Lately, I have been spending a lot of time in the Book of Isaiah. As you may know, Isaiah was a prophet called to warn Israel and Judah of coming disaster due to their abandonment of following the Lord and His Word. With a passionate heart, Isaiah continually reminded the people of God’s desire to forgive and restore them to favor and blessing. In the midst of Isaiah’s messages, we find one of my favorite promises in the whole Bible: “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you” (26:3). God promises perfect peace! What does this look like in everyday life? I see this as describing what the New Testament calls “walking in the Spirit.” This means that I must give my life to the Lord and learn to handle life and the current events swirling around me through prayer and the Word of God. We all get tested in life, and peace only comes by lifting up our soul in prayer to the One who told us to “cast all your cares on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). There are also times when doubts and attacks come to our minds. During these times we must give ourselves to prayer, asking God to help us to trust what His Word says rather than our confused and jumbled thoughts. It’s a battle sometimes, but the outcome is worth it! What can compare to the blessing of God’s perfect peace? This amazing inward tranquility, so elusive to the world, is always available to us…in the presence of the Lord himself! He extends the invitation for us to enter and abide in this peace that passes the world’s understanding. Just as a bride has her mind set on her beloved and the upcoming wedding, may our minds be set on the Lord Jesus. And enjoy the fruit of His peace!
“But we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:23-24).
Have you noticed, there’s no end to the confident voices of those who have “the answer” to the problems facing our country? “If we just vote the right people into office….” “If we just take the right steps in the economy….” “If we just spend money on these programs….” On and on it goes with the tsunami of words. Most of our leaders and officials still ignore God and adopt an attitude of We can fix things ourselves. The implied (although not spoken) attitude is: We are so wise that we can figure out how to transform this country with our brilliant ideas. Please don’t misunderstand me…. I am not against efforts to reform and improve our way of life. It’s just that my heart aches (and my mind is cynical) at how we continue to think we can just forget God, and everything will be just fine. As believers in Jesus, we know true change comes through the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. The “wise people” of the world look at Christians as simple-minded children who live in a fairy tale. To think that a man who was crucified 2,000 years ago could affect modern civilization right now is “Santa Claus” thinking to most. However, to those of us who have been changed by Jesus, we know and believe Christ to be the power and wisdom of God! “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). At my age, I am weary of all the “words” about change devoid of the power to change. We believe true hope begins by humbling ourselves before our Creator and Savior and asking for His forgiveness. We seek the wisdom which comes from above…that which helps us to walk in the fear of God and to shun evil. Whether you realize it or not, fellow Christian, the good news of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection is the hope for our nation! Don’t be ashamed of the truth or be intimidated by those who pretend to have all the answers. The first and best thing you can do is trust in the Lord and pray for our country!
We are quite complex—especially when it comes to our emotions. Our feelings can drive us all over the map, sometimes all in one day! Feelings can “feel like” our best friends, and, at other times, we wrestle with them as our greatest opponent. Having served the Lord for a while now, I understand that the enemy of our soul takes aim at our emotions and tries to get us to choose feelings over faith. We are tempted through our negative thoughts and emotions to make unwise decisions, which can alter the path of our life. How many people in the heat of the moment have decided “I quit this job!” or “I’m out of this marriage!” I find comfort in the fact that God understands emotions. After all, we are made in His image, and He has emotions as well. He is never confused or dominated by His emotions. The very existence of emotion in God reveals to us that emotions are not evil. He also reveals to us through His emotions that He is not some type of machine or merely a “cosmic intelligence.” He is a person, although much greater than we can ever understand the concept of “personhood.” Because God wants us to experience victory in our emotions (as well as the rest of life), He often speaks strength and comfort to our hearts. This week, I noticed a verse that seemed to leap off the page at me. This verse is good medicine for us as we battle the negative emotions of fear and discouragement which so often attack. In the Book of Isaiah, God is speaking to the nation of Israel through Isaiah the prophet and proclaims, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (41:10). Wow…talk about an emotional lift! This verse was just what I needed at just the right time. My prayer for you as I write this is that you will allow the Lord to help you to control your emotions by your faith. May you experience victory over the feelings of fear and discouragement, knowing that you are being held in His strong hand. Jesus, be the Lord of our feelings!
Since August 1999, we have fellowshipped with you. In 2012 my wonderful wife and I took on the role of pastoring Resurrection Life Church upon request of our great friend and spiritual encourager, Pastor Mark Boucher. For the past eight years we were blessed to lead services, work in partnership with our school, and see several people accept the Lord.
After much prayer, it became clear to us that our time at Resurrection Life Church had come to a close. Through the support and blessing of Highway Tabernacle, we were able to plant many seeds and see the Lord build families and grow children in Christ. Before pastoring at Res Life, I was with Highway for over 12 years serving in various capacities—including some of my favorite memories as a worship leader under Pastor Otto Wegner. Thank you all for the opportunity to bless God!
Our children were personally blessed by their involvement and growing up in this church. Highway and Resurrection are all they knew. Spring Garden Academy also was heavily involved in their early lives. We want to thank you all, family of God.
May the Lord continue to grow us and bless us as His Church in these trying times as may grow faint of heart. We believe the Lord has greater things in store for all of us. May His favor greatly rest upon His people.
One great thing about this country is the food! What an amazing blessing to have supermarkets and so many different types of delicious selections. So, I must make a confession…I really enjoy eating! My challenge is eating in moderation, and, as the old saying goes, “eat to live, don’t live to eat.” What does this have to do with the Bible you ask? Well, in the Bible I read about thanking God for the blessing of food and about seeking God through the discipline of fasting. Here’s where my love/hate relationship surfaces. I love the benefits of fasting but I must admit I don’t like fasting. It’s hard. It takes focus. It doesn’t “feel” good. When Jesus was with His disciples one day, some of John the Baptist’s disciples asked Him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast” (Matthew 9:14b). Jesus went on to explain something about fasting that we need to know. He taught that fasting needs to be done at the proper time. The disciples of Jesus did not need to fast while Jesus was with them physically. Jesus used the idea of a groom and his friends of the wedding party. For them to fast while together waiting for the wedding would not be proper. However, Jesus went on to say, “The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast” (v. 15b). Fasting produces a sense of mourning or yearning for Jesus because He is not physically present with us, and, in this sense, He is “absent” from us. Paul says that “as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:6). Fasting, then, is a discipline Jesus gave us to “heighten” our awareness of Him as we humble ourselves from the everyday things we enjoy. The Bible gives no formula for how often we are to fast or for how long. However, I would encourage every Christian to make fasting a part of your life with Jesus. By faith, pick a time or day. Set your heart on what you will gain by fasting (more of Jesus) and not on just what you’re missing (a meal, or a day of eating). Even though fasting is not easy, I can testify that the Lord has faithfully given me special guidance and breakthroughs through fasting. Who knows? Because of the grace of God, maybe we can get to the place where we actually love to fast…rather than hate it. What do you think?
This past weekend, Terry and I traveled to Massachusetts to attend the wedding of our daughter’s best friend, Leah. While in Leominster, MA (the city in which I pastored for 15 years), we visited the church and had a great time of fellowship with the pastor and his wife. Just outside the window of the office I used to occupy, there is a beautiful white birch tree. When I first arrived there in 1995, this tree was about my height. Now, the tree is 25- to 30-feet high with wide branches and abundant leaves! Often, when I was meditating or studying for a sermon, I would look out the window at this tree and consider Psalm 1:1-3: “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.” The birch tree reminded me of the power of faithfulness and consistency. Even though I could not “see” the tree growing each day, I knew that growth was taking place because it remained rooted in good soil and received the blessing of sunlight and water. The promise in Psalm 1 is that fruitfulness follows faithfulness! My prayer for you, God’s people, is that you practice faithfulness and consistency daily by staying close to the Lord in prayer and by reading and thinking about God’s Word. Simply receive the grace and blessings God provides each day, and you won’t have to worry if you’re growing or not. Your life will be like a tree that increasingly spreads as time goes by. Jesus faithfully fulfilled God’s will each day, and His presence and power lives in you! Stand firm in Him…and you will keep growing!
