Friday, December 12, 2014

THE FURIOUS LOVE OF GOD! - Bulletin 12-07-14

Today I invite you to read, contemplate and read again the following two paragraphs from Brennan Manning’s classic, The Ragamuffin Gospel:  
Paragraph #1: “For those who feel their lives are a grave disappointment to God, it requires enormous trust and reckless, raging confidence to accept that the love of Christ knows no shadow of alteration or change.  When Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy burdened,’ He assumed we would grow weary, discouraged, and disheartened along the way.  These words are a touching testimony to the genuine humanness of Jesus.  He had no romantic notion of the cost of discipleship.  He knew that following Him was as unsentimental as duty, as demanding as love.  He knew that physical pain, the loss of loved ones, failure, loneliness, rejection, abandonment, and betrayal would sap our spirits; that the day would come when faith would no longer offer any drive, reassurance, or comfort; that prayer would lack any sense of reality or progress; that we would echo the cry of Teresa of Avila: ‘Lord, if this is the way you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few!’” 
Paragraph #2: “Here is revelation bright as the evening star: Jesus comes for sinners, for those as outcast as tax collectors and for those caught up in squalid choices and failed dreams.  He comes for corporate executives, street people, superstars, farmers, hookers, addicts, IRS agents, AIDS victims, and even used car salesmen.  Jesus not only talks with these people but dines with them – fully aware that His table fellowship with sinners will raise the eyebrows of religious bureaucrats…and their rejection of the gospel of grace.”  
To know Jesus came for us is one thing, accepting what Chesterton calls “the furious love of God” is another!  What kind of God loves sinners?   Our God!

I so much want to pursue this God who pursues me even when I misappropriate and misunderstand His actions!  I so much want to pursue this God who loves me furiously even when I doubt Him!  Oh, my!                  
GOD IS GOOD!  Mr. Steve


I truly enjoy listening to Dr. Jerry Rushford tell true stories of Christian pioneers.  Dr. Rushford is a very passionate speaker and writer of this particular genre (e.g. “Christians on the Oregon Trail”).  In his manuscript, “Glorious Was the Cause: Churches of Christ and Christian Churches in Early Washington 1851-1916” – Dr. Rushford features the story of Arabella (Belle) Clemons.  She was born in Missouri in 1844.  Her mother died when she was 16, and when she was 20 her dad told her, “Belle, with this Civil War raging around us, you should do what’s best for you and get on one of those wagon trains and get out of here!”  
In Belle’s own memoirs, Tales of the Trail, Belle wrote, “I made it as far as a little settlement on the Boise River in Idaho, called Boise.  Years later, after marrying Frank Fulton, a preacher named Michael Boli came to town. He arrived on horseback with a pair of saddlebags slung across the saddle.  In them he carried a Bible and a dozen or so hymn books, and a change of linen…”

  “He had long unkempt hair and beard.  But in those days we never judged a man by his outward appearance.  He told my husband he could preach so we let him.  On Sunday morning, the people came from everywhere, wagons, horseback, on foot.  And when he got up to preach everybody was pretty disappointed, until he opened his mouth and began to preach.  He spoke with vigor and presented his doctrine with firmness of conviction. He could preach!  Sunday night, Monday night, Tuesday night – he continued to preach.”                                                            Belle wrote, “After hearing a few of his sermons, I decided to become a Christian. So when the invitation was given I went forward and gave the preacher my hand as a token for my willingness to be baptized.   In late November in 1869 the Boise River was frozen over.”                                                                                                         “Frank was given the job with the oldest two children of going down to the River with his axe to break the ice, to cut the hole big enough for me to get down there…I went down into the cold water and I was buried with my Savior in the watery grave arising with Him with a newness of life with a consciousness that my past sins were all forgiven and with a hope of life eternal which is promised in Christ JesusI have always considered this the most important event in my life.” .....Have you experienced your most important event?             
God is good all the time and all the time God is good.  Mr. Steve

