)

Romans 12:13 tells us to "Practice hospitality." One of the gifts of the spirit is kindness (Galatians 5:22).When we extend kindness to others, we bring glory to God. It would have been so easy for that family to say, "It's Christmas Eve, we really don't have time to do anything for you." Instead, their kindness turned what could have been a very negative experience into a great memory for the father and his son. Make sure kindness is part of your life!

Pastor Steve

Fri Jan 24 07:29:50 2014

Paul Boese, a Kansas businessman and writer, wrote, "Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future." This is a look at forgiveness from a viewpoint that does not have anything to do with Scriptural mandate, yet it reflects a principle involving forgiveness that is so true. I know many of my articles have to do with the forgiveness, but that is because this is a concept that is at the very heart of our relationship with the Lord. Were it not for the fact that God is willing to put our past in perspective when we come to him seeking forgiveness, our future would be very small. Actually, we would not have a future. In light of this, we should never take for granted the importance of forgiveness, both the forgiveness we have experienced and the need to forgive when a circumstance brings the need to forgive into our daily walk.

The first time the word "forgive" occurs in most English translations is in Genesis 50 where the brothers of Joseph put words in the mouth of their dead father in order to appease the anger they fear Joseph will have towards them now that their father is dead. They come to Joseph and said, "Your father left these instructions before he died: 'This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.' Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father." (Genesis 50:16-17) They knew their future rested in the forgiveness of Joseph and they were willing to risk one more scheme to obtain that forgiveness.

We do not have to come up with schemes to receive the forgiveness of God, and neither should others have to concoct some sort of scheme to obtain our forgiveness. We should grant forgiveness freely because we know our future has been secured through the forgiveness we have obtained. Enlarge others future by putting away the past!

Pastor Steve

Wed Jan 22 07:38:47 2014

I get a kick out of the shorthand that has been developed by texters. I have tried to use some of it when I text, but I must confess, I still find it easier just to type out what I want to say. Some of the "shortcuts" I simply do not grasp. I remember asking someone once what "lol" stood for. He just laughed out loud (pardon the pun).

One abbreviation that I do not find humorous is "OMG". The proliferation of the use of this texting shortcut is simply an extension of how blatantly and benignly this phrase is used in our society. "Oh my God" has become the phrase of choice by so many in reaction to news they receive, situations they encounter, surprises they experience, and other circumstances. I hear it frequently in interviews, reality shows, and dialogue. It even proliferates the vocabulary of beneficiaries of those who work their construction magic or landscaping magic on HGTV and other shows. I find it amazing that a secular society such as ours that wants to do everything possible to disavow the existence of God is so taken with the use, or rather misuse, of his name. .

Followers of Christ need to remember that the open usage of this phrase does not make its use correct. As followers of Christ, we need to avoid the use of this phrase and any other phrase that flippantly uses the name of God. God told Moses to tell the Israelites, "You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name." (Exodus 20:7) When Christ taught his disciples how to pray, he started the prayer with these words, "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name." (Matthew 6:9) In every way possible, we need to protect and preserve the name of our holy God. We need to make sure that his name remains special in our lives and is not reduced to an empty phrase uttered, texted, or used in any dishonorable way.

Pastor Steve

Tue Jan 21 06:53:01 2014

I remember reading a story once about a little boy named Jeff who was trying to save his money in order to purchase a gift for his mother. The problem was Jeff really liked ice cream, and he was having trouble not spending his money to buy ice cream when the ice cream man came to his neighborhood in his brightly colored van. So he prayed, "Please, Lord, help me run away from the ice cream man tomorrow." Jeff had made a couple of rather astute observations: He knew his tendencies and he knew the best way to avoid these tendencies was to go the other direction.

We need to pray for this discernment in our lives. We should never forget that, even as a believer, we still have the inclination to sin. David proclaimed, "For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me." (Psalm 51:3) We need to develop the same understanding of our weak spots. When we know our weaknesses, then we know we need to avoid those areas in order to resist temptation. Use the advice Paul gave Timothy, "Flee youthful lusts." (II Timothy 2:22) Pray for discernment to know your weakness, and then pray for help to run from the weakness!

Pastor Steve

Mon Jan 20 07:48:28 2014

Thirty years ago, the brass section of the orchestra of the famed Metropolitan Opera House was all men. Even this recently, it was thought that a female could not perform as well as a male. A "blind" audition held in 1984 changed this. Auditions took place for the principal horn position in the orchestra. The players were positioned behind a screen. At the end of the process, the judges announced the number of the winner, then gasped in disbelief when Julie Landsman stepped out from behind the screen thus becoming the first female brass player to be hired on a full-time basis by the Metropolitan Opera.

Attitudes and beliefs that are prejudicial still abound in our society; however, we should do all we can to make sure they don't abound in the church. James tells his readers that they should not let someone's outward appearance influence how they think of them. He wrote, "My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, 'Here's a good seat for you,' but say to the poor man, 'You stand there' or 'Sit on the floor by my feet,' have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?'" (James 2:1-4) James tells us we should not judge others based on outward appearance, ethnicity, socio-economic status, culture, age, or education. He was reflecting a command in the Jewish law found in Leviticus 19:15, "Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly."

As followers of God, and we know "God does not show favoritism" (Romans 2:11), we need to do all we can to eradicate prejudice from our lives and not tolerate favoritism in our assemblies. Today is a day that is set aside to honor the life of a person who labored tirelessly against the affliction of oppression and paid for his stand with his life, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Let us see to it that reality he hoped to achieve is embodied in our ministry. We need to let the love of God find expression in the love that we have for each other.

Pastor Steve

Sun Jan 19 06:40:23 2014

I remember as a young boy using the "daisy test" to determine if a girl loved me or not. You remember doing this, don't you? You pick a daisy, then begin plucking off the petals one a time while alternately saying "she (or he) loves me" or "she loves me not" with each petal plucked. Oh, my poor little heart was broken many times when the last petal was accompanied by the definitive "she loves me not." Then, of course, there were times when I would jump for joy because the last petal would come off while I was saying "she loves me"! Of course, you soon learn this is really not a good indication of someone's affection for you.

We sometimes do this with God. We allow circumstances in our lives to inform us about God's love towards us. We experience difficulties and setbacks and say "God loves me not." This is really just as foolish as thinking the petals on a daisy actually have anything to do with how someone else feels about us.

The next time you begin to question God's affection for you, remind yourself of what the scripture says about his love. I John 4:9 tells us, "By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him." Romans 5:8 says, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." And don't forget the powerful words of Paul in Romans 8:37-39, "For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." God's love for us has nothing to do with petals on a flower or circumstances in our lives and everything to do with his character!

Pastor Steve

Sat Jan 18 08:44:22 2014

A Peanuts cartoon (by creator Charles Schultz) shows Marcie giving a vase of flowers to her teacher. Not to be outdone, Peppermint Patty tells the teacher, "I meant to give you a vase of flowers but didn't get around to it. Could you use a vase full of good intentions?"

So many times in our lives we have in our minds things we want to do, maybe even things we really need to do, but we never get around to doing them. We want to call a neighbor who has lost a loved one, but we can't seem to find the right time. We want to go see an old friend that is ill but our schedule doesn't allow it. We want to do something or go somewhere with our kids, but our overtime schedule prevents it.

These tendencies invade our spiritual lives as well. Perhaps we realize we should be reading the Scripture more but just don't get into the routine. We have a friend who needs to hear about the Gospel but we just don't make the effort. In all these situations, we want to do what we know we should, we have every intention of doing what we know we should, but our intentions never get translated into actions.

James has something to say about this, "If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn't do it, it is sin for them." (James 4:17) Don't fall into the trap of the "sin of intention" which is different from intentional sin but is sin nonetheless. When you know there is something you need to do, intentionally plan to do it and then do it intentionally.

Pastor Steve

Thu Jan 16 08:48:48 2014

Albert Schweitzer was an interesting individual. He was trained as a musician and was a church organist. Then he studied philosophy and theology and became a pastor and a professor. At age 30, specifically so that he could go labor in Africa, he entered medical school and became a physician. He labored in Africa for decades, building clinics, developing treatments, and working among a people so poor that they were barely able to stay alive. When he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952, he used the proceeds to build a leper colony in Gabon. He wrote, "The only ones who will be really happy are the ones who have found how to serve." His life was certainly an embodiment of this statement.

Have you found how to serve? So many folks seem to express discontent with their lives and unhappiness. The remedy to this lies in finding how to serve. When you determine to live the life of your servant, you find that you have no work of your own, no worthy of your own, but you also find that you have no worries of your own as your life is dedicated to others. Christ is the supreme example of this and calls us to be servants not only through his statements, but through his example. Matthew 20:28 tells us, "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Why is it that we who claim to be followers of Christ fail to see the emphasis on service in the life of Christ? This failure means we don't place a premium on service in our lives and therefore find ourselves missing the mark of living for Christ.

Pastor Steve

Wed Jan 15 07:01:00 2014

When the Israelites came through the Red Sea, they were led into the wilderness where they encountered a shortage of water. After a time of God's great deliverance, why were they led by God into a time of great want? Well, he could do this because he is God and can do anything he wants, but he is not capricious in his dealings with his children. He does things for a reason. God wanted his people to know that life is a combination of bitter and sweet, triumph and disappointment. He also did not want them to get too comfortable where they were because they had not reached their final destination. Along the way, there would be times of great plenty and times of dire need, and they had to trust God for his provision in either situation. They had to entrust into the hands of God the outcome of any circumstance.

How they responded to their circumstances would reveal their hearts. Their response to the test they experienced in the desert showed they were walking by sight, not by faith. They needed to remember that God was in control in any event and he knew exactly where they were. He was not unaware of their need as his provision of water in the wilderness revealed, but he wanted them to trust their need to him.

God told them, "I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions." (Exodus 16:4) If you find yourself in a position of testing, continue to trust God, he will lead you from the place of want into the place of provision.

