Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christmas Brings Faith


This week in the church we looked at the third message in our series titled Christmas Brings...

This week's message was titled Christmas Brings Faith, and we looked at faith as a gift from God, made possible through the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus.  We looked at Joseph and his faith, and learned a few lessons from Joseph that we can apply to our own lives as we live our life of faith.

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

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Christmas Brings Joy

On Sunday, Dec 7, we looked at the second message in our series titled Christmas Brings.

This week we saw that Christmas Brings Joy.  Joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit, one of the gifts that God brings to the believer, one of the characteristics of a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  This gift is only possible because of the incarnation at Christmas.

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

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Hope is...

"Hope is confidence in the knowledge of God's goodness. This can't be found without knowing the character of God. So how do we learn that? Prayer, searching and studying the Word, spending time at His feet. Once we know God's character, we are certain of His faithfulness and are able to trust Him - this flows out as confidence in God and therefore hope in Christ is first nature." - Jonathon Tortoise

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Hospital or museum?

"The church is supposed to be a hospital for the hurting, not a museum for the saved." 
- Evangelist and author Wendell Winkler 

I quoted the above quote in a sermon message, and received the following comment on a connection card after the service:

"How can we stop being a museum? Seek the lost. It's simply obedience. So why don't we? Certainly not because we can't, but rather because we hide behind our pride, refusing to recognize our identity as sinners, and this cripples our understanding of grace. If we could admit that we are sinners, we would experience the fullness and transformative power of God's grace and we wouldn't be able to shut up about it."

I couldn't have said it better - makes me almost proud to be a pastor!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

I Want the Church to Grow, But (pt 4)



This past week we looked at the 4th message in our series, I Want My Church to Grow, BUT.  This series looks at some of the things we do, or don't do, that keep our church from growing.


We all make excuses that young people don't go to church anymore.  The truth is, many of them do - they just don't go here.  Why?  What are we doing that makes them feel uncomfortable?  What should we be doing to make our visitors feel welcome?

This we looked at inviting the unlovable people.  And we can do that, remembering that before Jesus, we weren't too loveable either...

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


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Live Like You Are Dying

Our sermon message for this past week was from Philippians 1:19-30, and was titled, Live Like You're Dying.  

The message is about perspective:  How do you see the things around you?  We all have filters, based on our experiences, that allow things through according to the experiences and expectation we have. 

Paul has an eternal perspective.  He sees things in light of the gospel of Jesus.  As believers, we all should have that eternal perspective.  What is it?  How does it look to us today?  These are some of the questions that are answered in this weeks message...

Live Like You're Dying - click on title to read or hear the audio

Friday, September 19, 2014

To live is Christ, but to die is gain...

"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.  If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me.  Yet what shall I choose?  I do not know!  I am torn between the two:  I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body."
Philippians 1:21-24

A nine-year-old boy named Austin, had his tonsils removed. Before the surgery, the anesthesiologist came into start NIV. He was wearing a cool surgical Covered in colorful frocks. Austin love that “frog hat.” When the doctor started to leave, Austin called out, “hey, wait.”
The doctor turned. “Yeah, buddy, what do you need?”
“You go to church?”
“No,” the doctor admitted. “I know I probably should, but I don’t.”
Austin then asked, “Well are you saved?”
Chuckling nervously, the doctor said: “nope. But after talking to you, maybe it’s something I should consider.”
Please with his response, Austin answered, “well you should, as Jesus is great!”
“I’m sure he is, little guy,” the doctor said, and quickly made his exit.
When Austin surgery was finished, the anesthesiologist came into the waiting room to talk to his mother. He told her the surgery went well, then said, I don’t usually come down and talk to the parents after surgery, but I just have to tell you what your son did.”
Oh boy, she thought. What did that little rascal do now? The doctor explained that he just put the mask on Austin when her son signaled that he needed to say something. When the doctor remove the mask, Austin blurted, “wait a minute, we have to pray!” The doctor told him to go ahead, and Austin prayed: “dear Lord, please let all the doctors and nurses have a good day. And Jesus, please let the doctor with the frog hat get saved and start going to church. Amen.”
The doctor admitted that this had touched him. “I was so sure that he would pray that his surgery went well,” he explained. “He didn’t even mention his surgery. He prayed for me! I had to come down and let you know what a great little guy you have.”
A few minutes later, a nurse came to take her to postop. She had a big smile on her face as they walked to the elevator. “There’s something you should know,” the nurse said. “Some of the other nurses and I had been witnessing to and praying for that Dr. for a long time. After your son surgery, he tracked a few of us down to tell us about Austin’s prayer. He said, “well girls, you got me. If that little boy could pray for me when he was about to have surgery, then I think maybe I need his Jesus, two.”
If a nine-year-old boy can live that way... For me to live is Christ and to die is gain... Then why can’t we...

