Pastor's Blog
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May 29, 2013, 10:36 AM

Stress Overload!

Ongoing automobile problems (including TWO breakdowns in six-weeks that required towing)...auto repairs that wiped-out our finances...finding ourselves "forced" to purchase a more reliable vehicle...the discovery of a "growth" in my thyroid that requires major surgery...hassles with our health insurance carrier...the  rapid advancement of my Mom's Alzheimer's...the deaths of my uncle and cousin within one-week of each other...job issues with Peggy's employer...and a host of other stresses are being dealt with in our family.  We feel like we are at the point many others find themselves at--STRESS OVERLOAD

Sadly, there are a host of other people I know personally, including several families within our local church, whose stress load makes Peggy and my issues "invisible" by comparison!   We hate to admit it, but STRESS is a normal part of life.  None of us is exempt from stress.  No matter how close to God a person lives, stress will continually be there.  

How are we to deal with stress, and specifically, how are we to deal with those times when we are in STRESS OVERLOAD?

1--Pray.  Do not merely mouth a 'Now I lay me down to sleep' wimpy, routine prayer, but cry out to God in holy desperation!  He has given us permission to come to Him with any and every issue we face.  We need to lay our burdens before Him in passionate, heart-rending conversation, knowing that He is the only One who can make a difference in our situation.   

2--Read the Bible.  During times of great stress, invest time reading the Old Testament accounts of God's intervention in the lives of those who served Him as they found themselves in STRESS OVERLOAD.   Take time to read about Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Daniel, Josiah, Gideon, and many others.  Recognize the God we serve is the same God they served.  Since God does not play favorites, what He did for them, He will do for us if we will allow Him to. 

3--Exercise faith.  When you are surrounded by an unending ocean of problems, it is a challenge to exercise our faith.  We may even feel as if we have no faith.  Jesus said if we have even a small amount of faith, like that of a tiny seed, we could see the miraculous happen.  I have several situations I am facing today in which my miniscule faith seems far too small for God to use.  Yet He IS God.  If He spoke a word and the worlds were created, surely He can use whatever tiny bit of faith we may have as the material by which He will do the impossible in our lives!  

4--Wait on God.  Few of us are patient by nature.  Waiting on God is sometimes an extremely difficult challenge.   My life observation is that God's clock runs at a different pace than my clock.  I, and most of you, are action-oriented individuals who want to see something happening NOW!  When God has us waiting, know without question that He IS actively working on our behalf even though we cannot visibly see what He is doing.  When it seems God is doing nothing...He is doing something!  Even amidst our STRESS OVERLOAD, the wisest action we can take is to wait on God.

As a child, I learned a song in Sunday School that told me God cared about me.  It was based on 1 Peter 5:7.  I have no idea how many times that children's song has comforted me during times when I did not sense God nearby...when I was tempted to question His care.  1 Peter 5:6-7 tells us, "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, the He may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you."   God Himself will carry our STRESS OVERLOAD if we will release it to Him!  We do not need to carry that load.  He will take it for us if we will surrender it to Him.




May 2, 2013, 10:52 AM

The Sunday Club

We are creatures-of-habit.  We use the same gas stations over and over; we eat at the same restaurants consistently; we have OUR CHAIR at home; and we may even have our "favorite glass" to drink from.   There is nothing intrinsically wrong with any of that.  Consistency is a positive attribute.  However, when we mindlessly do things out of habit, the value and meaning of what we are doing is lost.  It is very important for me to daily tell my beautiful wife that I love her.  Yet, if my "I love yous" are cold, scripted, and stated merely because I know I am suppose to tell her that, Peggy will sense my lack of sincerity.  Although I did what she desired, it will not meet the need.  She will not accept my empty words.  

I wonder how often we come to church truly ready to worship and give God the glory due Him?  If our excitement and exhuberence is the means of determining our level of worship, then we are in extreme trouble!  Too often it seems we come to church to be part of "The Sunday Club."  This is where we have been taught we need to be on Sunday mornings.  This is where we reconnect with friends and family each weekend.  We stay up later than we should on Saturday night, arrive twenty-minutes late for the Sunday morning Worship service,  sit in the service weary and yawning and too tired to really concentrate on the message being preached, then spend most of the remaining service just trying to stay awake.  When the service is over, we come alive as we talk and joke with our friends.  It is another day in "The Sunday Club." 

The church was never meant to be "The Sunday Club!"  If we are content with such an idea, we need to close the church, sell the property, give the proceeds to foreign missions, and disband!  I am convinced few things make God as nauseated as this kind of nonsense taking place in His Church!  How dramatic would things change in your church if you began to do the following: 

  • 1--invested at least 15-minutes daily praying for the Sunday worship services, asking God to anoint everything that is done;
  • 2--fasted one meal each week and invested that time in prayer, asking God to bring genuine revival to you personally and to your church; 
  • 3--made it your personal mission to invite at least TEN UNCHURCHED PEOPLE EACH WEEK to attend church with you, then made sure there was a "new ten" invited each week;
  • 4--invested daily time in God's Word, connecting with Him, listening for His voice, and drawing close to Him; 
  • 5--made certain your own soul was ready to worship the Lord each time you came to church; 
  • 6--every time you came to a church Worship service, you came EXPECTING God's presence; and
  • 7--you prepared for Sunday Worship all week long, making certain to get adequate rest on Saturday night and arrived early for the service so you could invest time praying and encouraging others! 

YOU are the only one who can put an end to "The Sunday Club."  Prepare yourself...invest yourself...give yourself to authentic worship of King Jesus!  You can make the difference.




April 18, 2013, 2:33 PM

An Expensive Bargain

Last week while traveling home from meeting our newborn grandson at Proctor Hospital in Peoria, I decided to fill-up my car with gas.  I did not really need gas, but was prompted to stop by the fact gas was five-cents-per-gallon LESS than what I paid in Decatur a few days earlier.  I would save about forty-cents on the fill-up!  Being the 'bargain hunter' I am, that was enough to convince me to stop.  The "detail" I totally forgot was the mechanical problems we had been having with our car over the previous few months.  One of those problems was with getting the car to start.  A few weeks ago, Peggy found herself stranded in a neighboring town some thirty-miles away with our car refusing to start.  A friend worked on the starter and was able to get us running again, so we thought we had a bit more time before spending hundreds of dollars to repair our car that has 160,000+ miles on it.  We were wrong!  When I tried to start the car after filling up, it would not start.  I had to push the car away from the gas pumps to a parking spot behind the station.  There, I spent nearly 45-minutes working on the car, attempting to get it started.  Nothing worked.  I occupied that same spot for several hours as I waited for the tow truck which eventually took the car to our mechanic's garage.  However, our auto insurance policy states we have to pay extra if we want the car towed beyond the nearest repair center, i.e. if we do not want to randomly get stuck with whatever "mechanic" is nearest to the location of our disabled vehicle.  Our mechanic had the starter replaced and the car running by 9:30 the next morning.  My forty-cent-savings on gas cost me a great deal of frustration, a full day wasted, and over $500.  The "good news" with that is our car is running pretty well right now! 

There are many people who are trying to find a "bargain spirituality."  They want to call themselves Christians, but do not want to live according to Biblical principles.  They prefer choosing which sections of the Bible they embrace, while ignoring or totally rejecting other portions.   They desire to have a spirituality that is inoffensive, one that embraces all people no matter how they choose to live, and a spirituality that assures everyone of eternal life.  The problem with "bargain spirituality" is that it costs so much!  If we attempt to dilute the Word of God or water-down the message of salvation, we do so at the risk of losing our own souls!  Those who desire to serve the Lord for as little personal cost as possible are not really serving Him at all.  Having a "Christian veneer" may fool the people around us, but it is sickening to God.  Jesus said those who deny Him on earth, He will deny before God the Father in Heaven.  He also stated we must take up our cross and follow Him.  Anyone unwilling to lay down themselves in absolute submission to Christ cannot be His follower.  Authentic discipleship requires total abandonment of self to the Lordship of Jesus Christ!  There are no short-cuts to holiness and there is no back door to Heaven.  There is only one way...the straight, narrow way through Jesus.   

FYI...after being towed back to Decatur, I discovered gas prices had dropped three-cents-per-gallon overnight.  My total savings by buying gas when I did was about eighteen-cents.  Talk about adding insult to injury!  My gas stop was an expensive bargain!      




April 2, 2013, 8:25 AM

Dealing With Minnows

There is an old saying:  "Don't worry about the sharks...it's the minnows that will nibble-you-to-death."   Essentially, that statement is telling us NOT to be so concerned about the major problems in life because if we are not careful, the little, everyday issues are the matters that will consume us.

Spiritually, the enemy of our souls knows he can do far more damage to us, as well as through us, if he causes us to stumble and struggle with life's daily events rather than have us commit some elaborate sinful act.  If he can spiritually destroy us inch-by-inch, he may be able to lull us into a "spiritual coma" without us realizing it.  We may go through all our normal routine without recognizing anything is any different.  