STUFFING OR SECURITY? - Bulletin 11-23-14

When he first came to live with our family, he was about 18 months old.  He was too young for one of the children’s home cottages, so my parents brought him home to our farm house.   
For many years we had an old couch in the den that had a hole in the back corner.  Almost like a magnet, our innovative little resident was drawn to that hole from the very start.  Daily he would reach his little hand into that couch cavity and pull out some stuffing, and then with his fist clinched tight, hold his prize throughout the day!  Somehow, someway, this daily allowance of stuffing rewarded our new toddler with some sense of security.
I don’t know how old my adopted brother was before he quit foraging into our old couch, but his story reminds me of where true security can be found.  (And it’s not in a fistful of stuffing!)
“And if you give yourself to the hungry, and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness, and your gloom will become like midday.  And the LORD will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.”  Isaiah 58:10-11
“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you...For I was hungry, and you gave Me some -thing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’”  Matthew 25:34-36
Stuffing or “stuff” doesn’t lead to true security or thanksgiving, but opening one’s hand to the needy does.  Then God will guide, satisfy, strengthen, and securely bless!  God is good!  Mr. Steve

THE DAY I MET ELMER SAVAGE - Bulletin 11-16-14

I was a fourth grader and in trouble.  I really don’t remember why the bigger boys wanted to beat me up.  Honest.  I’m sure I’d done my part in making them mad, but exactly what I did or said, I don’t recall. 
What I do remember, however, is that Elmer stepped between me and them and said, “If you wanna fight somebody, come and fight me!”
I was new to the town and new to the school.  I don’t know why Elmer took to me.  Maybe because I was the underdog on a for sure losing team.  All I know is Elmer was a fifth grader who looked like a freshman in high school.   I mean, my playground defender was big!  And although he was out-numbered, those boys didn’t want anything to do with my new friend.
To this day, some 53 years later, I clearly remember my protector’s face, the clothes he wore and his name, Elmer Savage.  I can’t remember any other times Elmer and I were together, but that day is forever etched in my mind. 
Elmer came alongside me at a very difficult time and defended me.  I’m positive he saved me from a good beating, but he did much more than that.  He gave me a visual for what it means to have somebody be your defender, protector..... advocate (paracletos)!
The Apostle John says something strikingly similar about Jesus in 1 John 2:1.
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous...” 
Did you get that?  John says Jesus is our Advocate (defender, protector, lawyer), who comes alongside and represents us before our judge, God the Father!  Justice and mercy, love and wrath, all coming together in the form of salvation in Jesus Christ!  And even though we are “guilty as sin”, Jesus stands before the Father, having paid the price, and says,”This one is mine. I’ve got him covered.”

Elmer Savage and Jesus the Christ.  One saved me from a beating, the other saved me from hell.  God is good all the time!  Mr. Steve

OUR PRODIGAL GOD! - Bulletin 11-09-14

During the last few weeks, Jerry Horning, one of our own members and a Vietnam veteran, and I, have spent several hours over coffee and hot tea discussing patriotism and Tuesday’s upcoming Veterans Day.  Today’s lesson, in part, is a bi-product of those discussions. 
However, what I didn’t see coming was the transforming integration of our discussions with a book I read over two years ago, “The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian faith” by Dr. Timothy Keller.  
I’ve always associated the word “prodigal” with the youngest son in Luke 15 or more recently (10 years ago) with the older brother.  But I had never associated this word with God!  GOD AS A PRODIGAL?  No way!  Yet, Keller has convinced me that WE DO HAVE A PRODIGAL GOD!
The word “prodigal” literally means reckless and extravagant.  The youngest son was reckless and extravagant with his decision to ask for his inheritance before his Father was even dead!  He was reckless and extravagant with the way he spent his (Father’s) money.  Yes.  The younger son was definitely a reckless and extravagant son and so was his older brother in his abundance of pride and self-righteous piety! 
But, how was the Father “reckless” and extravagant?  With his giving!With his love!  With his girding himself and running toward and embracing and kissing his wayward scented son!  The Father was extravagant with his forgiveness, and even with his pursuing and petitioning the older son to join in on the celebration of his lost, now found, younger brother!  Extravagant!  
God is good!  Mr. Steve

THE GOSPEL TRAIN - Bulletin 10-26-14


When was the last time you were on a train?  I remember traveling with my wife, Patti, from Nebraska to Washington, DC via Amtrak in the fall of 1988.  I fondly recall sitting by the love of my life in the train’s observation car, surrounded by glass and being mesmerized by the brilliancy of harvest colors as we journeyed from state to state.  God is good!  
Now, believe it or not, there is a train trip I started and am still on that is even more inspirational than the one I just described!  When I was young, my mother punched my ticket for what she called, THE GOSPEL TRAIN; a simple visual-aid that harmonizes the four Gospels along with Jesus’ miracles, parables and discourses! (Enclosed picture)  A lady by the name of Patsy Stevens put Mom’s complete GOSPEL TRAIN online for anyone to use FREE OF CHARGE!