Peter had a lot to learn about Jesus. In the early days, when Peter first met Jesus, he learned a lesson he would never forget. From Luke chapter 5, we see Peter the fisherman surrounded by his fellow workers. Peter owns a boat, which he gladly loans to his new acquaintance, Jesus. After Jesus taught the people from the boat (due to the crowd size), He said to Peter, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch” (Luke 5:4). Consider the irony here…. Peter is an experienced fisherman, probably for most of his life. Jesus, at this time, is considered a prophet and teacher…still a mystery to the people. So, Peter politely responds to Jesus’ instructions, while voicing his own “expert” opinion, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets” (v. 5). Peter expects nothing more than what he already experienced. This half-hearted response from the tired fisherman is the best Peter can muster. He is in for the surprise of his life! The Bible says, “When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break” (v. 6). Instead of being overjoyed, Peter is embarrassed. “When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!’” (v. 8). Peter says what he feels here, not what he means exactly. He doesn’t really want Jesus to leave him, but Peter is ashamed of himself. Here are my major “takeaways” from this amazing event. First, Jesus is the expert—no matter the work or the field. He is not just Lord over “spiritual” things; He is Lord of all! Also, I see here that Jesus doesn’t spare us from hard labor and even lack of results. The world is still the world, and making a living will still have times of pain and feelings of futility. Last, I see in this story that we can always trust Jesus and what He says. If we simply obey His Word, good results will come in His time and in His way. Keep faithful! He has some surprises ahead for you!
“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 2:4-5).
These words from the Apostle Paul challenge us to live with Christ in us and through us. When we face trials of various kinds, our faith can rise to the occasion. We can look at each test as an opportunity to be like Jesus—to think like Jesus, to act like Jesus, and to develop the same attitude of Jesus. Since March, we have cooperated with our state and local government and community by not meeting in person. However, the church has not stopped ministry! It just looks different right now. I commend you for being so patient and kind. We have never gone through anything like this before, and you have stepped up to the challenge! As you know, our online service is offered each week, and the stats show us that more people are attending these services than were attending the in-person services. This doesn’t mean we don’t want to get back together! Your deacons have spent many extra hours in meetings—praying and discussing what we feel would be the best for our churches. We have sought the Lord’s guidance and read the latest up-to-date information on “best practices” and the “new normal.” We are attempting to hear from God and not be led by a spirit of fear. Some in our leadership team work in the medical field and are able to give us firsthand accounts of issues surrounding COVID-19. With a united heart, we feel the best decision for us is to start in-person services in July. The date we picked is Sunday, July 19. For some of you, this may seem too slow. Others think July 19 is too soon. My prayer is that we would adopt the attitude of the Lord and ask ourselves the question, “Can I consider not only myself, but also what is the best for others?” If we are going too slow for some, please consider that our motive is the safety and protection of people in our church families. If you think we are going too fast, please pray for God’s guidance. Also, please know that if you are not comfortable coming back right away, we completely understand. We are taking time and spending money right now so we can “live stream” the services on Sunday mornings. If you are at home and join us live, that would be wonderful! If you can’t watch the live stream service, it still will be recorded so you can watch it later in the day or week. Whatever your thoughts in this process, thank you for your patience and love for others. We encourage you to continue connecting with others. We encourage you to reach out to the church leadership for help and prayer (as many have done). This pandemic looks like it is subsiding, and we praise God for this good trend. When we open the doors, there will be guidelines to follow for everyone’s safety. You may feel that you don’t need to follow these in your personal life, but we ask that you cooperate in the spirit of Jesus for the benefit of others. It’s about Jesus and serving others. He keeps us staying together always!
