Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Now Thank We all Our God

Now Thank We all Our God
1 Now thank we all our God
with heart and hands and voices,
who wondrous things has done,
in whom his world rejoices;
who from our mothers' arms
has blessed us on our way
with countless gifts of love,
and still is ours today.
2 O may this bounteous God
through all our life be near us,
with ever joyful hearts
and blessed peace to cheer us,
to keep us in his grace,
and guide us when perplexed,
and free us from all ills
of this world in the next.
3 All praise and thanks to God
the Father now be given,
the Son and Spirit blest,
who reign in highest heaven
the one eternal God,
whom heaven and earth adore;
for thus it was, is now,
and shall be evermore.
Psalter Hymnal (Gray), 1987

Martin Rinkart, a Lutheran minister, was in Eilenburg, Saxony, during the Thirty Years’ War. The walled city of Eilenburg saw a steady stream of refugees pour through its gates. The Swedish army surrounded the city, and famine and plague were rampant. Eight hundred homes were destroyed, and the people began to perish. There was a tremendous strain on the pastors who had to conduct dozens of funerals daily. Finally, the pastors, too, succumbed, and Rinkart was the only one left—doing 50 funerals a day. When the Swedes demanded a huge ransom, Rinkart left the safety of the walls to plead for mercy. The Swedish commander, impressed by his faith and courage, lowered his demands. Soon afterward, the Thirty Years’ War ended, and Rinkart wrote this hymn for a grand celebration service. It is a testament to his faith that, after such misery, he was able to write a hymn of abiding trust and gratitude toward God.

1 Peter 2:1-12  So get rid of every kind of evil, every kind of deception, hypocrisy, jealousy, and every kind of slander.  (2)  Desire God's pure word as newborn babies desire milk. Then you will grow in your salvation.  (3)  Certainly you have tasted that the Lord is good!  (4)  You are coming to Christ, the living stone who was rejected by humans but was chosen as precious by God.  (5)  You come to him as living stones, a spiritual house that is being built into a holy priesthood. So offer spiritual sacrifices that God accepts through Jesus Christ.  (6)  That is why Scripture says, "I am laying a chosen and precious cornerstone in Zion, and the person who believes in him will never be ashamed."  (7)  This honor belongs to those who believe. But to those who don't believe: "The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,  (8)  a stone that people trip over, a large rock that people find offensive." The people tripped over the word because they refused to believe it. Therefore, this is how they ended up.  (9)  However, you are chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, people who belong to God. You were chosen to tell about the excellent qualities of God, who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.  (10)  Once you were not God's people, but now you are. Once you were not shown mercy, but now you have been shown mercy.  (11)  Dear friends, since you are foreigners and temporary residents in the world, I'm encouraging you to keep away from the desires of your corrupt nature. These desires constantly attack you.  (12)  Live decent lives among unbelievers. Then, although they ridicule you as if you were doing wrong while they are watching you do good things, they will praise God on the day he comes to help you.

I wish I could write like that.  I can’t, so I place it here for you to read and to know that whatever happens in this world nothing can ever separate you from God’s love.

Now thank we all our God for all that we have and all that we do.

Pray for our enemies that the Holy Spirit will enter their hearts and show them Jesus.

Pastor Steve

Saturday, August 29, 2015

It Is Well, With My Soul

It Is Well With My Soul
When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
It is well, (it is well),
With my soul, (with my soul)
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought! My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live: If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life,
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
But Lord, 'tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.
And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul! 

This hymn was written after two major trau­mas in Spafford’s life. The first was the great Chicago Fire of October 1871, which ruined him financially (he had been a wealthy businessman). Shortly after, while crossing the At­lantic, all four of Spafford’s daughters died in a collision with another ship. Spafford’s wife Anna survived and sent him the now famous telegram, “Saved alone.” Several weeks later, as Spafford’s own ship passed near the spot where his daugh­ters died, the Holy Spirit in­spired these words. They speak to the eter­nal hope that all be­lievers have, no mat­ter what pain and grief befall them on earth.

The world would have us think that anything we do is all right.  If it makes you happy, then do it.  If you disagree then you are judgmental, if you speak against, it is hate speech.

Satan would have us believe that the word of God is too judgmental, that it is hate speech.   You should expect that from someone who will not submit to the authority of God.

As sinners we must confess our sins and submit ourselves to God’s authority to be forgiven and freed.  We must do this on a daily basis because we sin on a daily basis.  We do so in thought, word and deed.

To think that we can live any way we choose, do anything that makes us feel good and not submit to the authority of God is living in a fantasy.

For Christians, not to say this is wrong, and to not urge these people to turn from their sinful ways is heresy.

On the judgment day those who feel that they can choose how to live and still enter the gates of heaven will be disappointed.   Matthew 7:21-23  "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord!' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the person who does what my Father in heaven wants.  (22)  Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, didn't we prophesy in your name? Didn't we force out demons and do many miracles by the power and authority of your name?'  (23)  Then I will tell them publicly, 'I've never known you. Get away from me, you evil people.'

Now is the time to stand firm in the faith and now is time to continue to preach the Good News of Jesus the Christ.  We must do this with love, not animus. 

As public opinion continues to strike against the tenants of our faith, as denominations continue to give in to public opinion, as those around you ridicule and deride you, remember this.  Philippians 3:14-15  I run straight toward the goal to win the prize that God's heavenly call offers in Christ Jesus.  (15)  Whoever has a mature faith should think this way. And if you think differently, God will show you how to think. 

We are under attack but we are not alone, if God is for us, who can be against us?

It is well, with my soul

Pastor Steve

Friday, August 28, 2015

Christians Under Siege

ISIS is killing children who are Christian, beheading them and putting their heads on a stick. The mothers are being raped and killed and the fathers are being hung.

Syrian Christians, Iraqi Christians, Egyptian Christians, Indian Christians, Chinese Christians, Pakistani Christians and African Christians are being killed for their faith.

Yet so many Western Christians are silent. In January, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) penned a letter to 300 Catholic and Protestant leaders complaining about their lack of engagement. “Can you, as a leader in the church, help?” he wrote. “Are you pained by these accounts of persecution? Will you use your sphere of influence to raise the profile of this issue—be it through a sermon, writing or media interview?”
There have been far too few takers.
Wolf and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) sponsored legislation last year to create a special envoy at the State Department to advocate for religious minorities in the Middle East and South-Central Asia. It passed in the House overwhelmingly, but died in the Senate. Imagine the difference an outcry from constituents might have made. The legislation was reintroduced in January and again passed the House easily. It now sits in the Senate. According to the office of Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), the sponsor of the bill there, there is no date set for it to be taken up.
Wolf has complained loudly of the State Department’s lack of attention to religious persecution, but is anybody listening? When American leaders meet with the Saudi government, where is the public outcry demanding they confront the Saudis for promoting hatred of Christians, Jews, and even Muslim minorities through their propagandistic tracts and textbooks? In the debate on Syria, why has the fate of Christians and other religious minorities been almost completely ignored?
In his letter challenging U.S. religious leaders, Wolf quoted Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was executed for his efforts in the Nazi resistance:  “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

2015 will be a pivotal year for Christianity.  As we are assaulted here and abroad the Good News of Jesus Christ must be proclaimed.

He warned us that there would be days like these...get busy
Pastor Steve

When I'm 64

When I’m 64

When I get older, losing my hair, many years from now
Will you still be sending me a valentine, birthday greetings, bottle of wine?
If I'd been out 'til quarter to three, would you lock the door?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me when I'm sixty-four?

You'll be older too
Ah, and if you say the word, I could stay with you

I could be handy, mending a fuse when your lights have gone
You can knit a sweater by the fireside, Sunday mornings, go for a ride
Doing the garden, digging the weeds, who could ask for more?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me when I'm sixty-four?

Every summer we can rent a cottage
In the Isle of Wight if it's not too dear
We shall scrimp and save
Ah, grandchildren on your knee, Vera, Chuck and Dave

Send me a postcard, drop me a line stating point of view
Indicate precisely what you mean to say, yours sincerely wasting away
Give me your answer, fill in a form, mine forever more
Will you still need me, will you still feed me when I'm sixty-four?

The Beatles, 1967

In June 1967 I was 16 and “When I’m 64” was released by the Beatles.  Paul McCartney wrote it when he was 16 and tweaked it for the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely hearts Club Band  Album.

I always liked the song and thought it was neat that a guy wanted to be sure that his girl would still love him when  he was 64, 48 years from now.
Paul is 72 now and I turned 64 September 28th.  I still like and sing the song, but who would have though that staying out ‘til quarter to three was referring to PM, not AM?

