Pray for Them

The post this morning on our church Facebook site said, Praying for your friends is so important. Sometimes they fight battles they never talk to you about. Cover your friends in prayer.

So true. We need to pray for our friends. We have no idea what they are going through.

But it goes beyond our friends.

What about the person who sat across the aisle from you at church – you know the one, you know their name but that’s about all?

What about the person at work today that you rarely speak too? Maybe you’re just too busy.

What about the teller at the bank, the clerk at the store, the neighbor down the street?

It’s important to pray for them even though they don’t fall into the category of friend. They are all fighting battles that you’ll never know about. That’s the nature of life. And they all need your prayers, whether they talk to you about their problems or not.

James (5:16) says pray for each other. Yes, James is talking about Christians praying for other Christians, and that’s something we need to do. The Apostle Paul was a great one to pray for other Christians (Ephesians 1:16, Philippians 1:4 etc.) and he talked about being helped by their prayers for him (2 Corinthians 1:11). But we need to cast our nets much wider than that. We need to do more than pray just our friends.

We need to do more than limit our prayers to those in the family of God. We need to pray for our classmates, the people at work, the people in our neighborhoods, the people in the PTA, etc. We need to pray for people we know and for people that we barely know or don’t know at all.

Jesus even taught us to pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you (Matthew 5:44). That puts prayer into the category of don’t leave anyone out.

The truth is – we all need prayer. All of us. And we all need to pray for other people.

You will probably never know the impact your prayers will make in the lives of other people as you faithfully pray for them.

So, Pray. Pray for your friends. Pray for people you know. Pray for people you don’t know.

Pray when you see results. Pray when you don’t see results.

Pray when you know the problems people are going through. Pray when you don’t have any idea of the problems they are going through.

What you know isn’t the determining issue for whether or not you pray or for whom you pray.

You have been invited into the presence of the King of Kings, the Eternal God, the Creator, the Everlasting One, the Glorious All-mighty God and you get to talk to Him about anything or anyone. And He will listen.

Don’t waste the opportunity talking about trivial things. Pray for someone, even if you don’t know the battles that they are fighting.

Just Pray.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

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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

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

What Will They Say About You When You Are Gone?

Former presidents, current leaders and lawmakers and former political adversaries remembered George H.W. Bush as the president who guided America through the end of the Cold War, while dedicating his life to serving his country and doing so with remarkable kindness and class.

So read an article with the headline, Bush remembered by presidential peers, family. You can read the entire article here.

By all accounts, former president George H. W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States, was a good and decent man. He is remembered that way by both his friends and political foes.

It’s a nice way to be remembered – as a man with remarkable kindness and class.

Far too few people in today’s world, especially in the line of work that he was in, will be remembered that way. Or even close to that.

So, how will you be remembered? What will they say about you when you are gone?

I can already hear some of you saying, I don’t care, I won’t be around to hear what they say.

That’s true enough. But your spouse will be; and your children will be; and your grandchildren will be; and people who love you will be. And they would like to hear good things about you.

If you can’t be a man or woman of remarkable kindness and class for yourself – do it for them.

And for Christians the reputation you leave behind is even more important. It will not only reflect on your family and friends, it will reflect on your church and more importantly on your Savior.

If you can’t be a man or woman of remarkable kindness and class for yourself – do it for Him.

The Apostle Peter put it this way: Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation (1 Peter 2:11-12).

Have your conduct honorable. Other translations put it like this:

  • Always let others see you behaving properly (CEV)
  • Keep your behavior excellent (AMP)
  • Live such good lives (NIV)

The point is that of all people, Christians, when they die (and we all will), should be remembered as good, decent, kind people.

So, What Will They Say About You When You Are Gone?

It’s not too late to change the perception.

Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh (Galatians 6:15).

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

The Important Things

There are important things in life and then there are those things that aren’t so important. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference.

I suspect that most of us spend the majority of our time on things that really aren’t that important in the grand scheme of things. We fight the brush fires – and there are many of them – which doesn’t leave us time to fight the forest fires.

So how do we determine what’s important and what’s not?

Everyone has their own way to measure the relative importance of a specific event, whether it’s shopping for a new dress (or tool!), spending time at work, watching television, reading your Bible, or praying. We always have a good reason for why we do what we do.

But many of our reasons don’t hold up under intense scrutiny. The truth is that we do what we do because we like to do it. Not because it’s the most important thing we could be doing, or even the most pressing thing we need to do. We just like to spend our time that way.

Is there a guide that will help us determine what’s important and what’s not?

I think there is.

Do you remember the bracelets people wore back in the 1990’s with the initials WWJD on them? What Would Jesus Do? It was a good question to ask, unfortunately I think it became more of a fad than a reality – it was just cool to wear them and we all thought we were spiritual giants. Wearing a bracelet never made anyone a spiritual giant.

Determining what’s important in life is similar to WWJD.  Only this time the question is, Is it important to God?

That’s how you can determine what’s important in life and what isn’t.

If it’s important to God it should be important to us.

I read an online article with the title, Whatever’s Important to You Is Important to God. That’s only true in a very restricted sense. Sinful things may be important to you but they’re only important to God as far as He uses them to get your attention and change your behavior.

The title is misleading. Turn it around. Whatever’s Important to God is Important to You.

The prophet Isaiah wrote about the rebelliousness of God’s people, when they refused to listen to the prophets. It just wasn’t important to them. As a result of their dismissal of God’s messages, judgement awaited them.

But the prophet also wrote about another day when God would bring His people back and they would live in peace and in obedience to Him. In that time he said, Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, This is the way, walk in it. (Isaiah 30:21).

In other words God will say to Israel, This is important to Me, do it.

That’s a good message for all of us, not just for Israel.  All that God wants is for you to do what is important to Him.

That’s why we’re here. Not for ourselves but for Him.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

Frustration is Coming!

Frustration! It’s defined as the feeling of being upset or annoyed, especially because of inability to change or achieve something. Man, do I get that feeling – often! Too often.

We all get frustrated. If you aren’t frustrated today you will be another day. Frustration is Coming!

So how are Christians supposed to handle feelings of frustration?

I don’t know all the answers but here are some things, in no particular order, that you might want to work through.

A. Ask yourself if your feelings are legitimate. It might be that you are upset or annoyed over something that you shouldn’t be. Your feelings of frustration may have more to do with you than with whatever is stopping you. Feelings are tricky things.

Read Jeremiah 17:9.

B. Ask yourself if this is what you should be doing. It may be that God doesn’t want you to change whatever you’re trying to change. Or achieve whatever it is that you are trying to achieve. This will involve prayer – perhaps a lot of prayer to determine if God is stopping your efforts.

Read Psalm 73:24.

C. Ask yourself if whatever is frustrating you is in line with the Word of God. This relates to #2 but is slightly different. Too many times Christians want to do things that are not in agreement with God’s Word and they are frustrated when God stops them. He’s doing it for your own good.

Read 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

D. Ask yourself if this is something that you need to put on hold and come back to at a later time. Today may not be the right time. Tomorrow (figuratively) may be the right time. You might not be ready yet, whereas with more spiritual growth you might be.

Read 2 Peter 3:1-8.

E. Ask yourself if you have included God in your plans. Many times in life we strike out on our own to achieve something without consulting God. Have you searched the Bible to make sure your plans are not contradictory to what the Scriptures teach? Have you spent time in prayer asking God to direct your steps?

Read James 4:13-17.

F. Ask yourself if you are Trusting God or if you are Trusting yourself (or someone else, or your plans). The book of Proverbs makes it clear that we are to walk in trust and when we do, God will guide us.

Read Proverbs 3:5-6

G. Ask yourself if it’s really that important. Sometimes we are frustrated over things that are really not that important in life. Don’t burn up valuable time and energy on things that are not worth it. Be discerning.

Read Philippians 1:9-10.

Frustration may be a good and necessary sign that we need to step back and reexamine our desires, decisions, and plans.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

 

Fragile: Handle With Care

We’ve all seen the stamp on the box: Fragile: Handle With Care. It’s a warning that the contents of the box can easily be broken and you need to be careful.

I remember sitting on an airplane several years ago, watching out of the window as they were loading the last suitcases into the cargo hold. At that exact moment one of the baggage handlers took a suitcase by the handle, swung it 180 degrees and launched it through the air and onto the conveyor.

Guess whose suitcase it was. Yep, mine. I’m sure that he was unaware that the owner of that suitcase was sitting thirty feet directly above him watching his every move. Or maybe he just didn’t care.

I think that all suitcases should be marked with a Fragile: Handle With Care sticker before they are turned over to the baggage handlers!

In quick defense of baggage handlers everywhere – I’ve also witnesses hundreds of suitcases being transferred from the baggage cart to the conveyor with great care.

Those guys don’t get enough credit.

Here’s what’s true (with apology to Forrest Gump): Life is like a suitcase.

Picture yourself as a suitcase on the baggage cart of life. Only this time you are also the baggage handler. Are you handling your suitcase carefully or are you slinging it around by its handles?

The Bible gives us some fascinating descriptions of life including a shadow (Job 8:9), a vapor (James 4:14), a fast runner (Job 9:25), a fading flower (Job 14:2), the wind (Psalm 78:39, Isaiah 64:6) and the wild grass in the field (Psalm 103:15, Isaiah 40:6, 1 Peter 1:24).

What all of these descriptions have in common is brevity. They are here one minute and gone the next. That’s life.

The biblical writer James makes this exact point when he says, What is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away (James 4:14).

In the greater scheme of the universe you’re only here for a moment. Not even enough time to appear as a blimp on the radar screen.

Which means you have to be careful how you handle your life. You haven’t got much time to make the maximum impact. In fact, you don’t have much time to make any kind of significant impact.

The strange thing is that it only takes a blink in time to make a negative impact with your life, but it often takes a lifetime to make a positive impact. But that’s a discussion for another day.

The point that I want to make today is that life is fragile because life is short. You need to handle your life with care. Everyone should be born with a sticker that says Fragile: Handle With Care.

What kind of impact are you making with your life? Who have you influenced today? What kind of influence did you leave behind? Whose life will you touch tomorrow?

As a pastor I’ve conducted a lot of funerals. There has been a trend lately to have an open mic at funerals and allow everyone an opportunity to say how their life was touched by the deceased. The saddest funerals are those where few people speak.

Live your life so when it comes time for people to speak at your funeral the line will be long.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve