Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Finding time...


I am sitting at my desk in the office, getting ready to start work on this week's message, and I've just noticed that my Bible is open to the reading for the week, sitting off to the side of my desk. That's a good thing. I should be ready to go.

What's not good is that my planner is sitting on top of it. It struck me the irony of that scene. How many people have the desire to spend time in God's word, only to have their hectic schedules keep them from fulfilling that desire.

Perhaps we can make an entry in that planner for spending time with God's word. Perhaps we can make it more of a routine to spend time in daily devotions – every day. Perhaps we can do our best to reign in out of control schedules that interfere with our time with God.

Don't let your schedule take you away from your Bible. It can be very difficult to get the Bible back!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Assembling Christmas...

Yesterday was actually Christmas Sunday. The Christmas Season is complete for another year. How do you feel? A little run down? A little tired? Maybe even a little depressed?

The message for this week was on how to assemble a Christmas that will leave you refreshed and invigorated. And how to keep the Christ-child at the center of it.

To read the message now, click on the title below...

12-28 - How to Assemble a Merry Christmas

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

God so loved...

For many, Christmas is a secular holiday to spend with our families, a time of exchanging gifts to show our love for those close to us.

But for the Christian, Christmas is a time for love. For remembering God's love for us. And that He demonstrated His love in such a powerful way.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)


His Son was first given in the form a helpless baby, born in a manger. But when His Son grew, he became our sacrifice. The sacrifice for our sins.

The strongest evidence of love is sacrifice...

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Spirit of Christmas...


I know that Christmas can have a dark side. The pushing and shoving we hear about on Black Friday, the competition for just the right gift, the tired feeling we can get when we've been at the store all day, and how we sometimes treat others, both those close to us and those store clerks we'll never see, when we don't find what we're looking for.

But Christmas also has a good side. There is hope. It is a joyful time of year. The peace of the Christmas Season blesses people. Goodwill abounds. The Christmas Spirit is infectious, and it spreads to others, bringing the goodwill and joy.

But the Christmas Spirit is the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of Christmas is the Spirit that Jesus sent to His believers on Pentecost. It's the same Spirit.

Why can't the goodwill and joy of the holiday season be with us all year? It can. When we abide in the Holy Spirit.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Mary's Response...

Sunday's message was a look at Mary's response to the news given by the angel Gabriel.

What if we were visited by an angel, and given the same news? What would our response have been. Would we have been as strong in our conviction as Mary was?

To read the message, click the title below:

December 21, 2008 - Mary's Response

Thanks for reading...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Living our faith when it's not easy...

I have been preparing the message for Sunday, and I am really struck by the simplicity of Mary's response to the visit of the angel Gabriel.

There are very few passage in Scripture where we see that conviction of faith. In a very simple response, Mary said, “May it be to me as you have said.” Facing what could have meant a death by stoning as an adulterer, she stuck with God. She stood firm, and never wavered.

I'm not sure I could have done that. We have it pretty easy, and it's particularly easy to say that we would stand firm no matter what, as long as it's never tested. Mary's faith was tested. And she passed the test – she remained strong in her faith. She trusted God. Simple faith. Not worrying. Just believing.

How much simpler would our lives be if we could share Mary's complete trust in God. If we could be filled with such simple faith, rather than trying to over examine every little what if that came our way. If we could stop worrying, and just believe.

I think that's the lesson we can learn from Mary. That if we allow God to be that close, just a step ahead of us, and we obediently follow Him every step, we, too, can live a life of simple faith, never worrying, just believing. And the God that we love, the God that we trust beyond all doubt, will be with us.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

God's timing...


In the book, Experiencing God, by Henry Blackaby, he impresses on us that God is not “out there” somewhere, he is here, with us. He works through people to do His work. And when we see signs of His work, we are invited to join in with Him in what He is already doing.

That impresses me for two reasons, first, because I tend to be like so many, who get very busy doing things for God, without always checking to see if He is working there or not. If He isn't, I probably shouldn't be, either.

But the other reason that impresses me is because I get so amazed when I see God working. Even after ten years in ministry, it is still amazing to see God at work. This morning, we had a gentleman come in who is a member of the Masonic Lodge. They had put together a very large number of care boxes, mostly fruit and snack items, to deliver to the area shut-ins. He stopped by here because he had three extra boxes, and was wondering if we could find someone in need to give them to.

It just so happened that just a few minutes before he arrived, a couple of ladies on our Missions Committee had left. They were in to get some things from our Food Pantry for three of the families that we are sponsoring for Christmas this year. They went to the grocery store to get some more things for a Holiday Food Basket that will be delivered with the Christmas gifts. These boxes from the Masonic Lodge will give these families just that much more.

And as always, I am amazed at seeing God work so clearly, and with just the right timing!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The ABC's of Discipleship...

I have just come across, through the wonderful art of email, a very simple approach to discipleship called the ABC Squared approach.

In a nutshell, here are the ABC's of discipleship:

ATTENDING – The first step in the discipleship process is regular church attendance. Weekly worship is vital to all Christians. Those who attend regularly will be invited to join the church, if they have not already done so. Every church needs to develop a program to draw people into regular worship and the sequential steps needed to move them to the next step, belonging.

BELONGING – The second step in the discipleship process is belonging to a small group. In this way, the need for fellowship is met along with the opportunity for deeper study (discipleship). Here at Almond Union, the opportunities for small groups include one of our two adult Sunday Schools, a Bible Study, or the choir.

CARING – The third step in the discipleship process is caring fro others through service. All Christians are called by God to serve, both within the church and in the local community. At Almond Union, we have a number of opportunities to serve, including the Almond Area Food Pantry, the Samaritan's Loft homeless ministry, our Angel Food Ministries, or one of our six committees.

CALLING – In the fourth stop in the discipleship process, members are challenged to call others to Christ. Evangelism completes the discipleship process as those who are engaged in it begin to disciple others. On a personal basis, that means inviting neighbors to church. We have a plan (FRAN Plan) whereby we can intentionally pray for friends, relatives, acquaintances, and neighbors, while looking for opportunities to invite them to be part of our church family, and part of the Body of Christ.

Where are you in the ABC's of discipleship? Are you moving along toward the calling phase? Are you actively inviting others to share your faith? Are you inviting them to be part of your Church Family?



Monday, December 15, 2008

There was a man...

"There was a man sent from God and his name was __________"

Are any of us comfortable filling in our own name into this line from John 6:1?

  • Have you helped remove downed trees from the roofs of homes after a hurricane?
  • Have you taken the time to be a father figure to a boy with no father?
  • Haveyou ever sponsored a child so that they can attend a youth event or a Christian Camp?
  • Have you ever just sat together with others from your church and had a great conversation about where we find ourselves in God's world and the pressures of today's culture?

God places before us many opportunities to glorify His name and the list above is a very short list of those things. What can you add to the list?

One only has to read the newspaper and watch the news to see that the American family and our churches along with them are in a terrible state of decline. The men of today are the key to bringing our families and our churches back to what God had planned. In order to bring men back into the church and fathers back into their families we need to lead them to see God's best for their life.

Are you willing to partner with the Holy Spirit and let Him guide us to fulfill God's plan? That's what it will take - Each of us partnering with the Holy Spirit, letting Him lead us, and reaching out to one person, one family, at a time.

This was based on part of a letter from Mike Gerega, President of American Baptist Men of New York State...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Who are we serving...


It has occurred to me that there may have been a fundamental shift in how we perceive the Church.

I'm talking about people inside the Church, how people inside the Church perceive Church. How the members of the Church perceive the Church. Hundreds of books have been written about how people outside the Church perceive the Church, and I'm not sure they've got it right yet. We seem to still be trying to figure that one out.
However, people inside the church see it differently than they used to. It seems to me that at the beginning, in the Bible days in the first century, that church was the resource given to believers to best serve God. People would use active participation in the Church to serve God. We were active in the Church to serve others, to serve God.

