Pastor's Blog
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May 26, 2015, 10:07 AM

New Chapters In Life

A few days before Mother’s Day, Peggy and I drove from central Illinois to northwestern Oklahoma for our youngest daughter’s college graduation.  I wish I could say it was an “uneventful trip.”   It was anything BUTuneventful”!  We drove through severe storms with heavy rain, hit rush-hour traffic in Kansas City (twice), my health issues flared-up, there were unexpected emergencies, and we were forced to make numerous very stressful decisions we did not anticipate. 

All the “drama” we endured could have easily overshadowed the reason we were there.  We refused to let circumstances steal our joy and celebration from us.  Our daughter, Emily, was closing one chapter of her life and beginning a new one.  Some aspects of this transition were painfully realized while other aspects were wonderfully experienced.  Emily was surprised that her sister and brother from Florida flew to Oklahoma for her graduation, bringing their children with them.  The mini-reunion was fun!  Peggy and I enjoyed having three of our four Florida grandchildren for about 48-hours.  The time disappeared much too quickly. 

Almost without Peggy and I realizing it, this new chapter in Emily’s life marked a new chapter in our lives as well.  All four of our grown children are “officially” into adulthood, past the college years, and into their careers.  We anticipate one or two of them will eventually return for further education, but their primary educational years are now over.  I still recall the emotional wreck I was when we sent each of them to Kindergarten.  I think Peggy handled the first three of our children going to school better than I did.  She did not do so well when our fourth child went to school.  The emotional trauma of each high school graduation, then each one leaving home, was almost more than either of us could handle!  As Emily applies for jobs around the nation, we have no idea where her vocation will take her.  So we wait, prayerfully, to see how far away she will be moving as she writes the first entries of this new chapter. 

With every chapter of life, Peggy and I have relied on God to help us through.  While many chapters have been bittersweet, all have been entrusted to Him.  Christ’s words recorded in 2 Corinthians 12:9 have sustained us through it all, “…My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.”  Whatever you may be going through, trust fully in Christ and He will sustain you.




May 6, 2015, 10:32 PM

Walking Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death

In the last 2 ½ weeks, four people in my life have died.  Two of them were family members, one was a friend I have known for over fifteen-years, and one was an elderly gentleman in our congregation.  Two of them had been battling illness, one was recovering from a heart attack, and the other had some health issues, but seemed strong.  They ranged in age from 45 to 86.  Add to that a tragedy which happened last week when  the five-month-old great-granddaughter of our friends died in her sleep.  It seems I am walking through the valley of the shadow of death! 

What are we to do in such times?  Words are hollow, even to a strong Christian couple, when death strikes so unexpectedly in taking the youngest member of their family.  When we encounter death, loss, and tragedy, we can live in God’s peace because He is with us.  Even when our tears and the blinding pain of the moment obscures our view of Him, He is still there.  He allows us to grieve, to feel the intense pain of our loss, but He wants us to keep walking through this valley.  We are not to dwell in the valley.  We are not to reside there.  We are to walk-on-through.  He is there to comfort us.  He will carry us when it seems we are too exhausted, too distraught, too weak to continue the journey.  He is there to provide us with all that is lacking in our time of sorrow.  He WILL see us through this valley, taking us to a better time and a better place. 

Our greatest need is to receive and accept God’s comfort.  In spite of not understanding “why” things happened as they did, we desperately need to receive His comfort. We may need to simply rest in His love, allowing Him to engulf us with His presence, then stay right there for a while.  Before we can help others who are grieving, we must first grieve, then be renewed by the Lord.  There is an interesting statement found in 2 Corinthians 1:4 which talks about Christians comforting others with the comfort we have received from God.  God’s comfort is what all of us need!  We must receive from the Lord, then pass His comfort along to others.  There have been many times when I had no words to speak to a grieving family, yet God used my presence, my tears, and my silence to communicate His love to them.  I encourage you to share His comfort.

Keep walking through the valleys and help those you meet along the way to keep walking too.  




April 27, 2015, 7:24 AM

Preparing the Fields

In the Decatur area, it began the first week of April this year.  Being raised in a farming family, I took immediate notice of the machinery working the fields.  When I smell a diesel engine running, I have fond flashbacks of the tractors I drove as a teenager on the farm.  There is something very exciting to me when I see the fields being prepared for planting.  There is a unique excitement, one that perhaps only farmers and their families can experience, when that first bit of greenery bursts through the fields a few weeks after planting! 

While the hard work of preparation is taking place in early April, it will be many months before the harvest will take place.  Across those months, countless hours of hard work will be required to bring about the harvest.  The harvest is the only reason the farmers spend so much time, effort, money, and resources preparing and working the fields.  No farmer in all of history has purposely and intentionally gone through the process of preparing, cultivating, watering, and caring for the fields only to let the harvest die in the field.  Everything the farmer does looks forward to the harvest. 

In the Church, as well as in our daily Christian lives, we should constantly be looking ahead to “the harvest,”  i.e. the spiritual harvest.  Our primary purpose as a church and as a Christian is to lead people into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, to see lives transformed by the power of God, and to reach those who do not know Christ!  If we are not engaged in the process of redemption, then we are not truly His disciples. Everything we do should be in anticipation and expectation of leading others into a relationship with Jesus Christ.  In 1 Corinthians 3, the apostle Paul reminds us that each of us can have a part in the process of leading someone to Christ, but it is God who redeems souls.  He alone is the One who forgives sins and transforms lives.  He involves us in the process so we can have an active part in the miracle of salvation.  We can partner with God for the sake of eternal souls!  How awesome is that? 

Are YOU purposely allowing God to use you to invest in your friends, work associates, even complete strangers He puts in your path, for an encounter with Him?  Do not become weary if it takes a while to see the spiritually needy accept Him.  Sometimes getting to the point of harvest is a lengthy, slow, and tiring process.  Never give up!  Eternal souls are in the balance.  Eternity rests upon our willingness to invest ourselves in something that will out-live us, i.e. the spiritual lives of other people.    




April 18, 2015, 6:42 AM

I See Your Tummy

Our granddaughter, Addison, is four-years-old…going on 37!  She definitely DOES NOT think or talk like a four-year-old!  She is the first-born of our oldest daughter, a Registered Nurse, and our son-in-law, an attorney.  To this well-educated young couple a baby girl was born who has inherited and adopted many of her parents’ behaviors.  Addison is a communicator and a leader…frequently communicating and leading at inappropriate times.  Some of her remarks and thoughtful conclusion have caused Peggy and me to laugh ourselves to tears.  

This week, our daughter purchased a new swimsuit for the summer.  We were told it was a two-piece, retro-style suit that resembles a swimsuit from another era.  Addison knew the swimming suit had been ordered and was coming in the mail.  She was excited to see Mommy’s new swimming suit!  The package came, but our daughter forgot to tell Addison.  When the postman left a different package at the door, Addison was excited because she thought it was the new suit.  It was not until then that our daughter remembered to show Addison the new swimming suit.  Addison wanted the suit modeled, so our daughter obliged.  With a little nervousness, our daughter put the suit on and walked out to show our granddaughter.  Addison quietly looked at her Mom in the new two-piece swimming suit, taking it all in like a fashion critic.  When she finally spoke, her only comment was, “I see your tummy.”

Addison’s brief comment pierced our daughter with conviction by the Holy Spirit!  It was not because her swimming suit was immodest, but because of what the swimming suit communicated to Addison.  They do not allow Addison to wear a bathing suit that shows her tummy.   Our daughter shared how her four-year-old innocently revealed a double-standard they had inadvertently embraced.  With great insight, Addison could not fathom why it was fine for Mommy to show her tummy when it was not permissible for her to show hers.  I am not sure how the conversation went after that, but I am fairly certain our daughter will soon be purchasing a new one-piece swimming suit that is Addison-approved.

It is vital for us to live consistent Christian lives, refusing to have one set of relaxed standards for ourselves, but a stricter set of standards for others.  The Biblical standard of holiness is for ALL of us!   Let’s live consistent, exemplary Christian lives.  There are people all around us observing our lives, determining if this Jesus-stuff is real or not.  Refuse to let them “see your tummy.”




April 8, 2015, 9:00 PM

Something Is Wrong With The Church

Micah 3:1-2a

“I said, ‘Listen, you leaders of Israel!  You are supposed to know right from wrong, but you are the very ones  who hate good and love evil….’”

 

There is something very wrong within a great portion of the Christian church today.  We have lost our Biblical perspective…lost our willingness to live Biblically...and lost our understanding of the horribleness of sin.  We have so conformed to the pattern, attitudes, and standards of our godless society that many are accepting evil as though it were good and rejecting what is good as though it were evil.  It is increasingly difficult to distinguish who the Christ-followers are and who the godless are because they look, act, talk, and live so similarly. 

There is endless debate within Christian circles regarding what is “sinful” and if “sin” really matters.  One prominent national pastor declared no one will go to Hell because God is just too loving and kind to send anyone to such a vile place.  That same pastor has since proclaimed a series of beliefs which defy Scriptural teaching.  One of his recent comments was that the Bible is not really God’s Word, but only an inspirational book meant to encourage us to do good.  His words are blasphemy!

I am weary of those who testify to being a follower of Jesus Christ, yet embrace the very things Scripture calls SIN.  Sin DOES matter!  It matters to God and it should matter to us!  Jesus died on the cross to redeem us from the power of sin, NOT to help us accommodate sin!  He will NEVER accept sin!   It does not matter how many religious leaders or how many politicians or which celebrities give their approval, if God says it is sin…then it is SIN and will never be otherwise!  All of man’s arguments to legalize sin are useless, as are the attempts to say God’s Word is “wrong” as it pertains to areas of man’s behavior, choices, and desires.  God has the final word…and He has already warned, “The soul that sins is the one that will die” (Ezekiel 18:4, 20).

Rather than try to legitimize sin, today’s church desperately needs to repent of its worldliness.  We need to fall on our face before God like Isaiah (Isaiah 6), admit our spiritual weakness, and ask God to touch and cleanse us with His Holy Spirit once again!  Our greatest need is the holiness of God manifest in our lives!  Spiritual revival in the church must begin with those who profess to live for the Lord.  We need that fresh vision of Who God is…His dynamic holiness…His righteousness!  When we live with that fresh vision, we will discern evil from good.  We will cling tightly to what God approves and reject what He deems as evil.  The church of our day needs a fresh encounter with the Holy God that Isaiah saw!  


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