May 30, 2020
It’s his diabolical trademark, and he has been doing it since the beginning of time.
He started in heaven by driving a wedge through the angelic host, shearing off one-third of their numbers. He continued in the Garden of Eden when he succeeded in separating the created from the Creator, and brother from brother. He delighted in fiendish glee when he orchestrated the first war recorded in Scripture, the battle of the nine kings (Genesis 14).
Satan is the original instigator. Jesus is the Prince of Peace, but Satan is the master of conflict. He loves destroying friendships. Breaking up families is his specialty. Whenever you see division and dissension among brothers, people groups, or nations, you know the prince of darkness is at work.
In all three accounts of the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21), it is stated that wars and conflicts among nations will increase as we approach the coming of the Lord. The Greek word translated nations is “ethnos.” The Last Days will be characterized by rising tension among ethnic groups, be they sovereign nations or people groups within a nation. The world will turn on itself with Satan happily stirring the pot.
We are all created in God’s image, and yet we are unique in many ways. God finds beauty in variety. But Satan has taken God’s gift of variety and turned it into a source of contention. The evidence of this reality is mounting rapidly. In our own country, discord among people groups is running very high.
So how should we as Christians respond? We respond by remembering that out of the many ethnic classifications in the world, God sees only two kinds of people — SAVED & LOST. That’s it. In the record books of heaven there is no Democrat or Republican by your name. There is no Male or Female. No White, Black, Asian, Hispanic, Native American, or Other. No High School Diploma or College Degree. Just Saved or Lost.
It’s been said, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” Reaching the eternal souls of people for Christ is the main thing no matter their race or ethnicity. In these troubling times of unrest, let’s not lose focus. Our task is to continually point people of all races and cultures to the cross of Jesus Christ.
Jesus loves and died for them all. And one day, maybe not too far away, John’s vision will become a reality, “After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. And they were shouting with a great roar, ‘Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb!’” (Revelation 7:9-10)
And all the angels in heaven said, AMEN!
Pastors Todd & Sheri
May 29, 2020
It’s that time of year again in SW Florida. You can count on it like clockwork. No matter how bright and sunny the morning may be, every afternoon the clouds are going to roll in, the temperature will drop, and the heavens will let loose with a glorious thunderstorm.
When we first moved to Florida the rainy season bothered me. I can still hear myself saying with an incredulous look on my face, “What do you mean it rains every day?!” Now I look forward to these regular afternoon thunderstorms. Maybe that's because I like predictability.
The sun rises, and the sun sets. The tide comes in, and it goes out again. It’s predictable. I find comfort in that which is certain and constant. Come to think of it, I would probably enjoy a visit to Yellowstone National Park to see “Old Faithful.” That’s the famous geyser known for its predictable eruptions. It just stands to reason.
Speaking of predictability, the faithfulness of God is something we can always count on. God’s faithfulness is more than predictable. It’s reliable! You never have to face a new day wondering about it. You can be sure. Not only is God faithful, His faithfulness is great (Lamentation 3:23).
God’s faithfulness is expressed in many ways. He is faithful to keep His promises (Hebrews 10:23). He is faithful to always tell us the truth (Numbers 23:19). He is faithful to forgive confessed sin (1 John 1:9). He is faithful to hear and answer prayer (Psalm 143:1). He is faithful to be true to His own character and nature (2 Timothy 2:13). And God is faithful to love us with unfailing love (Lamentations 3:22).
Just in case you are wondering if God’s faithfulness might someday cease — impossible! There is no expiration date. The Bible affirms this truth, “For the Lord is good; His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations” (Psalm 100:5).
Sure enough, as night follows day the rains have stopped and the sun has come out again. That leads me to one other thing that is predictable in Florida. Humidity! Oh well. I will rejoice in the unchanging, never-ceasing faithfulness of God.
Pastors Todd & Sheri
May 28, 2020
I was twelve-years-old, and I was afraid!
It was dark outside and past my bedtime. There really was no cause for fear. Mom and Dad had gone out for the evening and left us children home alone. My 16 year old brother was in the basement; my younger brother and sister just down the hall. But I was still afraid. So I crawled out of bed, set a chair by my open second-story window, and waited.
Suddenly, I heard it! It was the unmistakable sound of my parent’s Ninety-Eight Oldsmobile diesel engine. As soon as I heard the sound of their car I put the chair back, crawled in bed under the covers, and rested in the sweetness of knowing they were home. I was safe.
During the bout with my recent illness, there is a specific moment that distinctly stands out in my mind.
It was late on a Thursday evening. I was laying on the living room sofa feeling very sick. Todd refused to leave me and was sitting on the sofa at my feet where he would remain throughout the night. We had just returned home from our third visit to the Emergency Room in as many days. We had endured some pretty rough experiences that week, but were doing our best to offer grace in the understanding that everyone in the medical community was uptight about the virus. It was still rough. No one had given us any answers at that point. We were both exhausted physically, mentally, and emotionally.
In that very dark moment Todd looked at me and said, “We have done everything in our power to do. We’ve done it more than once, and we still have no answers or direction. Tonight we are just going to have to rest in the Lord.” I remember when he said that that I instantly sighed deeply. To help us rest, Todd turned on a recording that played only hymns. No sooner had I breathed that deep sigh than the familiar words began —
“Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His Word.
Just to rest upon His promise,
Just to know, ‘Thus saith the Lord!’
Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him,
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er.
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus
Oh for grace to trust Him more.”
Listening to the words of the old hymn was like hearing Mom and Dad’s diesel engine coming down the road. This was familiar spiritual territory. I instantly began to sense the peace of God surrounding us, and I knew we were at home in His presence and safe in the arms of our Savior.
In all the world, there is nothing like the security of trusting your Father. Tis So Sweet!
Pastors Todd & Sheri
May 27, 2020
It has happened again!
Another Christian artist has publicly renounced his belief in God (Jon Steingard, USA TODAY, May 26, 2020). Having reached the conclusion that the Bible is nothing more than a book written by flawed and imperfect people, the lead singer of the Christian rock band "Hawk Nelson" has abandoned his confession of faith.
We are witnessing an alarming trend among leaders in Christian circles who for one reason or another are committing the act of apostasy. Paul issued this warning in 1 Timothy 4:1, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons.” Imagine turning from the Word of Truth to doctrines of demons!
The Bible repeatedly warns of increasing deception as we approach the Second Coming of Christ. The Bible also tells how we can overcome. “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death” (Revelation 12:11).
The blood of Jesus Christ is the most powerful cleansing agent in the universe. No matter how “the accuser of the brethren” (Revelation 12:10) tries to dredge up past sin, he cannot undo the cleansing work of the blood of Jesus Christ. We overcome “by the blood of the Lamb.”
Believers also overcome “by the word of their testimony.” Satan cannot defeat a Christian who maintains their confession of faith. In light of that, Hebrews 10:23 presents this charge, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”
The phrase “let us hold fast” translates a Greek verb that means “hold on and keep holding on.” While others lose their grip and are swept away in a flood of deception, we overcome by holding on tightly to our confession of faith with unwavering hope.
When Satan casts doubts, we maintain our confession. When he raises questions, we maintain our confession. When he makes accusations, we maintain our confession. When he tempts with sin or seeks to deceive, we maintain our confession. Even when others fail, we maintain our confession.
Satan just can’t win against a Christian who is resolute in keeping the word of their testimony.
A song that I grew up singing in church comes to mind. Actually, only the verse comes to mind. “I shall not be, I shall not be moved. I shall not be, I shall not be moved. Like a tree planted by the water, I shall not be moved.” In spite of their redundancy, the lyrics are inspiring.
While some regrettably commit the sin of apostasy, “do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward” (Hebrews 10:35). Cleansed by the blood, maintain your confession of faith. Hold on and overcome.
Pastors Todd & Sheri
May 25, 2020
As stay-at-home orders are lifted in many states, and lockdown restrictions are relaxed in others, it looks like America has begun the process of reopening for business.
It’s been a long two months. Isn’t it amazing how fast everything changed when the COVID-19 pandemic hit? Schools closed. Businesses shut down. Churches went to online services. Sporting events were canceled. Airliners were grounded. Ships were docked. Everyone stayed home. When people did venture out for the occasional trip to an “essential business,” they went armed with individual face masks, gloves, and enough sanitizer to disinfect a hospital.
While life probably will not get back to normal as we knew it for some time, we appear to be on the downside of the pandemic craziness (God willing).
Have you ever come through an unusual experience, and after the dust had settled you made a statement like this, “What was that all about?” Good question. I believe that with God there is always a purpose in the things we go through in life. It’s been said that God has a purpose for everything because He has a plan for everyone. That is comforting to know. Even in a pandemic when life gets turned upside-down, God is doing something good.
So what are some of the good things you can identify? I have a few. I have learned how to make an incredible smoothie! As a result of my new found talent, Sheri and I have started a new routine of smoothies on the lanai in the early morning hours.
On another note, we have had a lot of quality family time. We have gone deeper in our relationship with each other, and with the Lord. We have talked more and prayed more. We have learned how to slow down and focus on “being” rather than just “doing.”
How about you? What new routines have you started? What values have been strengthened or even re-instilled in your heart and home? What priority adjustments have you made that will outlast the shelter-at-home order?
In Ephesian 5:17 we are told to redeem the time. That means we should make the most of every opportunity. No experience in the life of a believer should ever be wasted. There is always something we can learn. There is always an opportunity for growth.
As the country reopens and life starts working its way back to some semblance of normalcy, don’t forget the good God has done during these unusual days. Don’t abandon the new things He has brought into your life and home. Treasure them. Remember the lessons learned and changes made, and “hold on to what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
Pastors Todd & Sheri
May 24, 2020
While pastoring for sixteen years in a military community, I conducted several funerals for veterans. Most of these had served in either the Korean War, or the Vietnam War. My experience yesterday was a first. I had the privilege of conducting the graveside service for a World War 2 veteran who was only a few months away from celebrating his one-hundredth birthday.
Alton Peterson was the father of my cousin’s wife. When WW2 broke out he enlisted in the Army’s Air Corp. With his young bride at home in Minnesota, Alton was sent overseas to join his unit where he served as a pilot flying supplies to the Allies.
The graveside service with full military honors was very moving. There wasn’t a dry eye among us as “Taps” was played over the flag-draped casket. Standing at attention with my hand over my heart, I looked past the casket to the many graves decorated with American flags in recognition of the Memorial Day weekend. I was filled with a renewed sense of appreciation for the many who served, and for those who made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom.
In his wartime speech to Parliament made on August 20, 1940, Winston Churchill said, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” How true! But when we consider the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross we can say, “Never in the history of humanity was so much owed by so many to one.”
While hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of Allied soldiers died in the European and Pacific theaters for many, Jesus died at Calvary for all. It was a bloody battle, indeed. The powers of evil launched a full-scale attack against the Son of God incarnate. But the enemy’s efforts failed. Having “died for all,” Jesus triumphed over Satan’s forces and declared victory when He “rose again” from the dead (2 Corinthians 5:15).
On this Memorial Day weekend, we pause to remember those who have died while serving our country. We remember the sacrifices they made to secure our freedom. And we remember those we have loved who are now in eternity.
It’s right that we do this. It is also right that we remember the One who paid the ultimate price, “the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
So take a moment to remember and give thanks with a grateful heart. Actually, take several moments! “For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Pastors Todd & Sheri
May 22, 2020
A word from Sheri --
A few days back Todd wrote a great article on the charm of silence. It can certainly be healing to the soul.
Today I would like to speak to the other side of silence. This refers to the times in our lives when we are waiting to hear something and there is nothing but silence. The list is long. Waiting to hear on medical test results. Waiting to hear if we were accepted into the college of our choice. Waiting to hear from someone that was supposed to call us back an hour ago. In those seasons, silence can be extremely frustrating.
One of the most profound times of silence is when we are waiting on God to speak. It calls for the best of our obedience along with our trust and our faith to remain still and steadfast when the heavens seem like brass. Further, the results of not waiting until we truly hear can be disastrous.
I can readily think of two occasions in Scripture where that was the case. One was in Exodus 32 when the Israelites were waiting to hear from Moses who had been on the mountain with God. They got tired of waiting and ended up building and worshiping a golden calf!
The next is 1 Samuel 13 when King Saul was waiting to hear from the prophet Samuel who was supposed to offer the sacrifice and then let the king know if God’s presence would be with them in battle against the Philistines. Saul couldn’t wait. Instead, he made his own decision on how to handle the silence. As a result, Saul began to lose his kingdom from that very day.
On the other hand, over and over in Scripture you find these words concerning King David, “And David inquired of the Lord.” Then he would wait, and wait, and wait until he heard from God. He didn’t manipulate things to try and make it look like God said something He didn’t. Nor did he move forward assuming God would bless his human choices. David waited in the silence. He waited to hear God speak. He waited to know certainly. The results were the blessings of God on his endeavors again and again.
If you are in a season of waiting to hear from the Lord, keep on. Refuse to give in to the temptation to move forward assuming God will bless. He will speak. He will break the silence. And then He will bless those who have waited.
“Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors” (Proverbs 8:34).
Pastors Todd & Sheri
May 21, 2020
In Exodus 3, Moses encounters the living God for the first time. God speaks to Moses and commissions him as the one to lead His people out of slavery. Later, Moses asks God His name so that if the people were to inquire about it Moses would have an answer. The LORD responded to Moses by saying, “I AM THAT I AM.” This may be the most unique name of God in Scripture, and it’s a name that is loaded with revelation of who God is.
First, the name speaks of God’s self-existence. All other creatures are dependent and derive their existence from God. But when God declares I AM THAT AM, He is saying that all He needs is within Himself. The implications of this are far-reaching. I remember sometimes wondering, “What if there are totally separate world’s with other gods over them? What if there is a higher god above all of these and the God we serve is just one of them?” Such thoughts may sound crazy but apparently I’m not the only one to think such things because God answers this question in Isaiah 45:5a where He says, “I am the LORD; there is no other God.” I AM THAT I AM speaks of the fact that God is self-existent and is the only true God. He answers to no one but Himself. He has no equal anywhere, and there is no other Creator but Him. He is the self-existent One.
Secondly, the name speaks of God’s eternal nature. We approach history with a linear mindset, but God approaches history and says, “I AM THAT I AM.” Past, present and future are all in His hands. He sees history as a picture and sees all parts equally well. If we were to go back in time before the creation of mankind, God is there saying, “I AM THAT I AM.” If we were to go even further back in time before God had spoken the angels into existence, God would be there saying “I AM THAT I AM.” If we then were to plunge further into time into ages unknown by man or angel, God would still be there saying “I AM THAT I AM.” Then if were to jump forward in history past the return of Jesus Christ to this earth, past the destruction of the present heavens and earth, past the unveiling of the New Jerusalem, and then to the age beyond that, and then to the next age, and then further into the “forever and ever” of Scripture, God would be there saying, “I AM THAT I AM.”
Thirdly, the name speaks of God’s unchanging nature. In Hebrews 13:8, the Apostle Paul puts the name I AM THAT I AM into the context of time for us when he says, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today and forever!” We live in an uncertain world where things can change very quickly. Many people face the world with the fear of the unknown as they fathom all of the frightening possibilities that could come to pass. But just as Jesus stood firm and calm in the midst of the raging storm on the sea of Galilee, so He stands firm and unchanging though the upheavals of life, and He whispers into the heart of His children, “Be of good cheer, do not be afraid, I AM THAT I AM.”
Fourth, the name speaks of God’s absolute power. In Satan’s attempt to be like God, he said in Isaiah 14:14, “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High.” You can hear in his words the aspirations and striving of pride. There was a sense of effort as he stated what he would attempt to do. But with God there is no “effort” or “aspirations,” because His Word is reality. In Psalms 33:6 the Psalmist says, “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.” I AM THAT I AM means absolute power. His Word makes and shapes reality.
When you feel weighed down by life remember that this is the One Who lives in you. He is the all-powerful, unchanging, eternal, self-existent One! And He is your Savior!
May 20, 2020
His name was Ray. He was the owner of a well-drilling company, and as colorful a character you could ever meet. Ray’s usual attire was a pair of faded bib overalls, work boots, and a flannel shirt. On Sundays he would add an old sport coat to the ensemble.
I met Ray when I was 30 years of age and he was around 80. That’s when I become the pastor of First Assembly of God in Manhattan, Kansas. Ray was the first person to call me “pastor.” As a youth minister I had been called “Pastor Todd” for a number of years, but never just “pastor.” Ray was the first to honor me with the title.
Ray and I shared many good times together, most of them over food because Ray liked to eat. The most memorable is the day we decided to make the ten mile drive to Junction City for breakfast. A new restaurant that boasted a breakfast buffet had just opened. What it lacked in food quality it made up for in food quantity, and that’s what Ray cared about.
It wasn’t the breakfast itself that was memorable, but the drive in Ray’s old pickup. Fortunately, the two-lane highway we traveled had wide shoulders and very little traffic. I say “fortunately” because Ray used every square inch of roadway and then some. He also had the habit of gesturing wildly with his hands while talking which meant he steered the truck with his knee. As Ray drove, swerved, talked and laughed, I prayed earnestly! We made it to the restaurant by the grace of God. Not wanting to test the Lord’s grace, I volunteered to drive the return trip home.
Like I said, Ray was a colorful character. He was a lover of people and an interesting story-teller. He was gifted with a good sense of humor, a lovable personality, and was a lot of fun to be around. Like his driving, there were occasions he would veer a little to the left or right, but that just added to the spice of his persona. Everybody loved Ray, including me.
That God likes variety is seen in the Bible. No cookie-cutter saints there! These men and women of faith run the gamut of personality types from A to Z. Many were colorful characters who no doubt would be surprised to see their images immortalized in stained glass. They just weren’t the type. Colorful? Oh, yeah! But God’s people all the same. Saved, sanctified, and still uniquely unique. That was Ray.
Not long after our memorable breakfast, Ray was diagnosed with a terminal illness. During those last days I enjoyed many home visits with Ray and his sweet wife, Grace. We would talk and laugh until the tears flowed. Then we would pray, and the tears would flow some more.
After a brave fight, Ray went home to be with the Lord. My last experience with my old friend was conducting his graveside service on a snowy day in a country cemetery.
The breakfast I told you about was the last meal Ray and I shared together on earth. The next meal will be shared at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb in heaven. Until then my friend!
Pastors Todd & Sheri
May 19, 2020
A word from Sheri --
Today brought an end to something I have been doing for a while.
For the past 9 1/2 weeks one of the first things I would do each morning was check the status of two of our missionaries as well as the national director of Assemblies of God World Missions. Then I would pray. You see, they all had Covid 19. They were all on ventilators. Two of them were on ventilators for over 30 days.
Today the last of the three walked into his home using a walker. By the grace of our Loving Father, they all got through it.
“Through” is an interesting word. It is defined as moving in one side and out the other, or continuing in time toward completion. In other words, it indicates that there is an end to whatever the present circumstance may be.
That is an incredibly hope-filled definition. The Bible never promises that life will be free of difficulty. In fact, just the opposite is true. But it does speak strongly to the hope of “through.”
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you” (Isaiah 43:2).
We can know that there will be an end to whatever challenge life may throw at us. God promises we will get through it.
There is one more amazing confidence we can have concerning this word “through.” James Bignon wrote a song entitled “On the Other Side of Through.” This song speaks to not only the hope that the circumstance will end, but also that there is something good waiting on the other side.
The Bible says in Psalms 30:5, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Then that all-time favorite of Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
This all speaks to one of the most amazing attributes of our Heavenly Father. God allows nothing in our life to be wasted. On the other side of “through” there is something good waiting. Perhaps joy, lessons learned, hearts changed, priorities aligned, worship reawakened and for some even heaven gained! And that is just the short list.
In the life of every believer, every season has a “through” and the hopes that accompanies it. So for our dear missionary friends, “through” has been realized in that they survived their Covid 19 ordeal. But the days ahead have yet to reveal the rich rewards to be discovered by them on the other side of “through.”
Pastors Todd & Sheri