Today, it seems that many people are serving the Church. But we've lost that the Church was simply a means for serving God. It's become an end. We don't worry about serving God. We just serve the Church.

What happened? How did so many loose track of what we should serve? When did the resource, the tool, the means, become the end in itself? And perhaps much more importantly, how do we get back to where we were?

I suppose it's a heart issue. People's hearts aren't right with God. Even some people in the Church aren't right with God. Their hearts aren't right. Our hearts aren't right.

I know that God can work in the heart. It's not a lost cause. But it will take each of us examine our hearts. Making sure that we are right. Making sure that we are serving God as He has intended. When each of our hearts are right, then the Church will once again be the means to serve God.

Until then, I'm worried that the Church in America will continue to bob up and down on a sea of disbelief. Oh, the power God is waiting to give us. If only we would serve Him.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Take my son...


I've never done this before, but I received an email that I've received this time of year in previous years. It seems to go around every year. But it's really good, and I want to share it with you...


Take my Son
A wealthy man and his son loved to collect rare works of art. They had everything in their collection, from Picasso to Raphael. They would often sit together and admire the great works of art.
When the Vietnam conflict broke out, the son wen t to war. He was very courageous and died in battle while rescuing another soldier. The father was notified and grieved deeply for his only son.
About a month later, just before Christmas, there was a knock at the door. A young man stood at the door with a large package in his hands.

He said, "Sir, you don't know me, but I am the soldier for whom your son gave his life. He saved many lives that day, and he was carrying me to safety when a bullet struck him in the heart and he died instantly. He often talked about you, and your love for art." The young man held out this package. "I know this isn't much. I'm not really a great artist, but I think your son would have wanted you to have this."
The father opened the package. It was a portrait of his son, painted by the young man. He stared in awe at the way the soldier had captured the personality of his son in the painting. The father was so drawn to the eyes that his own eyes welled up with tears. He thanked the young man and offered to pay him for the picture. "Oh, no sir, I could never repay what your son did for me. It's a gift." The father hung the portrait over his mantle. Every time visitors came to his home he took them to see the portrait of his son before he showed them any of the other great works he had collected. The man died a few months later. There was to be a great auction of his paintings Many influential people gathered, excited over seeing the great paintings and having an opportunity to purchase one for their collection.

On the platform sat the painting of the son The auctioneer pounded his gavel. "We will start the bidding with this picture of the son. Who will bid for this picture?"

There was silence.
Then a voice in the back of the room shouted, "We want to see the famous paintings. Skip this one." But the auctioneer persisted. "Will somebody bid for this painting. Who will start the bidding? $100, $200?"


Another voice angrily. "We didn't come to see this painting. We came to see the Van Goghs, the Rembrandts. Get on with the real bids!" But still the auctioneer continued. "The son! The son! Who'll take the son?"

Finally, a voice came from the very back of the room. It was the longtime gardener of the man and his son. "I'll give $10 for the painting." Being a poor man, it was all he could afford.

"We have $10, who will bid $20?"

"Give it to him for $10. Let's see the masters."

"$10 is the bid, won't someone bid $20?"
The crowd was becoming angry. They didn't want the picture of the son. They wanted the more worthy investments for their collections.

The auctioneer pounded the gavel. "Going once, twice, SOLD for $10!"

A man sitting on the second row shouted, "Now let's get on with the collection!"

The auctioneer laid down his gavel. "I'm sorry, the auction is over."

"What about the paintings?"

"I am sorry. When I was called to conduct this auction, I was told of a secret stipulation in the will. I was not allowed to reveal that stipulation until this time. Only the painting of the son would be auctioned. Whoever bought that painting would inherit the entire estate, including the paintings.

The man who took the son gets everything!"
God gave His son 2,000 years ago to die on the cross. Much like the auctioneer, His message today is: "The son, the son, who'll take the son?"

Because, you see, whoever takes the Son gets everything..

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Christmas Message...


On Sunday afternoon, the local Historical Society here in Almond presented their annual Christmas Program. We host the program here in our church, and I had an opportunity to give a short message at the close.

As I was thinking about what to say, and how to say it, it really occurred to me that the message of Christmas is the good news of the Gospel. There is no way to separate it. The good news of the Gospel is that Jesus came! That's it in a nutshell. And that's the Christmas message. Jesus came, a baby in a manger, an infant, yet Emmanuel, God with us.

There are a lot of distractions this time of year, but remember the good news. Remember the baby in the manger. And remember He is still with us.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The best gift...

I was reminded in an email from our American Baptist National Ministries team often the best gifts have nothing to do with pretty paper and shiny bows. Sharing time and talents with ministries that make a difference to others offers opportunities for giving gifts that bring God's love to those who need it most. Volunteers of all sorts are needed.

In our church, that can mean help with the food pantry, the Samaritan's Loft, the Angel Food Ministry, or the local missions committee. Locally, don't forget opportunities to serve at Faith in Action, the local hospital or various nursing homes. And tied in with one of our denominations, Camp Vick and Camp Whitman can almost always use nurses, chaplains, music teachers, painters, carpenters and plumbers.

Rochester is only an hour a way, and provides boundless opportunities to serve others in the hospitals, Cameron Community Center, or the Open Door Mission.

The best gifts are free – and the best way to get them is to give them!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Sent to prepare the way...

Sunday's sermon message was a message looking at the ministry of John the Baptist. John's ministry was a ministry with one purpose - to prepare the way for Christ.

In the Old Testament, prophets foretold of this ministry, the one calling in the desert, make clear a path... In the Gospel of Mark, it is clear that John the Baptist was the one foretold of.

Throughout history, people have prepared the way for Christ. Saints throughout Church history have prepared the way for others to receive Christ. And I believe that in a very real sense, each of us are called to prepare the way for others to receive Christ.

To read the message, or hear an audio recording, click here.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Multiple copies...

Are others getting multiple copies?

I know that many are subscribed to get the daily post via email. I get one myself, but often I get multiple copies. I know that I have some email issues, but is anyone else getting multiple copies of the daily post via email???

Please click the word comment at the end of this post and let me know. Thanks. Pastor Steve.

Jesus in Us

Yesterday, I talked about how God is with us, we are temples, he has sent His Holy Spirit to be with us always. But do we really understand what that means? There might be a couple of things we should keep in mind...

First, If the Holy Spirit is in you, you shouldn't go where He would not be welcomed. Obviously, we wouldn't think to look for God in bars and nightclubs. If the Holy Spirit reside within you, others should probably not think to look for you in bars and nightclubs, either.

This is a dramatic example, but I think you get the point. Where do you go, what do you do, that the Holy Spirit wouldn't do. And knowing the Holy Spirit is within you, why do you continue to do it?

Finally, perhaps since the Holy Spirit is in you, you should play a part in keeping the area around you worthy of the King of Kings. Say you go to the grocery store, or maybe you're just walking down the street, and see something or or hear something that's inappropriate. What do you do?

Do you avoid it? Do you walk away? If the Holy Spirit is within us, shouldn't we do all we can to make Him comfortable? Wouldn't that include avoiding situations that are inappropriate? And getting out of those situations as soon as possible if we stumble into them. Perhaps even saying something, sharing that the behavior really does offend, and perhaps asking them to avoid it in public. Sometimes people just get carried away and need a reminder that they aren't alone.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

God's Vessels...


We are all vessels of the Holy Spirit.

I'm sure you know this. We've learned since early in our Sunday School days that when we become believers in Jesus, when we accept Him as our Lord and Savior, that He sends the Holy Spirit to come to us and live in our hearts.

