Pastor's Blog
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April 23, 2014, 11:44 AM

A 100th Birthday Party!


Last week I did something I have never done before...I attended a 100th birthday party!  THELMA NULF, a member of our congregation, turned 100-years-old.  She was born on Easter Sunday, April 19, 1914.  Her 100th birthday came the day before Easter.  I was told the doctor who delivered her missed his Easter meal with his family in order to bring Thelma into the world.  By doing a little research into our church record books, I discovered Thelma became a member of our church on October 19, 1958.   To put that in perspective, Thelma became an official member of West Side Church of the Nazarene exactly five-weeks before I was born!   At her birthday celebration last week, they served hot dogs and ice cream cake.  The reaction you just had was similar to the reaction I had when they told me the menu!  The Activity Director at the nursing home where Thelma resides told me Thelma LOVES hot dogs and would eat them three-times daily if they would let her.   At her party, her love for both hot dogs and ice cream was very evident.  She seemed to enjoy her party, but became very tired and demanded to go back to her room where she could rest!  

At her party, I learned Thelma is on hospice care.  The news should not have surprised me, but it did.  In spite of her age, Thelma has been a sharp, bright lady with a very strong memory, at least up until recent months.  Over the past two-years as her pastor, I have enjoyed my many visits with Thelma.   Nearly blind and almost deaf, visiting with her can be a challenge, but one that is always worth the effort.  Last Summer when I learned I would be having preventive cancer surgery, I mentioned it to Thelma.  On every successive visit, she would ask if I had my surgery yet.  A month or so ago, she asked me once again.  When I told her I had the surgery nearly six-months ago, she immediately fired back a question:  "Was it cancer?"  When I assured her the doctors found no cancer, she announced, "Good!  That's what we prayed for!"    At 99-years-old, she was praying for her pastor.  What an example!  I hope the rest of our congregation follows her lead.

At her birthday party, I met Thelma's niece for the first time.  As we visited and talked, I learned that she knew all about me because Thelma kept her updated.  The niece knew about my surgery, knew it was cancer-related, knew about my regular visits with her aunt, and assured me her aunt appreciated her pastor.   I left that nursing home "blessed" by a dear little 100-year-old-lady!  There are certain days when God pours-out unexpected blessings as I go about my pastoral duties.  Last week, I experienced one of those special blessings in the form of Thelma Nulf!     




March 14, 2014, 10:05 AM

PRAYER GUIDE for our 21-Days of Prayer & Fasting

Prayer Guide
21-Days of Prayer & Fasting
March 17-April 6, 2014

 

3/17                For God to show me my true spiritual condition
Monday         For spiritual renewal of our Church Board and Pastor Steve
                          For spiritual renewal of the congregation at West Side Church of the Nazarene           
                             
3/18                For spiritual revival among our Senior Adults
Tuesday        That our entire congregation would be involved in Project Andrew
                          For new spiritual vision for West Side Church of the Nazarene
 
3/19                For spiritual revival among our Middle-Aged Adults
Wednesday  Spiritual encouragement for those who have grown spiritually weary
                          For the salvation of my neighbors
 
3/20                For spiritual revival among our Young Adults
Thursday      For our congregation to have God’s vision
                          For the salvation of the workers at the restaurants I frequent
 
3/21                Spiritual revival among our Teens
Friday            For God to show us the spiritually hungry people around us
                          For the salvation of the customers at our Thrift Shop
 
3/22                Spiritual revival among our Children
Saturday       For our congregation to know, embrace, and do God’s will for West Side
                          For someone to come to Christ today because of West Side Nazarene
 
3/23                For a powerful move of God in today’s worship service
Sunday          For God’s anointing upon our Praise Team
                          For God’s anointing upon Pastor Steve as he preaches and us as we listen
 
3/24               For God to lead me today to someone who needs Him
Monday        That I might see the community as God sees it
                          For God to work miracles in our congregation
 
3/25                For spiritual revival within my biological family
Tuesday        For the salvation of all those on our Project Andrew lists                   
          For everyone to have the opportunity to witness for Christ today
 
3/26                For God to raise-up workers and leaders in our congregation
Wednesday  For the salvation of those at the gas station where I normally go
                          That I will hear and obey God’s voice today
 
3/27                That I will invite someone to church this week who I have never invited before
Thursday      For God to raise-up individuals with a passion for Children’s Ministries
                          For renewal of all our current leaders
 
