August 3, 2020
So far as distinction is concerned, he had the misfortune of coming between two of the greatest men in the Bible. The one was Abraham, his father. The other was Jacob, his son. The lives of Abraham and Jacob were filled with many thrilling faith adventures. In between those two colossal spiritual giants was Isaac.
In comparison to the lives of Abraham and Jacob, there really wasn’t anything striking about Isaac’s life with the exception of two events. The first was his close call on Mount Moriah. The second was giving Esau’s blessing to Jacob. Other than that, Isaac’s life appeared to roll along without notable incident. Lacking the flash and flare of Abraham and Jacob, Isaac quietly carried on the tradition of faith in God and was a vital link in the chain of God’s plan.
Actually, there was another noteworthy event in the life of Isaac that is often overlooked. The event is recorded in Genesis 26:18, “And Isaac dug again the wells of water which they had dug in the days of Abraham his father, for the Philistines had stopped them up after the death of Abraham. He called them by the names which his father had called them.”
The wells were originally dug by Abraham. The Philistines filled them in attempting to destroy the water source. How long these wells were out of commission, we are not told. At some point after the death of Abraham, Isaac saw the value of the wells dug by his father. Knowing he could not improve on their location, Isaac preserved the work of his father and dug the wells again.
I believe there has been some well-digging going on this year. In the midst of not one but multiple crises occurring, many have returned to the tried and true values of the past. Adversity has a way of doing that. It strips away the superfluous and uncovers the essential.
In recent months many have dug again the wells of living by faith, reading the Bible, an active prayer life, and a renewed seeking after God. In many homes the well of quality family time has been restored. Some have rediscovered the wells of timeless biblical truths that sometimes get buried beneath secular ideology and liberal theology. Godly traditions and values neglected or forgotten have been regained. Life-giving water is flowing again.
Is there a stopped-up well that needs to be dug again in your life? A well the enemy has filled in with needless clutter and debris? Now that God has our full and undivided attention, this would be a good time to start digging. Remove the unimportant, and get back to the time-honored values that matter most.
Pastors Todd & Sheri
Barren No More
July 27, 2020
The Bible records the names of six women who were biologically barren, and yet gave birth.
1. Sarah (Genesis 11:30)
2. Rebekah (Genesis 25:21)
3. Rachel (Genesis 29:31)
4. The wife of Manoah (Judges 13:2)
5. Hannah (1 Samuel 1:1-6)
6. Elisabeth (Luke 1:7)
These six barren women all gave birth to notable sons. Elisabeth, who like Sarah was “well advanced in years,” became the mother of John the Baptist.
Hannah became the mother of Samuel, the last Old Testament judge and the first prophet in Israel since Moses. Hannah was also blessed of the Lord to have three more sons, and two daughters (1 Samuel 2:21).
We are never given the name of Manoah’s wife, but she must have been quite a woman. The Angel of the Lord appeared to her first and gave the promise of a son. And what a son he was! This nameless woman of the Bible gave birth to a son whose name is easily recognized and associated with extraordinary strength — Samson.
Rachel, Jacob’s wife, gave birth to Joseph who ranks as the most Christlike man in the Bible. She would later die in childbirth, but not until she had delivered a second son into the world.
Rebekah, the wife of Isaac, holds the distinction of being the only mother of the six to give birth to twins — Esau & Jacob.
And that brings us to Sarah, the wife of Abraham. Like Elisabeth, Sarah was well beyond the child-bearing years being around the age of 90. I’m sure the nursery had been dismantled long ago along with her dreams of motherhood. Then the day came when Isaac, the child of promise, was born. Through Isaac God’s promises to Abraham would advance towards fulfillment.
Maybe like Sarah and these other women you have waited for years for some special breakthrough to occur; some special achievement to be accomplished. You’ve sat on the sidelines watching others rejoice while you appear to be stuck in a state of barrenness. Maybe you feel like it’s too late for you. If it hasn’t happened by now, it probably never will.
Just picture ninety-year-old Sarah rocking her baby to sleep and be encouraged. Don’t give up on the dreams God has put in your heart. “Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass” (Psalm 37:5). Keep believing and in His time you will be barren no more.
Pastors Todd & Sheri
Serve The Lord With Gladness
July 8, 2020
The writer must have been in a joyful mood when he wrote the 100th Psalm.