Paul kind of drives this home to us in 1 Corinthians. In 3:16, he writes, “Do you not know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?” Again in 6:19, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?”

This is rather incredible fact that we should never forget, and never take for granted. Because it means more than anything else, that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Because God is always with us, we cannot be alone. Because of His continuous presence in the form of the Holy Spirit, we are never without the power to do everything that He has called us to, and that He will always see us through anything that comes our way.

How can we get through life on our own? Why would we want to? God offers His very presence within us. Struggling on in our own power makes no sense, when God is so willing to help.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Watching people being people...

I like to watch people.

I enjoy watching others engage in life. Watching them build relationships, meet others, and grow.

This morning I took my wife to a Doctor's appointment in Dansville. While waiting, I watched the people in the waiting room. Many people stayed very much to themselves. While very friendly when others would greet them, they would still stay in their magazines or books, and not offer anything of themselves.

But occasionally, someone would reach outside themselves, and be very open to a greeting, and willing to talk. Across the waiting room from where I was sitting, two people who had never met before began wonderful conversation. I remembered a line from a Geico commercial, “Humans behaving humanly!”

As followers of God, do we appreciate humans behaving humanly? Do we point out and quietly celebrate it when we see it? Perhaps most important of all, do we behave humanly ourselves?

Monday, December 1, 2008

First Sunday in Advent

It's hard to believe that the Christmas Season has begun. The stores are busy, Black Friday was a success from the marketing perspective, and the hustle and bustle of the holiday has officially begun.

Far more importantly to me, and I hope to all believers, the Season of Advent has begun. To me, the Season of Advent is the Christmas Season. Advent more accurately points to the real reason we celebrate Christmas, the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Advent provides a time of reflection, Bible Study, and prayer to prepare our hearts for Christmas. Advent helps to keep our mind set on what is important.

I encourage you to do something special this Advent Season. Begin a new Bible Study, start journaling, change your time in prayer. Allow God to speak to you in the Advent Season to bring you to a new, fresh, and very exciting time this Christmas. A time of incredible closeness and spirituality. A time of blessing.

The sermon message on Sunday talked about Advent, and what Advent means to me. you can read it, or listen to the recording, by clicking here.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!


As I was thinking about Thanksgiving, it occurred to me that we each have something that we can be especially thankful for this time of year. We each have a story to tell of when we experienced God this year. God is everywhere, and He is with each of us, and we all have something to share about a particular provision, a particular feeling, or a particular time that we know that God was working.

Yet, even though we each have a story, each story is very different. The same God has worked through each of us very differently. Each of us has felt His grace in our lives, His healing, His provision, His love, in very different ways. This is only possible because we serve a God that is very much alive, and very much involved in our lives.

We all have similar needs, needs for food and nourishment, for shelter, and for finances that make everything else come together, and He provides each of us with the means to obtain these. But because we are all different, with different likes and dislikes, He provides these means in different ways.

I think that's really incredible that God interacts with us and relates with us as uniquely as we are. It certainly keeps life interesting. And that's something we can be especially thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Using our talents...

Here it is Wednesday, and I'm just now putting up Sunday's message. So much for a daily thought on being part of the body of Christ! Thank you very much for your patience...

Sunday's message was titled What Do We Do With Our Gifts? Sunday was actually our Stewardship Sunday, we were a week behind the liturgical calendar this year. The message looked at the Parable of the Talents in Matthew chapter 25. One servant is given five talents of money, one is given two talents of money, one is given just one.

One gets in trouble for the way he handled his talent of money. He just buried it, didn't do anything with it. Perhaps the lesson is that we've all been given something by God, some great gift. And not using that gift is the worst mistake we can make.

I think this parable speaks to how we use our money (they were given a talent of money, a set weight of money), as well as any other gifts, abilities, or "talents" we may have. They are all gifts from God, and using them will bring glory to God. Not using them may very well bring the wrath of God. It certainly brought the wrath of the master in the parable...

To read (or hear an audio recording) the message, click here.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Induced recession

Sometimes, in the midst of trying to report the news, I think that the media can actually create the news.

A couple of month ago, when the media started reporting on the high rate of foreclosures, the rest of the economy wasn’t exactly setting any records, but weren’t in a recession, either. I believe that the economy became the highlight, the news story of the week. And now, all sectors of the economy are struggling.

I think that this brings up problem that we can address in two ways. First, the media should realize the power they have to create news, not just report it. Reporting that bad things are happening can cause bad things to happen. And while they have a duty and an obligation to report, they need to temper the quest to meet deadlines with the recognition of the power they have to lead people. The media very clearly can sway public opinion. And that’s an overwhelming responsibility.

Secondly, we as citizens have the responsibility to research and think for ourselves. Don’t take the word of the media, especially one segment of the media, about how bad things are. Get a couple of different sources of information. Search the internet. Find views on both sides, the media usually just gives us one view. You’ll generally find the truth is somewhere in the middle.

We are in a tough time. But how much of this tough time has been caused by fear that news reports have generated? Fear will cause the economy to fail. As people of God, let’s not fear.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Christmas Shoe boxes...

This week has been our Operation Christmas Child Shoe Box Collection Week. Our church in Almond serves as a Relay Center for this incredible ministry.

Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan’s Purse, a nonprofit Christian relief and evangelism organization. Every year, thousands of individuals, churches, and other groups fill ordinary shoe boxes with small gifts which Samaritan’s Purse then distributes to needy children in distressed areas of the world.

Several months ago, we set a rather aggressive goal for our Relay Center. As the week got closer, the media began more and more talking about the economic conditions and the slowdown. I admit that I was afraid we wouldn’t meet our goal, in fact, that we might not even meet last year’s totals.

But God works in times of poor economic conditions and slowdowns every bit as mightily as he works when times are good. At this point, on Friday morning, we are less than fifty shoe boxes short of last years total, and with four days left, we have a very good opportunity to meet this years lofty goal!

God is good! And He works through good people who are open to Him. And He works through simple gifts found in shoe boxes.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Getting outside ourselves...


Our sermon message last week, which I posted yesterday, was about the command to serve each other. Just as we are to love each other, we show that love by serving others.

I know that today many people are really struggling, fighting just to get by. And a part of me fears that it will get worse as we age, and can do less ourselves, and as money continues to tighten, and we are even less likely to be able to afford to have others come in and take care of things for us.

Yet, the verses that talk about always being ready to help others are still there. Why? When so many of us are struggling to take care of ourselves, why is God telling us to help take care of others? When things are falling apart around us, how can we offer help to neighbors?

Perhaps the Biblical response to serve others is a way of getting us outside ourselves. As we dig in and offer help, we see that others have problems, too! Many times, if not all times, we find that the problems others are struggling with are worse than our own. We see that God has given problems that we can handle (for the most part - we may struggle, but in the end we can handle them). They are unique to us. And allowed by a loving God. (okay, I admit, that part might be a stretch - but I do honestly believe it to be true).

Without reaching out to others, it's very easy to get self-centered and self-focused, concentrating on our problems. Our problems seem much more important than they really are, and our ability to handle them wisely is compromised.

So the best way to handle our own struggles is actually to take some time once in while to step outside our situations and help others with theirs. The concept might not make sense, but I bet it you try it, you'll see that it actually works!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Loving my neighbor...

I think that most people instinctively know that as Christians, we are supposed to love our neighbor, and we should do things to help them. Yet, that was the topic of my message on Sunday.

To read the message, please click on the title below:

Nov 16 - Loving My Neighbor

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Choosing Who to Follow...

I don't know if you have the same trouble that I do, but I find myself even more tired after a vacation than I do before. I was at a point where I really needed some time away, but to come back is hard!