3/28                For God’s supernatural healing of those in our congregation who need it
Friday            For our congregation to embrace The Great Commission
                          For every West Sider to invite someone to church today
 
3/29                For the salvation of my doctors and medical staff
Saturday       For the salvation of every Decatur police officer
                          For the salvation of everyone on the Decatur Fire Department
 
3/30               For the Holy Spirit to have freedom to work in our worship service today
Sunday          For the Holy Spirit’s conviction to be mighty in today’s service
                          For seekers at the altars, drawing closer to the Lord
 
3/31                For spiritual revival in all five Decatur Nazarene churches
Monday         For God’s vision for my life
                          That I might see others as God sees them
 
4/1                  For God’s Word to come alive to our congregation like never before
Tuesday        For a revival of personal devotions within our congregation
                          That our congregation will focus on God, not on our problems
 
4/2                  For the salvation of the co-workers of those in our congregation
Wednesday  For the salvation of our friends who do not know the Lord
                          That our congregation will allow the Holy Spirit total control of their lives
 
4/3                  For the Holy Spirit to show us anything we have not surrendered to Him
Thursday      That we might all hear and obey God’s call to a lifestyle of holiness
                          That everyone in our congregation will seek all God has for them
 
4/4                  That our congregation will desire to be cleansed and filled with the Holy Spirit
Friday            For the Holy Spirit to reveal Himself fresh and new to me today
                          For the spiritual renewal of all those involved in our Small Groups
 
4/5                  For the Holy Spirit to have His way in West Side
Saturday       For a spirit of unity within West Side
                          That God would prepare me for tomorrow’s worship service
 
4/6                  For a powerful move of the Holy Spirit in today’s worship service
Sunday          For every soul to obey God’s call today
                          For lives to be transformed by the Holy Spirit today

 




February 12, 2014, 5:35 AM

When God Says, "Quit Praying!"

Regularly during my daily devotions, a verse of Scripture will grab my attention and not let go.  Some aspect of the verse or passage so powerfully touches me that it embeds its truth into my heart and mind, refusing to be forgotten.  Each time this  happens, I know the Lord is trying to reveal a fresh understanding of Himself to me.  Last week, this occurred once again in a very unexpected way.  The specific verse was Exodus 14:15 which says, “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the Israelites to move on.’”  God essentially told the Israelites to quit praying and start doing what He had commanded them to do!  This verse reinforced a belief I have held for years, i.e. prayer can become a “spiritual excuse” for inaction. 

As far back as my personal memory goes, I have known, believed in, and practiced the importance of God-honoring, passionate prayer.  Sincere, earnest prayer has been an anchor for my spiritual life since childhood.  I was taught the first response to any situation is to PRAY, seek God’s direction, and refuse to make a move until I know which direction He wants me to go.  When I was uncertain of God's will and direction, I was to continue doing the last thing I knew for certain He wanted of me.  Personal experience has consistently affirmed the wisdom of this practice.  I was also taught we must do more than “just pray.”  We must put feet-to-our-prayers, doing our part to actively partner with God in seeing our requests answered.  When I pray for the Lord to help us reach new families who will start attending our local church, I know I must allow Him to use me to contact and invite unchurched people. I cannot sit back in my place of prayer, make that request of Him, then sit around waiting for new people to wander into our church services.  I must actively participate in being used of God by inviting people to our church!

There comes a time when God says to us, “It is time to quit praying and start doing!”  God expects us to obey Him, get mobilized, and DO what He has commanded us to do!  Refuse to allow prayer to become an excuse for inactivity or a lack of obedience to God!   God will do what only He can do, yet He expects us to do what we are able to do!  He is calling us to, “Get busy!  Do what I have told you!  Partner with Me to see miracles happen in your life, in your church, and in your community!”  Pray until you know with certainty what God’s will is...then DO it!




January 31, 2014, 10:19 PM

Being Someone's Answer-to-Prayer

A few years ago while praying for my adult children, I asked the Lord to send someone into their lives who would influence them for Him.   Tears poured down my face as I pleaded with God for the souls of my wayward children. They were young adults, away from home, and running free of Mom and Dad's Biblical values.  We felt as though our ability to touch their lives for the Lord was minimal.  They were rebelling against everything they were taught...defying their Christian upbringing...and the more Peggy and I talked to them about their need for Christ, the deeper they seemed to plunge into their sin. 

