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FROM THE PASTOR’S PEN…NOVEMBER, 2017

I AM THANKFUL


Greetings to all of my St Paul’s family.  By the time you read this article I will be away for some much needed rest and decompression and you will probably be still reflecting on the news I had to share with you.  Obviously you know that the last several months have not been easy for either Carla or me, but one of the blessings in my life, and the thing that kept me going, was the opportunity to pastor and serve alongside you.  I know that God called me to this church and from day one, I have worked hard to build “family” and grow, teach, and inspire this congregation.  With God’s blessings, I have seen many things happen that encourage and bless me. Regardless of the future, I will hold and cherish those things.


But here is what is on my heart as I write to you: Christ and Church.  We must in these days focus on Jesus and his mercies, love…and grace.  In addition, St Paul’s must be cared for, watched over, and held together with love, forgiveness, and encouragement.  Regardless of my future, my heart is for this church.  I want it to remain the FAMILY it is.  I want it to be blessed.  I want it to grow.  I want it to be a place of blessing to others.  I want it to be pleasing to God Himself.  To do that, each of us must be mindful of what we say and what we do.  We must remember what is best for the whole is more important than what is best for any of us as individuals.  We mustn’t be selfish, self-serving, or ungracious. We must love.  We must encourage.  We must minister.  We must forgive.  


Please know that my heart and love are always for you guys.  If I remain your pastor, as I hope to do, I will continue to serve alongside you as faithfully and honestly as I possibly can.  I will continue to share God’s Word to the best of my ability.  I will continue to be there for you in your time of need as you allow.  I will continue to lead with a passion for the lost.  I will continue to encourage this church to be a true mission church sharing with other Christians around the world in The Great Commission.


But, if it becomes disruptive or even destructive for me to stay…I will leave before hurting this church that I love.  I will do so without any hard feelings…only love and thankfulness for the opportunity I have had.


If you allow me to stay…I will NEED your love, your patience, your encouragement, understanding…and the ability to be as “normal” as possible.


There are great things coming for St. Paul’s.  I believe that with all my heart.  Be faithful to God, your church…YOUR family.


In Christ,

Pastor Keith

 

FROM THE PASTOR’S PEN…OCTOBER, 2017

Take a Knee


One of the hot subjects in the news these last few days has been the increased number of NFL players taking a knee during our National Anthem.  I will confess that I have an opinion on this but will not divulge it here in this article.  My reason for mentioning it is to simply illustrate how divisive our nation is currently, and unfortunately, doesn’t seem to be making much progress toward love and unity.  What’s more, we have been reminded how devastating weather and other natural occurrences can be. There has been three devastating hurricanes to hit land in the last several weeks and the loss to life and property has been tremendous.  In addition, an earthquake in Mexico has cost lives and property as well.  Our news is also constantly reminding us of a seemingly unstable leader in North Korea who is truly making progress toward war.  We also hear of shootings that continue despite the best efforts of our intelligence agencies, police, military and the due diligence by our citizens.


The truth is…watching the news or reading a newspaper is quite alarming.  And in some ways, a little depressing.


But there is hope.  There is hope for our days.  There is hope for our Nation.  There is hope for our world.  And HIS name is JESUS!  No matter the problems.  No matter the evil.  No matter the threats.  No matter the worry.  God’s got this!

Let us spend more time reflecting on God and his mercy.  Let us be more determined to share Jesus with others.  Let’s spend more time praying for our problems than debating them.


Since the fall of Adam there has been hurt, pain, and suffering.  It will be there.  It is life.  But, God promised His power and His eternity.


Thanks be to God that He loved us so much He sent Jesus so that all who believe might not perish but inherent eternal life. (John 3:16 paraphrase).


Keep your heads up.  God’s got this!


Blessings,

Pastor Keith

 

FROM THE PASTOR’S PEN…SEPTEMBER, 2017

Moments of Happiness


At the end of July I was able to slip away for my first week of vacation.  I was also lucky enough to have the free use of my parent’s beach camper.  Can’t beat that price. 🙂  Anyway, although I am not a sun worshiper, I found myself on the sand at some point most days during my stay.  I remember one day sitting in my chair, enjoying the crashing waves, the signing of gulls, and the constant breeze across the salt water, when I noticed a small child entering the foam along side his young father.  I couldn’t take my eyes of the small boy.  Perhaps it was as much of his screams of joy as it was his enthusiastic splashing and jumping in the shallows.  He would laugh and jump each time the residue of large waves reached his short little legs.  He was laughing, screaming, grinning ear to ear; he was just plain happy.


Thinking back on the moment, I have to say I was also.  Not because I was splashing and jumping in waves…but rather, relaxing in my peaceful place, watching another human being express joy and happiness beyond measure.


That makes me think…how often do we experience those moments of pure happiness in our lives?  Think about yourself.  What makes you happy?  Perhaps it is time spent with a grandchild.  Maybe it is an after dinner walk hand-in-hand with your spouse.  It could be a quiet, comfy chair and a good book.  For each of us…our happy place and our happy time is different.  I guess, as we enter the month of September and that time of year that is special for so many…I would encourage you to think about your happy place.  Think about those times, places, and people that bring happy to your life…then spend more time in that.


Always remember that happy is an emotion and fine human desire.  But never confuse it with Godly joy.

 

That…well..that only comes in and through Christ Jesus.


I pray blessings on you all,

 

Pastor Keith

 

FROM THE PASTOR’S PEN…AUGUST, 2017

It’s hot!


Well one thing is sure as we round out a busy July and turn our attention to August…it’s hot!  When I think of August I can’t help but reflect back to my years in school, both as a student and later as a teacher.  Once the calendar page turned to August, I knew my summer break was winding down.  For some, that might be exciting…but I can even now hear in my mind the sigh among many young people.


One other thing I know about August…it is that time when many families rush to get in that last minute trip or vacation together.  That’s a good thing.  I am actually joining them in that as I will be taking a vacation next week.  What do I plan to do?  Jump from an airplane?  Cruise the seven seas?  Take sight-seeing walks around the big city?  Visit a far away land?


Nope…


I plan to go back home to my beach and just relax and recharge.  You know, it is exciting to venture off and see new places and experience new things.  I love that as much as anyone.  But sometimes, you just need to get away, relax, and recharge.


Even Jesus did it.  He would at times venture away from the crowds just to relax and spend time with His Father.

 

What about you?  Are you insuring that in your life?  Life is hectic.  It is filled with challenges, pains, distractions, and conflicts.  Be sure that you are taking time for yourself.


So…while I am gone, I leave Pastor Rick in charge and you with my blessings.  “Surfs up!”  🙂


Love to you all,

Pastor Keith

 

FROM THE PASTOR’S PEN…JULY, 2017

My Country ’tis of Thee

It won’t be long until July 4th is here.  The beaches will be full, the campgrounds will be overflowing, and the streets of places like Gatlinburg will be rustling with the patter of feet.  Baseball parks will be full of people cheering on a hit while munching on a hot dog and backyards all across the nation will produce billows of charcoal and delicious food.  It truly is a wonderful time of the year and a grand time to celebrate as citizens.

Unfortunately, our nation, like history past, is wounded and fractured.  The same freedoms that some fought to preserve are today sometimes used to divide.  The faith of our founding fathers is so often now ignored or even ridiculed.  Those of us who are proud of our country stand up for her and behind those brave men and women who daily place their lives at risk to protect us.  

I was watching a Youtube cut of someone interviewing young adults and asking them simple questions that included things like: 1) What is the significance of July 4th?, 2) What happened at Pearl Harbor?, and  (this one will really sadden you), 3) What is the significance of 9/11?  You would not believe the answers that were given.  They had no idea why we celebrated the 4th.  They didn’t even know where Pearl Harbor was, and they actually thought 9/11 was some battle that we fought in a previous war.  And then we wonder why so many of our  young have no sense of national pride, respect or value.  We wonder why people burn flags, spit at military, and kneel during our nation’s song.  Now to be clear and fair…this is NOT all our young people.  Some are truly engaged, knowledgeable, and  respectful.  Let’s be thankful for them.  

Well, I will tell you that for this father of a serving military person…these things matter to me!  

I realize that there are problems in our country.  I know that our leaders, on both sides of the isle, often let us down and don’t keep their promises.  Yep, there are problems.  But part of the blame lies at the feet of us…Christians.  

We need to pray for our leaders, our nation, our military…and most importantly…keep sharing the hope that is found in Jesus.  

So…as July 4th approaches…roast the hot dogs, take a dip in the water…but never forget what it truly means and what was sacrificed to give it birth.  

May God bless the USA and all of us.

Pastor Keith

FROM THE PASTOR’S PEN…JUNE, 2017


More Than a Building

“It takes a village to raise a child,” they say. I understand the quote and in some ways, it is true. Those that interact with our children do impact them as well.

But I want to give you another quote…and this one is from me. Here it is: “It takes a church to raise a blessed believer.” Allow me to explain.  Most of you know that the last several weeks have been quite difficult for me, trying to work, take care of Carla who was bedridden for almost three weeks, and trying to handle medical bill issues that hit hard…even with health insurance. Some of you could see the stress on my face, the tears on my cheeks, the exhaustion in my voice, and the pain in my eyes. It wasn’t a matter of faith. I had that. I believed God still loved and cared for me. I still believed God had a plan and purpose. I still believed that God would receive glory…but…it was still humanly hard.

And unfortunately, its not easy to hide ones pain when that one is also the pastor who stands on public display, in the pulpit and in the halls. With that said, my FAMILY at St. Paul’s responded. You gave me hugs. You gave me words of encouragement. You faithfully prayed for Carla and me. You gave financially to help with the medical bills that had me shaking just opening the mailbox. In other words…you guys were truly “Jesus with skin on.”

I am so thankful for you and the love you showed. I have said if before and will say it again: if one doesn’t have a church family…they are missing out on one of God’s true blessings. And notice that I used the word..FAMILY. We here at St Paul’s are a family. No we won’t always agree on stuff. Sometimes we might make each other mad or frustrated. Sometimes we might unintentionally hurt one-another…but folks…WE ARE FAMILY.

One more thing. This family needs to be in the business of adoption. We should want to open our arms and our hearts and encourage others to join us.  Why? Because if you ain’t in the family…you ain’t receiving your max blessings. Thank God for your church family. Encourage each other. Participate. Attend.

Always remember that I am just a

call away for any of you.

I LOVE YOU!

Pastor Keith

 

FROM THE PASTOR’S PEN…MAY, 2017

Spring Dreams


For many people there is no need to wonder what time of year it is.  Their runny noises, hacking coughs, and watery eyes are clear indicators that spring is in the air.  Even with the discomfort of so many with allergies, it truly is a beautiful time of year.  The flowers pop with color and the trees put on their cover of green.  From the drab of winter comes signs of life and hope.


The same might be said of us. The weather is warmer, the desire to enjoy the outdoors increased, and the hope for fun and excitement increased.  It is also an important season in our faith.  We have just celebrated the resurrection of our Lord and, like the disciples of old, have something to celebrate and live for. Christ is risen and with it comes hope and opportunity.


I think there is no better time of year to dream than this.  Scripture has time and time again shown God’s revelation through the dreams of his followers. Has God given your a dream…a desire…and heart…for some type of service? Has he given you a vision of ministry that you have yet to do?  Is he speaking into your heart with purpose?


There is no better time to dream with God than now.  You are never too old, never too settled, never too untrained to be of valuable service to our Lord.  So…as we are in the middle of this time of bloom, beauty and hope…I encourage you..allow yourself to dream and ask God to fill those dreams with HIS WILL for your life.


Blessings,

Pastor Keith

 

 

FROM THE PASTOR’S PEN…APRIL, 2017

Don’t let fear keep you from God’s Best


A phobia is defined as: “a persistent, irrational, fear of a specified object, activity, or situation.” (www.dictionary.com).  The truth is…most of us have at least one.  Perhaps for some of you the idea of standing before the church on a Sunday morning and doing what I do…well, it scares you to death.  For others, it might be those creeping, crawling spiders that always seem to find their way into our homes.  Still others, it might be those tall places with drastic drops (with you on that one.)  Yep…most of us have at least one.


The reason this idea came to mind is that I have the opportunity to be gifted a quick trip out west to see my son for a couple of days.  And yep…that means flying.  And anyone who has been around me any time at all knows…Pastor Keith don’t like no planes.  Yes, I have a real phobia of flying.  So…what a decision: to face my fear and accept the blessing of this kind gift and precious time with my son…or give in to my fear and play it safe realizing he will be coming back here at some point.

Life  is full of opportunities, fears, choices…and potential blessings. God often calls us to act or do in His name and yet, sometimes, we hold back due to fear, or at least a degree of discomfort.  In doing so, imagine the tremendous blessings forfeited and blessings possibly denied to others.  God never asked us to step out in faith and face our fears without Him.  He is there to help, encourage, support and guide.  Don’t let fear keep you from pursuing God’s best for you and others as you do His work in His name.


Now…I am sure you are still asking: “Well, PK…are you going to fly?”


As I write this I can only say…I’m trying to convince myself to do it.  We will see.


I guess I should heed the words of a friend who said: “Suck it up, buttercup.”


I will let you know how it turns out.

 


Blessings,

 

Pastor Keith

 

FROM THE PASTOR’S PEN…MARCH, 2017

 

With Ash Wednesday the world begins a season of Lent.  It is a time of reflection of self in light of God’s greatness and instruction for our lives.  It is for many also a time of sacrifice as they give up something important as a sign of devotion and a tool of remembering to focus on God.  That reminds me of the following story:

A Catholic priest working in an inner city was walking down an alley one evening on his way home when a young man came down the alley behind him and poked a knife against his back. “Give me your money,” the young man said.
The priest opened his jacket and reached into an inner pocket to remove his wallet, exposing his clerical collar. “Oh, I’m sorry, Father,” said the young man, “I didn’t see your collar. I don’t want YOUR money.”
Trembling from the scare, the priest removed a cigar from his shirt pocket and offered it to the young man. “Here,” he said. “Have a cigar.”
“Oh, no, I can’t do that,” the young man replied, “I gave them up for Lent.” 

                                                    (http://www.tkayala.com/2014/03/lent-stories-and-illustrations.htm)
Sadly, the young man in this humorous story has forgotten the true purpose of Lent Sacrifice…but so have many others.  Some wear it as a badge of honor, tooting their own horn as they brag about their sacrifice.  Others do it as a ritual without any real personal change or conviction.  
But then there are others who truly do reflect on God and allow Him to speak conviction and change into their hearts and lives.
I pray that while the universal church prepares to usher in the coming season of Easter through the sacrifice and reflection of Lent, God might use it to truly draw all closer to Him.


Blessings,

Pastor Keith

 

FROM THE PASTOR’S PEN…FEBRUARY, 2017

Dear Church Family,
Can you believe that it is already February, the month of love? Love is a beautiful noun, it is even more beautiful when it is used as a verb.  Jesus calls us to be people of love, putting that love into action.  There is no greater example of love in action than that displayed by Christ at Calvary.  Let us never take that love for granted.  Let us be thankful for his most precious of gift…himself.
There are many stories about love in action.  I simply wanted to share one that I found in my research.  I hope it speaks to you as it did to me.  Here is an exert from Dave Simmons book:
Two weeks after the stolen steak deal, I took Helen (eight years old) and Brandon (five years old) to the Cloverleaf Mall in Hattiesburg to do a little shopping. As we drove up, we spotted a Peterbilt eighteen-wheeler parked with a big sign on it that said, “Petting Zoo.” The kids jumped up in a rush and asked, “Daddy, Daddy. Can we go? Please. Please. Can we go?”