At age 16 I couldn’t envision what I would be doing at 64.  I had not yet met my wife and I planned to join the Air Force out of High School and make it a career.

I would retire after 20 years in the Military and then begin my civilian career.

God had other plans.  I flunked the Air Force Physical and spent the next 47 years selling Millwork, selling Shoes, selling Insurance and working on Computers.  Finally in 1995 God got through to me and said go into the Ministry.
God had been pulling at me since I was a young boy but I kept insisting that I new what I wanted to do.

God had other plans and it took  30 years for me to get it.

If God is calling you, I hope it doesn't take 30 years for you to get it.

If it does, so be it , but be prepared to give him all that you have, just as he has given us all that we have.

I don’t know how long I will be in the ministry, I don’t know how long God wants me here.  I do know that  I am finally doing what God wants and I do know that now more than ever God needs the Gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed to a world in crisis.

I am rewriting the song to go
“When I’m 84”
Who’ld of thunk it?

Pastor Steve

Let Me Hear A Witness!

A recent Barna study says going to church is not that important for growing faith.
March 25, 2014 — What, if anything, helps Americans grow in their faith? When Barna Group asked, people offered a variety of answers —prayer, family or friends, reading the Bible, having children—but church did not even crack the top-10 list.

Although church involvement was once a cornerstone of American life, U.S. adults today are evenly divided on the importance of attending church. While half (49%) say it is "somewhat" or "very" important, the other 51% say it is "not too" or "not at all" important. The divide between the religiously active and those resistant to churchgoing impacts American culture, morality, politics and religion.

Why the huge decline? 
Millennials who are opting out of church cite three factors with equal weight in their decision: 35% cite the church's irrelevance, hypocrisy, and the moral failures of its leaders as reasons to check out of church altogether. In addition, two out of 10 unchurched Millennials say they feel God is missing in church, and one out of 10 senses that legitimate doubt is prohibited, starting at the front door.
In another recent survey more than 4,000 people were asked what first had brought them to church:
* 2-3 percent of them said they just walked in, and another 2-3 percent said they came because of the programs.
* 5-6 percent were attracted by the preacher, and
* 1-2 percent came out of a special need they had, and a similar figure said they had been reached by an evangelism program.
* 4-5 percent came because of a Sunday school class, while less than
* 1 percent was touched by a public evangelistic crusade.
* Somewhere around
75-90 percent had been brought to the church through the influence of friends and relatives who had gone out into the battlefield and brought back those who had been wounded.
Witnessing is what we do. It's what I'm doing right now. It's what you do when you forward this magazine to someone else.

It is what Donald Sprigg is asking for in in commentary in the Onion in February of this year (see page 11).

They are not coming because we are not asking.

Our job is to tell the story, let’s get busy.

Peace & Love

Pastor Steve

Catch A Wave

Summer is the perfect time to catch a wave.  In Arizona with our dry heat that isn’t as easy to do as it is in California or Hawaii.

The wave I’m referring to however has nothing to do with ocean water, but has everything to do with living water.

The grace of our Lord Jesus , the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.  That is the wave that we catch a ride on every week at worship and I hope everyday as we go about our business.

The unrest in the Middle East, the violence and persecution that show up in our headlines everyday, the insistence of society today to force everyone to accept any and all lifestyles as permissible and continuing of the “dumbing down” of America, all of these factors make catching that wave all the more important.
Jesus warned us of the very things that are happening today. 

Mark 13:5-13 GW  Jesus answered them, "Be careful not to let anyone deceive you.  (6)  Many will come using my name. They will say, 'I am he,' and they will deceive many people.  (7)  "When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, don't be alarmed! These things must happen, but they don't mean that the end has come.  (8)  Nation will fight against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes and famines in various places. These are only the beginning pains of the end.  (9)  "Be on your guard! People will hand you over to the Jewish courts and whip you in their synagogues. You will stand in front of governors and kings to testify to them because of me.  (10)  But first, the Good News must be spread to all nations.  (11)  When they take you away to hand you over to the authorities, don't worry ahead of time about what you will say. Instead, say whatever is given to you to say when the time comes. Indeed, you are not the one who will be speaking, but the Holy Spirit will.  (12)  "Brother will hand over brother to death; a father will hand over his child. Children will rebel against their parents and kill them.  (13)  Everyone will hate you because you are committed to me. But the person who endures to the end will be saved.

Catch that wave,
Pastor Steve