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Fact Checking

When it comes to balancing life, the practice of generosity is not an option. Generosity can refer to giving of different kinds of things. However, the easiest thing for us think about is the giving of our money. It may be the easiest to think about, but also one of the hardest to do. 

Bishop Robert Schnase talks about some of the reasons it’s hard to be generous with money in his book Five Practices of Fruitful Living. For one thing he says, we find it difficult to give generously because of fear. We fear if we give generously there may not be enough or we may have to give up things that give us pleasure. And yet we know that there are plenty of people around us who live happily and fruitfully who earn less than we do. 

A second reason we don’t give generously is that we underestimate the effort and planning needed to do so. Generosity in giving doesn’t just seep into us. It requires deep conviction, maturity, practice, and intentionality. No one tithes accidentally (tithe refers to giving 10% of one’s income to God through their giving to the church).  

A third reason we don’t give generously is that we convince ourselves we will begin to do so after we finally catch the financial break that frees us up to be generous. The fact is that most people tend to become less generous the wealthier they become. And then there’s the sticky question of how much money does it take to be happy? Studies show us that no matter what the income level, people say it will take about 20% more for them to be happy. Left up to us, we never feel there is enough. 

I encourage you to join me in leaving behind our reasons not to give and seek to be extravagantly generous. After all, isn’t that how God has given to us in Jesus Christ? 

Your partner on the journey,

Pastor Steve

A Service Issue

“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant… For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:43-45, NIV)

Jesus looked the disciples straight in the eye and said “Serve others… Because I have, am, and will do the same for you, giving my life for you.”  And Jesus looks us straight in the eye and says the same today! 

When my two sons were elementary school our church had a Wednesday after school program that ended with an evening meal. I was a “table parent” during the meal time. The whole group always said this table blessing together before eating. “I am a child of God. I am loved and accepted. I will treat others, as God treats me.” More than twenty years later, I still remember that table blessing being a powerful reminder of God’s love and expectation!

Serving others is essential, because living as a disciple of Jesus means being “other” rather than “self” serving. That means knowing that you are deeply loved, accepted, and treated as such by God… most notably in the life-giving sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. And it means treating others around you in that same self-sacrificial way. 

In other words, it’s about living out that old table blessing prayer: “I am a child of God. I am loved and accepted. I will treat others, as God treats me.” May it be so, in my life and yours!

Your partner on the journey

Pastor Steve 


Life Is Better Connected

Life is better connected!

And one of the best ways to connect with God and others is to be a part of a small group of people who consistently meet to develop deeper relationships, pray for one another, and support each other as they grow in faith. Over time, life together in a small group helps us not just come to know more about God, but it helps us know God more. And knowing God more will change our lives!

So, if intentionally developing our faith through a small group can do all this, why do we often resist? What keeps us from participating in this vital spiritual practice? Here are my top three reasons people don’t join a small group.  

#3) “I won’t know everyone in the group.”The fact is you may be right. But even if you can’t find a group with someone you know already in it, remember that one of the main reasons we have small groups is so that people can get acquainted in a non-threatening environment. 

#2) “A new learning situation is too awkward. I won’t know all the religious terms and I don’t know my way around the Bible very well.” The fact is, when you get people who know nothing about the Bible and people who seem to know everything about it in the same group, it is a great place to ask questions and learn in a non-threatening way!  

#1) “I just don’t have the time to be in a small group. My schedule is already filled up with family, work, and other obligations. Perhaps someday, something will suddenly change and I will finally have time to nourish my soul.” The fact is no one ever finds the extra time. When it is really important, you make time. And growing in your faith is that important!

That’s my top three. What about yours? If you would like to know more about opportunities to connect with others in-person or virtually in order to grow in your faith, just let me know (660-525-4422 or  

Your partner on the journey,

Pastor Steve 

Being There

It was still about thirty minutes before the 7:00 a.m. start to the fishing day at Bennett Springs State Park. I sat down on the shore soaking in the cool air and fog rising from the water. A few fishermen had begun to arrive. 

One gentleman came walking slowly along the shore, fly rod in tow, fishing vest loaded with what he needed. After chatting with me a bit, he slowly waded out into the water. 

