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August 5, 2019

Pastor Steve’s Blog August 5, 2019 I like reading various devotions because it gives God an opportunity to speak to me through those that write them. As I read one this past week, I heard myself saying, “This is really good stuff. Why didn’t I think of that?” So I want to share this devotion with you from Lysa TerKeurst entitled: “Why Would God Let This Happen?” I know we have all asked that question before. Lysa offers some great insights when we find ourselves in difficult situations. “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” Isaiah 54:10. “I wonder what would happen in our lives if we really lived in the absolute assurance of God’s love. I mean, as Christians we know He loves us. We sing the songs, we quote the verses, we wear the T-shirts and we sport the bumper stickers. Yes, God loves us. I’m not talking about knowing He loves us. I’m talking about living as if we really believe it. I’m talking about walking confidently in the certainty of God’s love even when our feelings beg us not to. I’m talking about training our hearts and our minds to process everything through the filter of the absolute assurance of God’s love. Period. Without the possible question mark. Not too long ago, I had a conversation with a precious mom whose eldest daughter is nearing thirty and has never had a boyfriend. The younger siblings have all gone through the whole dating thing and one is now engaged to be married. The eldest daughter sat on the side of her mom’s bed recently with tears slipping down her cheeks and said, ‘Why mom? Why can’t I find anyone to love me? What’s wrong with me?’ This mom was asking me for advice in helping her daughter process these questions. These feelings are real. These feelings are tough. And I’m sure if I were able to untangle all the emotions wrapped in and around these questions, somewhere deep inside I would find this girl doubting God’s love for her. But here’s the thing I’ve learned through my own heartbreak and doubt…we must process our hurts through the filter of God’s love, not through the tangled places of our hearts. When we process things through the tangled places of our hearts, often the outcome is, If God loves me so much, why would He let this happen? Instead when we process things through the filter of the absolute assurance of God’s love, the outcome is: God loves me so much, therefore I have to trust why He is allowing this to happen…. The devotion prayer: Dear Lord, You are good. And You are good at being God. Therefore, I trust Your plan and believe that You’re allowing this to happen for a reason. It may be hard, but I’d rather be close to You through a thousand difficult moments than apart from You in a thousand good ones. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.”

August 19, 2019

Pastor Steve’s Blog August 19, 2019 I have a few passages of Scripture for you to read in preparation for next Sunday’s message. Our focus will be on the spiritual discipline of fasting and what Jesus had to say as found in Mark 2:18-22. Please read the passages below. Mark 2:18-22 New International Version (NIV) Jesus Questioned About Fasting 18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?” 19 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. 20 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast. 21 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. 22 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.” There are four kinds of fasts in the Bible. The normal fast which is where one abstains from food, but drinks water. Read Matthew 4:1-11. The partial fast which is where one abstains from all delicacies, meats and wine. Read Daniel 10. The absolute fast which is where one abstains from both food and water for a short time. Usually 3 days. Read Esther 4:15-17. The supernatural fast which is where God sustains one for a long period of time while abstaining from food and water. Read Deuteronomy 9:9.

August 12, 2019

Pastor Steve’s Blog August 12, 2019 Judging from the average age of our congregation, most of us grew up hearing from “Smokey the Bear” about how “only you can prevent forest fires.” Well, it’s his birthday and it’s a milestone birthday. I saw this article online by Janine Puhak and I thought I would share it with you, since “Smokey the Bear” is something we all have in common. “Happy birthday, Smokey Bear! On Friday, the legendary mascot of the U.S. Forest Service officially turns 75 years old — though you’d never guess his age from that bear-y handsome face. The mascot was “born” on Aug. 9, 1944, when the Forest Service and Ad Council teamed up to create a fictional character to promote fire prevention safety and awareness. Deep into World War II, federal officials feared that America’s expansive forests could become a target for foreign enemies. The Forest Service wanted, you know, something strong," Wendy Melillo, a professor at American University, told NPR. "But it wanted it animated to be appealing ... to children and families. And so the first Smokey is a really sweet looking bear with a pair of jeans on and he's holding a bucket of water and he's pouring it over the campfire." As times evolved so did Smokey, who picked up a must-have shovel along the way and has since been illustrated with emotions ranging from playful to powerful, serious to sweet. According to Melillio, at one point in time Smokey even had his own ZIP code for fans to send letters, with "the occasional pot of honey” finding its way into the mail. In 1950, following a blaze in the Capitan Mountains, firefighters in New Mexico found a cub with severely burned paws and hind legs. They named the cub “Smokey Bear” after New York Assistant Fire Chief, "Smokey" Joe Martin, and the cub accepted a life in the spotlight of public duties and service. Sixteen years later, the bear passed away, with his remains buried in what is now Smokey Bear Historical Park in Capitan — not far from where he was first found. According to a study published in February 2017 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , 84 percent of the blazes that firefighters were called to fight in the U.S. between 1992 and 2012 were ignited by people. Happy birthday, big guy — just be careful blowing out those birthday candles.”

July 29, 2019

Pastor Steve’s Blog July 29, 2019 This coming Sunday, we will be finishing up with Mark Chapter 1 with the story of Jesus healing the leper. As good review of Mark Chapter 1 is found in the “Basic Bible Commentary.” I thought I would share it with you in preparation for concluding the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark. “Mark’s story is not simply a human biography. Certainly Jesus had a human life, but Mark’s message is a form of proclamation, a ‘gospel’ (good news). Even the introduction of John the Baptist serves this proclamation…to advance the coming good news in Jesus. There is something surprising in that role. John is hardly the first choice of the respectable. He is a scruffy figure, preaching repentance and demanding baptism. That people go out in response to him is no measure of his personal popularity but of God’s purpose in history. Also surprising is the presentation of Jesus. The first thing the messianic king does is to submit himself to the humbling experience of a baptism for sinners. And though he is acclaimed as the messianic king, no one else sees it. He then proceeds to call unlikely disciples, and to astonish with his messianic deeds of healing and exorcism. In such ways is the kingdom of God ‘at hand.’ We can sum up the insights in the following way: --What constitutes the gospel is not, for Mark, the life of Jesus, but the proclamation-with-passion of Jesus. Yet also for Mark the gospel is a story. --God’s saving activity on our behalf is never predictable, but always surprises us. --What we often consider good news is not necessarily the ‘gospel of God.’ --The Kingdom is present wherever messianic deeds of healing occur. --There are powers of evil in the world to be combatted in the name of the Kingdom.”