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Only One

“No one can serve two masters…” Matthew 6:24 (NIV)

Last Wednesday’s (January 6) events in Washington D.C. have left many of us shaken, some shaken to the core. A few days after what took place in our nation’s capital, someone shared with me that the events of that day and since had reminded them that what we say matters. What we don’t say matters. What we do matters. What we don’t do matters. 

I couldn’t agree more! 

If there was ever a time for people of faith, for followers of Jesus, for the Church to be who God calls us to be, it is such a time as this! The Bible is clear, Christians lives are to be centered on and to revolve around one person and one person only. That person is Jesus Christ! What Christians say and do is to be directed by Jesus. 

The world is watching. Our nation is watching. Our community is watching. Our families, friends, neighbors, co-workers, fellow students… our children and grandchildren… are all watching. They are watching to see if Christians… if I… will be centered on, revolve around, and be directed by Jesus Christ as we claim, or if it’s something or someone else. 

It’s time to come out of the shadows! You can listen to more at https://fb.watch/2ZxduBRvBj/

Your partner on the journey,

Pastor Steve 

Tripped Up

“A person’s steps are made secure by the Lord when they delight in his way. Though they trip up, they won’t be thrown down, because the LORD holds their hand.” (Psalm 37:23-24, CEB)

I came upon this Scripture on New Year’s Day as I mulled over 2020 and thought about 2021 to come. 

To borrow the psalm writer’s words, we were “tripped up” so many times by 2020! Our world, nation, communities, churches, and families faced so many unexpected challenges. That’s true for each of us personally as well. Some challenges were handled well and others not so well. 

What’s next in 2021? When will the pandemic end? When will life be “normal” again? Will anyone else I know and love suffer from COVID-19? How much farther will divisiveness separate us? Can systemic racial injustice be removed once and for all?

Into these questions and the uncertainty they can bring, God’s word echoes loud and clear: “A person’s steps are made secure by the Lord when they delight in his way.” Our journey of life can be secure IF we delight in and follow who God is, where God leads, what God calls us to do and be. We’ll still be tripped up now and then; that’s just life in a sinful and imperfect world.  But we “won’t be thrown down!”  Why not? God holds our hands!

No matter what the New Year brings, whether you’re “tripped up” or standing on solid ground, my prayer for you is the same. I pray you’ll know 2021 for the great year it can be as you delight in God’s way and are held firmly by God! 

Your partner on the journey,

Pastor Steve

Night Light

There is darkness. There is light. And there is a world of difference between them!

While vacationing in Florida several years ago, I watched a night time rocket launch. We gathered with a large crowd at the ocean’s edge on Cocoa Beach just south of the Kennedy Space Center. Too far away to actually see the launch pad, we just kept staring in the general direction of north waiting for something to happen. 

Large speakers had been brought in so that the launch control dialogue could be heard, including the iconic countdown. 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, ignition, 3, 2, 1… Liftoff! 

That night a communication satellite was being carried into orbit. The rocket was much smaller than those used for the famous Apollo missions to the moon or the dozens and dozens of space shuttle launches after that. Yet what I witnessed that night was absolutely amazing!

Despite being miles away, just a few seconds after the launch the sky was suddenly filled with abundant radiant light. It was so bright that the night literally became as light as day! This lasted for over a minute. I’d never seen anything quite so spectacular!

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light. On those living in a pitch-dark land, light has dawned… A child is born to us, a son is given to us… He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:2, 6 CEB)

Christ is your light! And the light of Christ abundantly floods the valley of your darkness with God’s power, strength, and hope… no matter wherever or whatever that darkness is! My prayer is that you will see, receive, and put your faith in the light that is Jesus Christ!

Your partner on the journey, 

Pastor Steve 

How Much Time Do You Have?

"No one has ever seen God. God, the only Son, who is at that Father’s side, has made God known."                        (John 1:18, CEB) 

Several years ago, in becoming an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church, I had to answer a lot of questions in writing as part of the process. The very first question was, “What is your understanding of God?” And there was a limit on how many words you could write. 

Really?  How much time to you have?

Where do you start in describing who God is, what God has to say, what God does, and what God calls us to be?  How many words does it take adequately explain Almighty God, Creator of everything, the One infinite in presence, wisdom, and love?  Could there ever be enough words to do that? I submit that there could not!

I wish I would have known then, what I better see and understand now.

If you want to know God, know Jesus! The New Testament Gospels show us how Jesus loved broken people, ate with sinners, healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, touched the untouchable, shared other’s grief, had compassion for outcasts, said he came “to seek and save the lost” and went all the way to Calvary’s cross to do so!  If you want to know God, know Jesus! 

My prayer is that you will come to know this life-changing mystery of Emmanuel, God with us!

Your partner on the journey,

Pastor Steve

No Sympathy From God

2020 has been a very challenging year! Now, let me state the not so obvious; God doesn’t sympathize with us. 

God doesn’t just see and understand what’s going on with us. As pastor and writer Adam Hamilton shares in his book Incarnation: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas, “God doesn’t just imagine what it’s like to be human.” That’s sympathy. “How could an all-powerful God really know what it’s like to be weak, afraid, or hurt?”

But God does know!

So, with God, it’s not sympathy; it’s empathy! God knows and has experienced what we’re going through and feeling.  God empathizes with us… with you! How is it possible for almighty God to empathize with fallible human beings? 

“…Christ Jesus: Though he was in the form of God, he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit. But he emptied himself by taking the form of a slave and by becoming like human beings.”       

(Philippians 2:5-7, CEB)

Again, as Adam Hamilton shares, “In Jesus, God became human flesh. God wept. God bled. God suffered. God died. There is something profoundly moving about God actually knowing what we are experiencing as humans. God became fully human in Jesus Christ.  In Jesus, God experiences all of who we are. 

And this, my friends, makes all the difference! 

Your partner on the journey,

Pastor Steve 

Change And Other Things In The Air

None of us likes change.

Sure, there are good changes like getting a raise at work, moving into your dream house, or making a “C” in your first semester college biology instead of the “F” you had at mid-term (just saying, that last one could happen). But other changes aren’t so good like losing your job, receiving a serious diagnosis, or experiencing the unexpected death of a loved one. 

Good or bad, all change brings with it new circumstances and some uncertainty. Given the choice, most of us prefer to do what we’ve always done, it’s comfortable. And we like to know what’s coming around the next corner, especially the planners and list-makers among us. 

There’s been a lot of change in our lives in 2020. Some we expected, but many we did not. Of all this year’s unexpected changes, the COVID-19 pandemic looms largest! All of our lives have been changed in multiple ways because of the pandemic. That change has brought uncertainty. And uncertainty can bring with it stress, anxiety, and even fear. 

Right now, there’s a lot of fear in the air.

But there’s always been fear in the world. In the Bible we see the phrase “Don’t be afraid” over one hundred times. And if you’re wondering why not fear, as pastor and writer Adam Hamilton says, the Bible’s answer is relentlessly consistent, “because God is with us!”

She will give birth to a son, and you will call him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. Now all of this took place so that what the Lord had spoken through the prophet would be fulfilled: Look! A virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will call him, Emmanuel. Emmanuel means “God with us.” (Matthew 1: 21-23, CEB)

And that my friends is really Good News!

Your partner on the journey,

Pastor Steve 

The Nonsense of God

Needless to say, this will be a holiday season like none other.  Never before have we celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas in the midst of a pandemic. 

There is so much about this that just doesn’t make sense! We want to gather with family and friends, but one of the best things we can do for each other is to stay apart. We want to invite the community together to share lots of good food, but the church potluck dinner is on indefinite hold. We want to give that perfect gift, but the best thing we can give to those we love is to simply wear a face mask. Right now, some things just don’t make sense. 

And the same thing is true when it comes to God. No, really!  Let’s be honest, there are some things about God that don’t make sense if you stop and think about them. One of the biggest, is the “open-handed” generosity we receive from God in Jesus Christ. In Christ, God doesn’t offer us justice and not just mercy. In the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, God offers us grace!  Click here to listen to more (November 22 sermon). 

In the words of Oswald Chambers, the miracle of redemption is that God turns us, the unholy ones, into the standard of God’s own self, the Holy One. God does this by putting into us a new nature, the nature of Jesus Christ. 

That my friends, is the miracle and power of grace!

Your partner on the journey,                                                                                                                                                       Pastor Steve

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