With the starting siren sounding came his first cast. In two of his first three casts he caught a fish. Hooked six more in the first ten minutes, releasing all but one he thought was a real “keeper.” He walked onshore, smiled, and said “It’s a really good day!” 

A couple of days later at the same time in the same place came the same guy with the same routine. I leaned forward to watch the entertainment about to begin. Cast after cast glided across the water without as much as a nibble. Others nearby were landing fish, but not my guy. After twenty minutes or so he got a strike. Not a real keeper. The fish was released. He walked onshore, smiled, and said “It’s a really good day!” 

His joy wasn’t in the number of fish caught.  No, the joy came in consistently being there, showing up in that time and place, intentionally doing what was cherished… spending the first part of the day fishing. 

It’s the same with God. The joy isn’t in the frequency of “God moments,” number of spiritual mountain tops, or how many answers to prayer come our way.  No, the joy comes in consistently being there, showing up, and intentionally carving out time and space for God. 

“Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10, NIV). That’s a really good day! 

Your partner on the journey,

Pastor Steve 

Radical Hospitality

“Jesus knew that his time had come to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them fully.” (John 13:1, CEB)

These words set the stage for the Gospel of John’s version of Jesus’ last evening with his closest disciples and friends before his death on the cross. We’re tipped off to what’s coming, to something that will show just how Jesus loved his own to the very extent of love’s limits.

Jesus, their Teacher and Lord, knelt down and washed the disciples’ dirty stinking feet. 

Peter objects, knows that it should be the other way around. But to refuse to let Jesus wash his feet would close Peter off from this ultimate act of love. “Unless I wash you, you won’t have a place with me,” Jesus told him. 

As UMC Bishop Robert Schnase says in his book The Five Practices of Fruitful Living, little did Peter and the other disciples know that in less than 24 hours Jesus would repeat this action on a much greater scale. Jesus would give himself up for the sake of all humankind. Through his death on the cross the ultimate gift of God’s love would be offered to us too, love shown to its fullest extent, making a forever relationship with God possible. 

Sometimes I’m pretty good at closing the door to God’s love, a love ultimately found in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. How about you? Open the door of your life more fully to God’s love and grace.  Click here to listen to more (September 27 sermon). 

Out Of Control

“O LORD, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul… O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time on and forevermore.” (Psalm 131:1-2, NRSV) 

These words from the ancient psalm writer still ring true today. There is so much going on in our world, nation, and community; a pandemic, financial recession, racial justice movement, election cycle, and more all in this one year of 2020. Our days and nights can become filled with anxious thoughts about the uncertainties that lie ahead. 

Psalm 131 breathes the fresh air of wisdom into our anxious moments. “I do not occupy myself with things to great and too marvelous for me.” In other words, don’t get carried away with worry over things you can’t control anyway. “But I have calmed and quieted my soul…” How? By hoping in and waiting on the Lord. 

Jesus said the same thing in just a little different way. “Don’t worry about your life… Who among you by worrying can add a single moment to your life… Instead, seek first and foremost God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness…” (Matthew 6:25, 27, 33, CEB)  

So, I invite you to join me in following the biblical wisdom of the ancient psalmist and the call of Jesus on our lives.  Calm and quiet all that you are, your soul. And breathe in deeply the hope that only comes in trusting God, especially when things seem out of control.

Bigger Picture

A large butterfly flew by as my wife and I were hiking recently in Bennett Springs State Park.  It landed on the purple bloom of a long-stemmed plant just off the trail. There were two other butterflies on the same plant.  We considered ourselves lucky to stumble on to such a beautiful sight and headed on down the trail. 

Just a few steps later we saw another butterfly laden plant and this time stopped to snap this picture. While stopped, we discovered there were layers of these purple blossomed plants stretching several yards up the wooded hillside. The whole area was in constant motion with hundreds of butterflies. It was like being in a butterfly house without any walls! Amazing!

We could have easily missed it, if we’d been unwilling to halt our hike and look around. And it was a reminder that at times we all can get so focused on where we’re headed or what’s right in front of us, that we can forget to see the bigger picture. 

How many times does that happen in our lives with God?

“Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine.” May these words of Clara Scott’s old hymn be our prayer, as we slow down enough, or even stop, to see the bigger picture that God has laid out for us. 

Your partner on the journey,

Pastor Steve