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Secret Hearts

Almond Union's message on Sunday, August 17, was Secret Hearts.  It was a great message that talked about our hearts.  Most of the world today thinks that we're all basically good people, and I can see why that think that.  I've no doubt met more people that can be trusted than those that can't.  Of course, when you meet just one that can't, it's easy to get a little cynical, and wonder if you can trust anyone.

But that notion that all people are basically good people is not taught in scripture.  In this message, we examine what the Bible teaches, and we can be good people.

To read the message, click here, or go to http://almondunionchurch.org/sermons/secret-hearts/

Thanks for reading, and for supporting Almond Union of Churches.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Feeling pressure to water down the gospel...

This last weekend, Don and Elaine Schiffer, missionaries in Jamaica, were in Almond Union of Churches talking about their ministry.

Sarah Dygert (my lovely daughter) and Lauren Norris have been on two short term mission trips to serve with Don and Elaine in Jamaica, and I loved the opportunity to meet them, to hear them share in church, and even more important, to visit with them after church in our home. 

But one thing they said really bothered me.  As I think about it, it's so widespread, that we believers need to be in prayer.  It seems Jamaicans are under pressure to teach evolution in their school and to widely accept and encourage homosexual marriage.  This pressure comes from outsiders who really have no interest in Jamaica.

Foreign nations, International Monetary Funds, and other forms of foreign aide are all pressuring the Jamaican government to teach these worldly ideals in order to receive the aide they so desperately need.  Here in America, we seem to be under similar pressures, and these ideals are widely taught as the truth, and Believers are being led astray. 

Pray for the church in Jamaica, that they may learn enough about evolution to be able to answer the questions that are being asked.  Pray that Christians in Jamaica may remain faithful as this pressure is sure to build.  Here in America, we've learned all too well that if the enemy can cause us to question the first few chapters of the Book, it won't be long before we're questioning all of it.  And our faith becomes so watered down it can no longer save us.

So pray for Jamaica.  For the monetary problems they have.  For the wisdom to know what aide to accept, and what to turn away.  And pray for the church in America, because we've been facing the same issues for over 50 years, and we seem to be loosing the battle. 

But there is a remnant emerging.  There are churches here in America, and I'm sure there will be in Jamaica, that are standing firm as the remnant church, following Jesus, unwilling to accept unbiblical teaching. 

Pray for the remnant.  More importantly, Be firm in your faith and be part of the remnant. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Ten Last Gasps of a Dying Church

I found this post in my internet browsing and thought you might be interested...