I plan on beginning a series of lessons on Sunday nights (beginning tonight) on teaching THE GOSPEL TRAIN.  Come on and get on board and be mesmerized by the unfolding of God’s brilliancy in the flesh! 
God is good!  Mr. Steve 

Friday, October 24, 2014

GOD OVER ALL FOREVER REIGNS! - Bulletin 10-19-14


"God is God; He sees and hears
All our troubles, all our tears.
Soul, forget not, 'mid thy pains,
God o'er all for ever reigns."
"Fear not death, nor Satan's thrusts,
God defends who in Him trusts;
Soul, remember, in thy pains,
God o'er all for ever reigns."
"For this life's long night of sadness
He will give us peace and gladness.
Soul, remember, in thy pains,
      God o'er all for ever reigns." (Sturgeon)
This past week we finished reading the Old Testament, all 39 books!  Was there a TRUTH that stood out to you?  Here’s mine: “GOD OVER ALL FOREVER REIGNS!” Now, was there an UN-TRUTH that stood out to you?  Here’s mine: “THE INNOCENT DO NOT SUFFER.” (Job 4:7-8)
Eliphaz, a “friend” of Job, couldn’t have been more wrong when he made the most ridiculous of statements mentioned above.  OF COURSE THE INNOCENT CAN SUFFER, AND MANY DO!  Eliphaz’s spiritual worldview was found wanting when he opened up and disclosed his mind.  “According to what I have seen…(Job 4:7-8).”  Truthfully, Eliphaz hadn’t seen much!  
Most of us have seen more than Eliphaz.  According to the Denison Forum: “These are difficult days.  A second Ebola case transmitted in Dallas has been called “an unprecedented crisis” by a health official.  Islamic militants continue to gain ground in Iraq and Syria.  Record drought continues in Texas and across the west...”  To those who are suffering and in much pain, we encourage, “Hold On!”  God knows our troubles, our fears, our pain; He is sovereign and HE ALONE REIGNS! God is good.  Mr. Steve


LET US ARISE AND BUILD - Bulletin 10-12-14

Reading the book of Nehemiah this week reminds me when I was a teenager in Oklahoma. Dad had his sons, and all of the boys at the children’s home, doing “brick work.”  In our spare time, we tore down old church buildings and houses and saved their bricks for building new cottages for the Boy’s Home.  There were instances I found myself walking on wooden planks a couple of stories high, breaking up brick and tossing them down into a net for storage.  
These bricks were cleaned and used to build four different cottages that ended up housing around 15 boys each.  “Let us arise and build” encapsulated building material, a plan, adequate funds, workers, and a leader to lead in the project!  Dad was instrumental in all phases and, in many ways, became my “Nehemiah” growing up.
Nehemiah, who lived about 2,500 years ago, remains one of the best examples of a leader that we have in the Bible!  Nehemiah was more than a brick or stone mason.  He was a Spirit-led stone mason; Spirit-led planner; Spirit-led recruiter of workers; Spirit-led fund-raiser; Spirit-led leader!  
The words, “Let us arise and build” (Nehemiah 2:18) are ironically NOT said by Nehemiah!  Yes.  He first invited the people to join him in rebuilding the wall (Nehemiah 2:17), but more importantly he prayed in such a way, demonstrated God’s Spirit in such a way – that those observing were themselves motivated to build! “Let us arise and build” is said by the people to their leader, Nehemiah!  


I'M ADOPTED! - Bulletin 10-5-2014

                              “I’M ADOPTED!”                                                      Esther 2:15 (NIV) says that Esther was adopted.  
In a way, Jesus was “adopted” by Joseph.
In the gospel of Matthew, Joseph is not mentioned as the father of Jesus but the husband of Mary.  (“Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.” Matthew 1:16) 
Dr. Luke put it this way: “The angel answered and said to Mary, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.’”1:35 
Wow!  Esther was adopted, Jesus was “adopted” and guess what?  As a baptized believer, YOU’RE ADOPTED!  My Father and Jesus’ Heavenly Father – is also YOUR FATHER!  
Listen to what the Apostle Paul says, “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!”  Romans 8:15
What does all of this mean?  Listen to this GOOD NEWS: 
  • At one time we were slaves of the flesh and fear was our master!
  • Now, we proclaim that God is our Father!
  • Jesus Christ is our big brother!
  • AND…everyone indwelt by our Father’s Spirit is our brother and sister!
I say all of this because I’M SO THANKFUL I’M ADOPTED!!  “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”  Galatians 3:26-27

Would you like to be adopted?                                                                              God is good all the time!  Mr. Steve

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

PRIORITIES -- Bulletin 9-28-14

The book of Haggai is a book on priorities.  God first, followed by everything else.  The following are a list of priority quotes:
“Action expresses priorities.” 
“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.” 
“You need to make time for your family no matter what happens in your life” 
“Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.... The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”
“The will of God is not something you add to your life. It’s a course you choose. You either line yourself up with the Son of God…or you capitulate to the principle which governs the rest of the world.” 
“When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives.” 
“The most important thing in life is knowing the most important things in life.” 
“Begin each day with God. It will change your priorities.” 
But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33

God is good all the time and all the time God is good.  Mr. Steve

Saturday, September 27, 2014

HOW’S YOUR DRIVING? - Bulletin 09-21-14

I’m getting ready to take a much needed road trip today. Beginning a trip on a Sunday reminds of another Sunday morning 46 years ago.  Our Sikes’ family and the children’s home chorus were traveling 90 miles to Lawton, Oklahoma for a special morning service.  The chorus was just ahead of me in the home bus, while I skillfully followed behind, driving our family’s station wagon with Dad sitting in the front seat next to me. 
It began to rain, but that posed no problem.  I quickly turned on the wipers, feeling a little smug about my 16 year-old abilities to handle any situation.  We then came to a hilly stretch of two-lane road.  I remember the attitude,  “I was born to drive.”  The bus passed a slower vehicle and after checking ahead for clearance, I began to follow suit.  However, while in the passing lane, I noticed two things instantaneously: 1) I was passing in a “NO PASSING ZONE” and 2) the vehicle I was passing was a police car! 
The rest of the story is quite humbling: I received a ticket and we were all late for worship.  Why?  We had to wait a long time for the tow truck to show up.   What tow truck?  The one that had to pull us out of the bottom of the ravine because I had temporarily forgotten about the side of the road being so waterlogged!  What a slide!  My ego and lack of experience contributed to my overlooking every warning signal in the book!  
I once read an article by Lindsey Curtis, M.D., entitled, “Seven Warning Signals of a Troubled Marriage.”  
  1. When common courtesies are abandoned.
  2. When couples begin to think in terms of “I” instead of “We”. 
  3. When they stop complimenting each other.
  4. When stubborn silence replaces common-sense communication.
  5. When they stop praying together.
  6. When they fail to sense and meet the needs of each other.
  7. When they fail to express love. 

HOW’S YOUR DRIVING?  God is good.  Mr. Steve

TOO BUSY? - Bulletin 09-14-14

“The conditions of modern-day living devour margin.  If you are homeless, we send you to a shelter.  If you are penniless, we offer you food stamps.  If you are breathless, we connect you to oxygen.  But if you are marginless, we give you yet one more thing to do.  Marginless is being thirty minutes late to the doctor’s office because you were twenty minutes late getting out of the bank because you were ten minutes late dropping the kids off at school because the car ran out of gas two blocks from the gas station – and you forgot your wallet.  Margin, on the other hand, is having breath left at the top of the staircase, money left at the end of the month, and sanity left at the end of adolescence.”
The above are the opening words of Dr. Richard Swenson’s best seller: Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives.”  Reading Dr. Swenson’s book for the first time is as convicting as a CT scan revealing areas of marginless living within me! 
Marginless is fatigue; margin is energy.  Marginless is red ink; margin is black ink.  Marginless is hurry; margin is calm.  Marginless is anxiety; margin is security.  Marginless is culture; margin is counterculture.”
The Psalmist view of margin can perhaps best be articulated by the following stanza: 
"BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.  The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress (P 46:10-11).”
It’s September, 2014 -- the beginning of a new school year.  We are a hurried people: there are so many things to do, so many places to go, so many decisions to be made …. therefore, we MUST WAIT, we MUST BE STILL, we MUST LIVE LIVES OF MARGIN BEFORE THE LORD!  AND... PRAY OUR “BUSYNESS” IS FIRST GOD’S BUSINESS.  
God is good all the time.  Mr. Steve

ONE LINERS - Bulletin 09-07-14

“Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them.”  Ezekiel 37:13

It’s amazing how much truth can get packed into one line!  Here’s a selection of some other one-liners:
   *Give God what is right – not what’s left.
   *A lot of kneeling will keep you in good standing.
   *We don’t change God’s message – His message changes us.
   *Never give the devil a ride – he will always want to drive.
   *Nothing else ruins the truth like stretching it.
   *He who angers you controls you.
   *God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.
Jesus said more than a few one-liners in His three and one-half year ministry.  Here “go” three of them:
   *Go and sin no more (John 8:11).
   *Go, your faith has made you well (Mark 10:52).
   *Go therefore and make disciples… (Matt 28:19-20).
And, here’s one of my very favorite one –liners:

God is good all the time and all the time....Mr. Steve

ANCHOR MAN - Bulletin 08-31-14

Jeremiah and Ezekiel are written indictments against godless leadership in government, religion and family.  For positive family leadership, my mind goes back to a book I have read several times called “Anchor Man” by Steve Farrar.  In one chapter, Farrar gives 50 coaching tips to parents (especially men) on how to coach your children.  
Here are twelve of his coaching tips:
  1. Coach them how to pray.
  2. Coach them the most important book in all the world is the Bible.
  3. Coach your sons that men protect women.
  4. Coach them ahead of time how to handle pornography.
  5. Coach your daughters that there are two kinds of beauty – outside and inside – and that inside is more important to you and God.
  6. Coach them to do a job right – the first time.
  7. Coach your son to be a gentleman; coach your daughter to be a lady.
  8. Coach them that motherhood is the most important job in the world and definitely more important than a career.
  9. Coach them to love people and use things – instead of the other way around.
  10. Coach them that Daddy will never leave Mommy.
  11. Coach them that there is nothing they could ever do that would make you stop loving them.
  12. Coach them that there is nothing they could ever do that would make God stop loving them.                                                        
Anchor your kids in the Lord!  God is good all the time.  Mr. Steve

ABC’S of JESUS - Bulletin 08-24-14

Ezekiel is called the “son of man” 93X in his book.  Interestingly enough, this is the title Jesus uses most often to refer to Himself!  Some other names of Jesus include:


3 lists compiled by Patti Sikes

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

3 Questions for Peter - Bulletin 08-17-14

“3 Questions for Peter”

To all partakers of the divine nature: We all remember Peter denied the Lord three times before a certain rooster began the day.  OK.  I’ve denied the Lord before.  Haven’t you?

The major point is that Peter didn’t end his life denying the Lord.  He repented.  He changed.  He grew.  And God used him the rest of his life, in a powerful way, to testify and confirm Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior!  God also gave Peter “Holy Spirit insights” to help Christians grow and make an eternal difference in other’s lives -- exhorting all of us to NEVER stumble!
Ah…here’s Peter now.  Go ahead.  Ask him the following three questions and see what he says:
1. Peter, how do I grow more in grace and peace during the rest of 2014?
“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” (2 Pet 1:2)
2. Peter, how do I make sure my life in 2014 will make a difference and be fruitful?
“…for if these qualities (faith, moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love) are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:8)
3. Peter, how can I make sure I will never stumble this year or next? 
“Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things (adding to your faith: moral excellence; knowledge; self-control; perseverance; god-liness; brotherly kindness; and love) you will never stumble.”  (2 Peter 1:10)
Now that’s 3 truths to CROW about!  

4. Peter, what does any of this have to do with being called aliens (1 Peter 2:11)?  Now that’s 4 Questions! Maybe Phillip will answer this one in his lesson this morning.  God is good!  Mr Steve

Friday, August 15, 2014


Several years ago I went into Philadelphia to Pennsylvania University Hospital to visit a brother-in-Christ.  Afterwards, I paid for my parking and entered the parking garage elevator to go to my truck.

There were eight of us strangers in a small elevator – all headed somewhere fast until we got stuck between floors.  Somebody yelled for help, someone else rang the elevator alarm, and one of our eight, a janitor at a school, worked hard (to no avail) to open the doors by hand.  

Strangers caught in a moment of time together so unexpectedly.  We discovered quickly that one of our number, suffered from panic attacks and claustrophobia.  Her husband stated several times that they also needed to catch a train and couldn’t afford being late.  One lady said,  “I knew I shouldn’t have gotten on this elevator.  I just knew something wasn’t right.”

We stood and looked at each other and then I asked: “Do any of you have any family in the hospital?”  One man said that his brother was undergoing pacemaker surgery right now.  He gave me his name and I began taking prayer requests.  I prayed for each person and for God to open the doors to the elevator soon and ended with the statement that God is so good!

A few moments later we heard someone yell through the doors; help was on the way.  Fifteen minutes later the doors halfway opened and we began climbing out one at a time.

Reading the book of Daniel this week reminded me of the above story: thrust in a world of strangers; caught between worlds; chaos and near hysteria all around; yet unshaken in his belief that his God could and would deliver.  God is good all the time!  Mr. Steve

HAVE PATIENCE - Bulletin 08-03-14

“Live in peace with one another.  We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.”  1 Thessalonians 5:13-14
Patience is not only a command; it can be a lifesaver!  Yesterday, during our one day VBS at the Barnacles, we sang an old song I used to teach to children in Indiana, Nebraska and Texas – HAVE PATIENCE.  Here’s how the song played out several years ago in New Jersey:
I was traveling in the rain, returning from a nursing home, when I came to the traffic light at Lamb’s Road.    I remember my patience being stretched as I waited for car after car to pass – all spaced at “perfect” intervals blocking me from turning left. 
Less than one minute later, I was praying a prayer of thankfulness for my temporary delay!   As I started to round the curve, by the lake, I watched helplessly as a car spun out of control in the other lane and skidded over into my path doing a 180 degree turn right in front of my truck.  No one was hit.  No one was hurt.  Thank You, God, for my wait at Lamb’s Road Crossing
"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.  The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”  Psalm 46:10-11
Waiting on God is a discipline; waiting on others is a virtue; waiting on traffic may in fact be a lifesaver!  
Children’s Song: “There was a snail called Herbert, he was so very slow.  He caused a lot of traffic jams wherever he would go…Have patience!  Have patience!  Don’t be in such a hurry…”    GOD IS PATIENT!  GOD IS GOOD!  Mr. Steve

A special “Thank You” to Hiyas and Scott Quelle for organizing our VBS; Bill and Ryna Barnacle for hosting our VBS; and all our teachers and workers!

FASTING FROM SIN - Bulletin 07-27-14

I once knew a married couple who for several years set aside each Monday as their fasting day.  Then in the late afternoon, they would come together and read (out loud) 10 chapters in the Bible along with some discussion.  Afterwards, they’d go to a diner or small eatery and have a meal celebrating the day.  Is that great stuff or what?  I love it!!  
Of course this is only one way to fast; there are many.  The fasting that’s been on my heart for the last several months is a fasting of the heart; a fasting from sin.  God shares through Isaiah the prophet, a FASTING He desires (ISAIAH 58), when His people:  
  1. Break the chains of injustice
  2. Get rid of exploitation in the workplace
  3. Free the oppressed
  4. Cancel debts
  5. Share our food with the hungry
  6. Put clothes on the shivering ill-clad
  7. Be available to our own families
“Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once.  Your righteousness will pave your way. The God of glory will secure your passage.  Then when you pray, God will answer.  You'll call out for help and I'll say, 'Here I am.'”  (Isaiah 58:8-9)
  1. Get rid of unfair practices
  2. Quit blaming victims
  3. Quit gossiping about other people's sins
Then your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.’”  (Isaiah 58:10b) 

God is good all the time!  Mr. Steve 

HEPHZIBAH - Bulletin 07-20-14

Neil T. Anderson in his book, “Who I Am In Christ” , is quoted as saying about our culture, “Our IDENTITY is wrapped up in our acceptance, our security, and our significance.”  He went on to write...
We are ACCEPTED by the world when: we look and dress a certain way; talk and behave a certain way; think and believe a certain way.  
We are SECURE when: we have enough money, stocks & bonds, insurance, material goods; we have our physical and mental health; we have covered all the possibilities of what might happen.  
We are SIGNIFICANT when: we have made a significant contribution to the world (and the world decides what is significant); we can perform up to a high standard in the arts, sports, business, science, etc.; the majority feels we are significant.”                                                                                        According to the prophet Isaiah, if GOD IS...                    1. King; 2. Redeemer; 3. Lord Almighty; 4. Rock; 5. Maker; 6. Holy One; 7. Savior; 8. Husband; 9. Mighty One; 10. Father ...
...Then His children are called:
1. Repairer(s) of Broken Walls; 2. Restorer(s) of Streets with Dwellings; 3. Oaks of Righteousness (a planting of the Lord for His splendor); 4. Priests of the Lord; 5. Ministers of our God;      6. Holy People; 7. The Redeemed of the Lord; 8. Sought After;    9. The City No Longer Deserted; 10. Hephzibah (My Delight)

Isaiah makes the point that our identity goes beyond culture; it’s wrapped up in God: who HE IS; what HE HAS DONE; and how much HE CARES for us!  For all of you “Hephzibah’s” out there....                  BE COMFORTED!!   
God is good.  Mr. Steve

GOD IS… - Bulletin 07-13-14


Several years ago, i taught a teen class in which we each committed to read a certain section of Scripture so that together we could cover the entire Bible in three months!  Our primary purpose, however, was NOT to read the entire Bible in ¼ of a year, although we did.  Our major mission was to come to a better understanding of the nature of God.  Therefore each Sunday, no matter what section of Scripture any of us had read during the week, we each came prepared to share our “GOD IS...” discoveries.
Below is a one week sample of what the teens shared with one another on the nature of God: GOD IS…
HOLY (Leviticus)
MIGHTY TO SAVE (Zephaniah)
SLOW TO ANGER (Minor Prophets)
COMING SOON, A PLANNER (1 Thessalonians)
All in all, after three months, we discovered that GOD IS:

GOD IS... GOOD!  Mr. Steve  

THE LORD HAS DIRECTED ME - Bulletin 07-06-14


I’m grieving.  Our brother-in-Christ, Otor Opiew, left on the bus for Tennessee yesterday, (July 5).  Otor is traveling ahead of his family so he can, Lord willing, find a job and a place to live.  Willow and their three children, Emmanuela, Aballa and Tedujowk, plan to join Otor in Tennessee next month.  We will indeed miss the Opiew family greatly!

Otor and Willow came to Minnesota twelve years ago from South Sudan (by way of Egypt).  However, as a church, we first met this family last year when they visited us Sunday morning, August 25, 2013.  At the time, Otor was taking a church of Christ Bible correspondence course from Tennessee.  In fact, last summer was the first time in Otor’s fifty plus years that he had ever heard the name “church of Christ.”  He was thrilled to know that there was a body of God’s people named after Jesus!  His biggest smiles seem to always come after he says the words, “church of Christ.” 

A church of Christ in Tennessee, who has a thriving mission work in South Sudan, has invited Otor and his family to come, live and worship with their 1000+ member congregation for a year. Their three-year plan for Otor is: equip him with more Bible training at the Sunset International Bible Institute in Lubbock,TX; after graduation, move the Opiew family back to South Sudan; and Lord willing, install Otor as a Bible teacher in their South Sudan preacher’s training school!  They have already graduated 80 students from this school and are in dire need of wise and godly teachers/preachers of the gospel of Christ.  As we know here in Rochester, they have uncovered a “gold mine” in Otor!

Otor is a long-time student of the Bible and a follower of God’s Spirit.  He and his three-year-old son, Tedujowk (pictured above), and I had many Tuesday morning Bible studies in their home over the last 10 months.  What an absolute thrill it has been to witness the faith of this godly man, listen to him pray and live out God’s word. Tedujowk’s name most fittingly means, “the Lord has directed me.” Although I already miss Otor, I definitely believe our sovereign God is “directing” this change of events in the Opiew family’s life.    Otor, Willow, Emmanuela, Aballa, and Tedujowk, we salute you!  To God be the glory!