As I wept before the Lord, begging Him to send someone to  lead our kids back to Christ...I clearly sensed the Holy Spirit telling me I needed to be the answer to some other Dad's prayer.  The Lord wanted me to be the Christian friend and the Godly influence on the people whose lives I intersected.   I needed to be the person God could use to answer the prayer of that Dad and Mom half-way across the country whose rebellious son/daughter dropped-out of church once they got away from home.  I needed to be the one who invited that new friend I met in the waiting room at the doctor's office to come to church with me.  Just as the Lord challenged me, I began to issue the same challenge to our congregation.  

I remember the day I ate lunch at Taco Bell and saw a young couple with a small child sitting across the dining room from me.  I noticed they bowed their heads to pray before they ate.  As I left, I was drawn to their table where I thanked them for sharing their faith with me by taking the time to pray for their food.  I then told them who I was, gave them my business card, and invited them to church.  They smiled and told me they had prayed that very morning for God to show them where they should attend church.  They were from northern Indiana and had moved to southern Florida for a job...which did not pan-out for them.  They were feeling very alone, stressed, and confused.  I later learned their families were praying intensely for God to send someone to encourage, love, and be a friend to them.  That couple began attending our church, made new friends, and found personal healing and renewal.  I was humbled that God used me to be someone's answer to prayer.  

  Watch for opportunities to invite others to attend church with you.  Be willing to move out of your 'comfort zone'  in order for God to use you.  Share your faith with the people you meet.  You might be the answer to someone's prayer!




January 22, 2014, 11:38 AM

9-4-1

From a purely human perspective, it is a poor use of time.  Some might tell me making a nine-hour round trip for a one-hour visit just is not a wise expenditure of my day.  When you add-in the fact the person I visit not only does not care that I am there, sometimes seems to not even want me there, will not tell anyone of my being there, and will not conduct a reasonable conversation with me…it seems to be an even greater waste of time. 

However, when I tell you these systematic trips are made to visit my Mother who is battling advanced Alzheimer’s, you suddenly recognize the nine-hour round trips for a one-hour visit are wonderful investments of time.  Mom does not know who I am, although there seems to be a faint recognition that I am “someone special” in her life.  She is incapable of having a meaningful conversation.  She has almost no recollection of her past.  It seems 95% of her memories have been erased.  Her physical appearance only vaguely resembles what she use to look like.  Usually, a one-hour visit is about all Mom can handle.  She gets tired of these “strangers” talking to her, asking her questions, and talking about people she does not know.  To be totally honest, one-hour is about all I can emotionally handle.  The one strong characteristic from her past that Mom continues to exhibit is her sense of humor.  We always have a good laugh when we are with her.  If I can get her laughing so hard she cries, it has been a great visit!  (Before she was stricken with Alzheimer’s, a normal visit with her always had a time when would laugh together until we cried!)  Mom’s incredible sense of humor is the lone vestige of her 'normal life' that still lives on.  My Mom’s worsening Alzheimer’s was a major factor in Peggy and me asking the Lord to allow us to return to the Midwest.  (If you ever wondered why we left the beautiful shores of southwest Florida and moved to the cornfields of central Illinois, now you know!)  LOVE pulled us back to this region…our love for my Mom.  In God's great wisdom and love for us, He also provided us a wonderful "church family" to minister with, love, and grow with!  So the nine-hours of travel for one-hour of visiting IS worth it.

Sometimes we invest ourselves in people without seeing any visible result.  We pray for them and their needs without hearing any expression of gratitude.   We call them on the phone, send them cards in the mail, text them, send email, yet they are unresponsive.  Often the only time we hear from them is when they need something or when they are in a crisis. We invite them to church, only to feel they are lying to us when they say they really want to start back to church.  We offer to provide transportation for them, but they still do not show up.  They always have an abundance of excuses, few of which are ever legitimate.  We spend time with them.  We give of ourselves, yet there is little proof that anything has changed in their lives.  WHY do we do it?  WHY do we knock-ourselves-out for people whose actions indicate they are so ungrateful?   It is because of LOVE…God’s love for us, His love for them, and our love for Him.  Because what we do for “the least of these”, we do to Him (Matthew 25:40). 

How long do we continue reaching to non-responsive people?  At what point is it acceptable for us to give-up?  The answer is found in another question:  at what point would you want people to give-up if it was YOUR SON/DAUGHTER that was being reached to?  Keep reaching out.  Continue praying and inviting.  Model Jesus' love to them.  Trust God to honor your efforts at winning souls for Him.  9-4-1! 


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