Tax Day!

Well, Naomi and I just finished up our taxes. Don’t you just hate doing your taxes every year? Doing your taxes together will try a couples Christianity won’t it? But the next morning I woke up and guess what scripture was running through my head? The Bible passage when the Jews were trying to trip up Jesus about where His loyalty lay. This is what they asked Him, Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not (Matthew 22:17)?” This “Imperial Tax” was a tax that was levied on all of Rome’s conquered subjects, not on Roman citizens. So, picture this, the Romans were the foreigners here and even worse, they were forcing the Jews to bow down to their rules and regulations! And the Romans were taking up residence in the Promised Land, the land that God had promised to father Abraham thousands of years before. The Romans had the gall to implement an imperial tax! Talk about rubbing salt in the wound! So, the religious leaders sent their rabble rousers to Jesus to trap Him in His words. If Jesus said yes, then they could turn the Jewish people against them. If He said no, then they could turn the Roman government on Him. They thought they had Jesus in a real pickle.     But Jesus knew their evil hearts and He said in verse 19-21, “Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought Him a denarius and He asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. Then He said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” Jesus completely shut them down! They had nothing to say. I do wish I could give answers like that.

But think about it for a minute. We know what belongs to the government. Really, anything that they want. And if you don’t pay it, there is all kinds of penalties and interest placed on you. But what is God’s? What does He want from us? Romans 12:1 tells us, “Therefore, I urge you brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God-this is your true and proper worship.” So God wants our everything. What does a sacrifice do? It lays on the alter and gives up its everything for its Master. A sacrifice doesn’t worry about anything but being just that, being a sacrifice. Giving its all to the One that has called the sacrifice to be the sacrifice. And Paul says here, “In view of God’s mercy…” God’s mercy. That’s the only reason that we wake up in the morning. The only reason we are able to take a breath. The only reason we are able to love and the reason we should share our faith with others! I heard someone say that the only problem with a living sacrifice is that it can crawl off of the alter. But His mercy takes us right back! Brothers and sisters, if you can find a better deal, you better take it!

Naomi and I love you all.  -Pastor Steve 

Cast your cares on Him

I just finished up the Book of Acts in my daily reading. Wow! What a fantastic record of the history of God’s church! The giving of the Holy Spirit in Acts chapter 2. The first deacons in Acts chapter 6. Persecution starting in the church and the Gospel then being taken to the then known world. The conversion of Paul the Apostle on the road to Damascus. Peter, the Jew, going to the gentiles to preach the Gospel. All the miracles and healings that took place. And all the stoning’s, beatings, shipwrecks, imprisonment and even death, just for believing in Jesus! We really have it easy in the wonderful U.S.A. don’t we?

In the last 2 verses of Acts 28 Luke writes, “For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance (NIV)!” Church history tells us that Paul was later martyred by Nero, but, “For two whole years…Paul taught with all boldness and without hindrance.” Paul was later released from prison, went on another missionary journey and was again imprisoned under Nero, and this time his living conditions were not so nice. He wrote II Timothy during his second imprisonment. Here he was held in a cold dungeon and was chained like a common criminal, just for proclaiming the Gospel! He told his mentor Timothy in the 2nd Epistle, 4th chapter verses 6-8, “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” So here are two different seasons in Paul’s life while he was imprisoned. One where he enjoyed his freedom even though he was in prison, and one where he was ready to be poured out like a drink offering to the Lord. He understood that Heaven was near and that he was going to receive that crown! I don’t know what you are going through right now. But I do know Someone that does. I am not sure what your heartaches are but I do know Someone that wants to help you through them. I Peter 1:7 tells us to, “Cast all your anxiety on Him because he cares for you.” Here’s the definition of anxiety: “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.” Couldn’t that definition fit just about every one of us in one way or another? Money issues, relationship issues or maybe health issues, He wants to take them from you and give you peace! This is what that word cast means in the Greek: “to cast upon, give up to God.” Give Him a try!

Please let me know if you need anything.  Naomi and I love you all.  -Pastor Steve 

 

Blessed Assurance!

The old hymn says, “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! Oh what a foretaste of glory divine! Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.” Do you have that Blessed Assurance that the song writer has written about in this hymn? This hymn was written in 1873 and I have a good hunch that Frances Cosby had just as many testing’s and trials as you and I have, if not more. But just by reading the words I can guarantee that the writer had a relationship with God. He knew that no matter what happened, no matter how hard the wind blew, no matter how rough the seas got he had a “Blessed Assurance,” because he knew God had already seen what was ahead and nothing was going to happen to him that his Heavenly Father had not already given his ok on.

