Watch Out for the Potholes

We have entered into another New Year. It’s officially 2019. With a new year comes new expectations, new hopes, and new dreams. There is always a fresh optimism at the beginning of another year.

But the reality is – life is still the same. Turning another page on the calendar doesn’t really change anything. Life goes on. You’ll face the same issues, same problems and same hardships as you did on the last day of 2018.

That’s the bad news.

I’m not trying to ruin your year. There is good news.

The good news is that you can face whatever 2019 throws at you with a new sense of strength and hope if you face it with the knowledge that Jesus is both your strength and your hope. He’s what you need.

He won’t eliminate the problems (wish He would!). But He will help you handle them if you’ll trust Him.

Read these words from the Bible and let them sink deep into your soul.

Psalm 9:10 – Those who know Your name will put their trust in You; for You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.

Psalm 28:7 – The Lord is my strength and my shield; My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; Therefore, my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song I will praise Him.

Psalm 33:18 – Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy.

Psalm 42:5 – Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him For the help of His countenance.

Isaiah 40:29 – He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength.

Psalm 18:2 – The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

My hope and prayer for you is that you will experience joy and blessing in 2019.  But it is also likely that you will face some problems and hardships. The question is not Will you? but When?

The secret to the Christian life is not in avoiding the problems of another year, the secret is in how you handle them.  Handling them with dependence on God and with the confidence that in His power you can do what is right is the goal.

Blessings on you in 2019. But watch out for the potholes along the road (if you’re from PA you know what I’m talking about!).

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

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But at What Cost?

It’s a question that affects most of life. You probably don’t consciously ask it before every decision you make but it’s always lurking somewhere in the back recesses of your mind. You want to know how a certain course of action will affect you – will it affect you positively or negatively? Will it help or hurt? Will it benefit your life or detract from it?

And if the effect is negative, just how negative will it be? We can all endure some degree of pain or adversity but there’s a point beyond which we are not willing to go. We are not willing to pay the cost.

But often in life – probably quite often – the yardstick that we use to gauge our actions is, But at What Cost?

Should I drive 55 mph in a 25 mph zone? What will the cost be if I’m pulled over?

Should I go back to school for another degree? What will the cost be?

Should I leave my present job and take another one? What will it cost me?

Should I cheat on my income taxes? What will the cost be if I’m caught?

We face a hundred questions that arise during a typical day and we analyze the potential risks and rewards of our options.

When the cost is low we’re more likely to engage in the behavior in question.

When the cost is high we’re much less likely to engage in the behavior in question.

The yardstick, But at What Cost? is not intrinsically wrong. It’s kept a lot of people out of trouble. But it’s not the best way to go through life.

The better yardstick is, Is it Right? Is what I am planning to do the right thing to do or the wrong thing to do?

God is clear on this point. Whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin (James 4:17). In all of our actions, our relationships, our decisions, and our activities God has but one standard for us – Is It Right?

Determining your actions by the standard of Right instead of the standard of Cost will not necessarily make your life easier. In fact, it can make your life much harder. Sometimes it will cost you and the cost cab be high. But living by the standard of Right is the way God wants you to live.

Don’t sacrifice the difficult way of Right for the easy way of Cost.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

How Thankful Are We?

It’s the week of Thanksgiving here in the United States. It’s a time that we stop and think about how thankful we are. At least that’s the idea. But with family, food and football it’s difficult to squeeze in much time to think about thankfulness.

The question that I have is: How do you gauge thankfulness?

Is it a warm feeling deep down inside? The warmer the feeling the greater the thankfulness? Sounds too mystical.

Is it an assertion that says I’m thankful? And the more confident your assertion the more it becomes a reality? In that case A type personalities will certainly be more thankful than the rest of us.

Is it an attitude, a way of thinking? I think therefore I am. Doesn’t sound right.

Is it something that we just say so it must be true? Sort of like, I’m the best basketball player in the world – so I automatically become the best basketball player in the world. That would send Lebron James into fits of laughter.

So how do you gauge thankfulness?

Is it even possible to gauge thankfulness?

There must be a way to determine, say on a scale of 1 – 100, how thankful you really are.

As it turns out, there are several ways that you can gauge your thankfulness.

You can gauge your thankfulness by how generous you are.

God loves generous people.

Psalm 112:5 says It is well with the man who deals [with other people] generously.

In other words, God wants us to be generous.

I seriously doubt that you can give generously without being thankful for what you have.

And I believe that when you are thankful for what you have – knowing that it all came from God (Psalm 24:1, James 1:16-17) you will in turn be generous.

You can gauge your thankfulness by how much your generosity costs you.

Do you remember the story of the widow in Luke 21? After the wealthy people had dumped their bags of money into the treasury in the Temple in Jerusalem, she put in her two coins. They gave out of their abundance – which is better than not giving at all, but it didn’t cost them anything. They had plenty more where that came from. There was really no generosity in what they did.

