A MESSAGE FROM PASTOR PAUL
A WORD FROM THE PASTOR - SEPTEMBER, 2015 SPIRE
CORRECT YOUR ATTITUDE
I told a story at Fred Dalm’s funeral service that some found meaningful. So, for those who couldn’t attend Fred’s funeral, I hope you will find this story meaningful, too.
“The story is told of a student pilot, who was taking his first solo flight. He thought he had done pretty well during his flying lessons, but now he was up there on his own. Everything was going fine until it was time to land. He found the designated runway. His flight instructor was on the radio on the ground instructing him. He nosed the plane down rather sharply toward the runway. Then he heard the instructor say over the radio… “Correct your attitude.” The student pilot thinks to himself, “My attitude? What’s wrong with my attitude. My attitude is just fine.” Then the flight instructor’s voice becomes more urgent, “Correct your attitude!” The student pilot says to himself, “What’s wrong with my instructor. There is nothing wrong with my…” CRASH! Two weeks later the student pilot woke up in the hospital. His flight instructor visits him bringing a flight manual. He opens it up to a page with a definition underlined… “Attitude: The plane’s inclination toward the earth.”
Your attitude toward your journey here on earth can mean the difference between a successful life as a servant of Jesus Christ and a life that crashes and burns. We are just sojourners here. This earth is not our home. We are just travelling through. Our destination is a place in heaven that Jesus is preparing for us even now.
Fred’s attitude toward his journey on earth could be summed up in a few verses in Psalm 119: “Turn to me and have mercy on me, as you always do to those who love your name. Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me… make your face shine upon your servant and teach me your ways… (as) I wait for your salvation.”
A WORD FROM THE PASTOR - AUGUST, 2015 SPIRE
FIND THE NERVE TO BOLDLY ASK FOR WHAT YOU DON'T DESERVE
Last year Karen and I attended a Michael Card Seminar in Pennsylvania. The seminar was an outline of the Gospel of Mark. When we focused on Mark 10, we read of a blind beggar, who kept screaming to Jesus for help. Despite others telling him to shut up, he yelled even louder. Then Jesus called to him and asked what the blind beggar wanted. The beggar said, "I want to see." And Jesus healed him.
Michael Card then asked the attendees, "What would you ask Jesus for?" Later, he invited people to share what they asked for. A middle-aged woman stood up and told how she got pregnant as a teenager and had an abortion. She said that she knew God had forgiven her, but she never accepted His forgiveness because she "didn't deserve" His forgiveness. So, she simply lived with her guilt and shame... until that morning, when she asked Jesus to take away her guilt. As she finally embraced God's gift of mercy, she felt the guilt finally leave her.
What sin have you refused to be forgiven for, because you feel you don't deserve it?
Michael Card wrote a song about that beggar in the Gospel of Mark entitled "The Paradigm." In the song he suggests that any of us, burdened by guilt, can do the same as that beggar and that guilt-ridden woman. The lyrics go in part...
"So come all you beggars, up on your feet,
take courage, He's calling to you.
Surrender your striving and find the nerve
to boldly ask for what you don't deserve."
A WORD FROM THE PASTOR - JULY, 2015 SPIRE
BELIEVING IN MIRACLES
In 1953 in Grimes, Iowa, Violet Cross was getting sicker by the day. Finally her eldest son insisted she go to the doctor. Eventually they ended up at the large teaching hospital in Iowa City. The diagnosis was devastating. Though Violet had never smoked she was dying of lung cancer. The doctor sent her home, telling Violet's family to expect six months of pain leading up to her death.
That Sunday Violet went down to kneel at the altar at the tiny church pastored by her son-in-law, Rev. Clarence Lautt. There in Grimes Gospel Center she begged God for one thing. Her two youngest daughters, Kay and Linda were still in high school. She prayed "Please, God, let me see my girls finish high school." Violet saw her daughters graduate ... and later her grandchildren graduate ... from high school. It was 38 years after the doctors had given her six months to live that "Grandma Cross's" healthy lungs breathed their last.
