Pastor's Blog
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March 28, 2017, 2:16 PM

The Checklist

Over the past six-months, Peggy has had more doctor visits than either of us can recall.  One repeated activity we have encountered is having to share the same basic medical information with the doctors.  Each doctor has a similar checklist of questions and protocol they go through to determine if a person is healthy or if some of the problems are self-induced.  It has been more than a little frustrating to hear them ask the same questions over and over.  Peggy and I have almost made a game out of guessing what she will weigh, what her blood pressure will be, and what her temperature is going to be each time.  Included among the checklist questions she has heard dozens of times are things like:  are you exercising like you should; are you getting enough sleep; are you eating properly; are you taking the prescribed medications like you are supposed to; and a host of other questions.  All this is done to be sure the basic criteria is met to foster good health. 

 

As I thought of the “health checklist”, I was reminded we have a “spiritual checklist” that helps us determine our spiritual health.  A partial “spiritual checklist” would include questions like the following:

  • Are you having a meaningful, extended daily time with God in prayer?
  • Are you investing daily quality time reading and applying the Bible?
  • Are you making time daily for personal, private worship of God, investing time alone with Him?
  • Do you regularly tell others what Christ has done and is doing in your life?
  • Do you give the first 10% of your income back to God through the local church?
  • Are you actively involved in the local church’s ministry?
  • Do you have a good balance of giving-out-to-others-in-ministry and receiving-from-others-in-ministry?
  • Is corporate worship a priority?
  • Are you guarding against “the Martha syndrome”, i.e. making certain you are not so busy working FOR God that you neglect genuinely worshiping Him.
  • Are you living in total obedience to God’s will for your life?
  • Is your relationship with Jesus Christ alive, vibrant, and growing?

 

While this is not a comprehensive “spiritual checklist,” answering these few questions may reveal why you are spiritually struggling and where the problem really is.  God calls us to never stop growing in Him.  Sometimes, we need to honestly review a “spiritual checklist” to see where we are, then seek God accordingly.




January 17, 2017, 4:30 PM

Empty Prayers

All my life, I have heard people who rarely attend church, people who from all outward signs have no personal relationship with God, pledge their prayer support for some person-in-need, for some urgent cause, or some emergency situation.  Even as a teenager, I found such prayer promises to be profoundly hypocritical.  How could someone talk to God when they did not even know God?  It reminded me of a child talking on a toy phone, pretending they were discussing some matter with a person on the other end of the line, but in reality they were just speaking empty words. 

 

Psalm 66:18 says, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me….”  If a person is living in sin, if they are not living in obedience to God, if they are willfully living apart from Christ, God WILL NOT hear their prayers!   Their prayers are little more than empty words spoken to ease their own consciences.  Because they live in sin, they have no relationship with the One they address in their empty prayers.  The Bible tells us the only prayer of the sinful person that God listens to is their prayer of repentance, confession, and admission of their need for salvation.  Acts 2:21 echoes Joel 2:32 when it says, But everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.”   

 

Since Peggy was diagnosed with a brain tumor in October 2016, there has been a huge outpouring of support for us, including thousands who have let us know they are praying for us.  We appreciate the support and the volume of prayers.   If you are among those who are praying, be sure your life is right with God before you pray for us.  No one needs empty prayers.  What we all need are powerful, earth-shaking, Heaven-rending, passionate communication of men and women with their Heavenly Father!  James 5:16 reminds us the prayers of a righteous person are powerful and effective!  Know God.  Talk with Him.  Have authentic communication with Him.  True prayer seeks the heart of God via the heart of His children.   




December 13, 2016, 5:05 PM

Life's Unexpected Twists

Life does not always go as expected.  We can get so involved in our established routine that we live life on "autopilot", doing what we do without even thinking.  Like a robot that does what it is programmed for, we can simply "do life" out of habit and routine.  Most of us like it that way.  When something disrupts our life, even in a small way, it can seem catastrophic!   When those disruptions are MAJOR ITEMS, the degree of impact can be overwhelming!

On October 7, 2016, Peggy and I had a significant disruption to our lives that shook us to the core of our beings.  The doctors informed us Peggy had a brain tumor.  Upon further investigation, it was found to be inoperable due to its location.  The tumor had been the cause of odd behavior and multiple unexplainable actions Peggy had experienced.  The tumor is benign and IS treatable, but our lives may never be the same.  For the past eight-weeks, we have operated on "autopilot" as we have dealt with an overload of stress, the myriad of doctor visits, consultations, researching our options, and praying about the recommendations we have been given.  I am certain we would have collapsed weeks ago had it not been for the volume of prayer lifting us before God.  We trust Him to lead us in the right direction as we lean entirely upon Him.  Even as I write this, the future is uncertain and filled with questions.  This kind of scenario was never what we expected. 