I know that some people like sad songs played in a minor key that make them cry. When my sister was a teenager she loved listening to the Carpenters, a brother/sister musical duo from the 1970’s. A line from one of their songs says, “Rainy days and Mondays always get me down.” Strangely enough, that sad song was one of their biggest hits! I prefer happy songs played in a major key that make me smile.
The 100th Psalm is a happy song. You cannot read the lyrics and stay down in the dumps. The song starts with a joyful shout, and ends proclaiming the goodness and mercy of God. There isn’t a depressing chord in the entire song. It’s uplifting from start to finish.
The statement at the beginning of the second verse could be the theme for the psalm, “Serve the LORD with gladness.” The Hebrew word translated “gladness” is used in the Old Testament to describe the joy the Children of Israel demonstrated at their many festivals (national holidays). They sang. They danced. They celebrated. It’s a term of delight.
Reading the 100th Psalm in my morning devotions, I was struck by this second verse. Actually, I was convicted. As I read the verse I felt like the man described by James looking at himself in a mirror (James 1:23). The Bible has a way of accurately revealing our condition. Then came the question, “Am I serving the Lord with gladness?”
I wonder how many times the words “sad” or “mad” describe us as believers, especially in these troubled times? Of course, the circumstances of life can stir up those emotions from time to time. But they should not characterize our lives as believers. We have not been called to serve the Lord with sadness and anger. The writer said, “Serve the LORD with gladness.”
Becoming personally acquainted with the 100th Psalm will help us fulfill that calling. The writer tells us, “Make a joyful shout to the LORD…Come before His presence with singing.” Like Paul and Silas in the Philippian jail, we can praise our way out of the prison of despair!
Furthermore, the writer tells us what we need to know, “Know that the LORD, He is God.” That statement says volumes! Not only is Jehovah our God, “we are His people.” How good it is to know that no matter what comes my way, I am His, and He is mine (Song of Solomon 2:16).
The invitation is then extended to enter God’s presence with thanksgiving and praise, blessing His name. Imagine escaping the world’s ugliness to worship in the beauty of holiness the One whose mercy is everlasting, and His truth never fails.
In these difficult days the temptation exists to give in to a spirit of despondency and outrage. While there is a time and place for Godly sorrow and righteous indignation, we must remember that a depressed, angry Christian will have no positive impact on the world.
In the midst of it all, maintain the spiritual fruit of joy! “Serve the LORD with gladness.”
Pastors Todd & Sheri
Peace In A Troubled World
July 2, 2020
In light of recent world and national events, how are you doing? How is your stress level? What about peace and joy? Paul told the Philippians, “Do not be anxious about anything” (Phil. 4:6). So are you struggling with anxiety?
We are living in troubling times. But if I read my Bible right (and I believe I do), we do not have to be troubled by trouble. Concerned? Yes. Troubled? No.
How can we have peace in a troubled world? By remembering that this world is not our home. We agree with those heroes of faith who, “accepted the fact that they were transients in this world” (Hebrews 11:13, The Message). In the words of one of my favorite preachers, “I have a short-term visa for this world!” I’m in it, but definitely not of it.
As citizens of the kingdom of God, we are on assignment. It’s called the Great Commission. As Ambassadors for Christ, we are here to represent the King and His kingdom. As ancient Israel represented God to the nations, we the Church represent Him to the world. Our job is to shine, “the light of the glorious gospel of Christ” to as many as possible.
Just four days into her maiden voyage, the Titanic struck an iceberg. With the sounding of the ship’s alarm, all efforts were directed to saving as many lives as possible. They didn’t have much time. Only two hours and forty minutes later the ship sank.
Early in the dawn of creation humanity struck an iceberg. The iceberg ripped a gash allowing the flood of sin to enter. The world has been sinking ever since! In light of that fact, the Bible sounds the alarm, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation” (Acts 2:40). As believers in Jesus, we are on a rescue mission. The world is destined for destruction (2 Peter 3:10). Our job is to save as many as we can until our short-term visas expire.
Remembering these truths will enable us to obey the Lord’s command, “Let not your heart be troubled” (John 14:1). This world is not our home. As one writer put it, “I belong to the kingdom of light, so the kingdom of darkness does not control me.”
Furthermore, we are here on a grand mission. Our lives have meaning and purpose that rise above the issues that surround us. So be at peace in a world filled with trouble. Stay focused on who you are in Christ, and what you are called to accomplish.
