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Weekly Word

FROM PASTORS TODD AND SHERI

Thinking Of You

December 1, 2020


Have you ever received a “Thinking Of You” card in the mail?  


I’m sure you have. It probably caught you by surprise. It wasn’t your birthday or a holiday when greeting cards are normally sent, so you weren’t expecting it. That’s what made it so special. On an ordinary day you received a card that said you were on someone’s mind.


It always feels good to know that someone you know and care about is thinking about you. During our seven-month engagement Sheri sent me a letter nearly every day. Living alone in another state, her letters meant the world to me. Each and every one was a golden reminder that the person I loved most was thinking about me.


You’ve heard the old adage, “Out of sight, out of mind.” We have all experienced relationships that went the way of all the earth simply because we stopped seeing that person frequently or at all. But the 139th Psalm informs us that we are never out of God’s sight (vv11-12), or His mind, “How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand!” (vv17-18). 


If God were to send “Thinking Of You” cards, do you realize how many you would accumulate over a lifetime? Just go to the nearest beach and starting counting the grains of sand. After you are done, if you are in Florida, you only have another 825 miles of sandy coastline to go. Once you are done counting grains of sand in Florida, you can work on the rest of the world. After you have counted every grain of sand on earth, you can toss the number aside. God’s thoughts about us outnumber even the grains of sand. That’s amazing!


The fact is, God is always thinking about you and they are precious thoughts. The Lord said so Himself in Jeremiah 27:11, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you…thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” That’s how God thinks about each one of us.


Not only are God’s thoughts toward us precious, they are constant. God doesn’t cast an occasional thought our direction. He doesn’t forget about us, only to be reminded of our existence when we’ve messed up. God is constantly thinking about us. His thoughts are never interrupted. And while God has another 7.8 billion people on His mind, He has the ability to concentrate on you and me individually all the time. No wonderful David cried out in v6, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!” 


Wherever you are, whoever you are, and whatever you are facing today, there is a God in heaven who is thinking about you this very moment. So why not turn your thoughts to Him and pray, Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” (vv23-24).


Pastors Todd & Sheri


No Leftovers

November 20, 2020


In the movie classic, The Sound of Music, Julie Andrews sang a song that said, “These are a few of my favorite things.”


One of my favorite things is the annual holiday of Thanksgiving. I love everything about it. I love the time of year with autumn chill in the air and Christmas just around the corner. I love the Fall decorations of colorful mums, pumpkins, hay bales, and all the rest. I love the festive time with friends and family. And I love the Thanksgiving meal. In my book, it just doesn’t get any better than Turkey and dressing, cranberry sauce right out of the can, and pumpkin pie topped with a spoonful (a large spoon) of Cool Whip served with a hot cup of black coffee. Oh my!


A favorite Thanksgiving tradition I failed to mention is the leftovers. Normally, leftovers are nothing to write home about. They are usually eaten out of a sense of obligation. You choke them down because you can’t bear the thought of throwing away perfectly good food.


But when it comes to Thanksgiving leftovers it’s an entirely different thing. I don’t know how it happens, but the Thanksgiving meal is as good if not better the second time around.


On a side note, Sheri’s family introduced me to Thanksgiving leftovers wrapped in Lefse. Lefse is a traditional Norwegian flatbread made from potatoes. Lefse wrapped around turkey, dressing, and cranberry sauce all mixed together is a little bit of heaven on earth! Try it. You’ll like it.


Speaking about favorite things, how about the unfailing mercy of God?! 


Jeremiah wrote about it in the Old Testament Book of Lamentations. As the title suggests, the book is a long lament about the state of things in Jerusalem. Simply put, things were not good. As a matter of fact, they were terrible. Jerusalem was destroyed, and her inhabitants were living in captivity. The prophet Jeremiah, along with a few others, had been left behind to bewail the sad state of affairs.


In the middle of the sad song, amid the ruin and rubble of the fallen city, Jeremiah remembered the unfailing mercy of God. Listen to what he said, “The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning” (Lamentations 3:22-23).


God’s mercy is like the manna in the wilderness that fed the Children of Israel for 40 years. Each day there is a fresh supply. As one version of Lamentations 3:23 says, “They are new every morning.” No leftovers here. The infinite God has an infinite amount of mercy. It will never run out. Each day is met with an abundant supply of mercy hot off the altar of grace.