Then she put in her two coins. They were all she had. Her generosity costs her everything.

Jesus’ commentary on it was this: I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.

Giving generously is not the same as giving extravagantly. But when you give generously it will cost you something.

You can gauge your thankfulness by your satisfaction in the difficult times of life.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God.

Being thankful in the good times of life doesn’t tell you anything about yourself except that life is good.

It’s when you can be satisfied with what God is doing in your life as the sky falls in that you know you are a thankful person.

The difficult times in life reveal a lot about us.

Being thankful is more than just saying you’re thankful. Saying it doesn’t make it so.

Being thankful is about what you do. It’s about your actions.

Thursday is coming. It’s time to be thankful.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year – Or is It?

We’re entering the Holiday Season. Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner. Time to celebrate!

This time of the year means family, food and football for a lot of people. It means the changing of seasons and the leaves turning the beautiful colors of fall. It means parades, parties and presents. And snow! At least for those of us who live in the northeastern part of the United States.

As the song says, It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year! Or is it?

Not for everyone.

In all of the festivities it’s easy to forget that we are blessed. It’s even easier to forget those who aren’t.

There are so many people around the world who won’t enjoy the holidays the way you do – and some of them are just outside your back door.

The Bible has a lot to say about how we as Christians are to relate to the poor, especially in the book of Proverbs.

He who has mercy on the poor, happy is he (Prov 14:21).

He who oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker, but he who honors Him has mercy on the needy (Prov 14:31).

He who mocks the poor reproaches his Maker; he who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished (Prov 17:5).

He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what he has given (Prov 19:17).

Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be heard (Prov 21:13).

Check out James 2:2-9 for a longer New Testament perspective on how we are to treat poor people.

There is a special place in the heart of God for poor people and there should be a special place in our hearts as well.

This holiday season find a way to bless someone who is less fortunate than you. Take a holiday meal to a poor family. Buy some presents for some children who won’t get any presents otherwise. Serve a meal at your local rescue mission.

There are many ways that you can help someone celebrate the holidays who is dreading this time of the year.

It’s not a matter of time – we all have the same 24 hours in the day. It’s not a matter of money (maybe it is for some) – we all have enough. It’s simply a matter of priority.

Make helping someone a priority this holiday season.

The rich and the poor have this in common, The Lord is the maker of them all (Prov 22:2).

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

 

And Life Goes On

Most problems/hardships that those of us in the Western world struggle with on a daily basis are really not that important. Not to those of us living far from the squalid slums of Mexico City, the oppressive poverty of the Congo, the ravages of war, or the hundreds of thousands of hopeless children that roam the streets of the major cities of the world.

If we can put those pesky, unpleasant images out of our minds – we live well. Nothing much to worry about.

And life goes on.

I’m not disparaging people who are struggling with legitimate and life crushing issues. But that’s not most of us. Most of us are just fine. We have a roof over our heads, food on our tables, and money to pay the bills. We live in the land of the 3 S’s: Security, Satisfaction and Surplus.

Yet we live so much of our lives uptight about the little things. The things that are not that consequential in the grander scheme.

Think about the last thing that made you uptight. Was it really that important? Probably not. No matter which way it went, life would probably go on. You’d still have a warm bed to sleep in, more than enough food to eat, more clothes in your closet than some third world villages combined, and people who still loved you.

That’s more than most people in the world have.

The reason that we in the prosperous West get so uptight about the little things is because we’ve made life all about us. In our minds a good life is dependent on two things – our comfort and our enjoyment.

And what we’ve forgotten is the transient nature of life.

The Bible addresses this issue in several places, like James chapter 4.

You should know better than to say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to the city. We will do business there for a year and make a lot of money!” What do you know about tomorrow? How can you be so sure about your life? It is nothing more than mist that appears for only a little while before it disappears (James 4:13-14).

 In the eternal scheme your life isn’t even a blimp on the radar screen. It’s a puff of smoke – here one moment and gone the next.

There has to be something more than our comfort and enjoyment that gives meaning and significance to our lives.

And there is.

James goes on to say, You should say, “If the Lord lets us live, we will do these things.”  (James 4:15).

What James recognizes is the importance of bringing God into the decisions of our lives. We do what we do dependent on Him.

In reality life is about Him. He is the focal point of life. He is what gives life meaning and significance.

Acting as if we are autonomous and there is nothing greater than us is what leads us to place so much significance on the insignificant things of life. When we eliminate the most significant (God) we will elevate the less significant to heights far above what they deserve.

It’s in keeping God in His rightful place that we will find balance in life. When He is the focal point everything else will fall into its proper place.

Jesus put it this way: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment (Matthew 22:37-38).

That’s keeping God in the right place. It will also keep the problems/hardships of life where they belong.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve