March 19, 2020
“It sure looked like blood to me!”
I was seven-years-old when it happened. I was playing in the backyard of my grandparents house in Springfield, Missouri when I looked down and saw what appeared to be blood all over my foot.
Doing want any normal seven-year-old would do, I screamed and ran for the house certain that I was only moments away from meeting my Creator. Entering the kitchen through the garage, I ran to my mother and grandmother who were obviously terrified by my screams and tears.
Pointing to my foot I cried out in a panic, “I’m bleeding!” A moment of concern appeared in their eyes. The concern quickly passed and turned into howls of laughter. How could my own mother and grandmother be laughing hysterically in my moment of crisis?!
Finally, when they were able to compose themselves, my mother said, “Todd, that isn’t blood. It’s grape jelly that fell from your peanut butter and jelly sandwich and landed on your foot!”
That’s when I responded, “It sure looked like blood to me!” Crisis averted.
You’ve heard the phrase, “keep things in perspective.” That wise word of advice is usually given when we have allowed our view of a particular situation or circumstance to become skewed and entirely out of proportion. At that point we are encouraged to dial it in and keep things in perspective.
Perspective is the way you look at something. I looked at my foot and thought I was bleeding when in fact I wasn’t. It’s amazing how our eyes and minds can deceive us, and we go to worse case scenarios faster than the speed of light.
In these days of national crisis (and at all times), we need to keep things in perspective. Let’s be quick to believe the best, and slow to the believe the worst. Let’s maintain a perspective that is full of faith, not fear.
Stay positive. Remind yourself of what is going well, and don’t stop counting your blessings. Keep an eternal perspective by focusing on the bigger picture. These are days of great opportunity for us to share our faith and lead people to Jesus.
And most of all, let’s follow the counsel of the Hebrew writer and “run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Turn you eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace
Pastor Todd Weston
March 12, 2020
Panic: sudden uncontrollable fear or anxiety often causing wildly unthinking behavior.
The world is in a panic. The coronavirus has been officially declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). Schools and Universities are cancelling on-site classes. Conventions, sporting events, and other large-group gatherings are being suspended or canceled. Some communities are on lockdown. With more than 100,000 confirmed cases worldwide, we are witnessing some extreme measures in an attempt to check the spread of COVID-19.
My question has to do with our response as Christians. With everything you see and hear, it’s possible to slip into a state of panic. If you’ve ever been there before, you know that is a bad state to be in. Panic is the most acute form of anxiety and can lead to irrational thinking, behavior, and decision-making.
Paul reminded Timothy that, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). Panic is the enemy of a sound mind. It is not a fruit of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is…peace…and self-control” (Galatians 5:22).
Often in the Bible we read of times when unbelievers were in full-scale panic while the people of God maintained perfect calm. So what enables a believer to face the crises of life with calmness of spirit? Isaiah 28:16 provides this answer, “The one who maintains faith will not panic” (NET).
Elisha’s servant almost failed at this very point. Rising early one morning, he nearly panicked when he looked out of the window. Death was waiting outside in the form of the Syrian army that had surrounded the city during the night. As a note of panic began to rise in the young man’s heart he cried out to Elisha, “Oh no, my master! What will we do?” (2 Kings 6:15). Elisha, ever the man of faith, explained that the heavenly forces that were with them far outnumbered those that were against them. Seeing with eyes of faith, the young man realized it was true.
So what about COVID-19? When it comes to the coronavirus, use common sense and practice good personal hygiene. But don’t allow panic to rise up in your heart. “Let not your heart be troubled” (John 14:1). “Have faith in God” (Mark 11:22). In this or any crisis, maintain your faith in God and His Word. His promises are still true. His power is still great. His presence is still near.
One final note. When tempted to panic, pray! “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
Pastor Todd Weston
PASTOR'S WEEKLY ARTICLE
A Hard Heart
March 5, 2020
The story of Pharaoh and his hard heart is one that has perplexed readers of the Bible for years. At first glance it appears like old Pharaoh never stood a chance. I mean, if Almighty God chooses to harden your heart, what can you do about that?
Questions arise. Did God make an exception in Pharaoh’s case and violate his free will? Did divine sovereignty checkmate human autonomy? Was the Egyptian king predestined to lose. Was the “Moses vs Pharaoh” match divinely rigged from the start?
As always, the best commentary on the Bible is the Bible. First of all, Romans 2:11 says, “There is no partiality with God.” God doesn’t have a different set of rules for different people. His judgments are always just and righteous as stated in Abraham’s rhetorical question, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25).
Secondly, God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23). Neither is He “willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Peter didn’t say any and all except for Pharaoh. In that verse “any” means any, and “all” means all.
So what about Pharaoh and his hard heart? Was he the victim of circumstances beyond his control, or did he initiate those consequences with his own sinful choices? Did the advance declaration of Egyptian devastation prove a predetermined outcome, or was it an example of God’s divine foreknowledge of Pharaoh’s future actions and their subsequent results?
Several times it is stated or strongly implied that Pharaoh hardened his own heart (Exodus 7:13,22-23; 8:15,19,32; 9:7). Only after that did the consequences of Pharaoh’s previous choices begin to set in. Exodus 9:12 says, “But the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh.” This was not an arbitrary act on God’s part. It was God allowing the law of sowing and reaping to run its course. Sow a hard heart and you will reap a heart that is harder still. Much harder!
The lesson to remember is that a hard heart just gets harder with time. That isn’t the only danger, though. A hard heart will affect and infect those closest to you. Exodus 9:34 reports that Pharaoh hardened his heart, “he and his servants.” Pharaoh’s resistance to God and rebellion against His Word rubbed off on those around him. Following Pharaoh’s lead, they became hard.
While we cannot give what we do not possess, we automatically give what we do possess. “Such as I have give I thee” (Acts 3:6). Every believer should ask, “What kind of heart do I have, and how is it affecting and influencing others?” Is it making a godly impact? Is it drawing others closer to Jesus, making them want to love and serve Him more? Or is the condition of my heart and corresponding attitude of my spirit spiritually detrimental to others? Think about it, especially the next time you look into the face of your child or grandchild.
End of the story. Pharaoh did what he did and long ago went to his eternal reward. But it’s still game-on for you and me. So in the words of Solomon, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23).
Pastor Todd Weston
February 27, 2020
Have you ever been so hungry you thought you were going to die? That’s how the Children of Israel felt shortly after leaving Egypt. God’s answer to their dilemma was manna. What is manna? That’s what the Children of Israel wanted to know.
The term is a transliteration of two Hebrew words meaning, “What is it?” Upon emerging from their tents that first morning, the Jews saw a bread-like substance covering the ground. It apparently had fallen during the night like snow (Exodus 16:4). Seeing the “bread of heaven” the hungry people asked, “What is it?” Thus the name “manna.”
When it came to gathering the manna, God gave specific instructions in Exodus 16. A daily supply was to be gathered each day during the first five days of the week. Since the Jews were prohibited from working on the Sabbath, a two-day supply would be gathered on the sixth day. With that one exception, the manna could not be stored up for future use. In this way the people were taught to the depend on the Lord for their daily bread. This they did for forty years until they entered Canaan and were able to eat from the produce of the land.
What manna was to the Children of Israel, the Bible is to Christians. It is our spiritual food (1 Corinthians 10:3). It is our daily bread (Job 23:12). Just as hunger is not satisfied by the memory of food, we cannot be spiritually sustained by past provisions. We need a daily supply of the Word. As Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11).
A recent study by the Center for Bible Engagement sought to find how people are engaging with the Bible. The study revealed some amazing results concerning the benefits of a consistent diet of God’s Word. The study found that engagement with Scripture once a week (personal reading, Bible study, hearing a sermon at church) had a negligible effect on certain key areas of life. The study went on to report that engagement with Scripture twice a week had the same negligible effect. At three times a week there was a slight blip.
Here comes the shocker! The study discovered that people who engage with Scripture four times a week experienced a dramatic change in certain key areas of life. The change wasn’t gradual. It was spectacular. The study found that engagement with Scripture four times a week produced the following results:
- Feelings of loneliness dropped 30%
- Anger issues dropped 32%
- Bitterness in relationships dropped 40%
- Alcoholism dropped 57%
- Feeling spiritually stagnant dropped 60%
- Viewing pornography dropped 61%
If engagement with Scripture four times a week produced those results, imagine the impact if we engaged daily in God’s Word.
In sending the manna, God made His provision available to the Children of Israel. But they had to do their part by going out to gather their daily bread. Likewise, God has made His Word available to us. What an amazing gift He has given! Our part is to pick it up and read it not once in a while, or even a few times a week, but daily.
I challenge you to commit to engage daily with the Bible. Learn to love and value the word like Job who said, “I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my daily bread” (Job 23:12).
Pastor Todd Weston
February 20, 2020
The science of human physiology tells us that when a physical movement is repeated over a long period of time, muscle memory is created. Muscle memory is what enables a person to perform certain tasks with little or no conscious effort.
Walking, swimming, running, typing, driving a car, riding a bicycle, swinging a golf club, throwing a ball, playing a musical instrument, etc., are all examples of muscle memory. We learn by doing and repetition.
I began playing the bass guitar nearly 50 years ago. When I first picked up the bass I lacked coordination and dexterity. My eyes were focused on my hands because I had not yet developed a “feel” for the fretboard. It was very awkward at first. But what was difficult fifty years ago and required much conscious effort is relatively easy today.
As advantageous as muscle memory is in the physical realm of life, imagine the benefits in the spiritual realm. If a motor skill can be so thoroughly learned that it can be performed almost instinctively, the same can be true of spiritual proficiencies. Through practice and repetition of godly disciplines we can reach a place where righteous actions become the norm, not the exception.
Repeatedly trusting in the Lord, we become conditioned to trust Him more. Living by faith day after day, we instinctively resort to faith. Praying “without ceasing” conditions us to call on God at all times. Prayer, not panic, becomes our automatic default mechanism. By feeding daily on God’s Word, we naturally look to the Bible for guidance and help. The things once foreign become familiar. The unnatural becomes the natural as spiritual muscle memory is established.
When it comes to muscle memory, physiologists say it’s all in your head. In other words, it’s not a memory of the muscle itself, but a memory in the brain of a certain muscle movement.
Likewise, spiritual muscle memory goes deep. It proceeds from a heart that has been trained in righteousness. This is why it is so important that we develop the things of God not only in our lives, but in the lives of our children. The Bible talks about training up a child in the way he or she should go (Proverbs 22:6). Spiritual disciplines can be established early in the life of a child. Like teaching them to swim or ride a bicycle, teaching children how to pray, worship, read the Bible, give, serve, obey, etc., is developing their spiritual muscle memory.
By repeating godly actions we establish spiritual practices and skills that can last a lifetime.
Pastor Todd Weston
February 12, 2020
It was an audacious request!
He was a prophet of God. She was a poor widow just trying to survive. Israel had been hit hard by a devastating famine. With no crops to harvest, food supplies were dwindling fast. Everyone was affected. What was difficult for Jewish families was all but intolerable for widows in Israel, and the widow of 1 Kings 17 had a child to feed.
As I said, it was an audacious request with the appearance of bad manners.
Of all people to ask, the prophet Elijah asked the widow of Zarephath for something to eat. It would be like asking a beggar on the street for a loan. The look in her eyes said it all. What nerve! She informed Elijah she didn’t have so much as a piece of bread. She had nothing left but a little flour and oil, and when that was gone it would be over for her and her child.
It was at this point that the audacious request became painfully brazen. Knowing her desperate plight, Elijah told her to prepare what little she had and let him eat first. She and her son could have the leftovers, provided anything was left over.
As she stood there pondering the thought, Elijah underscored the audacious request with a promise, “For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There will always be flour and olive oil left in your containers until the time when the Lord sends rain and the crops grow again!” (1 Kings 17:14). And that is exactly what happened. The handful of flour was not used up, and the little bit of oil failed not.
Do the commands of God ever come across to you as audacious? Do the sacrifices He calls upon us to make ever seem to cross the line? Be honest. Have you ever felt like God was asking for too much? I’m sure the thought crossed the widow’s mind.
Just remember that whatever God asks us to give was first given to us by Him. We are simply giving back to God what was already His (1 Chronicles 29:14). And whatever He asks us to give will be repaid with interest, for God is no man’s debtor (Romans 11:35).
Abraham laid his son Isaac on the altar of sacrifice. God repaid him with descendants beyond number. Hannah gave her only son, Samuel. God rewarded her with a house full of children. And the widow of Zarephath gave what little food she had left; just a handful of flour and a few drops of oil. God blessed her with enough flour and oil for many tomorrows.
Do not be afraid to obey the Lord’s audacious commands. Never shrink back from His daring directives. Each is accompanied by a magnificent promise made by an unfailing God.
Pastor Todd Weston
February 6, 2020
This is a test. This is only a test.
Read the following Bible verse and see if you can locate the key word, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
1 John 1:9 ranks among the all-time great verses of the Bible. It tells about the effectiveness of confession, and the faithfulness of God. Confession means to say the same thing. In 1 John 1:9 it means to say the same thing as God concerning personal sin. When I confess I, “acknowledge my transgressions” (Psalm 51:3).