There are few things as sad as watching a once great church grow old, become irrelevant and slowly die. What is worse is that they either don’t know they’re dying, or they simply don’t care as long as those remaining are happy. Sadly, I have witnessed this more times than I wish to count. In addition, I have attended this type of church before.
Here is what I have noticed about many of these churches—at a pivotal point, a decision was made to continue doing ministry the way they always have rather than alter their approach to reach a changing community or the next generation. After months of committee meetings and off-line conversations, the church finally utters the The 10 Last Words of Dying Churches—“We’ve never done it that way before. We’re not changing.”
Those 10 powerful words subsequently have a ripple effect that lasts generations. As a result, the following are additional comments those attending these churches are bound to say and/or hear shortly thereafter:
  1. “Isn’t it great that our music is never too loud?”
  2. “Isn’t it nice seeing people in coats and ties and not disrespecting God by wearing jeans and shorts?”
  3. “We’re more spiritual and doctrinally pure than that fast-growing, watered-down gospel, baptizing-hundreds–maybe-thousands-every-year church down the street.”
  4. “Can you believe that church is stealing all our young people?”
  5. “I hear we’re having to cut the budget because giving is not what it used to be.”
  6. “Isn’t it great having all this room on the pew to spread out.”
  7. “I love singing all four verses.”
  8. “Don’t worry about our attendance. Let me tell you how large our membership is.”
  9. “Are you coming to Monday night visitation? How about the Wednesday night prayer service?”
  10. “Remember the good ‘ole days.”
  11. “Visitors, please stand.”
  12. “I hear it’s just a show over there.”
  13. “We just formed a Committee on Committees.”
  14. “We don’t talk about money. We preach the Bible.”
  15. “You don’t want that fast growth. Slooooow growth is what you need.”
  16. “Isn’t it great getting out of the parking lot quickly?”
  17. “The poor will always be with us.”
  18. “I’m really tired of having to hear about lost people all the time.”
  19. “Pastor, I think we need to start praying for revival.”
Do these phrases hit close to home for you? Are there any more comments you want to add that you’ve heard? 

This post from  Eric Dodd, posted on www.churchleaders.com

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Who needs a welcome...



David Wiggs, in his book titled Who Needs a Welcome, told this story…   I saw him in the church building for the first time on Wednesday. He was in his mid-70's with thinning silver hair and a neat brown suit. Many times in the past I had invited him to come. Several other Christian friends had talked to him about the Lord and had tried to share the good news with him. He was well respected, honest, a man of good character. He acted much like a Christian would act, but he never came to church or professed Christ. After I got to know him well and we had talked about a wide range of subjects I asked him if he had ever been to a church service.
He hesitated. Then with a twisted grimace told me of an experience he had as a boy. He was raised in a large family. His parents survived the depression but they struggled to provide food and clothing for the family. When he was around ten years old a friend invited him to go to church with his family.
He went - the Sunday School class was great. The songs were fun to sing and the stories, oh the great Bible stories, were exciting to hear. He had never heard anyone read from the Bible before. As class ended the teacher pulled him aside and said, "Son, please don't come again dressed as you are now. We want to look our best when we come into God's house."
He looked down at his old hand me down overalls that were certainly worn and tattered. He thought about that for a moment and said softly, "No ma'am I won't ever." Then he looked at me, the author wrote and said, "And you know what... I never did." It was clear that he was done with that conversation.
I am sure that the Sunday School teacher meant well and in fact was representing the feeling of the majority of the folks in that church. But what if she had put her arms around that dirty little boy in the ragged overalls and said, "Son, I am thrilled that you came this morning and I hope you will come every chance you get to hear more about Jesus because he loves you so much." Moreover what if she would have talked with her pastor or her friends in the church and mobilized a full blown outreach effort to help this family make ends meet.
What if that church would have thought, Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Or whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple will receive a great reward (v. 40 & 42)
The story ended like this: Yes I saw him in the church house for the first time on Wednesday and I cried as I looked at the immaculately dressed old gentleman lying there in his casket. He was looking his best in God’s House.  But all I could think of were those words of an impressionable little ten-year-old echoing in my mind, "No ma'am I won't ever."
David Wiggs, Who Needs a Welcome?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Remember These Things


Yesterday was Memorial Day, and on Sunday, we gave a message on remembering those who came before, but more importantly, looking to God for the future. 