FREEDOM DAY - Bulletin 06-29-14

Generally when Americans think about a day in which we celebrate our freedom, we think about July 4th.  However, there is another independence holiday that is celebrated in the United States called “Juneteenth” (also known as “Emancipation Day or Freedom Day”).  
It is a holiday observed on June 19 across the nation, but for over a century was mainly celebrated by African Americans in Texas and parts of Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas.  It was celebrated here in Rochester just last weekend.  The name “Juneteenth” was probably derived from the word combination: June and nineteenth.
President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862 and again on New Year’s Day, 1863, during the American Civil War.  This proclamation ordered the liberating of all slaves from every state.  However, without Union troops to enforce Lincoln’s order, slavery continued for years in the South.
On June 19, 1865, General Gordon Granger and his 2,000 troops marched into Galveston, Texas and publicly declared that slavery in America was ended.  History notes that the reaction of the slaves hearing about their freedom for the very first time was mixed, ranging from shock and disbelief to jubilation!  
Can you imagine being decreed free but not knowing it for over two years?!  This same phenomenon happens all the time in a spiritual sense.  We have been called by God to be free from sin but many still live under its bondage.   Isaiah prophesied that the Son of God would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7), live and die for our sins & be raised from the dead (Isaiah 53) – all for our freedom!
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners…”  Isaiah 61:1

ARE YOU FREE?  God is good all the time!  Mr. Steve 

GOD IS PREPARED FOR YOU - Bulletin 06-22-14

Reading the book of Amos this week, especially his oft quoted line, “Prepare to meet your God”,reminded me of the following true story: Several years ago I received a long distance call from a granddaughter of a 93 year-old shepherd, my shepherd.  “Papa is dying; I don’t think he’s going to make it” were the words whispered on the other end of the line.
My mind quickly recounted scene after scene over the last three decades of my experiences with “Papa” (pronounced Pap-aw).   For 30 years I had known this man to be full of wisdom, joy, laughter, and a possessor of an unusually quiet and gentle spirit.  I had lived with him, spent much time visiting, studying and praying with him.  “Papa” was my shepherd, my mentor, my friend.
One of the many stories “Papa” told me was when he was just a lad.  He and his dad were standing side by side looking across a neighbor’s field.  Their neighbor had bought the county’s first tractor.  What a sight!  But what “Papa” most remembered were the words of his father as they watched their neighbor drive his tractor for the first time – “It will never work!” “Papa” then bellowed his infamous “HA -HA- HA” and we laughed till we cried.

After praying over the phone with the distraught granddaughter, I dialed “Papa’s” Nursing Home room number.   One of his daughters, by his bedside, answered the phone and after some pleasantries put “Papa” on the line.  I told him how much I loved and missed him; he said the same to me and then I read over the phone one of his favorite passages of Scripture:                                                                         "Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him."  1 Corinthians 2:9                 
In other words: GOD IS PREPARED FOR YOU;ARE YOU PREPARED FOR HIM?                 
God is good all the time and all the time God is good!  Mr. Steve 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

“CATCH DAD” - Bulletin 06-15-14


Over the years I’ve read many books and articles on marriage and parenting, listened to a number of tapes and have attended an abundance of workshops concerning family.  (I’m a slow learner.) The following are a few excerpts worthy of your consideration:

ON RULES – “If you’re not going to make them do what you tell them, don’t tell them to do it.” 

ON PARENTING – “Love them; Listen to them; Lead them; Limit them; and Let them go!”  (The 5 “L’s” of Rearing Children by Kirk Talley)  

ON EXAMPLE – “CATCH DAD” by Herbert Parker
To get his goodnight kiss he stood
Beside my chair one night
And raised an eager face to me
A face with love alight.
And as I gathered in my arms
The son God gave to me
I thanked the lad for being good
And hoped he'd always be.
His little arms crept 'round my neck
And then I heard him say
Four simple words I can't forget-
Four words that made me pray.
They turned a mirror on my soul
On secrets no one knew
They startled me, I hear them yet
He said, "I'll be like you."      
Blessings on Father’s Day, 2014. 

God is good all the time and all the time God is good!  Mr. Steve