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.”

February 24, 2019

Pastor Steve’s Blog Feb 24, 2019 Well, the time has arrived for the called special General Conference meeting in St. Louis, MO from Feb 23-26 to deal with the issue of what will be the United Methodist Church’s stance on the subject of human sexuality. The point of my blog this week is to encourage you to continue to pray for God’s wisdom and guidance for both the lay and clergy delegates that are attending this called special General Conference from all over the world. This issue has been debated at every General Conference (which meets every four years) since I was in High School in the mid-1970’s, so I know the delegates are feeling the weight of this issue. As I mentioned in my pastoral letter to the congregation, there are strongly held beliefs on both sides of this issue and those beliefs should be respected. It is ok for us to have a disagreement of belief on this, and other issues, because God will not love us any less. We live in a world affected by sin, so none of us has the perfect answer or all the revelation on any issue with which we grapple. Knowing that should help to keep us humble. Therefore, as humble servants of Christ, let us esteem others more highly than ourselves and be kind to one another…even in our disagreements.

February 17, 2019

Pastor Steve’s Blog February 17, 2019 I want to start this week’s blog with the Scripture from John 15:20: “Remember the words I (Jesus) spoke to you, ‘No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.’” We are very lucky to live in a country that affords us the opportunity for freedom of religion. I know some would argue that we are losing some of that freedom as society is increasingly being called “post-Christian.” I, too, am concerned about that, but we are not losing our lives just for professing our Christian faith as has and is happening in other countries in the world. Because of that I don’t think that we, as a church, give much thought to this Scripture and the reality of persecution. But for some, the reality of persecution and death is all too real. I don’t know if you will recall back in 2015, when ISIS was seemingly at the height of its power in Africa and the Middle East, the horror of ISIS killing people for no other reason than for professing their faith in Jesus Christ. I read the following article this week in Decision Magazine. The title is: “Bodies of Christians Executed by ISIS Found.” “The bodies of 34 Ethiopian Christians killed by the Islamic State (ISIS) in 2015 have been found in a mass grave located on farmland near the coastal city of Sirte, Libya, which ISIS gained control of in 2015 before United Nations-backed forces regained control in 2016. The grave was discovered during the investigations of the terrorist group’s captured members, and the bodies of the Christians have been exhumed and will be repatriated to Ethiopia. According to Reuters, and ISIS propaganda video posted to social media in April, 2015 showed militants shooting and beheading Ethiopian Christians, who were in two groups, on the beach and in the scrubland. This incident happened two months after ISIS members executed 21 Coptic Christians from Egypt; a mass grave containing their bodies was found in 2017.” This week let us give thanks for the country in which we live. It may not be perfect, but it is our country and generally affords us a persecution free zone to practice our faith. Let us also pray for those who live in other places that, still to this day, suffer persecution for their Christian faith.

February 10, 2019

Pastor Steve’s Blog February 10, 2019 I want to confess one of my sins to you. It is my impatience at distracted drivers who get lost on their cell phones when they are stopped at a red light…and when the light turns green…we just sit there instead of moving forward. After some seconds, and nothing is happening, I am put in the position of having to be impolite and honk my horn. Has that ever happened to you? With some humor, let me go ahead and apologize up front if you were the car I honked at. I was reading in a book this week called “The Jesus Challenge: 21 Days of Loving God and Neighbor” by Justin Larosa and I ran across an interesting heading on page 16 of the book entitled: “Distracted from distraction by distraction.” Obviously it caught my attention since I am blogging about it now. Let me share these few paragraphs with you since Justin makes a good point and is worthy of some considered thought as we live out our lives this week. “T.S. Eliot wrote these words a long time ago. They still fit. Our culture is busier and more technologically connected than at any other time in history. The digital age promised fewer work hours, more efficiency, and a hyper-connected world. It has delivered on those promises—except for maybe fewer work hours. But not without cost. People are distracted and overscheduled. Disconnecting from technology is a constant struggle for everyone, and we don’t yet know the long-term effects of gazing at electronics. But we have seen disconnected living—both subtle and obvious ways—including in the spiritual life. Additionally, twenty-four hour connectivity has delivered non-stop communication about conflict, polarization, and violence, perpetuating fear among many. While we will never go back to the days of rotary phones and answering machines, we must find ways to mitigate distracted living because distracted living diminishes our ability as Christ followers to live out Jesus’ Greatest Commandment. Distraction is a gigantic hurdle.” Has distracted living impacted your ability to live out the great commandment of loving God and loving your neighbor? If so, how? What changes do you think you can make to get a different outcome?