Agreement with God on the subject of personal sin results in forgiveness and cleansing. The record of wrong is removed. I am forgiven. As Naaman came up from the waters of the Jordan the seventh time healed of his leprosy so that his leprous skin was like that of a young child (2 Kings 5:14), I am cleansed. Not only is the sin washed away, even the stain is gone. God’s cleansing is so thoroughly complete, there isn’t a trace of evidence remaining that I ever sinned in the first place!
Ok, back to the test. Did you locate the key word? It’s the first word in the verse. As a large door swings on a small hinge, the entire promise of 1 John 1:9 depends on the little word “if.” We can experience the blessing of God’s forgiveness and cleansing…“if.”
I wonder why John said “if” instead of “when”? I understand that in the opening chapter of his first epistle John utilized the little word “if” on several occasions. In light of the wonderful results of confession, why didn’t John assume that everyone would readily confess?
John didn’t make the assumption because he knew people don’t always confess. As a matter of fact, when it comes to human experience confession of sin is the exception rather than the rule. John offered a few reasons why many don’t confess.
According to 1 John 1:6 there are those who apparently believe they can continue in sin and be a Christian at the same time. John countered, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.” No amount of good works will ever offset ongoing sin.
From vv8 & 10 John tells of those who deny the fact they have sinned in the first place. They refuse to say the same thing as God about sin. They fail to see sin as sin. In their reasoning, what was sin in the Bible is no longer sin today. God has changed with the times. But to reach such a faulty conclusion is tantamount to making God “a liar, and His word is not in us” (v10).
And then there are those like Saul, Israel’s first king, who in their pride and stubbornness just can’t bring themselves to confess. Caught red-handed by the prophet Samuel, Saul made every excuse in the book. Finally, with his back against the wall and knowing the game was up, Saul offered a weak confession that lacked sincerity. But by then it was too late. He lost the kingdom and forfeited his place in God’s plan because he would not confess (1 Samuel 15).
It is no accident that the second beatitude, mourning over sin, follows the first, being poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3-4). Confession follows humility. Solomon, James, and Peter all confirm that God gives grace to the humble, not the proud (Proverbs 3:34; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5). Why? Because only the humble confess.
“Humble, yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time” (1 Peter 5:6).
Pastor Todd Weston
January 31, 2020
Have you ever felt compelled to do some special thing? Maybe it was the sudden impulse to pray for a particular person. It might have been the compulsion to give to a specific need. It could have been a strong feeling to call and check on a friend. Or maybe you felt compelled to have an especially large bowl of ice cream. Ok, maybe that last one doesn’t count.
For Christians these “sudden impulses” are more than just that. They are instances where the Holy Spirit seeks to motivate us into action.
The word is “compel.” While the term carries the idea of forcing someone to do something, God will never force us to do anything. He will not violate our free will. But that doesn’t mean He won’t strongly influence us to act according to His will. That happens all the time. As Elihu testified, “The spirit within me compels me” (Job 32:18).
We see this in the ministry of Jesus. As a young man living in Nazareth, Jesus didn’t just decide one day to give up carpentry and go into the ministry. He was compelled by the Holy Spirit. He said that in so many words while quoting Isaiah 61:1, “The Spirit of the LORD God is upon Me. Because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me…” Compelled by the Spirit, Jesus did what He did.
Let me ask my original question again and this time be a little more specific. Have you ever felt compelled to do some special thing…for God? Do not discount that inner urge. The same Holy Spirit who was at work in the life of Jesus of Nazareth desires to anoint and send us, too.
As a little girl our daughter was interested in Thailand. Missionaries from all over the world would visit our church, but Tori was especially drawn to those from this faraway country in Southeast Asia. Over the years the interest grew into something more. A two-week trip further fanned the flame. And now, compelled by the Spirit within, Tori is serving a missions internship in Bangkok.
What Paul told the Believers in Corinth is true for all Christians, “You are not your own…you were bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). We belong to God and He makes wise use of everything He owns. He saves us for a reason that goes beyond our personal redemption. In the sovereign plan of God, there is something He wants you to do and someone He wants you to touch. So He sends His Spirit to compel us to do the very thing He has called us to do.
The Holy Spirit does the compelling, but we have to do the obeying. So when the Spirit speaks, listen. When He tugs at your heart, pay attention. Say “yes” to the Spirit and turn the lyrics of the song into a prayer of commitment:
I’ll go where You want me to go, dear Lord,
O’er mountain, or plain, or sea;
I’ll say what You want me to say, dear Lord,
I’ll be what You want me to be.
Pastor Todd Weston
January 23, 2020
This is crazy! I live in SW Florida and it is currently 37 degrees outside. I lived most of my life in the midwest and have endured sub-zero degree temperatures. But cold in Florida is a very penetrating cold. As I sit in my house writing this article I can testify that it is bone-chilling cold. My wife who is currently wrapped in a blanket would say, “Amen!”
On those rare occasions when the temperature drops here in the subtropics, I am reluctant to turn on the heat in our house. My hesitation isn’t for financial reasons. It just doesn’t seem right to crank up the heater in the land of perpetual warmth and sunshine.
Rather than turning to the thermostat, I turn to the coffee pot! I am a lover of good coffee. I don’t know that I can prove this theologically, but I am convinced that when we enter the pearly gates we will discover that heaven smells like Starbucks (except for the section that smells like BBQ!) So while the actual temperature has not budged, I am warming up quite nicely as I sip on a steaming hot cup of Starbucks Pike Place Roast that Sheri just brought to me.
I am reminded of another day when a cup of coffee brought warmth. As for taste, this particular cup of coffee wasn’t very good. And yet it goes down as one of the best I was ever served. I prefer coffee in a mug. This particular cup was served in a cheap styrofoam cup. While the weather outside was hot, the temperature inside the emergency room at All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg was especially cold.
It had been a long night. The previous evening our daughter had suffered a terrible fall resulting in a serious head injury. After being up all night in an emergency room in Fort Myers, I followed the ambulance to St. Petersburg praying for Tori while fighting to stay awake.
Sitting in the emergency room in St Pete I shivered from cold, lack of sleep, and emotional weariness. That’s when someone from the hospital handed Sheri and I two cups of coffee. In all of our years in hospitals and emergency rooms, no one had ever done that before. It was a simple act of kindness. Just a small gesture. But it made a profound and lasting impact.
Jesus talked about the importance of small gestures when He said anyone giving a cup of cold water in His name would be rewarded (Mark 9:41). Maybe it’s a cup of cold water to a weary soul. It could be something as simple as a smile, a kind word, or a helping hand. A note to a discouraged friend. A phone call just to say “hi.” A small gift given…just because. A little extra in the tip, or a little extra grace to someone who is having a hard day.
Zechariah 4:10 says we should not despise small things. Great works begin small and grow up from there. Likewise, we should not despise the importance of small gestures. It may not seem like a big deal at the moment, but you will never know the impact that can be made by a simple act of kindness.