Pastor Steve

Mon Jan 13 07:03:49 2014

We are often disappointed by other's unfaithfulness or failure to keep commitments. A neighbor tells us they will take care of your yard while you are away but doesn't. A family member says they will come by but doesn't. A friend says they will call to take you fishing but you never hear from them. A member of your church family promises to visit during a time of bereavement but never comes by. These situations happen, and we have no control over them..

We have no control over the actions of others, and we cannot do anything about the lack of faithfulness and commitment of others. We can do something about our own actions. We do have control over our faithfulness and commitment. Proverbs 20:6 tells us, "Many claim to have unfailing love, but a faithful person who can find?" We need to make sure that others can find in us a faithful person. When we make a promise, make sure to keep it. When we tell someone you will do something for them, let your actions match your speech. Others may be a disappointment to you, make sure you are not a disappointment to others.

Pastor Steve

Sat Jan 11 06:39:23 2014

We need to be aware that conflict is not always a bad thing. God does not always spare his children from conflict, but uses the conflict to bring about his intentions. When the Israelites were to possess the land of God's promise, conflict was involved. And even before they were to be involved in conflict with those they would dispossess from the land. Moses spoke with some of them regarding their position and their involvement in the operation. The tribe of Reuben and the tribe of Gad were not all that enthused about participating in what would be necessary for them to possess the land.

Moses had a choice in how to deal with the situation. He could let them be and avoid a confrontation, or he could tell them they were wrong. So, what to do - avoid conflict by saying nothing, or speak honestly and openly with the tribes that were reticent to go forward? We read his course of action in Numbers 32:6-7: "Moses said to the Gadites and Reubenites, 'Should your fellow Israelites go to war while you sit here? Why do you discourage the Israelites from crossing over into the land the Lord has given them?'" The result was the Gadites and Reubenites were obedient and participated in the advance on the land. Without the confrontation of Moses, their help would have been non-existent, they would have missed out on the blessing of God, and they would not have received their inheritance.

I am not saying that we should be constantly spoiling for a fight or walking around with a chip on our shoulder; however, we need to have a healthy understanding that, at times, we must involve ourselves in conflictual scenarios. We need to be honest, and honesty can lead to conflict when there are wrong or inappropriate views being embraced. Pray for honesty, unity, and discernment when you are involved in circumstances that involve conflict.

Pastor Steve

Fri Jan 10 07:34:32 2014

There is an enormous amount of money spent in the United States on weight loss programs. Also, there is an enormous amount of money spent in the United States on weight gain programs. Millions of folks want to lose weight and attempt to do so through many avenues. Conversely, there are many people who want to "bulk up" in a healthy way so spend a great deal of money on diet supplements and gym memberships. I find this absolutely fascinating. Of course, you can't have it both ways. You have to choose which direction you need to follow - weight gain or weight loss. Obviously, there are criteria to help you choose the right path. And, in this case, there is a third alternative which millions follow - stay right where you are.

When it comes to our life in Christ, there is no middle ground. Christ said, "No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other." (Matthew 6:24) With weight gain or loss, the choice of which to do is obvious. So it is with our choice of who to follow. The decision should be as plain as the nose on our face. Yet, many still can't seem to decide, and many who have made a decision seem to waver in their choice. Christ has called us to be true followers. With apologies to Led Zeppelin "yes, there are two paths you can go by"; however, we better make sure we are on the right path. And remember, there is no middle ground.

Pastor Steve

Thu Jan 9 08:29:23 2014

I have subscribed to various devotional sites and receive daily communications from them through email. Some time ago, I began missing one of the daily submissions that I had been receiving for quite awhile. I emailed the source and was assured they were still sending the articles; however, I still didn't receive them. I continued under the assumption that there was some problem with how they were sending them and finally simply gave up trying to correct the problem. Recently I was perusing my spam folder. Spam is the term used for unwanted email that is diverted from the mail you actually receive by a filter. Email is like regular mail, there is a lot of "junk mail" sent. In going through my "junk mail" file before deleting it, I came across several of the devotionals that I had been missing. I don't know why I hadn't thought sooner to check this, but I hadn't. To state it plainly, the reason I was not receiving the devotionals was my doing, not the sender.

This can happen in our relationship with God. We sometimes wonder why we don't seem to hear from him or why it seems he is not intervening at a time when we need his presence. The problem lies with us, not God. God will never leave us hanging nor will he ever desert us. Are we looking in the right direction for his guidance? In many instances the reason we don't hear from him is because we have a problem in our lives that prevents his communication. Are you harboring some unconfessed sin that keeps him from interacting with you? Psalm 66:18 tells us, "If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened." The next time you think that it seems God is not communicating with you, examine your heart and see if there is an attitude or an unrealistic expectation or even a sin that may be the cause. If it seems God isn't speaking to you, look within before blaming him.

Pastor Steve

Wed Jan 8 07:58:51 2014

Pastor Steve

Wed Jan 8 07:55:20 2014

In the early 70's there was a commercial that used to air pretty much exclusively on Sunday mornings that I think was produced by the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod. The commercial was animated and it featured a little farmer who was very poor. He and his wife and kids were starving and they lived next door to a wealthy cattle rancher. Out of desperation to feed his starving family, one night the farmer sneaks over to the ranch and tries to steal a cow, but he gets caught by some of the ranch hands. They take him to the owner of the ranch. The poor farmer begs forgiveness, but the rich rancher says, "String him up, it'll teach him a lesson," and they hang the farmer. That night the rancher dreams he died and is standing before God. He's sweating bullets and God looks at him and says, "Forgive him, it'll teach him a lesson."

When I would see the commercial, I always had to realize you can only put so much in thirty seconds so I sort of overlooked some of the questions it begged in my mind. The point of the commercial is that God will forgive us regardless of what we have done when we seek his forgiveness. This is the message of I John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." I also recall the story Nathan told David when he confronted David regarding his sin with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband. You can read about this in II Samuel 12. David confessed and sought God's forgiveness (Psalm 51).

This is what we need to do when we sin. We also need to be forgiving of others when they ask forgiveness from us in the wake of some wrongdoing. Ephesians 4:32 tells us, "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." So, if someone does something to you that is not right, "Forgive him, it'll teach him a lesson."

Pastor Steve

Tue Jan 7 18:28:14 2014

Pastor Steve

Tue Jan 7 08:11:48 2014

Bison are made in such a way that it hard for them to look up. A giraffe is made in such a way that looking down is not all that easy. Bison graze on grass while giraffes munch on the leaves on trees. You won't see too many bison eating tree leaves and you usually won't see a giraffe grazing in a pasture. They each have their own special features and abilities. All throughout God's creation, we see "specialization." We see unique abilities and habits of the various creatures that populate our planet.

We also see this principle among people. God has created us with unique abilities and gifts. Even as there is no creature that "does it all," neither is there a person that has all abilities. There are people who are good at managing and there are people who are at creating. There are some folks who see the big picture while others are more detail-oriented. God has given various abilities and gifts for positive reason. He has created diversity to bring about unity. We need to work to enhance this feature of God's creation.

Remember the words of Paul, "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. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others." (Romans 12:3-6) Let those who look up enhance those who look down and those who look down enhance those who look up!

Pastor Steve

Mon Jan 6 09:12:08 2014

I just read an article in the latest edition of Sports Illustrated that compared and contrasted great endings with great beginnings. The author noted that great endings are what are remembered. We usually don't remember great beginnings, and in one sense, is there any such thing as a great beginning? It is the outcome that is important in contests and this is what makes outcomes hang in our memory more than starts. You don't remember the first at-bat of the 1975 World Series (a fly-out by Pete Rose) or the first play of the 1981 NFC Championship Game. I actually have no idea what the first play of that game was, but I certainly remember the last one - Joe Montana to Dwight Clark to tie the game with the extra point kick making the 49er's the winners. Now, being a Cowboys fan, I really didn't consider this a great ending, but in the overall scheme of things, I have to admit that it was.

Endings are usually more memorable than beginnings, but you don't have endings without beginnings. This is no truer than in our experience as followers of Christ. We are looking forward to a marvelous ending as we will be with our Savior throughout all eternity, but that "great ending" will not occur unless there is a beginning.

In Philippians 1:3-6 Paul writes, "I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." In this passage Paul refers to the "first day" and the beginning of a "good work." Had this not occurred in the lives of the Philippians, there would be no hope or confidence of future joy. The work needs to begin in order for the work to continue and to bring about results. God wants to begin this work in us but he will not do it forcefully. You need to give your life to him in order for the work to start. If you want to have a great ending with God, you need to have a great beginning with God. In reality, if you have a great beginning with God, your great ending will last forever!

Pastor Steve

Sun Jan 5 06:59:07 2014

Pastor Steve

Sun Jan 5 05:59:11 2014

My wife and I were driving home from visiting our daughter over the holidays and encountered some slow traffic as we approached a bridge over the Ohio river that connects Louisville, Kentucky, and New Albany, Indiana. As we crawled forward, we saw the cause for the congestion. A car had stalled just before reaching the crown of the bridge and another motorist had stopped behind the car and was helping the driver of the stalled car push the vehicle. The driver who had stopped to help had faced a dilemma. Stopping to help would be difficult and even dangerous but stopping presented an opportunity to do something for someone else that was necessary.

Often opportunities to do something for someone else are accompanied by difficulties. We can either make the decision to face the difficulty and do what we can, or we can walk away. I admired the driver who faced the difficulty and assisted a fellow motorist. I almost envied him because he had the opportunity and the ability. In my current physical condition, even if I had the opportunity I would not be of much use. However, I have been in similar situations and did what I could. I recall stopping late one night many years ago to help a driver who had slid off an ice-covered road into a ditch in sub-zero temperatures.

As we encounter situations such as these, we have to make the decision whether or not we will allow the difficulty to be a deterrent to our doing what we can. Now, the difficulty may not be one of a physical nature. It might be a difficulty relating to facing detrimental attitudes or opinions if we intervene in a situation. There may be other concerns that make providing assistance difficult. If this is the case, then we simply need to make the decision if we are going to view the difficulty as an opportunity or an obstacle. Paul speaks of his "present difficulty" that was used by the Philippians as an opportunity to help him. He wrote, "I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at lasyou renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles." (4:10 & 14) The Philippians overcame the difficulty of providing help for Paul and turned it into an opportunity to share. Will we do the same?