Take comfort in the fact that you are part of a kingdom that is both unshakable and unsinkable. That’s because it is a kingdom governed by the King of Kings Himself! “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Timothy 1:17).
Pastors Todd & Sheri
June 29, 2020
It is ironic that as we approach Independence Day 2020 we do so with less freedom than we had on the last 4th of July holiday. Some of those freedoms have been stripped away. Others have been surrendered in the face of public pressure.
Of great concern is the loss of a particular freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment. The amendment prohibits “abridging the freedom of speech.” In legal terms it means to restrict, diminish, or take away. Contrary to the guaranteed protections afforded to citizens of the United States in the Bill of Rights, our freedom of speech is being systematically taken way either through compulsion or intimidation.
In today’s hypersensitive-politically-correct culture people are increasingly afraid to speak their minds. The possible ramifications are daunting. So they learn to keep their mouth shut. Or they become mindless puppets of the culture spewing scripted talking points while refusing to state the obvious — the emperor has no clothes.
Intimidation is running rampant in America today. Of course, the practice is nothing new.
Intimidation is the act of making someone else feel fearful by real or implied threats. It’s the ultimate act of bullying of which Satan is the author and master. Peter identified him as such when he wrote, “Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
Like a roaring lion, Satan seeks to shut down and silence God’s people. He attempts to gain control by causing believers to abdicate their God-given authority. Like a diabolical Nebuchadnezzar, he seeks to force people to bend to his will. But like the three Hebrew children, we have the ultimate right of refusal. We will not bow the knee.
In the face of intimidation Paul reminded Timothy, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). As a Christian in whom the Spirit of God resides, you are stronger than you think! All you have to do is, “Submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:8).
Notice that Peter said Satan is “like” a roaring lion. Jesus isn’t “like” a lion at all. He IS the Lion of Judah (Genesis 49:8-10). When intimidation rears its ugly head, look to Jesus and stand strong. Remember who you are in Christ and shout with the writer, “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6)
Pastors Todd & Sheri
I Will Lift Up My Eyes To The Hills
June 23, 2020
Growing up in the Ozark Mountains of Southwest Missouri, there is instilled deep in my soul a love for the hills. I realize the phrase “Ozark Mountains” is something of a misnomer. But those of us who are native to the area fall back on the oft used explanation, “It isn’t that the hills are so high, but the valleys are so low.”
Being a lover of the hill country, I am fascinated with Jerusalem and the surrounding area. Jerusalem is not only built on a hill, but is surrounded by them (Psalm 125:2). Imagine a traveler leaving Jericho situated at 864 feet below sea level, and walking up to the city of Jerusalem perched at an elevation of 2,575 feet. That would be quite a hike. As the 121st psalm states, you literally lift up your eyes to the hills as you make the sixteen mile journey.
As much as I love the hills, those mentioned in Psalm 121:1 are not of the friendly type. These are ominous hills that represent the apparent insurmountable problems of life. These hills are not for us, but stand against us.
Like Elisha and his servant who awoke to find themselves surrounded by the Syrian army (2 Kings 6), we are encompassed today by a series of mountain-like problems. A raging pandemic, anarchy in the streets, political and racial tensions, economic uncertainty, just to name a few. Like the Lewis and Clark expedition upon first sight of the Rocky Mountains, we may wonder, “How are we ever going to get through this?”
Looking at the Judean hills that reached far into the distance, the traveler asked, “Where does my help come from?” He then answered his own question, “My help comes from the LORD who made heaven and earth.” That statement puts everything in its proper perspective. The mountain that looks so big to us is reduced to the size of an ant hill in comparison to God who made heaven and earth.
Consider the many promises in the 121st Psalm to those who put their trust in the Lord —
- He will not let your foot slip (v3a)
- He who watches over you will not slumber or sleep (v3b)
- He stands beside you as your protective shade (v5)
- He will keep you from all harm (v7a)
- He will watch over your life (v7b)
- He will watch over you as you come and go both now and forever (v8)
Don’t become mesmerized by the threatening hills. Lift up your eyes higher still to the One who sits enthroned over and above it all. Trust in Him and “He shall preserve your soul.”