Tori was released from the hospital after spending several days in ICU. The brain bleed dissolved. Surgery was not required. As we drove away that day, Sheri and I had much to be thankful for. That was almost ten years ago. It’s interesting that one of the things I remember most from that ordeal was the cup of coffee given in the emergency room by a complete stranger.
As I think about it, I don’t recall seeing the man’s face who brought the coffee. As I sat with my elbows on my knees, staring through blurry eyes at the floor trying to pray, all I remember was seeing a hand in front of my face holding a cup of hot coffee. I also remember hearing the man’s voice saying, “Here, I thought you might need this.”
As I reflect back over the years I wonder. Is it possible? Could it be? Did the hand holding the cup have the print of a nail?
Pastor Todd Weston
January 16, 2020
His story would have been a box office hit, but it happened long before movies were made. It’s the story of a young man done wrong. Really wrong! It began with his family. Then with his employer. After hitting rock bottom, he was done wrong once again by a fellow prisoner.
Joseph couldn’t seem to get a break.
Then it all turned around in a day. Joseph’s meteoric rise was stunning. In less than twenty-four hours the prisoner in Pharaoh’s dungeon became the second most powerful ruler in Egypt. It must have felt like a dream. Awakening the next morning in his newly acquired suite in the royal palace, Joseph knew it was real. The long ordeal was over. A new life had just begun.
Leaving the scene of the royal suite behind, let’s go back to a cold and filthy dungeon where Joseph was imprisoned for several years of his life. Prison life in Joseph’s day was very different than it is today. There was no trial and no court of appeals. Sanitary conditions were awful at best, non-existent at worst. Prisoners suffocated in the summer heat, and froze in the winter cold. Rations were meager. Treatment was harsh. Life was hard. And for most, hope was lost.
Joseph held on to a small ray of hope when after interpreting the dream of the chief cupbearer who would soon be released, he asked the man to mention his case to Pharaoh. But Genesis 40:23 states, “The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him."
How awful! Joseph was forgotten by Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer. Worse still, he may have felt forgotten by God, too. The Jews facing captivity certainly did. They even said so, “But Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me’” (Isaiah 49:14). Things were so bad in the Southern Kingdom of Judah that the Jews arrived at the mistaken conclusion God had forgotten all about them.
God corrected that misconception in the very next verse, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” A nursing mother would be the last person on earth to forget her baby. The very idea is unheard of. But even if she did, still God will never forget.
God did not forget His people in captivity. They returned to Zion. He did not forget Joseph in Pharaoh’s dungeon. He was promoted to leadership. And God has not forgotten you. Forgotten by God? Never! He has big plans for you.
Take comfort in this fact. God knows exactly where you are and what you are facing. He knows exactly how you are feeling and what you are thinking. According to Psalm 139:17-18 you are always on His mind.
Life circumstances might cause us to draw the conclusion that somewhere along the way God lost track of us and hasn’t given us another thought since. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Always remember that God always remembers. And never forget that God never forgets. He will never forget you.
Pastor Todd Weston
Who Are You?
January 9, 2020
Identity theft is a growing problem in America.
Identity theft is when an imposter obtains key pieces of information such as Social Security or driver’s license numbers in order to impersonate someone else, usually for criminal purposes. I hope and pray you are never the victim of this nefarious activity.
There is another type of identity theft occurring, and the perpetrator is the master thief singled out by Jesus in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Satan commits the crime of identity theft not for the sake of impersonation, but with the purpose of stealing an individual’s God-given identity. Knowing who you are in Christ is a fundamental piece of the abundant life Jesus came to give. But when that identity is stolen or lost it can lead to spiritual bankruptcy. Many lives have experienced a crash as a result of identity theft.
One of Satan’s time-honored strategies is to get people to establish their identity on things that are external, temporal, or superficial. It might be a career. It might be money or material possessions. It might be physical appearance or even a relationship.
But what happens when the money or the beauty is gone? What happens when the relationship or career comes to an end? I read this line recently, “Who you are is what is left when you are done doing what you do.” But if your identity is totally wrapped up in what you do, what’s left then?
Just as a house cannot be built on shifting sand, our personal identity cannot be based on that which lies outside of us and is liable to change. A house that stands the test of time is built on the rock. Likewise, our identity must be established on the solid truth of who God says we are.
Who are you? According to God’s Word you are chosen (Eph. 1:4), adopted (Eph. 1:5), accepted (Eph. 1:6), redeemed and forgiven (Eph. 1:7), sealed by the Spirit (Eph. 1:13), a purchased possession (Eph. 1:14), made alive (Eph. 2:1), loved (Eph. 2:4), and saved by grace (Eph. 2:8). And that’s just for starters! You are His creation (Psalm 100:3), and His child (Romans 8:16). Continue reading the Bible and you will learn more about who God says you are.
The importance of understanding who you are in Christ cannot be overstated. As writer Ervin K. Thomsen pointed out, “Your internalized God-given identity provides an impenetrable firewall to protect against the virus of Satan’s subtle scheme of identity theft.”
While some are on an unending quest to find themselves, and others are constantly seeking to discover who they are, you need not participate in such nonsense. With a firm grasp on the eternal truths of the Word, You will sail through the transitions of life in confidence with your God-given identity safely intact.
Pastor Todd Weston
One Thing I Do
January 2, 2020
With the dawn of 2020 most people are enthusiastic about their New Year’s resolutions. That’s the good news. Now for the bad news.
According to statistics, only about 10% of people will keep their New Year’s resolutions throughout the year. Of the 90% left, one-third won’t make it through January. The rest will throw in the towel by the end of February.
So why the high failure rate? I believe there are three possible reasons:
1) Unrealistic expectations — impossible goals destined to fail
2) Vague resolutions — goals that lack specific targets and plans
3) Multiple resolutions — too many goals that overwhelm us
It’s obvious that the way we are doing New Year’s resolutions isn’t working for most people. So what if we changed it? What if instead of trying to do ten things and failing, we focused on doing one thing and succeeding? What if instead of making New Year’s resolutions, we made a New Year’s resolution? “One thing I do.”
In case you are wondering, I didn’t come up with the “one thing I do” phrase. The apostle Paul did that in Philippians 3:13. But I have adopted it and would like to recommend it as a life motto because I think the simple statement can help us in at least three ways.
First, it clarifies priority. When Paul wrote about the “one thing" he was referring to that which comes first in place and importance. To be successful in life we must know what really matters and put our emphasis there. Establishing priority identifies what we need to take up and give up.
Second, it solidifies purpose. If you know anything about Paul you know he lived a very full life. He was engaged in many ministry endeavors. But there was one supreme guiding purpose that directed it all. Rather than being pulled in a million different directions, Paul focused on one unified pursuit saying, “I press toward the goal.” (Philippians 3:14).
Third, the statement centralizes power. To be singleminded in priority and purpose enables a person to proceed with focused energy. Consider the difference between a lightbulb and a laser. The one is diffused. The other is focused, concentrated, and concise. A lightbulb can illuminate a room, but a laser can cut through metal.
“One thing I do.” It is a singular motto. But don’t worry, it won’t diminish your life. It will increase your effectiveness while decreasing your frustration. Frazzled Martha was distracted by many things (Luke 10:41). Paul was focused on one thing. And from what we read in his last words to Timothy, he accomplished it! (2 Timothy 4:7)
Right now might be a good time to rethink your long list of New Year’s resolutions. Prayerfully consider a powerful New Year’s resolution. With a heightened sense of priority and purpose, focus your energy on the one thing.
Like Paul, embrace the New Year saying, “One thing I do.” And with the Lord’s help, do it.
Pastor Todd Weston
December 26, 2019
A lot is said about dreams.
Most people remember the famous “I Have a Dream” speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The great civil rights leader was compelled by the dream of racial equality until felled by an assassin’s bullet.
Joseph, the Old Testament son of Jacob, was a renowned dreamer. His brothers even gave him the nickname, “the dreamer” (Genesis 37:19). The dreams birthed in Joseph’s young heart eventually became a reality, but not until two decades of struggle passed by. Worthwhile dreams seem to attract resistance.
Today we are told to dream big, dare to dream, have a dream, hold on to your dream, never stop dreaming, follow your dreams, if you dream it you can do it, and so on. Even the Disney character Cinderella sang, “A dream is a wish your heart makes.” There are no shortage of sayings about dreams.
Speaking of dreams, in her book Silver Boxes, Florence Littauer tells a story about her mother-in-law, Marita Littauer. After knowing her for many years and being a little intimidated by her forceful personality, Florence asked her what she would have been if she could have chosen any pursuit in life. Without hesitation Marita answered, “An opera singer!” She continued, “I wanted to study music, but my parents felt that it was a waste of time, that I would make more money in the millinery business. But I was in one show in college, and had the leading part.”
The memory of that dream never left Marita, even though her own mother had discouraged it. In her last days Marita’s mind failed and she could no longer carry an intelligent conversation. But some evenings she would stand proudly by her chair and sing the opera songs she had memorized as a girl. Even in her final days, the desire never left her. Florence continued, “Mother had a talent that was never developed, a music box that was never allowed to play, a career that was never begun. Mother died with the music still in her.”
Has God given you a dream? Has He put an unquenchable desire in your heart to do something special? It could be an idea longing for expression. Something you know you are meant to do. In short, do you have a dream yet unfulfilled?
As we approach the end of another year we are reminded that time marches on. Don’t come to the end of your journey with the music still inside of you. Don’t bury your dream in the sand like the unfaithful servant buried his wasted talent.
Take hold of what God has set before you and pursue it until the dream becomes a reality.
Pastor Todd Weston
December 19, 2019
Our family has a list of favorite movies we enjoy watching each year around Christmastime. One of those is the original 1947 version of Miracle on 34th Street.
The plot is about a little girl named Susan whose no-nonsense mother raised her not to believe in Santa Claus. But when an elderly gentleman hired to play Santa at New York City’s famous Macy’s department store enters their lives, things begin to change. He goes by the name of Kris Kringle, and by the end of the movie Susan and her mother both come to believe that he is indeed Santa Claus.
Christmas is a time of belief. I’m not talking about belief in an overgrown elf in a red suit, or a flying red-nosed reindeer, or a talking snowman. I’m talking about belief at a much higher level. I am talking about three seminal events concerning Jesus Christ. The whole of our Christian faith revolves around this historical triad.
The first is the Incarnation. We believe in that miraculous moment in time when the pre-existent Son of God entered the world as the son of Joseph and Mary. This was the moment the world had been waiting for since its disastrous plunge into sin with the accompanying curse. At the Incarnation, God in the flesh came into the world He created on a mission of mercy. No one but God could help us, so He came to our rescue. “Emmanuel…God with us” (Matthew 1:23).
If you believe in the Incarnation, you must also believe in what happened next at the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The Son of God didn’t come just to help, inspire, encourage, teach, or comfort people living in a world of sin. He came to “save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). That required Him to “give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). The crucifixion of Jesus Christ explains the Incarnation of the Son of God. He was born to die.
The capstone of our faith is the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. That God would enter the world born of a virgin is extraordinary. That He would willingly lay down His life for sinful people is awe-inspiring. But that He would rise from the dead is mind-blowing! Christmas and Good Friday would be meaningless without Easter. A baby born, a Savior crucified is one thing. A resurrected Lord is another! For only a living Christ is able to save, which Jesus is able to do to the uttermost (Hebrews 7:25).
These truths are like the three legs of a stool upon which our faith rests. It’s the gospel in three words. Incarnation. Crucifixion. Resurrection. He came. He died. He arose. The question is do we believe? While we are surrounded by much “evidence that demands a verdict,” it still comes down to the question Jesus asked the blind man healed, “Do you believe?” (John 9:35)
I pray you do!
Pastor Todd Weston
Can God Do Anything?
December 12, 2019
You have probably heard the nonsensical questions, “Can God make a rock so big He cannot lift it? Can God make a round square? Can God create a force He cannot destroy?” Such challenges to the omnipotence of God are illogical and unworthy of honest discussion.
But the question remains. Can God do anything? Hearing the announcement of Isaac’s birth, elderly Abraham and Sarah were presented with his rhetorical question, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14). Of course not. And yet there are some things God cannot do.
God cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18). He cannot remember sins He has chosen to forgive and forget (Isaiah 43:25). God cannot fail (Isaiah 14:24). He cannot stop loving you (Romans 8:37-39). And God cannot overlook sin (Habakkuk 1:13), but He can forgive and save to the uttermost (Hebrews 7:25).
How is it possible that there are things God cannot do, and yet He is still God? It’s possible in that God cannot and will not do anything inconsistent with His own nature. He cannot and will not do anything contrary to His divine person. “He cannot deny Himself” (2 Timothy 2:13). But when it comes to that which is consistent with His nature, God can do anything.
God’s unlimited ability was demonstrated in a very unique way to one of the worst kings to reign over the southern kingdom of Judah. In spite of his godly heritage, Ahaz was a wicked man. The day came when Ahaz and the people of Judah were threatened by a confederacy of enemy nations. Isaiah was sent to encourage the king to turn to God for deliverance. The prophet even offered to give the king a sign to help him believe that God can do anything But in his stubborn wickedness Ahaz refused the sign and refused to believe.
In spite of the king’s refusal, Isaiah provided the sign anyway, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).