Pastor Steve

Sat Jan 4 10:07:11 2014

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

Thu Jan 2 11:50:06 2014

For many folks, including myself, waves of nostalgia roll over us during the New Year's celebration. The nature of the holiday, "out with the old, in with the new," lends to this sort of reflection. The song that has long been associated with our New Year's observance, Auld Lang Syne, contributes to this air of nostalgia as the past is remembered while the future is anticipated. Our attitude towards the past can be a mixed bag. Hanging on to the past can be a negative exercise when there are experiences that are better off left behind; however, there are good things we should bring with us from positive experiences and lessons learned as we move forward to times ahead.

Some aspects of our past that are good to bring forward are the positive memories and lessons we have gained from folks in our past. The scripture encourages us to do this in passages like Hebrews 11. There are many biblical people we could put in this category. There are also many folks from our own experiences that should remain in the databank of our minds. Celebrations such as New Years are times when we think of these individuals as we recall past celebrations when they were still with us. I think of my grandparents, particularly my grandfather who mentored me in my early ministry. I think of my parents who were so responsible for my upbringing and my early spiritual formation. Others that often come to mind are my pastor I had as I was growing up and professors I had who taught me about God's Word. These are some of many from my past that were responsible for helping my present be what it is and will continue to influence me into the future.

Back to Hebrews 11, let's not forget the role models we have in such people as Enoch, Abraham, Joseph, Samson, and Jephthah. The importance of allowing them to continue to be examples for us is stated by Hebrew's author, "These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect." (Hebrews 11:39-40) Nostalgia can be a really good thing.

Pastor Steve

Wed Jan 1 08:32:54 2014

Today is the first day of the New Year. Although in reality it is just another day, we still look at today as a day of new beginnings, a day of new possibilities, a day of new commitments, and many other "new" things. We enjoy the possibility of starting over and having better opportunities. We enjoy the thought of being able to put the past behind us as the old year is now gone. We look forward to a "fresh start." Now, all that may be possible and I hope the New Year does bring good things for you. However, the only way to ensure that we have a fresh start is to turn our lives over to Christ and allow the power of the Holy Spirit to "recreate" us.

I hope that is something you have done and are now reaping the benefits of new life in Christ. Paul tells us, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" (II Corinthians 5:17) The only way to be guaranteed a fresh start is through the power of Christ. If you place your faith in him and trust him as your Savior, then you do experience a new day!

Pastor Steve

Mon Dec 30 07:38:05 2013

I don't know why this memory is so distinct to me, but I remember singing at a New Year's Eve service with my brothers and a friend of mine. My mother was playing the piano for us. We were singing "Til the Storm Passes By" when suddenly my mother stopped playing. She looked at us for a few seconds, and then resumed right where she had stopped. Later she told us she really couldn't explain why she stopped. She said, "Something just came over me and I had to stop to see that all was well."

When we are following Jesus, we can be confident that all is well, even when we are in the midst of a raging storm. All around us may be turmoil and uncertainty, but as we walk the path with the Lord, we know that our steps are secure. As we approach another year, we have no idea what lies ahead of us. That is the nature of our lives - we have no idea what tomorrow may bring. However, we know that as we continue to trust the one who gave us life and the reality of eternal life, we know that all will work out the way God intends. Paul told us, "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." (Romans 8:28) We are not promised a life with no storms, but we are promised sustaining grace during our experience with storms. In the hands of our loving Lord we know we will be safe "til the storm passes by."

Pastor Steve

Sun Dec 29 07:04:56 2013

We really don't know exactly where to put the wise men in the story of Jesus. Scripture gives us this introduction to them, "After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, 'Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.'" (Matthew 1:1-2) So, how long after Christ's birth did they appear? I have always found it fascinating that we know the shepherds "hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and the baby, who was lying in a manger", meaning they were there just after Jesus was born, but we really don't know the exact time of the appearance of the wise men. Another mystery is: who were they? Some say they were from the Nabotean community at Petra that would have been about 100 miles away, others have said they were from the region of Babylon, more than 600 miles to the east. Many more have conjectured a variety of ideas.

What this says to me is in the scheme of things, God did not consider who they were as important as what they did. They took pains to prepare for a journey, locate Christ, and offer gifts that were "fit for a King." This stands in contrast to other people who were much closer but didn't twitch a muscle to do any investigating of the news that was being circulated through the land.

A saying found on many marquees at this time of year is "Wise Men still seek Jesus." This play on a descriptive title is obvious, but also obviously true. We need to do the same as that group of men who took pains to prepare for a journey, make inquiries, and present gifts. Let's make sure we spend time in preparation as we walk with the Lord, let's be inquisitive as we explore what we should be doing to better serve him, and let's give him our best. Doing this can serve to help make us wise. As with the wise men, let's make what we do define who we are.

Pastor Steve

Sat Dec 28 08:11:25 2013

Taylor University is a Christian liberal arts school located in Upland, Indiana. They have a rather interesting tradition associated with basketball and Christmas. Each year on the Friday before final exams in December, they have a tradition called "Silent Night" at their men's home basket ball game. At the beginning of the game, the Taylor fans are silent. All that can be heard are the squeaks of the tennis shoes, the coaches' voices, the players' banter, and the sound of the ball being dribbled and shot. Then, when Taylor scores its tenth point, the gym erupts and begins to sound like a typical basketball game. After the game, the student body gathers on the court and sings "Silent Night." Isn't this unique?

On a very unique night long ago. the silence was broken by the voices of angels. Shepherds near Bethlehem were doing what they usually do during the night - watching their flocks. They could hear the low bleating of the sheep, the wind passing through, the crackling of burning wood, and the sound of their voices as they gathered around fires, but for the most part is was a silent night. Suddenly the silence was broken by the voice of an angel as he appeared to share with them some startling news. The interruption of silence would have grown as other angels joined the first angel to appear to raise their voices in praise to God who was sending His Son to become man. As suddenly as the angels appeared, they rose to heaven and were gone. The silence had returned, and what were they to do? They did what they were told and "they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them." (Luke 2:16-19) After some silence, they broke out in testimony about what had taken place.

We need to do the same. We need to spend some quiet times thinking about God's Gift to us then we need to experience His Gift for ourselves. After that, we shouldn't be silent about His Gift. We should "spread the word," as did the shepherds. Let the news of that "Silent Night" be made known!

Pastor Steve

Fri Dec 27 07:48:31 2013

Our season of Christmas is over for the most part. There are still celebrations going on, but most of our observances and special activities have already taken place. Did you attend many Christmas plays this year? These enactments, at whatever level, require preparation and design. Most of them have lead characters and then other roles that need to be cast for the drama to be carried out. All roles are important, and then there are folks who work behind the curtain with scenery, costumes, props, makeup, and other important production necessities. All of the participants are vital for the presentation to be what is intended. The intent of most plays presented at this time of year is to portray the story of Christmas and what it means to us. All of those involved in these exercises are significant, no matter what they do.

The church is like this. There are many roles that need to be filled in order for ministry to take place. The body of Christ needs to have all of the members doing what needs to be done in order for progress to be made. In Ephesians 4:16, Paul speaks of the cooperative effort that needs to take place: "the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work." Are you doing your part? Remember that is takes all of us doing what we should in order for the church to be what it could!

Pastor Steve

Thu Dec 26 08:03:56 2013

I hope all of you had a memorable and joyous Christmas celebration. We had many great experiences with family and friends. One included getting to watch "A Christmas Story" for the, well, I really have no idea how many times I have seen this off-beat Christmas comedy classic. Most of you are familiar with the story, but in case you aren't, the film follows the saga of a young boy whose great desire is for an "official 200-shot carbine action range model Red Ryder BB gun." Nothing will deter him from his quest. He does all he can to throw hints at his parents, tell Santa, inform his teacher, and just about anyone else who will listen of his desire.

Singularity of focus is something that we should demonstrate in our pursuit of knowledge about Christ and practice of commitment to Christ. Nothing else would satisfy Raphie when it came to his desire for a gun. He would accept no substitutes. Neither should we. We should never settle for second best when it comes to service for Christ. We should give him our full devotion and our full attention.

Paul writes, "So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ." What he has for us is certainly a bit more substantial than a BB gun. Our focus needs to be on Christ. And, you won't shoot your eye out!

Pastor Steve

Wed Dec 25 08:28:00 2013

Listen to the words of a wise man as he spoke about Christmas: "The first Christmas had its beginning in the coming of a Little Child...Through that child love...the love of the Holy Family could be shared by the whole human family...I have been reading again in our family Bible some of the passages which foretold this night. It was that grand old seer Isaiah who prophesied in the Old Testament the sublime event which found fulfillment almost 2,000 years ago. Just as Isaiah foresaw the coming of Christ, so another battler for the Lord, St. Paul, summed up the law and the prophets in a glorification of love which he exalts even above both faith and hope. We miss the spirit of Christmas if we consider the Incarnation...a far-off event unrelated to our present problems. We miss the purpose of Christ's birth if we do not accept it as a living link which joins us together in spirit as children of the ever living and true God. In love alone - the love of God and the love of man - will be found the solution of all the ills which afflict the world today...With increasing purpose, emerges the great message of Christianity...In the spirit of the Christ Child - as little children with joy in our hearts and peace in our souls - let us, as a nation, dedicate ourselves anew to the love of our fellowmen...the message of the Child of Bethlehem, the real meaning of Christmas."

So who was this wise person? None other than President Harry Truman in his Christmas address in 1949. Let us never forget the significance of the story we celebrate today. Christ, just as prophets of old foretold and the writers of the Gospels recorded, came to our earth to bring the hope of life to people who were "dead in their trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1). Let Christ bring peace to your heart. Merry Christmas!

Pastor Steve

Tue Dec 24 08:14:43 2013

There is one thing that is very different for us this Christmas than in past Christmases - we now have a granddaughter. Children change your lives for the better. We found that out with our daughters and this is being reinforced with the experiences we are having with our little granddaughter. She visited us this past weekend (with her parents of course) and we had the joy of driving back to her home with her and her mother. I must confess that I really enjoyed stopping at places with her and seeing all the attention she got from total strangers who would wave or come up to say something about her. One lady who was eating with her family in the restaurant at which we stopped totally turned around in her chair and watched her while we were there. No, we don't let her out of our sight. I believe all of these folks meant the best but unfortunately we know we must take care. Still, I must confess, I loved the attention heaped upon our special little girl. Most parents and grandparents feel this way and that is as it should be.

I would imagine this is how Joseph and Mary must have felt about their new little one. I would imagine there were joyful emotions when the shepherds came to visit. When the wise men came later I would think they were in wonder about the attention given to the child. Of course, they knew their child was special. And I mean special in more than just the way all children are special. They wanted others to know of their little one in a way that was different from how most of us want our little ones to be known. As much as I love my little granddaughter and enjoy seeing the attention she receives, I realize I should do all I can to draw attention to the One who came as a baby to bring hope to those who would receive him. As the angel said to the shepherds, "I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." (Luke 2:10-12) Christ was and is special and he wants to change you in a special way. Children may change our lives, but no one can change your life as can the Savior.

Pastor Steve

Sun Dec 22 06:10:26 2013

One time while visiting with my family during Christmas, my dad heard that a friend of his lost his wife. Dad's friend was older and none of his family lived nearby, so he wanted to go see how he was. We drove to his house that was located out in the country on a sparsely populated road. There was a great deal of snow on the ground at the time, and the drive from the main road to the house was impassable. Dad parked his truck as close as we could and then we walked up the drive to the house. There were no lights on, and our knocks on the door were greeted with silence. Dad was sure he was home, but there was a good deal of evidence to the contrary. We weren't able to get any response. I was getting cold and hungry, and wanted to go. Dad wanted to make sure his friend was fine.

I remember looking in a window to see if he was there. What I saw was the warm, inviting flame of a Warm Morning heater. Oh, how I would have loved to gone inside and sat beside that heater to get warm! But I couldn't because I didn't have access. It was really sort of sad. I thought later how awful it will be for those who are denied access to heaven because they failed to receive the gift of God. That is really sad. Of course, the problem will not be one of warmth for them, but it will be one of not being able to be where they want to be and with no way to change the situation.

Christ came to give us access to God's presence. "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand." (Romans 5:1-2) Because Christ visited our planet, we don't need to be on the outside looking in We have access to the Father and we won't be left out in the cold.

Pastor Steve

Sat Dec 21 08:33:05 2013

The idea is not original with me, but I have maintained that the forgotten man at Christmas is Joseph. Jesus is certainly the central person and we need to counter the tendency to turn the focus away from him. In the process, let's make sure to recognize the person that was chosen to be his earthly father. Matthew is careful to point out a number of important points about Joseph with regard to his character and his calling. Though we don't know anything about Joseph after Christ's early years, we still need to keep him in the story of Christmas. God put Joseph in the home where Jesus was to grow up to provide nurture and love.

I've spoken about a picture I have on my office wall depicting Christ as a toddler playing on the floor of Joseph's carpentry shop. Joseph was a just, righteous, godly individual who demonstrated compassion in his response to Mary upon learning of her pregnancy and unquestioning obedience when told God's plan by an angel. Matthew 1:24 tells us, "He did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife." Just as Mary was chosen carefully for her role as the mother of Christ, Joseph was selected to be the father and would provide for his wife and for the child as he grew. Joseph followed through on all he was asked to do. He provides for us an example of obedience and faith. Let's follow his lead!

Pastor Steve

Fri Dec 20 07:43:18 2013

I have always been fascinated by what is said about Mary after the departure of the shepherd's. "But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." (Luke 2:19) So much had happened, so much had taken place, and she didn't want to forget. This is a natural state for a mother who has just given birth to her firstborn. However, for Mary there was so much more to consider, so much more to try to understand, so much more to store in her memories so that she could spend time later thinking about what all of this meant. Over and over she would think of the visit by the angel, the revelation to Joseph that she was pregnant, the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the crowded quarters where the animals would stand by attentively yet not knowing what was actually taking place, the birth, the visit of the shepherds, the stories of the shepherds, the appearance of the angels, and the presence of the Holy Spirit throughout this entire time.

I have often wondered what was in her mind throughout this time. We are given a glimpse of this through her song found in Luke 1:46-55. It begins, "My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant." What is clear from what she said here and what follows is that she had a clear understanding of who God is and insight into how she should respond. That is a good thing to remember for all of us.

When we face times when we are not sure what is really going on, keep God where he should be and make sure we are where we should be. That is what Mary did and as a result, "all generations will call me blessed." (1:48) It would also be good for all of us to do as did Mary: treasure up all these things and ponder them in our hearts.

Pastor Steve

Thu Dec 19 07:19:19 2013

Do angels sing? I am not sure how to answer that. I really can't say they don't and we have in our minds a picture of an angelic choir singing praises as they announced the birth of Jesus; however, the scripture points out they spoke about his birth, not sang about it. "And, suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and SAYING, 'Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace, good will toward men.'" (Luke 2:13-14) So, where does the idea about singing angels come from? I would imagine from Charles Wesley's classic 18th century hymn, "Hark the Herald Angels Sing."

Charles Wesley wrote more hymns than you can count on your fingers and toes, but "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" is no doubt his best known. His name should sound familiar to you as he and his brother John instigated the movement that led to the founding of the Methodist Church. He wrote "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" in 1753 and the words were later put to a tune written by Felix Mendelssohn. It has become one of our favorite Christmas carols and it probably introduced to us the idea of singing angels.

You know, if we want to think of angels singing, I really cannot argue against that too much. I do want to keep the text straight as to what truly happened when Christ was born, but as the passage says, they were "praising God." What better way to praise God than to sing? One of my favorite activities at this time of year is to sing the marvelous songs associated with our celebration such as "Silent Night," "Joy to the World," "O Come All Ye Faithful," and, of course, "Hark the Herald Angels Sing." As I wrap up this article about a Christmas song (did you get that - "wrap up"?), let me just say that whether the angels sang or didn't sing, we certainly can and should. Let me hear those joyful voices! "Hark the herald angels sing, glory to the new-born King!"

Pastor Steve

Wed Dec 18 07:04:22 2013

When Moses asked God who he should say sent him to take the children of Israel out of Egypt, God replied, "I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I am has sent me to you.'" (Exodus 3:14) Almost 1400 years later, Jesus would tell the Pharisees, "Very truly I say unto you, before Abraham was born, I am." The Pharisees sought to kill him for saying this as they understood exactly what he was saying. He was telling them he was God as he stood before them. He was the same God who said to Moses "I am who I am." He was telling them in a very pointed way that God had indeed come to their world.

A little over thirty years before this encounter with the Pharisees, I AM came into the world in the form of an infant. The very God that declared to Moses "I am who I am" and the very God who would go toe to toe with belligerent Pharisees came to the world as a baby. "The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them" Isaiah tells us (11:6). The little baby grew into a child and eventually an adult and he will indeed one day lead all the people of the earth. He was and is the great I AM and he is the one we celebrate this Christmas season.

Pastor Steve

Mon Dec 16 07:48:15 2013

You may have heard the statement, "timing is everything." Timing is what can make a good joke a bad joke, timing is important in cooking, it is important in medicine, timing is important in finance, and timing can be critical in dealing with people. I wonder if God ever gets tired of people questioning his timing. We often struggle with God's timing at the loss of a loved one, or when we face some financial crisis, or some other personal crisis. Something we must realize is that if we maintain that God is a perfect God, then this means his timing is always right.

Some maintain that his birth was a little miss-timed - why would God come to a world that was lacking our modern technology? God did not make a mistake in timing because, as we already said, God doesn't make mistakes. Scripture maintains that Christ came at just the right time. Romans 5:16 says, "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly." Galatians 5:4 tells us, "But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law." This should be a sufficient answer for those who wish to question God's decision to send his Son when he did.

There are some "practical" considerations that support the timeliness of God's decision. Remember the world climate at the time Christ came. Because of the influence of the Roman government, there were no wars, there was a single language universally applied, there was a good road system, and people could travel freely because just about everyone was under one rule. Some other considerations were that the scripture had been translated into Greek and was being widely circulated, and the Jewish synagogue system had been established (remember what Paul did in his ministry?).When considering this issue of time, one writer points out, "Christ did not come to save a Roman road." Christ came for people and he came at the right time. Rejoice in his coming, and spread the good news of his wonderful love!

Pastor Steve

Sun Dec 15 06:27:26 2013

All this snow we have reminds me of a Thomas Kinkade painting I once saw entitled "Christmas Miracle." Kinkade is known for his use of light, and this painting displays that characteristic but in a little different way than most of his work. What struck me about this painting was the pointedness of the light. There is a solitary, snow-covered cottage in the center of the painting. The cottage is surrounded by evergreens that look as if their boughs might break under the weight of the snow. The painting is a little uncharacteristic for Kinkade because the scene is dark and actually would be a bit gloomy except for a single light emanating from a window in the cottage. That single light makes the entire painting glow and rather than being gloomy and foreboding, the scene is brilliant and inviting. The title of the painting is certainly appropriate, "Christmas Miracle."

The Miracle of Christmas is that Light came into the world and provides brilliance in what would be a gloomy situation. A hymn I used to sing when I was younger says, "The whole world was lost in the darkness of sin, the Light of the world is Jesus." John wrote, "In him was life, and life was the light of the world" (John 1:4) and "I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life." (John 8:12) This is the miracle of Christmas!