“Sure,” I said, flipping them both a quarter before walking into Sears. They bolted away, and I felt free to take my time looking for a scroll saw. A petting zoo consists of a portable fence erected in the mall with about six inches of sawdust and a hundred little furry baby animals of all kinds. Kids pay their money and stay in the enclosure enraptured with the squirmy little critters while their moms and dads shop.

A few minutes later, I turned around and saw Helen walking along behind me. I was shocked to see she preferred the hardware

department to the petting zoo. Recognizing my error, I bent down and asked her what was wrong.

She looked up at me with those giant limpid brown eyes and said sadly, “Well, Daddy, it cost fifty cents. So, I gave Brandon my quarter.” Then she said the most beautiful thing I ever heard. She repeated the family motto. The family motto is in “Love is Action!”

She had given Brandon her quarter, and no one loves cuddly furry creatures more than Helen. She had watched Sandy take my steak and say, “Love is Action!” She had watched both of us do and say “Love is Action!” for years around the house and Kings Arrow Ranch. She had heard and seen “Love is Action,” and now she had incorporated it into her little lifestyle. It had become part of her.

What do you think I did? Well, not what you might think. As soon as I finished my errands, I took Helen to the petting zoo. We stood by the fence and watched Brandon go crazy petting and feeding the animals. Helen stood with her hands and chin resting on the fence and just watched Brandon. I had fifty cents burning a hole in my pocket; I never offered it to Helen, and she never asked for it.

Because she knew the whole family motto. It’s not “Love is Action.” It’s “Love is SACRIFICIAL Action!” Love always pays a price. Love always costs something. Love is expensive. When you love, benefits accrue to another’s account. Love is for you, not for me. Love gives; it doesn’t grab. Helen gave her quarter to Brandon and wanted to follow through with her lesson. She knew she

had to taste the sacrifice. She wanted to

experience that total family motto. Love is sacrificial action.

 

Dave Simmons, Dad, The Family Coach, Victor Books, 1991, pp. 123-124.

Love one another as Christ Jesus has loved you….that is—Love in ACTION!
Blessings,

 

Pastor Keith  

 

FROM THE PASTOR’S PEN…JANUARY, 2017

Dear Church Family,

I hope you all had a wonderful and happy Christmas. Carla and I are so very thankful for all the

many cards and gifts but even more importantly, for your continued love and support.

I am writing this article between Christmas Sunday and New Year’s. It is hard to believe that this

Sunday will mark my first anniversary as your senior pastor. As many of you know I spent a lot of

time thinking about 2017 during my break in late November. We are tweaking a few things and

adding some things. But I PROMISE that any “changes” are being done carefully, slowly, informatively, and with proper approval and support. We will also continue to look long-term as

we prepare for our growth and vitality in the future. With that said, allow me to share just a few items with you:

  • Our Wednesday morning Bible study will now be called, “Bible Talks.” We do this to distinguish it because my hope is to eventually have an evening study as well. We will be calling groups and ministries by specific names to help in our planning, promotion, and scheduling.
  • The Well, our Monday night service will begin again on January 16th at 7pm It will be meeting in the fellowship hall and will include coffee, teas, and even hot chocolate. We are

also always open  to food and goodies if you feel so led. Everyone is invited but PLEASE remember…the focus of this service is ages 13-30. That is our target audience. That means you may love it…but you may not. But, our hope is that it will be a place that attracts the younger folks. Believe me…there has been MANY hours of interviews, research, and prayer that has gone into this suggested change. We also plan to have live Facebook for the service too.

  • Our Sunday service will remain basically as is and we continue to search for a new instrumentalist, ever thankful for Nancy’s help.
  • I am working on an organizational chart with all applicable ministries and positions. My hope is that we can begin plugging in more folk into needed positions within our volunteers’ gift and interest areas.
  • We will begin creating more small groups that will meet in other locations and times outside of the main church property. All groups will be under our leadership and training, but we will be able to reach new people.
  • We will be doing some remodeling and rethinking our children’s wing andministry. We want to get ready for what God is going to do. We are even changing Sunday morning Sunday school to “Kid’s Quest” Sunday School. This allows for a more fun, positive, and and updated name to what we will be doing.

Can you tell that I am really excited at all the possibilities for our church and its import on our community? There are many other things we will be doing but these are just a few.

So…are you plugged in? If not, let’s get you there. Talk to me about how God can use you to bless others and help your church.

 

May God bless you in 2017!

 

Love, Pastor Keith

 

 

FROM THE PASTOR’S PEN…DECEMBER, 2016

Thanksgiving…not just a word

I must begin this article with a confession.  I am writing it on the evening before I leave for my “vacation.”  For that break…I am VERY thankful.  So with that said…let me get this thing done.  🙂

Many people will gather with family and friends during this holiday to eat, make merry, and perhaps even watch some football on TV.  What’s more, some may even give thanks.  Let’s hope so.

Unfortunately, there are many people during this holiday that are feeling anything other than thankful.  Perhaps there is loss of a love one since last years’ celebration.  Perhaps others, as I heard in our consistory meeting Monday night, are dealing with the recent diagnosis of cancer.  The fact is…there is pain and loss all around us.  Spend anytime around others…you will hear it.  There is SO MUCH suffering.  Perhaps you may be experiencing it yourself.

If so…the last thing I want to do is make light of it.  Your pain and loss is real.  It is personal.  It is truly hard.  Sometimes we wish we were God so that we could wipe away pain and suffering—ours and others.   And we sometimes wonder why He doesn’t always do just that.  For that question or pondering…I have no answer.  Nor do I think anyone does to our satisfaction.

But this one thing I do know…and I have learned it from personal experience…the more I do for others, the less I focus on my own self, my own pain, my own losses.  No, they don’t always disappear like magic, but they do lessen…at least for a little while.

The Scriptures are full of witnesses to thanksgiving even in the midst of loss and suffering.  The Apostle Paul comes to mind as he gave thanks so many times while sitting in the darkness of a prison.  If only I could be that brave, that faithful, that “good” of a Christian.

I do hope you can find something to truly be thankful for this year.  May I suggest at least being thankful for the great love that was shown to you by the Lord Jesus Christ.  Now that is something to be thankful for.

May you all have a safe and enjoyable holiday.  HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Love,

Pastor Keith

 

FROM THE PASTOR’S PEN…NOVEMBER, 2016

By: Pastor Keith Brown

Be YOU. Be REAL…

The cooler temperatures and changing leaves are a welcomed change for many of us who enjoy the beauty of fall.  For our children, it signals something different.  It is the season of costumes and trick-a-treat.  Many parents find themselves shuffling through the rows and rows at Wal-Mart trying to find that costume to delight their little ones.  And no costume is fully complete without that mask to hide one’s true identity behind that of princess, ninja turtle, or pirate.  It is all fun and games and an exciting, and candy profitable, time for children.

This practice of costumes, and more significantly, the putting on of masks, makes me think how often we of faith do the same.  How many of us hide behind masks so that others would not dare see the true person or emotion behind it.

How many put on a mask of jubilance while crying on the inside?

How many put on a mask of perfection while their life is full of sin and failure?

How many put on a mask of pietism while their minds are filled with doubt and fear?

How many hide behind the mask of others expectations?

Perhaps during this season of costumes, masks, and games…it is time for the people of God to remove such…and be the true persons God has created and desired them to be.

Be YOU.  Be REAL.  God created the amazing you.  Let your light shine.

 

Blessings,

Pastor Keith

 

FROM THE PASTOR’S PEN…OCTOBER, 2016

Have Passion…

but Have it Peacefully

Like most of you I watched in sadness as report after report of violence and destruction were released by every news agency across our nation.  The nearby city of Charlotte became a major news story and what was normally considered a lovely southern city of banking, business, and even sports…became the poster child for racial disharmony, fear, and anger.   What originally started as a peaceful protest quickly escalated into mob mentality and well…the rest is a matter of record.

Our nation is in the midst of unrest.  It is true that many things are not as they should be.  I think all of us, regardless of who we are would agree to that.  And sadly, the racial divide of the 1960’s now seems to grow with increased thrust and it comes from every “side.”  It is evidenced in our streets, our churches, and even now in the schools where our kids attend.

The purpose of this short article is not an attempt to offer a quick fix to these major issues nor is it a soapbox attempt to preach any social agenda.  That is not my purpose, job, or calling.  Proclaiming Jesus is.

My only purpose in this simple article is to remind all of us that we are to stand on our beliefs, our foundations, our traditions, our passions…and for those of us at St. Paul’s…our belief in the redeeming value of the cross.  BUT…we are to do so  with a heart of peace, love, and desire for God’s kingdom to be clearly seen here in our nation, our state, our cities, and in our community.  It is easy for us to see media reports, either factual or hyped, and jump to anger, hatred, and even responding action.  Is that what Jesus wants?  Is that what Jesus would do?

I hope that we as Christians here in Newton, NC are never placed in a position where we have to forcefully defend our Christian faith.  I am grateful for men and women throughout history that DID fight and sacrifice for that freedom.

Dear St. Paul Members…

Be people of faith…people of conviction…people of prayer…people of peace.  Be people who want to see others come to Jesus Christ.  Be people who want to see lives changed with the Gospel!

Don’t fret dear believers.  God is still in control…even when things we see sometimes appear not to be.

Blessings,

Pastor Keith

 

SEPTEMBER, 2016

FROM THE PASTOR’S PEN…

By: Pastor Keith Brown

“Oh No He Didn’t”


I can’t believe it.  It is Sunday night and I write this after breaking a real rule of mine today.  I am not proud of it but it just happened.  I didn’t plan on doing it.  It just sucked me in and I had to respond.


What is this terrible thing I did?  This terrible action that went against my strong conviction?  Glad you asked.


I got stirred enough to post a rather heated and opinionated post on Facebook.  This broke every rule I have about the use of this social media outlet and it is something I try VERY hard not to do.  I don’t like reading these, don’t like seeing them, and don’t like participating in such normally useless debates in public domain.  But…I did it. I won’t speak specifically about it here except to say that it was in regards to National pride and respect.  I am sure the fact that I had just hung up with my USAF LT  son impacted my mood.


Anyway…as I said, I don’t think that many of the public rants on social media are helpful or productive. I will also confess that this one probably wasn’t either (although it was a little therapeutic).

 

Most of the time, real life-changing (and mind-changing) teaching comes with time, patience, and most importantly…relationship.  It comes from a place of love and compassion.


BUT…


There does come a time for people of belief and conviction to take a stand and stand their ground.  That  doesn’t mean we don’t love and show kindness…but it does mean that there are times, places, and opportunities where we must NOT be afraid to speak truth as we see it.  I think God expects that of us. We need to expect it of ourselves.


Hey…but here is the thing—don’t do it on FACEBOOK.  🙂


Love to you all,

 

Pastor Keith

AUGUST, 2016

FROM THE PASTOR’S PEN…

By: Pastor Keith Brown

Worry

WORRY.  Such a short, simple word and yet, one that is all too familiar to most of us  The student worries about the upcoming math test.  The employee worries about his upcoming evaluation with his boss.  The Sunday Scripture reader worries about fumbling over words or getting lost in the reading.  And then there are some who worry about a medical test result.  In truth…worry is as part of life for many as is breathing itself.

 

But what does God’s Word tell us.  In Matthew 6, Jesus clearly says that we are not to worry.  Simply look at the birds in the air on the grasses in the field and notice how God takes care of each.  Jesus speaks the same to us.  In fact, he concludes this section with this statement in verse 34: “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself.”

 

So, from this teaching of Christ from the Gospel, let me suggest the following lessons:

Don’t beat yourself up if you do worry.  Worry comes easier to some and for these folks, they often feel they are less spiritual or weaker in faith.  This really isn’t true.  Some who naturally worry, even though they try very hard not to and fail, are often very strong and loving followers of Christ.  So…don’t beat yourself up if you worry…just try to let more of it go.  That is part of growing.

Worry does nothing.  My son is a champion at this and I admire his ability to not sweat stuff. He often says, “It will be what it will be.”  Pretty good point.  The truth of his statement echoes that of Christ when he says that worry accomplishes nothing other than to perhaps send us to our knees in earnest prayer…or the hospital with a heart attack.

Know that God is in control.  Either we believe that or we don’t.

 

“I am inwardly fashioned for faith, not for fear. Fear is not my native land; faith is. I am so made that worry and anxiety are sand in the machinery of life; faith is the oil. I live better by faith and confidence than by fear, doubt and anxiety. In anxiety and worry, my being is gasping for breath–these are not my native air. But in faith and confidence, I breathe freely–these are my native air. A John Hopkins University doctor says, “We do not know why it is that worriers die sooner than the non- worriers, but that is a fact.” But I, who am simple of mind, think I know; We are inwardly constructed in nerve and tissue, brain cell and soul, for faith and not for fear. God made us that way. To live by worry is to live against reality.”

 

Dr. E. Stanley Jones, Transformed by Thorns, p. 95.

 

May God bless you as you try each new day to better live without worry and anxiety.

 

Blessings,

Pastor Keith

 

 

 

 

 

 

JULY, 2016

FROM THE PASTOR’S PEN…

By: Pastor Keith Brown

Ever had one of “those days?”

Yeah, I am sure you have.  I had one yesterday.  The day began with Bible study at the church.  I always enjoy that and in fact, I believe it is one of the things I am most proud of at our church.  The study went great…even including passing once again on my favorite Krispy Kreme doughnut.  After the study, several of us piled into our cars and headed for a shut-in visit, which once again was nice.  This is the point where things take a turn.

After a quick lunch of fast-food, a bad choice I know, I rush off to the funeral for Linda’s brother. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the church on Google or Google GPS.  I wound up having to visit the city hall to get help.  Once I did, I rushed back to my car and to the church, getting there in time to hug the family and take my spot in a pew…barely. The service was quite nice and the music was lovely.  So far…so good.  I felt that the day had been productive and I was pleased in the ways God had used me to minister.

But wait….

There’s more.

I go out to my car after the service, wearing my suit, in summer temperatures, only to find my pocket empty, car locked, and the keys clearly on display on the passenger seat.  Everyone had  left for the graveside and yours truly was standing in a empty lot, out in the country (an area I had never been) with no shade trees in sight and no game plan.

That’s when God began to move in the midst of my debacle.  The young minister of music at the church came out of the Sanctuary and told me there were some ladies in the fellowship hall preparing the meal.  Problem one solved….air conditioning.  Then, when the family returned to the church, and upon hearing of my situation, the son of the deceased happened to be a police officer.  This man, in the midst of his own personal grief, jumped in his car, drove to his home several miles away, and grabbed his kit to get into my car.  Once he was back, it took him about three minutes to get in.  Not three or four minutes later…a heavy thunderstorm hit, but by this time…I was safely inside and driving.

Yep…it wasn’t a fun experience and I felt really dumb.  But…even in the midst of all that, God had my back.  But notice—He moved through the care, hands, and gifts of others.  So, dear friends….I ask you today: Are you willing to be the hands and feet for God today?  Are you willing to reach out and help in time of need?

To do so is to truly be “Jesus with skin on.”

 

May God bless you all,

Pastor Keith

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JUNE, 2016

FROM THE PASTOR’S PEN…

By: Pastor Keith Brown

“Daddy”

Father. A word that brings with it a barrage of emotions, memories, and ideas…both positive and

negative.  For some we might be reminded of those late summer days out in the backyard tossing a baseball.  Others may be reminded of those valued conversations and advice along the way. Still others may be reminded of those missed school events where the workaholic dad was just “too busy” to attend.  And sadly, there are some who are reminded of abuse, either physically or verbally.  Indeed, the word “father” carries with it a lot of meanings.

I was personally blessed to have not only a father…but a dad.  He was a man who, no matter what shift he worked or how many hours, he still made time for my sisters and me.  I would be hard-pressed to even remember a single practice that my dad didn’t show up to.  His example was one I not only learned from…but one I have tried very hard to emulate with my own son.  I can only hope that I have succeeded to some degree.

There is one example of father that is all positive…that of our heavenly Father.  In fact, the Scriptures even refer to him as “Abba,” which most closely translates—“Daddy.”  Isn’t that a great word to describe our Father God?  For as we know, it only takes a short time to become a father…but a lifetime to be a daddy, that person who pours love, attention, protection, guidance, and even correction.  That is the type of God we have.  That is something to be excited about.  He is one who never misses an event in your life.  He never fails to “show up.”  He never fails to listen.  He never fails to show his love for you.

So dear family of God.  This June as you celebrate or remember

fathers….make sure you take time to reflect and celebrate the best father of all…

Our Heavenly Father.

 

God Bless,

 

Pastor Keith

Father’s Day is June 19th

 

 _______________________________________________________________________________________

MAY, 2016

FROM THE PASTOR’S PEN…

By: Pastor Keith

Mama
Yesterday, I picked up my mobile phone as I left the church and quickly said, “Hey Siri, call mom.”  Moments later I was connected with the woman that gave me life, changed my diapers, kissed my boo-boos and encouraged me in my walk with God.  I talked to my mom during my entire drive from Newton to Lincolnton, the entire time I changed clothes for the funeral visitation yesterday, and then all the way from Lincolnton back to Conover.  It must have been “earth shattering stuff” right?  No, not at all.  We just talked.  I heard about laundry, people in the family, the trip they will soon take, and the aches and pains that we all experience as we age.  Basically…we just chatted.  But more importantly, we connected.  That time was precious to me as I had the chance to speak to my mom, a woman who the Bible tells me to love and honor.  Let me be clear…I surely do.


Exodus 20:12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.”


As we Americans soon approach the day we set aside to honor moms I realize that some of you no longer have living mothers.  For that, I am sorry.  But, I hope that the experience you had with them was warm, nurturing and special. If so, take time to reflect and be thankful. For those that still have living moms, I encourage…no, I implore you…make sure you take the time to love on them, talk to them, and simply spend time with them.  It is time you will neither forget  nor regret.


Mothering is a calling, a challenge, a delight…and even sometimes a pain.  But a true mom would never exchange that blessing for anything this world has to offer.


Today, my mind and heart reflects on so many of our young boys and girls in this world. Many don’t have the life-changing influence of a Godly mom.  For them, I pray that God will bring a woman of influence into their lives to give them that which can come from no other place.  Then, I think about those who have chosen to disrespect, disobey, and separate themselves from the loving influence of a mom.  My only prayer there is that God will one day help them to see the mistake of their decision….hopefully before it is too late.


Yep…moms are special.  May God bless all you moms, out there.  You are valuable treasures and we celebrate you as I do in this simple article.


God Bless,

 

Pastor Keith

 

 

APRIL, 2016

St. Paul’s Poetry Corner…April, 2016

TOO BUSY TO PRAY

I awoke with a start—it’s a quarter to eight

Oh me, oh my, I’m going to be so late

I have breakfast to gulp, my teeth to clean

O how my boss will yell, stomp and scream.

 

My car doesn’t start, nor does the train come

My stomach is churning—there’s

much to be done

I tell the Lord what I want Him to do

“Please let time stand still…

But let me pass through.”

 

The day rushes on, now they’ve

turned up the heat

phones ringing, rushing, with

deadlines to meet

Lunchtime comes and goes way too fast

With a sign of relief I arrive home at last.

 

I kick off my shoes- there’s dinner to prepare

the family is waiting-relieved that I’m there

A few rushed words-for talking little time

There’s television to watch or chatting on line.

 

Exhausted I finally stumble to bed

I try to pray but my words are like lead

To my Wonderful Lord I cannot speak

Drowsiness overcomes me-I’m fast asleep.

 

In my dream my Lord appeared to me again

He looked at me so sadly with

sorrow and with pain

“Child, I have not spoken to you

all of this long day

Your thoughts were never of Me and

you’ve had nothing to say.”

 

“But Lord”, I said, “There really is

so much to do

I have a paid job and a mound of

housekeeping too

Surely You want me to have

time to have some fun

I still love You…but I’m always on the run.”

 

“Come unto Me, you who have so much care

I will give you My love and

My peace we can share

If with Me you don’t spend time how

can you really know

The many blessings that upon you I

wish to bestow,”

 

 

“Remember that I speak-My voice is

still and small

If you’re always in a rush you won’t

hear me at all

I ache and long for you to give Me a

portion of your time

I want You to love Me more-to know that you

are really Mine.”

 

The sad look upon His face was

more than I could bear

“I’m sorry Lord; I’ve treated You as if you were not there

Help me to be quiet before You,

uphold me with Your right hand

Make me into the woman that since before

time you had planned.”

 

Jesus smiled at me with tenderness as He

slowly faded away

I felt hot tears upon my cheek as I

awoke to another day

But this morning I did praise my Lord,

I did worship at His feet

I read a portion from His Word and with Him

did gladly meet.

 

My heart was calm and peaceful-I sang

praises to His Name

I met with my Precious Lord—

to me last night He came

He never will forsake me;

I am precious in His sight

My life will glorify my Lord-

He turns my darkness into light.

 

Kaye Walsh

Sydney, NSW

Australia

_______________________________________________________________________________

MARCH, 2016

From the Pastor’s Pen…March, 2016

From Oprah to Ellen, people are encouraging their views to “Pay if Forward.” The idea is to simply do unsolicited acts of kindness for others. Perhaps you pay for the person’s coffee in line behind you. Perhaps you buy lunch for a police officer across the restaurant. I think this is a fabulous idea and certainly encourage it as much as possible. But…

I want to take this one step further.

I tell the story of a man who would periodically meet me for lunch. After we had enjoyed a wonderful meal and great conversation, he would often reach into his pocket and give me some amount of cash. Usually it was a $100 bill. It was also always given with the same instruction: “Pastor, make sure you give this to someone who really needs it…but remember…they must never know who gave it.” I always followed his instructions. God would then always lead me to the perfect person to receive the gift. I would tell them that I was simply the delivery man for a “Secret Samaritan.” The joy and thankfulness of these persons was amazing. An act of kindness, which this man could easily afford, made such a great impact for someone who was truly in need.

I want to encourage you to step beyond just paying it forward. I challenge you to keep your eyes and heart open to those who God places in your path who are truly in financial need. You will know them. God will reveal it. Then, simply do something (big or small) to help them. And here is the kicker—do it in secret. We know that Scripture teaches us to not toot our own horn when we do these acts of ministry and mercy.

Now, let me also add that YOU can do this directly. Although honored with the trust to do this for another, I am not seeking this. I want you to take it on yourself as you can and feel God’s leading. This is not a “have to,” but simply an encouragement just be open. You might be amazed at how God will use you.

One thing is certain…the blessing is real.

So…are you willing to be an “SECRET SAMARITAN?”

Love,

Pastor Keith

 

By: Rev. Dr. Keith Brown

FEBRUARY, 2016

From the Pastor’s Pen…February, 2016

By: Rev. Dr. Keith Brown

Petty is Problematic

We live in a time where pettiness is rampant in every area of our lives. From the Church house to the family house…pettiness is found.

“How dare they bring 21 items to a 20 or less register!’ (Confession: Been guilty of this one.)

“Why would they put the slaw on top of the chili rather than the chili on top of the slaw. How Can I possibly enjoy this hot dog now?”

And the list goes on and on…

If we are honest with ourselves, most all of us have been petty at times about some of the silliest things. To us, this petty thought may not seem so petty at all. But if we truly examine it in light of the more serious issues of life…well…we find they fall miserably low on the importance scale. So why do we continue to make these petty mountains out of insignificant ant hills?

In truth, I submit that they are most often indicators of something going on in our own lives. It could be stress, unhappiness, inability to forgive, anger, or any number of other issues…and these issues are just simmering to come out. Knowing that we, as outstanding citizens, Christians, professionals, parents, or whatever…can’t

always express these problems fully, we lower the gate just a little and let them boil out through petty jabs.

Harmless…right?

Wrong. Often, it is our pettiness that people notice and remember. It can hurt our relationship with friends, family, or co-workers. It can damage our Christian testimony to those who are seeking answers in life. It can set a bad example to those little ones who watch our every movement and listen to our every word.

Let’s make a pack. Let’s examine our own pettiness.  Let’s not simply try to curve it, although we should do that; rather, let’s go even deeper by examining that petty thought and try to figure out what bigger issue is truly bothering us at that moment. By doing that we can change our attitude, our outlook, our vocabulary, our relationships…and truthfully…our very lives.

Here’s to a happier and more contented life.

Blessings one and all,

Pastor Keith

 

JANUARY, 2016

From the Pastor’s Pen…January, 2016

By: Pastor John H. Bigelow

Let’s all look ahead….

A question my wife, Sue, will sometimes ask me is “Don’t you miss…”  It can be about any number of things that we shared in the past.  When autumn comes it’s the remarkable New England Fall foliage of the always abundant Sugar Maples.  Sometimes in the winter it may be a white Christmas.  Sometimes it is old friends we haven’t seen for years yet are still dear to us. Invariably, my answer to her question is “No.”  It is not that I have forgotten the brilliant red, orange and yellow of the maples. I have a photo I took years ago of them in our kitchen. And when I hear the seasonal “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” I’m as much moved by the visual sentiment as the next person. I also remember and cherish old friends, but, there is a difference in remembering and missing and I find it significant. To remember is to mentally recall something from the past. It can be a fond and pleasant memory of any number of things, from a good friendship to the colorful flow of an autumn sun through colorful Maple leaves. You may, on the other hand, remember a person with whom you had many bitter disagreements. There was also the impossible trip trying to get to grandma’s house. The one during the horrible winter storm that came on the day before Christmas and blew for a full thirty-six hours while you, your wife and four children were stuck in a $30 a night motel with a broken TV and no coffee. On the other hand, when you miss something, you are caught up in a sense of regret over some place, thing or person that belongs to your past. The problem with “missing” whatever you miss is that this steals something from the present where you are. It is much better to focus on the joy, beauty and people that currently surround you than to waste emotional energy missing that which is past. In this week’s Bible reading I have no idea why God told lot and his family not to look back when they fled the wicked Sodom and Gomorrah that he was going to destroy.  I have a suspicion, however, it was because looking back would signify  there was to see something to see they were going to miss. Those cities were the representation of evil to God and he spared this family to look ahead and not behind. But unfortunately, Lot’s wife couldn’t quite give up the old life, maybe she feared she would miss some of the sinfulness that made life so exciting, we just don’t really know why but in Genesis 19:26 we discover the result. “But Lot’s wife looked back as she was following along behind him [Lot], and she became a pillar of salt.” Now God wants us to focus on his Son as we move ahead into a new year, “forgetting the past” as Paul said, for if we spend time missing the past we will certainly miss some of the present.

Peace and God’s blessings,

Pastor John

 

DECEMBER, 2015

From the Pastor’s pen… December, 2015

By: Pastor John H. Bigelow

Greetings  to one and all….

This is certainly the one time of the year when you think of joy. “Joy to the world, the Lord has come…” This, phrase so early in what we euphemistically call the Christmas Season (which really doesn’t even begin until Christmas morning), of course seems to have nothing whatsoever to do with Christ’s coming, but rather, I suspect our going. Going shopping that is. “Joy to the world, the sales have come, let’s all begin to shop” may, indeed, be what we really hear in our heart.

It is amazing how joyful, thrilled, even ecstatic, we get at the opportunity to spend huge sums of money on each other during this one time of the year. You would almost believe that the Star of Bethlehem  shined over Macys or, well, at least over a Super Wal-Mart rather than some lowly stable.

It didn’t, however, it shined in the sky because a baby was being born in that stable, a child whose birth would change world history forever, a child that would even die for our salvation (perhaps I should make it a more personal), MY salvation and YOUR salvation.

Let’s also note here that those “wise men” brought their gifts to the Christ child. They did not go out and buy them for their wives, children/grandchildren, boy/girl friends, bosses/employees, they brought them to a child they never knew.

I was struck this week by these words in Hosea 6:1 (NLT) Come, let us return to the Lord!  I wonder what might happen if we all “returned to the Lord” each Christmas. If we filled the offering plates to overflowing with gifts to the Christ child or, if we donated something useable to our local Cooperative Christian Ministry by whatever name it bears, or gave our favorite toy to a child who has no toys at all; these would certainly be much more compatible with the real spirit of Christmas.

Hosea went on to say in v. 3 Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him!  Jesus said when you help the poor, love the hungry, spread the good news of salvation to the lost of our world then you are ministering to him and in doing so you truly, get to know him better.

In knowing Jesus better you really will know JOY! Then you will be able to sing “Joy to the world, I’ve met the Lord, and given him my gift.”  And the angels will rejoice and you … you will be doubly blessed!

May you be blessed this

Christmas season and be a

blessing to others,

Pastor John

 

NOVEMBER, 2015

From the Pastor’s pen… November , 2015

By: Pastor John H. Bigelow

Greetings  to all as we enter November

             Don’t we all like to hear good news? Of course we do and it has always been so. There are times, however, when I almost dread opening the morning paper because I just don’t want to start of the day with a “downer.” No one likes bad news. In olden days and in other cultures the bearer of bad news could be put to death, sometimes was. I admit, that seems a little harsh and it in no way made the bad news any less bad, however, it does indicate the extremes we have gone through to avoid news we just “don’t want to hear.” Nowadays it seems we have different methods for dealing with things we don’t want to hear. We “change” reality or to use a modern phrase, we give it a different “spin” to make it more comfortable. They put an optimistic face on something that is very dark indeed. This, unfortunately, has caused the downfall of numerous financial as well as manufacturing and research companies and caused untold economic hardship on innocent people.

Before we get too comfortable in believing that we haven’t had any part of that kind of monkey business, we must give pause and consider some other areas of life where, perhaps, just maybe, we have been guilty. Areas in our social, political and, yes, our spiritual lives have often been modified to make the “bad news” of law or moral values, non-binding. Why? Because they limit our personal pleasure. God instituted a day of rest as being necessary for our health, and later, Christians moved the Sabbath (Saturday) to Sunday and called it the Lord’s Day. We then protected it (and our well-being) by instituting those well known Blue Laws. It wasn’t long, however, before they became impediments to our pleasure so they were abolished. Sounds a lot like “Don’t tell me I can’t go shopping on Sunday afternoon. I don’t want to hear it!” My mind (and conscience) was drawn to these thoughts by several verses in this week’s bible reading. Paul wrote in Galatians 1:9-10 “If anyone preaches any other gospel than the one you welcomed, let God’s curse fall on that person. Obviously, I’m not trying to be a people pleaser! No, I am trying to please God. If I were still trying to please people, I would not be Christ’s servant.”

One of the problems the church faces today is the question, “Who are we trying to please, God or people.” The Gospel of Christ is the Good News of the Bible but it’s not always what we want to hear. We want to hear things that make us comfortable, things that don’t condemn us for our sins by glossing over sinful behavior. We would prefer that the cost of salvation was a gift box to the poor rather than surrendering our lives and behavior to the one who died for us.

Unfortunately, if I preached the world’s comfortable “good news” I would no longer be Christ’s servant, anymore than you would, if you followed it. (Interestingly, the one time in history that they killed the bearer of good news was on a hill called Calvary.)  Once the world welcomed the Gospel of Christ so let’s return to the “good old days” of being a church full of God pleasers, for in both the short run and long run that’s the best news!

Peace and God’s blessings, Pastor John

 

OCTOBER, 2015

 From the Pastor’s pen…  October, 2015

By: Pastor John H. Bigelow

For Our October’s Newsletter 2015

As we look back in history we find periods of time neatly packaged as “ages.”  They derived their distinction from some singular event that changed the world forever. When early humans learned to make implements (tools) of flint and other stones we called it the Stone Age. Then someone discovered that if tin were mixed with copper a harder metal resulted, one that also held an edge better, and thus was born the Bronze age.

These were followed by the Iron age and latter the Industrial age came into being when we discovered that factories were great places to gather many workers together to manufacture products. When the first atom was split the world entered the, you guessed it, Atomic age. I’m not sure what the period we now live in will be called a thousand years down the road, but I suspect it might be considered the communication age.

It is difficult for me, however, to settle on just what makes it the communication age. Will it be the computer or the ever-present cell phone. Although the computer may actually be more significant in communicating information to people worldwide, cell phones are in almost every ones hands. Young hands and old, rich hands and poor, urban hands and rural, all seem to be holding cellular phones, and more often than not they are used to communicate such things as “Harold, will you stop at the store on the way home and …” or “Bobby Jean did you hear what Suzy told Jimmy at school today?”

I was directed to ponder these things after reading Isaiah 48:15 in this week’s bible readings. “I {God) have said it: I am calling Cyrus! I will send him on this errand and will help him succeed.”  Now that was a really significant call and it brought down the Babylonian empire. With that one call God altered the course of world history and you think your calls are important!

I’d like to make a suggestion and I suspect it’s pretty radical, however, why don’t we all leave our cell phones off for a day and listen instead for a call from God. You know, he’s still calling us to do his work, to save his people and to care for his earth. We, just like Cyrus did, could do something earth shattering if we would only answer his call. The trouble is his call doesn’t make that obnoxious ring that our cell phones have, the one we’re so tuned into. But just think, he could reach you at any time, any place and you’d never be embarrassed with a call in a restaurant, or in class, or in church or anywhere else, because no one can hear his call to you call but yourself.

When God calls there are no bells or buzzes, he just speaks to your heart. Wow, that’s communication for any age! But wait, there’s another side of the communication equation I’ve left out. You can call him, any time, from anywhere with no roaming charges and a machine will not tell you the menu has changed. You also have unlimited minutes 24/7 and God himself will pick it up on the first ring and give you his full attention.  Go ahead, try it. He’ll love it!

Peace and God’s blessings, Pastor John

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SEPTEMBER, 2015

FROM THE PASTOR’S PEN…

By: Pastor John H. Bigelow

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

I know there have been times in my life when I have asked myself, “How on earth did I ever get here?” More often than not I was lost, the result of a wrong turn, perhaps caused by poor directions on the part of another, or more likely my own inattention to where I was going.

“How did I get here” questions pop up in many areas of our lives. They pop up on the job, often times calling into question our career selection. You grew up always wanting to have a career in one particular area and ended up, even after years of study and preparation, doing something you never dreamed of doing.  They pop up in relationships as well, which, unfortunately, is all too often the first question that leads to a divorce. “How did I ever end up with this person?”

I think that when we find ourselves in a situation where that question is on the tip of our mental tongue, we should pause, and reflect on the advice of Mordecai to Esther. In our Bible readings for this week, Esther needs to go to the king, something that was forbidden by law unless you were called to do so, and seek his intervention for her people. In the Book of Esther 4:14b we find this question, “What’s more, who can say but that you have been elevated to the palace for just such a time as this?”

Perhaps we are in that job or career position we question is because that is where God wants us to be. Perhaps “such a time as this” is for a higher purpose than simply our own personal career. And that relationship or marriage you question may very well be just where you are supposed to be, and if there are difficulties they may well be similar to Esther’s “just such a time as this.”

In our modern culture we find it so convenient to throw out years of experience in an occupation or marriage because it seems to be the perfect “quick-fix,” rather than even consider the reasons we are there in the first place. It may not be a palace to which we have been elevated, it may be in fact just the opposite, yet the question is just as valid. Perhaps we would all be well served if, at these moments in life, we paused and questioned, “Who can say but that I’m not here for just such a time as this?” and then, having asked that question of ourselves, honestly and sincerely ask it of God. Quite possibly we’ll be amazed at the answer we get.

Peace and God’s peace and blessings,

Pastor John

__________________________________________________________

AUGUST, 2015

FROM THE PASTOR’S PEN…

By: Pastor John H. Bigelow

 

Greetings as we move forward together …

Even though it happened many years ago this particular event is still as fresh in my mind as if it was just yesterday. It was six o’clock in the morning and I was I sitting on the porch of a cabin overlooking Johns River in the upper foothills of Caldwell County.

Just across the river a ridge heavily forested with white pine, tulip poplars, and oak rises steeply from the valley floor. Giant sycamores, with their ghost-white limbs and trunks, line the rivers bank, complementing the wisps of early morning fog that lifted off the cool water and swirl among the giant trees. If this were a painting it would be an idyllic, serene and peaceful place to want to visit..

I had come this morning, as I had every morning of the week, as the psalmist wrote in Psalm 37:7  to “be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.” Yet, on this particular morning in this idyllic setting, I wondered how I should ever hear the Lord if he spoke to me.

You see, what a painting, no matter how wonderfully crafted wouldn’t, couldn’t, supply was the cacophony of bird songs that assaulted my ears from virtually every direction. Instead of hearing God’s voice I found myself trying, as I still often do, to isolate one bird’s call from another and then even to try and find, among all the branches, that bird. It seemed an impossible act which became even more frustrating when I thought I had found the bird I sought only to discover I hadn’t.

My mind kept coming back to the psalmist’s words “wait patiently.”  Indeed, it was only through a great deal of patience that I finally succeeded.

In retrospect I realize that this experience is very much like trying to identify the voice of God in our busy lives. Our ears and minds are constantly besieged by many voices all clamoring for our attention.  We must often make lists of things to do in order to keep on tract. If trying, however, to identify God’s direction as individuals, it is much harder to discern God’s message to a congregation. It is not unlike trying to isolate one birds song from another’s. Perhaps it is because we, individually, focus our hearing on what most pleases us.

I discovered also, that trying to find the one bird I was seeking also mirrored our attempts in finding God’s singular will for our congregation among the forest of distractions in which we live, yet the truth of the psalmist’s words remain. “…be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him” and we will succeed. Reflecting back, I guess I did hear God’s voice after all.

Peace and God’s blessings on St. Paul’s,

Pastor John

______________________________________________________________

JULY, 2015

FROM THE PASTOR’S PEN…

By: Pastor John H. Bigelow

Greetings dear friends, as we move into the summer…

All of us have, at one time or another, asked someone else for advice or direction. I’m equally sure we have also, given advice or direction to others. In either case, many were at times when neither was asked for or wanted.

In all of these occasions, though, there is one common thread. The advisor is always confident that he or she is giving the very best advice you could ever get on whatever the subject. Interestingly, we often give ourselves very bad advice and fool ourselves into thinking it is good advice. This, of course, can and frequently does, lead to trouble.

One of the problems inherent in both accepting and giving advice is discerning whether it is, indeed, good advice. What lies at the root of the problem is the fact that often the advice “seems” like good advice, and it seems like good advice because, and we hate to admit it, it is what we really want to do anyway.

I was set to thinking about what “seems” to be good advice by a verse in 2 Samuel, chapter 16. In this chapter King David’s son, Absalom, is attempting to get rid of his father in order to become king himself. He’s raised an army and is planning on his next move and in verse 20, we read “Then Absalom turned to Ahithophel and asked him, ‘What should I do next?”  In verse 23, however, we discover one of the traps that Absalom

 

fell into, just like we often do today. It’s that old “seemed as” trap. “For every word Ahithophel spoke seemed as wise as though it had come directly from the mouth of God.”

Dear friends, how else is the old devil Satan going to get us to do things his way unless he leads us to believe that it seems to “come directly from the mouth of God.” Of course it seems that way. If it seemed to come from Satan Christians wouldn’t follow it.

One slogan used today to encourage people, good Christians, to follow a new path, is for them to believe that “God is still speaking.” Well, it does “seem” good and we are told in his Word that, yes, he will “direct our paths” so why not? The “why not” is answered by going to his written word, and see if his words have changed. There is a big difference between what does come from “the mouth of God” and what seems to come from the mouth of God. A truly wise person will discern the difference and not be fooled. As we look ahead to the summer and the tasks and opportunities that present themselves let us be sure they do, indeed, come from God. That whatever it, or they, is, indeed something that it is a direction from God, for God’s purpose and the growth of his kingdom. It is so easy to go ahead with something that seems the best way simply because it, well, “seems good” without looking at the overall picture.

 

JUNE, 2015

FROM THE PASTOR’S PEN…

By: Pastor John H. Bigelow

Greetings as we move into summer and vacations….

I suspect if I were to mention golden calves some reading this would wonder what on earth I was talking about while others, might think about the idols made by people thousands of years ago to worship as gods, and that would be, in part, a correct response. Others, and I suspect a very few, might see my mention of golden calves as metaphorical and think that I was referring to this year’s Panthers draft pick, or to any number of other things we have chosen to worship before the one true God.

Some of you might be thinking that is a pretty big stretch but it is just one of thousands of things I could suggest are contemporary representatives of the biblical golden calf. In fact, God views anything we place before him in our lives as a golden calf. It can be a new 60 inch plasma TV, a new Camry, or simply a trip to the beach or mountains or anywhere else that keeps you out of church every weekend.

Anything that takes the place of our worship of God I suspect God labels as a personal golden calf. Anything that becomes more important to us than God is NOT pleasing to God. But you quickly point out that you drive your new Camry to church every Sunday but — fail to mention that the payments on the car make it impossible to continue giving to your church’s ministry in the community and its world outreach.

Recently I came across this interesting outburst by God to the people of Israel in 1 Kings 14: 9b “You have made other gods and have made me furious with your gold calves.” If you think that the replacing your church attendance, your church worship, your church support or church activities on a regular basis is over looked by God, well, think again and re-read the above verse.

Yes, our God is a forgiving God, and yes, if you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior you have guaranteed eternal life, but, and this is a big BUT, there is no guarantee that the next time you feel a pinch in the pocketbook trying to pay for all your calves, think twice before asking, “Lord, can you help me out a little here, please.” Somehow I just do not believe God is going to help finance your golden calves.

By now, you may have noticed, that I seldom talk much about our giving. Actually, I hate to have to talk about “giving” so I’m not going to do so now. But I am going to ask how we are going to meet the budget that was approved, without any objections

How can meet those obligations if we fail to provide the funds necessary to meet the goal, the commitment we each approved.

Each week Donna includes in the bulletin how our giving meets our commitment. My sermon this week is not specifically directed toward fiscal goals but it certainly has a lot to do with it. Our budget is, in fact, a goal we have set for ourselves, and sadly we are falling behind. Still, we can reach that goal if, and only if, we focus on the promise we have made to God..

Peace and God’s blessings on each of you!

Pastor John

 

MAY, 2015

FROM THE PASTOR’S PEN…

By: Pastor John H. Bigelow

A thought as we move  into  the late spring and summer….

“What’s in it for me?” This, or a similar thought, is perhaps one of the most frequently asked questions on earth. Whatever we do, whatever choice we make, or whatever commitment we are asked to make, is usually preceded by this question, whether expressed verbally or simply thought.  We may not exactly say it out loud, but we certainly think “What’s in it for me.”

It’s almost as if we think the whole world revolves around us, and whatever we do must, before all else,, profit us. What does it profit me if I give to a beggar, feed the hungry, heal the sick, or love the unloved? What does it profit me if I pray for those in need of God’s healing or forgiving hand?

Well, perhaps, nothing if indeed you are considering profit in the literal sense. You certainly won’t have more time for playing golf or more money in the bank. You won’t have as much leisure time for watching television or sleeping late. So what does it profit you to meet Christ in Capernaum?

In reading, John 6:25-26, we find some followers and a number of other people, coming to the spot where he had fed five thousand the day before. When they arrived on the grassy hill that rose up from the north eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, in the area that came to be known as The Evangelical Triangle where Jesus did most of his teaching, they discovered, perhaps joyously, that Jesus was there they asked “Teacher, how did you get here?” Jesus replied, “The truth is, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you saw the miraculous sign.”

There is something of great importance here for the Christian (and for the non-Christian as well). Let’s look closely at those words    Jesus spoke. “You want to be with me because I fed you.” It is understandable that that being fed from a basket of food that seems to have no bottom would be an incentive to gather around Jesus, however, he wants something entirely different from us.

Christ calls all people to him for reasons other than filling their stomachs. “What’s in it for me” is not a full stomach but, rather, a full spirit. Ultimately, what he wants is for us to fill the stomachs of the hungry, the poor and the down trodden. In short, what’s in it for me is to answer the question “What’s in it for others through me?”

What’s in it for me is the blessing of helping others. What’s in it for me is the ability to bring peace to others. What’s in it for me in being a Sunday School teacher or as helper in Vacation Bible School  What’s in it for me is the knowledge that we have made someone’s world a better place. What’s in it for me is the opportunity to do something in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Maybe, “What’s in it for me?” is a good question to answer after all.

As we move into the summer months our minds turn to thoughts of vacations, and invariably those thoughts center around “what can I do for me”..which certainly gets in the way of what can I do for others?  The most important question is “What can I do for Jesus”?.

Peace and God’s blessings,

Pastor John

APRIL, 2015

FROM THE PASTOR’S PEN….

Greetings  in the name of Jesus …

I’m not sure what prompted me recently to think back on my high school years and some of the people I grew up with. I know that some have passed away, many have moved and some, well, I guess they just dropped out of sight. I can’t even find them through Google. Occasionally I look think to my graduation in 1953 and wonder how many of us are still around. I’ve tried to find some using Google but, well I wasn’t too lucky, although I did find a few.

I know that there have been many changes in my life over the years, some very minor while many have been significant. I think the most significant change was when my Christian faith became the most inportant theme in my life.   The one thing I am most increasingly aware of, and disturbed by, are the changes in understanding, and especially the practice, of our collective faith. We have managed to make the practice of our religion more compatible with our culture than I would have ever dreamed “back then.” Now, to be honest, there have always been Christians and church-goers (not necessarily the same thing) who have always lived life-styles contrary to biblical teaching, but, they never thought to change the teachings to satisfy their behavior. They simply accepted that they were outside the will of God. It was God’s intent that people would change to conform to his word and not that his word would be changed to be more compatible with people or their culture. Even when God himself changes his laws, it seems, some people don’t accept the new. I was jolted recently when two Old Testament verses made this startlingly true.

In Joshua 3:3-4, when the Israelites were leaving Acacia we read these instructions, “When you see the Levitical priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord your God, follow them. Since you have never traveled this way before, they will guide you. Stay about a half mile behind them. … Make sure you don’t come any closer!” These were God given instructions regarding the relationship the Israelites had to maintain with the Ark (where God dwelt) and they were all fine…fine for those days. The problem with the practice of our faith today is that we seem to apply the admonition “don’t come any closer” to our relationship with Jesus.    Perhaps this is the reason so many are eager to accept the current trend of  “cultural faith” because we’ve come to believe we don’t have to really obey all those “archaic old laws.”. Jesus isn’t archaic person nor are the rules he gave us to live by. And yet, the events of early April;  Christ’s trials, his horrible death on the cross, his abandonment by most of those closest to him and his resurrection, demand that we do, indeed, need to draw closer. They demand it because it was all for us all, not only as individuals but all the collective world. So isn’t it time to cast off the Old Testament admonition and embrace the New Testament call of Christ to “come unto me” instead of following (if indeed we do) at a distance?

We don’t need to make up new rules, God did it himself in the New Testament, through the blood of his Son. We have but to follow them, closely…and follow his Son.

 

Peace and love

in the name of our risen Lord, Pastor John

 

MARCH, 2015

FROM THE PASTOR’S PEN…

Lenten Greetings from Pastor John

 March 1, 2015

Ogden Nash once wrote, “Mules are stubborn critters. The only way you can keep them in the pasture is to put them in the meadow joining and let them jump out.”

Well, never having owned a mule myself I’ll have to take his word for it but I’ve heard similar things about mules from others so I expect it’s true. enough .

Contrariness, however, is not necessarily a trait common only to mules. We all know someone who is contrary. You may say turn left, they turn right; you say stop, they go; you say  get the mail, they fall asleep on the couch.

I’ve often noticed that the person who lives closest to the church, school or work frequently is the one who invariably gets there late. It’s often the same person you always have to wait for if you are going somewhere. It’s just contrariness. You say the leaving time is 1:00 and they show up at 1:15.

So why should we be surprised that after healing a deaf man with a speech impediment we read in Mark 7:16, “Jesus told the crowd not to tell anyone, but the more he told them not to, the more they spread the news.” Contrariness? Perhaps not. Certainly they acted in a manner contrary to what Jesus told them to do but, after all, they had seen something truly wonderful. They had actually been a part of a miraculous healing and they were so excited they just couldn’t hold it in.

No, that episode is not so hard to understand. But there is something that I find is, indeed, puzzling. After Jesus was betrayed, illegally dragged into several courts, beaten and killed so cruelly on the cross for you and I why are we contrary?

How, you ask, can I suggest we are contrary?  Well, taking Christians on the whole: Do we really love one another? – Do we really tell others about Jesus? – Do we really give of our time and talents as we could and should? – Do we really pray, “Your will be done”? – Do we really forgive as we would be forgiven?

Well, do we? And we think a mule is contrary! Lent is the season to think on these things and it began last Sunday. So, we’ve had a week’s grace and now it’s time to really knuckle down, buckle down and do all those things we’ve thought about doing since we “promised” we’d do but just didn’t seem to get past the “maybe I will” and actually do it. After all, Jesus never put off going to the cross for our sakes.

Peace and God’s blessings,

Pastor John

 

FEBRUARY, 2015

Greetings to all…

If you are going on a long trip, let’s say on vacation, or you’re just going to the grocery store for your weeks groceries there is one thing you probably do before either. You make a list.  You try to think of all the things you will need.

In all likelihood your weekly the trip to the grocery store requires a lengthy list of what you’ll need to get through the week ahead. Perhaps, if you have a computer,  you print out a handy list with most all of the common grocery items and you simply put a check or a quantity next to the ones you have to buy. This is not just a simple way of doing it, but the list also reminds you of things you may have overlooked, important stuff, like peanut butter. Another benefit of a pre-printed list is that you can read it. I hate getting to the store and then find I can’t read what I wrote down, especially if it’s something important, like well, the peanut butter.

If we’re going on vacation there are not only the list of things we may need on the vacation, like bathing suits (if we’re going to swim), cameras to share your trip with family and friends, suntan lotion for the beach, or any medications we are supposed to take. There are also the list of things to do before we leave, such as stop the paper delivery, water the plants and make plans for the care of pets.

Actually, practically every day there are, at least, mental lists we make. “Today is the day I’m to get my hair fixed at 2:00 and don’t forget to pick up the kids after soccer.” We live our lives going from one list to another but I don’t have to remind you how often we forget to put down the some of the most important items. For instance, someone reading this has at one time arrived at the airport  with just  enough time to make the flight and then discovered you left the airplane tickets at home and even worse someone has forgotten his wife’s birthday or their wedding anniversary. Not good!

But these all pale before the one thing that we should have on our list each day and often forget. We should start each day’s journey with God. Most of us, as we leave home to go to work, tell the one departing to “Have a good day” or perhaps “Don’t forget your appointment with the dentist this afternoon.” These are wonderful ways to start a day, but they usually don’t serve to give us much real direction.

May I suggest an important “to do” every day. Bible reading. I do it every morning when I come into the office. It’s a great way start every day. Reading His word and a prayer inviting Him to be with you all day certainly is a great way to start the day, and actually, every day is a new adventure.  Moses said in Exodus33:15, “If you [God] don’t go with us personally, don’t let us move a step from this place.”

How much better all our lives would be if, each and every morning, we resolved not to take a step out of the house if we didn’t take God with us. Having God with us in a personal way can only be accomplished through knowing Jesus in a personal way. If you don’t already know him, make this your first appointment today. Absolutely nothing could be more important and he’d love to get to know you!

Peace and safe journeys through the  month,

Pastor John

 

JANUARY, 2015

by: Pastor John H. Bigelow

Greetings for the new year…

When the ball drops in Times Square we begin a new year. The pages of history we will write as the year passes are un-written and questions regarding what’s ahead are un answered. Even when we think of something that will make for a better world, the implementation of that idea may be beyond our reach. Perhaps, since more and more of us have computers, we think it is a simple task to find the answer to any question or problem. We go to our search engine and type in the key words or phrase, like for instance WORLD PEACE, hit the “search button” and bingo…we have a thousand answers, but whoa, not all are the same. Inherent in the process of finding the “right” answer are several problems. The respondent’s points of view regarding any issue frequently differ and where there is no clear-cut answer you are still left without an answer. Then there is the question about whether you are willing to settle for an answer that isn’t what you want to hear. This gets in the way of the “right” answer quite often. So who do we ask, someone who will give us the one and only right answer, regardless of whether we want to hear it or not, or do we go the person who will tell us just what we want to hear even if it is impossible. My thoughts were directed along these lines as I was reading in the fifth chapter of Daniel this week. This is the part where King Belshazzar and a thousand of his cronies were well into a party when he, and they, saw something that was right out of a horror movie and “his face turned pale with fear. Such terror … that his knees knocked and his legs gave way.” (5:. 6).  We are told in chapter 5, verse 5, for “At that very moment they saw the fingers of a human hand writing on the plaster wall…” and there was no body attached to the fingers, nor could they understand what was written.

This was definitely a time for some answers so the king “shouted for the enchanters, astrologers, and fortune-tellers to be brought before him.” (5:7) Unfortunately, all they could do was shrug their shoulders. Fortunately, the king had a queen mother that was smarter that all his wise men and suggested that he send for the one man in his kingdom that could tell him. In verse 12 we discover her wisdom in these words, “Call for Daniel…” (5:12) “Call for Daniel,” the one person that had the answer, although, as it turned out it wasn’t the answer the king wanted at all, but it was the true answer. In today’s complex and ever changing world we all have questions and although there are still many who pretend to be wise, they frequently don’t have the true answer. So where and to whom do we go? Call God, ask for Jesus and listen to the Holy Spirit. That’s what prayer is all about and that’s the best way to get connected with the right answer. There is, however, one thing that you must keep in mind when you do this, and that is though the answer may not be the one you’re hoping for, it will be the one that is best for you. Trust God and he will direct you on the right path…always.  Can you think of a better way to start the new year? It’s my prayer for you.

May the new year bring us peace and joy as we unite to make it so!

Pastor John

 

DECEMBER , 2014

BY: PASTOR JOHN H. BIGELOW

Let’s go out of 2014  with a bang!

The year 2014 is almost over. It is sometimes interesting, to give some thought to the things you planned to do this year but just, well, never seemed to get around to them. Perhaps they were promises you made to God, such as I’ll give more in my offering, or I’ll commit to serve on a committee, or teach a Sunday School class. Whatever it might have been, the time is running out for this year but, for a little while yet, you can still make that commitment.

I had a friend, a member of a former church, who was searching for God’s will in his life. He had come to a job related crossroad. One direction offered, it seemed, great promise in terms of possible career advancement and income as well as the opportunity to get away from a superior he didn’t like. But, making this choice meant he would have to move far away, disrupt his family among other things, not to mention also leaving his church home in which he was very active. He did a lot of praying. He prayed “God, please show me direction – to stay in a muddled political mess here, or leave for potential big money.” Within minutes he saw the initials G-O-D on the back of a truck that had just merged into his lane. Almost immediately he saw the word CHRISTIAN on a billboard and then a truck trailer parked at a home and garden business that he was sure said    “Jahway” on its side. Looking back he saw it said “Roadway” but he was still sure he saw “Jahway.” He turned off the highway he was on and a red truck in front of him advertised that it had been sold by James Ford. He then passed 13th Street and then a mailbox that had only the word “four” on it. As soon as he got home he began trying to make sense of these “clues” and thought that perhaps the Bible could cast some light upon the mystery. He found there was no chapter 13 in James so he tried James 4:13 and here’s what he found.

Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money. ‘ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins” (James 4:13-17 NIV).

Look at what we also find in James 1:5-6 (NLT).

If you need wisdom – if you want to know what God wants you to do – ask him, and he will gladly tell you….But when you ask him, be sure that you really expect him to answer.”

My friend asked and received because he expected God to answer. I might add that his experience reminds me of the last line in Robert Frost’s poem, The Road Not Taken…”And that has made all the difference.” It certainly did in my friends life…he stayed.

What would you like to ask God? And, are you prepared to respond to His answer? He’s got one waiting and it too could make all the difference in your life. What a terrific way to end this year!

May you be truly blessed in this final month of 2014,

Pastor John

 

NOVEMBER, 2014

By: Pastor John H. Bigelow

Thoughts  for November and…

            We are drawing close to one of the busiest times of the year. This month there is Thanksgiving when, as the poem dictates, we must “over the river and through the woods to grand-mothers house we go.” Of course, it  is so much easier jumping in the car these days and hitting the interstate than it was hitching up the horse to a wagon or sleight and heading off through the woods and fields.                                                                                                       Next month brings us the Christmas season, when we bust our budgets always trying to out-give everybody in the family. We spend hours searching for just the perfect gift, often its remarkably very much like what we, ourselves, would like to receive. After having spent hours searching through ads and TV commercials we hit the stores and do battle with the crowds.                                                                                                                                        All of that being said, have you ever simply misplaced something and spent a lot of time looking in the all the wrong places for the something you have lost. For me it rarely is ever in the first few places I look. Sometimes I just accept it as being one of Murphy’s laws, but, at the same time, I also wonder why he didn’t write some good laws.                                             It is one thing looking for your missing pocket knife, or a favorite recipe when Murphy’s law accurately states that  “Something missing is always is found in the last place you look.” That is a truth, a reality that, like it or not, is always fixed.                         But now we need something to get us through these next couple of months. We need peace! Why couldn’t Mr. Murphy have written something like, “You know where to find peace, go look for it there.”  Peace, is after all, something that we frequently, loose or just simply misplace. I’m talking about peace of mind, that is found in a spiritual peace, for this is the kind of peace that always seems most elusive.                                                                  Perhaps Murphy doesn’t bother to make up “laws” when they already exist. The place to look is, unfortunately, one of the last places we often seem to go. Some people look for this kind of peace in alcohol or drugs, some in spending money while others seek it through eating. That’s looking in all the wrong places. The answer is found only in God’s word, the Bible.                                                                                                                                                                       In John 14:27 (NLT) Jesus tells us “I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give isn’t like the peace the world gives.” The answer is found in the source. The peace we seek comes to us as a gift from Christ while at the same time is found only in Christ. So, the next time you are troubled in mind or spirit, when you seem to have lost that wonderful thing called “inner peace,” right in the midst of the joy of the season,  you know  where to go to find it again. No more looking in all the wrong places … and you can give a shout of victory because you have proven Murphy wrong. You looked in the right place the first time!                                                                                                                            May the next two months bring you joy and peace.

In peace and love,             

          Pastor John   

(Continued on Page 4)

 

 

 

OCTOBER, 2014

From the Pastor’s Pen…October, 2014

by: Pastor John H. Bigelow

Welcome to Autumn…

One Sunday afternoon, many years ago, after a really busy week, one that required a lot of “running around” trying to tie up many loose ends, I managed to squeeze in some time to relax in front of the “tube” and watch a lot of other guys run around. It was the the Dodge 400 at Darlington.

I admit, that many of us are like those I was watching racing around, yet we never seem to complete all that we have to do. My family believes (and has commented on it) that, for me, watching a race is often somewhat equivalent to counting sheep as I invariably fall off to sleep, or at the very least, give my eyes substantial rest.

After a brief fifteen minute “eye rest” I was refreshed and  thought of the Bible’s message to us in Genesis 2:2 (NIV), which says By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.  Yes, eye rest is good. I did feel refreshed and renewed.

Verse 3 continues the idea of resting by telling us, And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had. God blessed a day of “rest” and did so, I am convinced, for us. We have moved the “Sabbath” or “rest day” to Sunday, the Lord’s Day, which seems appropriate so long as we observe the idea of rest as a day of worship.

Somehow, I can’t escape the feeling that God did all this resting, not so much for Himself, as he did it for us. Two questions popped into my mind as I thought about this idea of God’s resting.

First, did God need to rest? Was he, indeed, tired? The concept of rest carries with it the idea of fatigue and I can’t imagine God really being worn out.

Secondly, was God really finished with the work of creation? I have this strange feeling, that the idea of evolution is, in fact, God’s continuing creative process.

I feel that the idea of rest was for our benefit and that belief was somewhat amplified as I resumed watching the race. As best I recall Jeff Gordon’s car, running flat out in front, overheated, and so a car that showed tremendous potential to win, ended last.

On the other hand, it was a pit stop, a time to refresh and refuel his car, which enabled Dale Jarrett (you do remember Dale don’t you?) to not only finish the race, but to win.

It seems that we are not unlike racecars and Sundays are our pit stops. Sundays are necessary times to keep us from overheating. They are times for resting, re-creation, worship and refueling our bodies and minds.

It’s not just a good idea, any more than daily meditation on the scriptures is simply a good idea. We need both. Our bodies, like race cars in their pit stops, need refueling, perhaps a tire change, and often a “tweek” on the engine. Daily meditation is the lubrication for our spiritual engines and daily scripture is just like the race cars “tweek.”

Take time to enjoy the beauty of this month of change, as our God “paints” the country with splashes of color, gives us cooler temperatures, and many new opportunities for fellowship, worship and service. We even have a new youth led worship service Sundays at 5:00 which is a great time to get to know those who will be the future of the Church. Let’s make them welcome.

Peace and God’s blessings,

Pastor John.

 

SEPTEMBER, 2014

From the Pastor’s pen…  September, 2014

 Ahhhh, another new month chuck full of opportunities is here…

I remember one morning years ago when we lived in Mt. Pleasant  as I was headed to Concord, I was somewhat bemused at a driver who flew dangerously past me in a no passing zone and then simply remained ten or fifteen car lengths ahead for all of the eight miles to town.

Why, I wondered, had this individual risked a potentially serious accident for seemingly no gain whatsoever. When we both arrived at a light on the edge of town he turned left and I right and that was that, except for the question of why; why had he (or she) done it?

This was not the first time I have encountered this behavior. I remember a number times on interstates where a driver passed me and then remained directly in front of me for as long as a hundred miles. What prompts drivers to pass for no apparent reason.

As I, recalling these events the other day,  naturally thought of other, similar things I have encountered. There have been times while hiking with Boy Scouts when one of the scouts wanted to get in the front, lead the way, even though he had no idea of what “the way” was. He was simply not a follower.

I understand that some of us are perhaps leaders, and some followers, yet I can see little sense in the compulsion to do something this foolish just so you can be in the lead. Apparently the person who passed me that morning needed to be the leader; couldn’t be satisfied with being behind someone else. Yet, the more I contemplated this behavior I realized that it is not at all unlike the way many Christians behave in their daily walk with our Lord.

Jesus repeatedly called others to follow him. He has called us to be his followers. Matthew 4:9 (NIV) “follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 8:22 (NIV) But Jesus told him, “Follow me…” John 12:26 (NIV) “Whoever serves me must follow me” are just a few examples, yet we Christians, we followers, have such a difficult time doing that. We, more often than not, seem to do “our own thing.”

Jesus leads the way by forgiving; we hold grudges. Jesus leads the way by giving his all, even his life for us; we say “I give what I can, but I can’t afford to tithe. Jesus leads by loving his church; the church too often responds by simply loving itself.

I guess I can live with drivers who just don’t want to follow me, but I wonder how well the church can survive with Christians who simply don’t want to follow our Lord. Follow me”, he said, “for I am the way, and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6 (NIV).

As we move into the Autumn let us all open our hearts and to the opportunities that we have for serving. Now, after saying all that stuff about useless “passing” I want to be clear that in no way should it prevent anyone from taking some position of leadership in the church if asked. After all, there can be no followers if there is no leadership. Both are necessary.

We need people who will commit to help in many areas of the ministry of the church. The newly formed “Borderless Love Ministries” can use your help as we strive to build an orphanage in South Vietnam. There is going to be a lot of activity over the next two years which will absolutely need your help and I don’t want to hear than old worn out comment “I just don’t think I’m able.”

I long ago learned that the most economical way to drive is to set a comfortable speed (preferable just a tad below the limit) on my cruise control, and wonder of wonders, my car gets me where I’m going in fine shape. I suspect we can see that the engine did all the work but I’d have been nowhere if the tires hadn’t done their job, or the headlights decided they’d rather not work.  May God bless each and every one of you, and please join the convoy!

                 In  God’s love, Pastor John

 

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AUGUST, 2014

From the Pastor’s pen…  August, 2014

 A few thoughts for August ….

             Often, in past years when I traveled a lot and when gas was much, much cheaper, I loved to take the “back” roads whenever time and practicality permitted. It seems that to most people today, any road that is either not in their  neighborhood or is not an interstate, is a back road. It doesn’t matter if it was once the main, or often the only road to someplace for a hundred years; today it is a back road                                                                                                   I loved driving them because they went through towns where I may not have been before and they took me through America and not just across America. I also had a chance to easily stop at a local produce stand if perhaps  there was something I could munch on as I traveled, or perhaps just to make a new friend and exchange  pleasantries. Back roads give me a sense of contentedness to real people even though they often go through towns that don’t have fast foods, fast service and urban traffic. They just have plain folks doing plain things … and churches.

               Frequently, the first things I notice in the small towns I pass through on the “old highway” are those churches that I casually divide into two groups. There are the ones with pointed steeples and there are those with a square tower. Growing up, as I did, in New England I was most accustomed to the tall white steeples, (except, perhaps on Catholic churches) which were and hopefully still are, intended to direct your thoughts and our prayers upward toward God                                                                                                                      After moving south from Connecticut I first encountered the square, castle-like towers on many reformed churches. Here there were many churches with square fortress like  towers rather that tall slender steeples. I felt somewhat offended …  until that is, I recalled that we are also supposed to be  churches of Christian soldiers who go out from the “fortress church” under the Christian banner as did the very early church.We also sing with great vigor “A  mighty fortress is our God”. So it seems quite natural that a fortress-like tower fits the Christian church just as well as a tall, pointed steeple.                                                    Now, it doesn’t really matter how our churches are  topped, with either a steeple that directs our thoughts to God, or the tower that reminds us of our task for him on earth. We should understand that the most important thing about a church is what happens inside  them. What lives there. Whether this is in a small, rural, backwater town or a sophisticated upscale community we must find, “people who know God.” (Daniel 35:2) inside its churches.                                                                                                                                                   That, having been said, these are  my thoughts when just driving through a community. What is so much more important, is what kind of Christians will others fine who aren’t just passing through, but who move into our community.  Will they find us, as a church, a people who actually embody the statements of both the tower and the steeple. Are we a welcoming, loving Christian congregation. And what becomes clear to visitors almost immediately, is do we love each other.                                                                                                         As we move out of summer, into what we sometimes think of the beginning of Autumn, let us, as a congregation, be united not only in faith but also our goals. May any who visit with us feel that we not only welcome others but truly love one another. It really doesn’t matter what sits above the building, whether a steeple or a tower, it is, after all what lives within the building. Truly, how can we honestly sing, Come we who love the Lord, if we don’t love one another?

                With love from Pastor John

 

JULY, 2014

FROM THE PASTOR’S PEN…

BY: Pastor John H. Bigelow

Greetings, in the name of our Lord.

“Show me the proof” is one of the key phrases in mathematics. Thinking back to my very long ago classes in high school algebra I can still hear Mr. Littlefield state, time and endless time again, “you don’t have a correct answer unless you can prove it.”

The very fundamental process in science, whether physics, medicine or mathematics is going from hypothesis to proof. This idea of proof is not, however, confined to those exacting disciplines. I’m sure most of us have heard the old adage, “The proof is in the pudding.” Simply translated it says that it doesn’t matter how well thought out the recipe, how fresh the ingredients, or how carefully prepared and cooked the food (or pudding), if it didn’t taste good it failed. The final proof, for anything is, in the end, does it work.

My thoughts were directed along these lines by a verse I recently read from Romans. Let’s take a look at 1:20 where Paul wrote, “From the time the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky and all that God made. They can clearly see his invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse whatsoever for not knowing God.”                                     

I have heard innumerable times the statement, “I don’t believe in God because you can’t show me any proof of his existence.” Well, duh, you can’t see air either yet you completely accept the idea that you would die without it and thank you, you don’t want to try and prove you can.                                                                                                                                                             Others, of a more scientific mind, are happy to give you an endless lecture on the process of evolution.

They go way back to gasses from the sun to explain earth, and amino acids in the sea to explain life, yet glaringly absent from their argument is who made the sun and the amino acids!                                                                                                                                                        No, I can’t offer any explanation for those “beginning things” except to respond, “God did it.” In fact, I agree with Paul, that we can, indeed, clearly see the invisible. Although we can’t see God any more than we can see air, the proof is truly “in the pudding.”

Look around you, and ask yourself, “Did all this just happen? What keeps it all running so perfectly (except of course where humans have intervened)? Do you really, honestly, believe it all just happened?                                                                                                                                             It all happened because God wanted a place for someone he loved and cared for to live … you. “So you have no excuse for not knowing God.”  Having said all that I must point out that God also directed the creation of His church, yes even this one, St. Paul’s Reformed, the one where we worship. This is one place where you can come not only to worship Him, but perhaps more importantly, to serve Him.  I hope, that as we gather for worship through the summer, a time we think of as “vacation time” we will use the time to pray for and prepare for a new season of service within the place we worship.

There are, and will continue to be many opportunities for service and I can’t believe that there isn’t one for every person in our church. Yes, I mean you! Please pray about it.

In love, Pastor John

 

JUNE, 2014

FROM THE PASTOR…

By: John H. Bigelow

             It’s interesting how often we come across someone in the news who has done something extraordinary, something almost super-human, yet we see in that individual a person not unlike ourselves. If you’re like me, you wonder what it is that caused this particular person, a person who might have lived next door, gone to school or church with us and in all ways, seemed perfectly normal (at least by our standard), could have done such a seemingly impossible thing.

I came across a great example of this in my Bible readings this week and also discovered what may, in fact, be the reason some people truly stand out in the crowd. We really have to go to Acts (chapter 3) to begin the story. Peter and John have gone to the Temple for the afternoon prayer ser vice and there they encountered a man, lame from birth, who was being carried in and “put beside the Temple gate.”

Now both Peter and John remembered very well Christ’s words to them about “loving one another” and they also knew that it included the one who was your neighbor…in fact anybody and everybody. Well, the long and the short of the story is that they said to this cripple (v. 6b), “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk.”  Needless to say the man did and that brings us to this week’s story, and, indeed, the point of it all.

Peter and John were both seized by the “council of all the rulers and elders and teachers of religious law” (Acts 4:5) and they “demanded. ‘By what power, or in whose name, have you done this?” (v. 7) As neither Peter or John were intimidated by the authority of the “church leaders” they straight-away told them that it was “by the name and power of  …the man you crucified…”

Now we are getting to the important part of this story, verse 13, the part that has direct bearing on us and the reason some people may stand out in the crowd. “The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of  Peter and John, for they could see they were ordinary men who had no special training.” They were in fact, just like you and I. No special training, just fishermen not healers. BUT, “They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.”

BINGO! There’s the answer. They had been with Jesus. They could do the marvelous, accomplish the make-the-news kind of things they did, because they had been with Jesus. One of my favorite hymns has the line, “and He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own…” All of us can be recognized as people who have “been with Jesus” if we just spend more time walking and talking with Him. Doctors tell us to walk more because it is good for our heart, a heart no one can see. But if you walked with Jesus, been with Jesus, talked with Jesus, you will have discovered you have a new heart, a heart that all will notice, for they will recognize you as a person who has “been with Jesus”. Try it, heaven will love the difference it makes, even if it doesn’t make the evening news on earth!

Peace and God’s blessings,

Pastor John

 

MAY, 2014

Greetings   …

There’s an interesting aspect to “being up a tree.” When we use the term we are usually telling someone that we are having a trouble resolving a perplexing problem. I don’t know for sure but I suspect it gets worse if we are not only up a tree but also “out on a limb.”

Most of us have either heard of, or personally known of, a cat that was possibly chased up a tree by a dog. It doesn’t matter whether the dog just wanted to play and came on to strong, or it had some less than playful intent in mind, the cat beat a safe and hasty retreat to a safe place Personally, I sometimes wonder how cats know dogs can’t climb trees. In any event, there is this “poor cat” up a tree and it seems there’s no way its going to come down..

We try to coax it down with “here kitty, kitty, kitty” which almost never seems to work. Next we may try to get a neighborhood child, who always seems to like climbing trees anyway, to go up after the unfortunate feline. More often than not, also meets with failure so we play our last card and call the fire department.

Years ago that usually worked until the fire department realized that tying up valuable men and equipment trying to rescue a cat while a house burned down usually did not please the community. Today there are few fire departments which rescue cats from trees. Another major reason for this is that it is extremely rare for a hungry cat not to eventually come down on its own. Hunger is a great motivator.

In all of this “up a tree stuff” we have, perhaps, gotten our thinking turned around just a little. After all, why was the cat up the tree in the first place? Simple. The tree provided a place of refuge, a place where the dog couldn’t get it. The tree was, in fact, the cat’s place of salvation.

Recently I re-read in Luke 19 of a man named Zacchaeus who also climbed up into a tree. Although he wasn’t chased up there by a dog, I believe he was chased by his sin (which is much worse than a dog). He was a tax collector, and compared to the standards of those times, our tax collectors today are sweethearts.

But Zacchaeus heard that a man named Jesus was coming along and he somehow knew that just catching a glimpse of this Jesus, might turn his life around, might indeed save him. How right he was.

When Jesus saw Zacchaeus up in that sycamore tree he called out to him, “Quick, come down! For I must be a guest in your home today.” Jesus said later that evening, after the meal “Salvation has come to this house today…”

If you feel that life has chased you up a tree, well maybe, just maybe, being up a tree might not be the worst place for you. Read the story yourself in Luke 19:1- 10 and see what you think. Maybe, like the cat and Zacchaeus, the tree might just be your way to salvation. Sometimes you have climb up just to see your way down to where you can safely plant your feet on solid ground.                                                   

Seeing as we are really in the season of planting perhaps our feet on solid Christian soil might be far better than in a tree.                                                                                        As

Jesus said to those gathered later in the now, former, tax collector’s house, “And I, the Son of Man, have come to seek and save those like him who are lost.”  So, if feel that you’re up a tree, look around for Jesus. Go ahead and get out on a limb so you can see him better. He’s never far and he will surely help you down. That’s his promise. If you don’t believe me, well,…just read the story again.

Peace and God, blessings,

Pastor John

APRIL, 2014

April thoughts from your pastor…

“Bring me a rose in the winter time, when it’s hard to find. Bring me a rose in the winter time, I got roses on my mine, for a rose is sweet at any time and yet. Bring me a rose in the winter time how easy we forget.
Bring me a Friend when I’m all alone, when it’s hard to find. Bring me a friend when I’m all alone, I got friendship on my mind. A friend is sweet at anytime and yet, bring me a friend when I’m all alone how easy we forget.
Bring me Love when there’s hate around, when it’s hard to find. Bring me Love when there’s hate around I got loving on my mind. Love is sweet at anytime and yet, bring me love when there’s hate around how easy we forget.”
Tell me of Peace when there’s talk of war, when it’s hard to find. Tell me Peace when there’s talk of war, for peace on my mind, peace is sweet most anytime and yet, Tell me of Peace when there’s talk of war how easy we forget.

These are words from a song Glenn Yarborough sang many years ago which was, and still is a favorite of mine. Sadly though, each verse ended with the words, “How easy we forget.”

Glenn was one of the original Limelighters trio and then one of the Brother’s Four besides being a very popular single folk performer. He also had a voice as smooth as silk and okay, I still melt when I hear him sing.

But it was that last phrase repeated in each verse that has really stuck with me through the years///”How easy we forget.”  It all came to tumbling back this week as I came across this verse. Deuteronomy 24:18, “Always remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you.”  Always remember! What a powerful command.

Let’s change always remember from the Old Testament command to a New Testament resolution to never forget that God redeemed us, not through the death of our enemies but, rather, through the death of his very Son. He redeemed us from the slavery of sin that we might have eternal life. Yet, how sadly the words of that wonderful song haunt us, “How easy we forget.”

Our salvation, our redemption, and the many blessings we enjoy with each living breath are all too often forgotten in our daily rush to accumulate things that won’t last. The expensive meal at that classy restaurant we had last month is still remembered as are those flowers (now long dead) that were a special gift. Things that, in the short run, go so quickly are remembered, but sadly, the one gift that is good for all eternity, that never fades nor tarnishes, well… how easy we forget.

Why not write into your day planner, your palm pilot (do they still make them?) or whatever those expensive tablets that everybody seems to have to remember the important things to do each day… “Remember the cross…REMEMBER!

Then, when you see it in the morning, spend a few moments  remembering the cost of your salvation, the length of eternity and the one who made it all possible…and give thanks. If ever there is a month for us to remember, then this month of April is it. remember the cross, remember our salvation’s cost  to our God. REMEMBER, REMEMBER, REMEMBER.

How can we possibly forget?

Peace and God, blessings,       Pastor John

 

MARCH, 2014

FROM THE PASTOR’S PEN…MARCH, 2014

by Pastor John Bigelow

Ogden Nash once wrote, “Mules are stubborn critters. The only way you can keep them in the pasture is to put them in the meadow joining and let them jump out.”

Well, never having owned a mule myself I’ll have to take his word for it but I’ve heard similar things about mules from others so I expect it’s true enough.

Contrariness, however, is not necessarily a trait common only to mules. We all know someone who is contrary. You may say turn left, they turn right; you say stop, they go; you say get the mail, they fall asleep on the couch. One thing most of us ignore is the possibility that we are very often the contrary mule.

Life is full of inexplicable things. For instance, I’ve often noticed that the person who lives closest to the church, school or work frequently is the one who invariably gets there late. It’s often the same person you always have to wait for if you are going somewhere. It’s just contrariness. You say the leaving time is 1:00 and they show up at 1:15. However, if you understand that this trait is inevitable you can circumvent the tardiness of one by simply planning, but not announcing, the departure time as being 1:15.  Of course, you are then faced with explaining why so many showed up fifteen minutes early. Someone other than Ogden Nash, although he might have said it, came up with as Paul Harvey might have said on page TWO, “You can’t win ‘em all.”

So why should we be surprised that after healing a deaf man with a speech impediment we read in Mark 7:16, “Jesus told the crowd not to tell anyone, but the more he told them not to, the more they spread the news.” Contrariness? Perhaps not. Certainly they acted in a manner contrary to what Jesus told them to do but, after all, they had seen something truly wonderful. They had actually been a part of a miraculous healing and they were so excited they just couldn’t hold it in.

No, that episode is not so hard to understand. But there is something that I find is, indeed, puzzling. After Jesus was betrayed, illegally dragged into several courts, beaten and killed so cruelly on the cross for you and I why are we contrary? “How,” you ask, “can I suggest we are contrary?” Well, taking Christians on the whole: Do we really love one another? Do we really tell others about him? Do we really give of our time and talents as we could and should?

 

Do we really pray, “Your will be done”? Do we really forgive as we want to be forgiven?

Well, do we? And we think a mule is contrary! On Sunday, March 9th, we begin the Christian  Lenten season.  Lent is the season to think on these things and it might serve us, and more importantly, the church to begin, where it is needed, improving our Christian behavior early, just so no one misses out on the opportunity to improve their Christian commitment of loving and serving our Lord..

Peace and God, blessings,       Pastor John

 

FEBRUARY, 2014

FROM THE PASTOR’S PEN…FEBRUARY, 2014

 Peace and greetings

             Everybody seems to have an opinion, and everybody naturally believes theirs is the only logical one. Whenever I turn on CNN or Fox News or any other news gathering and broadcasting organization I am overwhelmed at the number of differing opinions that are out there on almost any subject. It doesn’t seem to matter whether the subject is concerning national or global issues or the divided concerns a small, practically unknown town of 1000 people in the middle of Nowhere, Iowa. 

The same is true for each of us when we are faced with the thought of changing jobs and often churches. The truly organized individual will sit down and list all the pros and cons for each possible choice. Heading the list will usually be such things as income (hopefully much more than you are currently making), career potential (can you become a shaker and mover in the company or field), schools for your children (much better than where they are now), house availability (bigger than what you’re in), cost of living in new community (much lower than current location). And I’m sure there are many more considerations such as road traffic, weather conditions, allergy concerns and of course shopping opportunities.

All of this came to mind when I read the following two verses in Genesis 12:1-2 (NLT). Then the Lord told Abram, “Leave your country, your relatives, and your father’s house, and go to the land I will show you. I will cause you to become the father of a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and I will make you a blessing to others.”

God certainly touched a couple of the bases you and I might have thought to be important in our making a move, especially considering what Abram was asked to give up. Yet, what intrigued me most about the rewards of this “job move” was the very last promise. “I will make you a blessing to others.”

I can’t help but wonder how often this comes into our thinking when we consider the results of any of the many changes that come about in our lifetimes. Will we be a blessing to others? This shouldn’t be a singular consideration that is about “me,” about what I will get out of it. It should also include the question about what you will be able to bring to others sometimes at a personal cost.

These are, of course, considerations that should also be applied to church membership. That being said, however, it is important that our thinking must be slightly different. Most of the above considerations were based on how I will benefit. What will be best for me, my income, and my family? In the church our concerns should center on what I can I, how can I share in the experience of church membership. How can I become the kind of “blessing to others” that God promised Abraham would be?

In the end it all hinges upon our willingness to surrender our lives to God, to let him lead us in all things.  If we are able to do that, the blessings to others will naturally follow simply as a result. Notice once again what God promised Abram, “I will make you a blessing to others.”  What a great way to move ahead in 2014, surrendering ourselves to God and becoming a blessing to others. As an afterthought it would be wise to remember that God can make us more than we can make ourselves.

In Christ,

Pastor John

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

 

JANUARY, 2014

FROM THE PASTOR’S PEN…JANUARY, 2014

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ…

             Christmas has come and gone. The reminders of this season of giving come to us now in the form of credit card bills which usher in an even longer season of paying. Also it doesn’t escape our notice that in much to short a time we will have to do our taxes. Very soon our TV’s will b e flooded with commercials that advertise “let us do your taxes.” I’m still waiting for one that proclaims “Let us pay your taxes.”                                                                                                Is there no reprieve we wonder? We do our best to look ahead trying to find some way to lighten the burden that now seems to be growing to impossible proportions, to find some light at the end of the tunnel. Some of us look ahead with confidence and some see only a bleak immediate future ahead. Some have planned for the tomorrow when taxes come due and others, far too many, have not.                                                                                                                            In my Bible reading recently I came across Abraham and his son Issac who gave us some insight into how we might face a future that seems dark. In Genesis 22 we read where God has instructed Abraham to “take your son, your only son – yes Issac whom you love so much and sacrifice him … as a burnt offering.”  Facing credit card bills and taxes are nothing to what Abraham must have felt.                                                                                                                        Yet he went ahead as he knew he must, and on the way Issac asked “We have the wood and the fire but where’s the lamb for the sacrifice?” (v.7). Abraham answers immediately in verse 8, “God will provide a lamb, my son.”  This is what a man of faith believes, a man of faith who trusts. God will provide.                                                                                                                                                  The idea of facing the coming year with the possibility of fewer dollars coming in is certainly not unique for us as individuals. It is true for Government and true for the church as well. Of course, the government being the government, can find ways to get the money it needs by either taking more from us or cutting back on benefits…which usually effect the needy harder than any other group.

            For far too many the New Year begins just where the old one ended, with bleakness. But it is not a bleakness caused by a lack of ready cash, but, a far more serious bleakness, one brought about because they do not know that God has already provided the Lamb. They celebrated Christmas without celebrating Christ. Abraham told Issac that “God will provide a lamb” yet I can tell you, with absolute assurance, that God has already provided a Lamb! He was the Christ in Christmas.He is the Christ of Christmas.

       God provided his Son, his only Son that we, through him, might find our burdens lifted. Jesus himself said “I am the way, the truth and the life” and although neither God, nor Jesus, will pay our bills or taxes, he will help us through it all.  

             I can also add, with the same absolute assurance, that for those who tithe, who regularly return to God that which that which already belongs to God, that they will be doubly blessed in the giving and will see great things done through those tithes, not only here in our community but throughout the world.                                                                                                                                       As we enter 2014, let it be with one goal for St. Paul’s, that through our efforts souls are saved around the world through the Word and support we have provided. That this church becomes stronger totally united as one body in the love of Christ and each other. That is my prayer…I hope it is yours.        

In God’s love,                                                                                        Pastor John

 

DECEMBER, 2013

 By: Pastor John H. Bigelow

December greetings….

             This is certainly the one time of the year when you hear “Joy to the world, the Lord has come…” This, phrase so early in what we euphemistically call the Christmas Season (which really doesn’t even begin until Christmas morning), of course seems to have nothing whatsoever to do with Christ’s coming, but rather, I suspect our “going.” Going shopping that is. “Joy to the world, the sales have come, let’s all begin to shop.” This indeed seems, to be the collective theme broadcast in every media. 

It is amazing how joyful, thrilled, even ecstatic, we get at the opportunity to spend huge sums of money on each other during this one time of the year. You would almost believe that the Star of Bethlehem shined over Macys or, well, at least over a Super Wal-Mart rather than some lowly stable.

It didn’t, however, it shined in the sky because a baby was being born in that stable, a child whose birth would change world history forever, a child that would even die for our salvation (perhaps I should make it a more personal), MY salvation and YOUR salvation.

Let’s also note here that those “wise men” brought their gifts to the Christ child. They did not go out and buy them for their wives, children/grandchildren, boy/girl friends, bosses/employees, they brought them. The gifts they brought to the Christ child were a part of their own personal wealth and demonstrated the importance this child was to the world.

I was struck this week by these words in Hosea 6:1 (NLT) Come, let us return to the Lord!  I wonder what might happen if we all “returned to the Lord” each Christmas. If we filled the offering plates to overflowing with gifts given in Christ’s name and for his purpose. or, if we donated something useable to our local Cooperative Christian Ministry by whatever name it goes by, or perhaps gave this tears “hottest” toy to a child who has no toys at all; these would certainly be much more compatible with the real spirit of Christmas.

Hosea went on to say in v. 3 Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him!  Jesus said when you help the poor, love the hungry, spread the good news of salvation to the lost of our world then you are ministering to him and in doing so you truly, get to know him better.

In knowing Jesus better you really will know JOY! Then you will be able to sing “Joy to the world, I’ve met the Lord, and given him my gift.”  And the angels will rejoice and you … you will be doubly blessed!

With these thoughts in mind, my prayer is that each of us will put Christ first in our individual and collective hearts truly remembering, as a well known saying goes, “The reason for the Season.” There are so many who are in need, and not just in a fiscal situation. Being alone perhaps in a nursing home, without family or friends nearby, and hearing “Joy to the world” can more easily depress a person than lift their spirit.

Perhaps, when our choir sings at a nursing home (Abernathy Laurels ?) why not go, not just to support our choir, but to spend some time perhaps wheeling the residents in to hear the joyful music, and  sit with them. The personal gift of time and love shared is one of the greatest gifts we could give.

And finely, may each of you, my dear St. Paul’s brothers and sisters, have a wonderful and safe season of shared love, music and commitment and please know how grateful both Sue and I are at the opportunity God has blessed us with to serve not only him but each of you in our joint ministry here.

Peace and God’s blessings to you all,                          Pastor John.

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NOVEMBER 2013

FROM THE PASTOR’S PEN…

 By: Pastor John H. Bigelow

             You have seen them on TV, in movies, and I know a number of you have even been confronted by them. They look like machines designed for torture and in the beginning they feel like they are serving that very purpose.  You may already have guessed the devices I’m talking about. They are those machines you meet in health spas and fitness centers. When advertised they are always used by people with glorious bodies that have little resemblance to our bodies, at least my body. Everything looks like a lot of fun. A walk in the park. Right!

Let’s face it. We live in a health-oriented culture, and it doesn’t stop with those monster fitness/workout devices. We are constantly besieged with information on health and physical fitness. What we thought was healthy eating yesterday is found to be not healthy today. There are more kinds of vitamin pills, weight control pills and other supplements on the market than can be kept up with except as a full time job and I’m not even sure about it then.

The one thing that almost all health experts agree on is the importance of exercise. They say it is the lynchpin of good health and should be a big part of whatever else we do, yet it seems that, no matter what we do or how much we exercise, we still continue to age, and at best extend our lives by just a few years.

These thoughts leaped right out at me when I read Paul’s first letter to Timothy.  1 Timothy 4:8 (NLT) this week. “Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next.” Amen Paul! You tell ‘em!!!

 Now, I don’t know how much you believe the varied promises we hear from the many health gurus who are constantly bombarding us with often conflicting commercial advice, but frankly, I disregard most of it. I do, however, put complete trust in God’s word and thus am further encouraged by verse 9 in which Paul tells Timothy, “This is true, and everyone should accept it.”

 Now, we must remember that Paul did an awful lot of walking in his life. It seems that he walked around most of Asia Minor and Greece. He certainly must have been in pretty good health except when he got that problem that he prayed God would remove.

So if you want good health, lasting good health, the forever kind of good health, then focus on the spiritual while you walk. Actually why not take Jesus along with you. He’d love to come along when you take a morning walk. It does the soul a lot of good and in this beautiful autumn weather you can enjoy God’s beauty and chat with his Son.

You know, I almost forgot to suggest that while you and Jesus are having your stroll why not ask him if he could suggest something that needs doing in the church which you could do. I’ll bet that would really excite both Jesus and his Father, and don’t be surprised if he doesn’t give you a suggestion or two.

 

Peace and God’s blessings,

Pastor John

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FROM THE PASTOR’S PEN…OCTOBER, 2013

Some thoughts from your Pastor

              I’m sure it will not come as a surprise to anyone if I am bold enough to suggest that we live in a time of change. To place this is in proper perspective, every moment, from the beginning of creation until this very moment, has been a time of change. I recall that someone once said the only thing that is constant is change.                                                                                 

            When I go back to visit the place where I grew up, it is scarcely recognizable. When I once visited the university I first attended, I was immediately lost in a maze of unfamiliarity. We are confused and stifled by the constant yearly changes in tax laws, to say nothing of the myriad other laws that seem to blossom in all seasons.                                                                           

            When I turn on my computer and click into my email box, I almost expect to find someone who has changed their email address…often for the third or fourth time in as many or fewer years. Change is not only here to stay but, I believe the rate of change is growing exponentially.                                                

            Change, which I had recognized as routine in the cultural world, is also impacting the church in both its worship and outreach. I can understand (somewhat) musical trends, dress and fashion change, new model cars and TV’s, but the comfort of familiar worship and the concept of reaching others for Christ without theatrics is something I don’t want to lose.                                                                                    

           I feel one of the most disturbing changes today’s church is being confronted with is in the interpretation of scripture. It is not a difference of translation, rather it’s our interpretation. All of the “modern” translations still say essentially what the original text said. Our problem seems to be that with cultural and societal changes, we are uncomfortable with scripture that is no longer compatible with those changes. In short, we want God’s word to agree with our behavior rather than our behavior being in harmony with God’s word.                                                                                                                                               Some people attempt to disguise spiritual adaptability to cultural trends with the phrase, used by a denomination a number of years ago, “God is still speaking” and I’m sure He is, but I don’t think He is changing the rules. I believe this for one simple reason, and I came across it in my daily Bible reading this week. Isaiah 40:8 (NLT). “The grass withers, and flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.”   It does not say “…the word of our God stands until we want to change it.” The place in our lives where God has always found a home seems no longer available to God. The study of  His word has been replaced by constant interaction with each other by way of “social media.” Instead of prayer we tweet.                                                                         

             Unfortunately much of the same can be said of our churches and our worship. Instead of the “good old hymns” and Bible teaching that actually taught God’s words and what God instructs us to know and follow, we look for ways to modify His message to fit our lifestyle and worship.    When I remember how the church (and I mean almost all churches) were filled on Sunday, and many again on Sunday and Wednesday evenings, it saddens me to see how we have fallen away from our worship and the historical teachings of the Bible. The question of how can we regain what we have lost is ultimately boiled down to “what canI do?” Although we tend to think of a collective response to the question of revival, in reality, it is really a lot of individuals acting in unison probably, however, the result of one person who decided to do something. When I hear the spring peepers each year I’m always aware that it was one who began, one I never noticed, then another, and another until, suddenly, the air is filled with many individuals all peeping together. So, if you think something needs to be done in the church, go ahead and do it. After all, someone has to be first.

Peace and God’s blessings, Pastor John

 

 

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FROM THE PASTOR’S PEN…SEPTEMBER, 2013

By Pastor John Bigelow

             Some time ago I lost my very favorite pocket knife. It wasn’t really much of a knife, its blade was scarcely two inches long, but it was called upon almost daily to do some simple task or the other. You see,  I grew up with a knife in my pocket. It was there when I went all through public school. It was there when I just wanted to whittle on a stick. It was a part of me, a part of my past and, as with so many of our possessions, I hoped it would be apart of many tomorrow’s.

Then I lost it. I looked high and low for it. I searched everywhere I might have misplaced it and tried to remember where I had last used it but alas, without success. It was gone.

Then I did the only thing I thought reasonable; I went out and bought another knife. It was similar, patterned after the smallest Swiss Army knife style of the one I’d lost, but still, only a knock-off, not the real thing like my lost knife.

You may not have guessed yet, but if you did you are correct. Just a couple of weeks after buying the new knife, I found the old one. It was right where I had last used it, and I remembered putting it there however, only after finding it.

The old one is now back in my pocket and the new one rests in my desk drawer…just in case. I thought of my two knives after reading Isaiah 65:1. The Lord says, “People who never before inquired about me are now asking about me. I am being found by people who were not looking for me. To them I have said, ‘I  am here!’”

In times as uncertain as these, with terrorists popping up in unexpected places, at unexpected times, it seems that more and more people are seeking the comfort of a God they never knew. He is not the god of wealth nor the god of influence, but rather the God of creation, the God of love, the God of power, the God of forgiveness, and most importantly the God of Salvation.. He is the God whose name is simply “I Am.” He was in the beginning, is now, and forever will be the same. “I am who I am.

He is not a God that hides in the back corner of a carton like my knife did after I had cut it open. He is a God who is ever present and always responsive to those who have forgotten him or, perhaps, left him in another room of their lives. He said to Isaiah, “I am being found by people who are not looking for me” and I’m sure that’s true today, for God does indeed pop into our lives at strange and unusual times.

             I’ve found him, without even looking for him. I’ve found him on the many roads I’ve traveled. I’ve found him in the words of a book that had nothing to do with theology, and in busy restaurants where I’d stopped to eat. I’ve found him in the hearts of the people of St. Paul’s.

             Isn’t it a shame that so many people haven’t found this God of mine? The one who gave his Son that you, and I, and anybody, might have eternal life through him. He is everywhere, because he has made everything. He knows each of us even if we don’t know him. He loves us so much that he sent his Son to die that we might have life, eternal life. He’s in these words and yes, he is speaking through them. With him, together, we can carve great things, but first we each must find a place for him in our hearts and believe me, he’s of far greater worth than any pocket knife!           

Love, Pastor John

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FROM THE PASTOR’S PEN….AUGUST, 2013

By Pastor John Bigelow

 A few thoughts for August

              There are some words in our everyday, familiar language, whose meaning we’re sure we clearly know. One of those words, for instance, is the word “stop.” That’s fairly simple, we all know what stop means. Basically it means to cease what ever we are doing, however, circumstances in which the word is used can often impart a more complete meaning than the word itself.

If the word “stop” is on a red, octagonal sign by the side of the road at an intersection, it means to stop, check to be sure there is no oncoming traffic, and then proceed. “Stop” as used in this sense is only temporary; it doesn’t mean, “park it.”

However, if you are a six-year old and roughhousing with a sibling in the house and your mother shouts “Stop!” you can be pretty sure it is not meant in any temporary sense. It means, “PARK IT!”                                                                                                                                       I was directed along this line of thinking by Romans 4:3 where Paul wrote, “For the Scriptures tell us, ‘Abraham believed God, so God declared him to be righteous.’”  The word, which particularly interested me in this verse, was “believed.” There are a lot of different things that come together in Paul’s use of this word.                                                                                To start with, in order to believe God he had to first believe “in God.” In the case of Abraham this may be a given, but for the scripture to have meaning for us, today, it is important because it is not “a given”                                                                                                          Secondly, in order to believe God, Abraham also had to listen to God. He had to hear and understand what God wanted of him. The word in the scriptures indicates that God gave Abraham instructions, specified a certain action Abraham was to take, and one that might very well require a complete trust in God.                                                                                          Have a child when he was 100 years old and his wife was 90? Preposterous, but Abraham believed. Offer his son Issac in sacrifice?  Even more preposterous! Yet Abraham believed that God had a plan he could neither see nor understand, and was willing to do anything the God he believed, and believed in, would asked him.                                                                                 We have the same God that Abraham had; yet we have even more. We have the demonstration of our God’s unreserved love for us through the giving of his Son that we might have eternal life. That, however, begs your answer to the question, “Do you believe in God enough to believe God” when, through his Son, he says to us, ‘Follow me.’”                                         Do we, collectively, as a church, believe that we can become a true beacon in the community in which we live? Do we understand that those words “Follow me” meant just that. Do we believe that if we work together, as one body, united in and following Christ, we can, no, will grow in such a way that this facility will not be big enough?                                                              Just remember what the eleven who believed, and followed their risen Lord accomplished. Of course they had differences, but their differences were laid aside and united in their faith belief .the church grew. Just think of what St. Paul’s might accomplish acting as one body, completely united in that belief, could accomplish. It’s awesome!

Peace and love,

Pastor John

 

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From the Pastor’s pen… July, 2013

By Pastor John Bigelow

              All parents remember the first day of school for your child. It may have been a nursery school or that awesome time he or she started public school. You may very well remember the night before the big day, as he or she is going to bed, trying to look so grown up and brave, who then looks up at you and asks, “Mommy (or Daddy), will you come to school with me?”

If anybody thinks this isn’t a common question just check out the lines of cars in front of any elementary school in the country on opening day. Then watch parent after parent walk hand in hand with their child up the steps and into the building as the child is delivered to his or her new teacher.

If we think the idea of facing a new experience alone is fearful to only first-time school children, we are mistaken. Most of us like the company of someone who has “been there, done that” when we enter new arenas of life. We know that through some magical means we will draw courage from their presence.

It is also true, that when looking back, many of us chuckle over our “need” to have another person with us when we took that step. Indeed, there are many who are simply fearful of their own inadequacy. When you meet the boss that first day on the job and suddenly all confidence is gone and your fear is something like “I don’t know what to say. I mean, he’s such an important person.”

Don’t fret. Moses himself felt the very same way when God commissioned him to “set my people free.” Let’s look at this wonderful question and answer exchange between Moses and God. Exodus 3:11a and 12a (NLT) “But who am I to appear before Pharaoh?” Moses asked God…Then God told him, “I will be with you.”

What God promised Moses that day so many years ago is also true for each of us as He calls us to service. There are so many places for service in St. Paul’s that the opportunities for service are virtually endless. There’s everything from being an usher to a teacher. You can serve just by being a part of the Men’s Brotherhood or the Christian Women’s Fellowship. Unfortunately too many feel that same sense of inadequacy Moses felt, the same reluctance to do something new, the same dread of going it alone, but Godsays to each us, as He said to Moses, “I will be with you!”

God never asks of us or sends us to do something he hasn’t already equipped us to do and he

never, ever, sends us out alone. He’s with us every step of the way. So the next time an appeal goes out for help in the church, whether its teaching, serving on a committee or just bringing a desert to a Wednesday evening fellowship, begin with the reasons you can rather than the reasons you can’t. You’ll be glad you did…and so will God!

                Peaceand God’s Blessings, Pastor John

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JUNE,  2013 GOOD TIDINGS NEWSLETTER

   From the Pastor’s pen… June 2013

By Pastor John Bigelow

             “When two or more people are gathered together in my name, there I will be also.” These are familiar words spoken by our Lord almost two thousand years ago and Christians have taken them to heart. There is, however, another thought I would like to advance which is, more often than not, easier to recognize than the first.

When two or more people are gathered together, even in Christ’s name, discussing an issue there will probably be disagreement. I might also add that although Christ is present, acrimony may very well still develop. In the church we often invite Christ, in the form of the Holy Spirit, to enter into our debates and through his intervention we attempt to discern the truth.

Alas, this, for all its well meaning, seldom seems to bring peace, as it seems, just one side or the other may prevail. I have often wondered how it is that, after a period of discernment both opposing sides can come away sincerely believing they, and they alone, have discerned the will of God.                                                                                                                                              

           I  suspect that we can perhaps find t least a part of the answer to this perplexing concern in the Bible. The verse comes at the end of Stephen’s eloquent message to the Jewish leaders. “Then they put their hands over their ears, and drowning out his voice with their shouts, they rushed him” (Acts 7:57 NLT).

It is difficult indeed to discern any truth in your opponent’s argument, or for that matter to hear the guidance of the Holy Spirit, while your hands are over your ears and you are shouting.

I suspect that in almost any disagreement one party is right and one party is wrong, at least to some degree, but I further suspect that there is some sort of middle ground where the peace of the Lord may be found. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, instead of our needing to win, we were more concerned with seeking God’s will rather than our will. If we did this we would, I’m sure, all be winners!

Oh, and although Stephen was indeed justified in calling the Jewish leaders “You stubborn people” (Acts 7:51), it probably didn’t help his cause at all. Can we learn something here as well?  Can we, when in a large congregational meeting or a small committee meeting, allow more time to the murmurings of the Holy Spirit than we give over to our own outbursts.

After all when we pray aren’t we cautioned to close any action with the thought, “nevertheless, thy will be done.” This, when combined with the fact that, if we are indeed gathered together in Christ’s name, then he is there also and shouldn’t he have some input into the proceedings. After all, although St. Paul’s is where we worship, it is our Lord’s church and all business conducted in his church is or should be first and foremost his business.

 

Peace and God’s Blessings, Pastor John

 

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 From the Pastor’s desk….Pastor John Bigelow

                         All of us have, at one time or another, asked someone for advice or guidance. We have also, I’m equally sure, given direction to others, sometimes even if they didn’t ask for it. In both cases these were often at times when it was neither asked for nor even wanted.

             In all of these occasions, though, there is one common thread. The advisor is always confident that he or she is giving the very best advice you could ever get on whatever the subject. Interestingly, we often give ourselves very bad advice and fool ourselves into thinking it is good advice. This, of course, can and frequently does, lead to trouble.

One of the problems inherent in both accepting and giving advice is discerning whether it is, indeed, good advice. What lies at the root of the problem is the fact that often the advice just “seems” like good advice, and often it seems like good advice because, and we hate to admit it, it is what we really want to do anyway.

I was set to thinking about what “seems” to be good advice by a verse in 2 Samuel, chapter 16. In this chapter King David’s son Absalom, is attempting to get rid of his father in order to become the king himself. He’s raised an army and is planning his next move and in verse 20, we read “Then Absalom turned to Ahithophel and asked him, ‘What should I do next?”  In verse 23, however, we discover one of the traps that Absalom fell into was just like what we often do today. It was that old “seemed” good trap. “For every word Ahithophel spoke seemed as wise as though it had come directly from the mouth of God.”

Dear friends, how else is the old devil Satan going to get us to do things his way unless he leads us to believe that it seems to “come directly from the mouth of God.” Of course it seems that way, that’s one of the Devil’s tricks. If it seemed to come from Satan then Christians wouldn’t follow it.

One slogan popular for a while, widely used by a religious denomination to encourage people, good Christians, to follow a new path, was for them to believe that “God is still speaking.” Well, it does “seem” good and we are told in his Word that, yes, he will “direct our paths” so why not? After all, don’t we ask God in our prayers for direction in our daily lives?

The “why not” is answered by going to his written word, the record of God’s words to us and see if his words have changed. There is a big difference between what actually came from “the mouth of God” and what seems to have come from the mouth of God. I can’t help but believe that many times God might respond to the slogan “Don’t put words in my mouth. Read what I have already said about your concern” A truly wise person will discern the difference and not be fooled.

 

God’s blessings,

    Pastor John

 

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APRIL, 2013  GOOD TIDINGS NEWSLETTER

From the Pastor’s desk….Pastor John Bigelow

If you are a sports fan you are not unaccustomed to considering “the odds” when your favorite team is going to be facing a powerful opponent. You are not happy if the projected odds are heavily against your team. None of us like to hear, so called, people-in-the-know tell us our team has only a one-in-ten chance of winning, the odds are 10-1 against us. But then, I guess it could be worse, like a one-in-a-hundred chance of winning.

Let’s suppose you are going to play a game of golf or tennis and someone comes up and says, “You got a fat chance of winning against that player.” Wouldn’t that give you serious cause to wonder, “Why? Why do I want to expose myself to such an overwhelmingly strong opponent?”  If you are like most of us you might think of reconsidering.

Yet, throughout history individuals, teams and even nations have done just that very thing. They’ve gone against the odds, sometimes even the very longest of odds, and yes, they have succeeded in spite of the dire forecast.

Consider the young shepherd boy, David, going against the warrior giant Goliath. Most of us, had we been there, would have shaken our heads and said something, like, “Lots of luck kid, but, you ain’t got a chance.”  Indeed, for David, success certainly appeared against all odds. I mean really, a little shepherd kid against a giant armed warrior

In the Bible we have an example of the equivalent of what might be described as a national David. In Deuteronomy 9:1 we find “Hear O Israel! Today you are about to cross the Jordan River to occupy the land belonging to nations much greater and more powerful than you.”  If that wasn’t enough of a challenge verse 2 can’t help in the confidence lifting department very much, “They are strong and tall – descendants of the famous Anakite giants. You’ve heard the saying, ‘Who can stand up against the Anakites?’”

They went anyway…and prevailed. Against the odds makers they were successful and for one very important reason. The “bookies” didn’t figure in the power of God who also went across the Jordan, actually ahead of them “to subdue them.” (v. 2a).

This is an important lesson to learn for today’s individual Christian, and the Christian church as well, when the odds seem long against success. When we face a challenge, especially one which God has set before us, we must forge ahead believing that he will be with us. This in no way means that we won’t have a struggle, perhaps even a painful struggle, but with God on our side, well, the odds are certainly tipped in our favor. We must always remember the words of our Lord who said, “I am with you always.”

I just can’t help but believe that St. Paul is up there in heaven looking down upon his namesake church and betting on us, no matter what the odds, to meet our budget, bring the lost into the fold, and fill our pews.

We are now through the sometimes bleak days of winter and spring is ready to embrace us. It is time to boldly commit ourselves, both individually and collectively, to meet the challenges and exploit the opportunities God lays before us and forge ahead and defeat today’s modern Anakites.

Peace and God’s blessings,

Pastor John