I hope you enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday this week. I know I will. Especially the leftovers. But what I will enjoy most of all is giving thanks to God who blesses my life daily with a fresh helping of mercy.


Pastors Todd & Sheri

The Secret Place

November 11, 2020


Where do you turn in the Bible when you are in need of encouragement? We all have our favorite verses, passages, or even books.


I have lived for the past few weeks in the Book of Psalms. While most of the psalms were written by David (73), one-third (50) were written by unknown authors. The 91st Psalm is included in that group. While we are not given the identity of the author, we know that whoever wrote the psalm did so under the full inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16).


The psalm talks about the wonderful possibility of dwelling in the secret place of the Most High. The idea is not that of coming and going. It’s that of remaining in this secret place and abiding under the shadow of the Almighty.


In this world of chaos, there is a secure place where we as believers can live 24/7. It’s a place of serenity and safety. The secret is to remember to dwell in the secret place. 


Living many years in Kansas I learned that as long as I am in the tornado shelter I am safe. It’s when I venture out of the shelter that I am threatened by the violent storm. Storms are a reality of life. So is the secret place of the Most High. The secret is to go there and stay there.


We can learn a lesson from the Rock Badger here. The Rock Badger is a small animal (about the size of a rabbit) that lives in the rocky, mountainous areas in and around Israel. They are covered with light gray fur which enables them to blend in with the rocks where they make their home.


If a Rock Badger ventures away from its home in the rocks it becomes vulnerable to predators. As long as it stays in the rocks it’s almost impossible to see. And when it hides itself in the rocky crevices (the secret place), it’s perfectly safe. A predator would literally have to go through the rock to get to the Rock Badger.


In naming four things that are weak and yet exceedingly wise, the Proverb writer mentioned the Rock Badger (Proverbs 30:26). He acknowledges that they are weak, it’s true. But their wisdom is found in the fact they make their homes in the rocks. They dwell in the secret place. The wise Christian will do the same. 


In a year replete with all kinds of craziness, it’s good to know there is a secret place where we can dwell. A safe place where peace abounds. Where is this wonderful place? It’s in the presence of the Most High, the Almighty, the LORD (Jehovah). 


Run to the secret place and dwell there declaring with this unknown writer, “I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust’” (Psalm 91:2).


Pastors Todd & Sheri




In God we have a refuge and a fortress. Because of this we can say even in the worst of circumstances, “in Him I will trust” (v2b).

Singled Out For A Miracle

October 16, 2020


He is one of the nameless men in the Bible whose story appears in the 5th chapter of John.


The setting of the story is the Pool of Bethesda (i.e. house of mercy) with it’s five porches. On these porches were a great number of sick people including this man who apparently was among the paralyzed mentioned by John (v3).


I’m sure some of the sick were fairly new arrivals. Others had been there a matter of months, or even years. But this man was the veteran in the group. For thirty-eight years he had laid by the pool waiting for the troubling of the water. It was believed that the first person to enter the pool when the waters began to bubble up like a jacuzzi hot tub would be healed. 


I wonder how many times this man had pushed and pulled himself toward the pool, exerting every ounce of energy he could muster, only to be passed by a more mobile person? The frustration and sense of futility must have been overwhelming.


Then one day Jesus passed by and saw the man lying there by the pool. He was a regular fixture so chances are Jesus had seen him before. But this day was different. Initiating contact, Jesus presented what would be a peculiar question to anyone suffering with a longterm illness, “Would you like to get well?” (v6)


If we don’t want to change, the Lord won’t make us. However, if we are willing, He is more than willing! (see Mark 1:41)


Indicating that he wanted to be well but was powerless to make it happen, Jesus surprised the man with a miracle, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” (v8) John reports, “Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking!” (v9)


The fact that he picked up his bed and left the Pool of Bethesda shows the completeness of the miracle. He knew he was healed. Consequently, he moved away from his home of thirty-eight years and never looked back.


Do you feel stuck (paralyzed) in a bad situation with little hope on the horizon? Are you longing for a change, but wonder if such a thing is even possible? Don’t lose hope. Remember the man that grace singled out for a miracle.


“For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him” (2 Chronicles 16:9).


Pastors Todd & Sheri

The Quieting Touch Of Jesus

October 5, 2020


Have you ever considered the power of touch? According to Psychology Today, “Touch is the first sense we acquire and the secret weapon in many a successful relationship.” Among its many beneficial effects, touch has been found to reduce stress, heart rate, and blood pressure. 


When our daughter was just a baby she would ride in a carseat directly behind the driver’s seat in our Dodge Grand Caravan. There was something about riding in the carseat that bothered her, and she would often become agitated. In those moments, either Sheri or I would reach back and hold her foot. Feeling our touch, Tori would instantly calm down.


Agitated describes how Peter, James, and John felt on the Mount of Transfiguration. Several things occurred on top of the mountain that threw the three disciples into an emotional tailspin. First, Jesus was transfigured right before their eyes. His face began to shine like the sun, and His clothes radiated with dazzling brilliance. 


Then Moses and Elijah appeared from out of nowhere and stood talking with Jesus. I don’t know about you, but the appearance of two guys who have been dead around 1,500 years and 900 years respectively would get my attention!


It wasn’t over. As Peter, James, and John struggled to take in the extraordinary scene they were witnessing, a bright cloud covered them and a booming voice from heaven split the sky, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him” (Matthew 17:5 NLT)


That did it! Overcome with fear, the three disciples went face down on the ground. Fear can do that to a person. It can knock you off your feet. It can impair, immobilize, and render a person incapable of functioning as they should.


Notice Jesus’ response. He didn’t look with contempt at the disciples in their weakened condition. “The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him.  For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust” (Psalm 103:13-14 NLT).


How did He respond? “Then Jesus came over and touched them. ‘Get up,’ he said. ‘Don’t be afraid’” (Matthew 17:7 NLT). When the three disciples looked up, Moses and Elijah were gone. They saw Jesus only.  


In their crisis of fear, Jesus touched them. If a human touch can make a difference, how much more the quieting touch of Jesus?!


Is your heart troubled? Do fears abound? Then come to Jesus. He doesn’t tell us to go here and do this, or go there and do that. He says, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens” (Matthew 11:28 NLT). Just one touch from His hand will drive your fears away.


Whatever may be troubling you today, come and experience the quieting touch of Jesus!


Pastors Todd & Sheri

  

Details

September 14, 2020


You have probably heard the expression, “Details, details, details!” The expression is oftentimes uttered by a person who failed to pay attention to the details and, as a result, got burned. 


Others excuse ignoring details by passing themselves off as someone who only sees the big-picture. The big picture is important, but so are the details. As Solomon noted, it’s the “little foxes that spoil the vine” (Song of Solomon 2:15 NKJV). An otherwise successful project can be sabotaged by lack of attention to detail.


I have not always had an eye for detail. This became abundantly clear to me the second year of our marriage. Hoping to impress Sheri, I invited her to look at the Christmas lights I had hurriedly hung on the front of our little grey duplex in Kearney, Nebraska. I made Sheri close her eyes as we walked out to the snowy front yard. As she opened her eyes I expected a big “WOW!” Instead, Sheri sweetly said, “It’s very nice, but the lights are crooked.” Funny, I never noticed that. All of my efforts were spoiled by failing to pay attention to detail.


We know God sees the big picture. How do you create an entire universe without seeing the big picture? At the same time, we know God has an eye for detail. The Creator of the universe is aware of its most intricate parts. The Almighty who shook Sinai gave the Children of Israel a detailed plan for life and worship. The One who framed the world provided specific instructions concerning the Tabernacle in the Wilderness, along with its furnishings.


The next time you are wading through all the numerical totals in Numbers and the endless genealogies of 1 Chronicles remember this: details matter to God.


It was Solomon, a stickler for details, who gave this wise word of instruction, “Whatever you do, do well” (Ecclesiastes 9:10 LB). We know what that requires. As someone rightly observed, “The difference between mediocrity and excellence is attention to detail.” 


So serve God in the big ways, and in the small ways. Watch out for the little foxes, and be careful not to let the seemingly insignificant things slide. Negligence is a poor witness.  Reject carelessness and “seek to excel” (1 Corinthians 14:12). In every endeavor, just give it your best. 


Do it unto the Lord! Do it for the Lord! (Colossians 3:23).


Pastors Todd & Sheri


God’s Witnesses

September 10, 2020


Maybe you’ve heard the question, “So what about people who have never heard about the Lord?” The question may be asked by a sincere seeker. Or it may be presented by a skeptic wanting to argue the validity of Christianity. Whatever the case, the question stands. What about those who have never heard?


Consider this biblical fact. God doesn’t want “anyone to perish, but everyone to repent” (2 Peter 3:9). 1 Timothy 2:4 confirms this when it says God “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”


Since God is so eager for people to enter a right relationship with Him, it only stands to reason that He will make sure they have the ability to do so. Even in the Tribulation Period God will raise up witnesses. In answer to the question about those who never heard, Paul said, “Nevertheless He (God) did not leave Himself without witness” (Acts 14:17).


God has provided two great witnesses, and I am not referring to those named in Revelation 11. God’s two great witnesses that speak the truth to everyone on earth are Creation and Conscience.


When it comes to the witness of Creation Paul argued in Romans 1:20, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” 


David confirmed the witness of Creation when he wrote the 19th Psalm, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”


Along with the powerful voice of Creation is the equally effective witness of Conscience. Speaking of the reality of this inner witness Paul wrote, “They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them” (Romans 2:15).


The Creation without, and the Conscience within are two inescapable witnesses that reach every person on the planet. Surely, that is sufficient. Surely, God is satisfied with those two great witnesses.


Think again! In His overwhelming desire to rescue the human race from a lost eternity, God has issued the call for every believer to be a witness. The fact that Creation and Conscience are actively testifying does not lessen our responsibility. We must answer the call and say with Isaiah, “Here am I! Send me” (Isaiah 6:8).


So what about those who have never heard? God is never without a witness. But here is another question for your consideration. What about those who have heard? What about those who have heard multiple times and still have not made a decision? That may be the greater question.

God and Government

August 31, 2020


This article is the result of a comment I overheard at a recent breakfast with several men from our church. In the din of conversation happening around the tables, I overheard someone say, “People today have replaced God with government.” Sad, but true.


Many today no longer place their faith and hope in God. Like the ancient Babylonians bowing before King Nebuchadnezzar’s image of gold, they bow the knee proclaiming, “In government we trust.” These look to government in the same way we look to God. While government has its place, it is powerless to save. “Salvation belongs to the LORD” (Psalm 3:8).


As the creation is not the Creator, government is not God. Both creation and government came into existence by the will of God. Government exists to serve the purposes of God as stated in Romans 13 — to protect the governed, to promote good, and to punish wrongdoers.


It will come as a shock to the proponents of separation of Church and State that the Bible debunks the notion of a purely secular government. Romans 13:1 says, “There is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” Whether they realize it or not, and whether they acknowledge it or not, the governments of this world are ordained by God. While not all individual rulers are chosen by God, all authority is ordained by Him.


Since government is an institution ordained by God, Christians should be the best citizens in the land. We should obey the law (Romans 13:1), pay our taxes (Romans 13:6-7), pray for those in authority (1 Timothy 2:1-3), and take advantage of every opportunity to do good (Galatians 6:10). The only time we are exempt from obeying government is when such action would result in disobeying God. The rule of Acts 5:29 applies here, “We ought to obey God rather than men.”


It is always a blessing when righteous people are placed in positions of government authority. The land of Egypt survived the seven-year famine under the anointed leadership of Joseph. As a Jewish exile, Daniel made a righteous impact on the Babylonian, Median, and Persian empires. In the accounts of the kings of Israel and Judah we see the corresponding rise and fall of these kingdoms depending on the righteousness or unrighteousness of their rulers. 


Voting for righteous leaders is critical. Consequently, as Christian citizens, non-involvement in matters of government is contrary to what the Bible says about doing good (Galatians 6:10). As a matter of fact, James reminds us that “it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it” (James 4:17). Believers have a biblical obligation to be involved in the political process.


In the midst of this, we must remember that our primary citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20). As citizens of God’s kingdom, politics should not influence our faith. Rather, our faith should influence our politics. Biblical convictions must always define and direct our political persuasion. 


While we appreciate the role of government in our lives, our greatest loyalty is to God and His eternal purposes. As citizens we should love our country. As Christians we should love heaven even more. Working to get the right people into government office matters much. Working to get all people into heaven matters so much more.


As we prepare for Election Day 2020, let’s be good citizens and do our part. Let’s also take comfort in the fact that while elections come and go, and nations rise and fall, we belong to an unshakeable kingdom that shall never fail!


Pastors Todd & Sheri

Vote

August 24, 2020


We are quickly approaching the next general election where Americans will vote to fill a number of governmental offices including that of the President of the United States. While all elections matter, people across the political spectrum realize the magnitude of what is at stake this Fall.


With so much riding on the upcoming elections, it is paramount that Christians vote and that we do so according to biblical convictions.


At this point, let’s state the obvious. There are no perfect candidates for the simple fact there are no perfect people. Expecting the impossible, some Christians throw away their vote by refusing to cast a ballot. That is a tragic mistake! So what do we do in this imperfect political climate? We do our best to find candidates who come closest in supporting biblical positions and values, and cast our vote in their favor.


When we as believers step into the ballot box, politics gives way to biblical convictions. Here are some thoughts to consider as we prepare for the upcoming elections.


First, we should consider that Romans 13:3-4 identifies three basic purposes for government. It might be helpful to remember these as the three “P’s” — protect, promote, and punish. Government protects its citizens from internal and external threats, promotes the public good, and punishes lawbreakers. We should vote for candidates who are committed to these purposes.


Secondly, Proverbs 14:34 says, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people.” Of all the needs facing America today, righteousness is the greatest. Later in the book the proverb writer added, “When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan” (Proverbs 29:2). While government cannot enforce morality, it can seek to promote and preserve righteousness. We should support candidates who take a biblical position on matters of morality.


And thirdly, as Christians we should vote for candidates who stand strongly and unapologetically with Israel. God’s promise to Abraham is still in effect today, “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you” (Genesis 12:3). Being a friend of Israel is in America’s best interest. With antisemitism on the rise among certain political persuasions, believers should enthusiastically support candidates who support Israel.


Good government is godly government. It is government that serves for the good of the governed, and does so according to biblical principles. Remember, the perfect political candidate does not exist. Among those running for office, prayerfully consider candidates who come closest in their support of biblical values. Then vote.


On this election year, may God richly bless America once again.


Pastors Todd & Sheri


PS — While the New Testament was written during a time when religious freedom was virtually non-existent, we have enjoyed this blessing since our country’s inception. The guaranteed free exercise of religion provided in the Bill of Rights is under attack today, and is in danger of being lost depending on how the election goes. When going to the ballot box, strongly consider those who stand for religious freedom and vote accordingly.

Ecclesiastes

August 17, 2020


For being such a smart guy, Solomon made several foolish statements in the Old Testament Book of Ecclesiastes. Set aside thirty minutes to read the twelve chapters and you will see what I mean.


In his introductory notes in the Full Life Study Bible (also known as the Fire Bible), Donald Stamps states, “According to Jewish tradition, Solomon wrote the Song of Solomon during his younger years, Proverbs in his middle years, and Ecclesiastes during the last years of his life.” In Proverbs we see Solomon’s wisdom. In Ecclesiastes we see his foolishness.


Ecclesiastes records the cynical ramblings of a disillusioned king who fell into a state of spiritual decline. In writing the book Solomon used the word “vanity” thirty-seven times. One such example is c1:14, “I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind.” Encouraging, isn’t it!


Other phrases that appear throughout the book are “I perceived” and “I said in my heart.” The faulty conclusions reached by Solomon in Ecclesiastes are the result of his human reasoning. Solomon broke his own rule recorded earlier in Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.”


As we read the Book of Ecclesiastes we get a sobering picture of what can happen to a person who departs from God and His Word. Jeremiah 10:23 says, “O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.” It’s easy to get lost without a map. To remain on course we must stay close to God’s Word. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).


Throughout the Book of Ecclesiastes we read the depressing and erroneous statements of Solomon that are recorded by divine inspiration, and yet lack truth.


Then we come to the final two verses of the last chapter where the clouds part allowing a solitary ray of sunshine to come through. Like the prodigal son who suddenly came to himself, Solomon seems to have had a moment of spiritual clarity at the end of the book. Turning from his cynical attitude on life, the Solomon of old comes through with this wise word of counsel, “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).


Life finds its meaning and purpose in God. Without Him life is a dead-end street. With Him life is a purposeful journey that leads to a desired destination. 


So did Solomon ever get back on track? I would like to think so, but only eternity will tell. Whatever the case, remember Solomon and stay the course until you cross the finish line. 


Start strong. Stay strong. Finish strong.


Pastors Todd & Sheri