Pastors Todd & Sheri
June 5, 2020
My early childhood was spent in the tumultuous ’60’s. It seems nearly every segment of society was protesting about something. Living in Memphis in the mid ’60's, I remember the night Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. I also remember the rioting and destruction that followed. That was in 1968 and Lyndon B. Johnson was President of the United States.
No single political party, people group, or race owns racism. Conversely, no single people group, race, or culture is the sole target of racism. The sin of racism is nearly as old as the human race and has afflicted many. An account of world history will show that discrimination and mistreatment of others can be motivated by social, economic, racial, gender, religious, and other differences.
I believe history will also testify to the fact that if any one people group has suffered at the hands of others the most, it would be the Jews. Since the Egyptian slavery to the Holocaust, the Jewish people and the State of Israel have received such ill treatment that a new word was created to describe it — antisemitism.
Racism is not a color-of-skin issue. It's a condition-of-heart issue. We have all recoiled at the events of recent days. Like many others, I have asked myself how people can treat others with such cruelty. It’s shocking and inhumane. But so are other crimes against humanity (i.e. abortion, sex trafficking, and the martyrdom of believers). How can people do such awful things? The Bible provides the answer, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” (Jeremiah 17:9). God knows.
The world today is searching for answers. You have heard the many suggestions. A new political party in office. Reams of new legislation, defunding law enforcement, reparations, ad nauseam. I will tell you right now that none of those suggestions, some of which are completely irrational, will solve the problem.
So what will? Jesus told us in Matthew 22:37-40, “Jesus replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
We will never love people the way we should until we love God the way we should. Loving God is priority. When we truly love God and others as the Bible commands, the issues tearing our nation apart will cease. Everything the Bible commands is based on the two commandments given by Jesus.
In these days of national turbulence, we should pray strongly for our country, our President, and other government leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-2). We should humble ourselves before the Lord and invite the Holy Spirit to search our hearts (Psalm 139:23-24). And finally, we should pray for our country to be swept with a revival of repentance that will produce love for God and people (2 Chronicles 7:14).
Only then will our nation be healed. Only then will we truly be, "One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
Pastors Todd & Sheri
June 4, 2020
It was my first time on snow skis, and it wasn’t pretty!
I was a young youth pastor in Nebraska. After taking the position I learned that somewhere in my rather lengthy job description was something about leading a ski trip. Sure, no problem! So we loaded up the church bus and headed for Estes Park, Colorado for a week on the slopes.
Being the trusting type, I never once suspected ulterior motives when a few guys in the group offered to take me up one of the slopes to give “the new youth pastor” a few pointers. Riding the chair lift up the mountain it occurred to me that it was taking a long time to arrive at our drop-off point. A whole new level of fear hit me when I discovered that our destination was a black slope with moguls. The guys I had trusted said with a smile, “See you at the bottom.” With that, they were gone and I was on my own.
I will spare you the gory details of what happened next. Let’s just say that thanks to the law of gravity I experienced one long and very ungraceful fall all the way down the mountain!
The law of sin that Paul talked about in the 8th chapter of Romans is actually a lot like the law of gravity. It’s very strong and will always pull you down. We have all witnessed and experienced the effects of this law.
It’s interesting that the Bible employs the language of falling when talking about a person being overcome by the law of sin. For example, Acts 1:25 speaks of Judas who “by transgression fell.” In 1 Cor. 10:12 Paul issues the warning, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” Like gravity, sin will cause a person to fall. Falling can be a painful experience and can do damage. Furthermore, it can happen fast. Very fast.
Thankfully, the Bible introduces another law. It’s called the law of the Spirit. The law of the Spirit operates along the same lines as the principle of aerodynamics. A jet is able to take off and fly because the principle of aerodynamics is greater than the law of gravity. It doesn’t annihilate the law of gravity; it overcomes it!
Likewise, the law of the Spirit does not annihilate the law of sin. Sin still exists. Temptation still occurs. The danger of falling is still very real. But like an eagle spreading its wings and soaring, the law of the Spirit lifts us above the law of sin. When I try to fight sin in my own power I lose. But when I rely on the power of Holy Spirit I win.
When temptation strikes and the possibility of falling is real, rely on the one who is able to keep you from falling (Jude 24). The law of sin will pull you down, but the law of the Spirit will always lift you up.
