October 14th, 2018

Pastor Steve’s Blog October 14, 2018 One of the small treasures I have in my possession is a copy of the “Strength for Service to God and Country” devotional book presented to my Uncle by First United Methodist Church of Clarksburg, WV on December 25, 1943. This edition of Strength for Service was written during WWII and given to him for strength and inspiration during his tour of duty overseas. It is funny how timeless the Gospel is. It is interesting to read something written back in time so many decades ago. Yet, some of it sounds like it could have been written this week. I hope this blesses you as much as it did me. I was reading the daily devotion for June 14, 1943 and it was entitled: “The Things That Last” written by Talmage C. Johnson, First Baptist Church, Kinston, NC. The Scriptures for the day were I Corinthians 13 and Hebrews 12:27. The highlighted Scripture was I Corinthians 13:13: “Thus, faith and hope and love last on, these three, but the greatest of all is love.” (Moffatt Translation). Johnson’s devotion reads: “The dizzy pace of current events can upset us tremendously. Things are happening around us and to us so rapidly that some of us have begun to think that nothing will last. Would it not be wise for us, then, to snatch whatever satisfaction the present moment offers? Why let any thought of yesterday or tomorrow affect our conduct now? Why not lay aside all scruples, bid conscience cease to speak, and discard religion altogether? If Edgar Allan Poe was right in saying that life is a tragedy whose hero is ‘the conquering Worm,’ then life if futile and morality foolish. But this philosophy of life is a lie. There are enduring values. As Paul puts it, ‘faith and hope and love last on.’ Yes, even in wartime these things last on. Because they are permanent realities they are worth giving ourselves to. Because Christianity is based upon these abiding things it is now more necessary for us than ever before. It alone gives meaning to all life. Dostoevski tells of a thief and a harlot waiting together for the end in a dark room. By the light of their last candle they read a tattered Gospel someone has left behind. They come to the story of Lazarus, and they begin to say to each other: ‘He raised Lazarus from the dead; he can raise us.’ That’s it; ‘faith and hope and love last on’ and even death cannot entomb them.’” Prayer: “Grant, O God, that I may give myself not to the things which are passing but to the eternal. Help me to keep my faith in man and God. Let not hope die within me. May I, remembering that Thou dost love me, never lose my capacity for loving others and loving Thee. Abide with me through all of life’s changes. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

October 21st, 2018

Pastor Steve’s Blog Oct 21, 2018 As I begin my blog this week, I want to send out a big thank you to all those who helped unload the pumpkin truck on Friday, Oct 12. Some of you may not know that our pumpkin truck got tied up on Interstate 10 because of Hurricane Michael and ended up being two days late. It was originally supposed to be here on Wednesday which also coincided with having our kids here for youth group so they could help unload. Pushing it to Friday meant we needed more adult help as only a few youth were able to come back on Friday. So thanks for the extra help. I also want to send a shout out to the local Teen Challenge ministry as they sent 4 young men to help. That was much appreciated. I also want to thank all those who have signed up to work the pumpkin patch this month. It couldn’t happen without you! And thanks again to Kim Straughn for her leadership in making it all happen from the sign-up board to the coordinated delivery and unloading of the pumpkin truck. My thought for this week comes from a devotion I read online. I knew I liked this devotion the moment I began reading it. As you will see the devotion begins by talking about chocolate chip cookies. They are my downfall as I love to have a diet coke and eat them while watching some football. So BAD. Now I know that doesn’t make much sense to drink a diet coke and eat cookies, but somehow it makes the world seem a better place. Enjoy the read. No Substitute by Andi Andrew I love baking chocolate chip cookies. As a matter of fact, I'm known for my secret recipe. When I went through a season of health challenges, I stopped eating sugar and tried my hand at baking a few healthy, sugar-free things. I love a lot of the recipes we discovered on this sugar-free journey (my kids, not so much), but no matter what I try, there are no substitutes for the "real" chocolate chip cookies I make. Nothing compares to real salted butter and raw, organic sugars when it comes to baking chocolate chip cookies. On the day I was scheduled to teach our interns at church about identity, I woke up with a phrase running through my head and my heart: "There is no substitute for the presence of God." This phrase repeated itself over and over again until it hit me: God's presence is the one thing for which there is no substitute. It's the one thing David asked for in Psalm 24:7: Here's the one thing I crave from God, the one thing I seek above all else: I want the privilege of living with him every moment in his house, finding the sweet loveliness of his face, filled with awe, delighting in his glory and grace. I want to live my life so close to him that he takes pleasure in every prayer. (TPT) God's presence is the one thing that brings peace to our storms, answers to our questions, freedom to our minds, and identity to our fractured hearts. We must choose to make ourselves aware of His unending presence in our lives and to bring a pain to Him because He is the healer. You cannot earn His presence; on the cross, Jesus made a way for us to have access to the Father at all times. It's in the acknowledgment of His presence that He imparts His perspective, causing us to soar above our issues as we find healing in His arms – the safest place we can be. In our personal journey to freedom, there are no substitutes for His presence. For years I look to people to stand in Jesus' place only to realize that they were human and imperfect. Often times a disappointment, disillusionment, and ultimately offense and bitterness would begin to take root in my heart as I put people in a position to meet needs that only Jesus can. Then I would move on to other substitutes, which we all do from time to time, simple distractions that can become addictions in order to dull the pain within us: TV show binges, overuse of alcohol, drug abuse, food addictions, nightlife, work, perfection, performance, and so on. However, as crazy as it sounds, feeling pain is essential to finding out what needs healing in our lives. Our distractions tend to replace our face-to-face time with the Father, who has the desire, ability, and power to search our hearts and help us face our pain and be healed. We have to stop trying to mask our pain with counterfeits and simply be with Him. We've got to choose to live purposefully aware and attentive to our heart, soul, spirit, and body's needs. Only when we truly stare our pain in the face while holding the hand of our Creator, lover, and healer can we let the world know we've manufactured crashed down around us and allow Him to rebuild us the way He originally designed. It is in His presence that we can be healed and begin to thrive. This is an excerpt from She Is Free by Andi Andrew. Copyright ©2017 by Andi Andrew. Published by BakerBooks, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