Anyway, election day has come and gone, and we have a new President. Sunday's message started there, but went on. You see, we've chosen a new President to follow, I think we also need to make sure to choose what god we're going to follow. I think that's where Israel was when Joshua wrote our reading for Sunday. Today, we seem to be in a similar place. However, our foreign gods aren't handmade idols, they are foreign ideas. Ideas like Secular Humanism, which so many believe, and so many pass on. We've got to be very careful to protect the faith we have. We've to be on guard not allow some of th4ese ideas into our thinking. We've got to chose to follow the God of the Bible...

To read the entire message, click here.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

We have chose...

By the time you will be reading this, the election will be over, and America will have chosen a new president.

Just as certain as this, is the fact that nearly half of you won’t be pleased at the results of the election. I know this because I feel the election will be fairly close, at least in the popular vote. I also know that while Barrack Obama is favored in the polls nationwide, Almond, and indeed all of Allegany County, tends to vote Republican. If that holds true, it may be true that more than half of you may be disappointed at the results.

Whatever happens, we know that it will not surprise God. I know that as America goes to the polls, God is working. Perhaps He is placing in leadership the one who might best lead us through some very difficult times. Perhaps He is stepping back, letting us choose who we want (like when Israel chose Saul as their first King, rejecting the Kingship of God). I hope the first is true, but only history can judge .

Whether our choice is victorious or not, as Christians, we are to respect the office of President, and pray for those in leadership over us. Our nation faces difficult times. The economy is struggling at best. Jobs are being lost daily, making it even harder to boost the economy. War continues to threaten the security of America, and of Americans. And with Wall Street acting very bullish, many are wondering about funds for retirement, funds that were supposed to grow mightily, but recently have shrunk cowardly.

Whoever wins will have a difficult road ahead of them. They will need our prayers, our help, our support. It’s time for an end to partisan politics. It’s time for all people to work together to make America strong again.

And perhaps, now more than ever, it’s time to let God lead our great nation again. There will be plenty of opposition to following God again, but we’ve tried it without Him, and frankly, it hasn’t been going so good.

Truth is, we can’t do better than God. I believe the best of our efforts of the last 40-50 years bears this out. As our nation has drifted further and further from God, our children are more and more disrespectful, our economy more and more uncertain, our values and morals more and more negotiable. America is a great place because we value freedom. God given freedom.

Whoever we choose for president, let’s also reconfirm our commitment to God.

Monday, October 27, 2008

From Bruce Reyes-Chow, Moderator of the Presbyterian Churches (USA)

I came across this letter on Bruce Reyes-Chow's web site. Bruce is the moderator for the Presbyterian Churches (USA). It is a letter to the leadership in Iraq, urging them to continue their efforts in stopping terrorist attacks, especially on Christian believers in Iraq. I thought it well written, and touches on things I think we are all concerned with. I wanted to share that with you today. Perhaps it will help guide your prayers in this area...


LETTER TO IRAQI PRIME MINISTER NURI AL-MALIKI
from Linda, Gradye and Bruce

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki:

We write to you today out of a grave sense of concern for the Christian community of Mosul. As any other minority in Iraq, they should be defended against the recent terrorist acts, which seem intended to eliminate the Christian presence in the region.

News reports, and the personal accounts of members of the Iraqi Presbyterian church, have drawn particular attention to the escalating violence against Christians in that region, as over two dozen Christians have been killed (others have been wounded), and more than 1,000 Christian families have fled the city.

We are grateful for your intervention which sent additional police to Mosul, ordered an investigation into the attacks on Christians, and pledged to take all steps to protect the Christians of that area. Early reports indicate that your steps have diminished the violence.

The Christian community in Mosul is one of the oldest in the world. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has a long history of engagement with Iraqi Christians, dating back to the early 1800’s, with a special emphasis on education, health care, and social service to all Iraqis as well as on church development. But both before and since our connections with our sisters and brothers there, Christians have been an integral part of the history and culture of your country.

Our church’s General Assembly, this past June, adopted a call of concern for all the people of Iraq, urging our members to:

“Pray for, call for, and work for a just and peaceful future for the nation and people of Iraq which includes the establishing of a just, stable, and democratic government and the timely departure of U.S. military forces and their contractors as soon as it is possible to leave the nation in an appropriately stable, just, and self-sustaining form."

We are grateful for your efforts to establish a just and peaceful future for the nation and people of Iraq. As you continue these efforts, we ask that you ensure the security of Christians within your nation. The situation in Mosul is very desperate. Along with the rest of the world we are watching and praying that you will move to restore order.

Bruce Reyes-Chow, Moderator of the 218th General Assembly
Linda Valentine, Executive Director, General Assembly Council
Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk, Office of the General Assembly

Friday, October 24, 2008

Reading the present time...

Jesus also said to the crowds, "When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, 'It is going to rain'; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, 'There will be scorching heat'; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?"
Luke 12:54-59

As I came across this reading this morning, I stopped to pause about our present time. We struggle with issues with morality and values - there seems to be such a wide span of acceptable morals, our values seem to differ greatly.

The war in Iraq continues, a financial crisis looms greater with the passing of time. Deficits in government spending are the norm, and government debt is out of sight.

How do we read the present time? If we think that a stimulus package and a tax cut will make everything all right, I fear we aren't doing very well at reading the present time...

I know several people who read the present time as the precursor for the end time. They believe that the events of the present time are setting the stage for the second coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

I agree. I know that Jesus said He would come again, and I know that He keeps His promises. He always has for me. And if He is coming again, and He hasn't yet, then we are closer now then we've ever been - no matter when it happens!

As the Body of Christ, let's help prepare His way. Let's help people prepare for His second coming. Let's share our faith, let's live our faith, let's let our faith be the first thing people see when see us. So that Christ himself might be the first thing they see when they see us!

Monday, October 20, 2008

A couple of thoughts on the financil crisis


I sometimes do a devotion on line, called Sacred Space. It's an online prayer that guides in a quite time of reflection.

Last week, there was an intro page that had some thoughts on the current financial crisis that I would like to share. I also have one of my own that I will tack on at the end...

Sometimes I feel moral indignation at the greed of the fat cats whose desire for ever-greater profits has exploited the weak. I hope that they may move from blindness to a sense of the real world of people, and realize the futility of their greed that wants more and more money. "What does it profit to gain the whole world and suffer the loss of your soul?" (Mark 8:36) But I know that such indignation is not always from the good spirit; it may be mixed with Schadenfreude in which there is little charity. I need to watch it.

At other times I feel fear and insecurity for myself and my loved ones. This pushes me to look at myself. Does insecurity make me more self-seeking and less caring about the needs of others, lessening my humanity, clouding my sense that people matter more than money? Or does this worldwide turmoil strengthen my compassion? Poverty is not good in itself, but where it leads to a deeper dependence on God and coexists with generosity it can be a rare grace - remember Jesus marveling at the widow's mite (Mark 12:41-43).

My own thought as I was reflecting on this involved the many people who live so far beyond their means and use credit to prolong the inevitable. A financial crisis involving credit will really hurt those who heavily rely on credit. Our prayers should be with them, but also, we need to stop living so far beyond our means.

Every generation wants to live a little better than the previous generation. And we have largely borrowed to do so. We need to give up this notion that success means having more than our parents had. Perhaps success is living a good life and being used by God to accomplish good in the lives of others.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

God Speaks Through our Brokenness...

This weeks message is about our brokenness. It doesn't matter what the cause of our brokenness is. It could be physical suffering, it could be fear, it could be mental anguish. All of these cause very real suffering, and the effect of that suffering is that we are a broken people.

How do carry on? How do we succeed? How do we follow God in the midst of our brokenness. That was the topic of this weeks sermon message. To read this message in it's entirety, click the name below...

Oct 19 - God Speaks Through our Brokenness

Thanks for reading!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Thoughts on our economic concerns...


As the economy is very definitely facing difficulties, and even a near collapse on Wall Street, people are very concerned. That's pretty obvious. It's hard to escape Wall Street.

Twenty years ago or so, I used to think that only the rich had money invested. Today, many people have money invested in the stock markets. Whether a mutual fund or two, a couple of stocks handed down, extra money invested since the banks interest rates are so low. Most retirement funds or IRA's are now invested in stocks or mutual funds. So declines in the stock market affect most people.

Those that have money invested are very concerned in the recent volatility and decline of many of their investments. I found a quote from the blog of Bruce Reyes-Chow, the moderator for the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Churches USA. Here is a portion of that article:

As followers of Jesus Christ, let us join in a call to our own people and to our fearful nation to hear God's word that "perfect love casts out fear;" and let us look anew at our economic system-one which has been immensely productive in many respects, but which has tended to favor the strong and aggressive, often at great cost to the weak. Let us all repent of our own decisions, both personal and corporate, regarding our use of the earth's resources and of the financial resources of which we have been made stewards. And let us make clear to our legislators and to those whose are charged with the management of this nation's financial resources that any recovery of fiscal accountability must be accompanied with moral accountability for the unfortunate, so that the burdens and blessings of the future are fairly shared.

We are reminded in Scripture over and over again, "Tis better to trust in the Lord than to trust in man." That can be hard to remember when financial crises strikes, but it is so important to remember.

Our hope comes from the Lord...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The four P's of our testimony...


Yesterday, I mentioned going into Penn Yan for a Committee Meeting.

I often get something out of these meetings that I can bring home to our local congregation, and even share with you. This time was no different.

We talked about an easy way to put together a testimony of our faith, a personal faith story, by using four P's to guide us. The P's are People, Places, Period, and Passion. I don't know who came up with this, but it was shared to the group by Priscilla Andrews, serving as Lay Pastor at Christ the King Fellowship in Spencer.

The idea is to come up with your own personal faith story, a story about when you came to faith, or had a significant spiritual awakening or rebirth. Your story should include People (the people in your life at that time that led you spiritually through this time, Place (where it happened, what church, what organization, what ministry, whatever was significant about where it happened), Period (the period in your life - young adult, student, career person, retired), and Passion (what are you most passionate about now at this stage of your Spiritual Journey).

The church in Spencer used this to introduce people to their church. First, the leaders of the church, the Council or Elder board, prepared their faith stories to be shared with the congregation in newsletters. Now, as new people come to the church, they are encouraged to do the same, so people can get to know them quicker.

I loved the idea. Why not do your own faith story. Let's share them and get to know each other even better. You can leave a comment to this post with your story...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Flying Carraige...


Last week, I was in Penn Yan for a meeting of the Committee on Evangelism in our Presbytery.

An interesting thing happened on my way to the meeting. As I was coming down the hill into the village, I passed an Amish carriage also coming into town. I didn't think much of it at the time, as there are a lot of Amish in the area, and a carriage is not an uncommon thing in Penn Yan. Several of the stores even have special parking areas for the Amish carriages.

What got my attention was that well over a mile later, I was stopped at a stop light, and the carriage came up and passed me, making a right at the intersection I was stopped at.

What struck me in that is that the carriage really isn't a bad mode of transportation. He was moving right along. For getting into town, or getting around town, it worked quite well. As well as my car!

Change is all around us. It's inevitable. New things come and become common place, only to be replaced by something newer later. Often, these new things mean we can get more done, or at least do things considerably easier. Sometimes it just means we do things different.

The trick, perhaps, is learning what new things are really going to be better, and embrace them, while holding off on the new things that are just different.

That's a pretty tall order, because I think that it's really beyond our abilities to discern that question. The best we can do is stay close to God, no matter what changes come our way, and to trust in Him to bring us to the change that is best for us. Which, I suppose, might be just what the Amish have done...

Another view of Frogs...

This last Sunday our message was somewhat related to a previous message.

A couple of weeks ago, we had a FROG Sunday, where we talked about several Bible Heroes who had learned to rely on God. Then we talked about a frog, and how the frog can be an acronym to help us remember to fully rely on God.

This week we looked at a different view of frogs. We looked at the plague of frogs that invaded Egypt. The lesson is that we can also look at frogs as a reminder of Pharoah's hardheartedness, and his sin, and perhaps our sin as well.

To read this message, or listen to the audio, click below:

October 15, 2008 Another View of Frogs

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

God's mercy...


For He says to Moses,
I will have mercy on whom
I have mercy, and I will
Have compassion on whom I
Have compassion.
- Romans 9:15-16


This passage came up in my reading the other day, and really seemed to jump out at me.

Perhaps the reason why this seemed to strike a chord is that I have recognized my need for God’s compassion and mercy a lot lately. And I’ve prayed for it, and I haven’t always felt it received.

We all stand before an awesome and omnipotent creator. And none of us can stand on our own merits, but require His compassion and mercy. Sometimes that compassion and mercy will be evident, sometimes it won’t be.

In those times that it’s not evident, long for it, strive for it, work for it, and know that God will be faithful.

Monday, October 6, 2008

World Communion Sunday

Yesterday was World Communion Sunday. During the message, I looked at Mark’s passages on communion, specifically the passage where he takes the bread, passes it to his disciples, and says, “take it, this is my body.”

The body of Christ is represented in that bread. But the Body of Christ also is represented in the church, the body of believers, the people who follow Christ.

If you would like to read the message, click on the title below.

Oct 6 – This is My Body

Thanks for reading!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Union in communion...


A couple of weeks ago, we had a clergy group here that was discussing congregational transformation.

In the beginning fellowship time, George Norton, the moderator of this group, a pastor at the First Baptist Church in Montour Falls, and our area minister in our Baptist association, was sharing some thought he had while sharing communion with some of his family in New England.

He reflected on how, as we share communion, we are also uniting ourselves with others all over the world who are also taking communion at the same time. As we partake of the bread and cup, we are united with believers everywhere who also partake of the bread and the cup.

I’ve been reflecting on that idea. Sunday is World Communion Sunday, and it strikes me as a wonderful illustration of the unity of the church. We are all God’s people, and we share in this bread and this cup together with millions we have never met before, and may never meet this side of heaven.

Something to reflect on…

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Sharpening others...


As iron sharpens iron,
So one man sharpens another.
- Proverbs 27:1


There is a tendency among people today to live our lives of faith privately, and to let others live their lives of faith privately.

To a point, that might be a good thing. Certainly, too much outside interference will drive others away, not bring them closer to a life of faith.

However, sometimes we come across a verse like this one. And we see that we do have a responsibility to help others grow in their faith. As much as we might like to shy away from that responsibility, it does seem to be there – it’s Biblical.

How are you doing at sharpening others? Do you bring out the best in other people? Do you help others see God’s work in their lives? Do you share God’s work in your life? What other ways can you think of to help sharpen others?

I would love to hear from you… Feel free to comment.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Thoughts on the Church...


When we think of the church, we usually think of the big white building across from the Sugar Creek, don't we?

Most of us know that it's something far bigger than that, but in our daily conversations with people, we usually just think of the building, or maybe the small group that meets in the building.

Church is much bigger than that. From the New Testament, we understand that the church is not a big building, or a small congregation, but a people. All people who trust our lives to Jesus Christ are the church. Our "membership" in the church doesn't come from adding our name to a roll, or affiliating with a small group that meets each Sunday. Our "membership" in the church comes from our relationship with Jesus.

We think way to small when we think of Almond Union of Churches as the church. We are a very small part of the church, at least those who have a genuine love for Jesus. We may be very active, but we remain a very small part of the church.