Many people today, including some modern theologians, reject the idea of miracles. Frederick Buechner, from "Wishful Thinking," tells why ... "They associate it with religious quackery or the lunatic fringe. Unless there is objective medical evidence to substantiate the claim that a miraculous healing has happened, you can assume it hasn't. And if medical authorities agree that a healing is inexplicable in terms of present scientific knowledge, then you can simply ascribe this to the deficiencies of present scientific knowledge."
I suppose it is up to you to see the connection between your prayers for a miracle of healing and a miracle happening. No amount of empirical evidence will convince people who have no faith, that God performs miracles. And, no amount of empirical proofs will convince people of faith that God does not perform miracles. As Jesus said, "Your faith has made you well," that is, because you are able to see the connection between God's grace and a miraculous event you can sing ... "It is well with my soul."
A WORD FROM THE PASTOR - JUNE, 2015 SPIRE
JUST WAITING FOR YOU DAD
Dennis Murphy tells the story of a family vacationing at a lake one summer. Dad had been puttering out by the boat house. Two of his sons, a 12 year old and a 3 year old were down playing along the dock. The 12 year old was supposed to be watching his little brother, but he got distracted. The 3 year old, little Billy, thought that would be a good time to check out the shiny aluminum fishing boat tied up at the end of the dock. So he went to the dock and put one foot on the boat, and one foot on the dock. He lost his balance and fell into the water, which was about 5 feet deep.
The splash alerted the 12 year old who let out a piercing scream. Dad came running from the boat house, jumped into the water, swam down, but unable to see anything, came up for air. Sick with panic, he went right back down into the murky water, and began to feel everywhere around the bottom. He couldn’t feel anything. Finally, on his way up, he felt little Billy’s arms locked in a death grip on one of the posts of the dock, about 4 feet under water. Prying the boy’s fingers loose, they burst up together through the surface to fill their lungs with life giving air.
Finally, when the adrenaline had stopped surging, and nerves had calmed down a little bit, the Father asked his son, “What on earth were you doing down there hanging onto the post so far under the water?” The little boy’s answer was simply, “I was just waiting for you, Dad. I was just waiting for you.”
I certainly hope you never have a similar situation this summer, but that little boy’s statement was a classic, laced with wisdom only a toddler could give. There will be a time when you find yourself in a life threatening situation… it may be an accident, an illness, or happen stance for which you have no control… and there is nothing you can do, but pray and wait… for your Heavenly Father to come rescue you. No matter what that situation is, remember God has already rescued you. He sent His “only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
A WORD FROM THE PASTOR - MAY, 2015 SPIRE
EVERYDAY A CELEBRATION - Romans 8:11
Steve May shares a habit he has. He writes… “I have a habit that may seem strange to some: I tape football games and watch them again and again… if the game turns out right. Super Bowl 32 is one of my favorites, the one where the Broncos defeated Green Bay 31-24. The first time I saw the game there were some tense moments: every turnover was nerve-racking, every mistake was a potential disaster. Now the setbacks don’t bother me; I know how it ends. With every play I savor the victory that I know is coming. It may seem crazy, but there’s a sense in which a well-played game is a form of art.”
We do the same thing every Easter. We recall the last week of Jesus’ life… his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, his last supper with his disciples, his trial, crucifixion, death, burial and Easter resurrection. We rewind the scenes in our minds, again and again and again. Why? So we can concentrate on the inspiration we get every time we hear the story.
Few of us enjoy our lives the same way. For us, our story is still being written. We live our lives one day at a time, one chapter at a time, as if we were reading the event for the first time. And yet, from God’s perspective, our life’s story has already been written in God’s Book of Life. He knows how your personal life’s story is going to end because He wrote it… before you were woven together in your mother’s womb.
And yet, God has given you a glimpse of how your story ends through Easter. Just as Jesus, your life ends with your own resurrection from the dead; it continues in a place prepared for you in heaven by your resurrected Lord himself; your life’s story continues on… to eternity with God.
Knowing how your life’s story ends, you can now enjoy the inspiration of living your life’s story… as an everyday celebration… in Jesus’ name.
A WORD FROM THE PASTOR - APRIL, 2015 SPIRE
IT IS FINISHED - John 19:30
The Gospel of John records Jesus’ last words before he died on the cross at Calvary… “It is finished.” The phrase comes from a single Greek word, “tetelestai.” It is the perfect indicative mood of the Greek verb “teleo,” which means “to bring to an end” or “to complete.”
To understand what Jesus really means, it helps to understand the grammar in which he spoke. The perfect tense indicates an action was completed in the past that has continuing results in the present. The indicative mood means the act that took place is an objective fact. The passive voice in which Jesus spoke means that he is receiving or subjected to an action without responding or initiating a response.
Now, I know all that sounds like “preacher speak” to a layperson. But it all has important implications for you personally. When Jesus said, “It is finished,” in the perfect indicative mood with a passive voice, that means… your tears, your hard work, your living by a set of do’s and don’t’s, your failures, your successes, your good intentions, your religious habits, etc., etc., none of that can add to what Jesus has already done for your salvation. When Jesus died on the cross for your sins, he paid ALL your debt before God… completely. Living a good religious life, what the Bible calls, “living in the Spirit” is a response to being “saved,” not to get saved.
Every time someone offers you a “Christ plus” religion, that is, “Yes, Jesus died for you, now behave yourself, work hard, and live by these do’s and don’t’s so you don’t lose your salvation,” RUN! It is the same snake oil people sold to the Christians in Corinth, Galatia, and Rome in the Apostle Paul’s day. And it is the same lie that has been told and retold to new Christians since then. And all they really want to do is enslave you with their rules, control your behavior, and gain power over your life. When Christ said from the cross, “It is finished,” he set you free from sin, death, and every pretentious religion people are capable of inventing. As Jesus says in John 8:36, “if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed.”
A WORD FROM THE PASTOR - MARCH, 2015 SPIRE
WHERE DID “IN GOD WE TRUST” COME FROM?
The motto “In God We Trust” was placed on United States coins because of the increased religious sentiment among Americans after the Civil War. Secretary of the Treasury, Salmon P. Chase, received many appeals from devout Christians throughout the country, urging that the United States recognize “God” on its coins. As a result, Secretary Chase instructed James Pollock, Director of the Mint at Philadelphia, to prepare a motto. “In God We Trust” first appeared on 1864 two-cent coins. On May 18, 1908 Congress made it mandatory on all coins. A law passed by the 84th Congress and approved by the President on July 30, 1956 declared “In God We Trust” the national motto of the United States. “In God We Trust” was first used on paper money in 1957, when it appeared on the dollar silver certificate.
How things have changed. Where were all the “separation between church and state” advocates then? Obviously the courts have a different view of “In God We Trust” today. And that is my point. The Constitution of the United States hasn’t changed a bit from the 18th Century to the 20th Century (at least that part of it). But, people’s attitudes about God have certainly changed, especially as Christians understand Him. The “elites” in this country have no problem giving deference to Moslems. Some courts have even recognized Islamic Sharia Law as acceptable for Moslems in this country, in effect, throwing out “equal protection under the law” for everyone else.
The principle of “separation between church and state” in our Constitution only means that our Government does not have a right to establish a national religion, that is to say, everyone must be Catholic or Episcopalian or Baptist or Jewish, etc.. Our leaders have historically acknowledged a belief in God, they just never wanted to be told what to believe about God. No one does, especially from their own Government.
The vast majority of Americans don’t share the values of the “elites” in power today. We just have to wait until they are out of power before common sense returns to America and everyone, no matter what they believe or don’t believe, can proudly say, “In God We Trust.”
A WORD FROM THE PASTOR - FEBRUARY, 2015 SPIRE
THE REAL KING OF THE JUNGLE
It happened in the African wilderness one day. A lion with a big ego went around
asking the other animals who the king of the jungle was. "Who's the king of the
jungle?" the lion roared at a monkey. "Why you are, Mr. Lion," said the monkey
with fear in his voice. The lion went on and found a zebra. "Who's the king of the
jungle?" he snarled. "There is no doubt about it. You are, Mr. Lion," said the zebra.