October 7th, 2018

Pastor Steve’s Blog Sunday, Oct 7 As you know I love to read and tell stories and if they are humorous then so much the better. I ran across this story in my reading this week and thought I would share it with you. It is entitled: “Kindness Returns” and it is found in the book God’s Little Lessons for Leaders. “Many years ago, an elderly man and his wife entered the lobby of a small Philadelphia hotel. ‘Every guest room is taken,’ the clerk said but then added, ‘I can’t send a nice couple like you out into the rain, though. Would you be willing to sleep in my room?’ The next morning, the elderly man said to the clerk, ‘You are the kind of man who should be the boss of the best hotel in the United States. Maybe someday I’ll build one for you.’ The clerk laughed and forgot about the incident. Two years later, however, he received a letter containing a round-trip ticket to New York and a request that he be the guest of the elderly couple. Once in New York, the old man led the clerk to the corner of Fifth Avenue and Thirty-Fourth Street, where he pointed to an incredible new building and declared, ‘That is the hotel I have just built for you to manage.’ The young man, George C. Boldt, accepted the offer of William Waldorf-Astor to become the manager of the original Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Good leaders will go out of their way to help people, and as a result, they will not only receive their favor but also the favor of others and, most importantly, the favor of God.” As good Christians, we should also plant seeds of kindness into the lives of others. The Bible tells us that good seeds will produce a great harvest and that harvest will be returned to us many fold. I would commend to you Proverbs 3:3-6 (The Living Bible Translation). “Never tire of loyalty and kindness. Hold these virtues tightly. Write them deep within your heart. If you want favor with God and man, and a reputation for good judgment and common sense, then trust in the Lord completely; don’t ever trust in yourself. In everything you do, put God first, and he will direct you and crown your efforts with success.”

September 30, 2018

Pastor Steve’s Blog Sep 30, 2018 “Tiger Woods Does It Again.” This is the headline as I write my blog post. I wasn’t sure I would ever see him win again on the PGA regular tour. But he did it. It was an amazing comeback for someone who has gone through so much adversity…some of which was of his own making of course. But adversity nonetheless. It made me stop and think and remember back when I was stationed at Camp Pendleton, CA, just north of San Diego. It was the late 1990’s when I was serving with the Marines as the Chaplain for Third Battalion, First Marines (3/1), also known as the “Thundering Third.” A professional Golf Tournament was being played just down the road at La Costa Golf and Country Club and Tiger Woods was going to be playing. He had just started his career then. So I decided to take my son David and go to the tournament. At the beginning of our time there, we followed Tom Watson and Sir Nick Faldo for a while and then headed off to see Tiger. Even then the crowds were already quite large around him and made it hard to see. But we were able to get in some good looks at his golf game. I am glad we got the chance to see him at that early stage in his career when he was talk the of the game as the “up-and-coming phenom” to be the next great Jack Nicklaus. Coming back to reality in the realm of today, I watched some of the golf tournament last Sunday, after doing a few hospital visits after church, and saw Tiger win. I knew he had a good lead coming off his Saturday round, but wondered if he could hold on. And he did. He finished it off. The crowds I saw on TV Sunday were so much larger than what we experienced when we saw Tiger at La Costa. And the outright enthusiasm of the crowd running and yelling was a sight to behold, so much so that Tiger had to fight his way through them to break free so he could finish the last hole. Don’t see anything like that here is the States, but do see that at the concluding hole at the British Open Championship. The sight was amazing and I am glad to put that in my memory banks. A historic comeback. Rick McDaniel, author of the recently released book “Turn Your Setbacks into Comebacks” published a blog post on Tiger’s win and gave 4 reasons for his comeback success. I think these 4 things can also apply to us as individuals and as a church. “First, Tiger made the necessary changes he needed to make. Next, his success with his changes produced the needed confidence for him to move forward. Third, the first two produced powerful momentum in making his comeback possible. And finally, Tiger refocused on his dreams. He did not allow past setbacks to define his future.” Good food for thought.