These thoughts come from a new book I'm reading called There's the Steeple... Here's the Church. It can be a little challenging for us to read, because it tends to challenge some of our ideas of what a church is and why it exists. But it's an easy read, and i encourage anyone who has an opportunity to read it to do so.

Perhaps we'll do a book study on it sometime at AUC. I'll let you know...

Monday, September 29, 2008

Sunday was Evangelism Sunday...


We kind of loosely follow the Revised Common Lectionary, and we do post the Lectionary readings on the Church website if you are interested in the weeks reading for your own reflection or devotion.

According to the church calendar, Sunday was Evangelism Sunday. This is one of those Sundays that we usually don't even mention, except for this year. The theme of our Sunday service was evangelism, the sharing our faith with people we see everyday.

We even had some special guests: some members of the Solid Rock Riders, a local chapter of the Christian Motorcyclist's Association. Bill Schaaf, the groups president, shared a little about CMA, from it's beginning to it's mission, to how the local chapter carries out that mission. He shared that the mission is to "change lives, one heart at a time."

Dave Holbrook, the groups chaplain, then shared about some of the local evangislistic efforts of the chapter, most notably, their presence at the Poag's Hole, a gathering of some 10,000 bikers. Jeff Lawton then shared a little, then sang a song called The CMA Ride.

The real blessing we took from this day was that they have found a way to combine their love for the Lord with their favorite hobby, riding motorcycles. The lesson for each of us is to do the same. Maybe we don't ride, but whatever we enjoy doing, let's use it to reach others for Christ!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Handling tomorrow...


Do no boast about tomorrow,
For you do not know what a day may bring forth.

- Proverbs 27:1


Here at the church, we’ve been going through a very stressful situation. I hope that it is almost resolved, but it’s been going on for so long, that I’ll believe it when I see it.

I don’t get upset about too many things. But I have to admit, this is one that has really become a “thorn in my flesh.” Two months of prayer has, I hope and pray, got us closer to a resolution, but the situation continues.

This verse has popped up in a recent devotion, as well as popping up in my thoughts over the last couple of weeks. While I am not boasting about tomorrow, I am worried about tomorrow, and I think the verse concerns that just as much.

Truth is, our worrying, or our boasting, doesn’t effect the final outcome of anything. Only trusting in God for all our needs each day makes any difference in the end. We can work so hard to plan our days, to better our future, to provide for our families, but in the end, we can’t control the outcome. And if working that hard doesn’t make a difference, you can bet worrying that much doesn’t either.

We can only do our best, and trust God to do the rest.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Using the personality compass to guide our prayer...

I hope that you may have read the last couple of posts with interest. We are healthiest, emotionally and physically, when we can balance the four points of the personality compass.

Dan Montgomery, in his book, Finding Your Way, also suggests that we can use these four points to help guide our prayer life, and make our communication with God even more rewarding.

In praying from love we can show our adoration of God, our thanksgiving for all He does for us, and we can praise Him. Prayers from the love point develop friendship and affection for the Lord.

Prayers from the assertive point will help us to stand on the word of God, to confront evil with our intercessory prayer, and to approach God with determination and boldness. You pray courageously for the redemption of situations and relationships, for the grace to resist temptation, and for the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Prayers from the weakness point allow us to share our frustrations, pain and grief to God. You feel sorry for your sins, confess your trespasses, and ask for healing and restoration. It is from our weakness that we surrender ourselves to God, trusting in the Holy Spirit to strengthen us and guide us.

You express the strength point when you approach God with confidence, committing yourself to his will, witnessing to Christ’s presence, and trusting God in all things. Strength shouldn’t be confused with false pride or self-will, but should be an outgrowth of surrender and knowing and doing God’s will.

Next time you struggle with what to pray for, pray around the compass points, and include all four in your prayer…

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Montgomery's Points of Weakness and Strength...

I’m following up on Dan Montgomery’s personality compass, as presented in his book, Finding Your Way.

Yesterday, I mentioned the compass points of Love and Aggression. Today, we’ll look at the points of Weakness and Strength, and how to see that they are balanced.

In today’s society, we are taught to be strong, and to avoid even the hint of weakness. We are usually taught to grin and bear it, never to fail, to beat the competition, and never show tears.

Healthy weakness is a good thing, and helps us be truly humble. Healthy weakness means accepting the vulnerabilities that come with life, and to accept our limitations. It is in our weakness that can come to God, and surrender to God. To call upon God so He can help us. It is by acknowledging our weakness that we are strengthened.

Weakness helps us accept that anxiety is a normal part of life. Some people run from anxiety, but we need to learn how to handle it, not avoid it.

On the opposite end is the Strength pole. Strength is a sense of adequacy and self esteem. Strength is necessary, because if we can’t esteem ourselves, we can’t esteem anyone else.

Too much strength can result in egotistic pride, self-righteousness, callous independence, or blind ambition. Scripture reminds us that this kind of false pride goes before destruction. But healthy strength allows us to do what we can for ourselves, yet to be able to ask for help when needed. You feel good about what you’re good at, but you admit when you’re wrong.

Remember that all these poles must be balanced for to operate as God created us. Too much of any one prevents us from developing the opposite, and will distort our personality and limit our effectiveness. But it’s never to late to work on being more balanced…

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Montgomery's Points of Love and Assertion...

I’m following up on yesterday’s post about Dan Montgomery’s personality compass, as presented in his book, Finding Your Way.

Yesterday, I mentioned the four compass points, Love and Aggression, Weakness and Strength, and how all four must be balanced. The parings here are more or less polar opposites, and the effect with which we can balance them can have a lot to do with how balanced our personalities are.

Obviously, we all must love. Love is a Biblical dictate, loving God and loving each other sums up all the law. When we love in the right proportion, then we experience emotions of warmth, tenderness, caring and joy. But not enough love causes us to begin to loose compassion for others. We might become very defensive, and eventually will find ourselves resisting even God.

But we need to understand that love isn’t a license for others to walk all over us. Too much love allows others to take advantage, and we may find ourselves in such need of others approval that we loose our own dignity. People with issues with co-dependency may find themselves with too much love, and little or no assertion. Healthy love doesn’t allow others to exploit or abuse you.

The opposite pole from love is assertion. Being healthy in assertion allows us to stand up for ourselves without undue anxiety, and to express ourselves honestly without feeling guilty. Too much assertion may lead us to be obnoxious or aggressive, telling people off, or demanding our own way. And since love and assertion are opposite points on the compass, too much assertion prevents us from showing love.

Not enough assertion leads to too much love, and the problems noted above – being walked over, not standing up for yourself, and co-dependency issues.

We should try to be assertive enough to be able to share your own opinions with out being upset with those who differ from you. You can take stands without burning bridges, and you can express yourself without lashing out.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at the other two points on the compass, Weakness and Strength…

Monday, September 22, 2008

Dan Montgomery's Personality Compass...


I mentioned a couple of days ago that I was reading a new book, Finding Your Way: A Christian Guide to Transforming Your Personality and Relationships by Dan Montgomery.

I mentioned that in the book he mentions a personality compass. Just as with a real compass, there are four compass points on the personality compass. They can be remembered with the keyword LAWS. This acronym represents the polar opposites of Love and Aggression, Weakness and Strength. To be a well-balanced person, all four must be balanced.

Tomorrow, I’ll talk about the first two, Love and Assertion. Wednesday, I’ll talk about Weakness and Strength. Then on Thursday, I’ll suggest a way that we might use this compass to guide not only our self-development and personality, but to guide our prayer life as well.

Look over the chart, and begin to think about how balanced you might be in these four areas…

What are you really worth...

This Sunday's message explored this question - What are you really worth?

It looked at the parable of the workers in the vineyard, where some worked all day, others only worked an hour, yet all received the same pay for the day. Some have expressed to me that that passage just isn't fair, and they questioned it. This message addresses some of their concerns, maybe it will your concerns also.

To read the message in full (or to hear the audio of the message), click on the title below:

9-21 - What Are You Really Worth?

Thanks for reading!

Friday, September 19, 2008

FROG's...

Here it is Friday, and this is my first venture onto the Blog for the week… So much for Daily Reflections. My apologies.

I did want to pass along last weeks sermon message. We did a FROG Sunday, and it was a lot of fun. The theme was frogs. We have song lyrics on the wall for each of our songs, and in between the songs we usually have a blank screen so that nothing shows. In keeping with the frog theme, this week we had pictures of frogs on the wall between songs.

We really did up the frog theme, but never mentioned why. The sermon message talked of Solomon, David, and Paul, and how they relied on God. Then we got to the frogs.

I encouraged people to think of FROG as an acronym for Fully Rely On God. Every time they see a frog, remember to fully rely on God. We even gave out little novelty frogs and encouraged people to put them someplace they will see them regularly during the day, and each time they see them, to be reminded to fully rely on God.

The Bible of full of heroes that aren’t any different than you or me, except they remember always to Fully Rely On God.

To read the message, or to hear it – our audio links are back – click on the title below.

9-14 FROG Sunday

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A lesson on tragedy...


I’ve been reading a new book lately called Finding Your Way by Dan Montgomery. He talks about a Personality Compass that’s very interesting, and maybe I can share some of the thoughts on that compass in the coming days.

But for today, I want to pass along an excerpt from this book regarding tragedy in our lives…
An African Christian named Guambi suffered the murder of his family in the massacre of Leopoldville, yet still he managed to become one of the most humble and loving men I’ve ever known. How did het get over the grief of lost loved ones?

Guambi told me that a person is like a rose. God can help even the tragic misfortunes of life to act as fertilizer for vigorous growth in those who seek his will. You can’t explain why a tragedy occurs, but with God’s help you can learn certain things from it. As you learn, you begin to grow. The newly planted rose bush must be allowed weeks and even months to assimilate the fertilizer that surrounds its base, and so must you be patient with the growth process.

In time a miraculous transformation occurs. The dung of life is broken down into nutrients, which become rich nourishment for new life. This fertilizer is gradually
transformed into the delicate, fragrant petals of the rose. And the piercing thorns serve to remind us of the cost of wholeness and holiness.

You don’t need perfect faith to experience personality transformation, only a mustard seed of faith that God is your Father, Jesus is your Savior, and the Holy Spirit is your friend and guide.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

You are a child of God...

I've never done this before, but I came across a video clip that I thought was worth passing along.

Click the link below, and the clip will load.

http://upchucky.com/worship/miracle.html

Hope you enjoy...

Monday, September 8, 2008

Something we can't do in heaven...

There is something we can’t do in heaven…

Last Saturday, I went to a picnic for Christian Motorcyclists Association chapters in the area called the Gathering at Letchworth.

This is always a great event, they have two rides to choose from in the morning, the food is always great, and there is always a musical guest after lunch. This year it was The Needham’s, a family of Southern Gospel singers, and they were great.

At the picnic, I had an opportunity to talk with Bruce Hadley, one of the area reps for CMA in New York, and he told that the Lord had revealed to him something that we won’t be able to do in heaven. We won’t be able to witness to others. And he was excited when he was telling me this – he loves to witness to others.

I have to admit, I’m a little more reserved when it comes to sharing my faith with people I don’t know, and let’s face it, most folks that I do know already know the Lord. Yet God’s plan to spread the Word of his Gospel, His good news, involves us as the ones telling the story. We are the ones, all those who believe, that God is using to tell others. And we have to tell them here, on earth. The time will come when it will be too late.

Are you sharing your faith? I know, sometimes it’s scary, sometimes it might seem like the hardest thing you do, but do it anyway. Just let people know that God loves them. Let them know that God has a plan. That God works in the lives of those who love them, and he wants to work in their lives as well. Let them know. Who will if you don’t?

Monday, August 25, 2008

The circular nature of blessings...


We have some friends in town for a few day visit, and I am reflecting on how much of a blessing they are to me and my family.

Paul and Cindy Talley have a music ministry, traveling from church to church to encourage the Body of Christ. Paul has a wonderful message on God's love for each of us. They shared with us at Almond Union's coffee house on Saturday night, and our Church in the Park service Sunday morning. They then traveled about 45 minutes north, and led a Sunday evening service at the Springwater Church of the Nazarene. We followed them up and listened. For an hour or two, we were groupies! (Then we had a chance to be roadies!!!)

But that got me to thinking about blessings. As followers of Christ, we go through our lives trying to be a blessing to others we might meet along the way. A kind word here, an act of kindness there, an understanding embrace, sharing our source of comfort with others.

Yet at the same time, we need blessings. We reach out to God at times yearning for blessings. And sometimes he sends them in the form of friends that travel from church to church...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

More reasons for joining a church...


We've been exploring reasons for joining a church in the last couple of days, and I want to finish up this thought (at least on my part, your comments are always welcome) today with a few more reasons.

These come from Rick Warren's book, Purpose Driven Life:

  • A church family identifies you as a genuine believer. I can’t claim to be following Christ if I’m not connected to any specific group of disciples. When we come together in love as a church family from different backgrounds, race, and social status, it is a powerful witness to the world. You are not the Body of Christ on your own. You need others to express that. Together, not separated, we are His Body.

  • A church family moves you out of self-isolation. The local church is the classroom for learning how to get along in God’s family. As a participating member, you learn to care about others and share the experiences of others: “If one part of the body suffers, all the other parts suffer with it. Or if one part of our body is honored, all the other parts share in its honor.” (1 Cor 12:26) Biblical fellowship is being as committed to each other as we are to Jesus Christ. God expects us to live our lives for each other.

  • A church family helps you develop spiritual muscle. You will never grow to maturity just by attending worship services and being a passive spectator. Only participation in the full life of a local church builds spiritual muscle. “As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” (Eph 4:16b) We need more than the Bible to grow; we need other believers. We grow faster and stronger by learning from each other and by being accountable to each other. When others share what God is teaching them, I learn and grow, too.

  • The Body of Christ needs you. God has a unique role for you to play in his family. Your local church is the place God designed for you to discover, develop and use your gifts. Jesus has not promised to build your ministry; he has promised to build His church.

  • You will share in Christ’s mission in the world. When Jesus walked the earth, God worked through the physical body of Christ; today he uses his spiritual body. The church is God’s instrument on earth. As members of Christ’s body, we are his hands, his feet, his eyes, and his heart. He works through us in the world.

  • A church family will help keep you from backsliding. None of us are immune to temptation. Given the right situation, you and I are capable of any sin. A church family provides us with the accountability to keep us on track, to be strong while fighting the temptations that come our way, and to work through our sin when we fail. Satan loves detached believers, unplugged from the life of the Body, isolated from God’s family, and unaccountable to spiritual leaders, because he knows they are defenseless and powerless against his attacks.

In another of his books, Purpose Driven Church, Warren points out that God really made us to be a part of the life of a local church. We are created with five basic needs: a purpose to live, people to live with, principles to live by, a profession to live out, and power to live on. The church is the only place on earth where you can meet all five of these needs in one place.

Your thoughts and comments are always appreciated...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Some reasons for belonging to a church...


Yesterday, I talked about the fine line churches have to walk today to invite and be open to visitors and guests, and same time, value the commitment of those who choose to join. Today (and tomorrow) I will share some reasons for joining that I have included in our new member book, So You Want to be a Member… A Study for New Members, which is a book I wrote that we use in our new member classes here in Almond.