Seeing a turtle crossing his path the lion bellowed, "Who's king of the jungle?"
Scared out of his shell the turtle said, "You are, Mr. Lion. You are the king of the
jungle!" Then the Lion came upon an elephant. Once again the lion roared out the
question, "Who's the king of the jungle?" The elephant used his trunk to grab the
lion by his tail. He spun him around over his head a few times, plunged him into a
mud hole and slammed him into a large tree. Dazed and dirty the lion said, "Just
because you don't know the CORRECT answer was no reason to get upset!"
Like that lion many people feel confident in their own realm, where they feel in
control and powerful. But take them out of what is familiar, routine, and safe, and
life in the real world will slam them down into the dust of a real jungle or real
In the Bible a "wilderness" is more than a geographic area. It represents a
dangerous, lonely, and empty place where you are all alone except for your fears,
your limits and your weaknesses. There, in this place, God invites you to learn to
let go of your fears, your limits, and your weaknesses, to trust the power of the
real "king of the jungle," God.
Moses shared with the people of Israel this lesson from his own wilderness
experience in order to encourage them as they were going through their own
wilderness. He says, "I myself stayed on the mountain, as at the first time, forty
days and forty nights, and the Lord listened to me... And now, Israel, what does
the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his
ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your
soul," Deuteronomy 10:11,12.
A WORD FROM THE PASTOR - JANUARY, 2015 SPIRE
GOD IS IN THE DARKNESS
Bob Scobey tells the story of King George VI, who addressed the British
Commonwealth on New Year's Eve, As he closed his message, unknown to him,
his body was being racked by cancer and would not see the next New Year's Eve.
Not knowing his own future, he uttered these memorable words:
"I said to the man at the gate of the year,
'Give me a light that I might walk safely into the unknown,'
And he said to me, 'Walk out into the darkness
And put your hand into the hand of God,
And it shall be to you safer than the light
And better than the known."
We have no idea what the new year will bring us. We only know what is present
and behind us. Our worid today is racked by anger, discord, evil and violence. In
your own personal life, you may know surgery is coming, and with it changes ...
changes yet to be defined, but changes. Some of those changes will be pleasant.
Some of those changes will not be pleasant. Some of those changes will be life-
You have only two certainties as you walk through the gate of this year. First,
there is the certainty that there will be changes. Second, there is the certainty
that God knows what is in the darkness ahead of you. He is offering you his hand
to guide you through it. And He makes this promise to you... "All things work
together for good to them that love God, and are called according to his purpose."
May you have a blessed and life-transforming New Year!
A WORD FROM THE PASTOR - DECEMBER, 2014 SPIRE
CELEBRATE THE "CHRIST" OF CHRISTMAS
A Barna Research Group poll, conducted for the Lutheran Hour Ministries found that . . .
37% of adults in the national survey (88% of whom identified themselves as Christian) said the birth of Jesus is the most important aspect of Christmas. More than 75% of evangelical Christians placed Jesus' birth as of first importance on Christmas. Only 29% of Catholics placed Jesus' birth first. Only 24% of theological liberals said the birth of Christ made Christmas important to them. Only 3% said presents or parties were the most important part of Christmas. The same percentage that said the best thing about Christmas was getting a paid holiday. According to George Barna, "Americans are more likely to correctly recall the significance of April 15 than they are to connect Christmas with the birth of Jesus. As America becomes increasingly anesthetized to Christian principles and practices, it seems only fitting that we have contracted acute amnesia regarding the spiritual significance of December 25."
For a long time now, our culture has been taking "Christ" out of "Christ-mas". A whole generation has grown up thinking of Christmas as a holiday to take off from work, rather than a holy day to remember the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. I don't necessarily blame the church. Secular forces in this country have a very powerful hold on our national media and government institutions. But I am not alarmed or really that concerned.