More than 2,000 years ago, a young couple found their lives taking some "unexpected twists".  The virgin Mary listened as the angel told her she was highly favored by God and had been chosen for the unique task of giving birth to God's Holy Son.  Joseph found himself heartbroken when he discovered Mary was pregnant.  Obviously, she was not the virtuous, Godly girl he thought she was.  She was pregnant.  Joseph did not want vengence.  He wanted to treat Mary with care, in spite of her unfaithfulness to him.  Rather than invoke Jewish law that gave him the right to initiate a public execution of his immoral fiance, he decided to quietly divorce her, sparing her all public shame.  Then God's angel appeared to Joseph at night, enlightening him on what was REALLY going on with Mary.  The very next day, Joseph took Mary as his wife, disregarding the embarassment, humiliation, and gossip that certainly must have ignited as news of his choice became known.  The greatest unexpected twist in the lives of Mary and Joseph came directly from God!  Their response is an example all of us need to follow...full surrender to God's will and total, implicit trust in Him. 

Whatever "unexpected twists" life brings your way, yield those things to God.  Whether He brought those into your life or simply allowed them to come, He can use them to shape you into the person He wants you to be.  Trust Him! 

 




October 11, 2016, 3:36 PM

When You Cannot Pray

I have been blessed to know the power of prayer since childhood.  The church we attended when I was a child and teen greatly emphasized the importance and power of prayer.  There were many people who modeled prayer for me.  As a teen, it was not unusual for me to pray with seekers at the altars or be asked to lead in prayer for a church service or invest more than an hour praying on my own and with friends.   There were many instances when God dramatically answered my teenage prayers.  Those incredible answers solidified my belief in the power of prayer!  

As an adult and specifically as a pastor, I have continued to see the amazing response of God to prayer!  I have seen people healed of sickness, watched in awe as God brought forgiveness to individuals who had fought against Him all their lives, seen marriages healed and restored, watched as the Holy Spirit brought transformation and renewal to congregations, and the very long list of what God has done in response to prayer further assures me of the unlimited power of God which is released when we passionately seek Him!

This past Saturday, I encountered a very rare event in my life...an event that has happened only a handful of times.  I found myself unable to pray.  I wanted to pray.  I looked forward to being alone with God.  I desired to draw near and share my heart with Him.  Yet as I tried to pray, I found myself unable to speak.  A few hours earlier, the doctors informed us there was a large mass on my wife's brain...a tumor which appears to be inoperable.  We were in shock.  We were emotionally numbed by the news.  As I attempted to pray after hearing such a devastating report, no words would come.  Although I found myself unable to pray, God drew me close to Himself!  I am sure the Holy Spirit interceded on my behalf.  Romans 8:26 states, "...the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express."  In spite of my loss of words, God came near in my time of seeking Him!  His ears are very attentive to those who serve Him with all their hearts.  

We do not know what the future holds for us, but we know God cares.  Not only is the Holy Spirit interceding for us, but we also have hundreds of Christian friends who are talking to God about us, interceding for us as well.  We praise God for each one!  Normally, we are the ones praying for others, but this time, we are the ones needing prayer.  When you cannot pray or it seems your prayers are 'wasted words', it is wonderful to know there are others lifting your need to the Father.  Never quit praying because there is always someone needing you to lift them to God.  




September 14, 2016, 2:25 PM

Do You Trust The Weatherman?

When we moved to southwest Florida, we were told to be sure to listen to the weather forecast each morning and pay close attention.  If the weatherman said it was going to rain that day, it WAS going to rain!  No matter how beautiful the weather was or how brightly the sun was shining early in the morning, if they forecast rain, it would definitely rain sometime during the prescribed time.  The opposite was also true—if they said it would be a beautiful day of sunshine and no rain, that is exactly what it was going to be no matter how cloudy it was early in the day.  There were several occasions when they forecast rain when there was not a cloud in the sky, yet somehow it DID rain!   Contrast that with our Illinois weather forecasting.  In the past month, I have ridden my motorcycle to work because there was little or no chance of rain, only to get caught in significant downpours!   As I write this, the forecast for this morning and afternoon has been for scattered rain, then they changed it to a “small chance of scattered showers”. However, when I left the house early this morning on my motorcycle, the rain clouds were forming overhead.  Since my only transportation this morning was my motorcycle, I ended up working at home.  I admit, I no longer trust the Illinois weather bureau.

 

A far more important question than the weather is, “Do you trust God’s Word?”  Do you trust what the Bible says, the promises of God, the warnings from Him, and the commands He gives?  Unlike the attempts at the weather bureau to forecast how the day is going to be, God’s Word is ALWAYS correct and accurate!  It is trustworthy and true from cover-to-cover!  While we may verbalize that we believe and accept the Bible as being God’s Word, the real proof of whether we trust it or not is evidenced in whether or not we LIVE OUT what it says.  We may say we believe the Bible, but if we are not living in harmony with what is written in its pages, then our actions prove we actually DO NOT BELIEVE it.  Jesus said, “If you love Me, obey My commandments” (John 14:15) and “Those who accept My commandments and obey them are the ones who love Me. And because they love Me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal Myself to each of them” (John 14:21).   A few verses later in John 14:24, Jesus says, “Anyone who doesn’t love Me will not obey Me….”  

 

What is your life saying to others about your trust of God’s Word?


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