From the introduction, here is an excerpt on reasons to belong…



Many people sit on the sidelines for some time without ever making the commitment to belong in membership with a particular church. But there are many reasons for becoming a member. In a booklet called Why Be A Christian, Why the Church, Walter Woodbury brings out several reasons to join in membership with a local church congregation:

  1. Because of what the church is (The living body of Christ), and what it has
    for me (opportunities for nurture, fellowship, growth and worship).

  2. Because you need the help of God’s church, and the church needs you.
    (As for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. – Psalm
    73:2)

  3. It is selfish and wrong of me to expect the benefits of the church if I
    refuse to join it and help to sustain it.

  4. I would not want to live nor bring up children in a community without a
    church and I cannot reasonably ask others to provide a church for my family,
    unless I am willing to do my share.

  5. By staying outside the church, I am throwing my influence against Christ and
    His Church.

  6. If all people refused to unite with the church and support its ministries,
    there would be no church.

  7. The church offers the opportunity to invest in a great and worthy cause,
    namely, the extension of God’s Kingdom in the world.

  8. If I do not stand up for Christ and His church here, how can I expect Him to
    claim me among His own when He comes in triumph? (If anyone is ashamed of
    me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels. –Mark 8:38)

Tomorrow, I’ll share some more reasons from Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Why belong to a church?


I have been having a discussion about the benefits of membership with a friend in our congregation. He believes that our trying to be more open and inclusive to guests and visitors may actually be damaging the value of membership, and ultimately the commitment level of our members.

We do have a few fellow worshipers who have chosen not to join us as members. They are very good attendees, and support the church financially. I would even contend they are very solid Christians, and are devoted to the church, both the Body of Christ and our local congregation. But they have reasons that are important to them for not joining.

They are welcome in our church. They are even welcome to attend our meetings and serve on committees, should they choose, even though they are not members in our church. Only members are allowed to chair committees, or vote at congregational meetings, but other than those two limitations, there are very few other reasons to join, if you will.

The early church seemed to have a very clear line for non-Christians. As I see it, in the book of Acts, and this my opinion, feel free to share if you have a different understanding, but it appears that you didn’t worship until you committed. Of course, there was usually only one church in town, and there were enemies looking to close it down and persecute those who ran it, but until you committed to Christ, you didn’t worship in the church. Visitors were permitted to attend part of the service, but were required to leave at a certain point. They certainly were not permitted to take communion, and I understand they did not even witness communion, they had to leave before it was offered.
Also, there was no such thing as a believer in Christ that wasn’t part of the church. Joining the church was a statement of commitment to Christ. As Christ gave his life for you, you gave your life to the Body of Christ on earth, which is the church.

I would like to hear from you on this one. In my mind, we’ve strayed a long way from the Biblical example in this matter, but have trouble envisioning how it would work today. So share your opinion, how does a church maintain the balance of valuing guests and visitors, and at the same time, provide valid and meaningful benefits for members, or if you prefer, reasons for joining and committing?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Weekly Message: God Works in the Tough Times

This last weeks message was titled, God Works in the Tough Times.

Have you ever had one of those moments when you suddenly realized why some of the bad things that have been happening had to happen? I share with you a time in my life when I was suffering badly, and had no idea why, but some time later, understood why it had to happen.

Our passage looks at Joseph revealing his identity to his brothers, who, the last time they saw him, had sold him into slavery (we looked at Genesis 45, but the story starts several chapters before this). The idea being that while his brothers meant this as an evil thing, God used it for good. How many times do we go through really ugly times that God is using for good, preparing us for something grand to come?

If you're interested in reading the entire message, you can click on the title below:

August 17, 2008 - God Works in the Tough Times

Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 11, 2008

This weeks message...

This weeks message concerned knowing and trusting in our salvation. How can we really know for sure that we are saved. Why is it important to be saved. For these answers and more, check out this weeks message...

How Can We Really Know?

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Who are we putting our trust in...

I stopped to visit someone the other day that is very concerned with what the future will bring. She is living on a very limited income, and the price of gas is creating havoc with her finances, as it is for so many people.

But she is really scared. Concerned that things are going to really tight for everyone very soon. She might be right. The question is: Who are we putting our trust in?

Proverbs 3:25-26 speaks to this: “Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared.”

We may very well be approaching a time when negotiating our family finances will be like walking through a minefield. But Jesus will be there to guide you. Trust in Him, and he will keep your foot from being snared.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Fellowship with the Saints...

I’ve been thinking over the last month or so that our church needs more opportunities for fellowship. I know that there is a certain amount of fellowship that goes on in everything that we do, we always visit before and after Worship services, Bible Studies, Sunday School, and board meetings. But fellowship is really important.

I was thinking about that yesterday when I was answering some email. It is the context of fellowship that Christian bothers and sisters talk about life, they comfort and encourage each others, they share their problems and struggles, and are open with each other, and others respond with an openness of their own. And that’s vital in a church.

And it’s Biblical. In Psalm 16.3, we read, “As for the saints who are in the land, they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight.”

Do you see your fellow worshipers this way? Do you realize that they are the glorious ones? Is seeing them all your delight?

Fellowship is important. We should be craving time together with fellow believers, and we should be open enough and honest enough with them to allow them to help us through the struggles we face.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Where do we go from here?

Following services last Sunday, we had a very informative discussion titled, Where Do We Go From Here: Recasting the Vision.

We talked quite a bit about what brought people to Almond Union of Churches, what they remember most about the various ministries we've offered over the years, the programs and services. We also talked about we see as the strengths and weaknesses of our church today. We got a look at where our church has been, and where it is now.

Next week after our Sunday morning service, we will conclude the discussion by looking at where we go from here. I'm sure there are some things that have been lost over the years that we might want to reclaim. I'm also sure that there are some new things that might appear, that we haven't even thought of yet!

It can be difficult to take good, hard, honest, look at yourself. But to see God in the process, that step is necessary. We've got a good start. And as long as we remember to let God lead in the conclusion, we'll be a strong church for some time!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

the Olympic size prize...


The Olympics are in the news more and more lately. Beginning in just nine days or so, the media hype is already in near full gear. Athletes are already beginning to show up. Reporters are already flooding Beijing. And preparations are quickly nearing completion.

I love the idea of Olympic games. I have to confess that I don’t watch them, but I’m glad they’re held. The nations of the world need a forum where they can come together and play together, without all the political nonsense that gets in the way of people being human and caring for one another. The Olympics is one of the very few venues that provides that opportunity.

None of this means the athletes don’t compete at the very highest level. This is the epitome of their sport. The very biggest forum in which they can display their ability.

No one ever dreams of becoming an Olympic athlete who, after years of hard work and personal sacrifice, manages to come in fourth. Can you imagine a ten-year-old swimmer passionately describing to you how she is working toward the Olympic Games and her ambition is to finish just one place short of a medal? No way! Everyone making that trip feels they have a chance.

Paul uses this analogy for the way we are to live our lives of faith. We should be running the race to win the prize. This means doing our very best at everything we do. It means never missing an opportunity to share our faith. It means living a life transformed by Christ.

Unfortunately, our churches today are filled with people hoping to just do enough to get by. Hoping that when they get to heaven, they will have been just good enough to get in.

But our faith isn’t about doing things to get by. It’s about faith in Jesus. It’s about surrendering our lives, so we can live His life (which is way better anyway). There is no way to live a life of faith the way Jesus did, and try to be just good enough. We have to surrender everything, and truly run the race the very best we can. The prize is the Kingdome of Heaven, far more valuable than an Olympic medal.

Spiritually, are you running the race to win the prize?

Favorite Chapter...

Yesterday I talked about being asked what my favorite verse was.  I answered with Galatians 2:20, which we talked about yesterday.  But I al...