To see this message, click here.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Praise

"Praise the Lord!  How good it is to sing praises to our God; for he is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting." - Psalm 147:1
Praise the Lord!  I wonder how many people today truly praise the Lord.  On Sunday's we gather for our Sunday Service, but is real praise happening?  Wednesday mornings, we gather for prayer time, but is real praise happening?  Daily people do their devotions, read their Bible readings for that day, and spend some time in personal prayer, but is real praise happening?

Statistics indicate that only about 15-20% of our population today regularly attends church.  But there are a lot of reasons for attending church.  I suspect that only about 15-20% of those in our churches are really there because they have a strong and vibrant relationship with Jesus.  These are the people that I might expect truly praise the Lord.

But we should all be praising the Lord.  King David, author of this psalm, tells us it is "good to sing praises to our God."  It is good.  In Genesis 1, each day as God creates, at the end of the day He exclaims, "It is good."  It is as it should be.  It is how God had intended it to be.  Praising the Lord is good.  When people praise the Lord it is as it should be.  It is how God intended it to be.

We praise the Lord because "he is gracious".  He is filled with grace. We know that we should be filled with grace, and we try to be gracious, and perhaps it would be easier if it didn't involve others.  There are some people, of course, that it's easy to be gracious to, but if you love only those who love you, where does that get you?  We have to love those who seem unlovable.  We have to show grace to those who don't deserve grace.  Because, by definition, none of us deserve grace.  But God gives it to us anyway.

A "song of praise is fitting."  It is the right thing to do to praise God.  He deserves our praise.  In fact, He alone deserves our praise.  So it is fitting when we can pause to give Him praise.

Priase the Lord!  How good it is...

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Bearing Fruit

"Remain in me, and I will remain in you.  No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me." - John 15:4
This passage is an often used passage that reminds us of the need to stay connected to Christ.  If we are going to live fruitful lives, we must be "in Christ." 

From this verse, we understand that if we stay in Christ, Christ will stay in us.  This means that it's up to us.  Christ has promised to be there if we turn to Him.  If we make the effort to remain in Christ, He will remain in us, He will be with us.  I'm not saying that we are saved if we make the effort....  Salvation is by faith alone.  But to have a continuing relationship with Christ, we must remain in Him.

What does it mean to remain in Christ.  He gives us an answer in verse 10, "If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love..."  So first and foremost, we do those things Jesus said we should do.  Obedience is the key to remaining in Christ.  Which means we should be in the Word so we know what Jesus said we should do. We must know the Bible if we hope to know what Jesus expects of us.

But obedience to commands can quickly deteriorate into a legalistic set of rules.  Do this, but don't do this...  These legalistic rules can take the love and grace out of our relationships.  But that's not Christ.  That's why in verse 12 He gives us a new command, "My command is this:  Love each other as I have loved you."  

So read the Bible, and put into practice what you read.  But be careful not to let commands interfere with your love for Christ.  And be careful to love one another, and treat everyone you meet with the love Jesus has for you. 

Be filled with love, and you will bear much fruit!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Dealing with Debt

http://almondunionchurch.org/sermons/got-junk-dealing-with-debt/

We have been in a series titled Got Junk?  for the last five weeks.  This past Sunday was the last in that series.  The series has been looking at the junk that builds up in our lives.  The excess baggage that gets so hard to deal with and takes up so much time.  Things like the fears that keep us from reaching forward or stepping out and embracing what's next, the condemnation and guilt we feel from past mistakes, family issues and bad relationships, and the financial stuff and the worries that go with that.  These types of excess baggage keep us from being close to God, and they keep us from ever reaching the plans God has for our lives. 

This past week, as we finished the series, we looked at the financial baggage, how do you properly and biblically deal with debt?  What does the Bible have to say about Satan's attempts to trip us up in the area of our finances?

To read the message, click here... 

Friday, April 18, 2014

I will give you rest



“Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” 
Matthew 11:28


As I was working on the message for Easter, and our new series titled Got Junk, I came across this. Richard Clancy, lead pastor at Daystar Church in Georgia, wrote it.
He gave us something to think about.  We all want to come to Jesus, right?  I’m assuming if you’re reading the blog of a pastor, you probably want to either be with Jesus or learn more about how to come to Jesus.  I was preparing the message for church on a Sunday morning, on Easter morning, and i was thinking that certainly if someone comes to church on Easter it’s because they want to come to Jesus, or at least learn more about coming to Jesus.   
But Clancy said that maybe you think that you’ve got all these burdens; and you need to lay them at Jesus’ feet.  But Jesus said, Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  So think about it this way, if we have come to Jesus, then He has already given us His rest.  So if you have no rest in your life, maybe that’s a sign that you have no Jesus in your life.  Maybe it's a sign that you really haven't come to Jesus yet.  
I was convicted by this.  Especially the days and weeks leading up to Easter, things seem to go by so quickly, and we're, and least I, am so busy.  But if you're convicted by this too, I encourage you give this some thought.  Reflect on it, pray on it. And leave a comment.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Is it really yours?


I heard the story of a woman who had finished shopping and returned to her car. She found four men inside the car. She dropped her shopping bags, drew a handgun, and screamed, "I have a gun, and I know how to use it! Get out of the car." Those men did not wait for a second invitation; they got out and ran like crazy.

The woman, somewhat shaken, loaded her shopping bags and then got into the car. But no matter how she tried, she could not get her key into the ignition. Then it dawned on her: her car was parked four or five spaces away! She loaded her grocery bags into her own car and then drove to the police station to turn herself in. The desk sergeant to whom she told the story nearly fell off his chair laughing. He pointed to the other end of the counter, where four men were reporting a carjacking by an old woman with thick glasses and curly white hair, less than five feet tall, and carrying a large handgun. No charges were filed.

You see, she thought it was her car, but it really belonged to someone else. We think our lives are our own, but they really belong to God.

—Greg Laurie, "A Time to Worship,"

Thursday, January 2, 2014

New Year... New Look...

Happy New Year!

As we come to a new year, we are changing the look of the blog.  It's time for a redesign, something new, something exciting.

A new year is an ideal time to make changes.  Are you making changes?  Any resolutions? 

Perhaps more importantly, are you allowing God to make changes in you?  I'm not talking about resolutions here, I'm talking about the new life God wants to bring to you.  When you put your faith in Jesus, He promised to transform you into the very image of Jesus.  But you have to let Him.

I.  How do you let God work in you?

You let God make these changes in you by putting yourself in places where He can reach you.  the Christian Disciplines are those places.  Daily devotions, regular church worship, daily Bible reading, and Bible Study with a group of believers, are all examples of places where God can work in you.

In Richard Foster's book, Celebration of Discipline, he outlines three major types of discipline, all designed to bring into a place where God will change us into the image of Jesus.

II.  What are these disciplines?

Foster's three types include:

1.  The Inward Disciplines:  including meditation, prayer, fasting, and study - these are the things you do by yourself, things that no one else sees.

2.  The Outward Disciplines:  including simplicity, solitude, submission, and service - these are things you do in the company of others, how others see your life of faith lived out.

3.  The Corporate Disciplines:  including confession, worship, guidance, and celebration - these are the things you do together with other believers, often in worship services or prayer gatherings.


So as the New Year starts, I encourage you to think about where God is working in you, and make sure you're letting him there.  Reflect on your practices of the Christian Disciplines - that's where God is at work!

Back to the new look of the blog - What do you think? Let me know, leave a comment.  I'd love to hear from you.

And I truly wish you the very best of New Years.  May 2014 be the best yet!

Steve

God's Omnipotence and Omnipresence

Food for thought... Last Sunday we had a visitor in services.  After service he came forward and introduced himself and told me he had h...