Pastor Steve

Sat Dec 14 07:04:51 2013

A little girl was roaming around her grandmother's house looking at all the Christmas items and trinkets that had been placed on tables and shelves for the holidays. She stopped at a small olive wood nativity scene that had been placed on an end table. She picked up the baby carving, cradled it next to her, and said, "Sleep, baby Jesus." Of all the ornaments and Christmas knick-knacks in the room, she had singled out Christ.

This is as it should be. We are surrounded by many baubles, trinkets, tinsel, and other trappings of the season. Among the cacophony of Christmas regalia, we need to single out Christ. Christ should be the center of our lives at all times, and we shouldn't fall into the error of putting him on some side shelf at this time of year because we are more concerned about other holiday endeavors.

Paul spoke of his desire to single out Christ amidst all other voices that clamored for his attention, "But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death." (Philippians 3:7 & 10)

Make sure you single out Christ in your life. "Fix your eyes" on him, and in this way demonstrate that you understand what is truly important in life.

Pastor Steve

Fri Dec 13 06:53:44 2013

I know most of you are familiar with the Christmas classic "It's a Wonderful Life." Made in 1946, the movie is about a young man named George Bailey who begins to think his life really doesn't matter much. He becomes so despondent that he wants to end it all. As he is about to jump off a bridge into a frigid river, a person (actually an angel) appears in the water and needs to be rescued. The rescue actually is a life-saving move perpetrated by the angel who has been sent to work with George to change his thinking. The way the angel goes about this is to show George how folks' lives would have been different had he not been around. Of course, the folks George encounters through the manipulations of the angel are in dire straits because George had not been around to help them. Eventually, all works out for good as it usually does in stories of this nature.

Can you imagine what it the world would be like had Christ not entered our sphere of existence? Oh, I really can't bear to think about this! "It's a Wonderful Life" is just a make-believe story, but the reality is Christ's life affects the world. A world without Christ would be dark and forsaken. In our current world we see glimpses of what life without Christ means. There are so many people who are living a life without Christ, and unless there is a change, they will experience a dark, forsaken existence. Placing one's life in the hand of Christ guarantees a happy ending. Christ will bring to us a wonderful new life in him if we accept his Gift. Christ said "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10) We can have a full life if we have Christ. Without him, life just is not so wonderful.

Pastor Steve

Thu Dec 12 07:21:07 2013

Apollo 15 in 1971 was the fourth lunar mission and the first of a series of longer stays on the moon in order to conduct more experiments. Colonel James Irwin spoke of his experience of being on the moon's surface, experiencing the lower gravity, watching the crescent of the earth, and seeing the stars from a different vantage point. For him, the experience was profoundly moving emotionally and spiritually. He knew that when he returned to earth, his role was going to be more than just a celebrity. He wanted to serve others as he realized in a deeper way his place in God's creation. To him, the wonder of man visiting the moon was surpassed by the fact that Christ visited the earth.

Science and technology benefitted from man's visits to the moon. We benefit from Christ visit to the earth in that we have seen the Creator. Colossians 1 says, "The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together." (1:15-17) Because Christ visited the earth, these are the benefits man has witnessed. Because of his visit, man has the ability to know his destiny and his position with God. Man visiting the moon was a marvelous event, but really cannot be compared to the visit of Christ to earth.

Pastor Steve

Wed Dec 11 07:29:31 2013

All around us are visual reminders of what season of the year it is. We have lights, greenery, trees, red bows, and many other images that serve to tell us, "It's Christmas time!" These seeable reminders are good things. We tend to be visual people, and "a picture is worth a thousand words."

The followers of God in ancient Israel had many visual images that reminded them of God and of many of his attributes. The design of the tabernacle spoke of the person of God and of his provision. Not every Israelite could see the Ark of the Covenant in the tabernacle, but it stood as a tangible symbol of God's presence, holiness, and provision for the people as well as a reminder of their obligation to God. At different times God had the people construct a special memorial to serve as a perpetual statement of his provision in a special way on a given date. When the people crossed the Jordan into the land of Canaan near Jericho, God told them to "Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight. . .to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, 'What do these stones mean?' tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever." (Joshua 4:2-6)

Our ornaments and decorations are not nearly as formal, but they serve to remind us of what God has done for us in sending his Son and also serve to remind us that we have a duty to follow him. As we observe these symbols around us, let their meaning sink in and inform our celebration. We can use them as teaching tools for our children and also as a springboard into sharing the story of the Gospel to others. Each morning before I sit down at the computer to finish my article that you read daily, I turn on our tree. The wave of light that hits me emanating from the green branches of the tree sparks within me a prayer of thanks for the Light that has come into our world and into my life. Christ said "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12) Let the visuals speak to us!

Pastor Steve

Mon Dec 9 08:05:06 2013

When you ask people what they think about the weather we are experiencing just now, you will find there are some folks who like the cold, snowy conditions and there are some folks who wish they were somewhere else. Some think the weather puts them more in the "Christmas spirit". I have heard that retailers want the colder temps on account of this as buying goes up. Well, there you have it, bring on the cold (I say this with my tongue firmly implanted in my cheek)!

Oh, there is so much I could comment on with regard to what I just said, but the one point I want to make concerns the idea of the two divergent opinions about the weather. It really is of little significance what one thinks about the weather. Having one opinion or the other really doesn't much matter. You really don't need to decide one way or another. However, there is another issue where your decision is vitally important. Joshua said, "Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." (Joshua 24:14-15)

We need to make this decision about how we will observe Christmas. Many "gods" have been created in how Christmas is celebrated - the god of commercialism, the god of social functions, and others. They cry for our attention above the One that we should worship - the God of all Creation. A decision needs to be made, and we should make the right one. Remember the words of Joshua, "choose for yourselves whom you will serve." This decision does have a consequence and I hope you choose correctly.

Pastor Steve

Sun Dec 8 06:14:43 2013

I watched a Christmas special last night (imagine that) where the family had a Christmas tradition of playing a game that featured each person writing something positive or encouraging about all the other folks in the room on individual slips of paper. Then, each family member would read out loud all the statements that were made about him or her and try to guess who wrote each one. The game was just incidental to the plot line that was being followed in the show, but I found it quite interesting. It looked to be a great exercise, especially for a holiday tradition.

As I watched the game unfold, one thought that came to me is that this little exercise should take place all throughout the year, not just at Christmas. This should be a feature of all families, and I think it should be a feature of the family that is the church. We should make it a point to lift up and encourage each other through words, notes, or other means of communication.

Do you have someone you need to encourage? Is there someone in your family who could benefit from a kind word from you? Proverbs 16:24 tells us, "Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." This is true at Christmas and all the year through. Share gracious words with others - they can be a precious gift.

Pastor Steve

Sat Dec 7 07:51:56 2013

We have an "electric eye" on our outside Christmas lights that allows the lights to come on at dusk and stay on for a fixed period of time. "Electric eye" sensors, or photodetectors, have always fascinated me. The technology behind these gadgets is beyond my understanding. How can an inanimate object "sense" the presence of darkness so that a circuit is opened allowing power to flow and lights to burn, doors to open, or machines to run? Photodetectors were first offered in 1931 by General Electric, so they have been in use for quite awhile.

I remember running into a problem one time related to the presence of a photodetector. On July 4, 1976, my brothers and I were to sing for an outside concert at a church in Ironton, Ohio. This was a special service commemorating the Bicentennial. We were to draw power from a nearby house as the church didn't have any outside electrical outlets. The problem was the outlets on the house weren't working and the owner was not home. The owner had given permission to the church to use his outlets, but he didn't tell them they were on a photodetection system. After a few anxious minutes, I thought about this possibility and found the electric eye. We covered it over with some black tape and the problem was solved.

Man has a problem in that our "photodetection" system has been messed up by sin. Like a photodetector we respond to darkness, but not in the right way. Instead of allowing for light, we inhibit the possibility of light because we want the darkness. John tells us, "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil." (John 3:19) Christ can take care of our photodetector problem and make sure we allow power to flow in the appropriate way rather than being drawn to darkness. We need to praise God for the Gift he gave us to bring Light into our darkened world!

Pastor Steve

Fri Dec 6 07:23:54 2013

I don't know if you have ever read O. Henry's classic Christmas short story, "The Gift of the Magi." If you haven't, you need to make a point to find a copy and read it. The story is about a struggling young couple that frets over how to go about obtaining the perfect Christmas gift for each other on their limited budget. The man wants to buy his wife gold hair combs for her long, radiant hair. The wife wants to buy the husband a platinum fob chain for his gold heirloom pocket watch but neither can afford these expensive gifts. Independently of each other they make ironic decisions. The wife sells her hair to buy the watch chain, and the husband sells his watch to buy the gold combs. The moment of discovery is priceless as they realize the sacrifice they have made for each other.

A priceless moment of discovery for us is when we come to grips with the great sacrifice Christ made for us. He gave his life for us, and the appropriate response for us is to give our lives to him. Christ exchanged his throne for a manger and a cross. This certainly does not seem be a fair exchange, but it is an exchange he chose for us. Romans 6:23 reminds us, "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life though Jesus Christ, our Lord." What a gift exchange!

Pastor Steve

Tue Dec 3 07:10:51 2013

A college student wanted to find out how much his soul was worth, so he offered his soul for sale on an internet auction service. Surprisingly enough, he received a few bids that topped off at a whopping $400.00. He wasn't too concerned about the person with the winning bid trying to collect - how can you separate an immaterial soul from the material body?

Our soul does have worth. Christ asked, "What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?" (Matthew 16:26) Indeed, our souls have worth. They are worth enough for God to send his Son to the world to pay the price for our soul. He came into the world through the normal means of birth, grew up among the people that God chose, and then died on a cross to pay the price demanded by sin for the souls of men.

One of the marvels of the incarnation is that it reveals the willingness of God to freely pay the terrible price that is necessary for one's soul to be redeemed. So, it would seem that your soul is worth quite a bit.

Pastor Steve

Mon Dec 2 07:03:47 2013

Last night we decorated our church during our annual "Hanging of the Greens" tradition. While a couple of folks were working on a piece of garland, an intense gleam caught my eye more than once. The garland was of the lighted variety, but I knew it wasn't plugged in. What was the gleam, I wondered. Looking more closely, I noticed it was a very shiny red ball with a highly reflective surface. The gleam occurred when light from an overhead fixture caught the ball just right. I was not surprised at this finding, but still was impressed at how intense the light was in spite of being only a reflection.

"This is how believers should be," I thought to myself. We are not the source of light, but we should produce impressively intense reflections of the Glory that is Christ's. John the Baptist had that desire and John wrote of him, "There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light." (John 1:6-8) This should be an accurate description of every follower of Christ.

This Christmas season, why don't we make it our intent to work our lives so that we can produce ever more increasingly impressive intense reflections of the Light?

Pastor Steve

Sun Dec 1 06:27:05 2013

Today is the first Sunday in December and is also the first Sunday in the Advent season. The advent of Advent can be traced back to the fifth century A.D. The term originated from Latin and means "arrival" or "coming." The original purpose of Advent was to focus on the Second Coming, but as the calendar for celebrating the Birth of Christ was set by the Church, it came to also be a time of preparation for celebrating the Nativity. Various denominations put different emphasis on this observation, but it can be a great time to spend doing some special things to remind us of the significance of Christ's visit to our world, and the fact that he will come again.

Isaiah prophesied, "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel" (7:14) and "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (9:6) Let's celebrate this wonderful event during this Advent season! But, don't forget what an angel said to the disciples about Christ, "This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven." (Acts 1:11) This Advent as you celebrate his arrival, don't forget to look forward to his coming!

Pastor Steve

Sat Nov 30 07:41:17 2013

There are many sins we tend to overlook in ourselves but really blast others when they commit the sin. One of these is grumbling. Grumbling is something we can do ourselves and we don't think anything about it. But let us catch someone else grumbling, and we can be very quick to condemn their negative attitude. Why is that? This is one of the quirks of human nature, and is one of the things we need to work to avoid. Christ warned of worrying more about the splinter in another's eye when we have a plank in our own (read Matthew 7). Coming down on someone else for being a "complainer" even as we are doing the same thing is certainly one example of this.

God takes grumbling very seriously. Listen to the words of Psalm 106:24-27, "Then they despised the pleasant land; they did not believe his promise. They grumbled in their tents and did not obey the LORD. So he swore to them with uplifted hand that he would make them fall in the desert, make their descendants fall among the nations and scatter them throughout the lands." That is a pretty stern warning against grumbling, isn't it? God wanted to bless his people, but they didn't believe him, and instead of receiving his bounty, they endured wandering and death in the desert. They could have experienced the pleasures of the land of Promise, but missed out because they preferred to focus on the negatives and gripe.

Avoid this trap in your life. Don't fall into a spirit of negativity and spend your time grumbling. Focus on God's provision and not other's faults. Don't impoverish yourself when God wants to give you his best.

Pastor Steve

Fri Nov 29 07:38:50 2013

Years ago Erma Bombeck wrote a column about a lady who was attending church with her little boy. The little boy was standing in the seat and facing the folks who were sitting behind them. He would grin at the folks and, naturally, the folks would grin back. To me, this seems like a normal occurrence in church - people smiling. However, when the mom saw what was taking place, she didn't think so. She whispered harshly to her young son, "Stop that grinning! You're in church!"

Have you ever encountered folks who seem to be of this mindset? Church is no place for smiles, grins, or laughs! Perish the thought! From time to time, I enjoy reminding myself and others of the first question found in the Westminster Catechism: "What is the chief end of man? The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever." Do you enjoy your worship? Does it show? Our outward appearance should give evidence of our inner joy. As we come together to celebrate the Lord, we need to show that we are experiencing the joy and the peace that God gives to those who are following him. I remember one Gospel singer's comment that many folks in church "look like they have been weaned on a dill pickle." Just like the grin of the little boy, our smiles are contagious. We need to "Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous!" (Ps. 33:1)

Pastor Steve

Thu Nov 28 07:39:58 2013

As you celebrate Thanksgiving today, I imagine you are following many traditions that have been in place in your family for years. Sometimes circumstances dictate that those traditions change. The death of family members or other factors leads us to make alterations to how, when, and where we have our celebrations and what we do at our celebrations. I know this year our family will gather as usual, but in different locations from where we have been in years past. My mother died a little over a year ago, so for the first time in over 40 years, we are gathering at a different place than my mother's home for Thanksgiving. However, the focus of the gathering has not changed and this is as it should be. This is the important aspect of our celebrations. Our external features may require altering, but the reasons we gather and the reasons we celebrate do not change.

This is the way it should be in our worship. We may need to change locations, and we may change our form of worship, but the focus of our worship does not change. Our focus needs to reflect the unchanging nature of the One whom we worship. God does not change, and our attitude and our concentration upon him should not waver. As you gather today to give thanks, allow this to be the central aspect of your get-together, wherever you are and however you celebrate. True celebration, as well as true worship, comes from within. Christ said, "Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth." (John 4:23-24) The important part of our holiday celebrations and certainly our worship is our focus.

Pastor Steve

Tue Nov 26 07:34:48 2013

As followers of Christ, we sometimes feel as if we are walking a tightrope in our lives. We live in a world where there are constant calls to compromise our position in Christ, yet we know we should remain faithful and live in a way so as to influence others with the message of the Gospel. This tension causes some to withdraw as they believe the answer to living godly lives is to withdraw from any circumstance that causes temptation to step away from following Christ. However, how can we influence others if we withdraw from opportunities to demonstrate and to discuss faith? Obviously, the other extreme is not desirable either. Yielding to temptation causes problems and destroys testimonies.

I have always found it helpful to study the life of Daniel and his three friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. These young men seemed to have the key to living lives of faith while in the midst of people who were faithless. When you read about their experiences in Babylon, you see that they did not withdraw from others, but lived among the people who had taken them captive in a way that demonstrated their faith. Daniel even attained a high government position because of his actions. I encourage you to read the book of Daniel as there are too many aspects of their lives to fit into our small column.

Here are a few observations I see from their lives that I have found helpful. First, they were devoted to prayer. Daniel 6:10 tells us. "Three times a day (Daniel) got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before." A second thing to notice is that when situations occurred that were in obvious conflict with their faith in God, they followed the path of faith. The verse we just read is followed by the story of Daniel in the den of lions. Earlier in the book we read the story of his friends in the furnace of fire because they would not worship the image of Nebuchadnezzar. A final observation is that they had internalized God's Word. They knew What was right and wrong because they had taken the time to study the revelation of God. The result was effective testimonies to others without compromise of principles of faith that led to a great influence on others.

Yes, living in a sinful world is a lot like walking a tightrope. Dependence on God can help us keep our balance.

Pastor Steve

Mon Nov 25 07:31:33 2013

It seems as if we are always looking for ways to made tasks and other pursuits more convenient. Banks advertise about convenient on-line banking. Stores show how they have made shopping easier. Satellite and cable companies advertise about recorders in every room. There are drive-thru experiences for just about everything, including weddings. Convenience is the name of the game for just about everything. Speaking of drive-thrus, yes, of course, there are drive-thru churches. One of the largest churches in America started as a drive-in church at a former drive-in movie theater.

Unfortunately, there are too many people looking for "convenient Christianity." They want a short, once-a-week service, minimal giving, and no effort on their part. This is not Christianity. Our life with the Savior is an everyday lifestyle, not an every now and then life experience. Christ wants more from us than a few minutes a week and a couple of dollars we really don't need. True followers understand this and recognize their need to put Christ in all areas of their life, not just a small compartment they access only when it is convenient. Christ said, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it." Now, that may sound inconvenient, but this is what discipleship really is. Make sure your life in Christ reflects true Christianity, not convenience.

Pastor Steve

Sat Nov 23 09:45:58 2013

I was watching a Christmas special this week and the lines of one of the characters was, "That's the good thing about being your own boss - you can take off whenever you want." Being your own boss does have its benefits; however, one needs to be careful with the idea of not wanting to have to answer to someone else. Regardless of our employment status or our business position, we are all accountable to others. Even if you are your own boss you are accountable, at the very least, to your customers. If you don't understand this, I imagine your customers will get this message and find others that take care of their concerns more suitably. At its worst, the absence of accountability can degenerate into anarchy. That would not be good for anyone, even those who want to be their own boss.

Being your own boss does have benefits, but understanding the positive side of accountability also has benefits. Understanding our accountability to God is, of course, the most significant level of appreciation of answering to someone else. We are dependent upon God, and we answer to God. The sooner we accept this and the more deeply that we internalize this reality, the more blessed our lives will be.

Christ said, "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:29-30) These verses reflect the nature of our accountability. If you are an independent thinker and want to be your own boss, good for you. An enterprising spirit is a good thing. Just don't forget to whom you are accountable!

Pastor Steve

Fri Nov 22 07:35:46 2013

Fifty years ago today, November 22, 1963, an assassin's bullet ended the life of the 35th president of the United States of America, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Those of us who are old enough to remember this event remember where we were and what we were doing when we heard the news that the president had been killed in Dallas, Texas. As a former resident of Dallas, I have driven by the site of the shooting many times.

As with most presidents, Kennedy had success and failure as a president. Perhaps his greatest failure was the ill-fated Bay of Pigs Invasion of Cuba in 1961. Ironically, his greatest achievement may be averting a war with the USSR through the dramatic events of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Many questions have arisen because of his death including how he actually died. One question that will never have an answer is how the world would be different if he had not died. We will never know the answer to that question. This question is moot as JFK died and events transpired the way they did.

I am glad there is another question for which we will never know the answer: How would the world be different if Jesus had not died? This scenario would be of infinitely greater consequence than the death of Kennedy. The death of Kennedy affected world events and changed lives, but all of these changes were temporal in nature. Individual lives and world events may have gone different directions if Kennedy had not died, but each of these paths would ultimately end with the death of the people and the end of regimes. Christ's death effected the possibility of change within the lives of people that is eternal in nature. His death, along with his burial and resurrection, brought about the reality of eternal life for those who trust Him.