Jesus performed many great miracles in His ministry. These works of power helped people believe in Him as God’s chosen Messiah. Most of His miracles demonstrated His love and power in healing suffering and pain. However, while reading my devotions yesterday, I came across a “special” miracle which occurred only once in the whole Bible. Here it is: “After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, ‘Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?’ ‘Yes, he does,’ he replied. When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. ‘What do you think, Simon?’ he asked. ‘From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own children or from others?’ ‘From others,’ Peter answered. ‘Then the children are exempt,’ Jesus said to him. ‘But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours’” (Matthew 17:24-27). In all the history of fishing, if a fisherman pulled up a fish and discovered a coin inside its mouth, that would be quite surprising—but not necessarily a miracle. However, what if the fisherman were given these specific details: “Go to the nearby lake, catch the first fish, look in its mouth, find a coin, and pay the exact amount for the tax”? What is the “chance” of that randomly happening? This miracle of Jesus does not reverse or supersede nature; it demonstrates the unlimited knowledge of Jesus and His ability to work together divine timing with the actions of a fish!
This past Wednesday, I was in the sanctuary praying, when a powerful storm swept through the area. Once it was over, I didn’t think much about it until I got a call from my friend Mike at the Carpenters’ Union next door. He told me to take a look at the church chimney (smokestack) located right next to their building. This huge, heavy, thick iron chimney (about 40 feet high) was blown off its hinges and was tilted dangerously toward the church like the leaning tower of Pisa! Not only that, but the bottom, which had broken off, was right next to the wall of the union building. My first prayer was, “Lord, please don’t let it fall any farther!” If it had completely collapsed, it would have crashed through the roof of the church, and the lower end would have damaged the union building. After I was sure that the chimney had stopped moving, I went up on the roof to take a closer look and take some pictures. To my amazement, the present safety bars were still holding the chimney from a total fall…and the bottom was only inches away from the wall of the carpenters’ building. There had been no damage. Now, how to get this fixed? Mike, from the carpenters’ hall volunteered to look for a company to assess the job. This special project would need a high crane and would cost thousands of dollars. The next day, Mike called me to say he had found a company that would do all the work for free!
Now, this whole event may not seem like a miracle compared to say—raising the dead, but, as we have seen with the fish and the coins, the Lord knows how to work together all things: wind, chimney, broken bolts, church roof, and neighbors’ walls. Added to all this, the Lord gave us favor to freely receive the help we needed to correct the issue. Our God is good, and His miracles are disguised in many shapes and sizes!
Everyone has an opinion. The problem is that we easily spout off our opinions—only to regret later that we spoke mostly out of ignorance or anger. James warns us that our words can be set on fire by hell. That is why it’s so important that our opinions are spoken with the wisdom of God…which is often manifested in restraint. The turmoil on our streets and in our government often gives way to hateful speech and slanderous accusations. We yell out blame and stereotypes with loud voices, while we jettison compassion and gratitude. Yes, we should speak out against all evil, and call it for what it is. But let’s be aware that our words are too often fueled by our sinful, fleshly nature rather than by the Holy Spirit. The Prophet Amos lived in a time of turmoil when sin abounded and chaos reigned. Here is what he said: “Therefore the prudent keep quiet in such times, for the times are evil. Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is. Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts” (Amos 5:13-15). In light of the evil in our times, wouldn’t it be prudent for us to avoid “shooting off our mouth” but rather manifest God’s wisdom by our actions combined with well-chosen words? What if people knew you not just as “someone with an opinion” but as a person who continually did what was good and right? What if people saw you as someone who stood against evil—no matter if the evil is named racism or violence? When we take a deep breath and step back, we realize we have a lot more in common than what divides us. What if we as Christians used our words to bring healing and unity rather than further division and distrust? Please understand that I am not advocating silence. I am trying to remind you of the Scriptural principle found in Ecclesiastes which tells us there is a time for everything—“…a time to be silent and a time to speak” (3:7b). May the Holy Spirit lead us as “peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9) in these times of unrest and uncertainty. Lord, let our hearts be filled with the Holy Spirit and our words be guided by Your grace!