When the angels appeared before the shepherds and announced "unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord," (Luke 2:11) Israel was under the control of the Romans, who believed their own Emperor was a god. Still, in time, the truth of Christmas, that is, the coming of a Savior, "who is Christ the Lord," dominated the world long after the Roman Empire fell.
So, celebrate the "Christ" of Christmas. It is a reminder that our Savior has Come and is Coming Again.
A WORD FROM THE PASTOR - OCTOBER, 2014 SPIRE
The story is told of John Brentz, who was a close friend of Martin Luther and an ally in the Reformation movement that eventually split the church in Europe between Roman Catholics and Protestants. His activities incurred the wrath of Charles V of Spain, who was a strong supporter of the traditional church and attempted many times to have the activist killed. One day Brentz got word that Spanish cavalry were on its way to arrest him. He went to God in prayer. He heard the Holy Spirit say to him . . . "Take a loaf of bread and go into the upper town where you will find an open door. Enter and hide yourself there under the roof."
Brentz followed the instructions. He found the only open door in town and hid himself in the loft of the building. For fourteen days he quietly laid in the loft while the Spanish troops looked for him. The one loaf of bread would not have been enough to feed him for two weeks. But, day by day, a hen would come up to the loft and lay an egg. The fifteenth day, people in the street yelled that the Spaniards had left town. John Brentz finally came out of his hiding place, praising God for miraculously saving him.
The real hiding place that saved Brentz was going to God for help in prayer and faith, when threatened by others, who believed "they" were doing God's will by destroying those who disagreed with their religious view. Without trusting God's love and care for him, Brentz would have tried to survive on his own resources. The Apostle Paul came to know this same truth. Up against constant opposition from within and without the church, he writes to the Thessalonian church . . . "Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith. But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one . . . May the Lord direct your hearts into God's love and Christ's perseverance."
. . . 2 Thessalonians 3:1-3.
A WORD FROM THE PASTOR - SEPTEMBER, 2014 SPIRE
CALL ME "FATHER"
Karen and I took a vacation. We saw her 96 year-old mother in Ohio. We then moved on to Omaha, NE to attend a continuing education course there. After that we moved on to Lincoln, NE to visit with friends. I played golf every day and Karen went shopping every day.
We then headed back to New Jersey, but we stopped at Bourbonnais, Illinois to pick up my 15 year old grandson, Baylen, and take him to New Jersey with us to visit for a few days. I called ahead to tell my daughter we'd pick up Baylen at a McDonalds, near their home, so we could treat them and their other kids, 5 year old Henry and three year old Virginia Rose, to dinner and the McDonalds indoor playground.
As they arrived at McDonalds, Karen and I were already there waiting for them. When little Virginia Rose sees me, she runs toward me with open arms yelling, "Gramma! Gramma!" I'm still trying to teach her to use the masculine form and say, "Gram-PA!" But, just seeing her face light up when she sees me, warms my heart to no end.
Many Christians still have a tough time calling God, "Father," even when both God and Jesus insist that you do so! Romans 8:15 says, "The spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father."
Now that word "sonship" does not necessarily describe a masculine form for a child, rather, it describes a special relationship. In the Bible, "sonship" carries with it both responsibilities and privileges. The first born son of the family inherited two-thirds of the father's property and became the head of the family. The second born son received one-third, but was still under the leadership of the first born son. All other sons received nothing, except by the grace of the first born son.
The Bible says you have a very special relationship with God that has nothing to do with the order of your birth. Now if we are (God's) children, then we are heirs ... heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ .." Romans 8:17.
So the next time you approach God in prayer, call Him by the NAME he wants you to call him, "Father." It will warm his heart.
A WORD FROM THE PASTOR - AUGUST, 2014 SPIRE
CLAIM YOUR RIGHTS
Dr. Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ tells the story of a famous oil field called Yates Pool: During the depression this field was a sheep ranch owned by a man named Yates. Mr. Yates wasn't able to make enough on his ranching operation to pay the principal and interest on the mortgage, so he was in danger of losing his ranch. With little money for clothes and food, his family had to live on government subsidy. Day after day, as he grazed his sheep over those rolling West Texas hills, he was troubled about how he would pay his bills.