We know Ahaz dismissed the prophetic word. We also know Mary struggled at first when it was revealed to her by the angel. She responded, “How can this be?” (Luke 1:34). Back came the answer, “With God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:37).
There are many miracles associated with Christmas that remind us God can do anything. Fulfilled prophecy, angelic visitations, celestial signs, Holy Spirit inspired dreams, a mysterious star, and the virgin birth. But the greatest miracle of all is when God became Man in the person of Jesus Christ. “Emmanuel…God with us” (Matthew 1:23).
May “a thrill of hope” rise in our hearts as we are reminded of this truth. We serve a God who really can do anything! This is one of the grand and glorious messages of Christmas.
Pastor Todd Weston
December 5, 2019
It was the most unwanted ship in the world!
The ship was a nineteen-year-old freighter originally named “Khian Sea.” In an attempt to hide the ship’s original identity, the name was changed to “Felicia,” and finally “Pelicano.” For over two years the Pelicano drifted aimlessly on the open seas searching for a place to dump its cargo. But country after country refused the freighter’s entry into port. That’s because port authorities were aware of the nature of the cargo in the ship’s belly.
They knew that in 1986 the sanitation workers in Philadelphia went on strike for almost one month. Mountains of trash accumulated during that time, and the city leaders were at a loss about what to do with it. So they incinerated the trash into fifteen tons of scrap and ash (some possibly toxic), and dumped it in the belly of the ship that would later be named the Pelicano.
That’s how the Pelicano became a floating garbage dump desperately looking for a place, any place, to unload its unwanted cargo.
Lest we feel sorry for the crew of the Pelicano and their precarious mission, the port authorities were right to refuse entry. Each country was right to protect itself from the hazardous waste aboard the ship.
In life there appears to be no shortage of sources that wish to do the same. If he could have his way, the thief who comes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10) would inundate our minds with a constant onslaught of noxious thoughts. Hell is constantly in search for an open receptacle to dump its hazardous waste.
As a young minister I thought it was part of the job to let bitter people dump hateful and hurtful words into my mind. I would then ask God to help me overcome the mental torment caused by what I had allowed. Thankfully, I finally realized my God-given right to refuse entrance of such toxins into my spirit. You have the same right, too.
Not only is this a right we have as believers, it’s a biblical responsibility. The proverb writer gave this timeless directive, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life” (Proverbs 4:23). How can you live the life of an overcomer while allowing your soul to serve as the dumping grounds for the enemy’s garbage?
Paul called this diabolical rubbish, “the fiery arrows of the wicked one” (Ephesians 6:16). These are destructive words, thoughts, perceptions, false accusations, and outright lies sowed into our minds by Satan and his emissaries. It is not God’s will that we be target practice for the enemy. It is His will that we deflect those fiery arrows to prevent them from penetrating and doing damage.
So the next time you discern some Pelicano-like envoy approaching to dump a load of toxic waste into your spirit, slam the door shut and deny entry. “And may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound (until) the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23).
Pastor Todd Weston
November 21, 2019
Have you ever felt like you were not up for the task?
About thirty years ago I was presented with an opportunity in ministry that far exceeded my experience and expertise. When I say “far exceeded” you must understand the new task wasn’t even in the same hemisphere with my level of ministry at that time.
No sooner was the assignment presented than I heard myself answer with an immediate “YES!” I remember driving home that evening literally tingling with excitement. A tremendous door had just opened before me. I also remember laying wide-awake that night as the full weight of my commitment began to settle down upon me. At one low moment in the wee hours of the morning I moaned, “Oh God, what have I done?!” I felt totally insufficient and inadequate for the task.
Paul expressed the same feeling in 2 Corinthians. In the second chapter we learn that an open door had just presented itself to Paul (2:12). At the same time, Paul was busy wrestling with the anxieties that accompany life in the ministry (2:13). Awareness of the heavy responsibilities and the enormity of the task drove Paul to ask in the 16th verse, “Who is sufficient for these things?”
The question stated another way says, “Who is equal to the task?” The Greek word carries the idea of sufficiency, adequacy, competence, fitness, and ability.
The question relates to various scenarios. A new employee tooling through an arduous job description. A young mother with too many demands on her time and attention. A student overwhelmed by the class synopsis. A young couple trying to make ends meet. A senior citizen facing the challenges of retirement. A monumental assignment, task, or endeavor. In those times we can easily come to the end of ourselves and wonder, “Who is sufficient for these things?”
I have learned something about questions in the Bible. When you come across one, keep reading. Paul went on to answer his own question in 2 Corinthians 3:5-6. “Who is sufficient for these things?” Paul answered, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient…”
One of the great Old Testament names for God is El Shaddai, sometimes interpreted to mean, “The All-Sufficient One.” Inadequate for the task, we may be. It’s the All-Sufficient God who makes us sufficient, adequate, and able to do what He has called us to do.
Jesus promised, “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9). The grace that saves also enables us to be and do all that God wills. I found this to be true thirty years ago, and it’s still true today. So look to Him. Lean on Him. Whatever the challenge may be, His grace is sufficient for you!
Pastor Todd Weston
A Bigger And Better You
November 7, 2019
The Book of Psalms is not only the longest book of the Bible (150 chapters), it is by far the most popular. Classified under the literary category of “poetry,” Psalms covers the gamut of human experience and emotion. For this and other reasons, it’s a book with which people can easily identify.
David wrote about half of the psalms (i.e. sacred songs) recorded in this Old Testament book. Many of the chapters authored by David are a mixture of prayers and praises; prayers for deliverance from trouble, and praises for deliverance provided.
If you know anything about David, you know his life was marked by trouble. We know he dealt with those pesky Philistines who were always up to no good. I don’t know what your personal “Philistine” may be, but we all have ongoing situations that require our attention.
While dealing with the Philistines, David had bigger fish to fry. There was the issue with Saul, king of Israel, who happened to be David’s boss and father-in-law. Seeing David as a perceived threat to his job, Saul attempted on more than one occasion to kill him. Now that’s a problem!
Then there was the coup d'état launched by David’s son, Absalom, and some of his trusted advisors. This act of betrayal must have been especially painful for David. So traumatic was this experience that it became the theme of several psalms written by the shepherd boy turned king.
The 4th Psalm was among those written during the time of Absalom’s rebellion. In the first verse David provided insight into how God can make all things work together for good in the lives of believers, “Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress” (Psalm 4:1 KJV). One Hebrew word translates the phrase “Thou hast enlarged.” The word means: to enlarge, widen, expand.
There’s no doubt that David was in distress. The word indicates pressure. On the run from Absalom, David was under tremendous pressure. The kingdom was at risk and so was the king’s life. What did God do? Rather than making David’s problem smaller, He made David bigger. “Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress.”
Is that not the greater victory? We all want God to shrink our problems into oblivion. I’m there with you. But if through our trials God can accomplish a deeper work in us, is that not the greater good? Stretched in faith. Expanded in capacity. Widened in experience. Enlarged in confidence. Increased in strength. Stronger in boldness. Growing in godliness.
Maybe Paul had this deeper work in mind when he wrote, “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever” (2 Corinthians 4:17). One feature of the glory that outweighs and outlasts the problems of life is a bigger and better you!
God is in the business of building people. This is true. When He reduces your troubles to nothingness, give Him praise. But remember to bless His name (see note below) as well when instead of making your problem smaller, He chooses to make you bigger.
Pastor Todd Weston
Note: Psalm 103:1-2 has been designated as the exact center verses of the Bible with 15,500 verses before and after. The 103rd Psalm is classified as a Psalm of David. The two verses designated as the exact center of the Bible read, “Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.” One of the benefits of the Lord for which we give Him praise is when He turns the tables on trouble and enlarges us in our distress.
Whatever Happened To Civility?
October 31, 2019
It has become a lost art. I’m talking about civility — the quality of being polite, courteous in behavior and speech, showing due respect, having good manners.
Civility used to be a way of life in America. Children respected their elders. Men refrained from swearing in the presence of a lady. Motorist yielded to other drivers. Politicians disagreed with each other “with all due respect.” Young people were reminded to watch their manners.
Sadly, those days appear to be gone. We are now caught up in an uncivil war. An article that appeared in Psychology Today states, “Sadly, we seem to be living in an increasingly uncivil community. From presidential politics to random internet comments, there seems to be more and more rude, demeaning, insulting, and aggressive language and behavior in our society.” (Is Civility Dead In America? Psychology Today, July 11, 2016)
We witness acts of incivility on a regular basis. Character assassination on social media. Crude forms of humor in entertainment. The proliferation of bad language in public conversations. Showing disrespect to authority figures. Name calling. Bullying. Road rage. The list goes on.
It all adds up to a complete loss of civility; a total lack of self-restraint. It has been said that civility is the key to civilization. Without it we descend into a state of barbarism. Humanity becomes inhumane. Societal cannibalism sets in as we consume one another in acts of incivility.
Now that I have painted a dismal picture, let me point out a biblical solution. To correct the loss of civility we are witnessing today, we must go back to what Jesus called the first commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). Jesus then added what He considered to be the second commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39).
The order of the commandments is significant. Keeping the first enables us to keep the second. It’s only when I love God the way I should that I will love others the way I should. Loving God will enable me to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). It will enable me to do what Paul said in Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Loving God is what enables me to turn the other cheek, go the second mile, love those who don’t love me, bless those who curse me, and pray for those who want to hurt me (Matthew 5:38-44). Loving God is what helps me seek peace when I want to fight (Romans 14:19), hold my tongue when I want to give someone a piece of my mind (Colossians 4:6), and treat others the way I want to be treated (Matthew 7:12). In short, loving God produces civility.
The answer then is clear. We know what happened to civility. People stopped loving God. If they stopped, they can start again. By the power of the Holy Spirit let there be a return to God in America. May we love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. In loving Him, may we learn how to love one another.
Then, and only then, will we be a civil nation once again.
Pastor Todd Weston
October 24, 2019
Have you ever felt unqualified for a job, position, or opportunity that presented itself?
I certainly did at the age of seventeen. That’s when I took a summer job at a women’s shoe store at the Battlefield Mall in my hometown of Springfield, Missouri. To this day I don’t know what possessed me to take that job. It possibly could have been the “spirit of stupid”!
As for job training, it consisted of a five-minute crash course on my first day of employment. The job training did accomplish something for me — much confusion! When it was over I was more confused than ever.
What happened that day was like one of those strange-but-true stories. I awoke that morning with a bad case of laryngitis. I could barely whisper. And then imagine my dismay when my first customer was a nun! As the Lord is my witness, I lie not. As I attempted in my stricken vocal condition to squeeze the nun’s foot into a ridiculously tiny shoe, one word was flashing in my mind — UNQUALIFIED! I was definitely unqualified for the job.
Like my dismal and remarkably short-lived career in lady’s shoes, we stand before God totally unqualified. Unqualified to be His child. Unsuitable for citizenship in His kingdom. Unworthy of the least of His blessings. Unfit to share in the eternal inheritance of His people.
Other phrases come to mind: ineligible for, inadequate for, unprepared for, incapable of, not good enough for, not cut out for. That is our natural lot in life. To make matters worse, there’s nothing we can do about it. Unqualified, we cannot qualify ourselves. But God can!
Seeing our helpless condition, God demonstrated mercy and “qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints” (Col. 1:12). This He did through His Son, “in whom we have redemption…the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:14). As the great hymn says, “Christ has regarded my helpless estate, and hath shed His own blood for my soul.”
Think of it! Like a modern-day Mephibosheth who was elevated from a state of ignominy to a permanent dinner guest at the king’s table (see 2 Samuel 9:1-13), we have been qualified by God Himself to inherit every blessing available in Christ. Not only that, but this qualification is not a gradual process. It’s an instantaneous act that occurs at the moment of salvation.
There are a lot of things in life of which we might be considered unqualified. Professional race car driver. Brain surgeon. CEO of a Fortune 500 company. We accept that. But just as each Israelite was qualified to share in the inheritance of Canaan, every believer is qualified by God to share in the inheritance that is theirs in Christ.
So accept it by faith, and give thanks to God who qualifies the unqualified!
Pastor Todd Weston
Seek And Set
October 17, 2019
Are the things of life getting you down? Let’s face it. Life on this sin-cursed planet can be troubling at times. Political turmoil. Economic uncertainty. National unrest. Cultural upheaval. Societal degradation and degeneration. It’s enough to make a person want to join a monastery and escape reality.
Before you do a Google search for monastic societies in your area, let me suggest a better plan. My suggestion is to put into practice these words of Paul written to the Colossians, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (3:1-2).
Paul told us to seek and set. The idea of the first is that we seek and keep on seeking. Rather than a one-time act, it’s a way of life. The object of our seeking is “those things which are above.” When my focus is set on things here below, life can get discouraging fast. But when I lift up my eyes and pursue the kingdom of God and His righteousness, things start looking up. Literally!
In the second verse Paul used a fishing term to make his point. People who fish understand what it means to “set the hook.” To catch the fish you make a quick motion that firmly secures the hook in the fish’s mouth. As the hook is set in the fish’s mouth, our minds should be set (hooked) “on things above, not on things on the earth.”
Spiritual health and emotional stability depends on what we choose to set our minds upon. If I make a habit of setting my mind on all the dysfunctional issues of the day, I will pay the price. But when I turn my focus heavenward, I will win the prize.