Pastor Todd Weston
July 3, 2020
From Nicholas -- An Unexpected Meeting
Several years ago I had one of the most incredible and unique times in prayer I’ve ever experienced. I was twenty-one years old. Though I don’t remember the exact circumstances, I do remember that on that particular day I found myself with extra free time. Ordinarily this would not have been the case. In those days I had more work to do than I could handle. My days were usually filled with two activities: college and my mowing business. More than once I had to decide whether I would skip class, or let the grass grow a little longer.
On that day I found myself at home alone with a free afternoon in front of me. Now, I had no shortage of things I could have filled my time with. I could have run some errands. I could have done homework. I could have grabbed my guitar and had a jam session. I could have gone for a walk. Instead, the thought came to my mind, “I have the house to myself for next several hours with nothing do. Why not spend some time with the Lord?” So I grabbed my Bible, went to my bedroom, sat down on the floor and began to read.
I don’t remember how long I read, but what happened next I will never forget. As I sat on the floor reading Scripture and quietly worshiping, a powerful presence entered the room. I’ve never seen Jesus with my physical eyes, but I knew He had just walked through the door. My immediate response was to bow before Him and worship. Sometimes when you feel God’s presence you sense His great love. But in that moment I felt the awesome presence of the King of Kings. It was powerful! All I wanted to do was kneel before Him and declare Who He was! I was acutely aware that Jesus was actually with me in that room.
In Revelation 3:20 Jesus said, “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear My voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” That day when I found myself with a free afternoon, the Lord knocked and asked me if I would let Him in so we could have a special time together. I can’t tell you how glad I am that I opened the door! To this day it is one of the most amazing times I’ve ever spent in God’s presence.
Once in a while you find yourself with an unexpected chunk of free time. If you have the thought, “maybe I should spend some time with the Lord,” I would encourage you to act on it. It may very well be the Son of God knocking and asking if He can come in so you can share a special time together as friends.
I will never forget that time I spent with Him! Most of that day, and the days surrounding it, are forgotten. But I will always remember sitting on the floor with my Bible when Jesus suddenly walked into the room.
June 2, 2020
A word from Sheri —
I haven’t watched it. What haven’t I watched? The Passion of the Christ movie, documentaries on the Holocaust, films on how abortions are performed, and the video of George Floyd’s arrest that led to his tragic death.
Don’t misunderstand. It isn’t that I don’t care. I care very much. It’s just that the way I am wired, I don’t have to see it to feel it. Since childhood I have been deeply affected by injustice. Some of my favorite books growing up were biographies of people who made a difference in situations of injustice. People like William Wilberforce, Lillian Trasher, Harriet Beecher Stowe, George Mueller, Martin Luther King Jr., Mark Buntain, David and Beth Grant, and others. Names unknown to many, but difference-makers nonetheless.
The question that has always haunted me is, “How can I make a difference? What can I do to ensure justice for all?” It begins with guarding my personal attitudes, words, and deeds. I must watch for self-vindication at the expense of others. As Jesus was a servant of all, so must I be.
Several years ago this lesson was made very clear to me. Without realizing it, and for reasons better left unsaid, I had come close to deeming a person I knew as non-essential to the kingdom of God. I know, it’s terrible. In an instant the Lord spoke in that voice I know so well (the voice of conscience) telling me that this person was created in His image, a member of the Body of Christ, and was of great importance to Him. Believe me, I repented quickly!
To make a difference we have to begin where we live and never tolerate attitudes of injustice about anyone. All are created equal. That includes all races, the unborn, children, the elderly, those with special needs, the sick, people we don’t like, and people we don’t agree with. It includes ALL.
Next I must ensure my actions reflect my attitudes. I have to DO something. We can’t do everything, but we can all do something. We can volunteer, give, serve, go, send, teach, train, lead, and countless other things. But the best thing I can do is pray.
Recently our son Nicholas spoke on prayer and its benefits. He indicated that each of the four basic kinds of prayer brings results in our lives personally. One of the four basic types of prayer is intercession. Intercession is when I pray for someone else. Intercession is selfless prayer. Yet God grants benefits not only to those being prayed for, but to the one praying. Nicholas stated that the benefit of intercession is love.
The way to love someone more is to pray for them more. Perhaps that is why Jesus said, “Pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”
In these critical days, I urge you to pray. Don’t just pray for those you naturally love. Pray for those with whom you have an aversion, a dislike, or worse. Pray and watch God’s transforming love change one heart at a time, starting with your own.
Pastors Todd & Sheri