Hebrews 6:19 & 20 tells us that we have an anchor. Read this, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” An anchor for our soul. What sweet words the writer penned. We don’t need to worry about our lives being blown around, tossed this way and that way by the enemy and his schemes. We have an anchor that, no matter what it looks like on the outside, is going to give us strength and hold fast for us! The line in our hymn says, “Oh what a foretaste of glory divine!” Why? Because we are an, “Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.” That simply means that we know beyond a shadow of a doubt where we are going to spend our eternity. We are going to Heaven and hang out with our Savior Jesus Christ and it is going to be fantastic! And the words, “Oh what a foretaste of Glory divine,” tells me that we can experience a little bit of that here on Earth. The joy, the peace, the love and all of the things that the Lord promises us don’t need to be somewhere in the future, we can have them and experience them here on earth! Paul talks about the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. If we can master these in our lives no matter what is happening, I think that we can have that “Foretaste of glory divine!” Let us now if we can do anything for you. Naomi and I sure love all y’all! -Pastor Steve

Great is Thy faithfulness!

I was on my back porch the other morning praying about my father-in-law’s eminent passing. He had asked me to preach his memorial service and I was asking God’s help to please give me wisdom on what to say and how to say it. The great old hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness” came to my mind, and I started to sing it: “Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father, There is no shadow of turning with Thee; Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.” And the chorus goes: “Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see; All I have needed Thy hand hath provided, Great is Thy faithfulness Lord, unto me!” I do believe that Naomi’s dad really believed this. Don’t get me wrong, he had plenty of weird ideas and certainly some of them were doozies, but I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt he thought that God had shown him that he should do whatever he did.

Then I got me to thinking, “Do I really believe that God is that faithful?” I mean, I can trust Him for my eternal life. I can trust in Him that I am saved by the Blood of the Lamb. But can I trust Him for the everyday ins and outs of life? Do I trust Him to meet my everyday needs? Can I really put Matthew 6:33 into practice? When things are getting a little tight financially do I fret or believe Him to be faithful?

David wrote in Psalm 62:1 & 2, “Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from Him. Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” David knew that his God was going to take care of him. He knew that no matter what happened that he didn’t need to be shaken. Did he ever get shaken? Oh you bet, but David also knew that when he did get shaken he could run to God and He would defend David. Read what he wrote in the verses 5-8: “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him. Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge.” “Pour out your hearts to Him,” David says! That’s where that relationship starts with God, from pouring out our hearts to Him and allowing Him to help us. Allowing Him to lead us. Allowing Him to love us like His children.

Please let me know if you need anything.  Naomi and I love you all.  -Pastor Steve 

Gain the whole world and lose your soul!

Jesus tells us in Mark 8:36 & 37, “For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul (KJV)?” What good is it if we have all the money in the world but we don’t know Jesus? What is worth exchanging our eternal lives for? Are we running after the things of the world and forgetting that God is wanting us to completely trust Him with every ounce of our being? And as a Christian I can at times allow my flesh to dominate my mind and I lose the victorious life He has for me. So often I spend so much time pursuing monetary things that I forget what is most important in my life to run after. The priorities in my life get all upside down and backwards. What I need to pursue is Spiritual things, godly things. But the cares of the world keep pulling me down and clouding my vision. The flesh pulls at us and then the enemy puts things in our way to trip us up and we then fall. James 1: 14 & 15 says, But each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death (NIV).” We see something or think something that is evil, we then don’t immediately fill our hearts with good thoughts but we dwell on our temptation, then it takes root and we act on it. Remember what Jesus said? That if you hate your brother or sister in your heart you have murdered them. Or if you look after a woman in lust you have committed adultery with her in your heart. You have a choice to get angry or not. You have a choice to give that person a piece of your mind or not. You have a choice to get frustrated with that person that’s blocked the whole isle in Walmart while they look at clothes that you KNOW will never fit them anyway so why even look! or not. We have a choice to do what pleases the Lord, not our flesh.

In the 5th chapter of Galatians we have a contrast between good and evil. Verse 19 tells you all about the acts of the flesh. As a matter of fact Paul says that they are obvious! “Sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Then Paul gives us the contrast, the Fruit of the Spirit in verses 22-23-“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Verse 24 says, “Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” If we belong to Christ the flesh doesn’t rule in our lives anymore. Those that don’t belong to Him have no reason to change, but we do! We want to change because we desire to please Him. So this week let’s work hard on “taking captive every thought!”  Please let me know if you need anything.  Naomi and I love you all.  -Pastor Steve 

Under the circumstance

One day a man was asked, “Do you wake up grumpy in the morning?” to which he replied, “Oh no! I let her sleep!” Some of us just are not morning people are we? I am usually pretty chipper in the morning, but sometimes, well, the cares of the world and the pressures of life get to me and I find myself being a little less cordial than I should be. Cordial, the dictionary says, is to be, “warm and friendly.” Do you find yourself being cold and mean sometimes? I know I can be. And generally it has to do with my circumstances.

We have talked about circumstance before in these writings, but it seems that no matter how hard we try to overcome there is always a circumstance that drags us down! You have all heard the statement I’m sure. Someone asks someone else, “How are you?” To which the reply comes, “Well, pretty good under the circumstances!” “Well what are you doing under them?” the person asks! Think about that for a moment. Are your circumstances dictating to you what sort of day you are going to have? Are your circumstances telling you how you should treat your spouse or your children? Paul tells us in Philippians 4:11. “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” Paul understood that no matter what was going on in his life, no matter how bad it looked around him, that God was in control and nothing was going to happen to him unless God allowed it. Jesus tells us in Matthew 10:28-29, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.  Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.” Your Heavenly Father cares for the sparrows! How much more is He going to care and provide for you? His desire is to have a relationship with you so close that you don’t need to worry about a thing! He knows that things will get tough or He wouldn’t say, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” If your soul is alive in Jesus then you have nothing to fear! But if you don’t know Jesus then you sure do have everything to fear! Jesus wants to take care of you. He will not change your circumstance but He will give you the faith to get through them. I read this the other day, “Jesus won’t take you around your circumstances, but He will give you the faith to get though them.”

Let us now if we can do anything for you. Naomi and I sure love all y’all! -Pastor Steve

Outer man must die

I was thinking about a song we used to sing in a church that I attended. It went like this, “He’s given me life for my soul, oh how sweet it is! Love peace and joy are the fruit it gives. Though the outer man must die this is my earnest cry, give me life, life, life for my soul!” It’s a rather silly little ditty, but it is a very catchy tune!

The first line, “He’s given me life for my soul…” Now we have been talking about that abundant life that Christ gives us. In John 10:10 Jesus says that, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (NKJV).” So he gives that full life here on earth, but also He gives us eternal life! Victory on earth and eternal life all wrapped up in one! What a deal! Eternal life starts as soon as we confess our sins to Christ and ask Him for forgiveness and to come into our lives and stay. It’s as simple as that. Then, “Love, peace and joy are the fruit it gives.” As we grow in our new life in Christ, we start producing fruit. I believe we talked about them last week. Our lives begin to change and we then start producing the “Big Nine,” and Love, Peace and Joy are three of the big nine (Galatians 5:22-23). So we come to Christ, He gives us an abundant life here on earth and eternal life when we die. Then we start producing fruit because we’re plugged into Him as the Vine and we are His branches (John 15).

Then the song says, “Though the outer man must die…” That sounds strange doesn’t it? But what the song is talking about is the same thing Paul meant when he wrote to the church in Ephesus. In Ephesians 4:22 Paul writes, You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;” To put off your old self! Like an old garment, take it off and lay it down. In other words, taking off the outer man and all of its flesh and corrupt stuff that we had before we knew Christ, and put on the new man, or, “to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Verse 23 & 24)” The attitude of our minds! How many times have we talked about taking hold of our stinkin’ thinkin’? The attitude of our minds! Remember, our attitude is the only thing that we can control. We cannot control other people. We can’t even control our spouse! Control the attitude of your mind. Make it Godly. Take control of it. See what He does!

Please let me know if you need anything.  Naomi and I love you all.  -Pastor Steve 

You hold me!

Read what Asaph writes in Psalms 73:21 & 22 that “When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before You.” Asaph here was saying that he was acting no better than an animal in front of God! Something grieved Asaph and made him mad. He was embittered. One definition of being embittered is, “very angry about unfair things that have happened to you:” Some people would say you have a right to be mad about unfair things that have happened to you, although Jesus wasn’t. And aren’t we striving to be more like Jesus?

I find it interesting that he says, “I was a brute beast before You.” If you think about it, we are always in front of God. He sees everything we do, knows everything we do and hears everything we say. So when we lose our temper with our spouse or children. When we lust after something. When we get mad because we don’t get our way or something embitters us (i.e. treated unfairly), we are acting like brute beasts. In other words we are acting “Animalistic.” No better than a water-buffalo.

But then Asaph goes on to say in verses 23-28 this;-“Yet I am always with You; You hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward You will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but You? And earth has nothing I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Those who are far from You will perish; You destroy all who are unfaithful to You. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all Your deeds.”

What a beautiful word picture! God holding us by our right hand as we go through life and our daily struggles. Guiding us, telling us what to do by giving us His counsel. Then we die and go to glory. What a deal! He does all the work, we just have to hold on to His hand, listen to what He tells us then go to heaven. It really is that easy but I end up kicking and screaming to be let go and don’t listen to His counsel. But you know what? Because of the blood of Jesus, I still make it into Heaven! So if someone has caused you to be “embittered” and your inner water-buffalo is rising up in side you, just remember that God is watching. Eph. 4:32 says, “Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another. Even as god for Christ sake has forgiven you.” Please let me know if you need anything.  Naomi and I love you all.  -Pastor Steve 

Be strong and courageous!

This is what the Lord told the Israelites through Moses right before they went into the Promised Land: Deuteronomy 31:6-“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Now you have to remember that there was a lot of opposition for them when they finally got there. There was walled city’s, there were actual giants, and there were established nations that would protect their homeland no matter what the cost. The Israelites had all the reason in the world to be fearful! Did you catch that? They had all the reason in the world to be fearful. From a fleshly point of view it seemed impossible, but the Israelites had a secret weapon! They had the creator of the universe on their side! And He had already done so much for the Israelites parents that they understood that their Heavenly Father could do anything they needed Him to do! They simply had to trust Him. They had to, “Walk by faith, not by sight (II Corinthians 5:7)!”

Do you realize that we serve the same God today that the Children of Israel served back then? Maybe we can’t see our giants or our walled city’s, but they are still there! They come to us as health issues, relationship issues, financial issues and maybe even addictions. Paul tells the Church at Corinth, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds (II Corinthians 10:4).” In other words our weapons are spiritual weapons. Still the same God fighting for us, but we aren’t using swords and spears, we are using our God given resistance and prayer. Read how the NLT wrote this verse out: “We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments.” God’s mighty weapons it says! What are God’s mighty weapons? It all starts with a saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus and His blood that He shed on the cross. Then those weapons become stronger the more we’re into the Word of God and strengthen ourselves knowing Him. Psalms 119:11 states, “I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You (NIV).” Simply put, if we know His word it’s much easier to overcome the enemy of our souls! The Holy Spirit is filling you and dwelling in you if you know Jesus as your personal Savior. You and Him can knock down spiritual walls. Try it.

Please let me know if you need anything.  Naomi and I love you all.  -Pastor Steve 

New Heart, New Spirit

This was the verse that started my devotional one day this week: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws (Ezekiel 36:26-27).” Those words, “I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh,” seemed too jumped off the page to me! So often in my life it seems like I have to perform and do this or that to gain God’s blessing. It’s like I need to strive to be good enough to have my Heavenly Father’s approval. But I can NEVER be good enough! So all I need to do is put my trust in Jesus and allow Him to do all the rest. Like our Scripture says (And it’s God who is speaking.), “I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” And when He does that, according to our Scripture reading, He puts His Holy Spirit in us and He moves us to follow what He says and do what He desires us to do. It is nothing that we do. It’s all Him! All we have to do is be willing to allow Him to work. We must be willing to put down our flesh when it raises its ugly head and take captive our thoughts. God gives us a new heart, we just have to make it function!

Paul puts it this way in Ephesians 4:22-24: “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Paul is telling the church at Ephesus to change your stinkin’ thinkin’! It’s as simple as that! “Put off your old self which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;” Have you ever been deceived? The definition of deceit is, “The action or practice of deceiving someone by concealing or misrepresenting the truth.” And Paul says here that we can deceive ourselves! Have you ever told yourself, “Oh, just one will be okay?” Have you ever done something you knew that you shouldn’t do but you did it anyway and faced the consequences down the road? Do you realize that we can conceal or misrepresent the truth even in our own thoughts? That’s why Paul says here that we need to put off our old self and be made new in the attitude of our mind! So Paul here says take control and change it! We’re the only one we can control! We can’t control anyone else. So, check your attitude at the door!

Please let me know if you need anything.  Naomi and I love you all.  -Pastor Steve