Then a seismographic crew from an oil company came into the area and told him there might be oil on his land. They asked permission to drill a wildcat well, and he signed a lease contract. At 1,115 feet they struck a huge oil reserve. The first well came in at 80,000 barrels a day. But there was a lot more oil down there. Thirty years after the discovery, a government test of one of the wells showed it still had the potential flow of 125,000 barrels of oil a day. Mr. Yates owned it all. The day he purchased the land he had received the oil and mineral rights. Yet, he'd been living on relief. A multimillionaire, living in poverty. The problem was he didn't know the oil was there even though he owned it.
The Gospel of John tells us about our "wealth" in Jesus Christ:… "He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him:… yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, "John 1:10-12. That is why the Apostle Paul prays for you and everyone in Ephesians 1:18ff"I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance, in the saints and his incomparably great power for us who believe."
In this world you may be struggling to "get by" right now. But you have riches far beyond your own comprehension in Jesus Christ.
A WORD FROM THE PASTOR - JULY, 2014 SPIRE
DO YOU KNOW WHAT THE GOSPEL IS?
In a Constitution Poll commissioned by the National Constitution Center, fewer than 50 percent of the respondents knew how many U.S. Senators there are; only 6 percent could name the four rights guaranteed by the First Amendment; and 84 percent thought the Constitution states that "all men are equal."
Two thirds didn't know that the Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia and one-third didn't know that the Fourth of July is celebrated to mark the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. All of this is basic stuff that
any American citizen should know about their own country. It is discouraging that so many Americans don't even have a basic understanding of how or why our nation is so historically different from every other nation in the world.
But it is also true that the average Christian cannot explain the Gospel to someone. Some would say the Gospel is if you go to church and live a good moral life, then you will be saved. But that is no different from most other religions in the world. Christianity is very, very different.
The following comes from "How to Share Your Faith," by Dr. Kent Tucker. God loves us and wants to have a relationship with us (Jeremiah 31:3). However, we have chosen to go our own independent way and our sins have caused a separation between us and God (Isaiah 53:6). Most of us are aware of this separation and we try to do good works to get back to God, but we all fall short (Romans 3:20-23). The penalty for this failure is death, that is, eternal separation from God, (Romans 6:23). But God did for us what we could not do for ourselves. He provided a bridge to help us get back to God, (1 Peter 3:18). When Jesus Christ died on the cross, he paid the penalty for our sins. He died so that we would not have to, (Romans 5:8). But it is not enough just to know this. To cross over the bridge you need to receive Christ by acknowledging and accepting God's forgiveness and asking Jesus to come into your life as your personal Lord and Savior, (John 1:12). This is the Good News . . . "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life,"(John 3:16). Armed with this simple information, you could easily explain this Good News with anyone in one minute or less.
A WORD FROM THE PASTOR - JUNE, 2014 SPIRE
THE DEFINITION OF A CHRISTIAN
Words are important. They have meaning. What many people don't understand is that words can have different meanings depending upon the context. The following are examples:…
ABDICATE: To give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.
ADULT: A person who has stopped growing at both ends and is now growing in the middle.
BALDERDASH: A rapidly receding hairline.
COFFEE: A person who is coughed upon.
FEEDBACK: The inevitable result when the baby doesn't appreciate the strained carrots.
VEGETARIAN: An Old Indian word for a bad hunter.
It seems everyone has their own definition for their favorite words, even the word "Christian." Some people think a Christian is only someone who goes to the church they go to, or believes everything they believe, or who doesn't do everything they don't do. But Jesus has his own definition for "Christian". In John 13:34-35, He describes a Christian as someone who loves others as Jesus loves us.
But, then again, some people have their own idea what love is. So does the Bible. If you read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, then you'll learn that Jesus defines love as valuing people above all else:… above ideas, concepts or theological constructs.
Love not only defines who we are as Christians, it defines how we know we know God. 1 John 4:7-8 says this: "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."
Love, from God's definition, is all encompassing and complete, just as God's love is for you in Jesus' name.