We do not want to know what a world without Christ would be like. The scripture tells us that "at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly." (Romans 5:6) One's belief that his death brings new life means your life is changed not just for now but for all of eternity. Don't risk the consequence of unbelief. Christ died for you. Don't let your unbelief make the question of his death moot.

Pastor Steve

Thu Nov 21 07:06:51 2013

I don't know if you have read the story yet, but recently a man in Minnesota risked his life to save a deer that had fallen through the ice on a frozen lake. Carol Slygh was browsing Facebook when she saw a post from a neighbor saying that he had just seen a deer fall through the ice on nearby Lake Nichols. Carol told her husband, Jeff, who had been working in the yard. Jeff loaded his canoe on his truck and drove to the lake where he soon saw the deer struggling in the frigid water. He immediately grabbed his canoe and made his way to the deer, placed her in the canoe, and carefully inched back towards the shore where she was released into the woods to live another day.

It truly is amazing what we will do when we see creatures that are in harm's way. Some folks will go great lengths to protect the life of a living creature. That is a good thing. As followers of Christ, we need to have this same desire and instinct. All around us there are folks who have "broken through the ice" and are struggling because of sin. We have the good news of God's love that can free them from the grip of sin and allow them to have eternal life. When you see folks who are struggling, what will you do? Christ said, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10) We need to let others know of this abundant life that Christ can give them. Take the time to do for folks what Slygh did for the deer. You don't even need a canoe!

Pastor Steve

Wed Nov 20 07:11:50 2013

I have always maintained that one of the most effective ways to communicate our testimony is through our work. I am not referring to what we might say at our work but how we go about performing our work. The Lord has blessed me with a number of jobs through the years from helping on farms to teaching to working in the business world to ministry. Each one offered opportunities to glorify God. This is why we should work - not just to draw a paycheck but to bring praise to the one who gave us the capability to work.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote, "Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve, and hope without an object cannot live." Where do we find that hope? What gives our work hope? Our Heavenly Father supplies this for us through the efforts we pursue. Paul writes in II Thessalonians 2:10, "For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: 'he one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.'" Have a healthy attitude towards your work. Use your work as a means to give praise to God and communicate your love of the Lord.

Pastor Steve

Sun Nov 17 06:10:07 2013

At the end of the 1995 NFL season, Sam Wyche was fired as the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. George Stewart, special teams coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, made a rather interesting statement. USA Today printed his comments as he waxed a little philosophical, "I guess it had to come to this. For anything to grow, something else has to die. I guess the departure of Sam will help the Bucs grow." Grow they did, eventually winning the Super Bowl in 2003.

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

In order that we might grow in Christ, there are things that we must give up. Old habits, bad behavior, and adverse character traits need to be dealt with in order that we might go forward in Christ. Colossians 3:5-8 tells us to "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips." Yes, indeed, for us to go forward in Christ, we must do away with certain things. The departure of these things will help us grow. You may put it this way, "In order for us to grow, there are things that need to go."

Pastor Steve

Sat Nov 16 09:38:16 2013

How good are you at honoring your commitments? One of the most important character traits one can have is being known as a person who always keeps their commitments. Someone who proves to be unwilling or unable to keep commitments is usually not looked upon too highly by others. Keeping commitments is important in relationships, in jobs, in organizations, and many other areas of our lives. Those who fail to keep commitments can make life difficult for others, and sometimes this inability can lead to costly results.

The scripture is full of examples of individuals who were known as people of their word and for keeping commitments. One good example is Caleb. In the book of Joshua, we read how the Israelites had moved into the land God had promised them and were in the process of claiming the land as their own. Of course, this is not an easy task as there are people in the land who are reluctant to give up their homes to the upstarts who were spreading out over the area. Caleb claimed a particularly difficult area as the place he would call home. The area was difficult because of the strength of the people who lived there. Yet, he was willing to go up against these strong people because of his commitment. Why was he so committed? He was trusting in someone he knew would keep his commitment - God. Listen to what he says, "You know what the LORD said to Moses the man of God at Kadesh Barnea about you and me. I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions. . .So on that day Moses swore to me, `The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly.' Now then, just as the LORD promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the desert. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I'm just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day." (Joshua 14:6-12)

Caleb was determined to show his commitment because he knew he could trust in God's commitment. When it comes to our commitments, we should follow the command and the example of our heavenly Father who never goes back on his word and will always help us to honor our word. Follow God's example - keep your commitments!

Pastor Steve

Fri Nov 15 07:28:38 2013

The old car sat in the corner of the lot looking very forlorn and forsaken. Having seen its better days, it had dents in all four fenders, faded paint, and a cracked windshield. The fact that it was a 1966 Pontiac GTO was lost on the customers who came looking for newer, shinier, models that were ready to drive off the lot and make an impression on family and friends. Then one day a collector happened to be driving by and almost caused a wreck when he slammed on his brakes. He made his way into the lot, negotiated a really low price with the owner, and took the car home. There, under his skilled hands, the GTO was transformed into what it once was and then some. Actually, it was more compelling and complete than it ever was before. This happened because the car was placed in the hands of one who knew what was needed to restore the glory.

We are a lot like that classic car. We are damaged and dented, bruised and broken as a result of sin. We are forlorn and forsaken with no ability to do anything about our condition. The only hope for us is in the arms of Christ. When we give our lives to him, he begins a work in us that will lead us to being better than the original. No matter in what shape he finds us, he can totally transform and restore us to be like him. John writes, "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. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure." (I John 3:1-3) This is our hope because of Christ's willingness to restore us. We may be a wreck now, but Christ can make us a classic. All we need do is trust in him.

Pastor Steve

Tue Nov 12 07:40:32 2013

When I was young, a Bookmobile would come to our neighborhood. Do you recall bookmobiles? I don't know if there are any places that still have them because of the electronic gadgets that we have today. The bookmobile was a way of transporting a library to areas that didn't have a library. The bookmobile would always park directly across from our house because there was a parking lot there that could accommodate the large vehicle. It was so exciting to go pick out books that brought stories to my house of faraway lands, long ago happenings, exciting adventures, and enthralling mysteries.

Paul must have been an avid reader. He wrote Timothy, "When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments." (I Timothy 4:12) I have often wondered what these scrolls and parchments contained. Maybe there were copies of Old Testament scriptures. They may have been some of his writings. I do know that Paul had an insatiable desire to know more about God and God's plan for his life. He wrote to the people at Philippi, "I want to know Christ - yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead." (Philippians 3:10-11)

Does knowing more about God excite you? Do you desire to see more on him in your life? God wants to bring you more knowledge about himself and about your relationship with him. Does this motivate you to want to give more of you to him that he may use you to win others? God's "bookmobile" is here - use it!

Pastor Steve

Mon Nov 11 07:05:40 2013

Today is Veteran's Day. On this day in 1918, the Armistice was signed effectively ending the hostilities of World War I. The signing of this armistice ended a war that was to have ended all wars. This was not to be as there have been many wars since World War I. Because of this the name for this observance was changed to Veteran's Day, a day set aside to honor those who have been involved in armed conflict. Even now, our nation is still involved in war. A side note: There are no longer any living veterans of WWI. The last known surviving veteran died in England in February of 2012.

It is altogether fitting that we spend some time honoring those who have served, and remembering in a special way those who gave their lives in the service of our country. They deserve our accolades. However, one thing we cannot do is celebrate the end of conflict. That has not happened yet, nor will it happen in our lifetime unless God intervenes and sets in motion the events that will bring about the end of days as prophesied in Revelation.

We do know there will be one final conflict that will bring an end to all conflict. This will occur at the end of the earthly reign of Christ when Satan mounts one final, albeit futile, attack against the power of God. We read in Revelation 20:7-8, "When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth--Gog and Magog--to gather them for battle." God is victorious in this battle, and it will truly be a "war to end all wars." Following his defeat, Satan is cast away forever, never to return to his deceptive work on the earth.

We look forward to this "Armistice Day." Then there will truly be peace. Until that time, however, we will see conflict rage on the earth. Today we honor those who have first-hand knowledge of this. Tomorrow we can look forward to a time when there will be no conflict. Our duty now is to live for Him.

Pastor Steve

Sun Nov 10 06:16:32 2013

David spent a significant part of his life running from Saul. Originally Saul had taken David into his house as a friend, advisor, and to provide encouragement when Saul had a "spell." Psalm 57 speaks of David's search for refuge and safety when he faced the fear brought about by Saul's pursuit. He sought refuge in a cave and said, "Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed." (Psalm 57:1)

We may not face the same enemy as did David, but we still face enemies that bring fear. We may be struggling after the loss of a loved one. Health issues crowd our lives and cause great anxiety. Financial concerns sometimes rob us of joy in our lives and bring sleepless nights as we struggle with thoughts of how to make things work. How can we face these fears? We do so by seeking refuge in the shadow of the wings of the Lord. We take refuge in God's hiding place until the circumstance goes by. When we fear something in life, remember there is nothing we face that God has not seen. He will help us "till the storm passes by."

Pastor Steve

Sat Nov 9 08:15:10 2013

It has begun - stores are full of Christmas items, television ads for Christmas are abundant, and there are decorations appearing all over the place. Of course, most of this "hype" is to remind folks they better get going to purchase those absolutely necessary items for others. I was at a store today that had a large sign welcoming shoppers that read "47 days until Christmas!" Oh, goodness, break out the Visa card quick!

Christmas is a day that has been manufactured from day one. Christmas was first celebrated on December 25 in AD 336 at the behest of the Empower Constantine. December 25 was chosen because of the time of the winter solstice and some pagan holidays. The church recognized this day as the day when the birth of Christ was to be observed because it seemed to be just as good as any other day. The true day of Christ's birth is not known.

What was set as a day of church observance has become a staple for commercial survival. The day has evolved into a time for economic gain and, in some cases, economic survival. The dependence of business on Christmas for profitability is unreal. We really need to remember that Christ came into the world to be the Savior of souls, not the savior of sales. Keep that in mind as you progress through this Christmas season. I do not have a problem that we have set aside a time to celebrate, but we need to keep our celebrations in perspective. As I just said, "The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19:10) not to seek and to save to avoid a bust. Celebrate Christ as we approach Christmas!