See if any of these "minnows" Satan uses to nibble-us-to-death spiritually are familiar to you.  We get so busy with our daily activities we fail to invest quality time reading and studying God's Word.  We still read a quick chapter from the Bible or maybe a page from a devotional book, but we do not seek to discover what God wants to say specifically to us by investing meaningful time reading and applying the Bible to our lives.  Perhaps we find ourselves squeezed for time, so we pray-on-the-run rather than taking time to get alone with God.  When this is the case, we justify ourselves by misquoting the Bible verse that says, "Pray without ceasing."  However, we soon know that just as any friendship cannot remain strong on two-sentence conversations flung at one another a few times daily, our relationship with the Lord quickly weakens.  Another "minnow" is when church attendance becomes our habit rather than our anticipated uniting with fellow believers for a joyful encounter with our living God.  The previously mentioned "minnows" all nibble away at private worship.  When our private worship is weak, our corporate worship will be even weaker.  Our attitudes can quickly become less-than-Christlike when we reduce our time with Him.  We take on the attitudes of those we are with.  Are we spending more time with Jesus Christ or with the sinful world?  Life as a whole can drain us of our joy.  Only the Lord can restore and renew our joy.  If joy is missing from us, it is a sure sign we are not investing adequate time with Christ.  Some of the other areas where Satan nibbles at us are in regard to trusting God, obedience, the necessity of sharing our faith with others, the importance of inviting the unchurched to join us in worship, and even in our own involvement in local ministry.   If everyone was as active, involved, and working for the church as YOU are, would the church be thriving or would there be a realtor's sign on the front lawn?  

In order to neutralize us spiritually, Satan does not need us to commit some horrific sin that makes the headlines of the evening news.  All he needs is for us to become careless in the little things.  No matter whether we have served God all our lives or we are just beginning our life with Christ, we must be diligent to guard the little things, as well as the major areas of life.  Our relationship with the Lord stands or falls on our faithfulness in the little things.     




March 21, 2013, 12:09 PM

Grandfatherhood

Any day now, our oldest daughter will be giving birth to our FIFTH grandchild (our second grandson).  From what I am told, one strong sneeze could have that little fellow here in a minute!   Peggy is naturally excited, not only because she will be Grandma again, but also because of her natural love of babies.   I am enjoying the excitement our daughter, son-in-law, and two-year-old granddaughter are experiencing.   Addison can hardly wait for her "baby brother" to arrive!   Initially, she was quite upset that they had not ordered a baby sister.  She was quite adamant she DID NOT WANT a baby brother!  After a lot of talking by our daughter and son-in-law, Addison is now quite content with a baby brother. 

"Grandfatherhood" is something I did not think about until our four children began getting married.  I just never considered myself "old enough" to be a Grandpa.  (My dear wife assures me I crossed the age barrier long ago!  She is such a "help" at times.)  My maternal grandfather, my Grandpa Ball, was nearly 70 when I was born.  My Grandpa Cecil was much younger, but seemed "old" to me.  When I see photos of Grandpa Cecil from my childhood, I realize he was not nearly as old as I thought he was at the time.  My Great-Grandpa Palmer seemed to defy age.  He was the most youthful elderly person I have ever known.  He was loving, caring, gentle, yet so very strong!  "Poppa" as he was known to us, was a Godly man who faithfully served the Lord all his life.  My Grandpa Cecil accepted Christ later in life.  As far as we know, Grandpa Ball lived his life far from God.  

As I think of the kind of Grandpa I want to be for my precious grandchildren, there are traits of my grandfathers I desire to convey.  My Grandpa Ball was not a nice man, but he loved me and always took time to play with me  (although he never wanted any adults to know it, lest it taint his tough-guy image).  He and I had a special relationship.  I want to have that kind of special bonding with each of my grandkids.  My Grandpa Cecil really did not know how to relate to children.  He was forced to work on the farm when he was a child, so he never had a childhood of his own.  He treated the grandkids like "minature adults," but he made certain we knew we were loved.    I want my grandchildren to know without any doubt their Grandpa Cecil loves them!  Great-Grandpa Palmer always exuded God's love and presence when he was around.  Perhaps more than anything else, I want my grandchildren to look at me and find themselves drawn into a closer relationship with Jesus Christ.  I desire to be a Grandpa who leads his grandkids to Christ.

In an ideal world, our grandchildren would live nearby so we could enjoy them regularly.  Instead, three of our grandchildren live in southwest Florida, 20+ hours away and the other two live 90-minutes north of us.  Peggy and I are grateful for Skype and for unlimited calling plans on our cell phones.  We love Aaliah, Malachi, Addison, Yunielis, and "the new kid" dearly!   I am still learning about this thing called  "Grandfatherhood," but I am enjoying it so far.  I pray God will help me be the kind of Grandpa who reflects the love and power of God to my grandchildren.   

 


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