Pastor Steve

Fri Nov 8 07:41:02 2013

R. G. LeTourneau was a Christian businessman and inventor. He is best known for the earth-moving equipment he developed. Seventy percent of the excavating and engineering equipment used by the United States during World War II was designed and built by his company. By the time of his death, he held over 300 patents for his productions. One of his machines was simply known as "Model G." When asked what the "G" stood for, a salesman replied, "It must stand for gossip because it moves a lot of dirt and it moves it fast."

The Bible has quite a bit to say about gossip. Proverbs 16:28 says, "A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends." Proverbs 20:19 says, "A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much." Proverbs 26:20 says, "Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down." A meaning of the word that is translated gossip in the Old Testament is "whispering that is damaging." Indeed, we need to avoid gossip so that feelings will not be hurt, slander will be avoided, and reputations will not be damaged. There is nothing good about gossip, and folks who choose to participate in this practice are simply "Model G's" - dirt movers.

Pastor Steve

Thu Nov 7 07:34:45 2013

I don't if you have heard about the controversy regarding Tiger Wood's actions at the BMW Championship in September or not. Woods moved a stick lying near where his ball was resting after an errant shot into the trees near the fairway. According to many reports, when he moved the stick it caused the ball to move. That is a problem and the player is supposed to receive a one-stroke penalty. However, Woods didn't note the infraction and received a two-stroke penalty because he continued to play. Woods became a little angry when he learned of the penalty and was adamant that the ball did not move from its original location. Controversy has ensued as some individuals have accused him of cheating.

My purpose in presenting this situation is not to discuss whether or not he cheated, but to talk about the rules and the observation of the rules. The observation and enforcement of rules is strict in professional golf. Many have stated, "Well, what is the problem if the ball moved a millimeter or two when he moved the stick. What difference did it make?" In practice, it makes little difference, but it is still an infraction that is to be observed in golf. If the ball moved even just the tiniest bit, then there is a problem. There is no room for error.

There is no room for error in our relationship with God either. The tiniest error keeps us from a relationship with God. Jesus tells us to "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:48) James 2:10 says, "Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it." These statements give us the righteous demand of God. Of course, there is no way we can fulfill this demand. That is why Christ came to die for us and fulfill the requirement of righteousness from God. Our hope lies in what Christ did for us. Our ball has moved, and there is no way it will not move without the provision of Christ.

Thank God for his grace that is expressed to us through the gift of His One and Only Son! If you have not yet received this gift, make sure to do so now. This is the only way to avoid a penalty that is far greater than losing a stroke or two on the golf course!

Pastor Steve

Thu Nov 7 07:31:38 2013

I don't if you have heard about the controversy regarding Tiger Wood's actions at the BMW Championship in September or not. Woods moved a stick lying near where his ball was resting after an errant shot into the trees near the fairway. When he moved the stick, it caused the ball to move, according to many reports. That is a problem and the player is supposed to receive a one-stroke penalty. However, Woods didn't note the infraction and received a two-stroke penalty because he continued to play. Woods became a little angry when he learned of the penalty and was adamant that the ball did not move from its original location. Controversy has ensued as some of accused him of cheating.

My purpose in presenting this situation is not to discuss whether or not he cheated, but to talk about the rules and the observation of the rules. The observation and enforcement of rules is strict in professional golf. Many have stated, "Well, what is the problem if the ball moved a millimeter or two when he moved the stick. What difference did it make?" In practice, it makes little difference, but it is still an infraction that is to be observed in golf. If the ball moved even just the tiniest bit, then there is a problem. There is no room for error.

There is no room for error in our relationship with God either. The tiniest error keeps us from a relationship with God. Jesus tells us to "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:48) James 2:10 says, "Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it." These statements give us the righteous demand of God. Of course, there is no way we can fulfill this demand. That is why Christ came to die for us and fulfill the requirement of righteousness from God. Our hope lies in what Christ did for us. Our ball has moved, and there is no way it will not move without the provision of Christ.

Thank God for his grace that is expressed to us through the gift of His One and Only Son! If you have not yet received this gift, make sure to do so now. This is the only way to avoid a penalty that is far greater than losing a stroke or two on the golf course!

Pastor Steve

Wed Nov 6 07:30:13 2013

Fritz Kreisler was a world famous violinist whose life spanned the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He made thousands of dollars from his concert appearances; however he gave most of his money away. So, after his discovery of an exquisite violin for sale during one of his trips, he was unable to purchase it. He began saving the necessary funds for the violin and when he had what was needed, he returned to the shop to make the purchase. Sadly, the violin had already been sold. He got the name and address of the buyer and traveled to talk to him about buying the violin. The man was a wealthy individual who did not play, but had already placed the violin in this collection and was unwilling to sell. Kreisler was broken-hearted and asked if he could just play the instrument one more time. After his performance, the owner was moved to say, "Mr. Kreisler, after hearing you play that instrument, I know I do not have the right to keep it. The violin is yours."

As Christians we have something to share that is far more valuable than a violin. We have the priceless message of the Gospel of Christ. We no more have any business keeping this news to ourselves than the wealthy collector had to keep the violin. We need to give it away to those who need to hear what Christ has for them. Don't "collect" the Gospel for yourself - give the message away that others may know the blessing of life in Christ!

Pastor Steve

Tue Nov 5 07:21:05 2013

Many of us struggle with the desire to be accepted by others. We often do strange things in order that we might gain the favor of others. We wear clothes we might not like, accept invitations we would rather decline, work long hours when we need to be home, and pay way too much for stuff we don't need all because we want to impress other folks. Too many of us are live as if we are pledging a fraternity or sorority and we do crazy things in order to join. Regrettably, we sometimes follow a crowd that influences us in the wrong way and we listen to advice from the wrong people.

Reheboam had this problem. He was asked to alleviate some of the pressure that had been put on the people by his father, King Solomon. He was told by the elders who had known his father that if he would do this "you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants." (I Kings 12:7) However, he rejected this advice and listened to his "friends", men his age with whom he had grown up.. He apparently was more concerned about impressing his peers than being prudent. As a result, the kingdom divided.

We need to decide how we want to live. Whose acceptance do we want - God or our peers? Make sure you are listening to the right counselor!

Pastor Steve

Mon Nov 4 07:47:53 2013

Many years ago the Hayden Planetarium made a mock offer for moon trips. Over 18,000 people responded to the fake advertisement for the 240,000 mile trip. One lady wrote, "It would be heaven to get away from this busy earth . . . and just go somewhere that's nice and peaceful, good, safe, and secure." A psychologist who studied many of the letters said they were from people who were looking for an escape from the struggles of the life they were now living. Many critics of Christianity have contended that Christians are emotionally weak people seeking escape from the struggles of their current existence. Karl Marx infamously wrote, "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of the soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people."

When you study the lives of many of the followers of Christ who have endured great persecution on account of their beliefs and their convictions, you find that Marx's quote is brainless. Far from being an "opium", Christianity is the essence of their existence because they knew the reality that life here and now is not a final destination. Christians know we are "strangers in a strange land" and our allegiance is elsewhere. You can read about many of the struggles of saints in Hebrews 11. Chet Bitterman, Jim Elliot, and John Knox are all men who died because of their Christian testimony. If you were to ask them if they were looking for as escape when they embraced the message of Christ, I am sure you would get a resounding, "No!"

The Christian view that our current existence in only temporary and that we are moving towards a new life is firmly rooted in reality, not escapism. We are following the lead of Abraham as he "made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God." (Hebrews 11:9-10) Frank Sinatra may have been dreaming when he sang, "Fly me to the moon," but we certainly aren't when we say "This world is not our home."

Pastor Steve

Sun Nov 3 07:11:15 2013

Did you set your clocks back last night, or did you wake up to some confusion when you realized you were operating on the wrong time because you forgot to set your clocks back? I have always felt ambivalent towards this time change in the fall when we go back to "actual" time. On the one hand, we get an extra hour of sleep. Well, some of us do. However, we also lose an hour of daylight at the end of the day. I know I just need to adjust to this, but I miss the daylight! Most of us do.

By the way, did you know that Benjamin Franklin is responsible for street lights? To help pedestrians walk by his house safely after dark, he put a lantern on the sidewalk outside his Philadelphia residence. Soon, others began to emulate this activity. This practice led to the development of the street lights that we take for granted today.

The world is a dark place when the sun goes down and a dark place spiritually. As followers of Christ, we need to put out a lantern so that others can find their way to the Light of Christ's love. Franklin could not drive back all the darkness with his single lantern, but it did light the area where he was. When others joined this effort, a great difference was made. So it is with our spiritual light. When we work together as followers of Christ and allow our lights to shine, we can see tremendous victory over the darkness of the world. Christ tells us to "let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:16) We need to let our light shine so that others may find the safety of God's life!

Pastor Steve

Sat Nov 2 09:35:45 2013

Haddon Robinson tells the story of a businessman who made a commitment to Christ at a Billy Graham Crusade. When he returned to work, he revealed his decision to many in his office, including his partner. The partner told him that he, too, was a believer. The businessman responded with surprise and said, "You know, you're one reason I resisted becoming a Christian for several years. I figured that if someone like you could live a good life and not be a Christian, there was no need for me to become one."

Many followers of Christ have the same problem as did the partner - they want to be closet Christians. John described some "closet Christians" in John 12:42-43, "Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human praise more than praise from God."

A true follower of God should desire to let others know about the source of his strength and life. Many question as to whether there really is such a person as a closet Christian. Obviously, that knowledge is in the hands of God. If Christ is within you, it should not be a secret. At the very least, John is describing disobedience when he writes of those who love "human praise more than the praise from God." A follower with good news should want to share that good news with others. We do not know who is watching our life and who might be influenced by the testimony we give. Don't just keep the faith, reveal the faith!

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