A new submarine was being tested. As part of the test, it had to remain submerged beneath the ocean’s surface for several days. During this time, a strong storm passed through the area causing much damage. When the submarine returned to the harbor the captain was asked if they were affected by the storm. With a look of surprise he responded, “What storm?”
The submarine was completely unaffected because it had reached the area known as “the cushion of the sea.” The “cushion” is a part of the sea that is never stirred, even though the ocean’s surface may be whipped into a wild frenzy.
Such a place exists for the Christian. Paul mentioned it when he said, “your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). As the ocean waters cushion a submarine swimming in their depths, so Christ cushions those who have learned to seek and set their minds on Him. He is our peace (Ephesians 2:14).
The life hidden in Christ must still be lived out on earth. That’s true. But the things of life don’t have to get you down. By seeking and setting your mind on things above you will be able to face the issues of life successfully.
Pastor Todd Weston
October 10, 2019
He was possibly the greatest musician of all time. In a way, he was music personified. Beautiful melodies, glorious harmonies, and symphonic accompaniment seemed to emanate from his very being. When he opened his mouth to sing, breathtaking music filled the air as all God’s universe stopped to listen in amazed wonder.
His musical talent was equalled, if not exceeded, by his wisdom. Of all created things, he was the wisest. Not until the rising of Solomon to prominence would the wisdom of this exalted being even be remotely challenged.
Because of his wisdom, this notable figure was given a position of great privilege and authority. As the “anointed cherub” he was the highest ranking of all angelic beings and the guardian of God’s throne in heaven.
Besides all that, his appearance was nothing less than spectacular. An ancient Jewish writer described him as “perfect in beauty.” The writer’s name was Ezekiel. And the name of this exalted character was Lucifer. He would come to be known as Satan.
Gifted with immense talent, wisdom, position, and beauty, where did Lucifer go wrong? Ezekiel tells us in the 28th chapter and 17th verse of his book, “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty.” The iniquity that was found to be in Lucifer (v15) was that of pride. It was pride that moved Lucifer to mount a revolution in heaven saying, “I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly…I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:13-14).
Discontent and ungrateful for what he had received, Lucifer rebelled and sought a kingdom that belonged to another. As Absalom rebelled against his father David and sought to steel away the throne, Lucifer rebelled against God Himself. It didn’t end well for either of them.
Knowing the story of Satan’s rebellion helps us understand why the Bible takes such a strong stand against certain sins. In Proverbs 6:17 pride leads the parade of the seven sins especially detestable to God. 1 Samuel 15:23 likens rebellion to the sin of witchcraft. And the act of sowing discord and division among God’s people is roundly condemned throughout the Bible.
Satan was the original rebel. He has since inspired many to follow in his diabolical footsteps. The problem is they are sometimes hard to identify. Paul knew this was true. He said, “And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).
In spite of deceptive appearances, in time the truth will come out. Pride will rear its ugly head. Rebellious words will be spoken. Rebellious attitudes and actions will be seen. Insolence will show its hand. A spirit of division will reveal itself. The tree is ultimately known by the fruit it produces. Likewise, rebels eventually give themselves away for what they are.
So be careful. Do not deceived by the rebel’s attractive appearance. Do not be swayed by his/her winning ways and smooth words. “Perversity is in his heart” (Proverbs 6:14).
As the Children of Israel withdrew from the tents of the rebellious Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, withdraw from those who exhibit a rebellious spirit. And as the Jews who refused to take part in the rebellion observed from a distance the judgment that swiftly fell upon these Old Testament rebels, “You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked” (Psalm 91:8).
Pastor Todd Weston
October 3, 2019
Miracles! Just the mention of the word sparks interest. It captures our attention. It causes us to sit up and take notice. We love to hear and read stories about miracles.
In its simplest definition a miracle is a supernatural manifestation of power that human and natural forces cannot duplicate. The parting of the Red Sea. The collapse of the impregnable walls of Jericho. The instantaneous calming of the storm on the Sea of Galilee. The resurrection of Lazarus. These are indisputable acts of God that far exceed human explanation and ingenuity.
The opening chapters of the Old Testament Book of 2 Kings record the ministry transition from Elijah to Elisha. While many miracles were performed by the prophet Elijah, the ministry of Elisha appears to be characterized from the start by the miraculous.
Several accounts are recorded in the first 7 chapters of 2 Kings. The miracles performed by the prophet Elisha cover a wide spectrum of human need. A river of water appearing overnight in the desert to save the armies of three nations. A vessel of oil replenishing itself. A child raised from the dead. A leper healed after dipping himself 7 times in the Jordan, and so on.
These are incredible stories with a very large “wow” factor. They are miracles on a large scale. This is big time stuff.
But does God ever do miracles for every day needs of life? Yes, He does. Also recorded in the opening chapters of 2 Kings is the story of impure water made pure (2:19-22). A few chapters later we read about the healing of a pot of stew with poisonous ingredients (4:38-41). Remember that miracle the next time you pray over a meal.
Possibly my favorite is the intriguing story of the floating ax head (6:1-7). As the story goes, a group of students from the local Bible School were chopping down trees near the Jordan River. As they were hard at it, the head on a certain ax worked itself loose and flew off the handle into the river where it quickly sank to the bottom.
The student who was using the ax cried out to Elisha, “Oh, sir! It was a borrowed ax!” If you have ever lost a borrowed item you can identify with this young man’s dilemma. Hearing about the problem, Elisha didn’t shrug his shoulders and say “That’s too bad.” No. He asked where the ax head had fallen into the river. He then cut off a small branch from a tree, threw it into the river, and the ax head miraculously floated to the surface.
This miracle serves as reminder that God cares about the relatively small issues of life, as well as the large ones. I think it is significant that the record of the floating ax head is sandwiched in between two of the most spectacular miracles performed by Elisha — the healing of Naaman the leper, and the blinding and consequent capture of the entire Syrian army. Those are big miracles. But so was the recovery of the ax head to the guy who first borrowed and then lost it.
It isn’t silly or spiritually irresponsible to pray about the “small” needs in life. If it concerns you, it concerns your heavenly Father. We know He can do the big stuff. He can do the little stuff, too. So go ahead and ask. “He does great things too marvelous to understand. He performs countless miracles” (Job 5:9).
Pastor Todd Weston
The Best Wine
September 12, 2019
The Gospel of John tells about a wedding to which Jesus and His disciples were invited. The wedding would take place in Cana of Galilee, located just a few miles north of Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth.
Nathanael, one of the twelve disciples, was from Cana. The miracle Jesus would perform at the wedding would begin the fulfillment of the promise He gave to Nathanael in John 1:50, “You will see greater things than these.”
From John 2:1 we learn that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was also at the wedding. It’s likely she knew the bridegroom’s family and was helping with preparations for the event that could last up to seven days.
Everything was going well when calamity struck. They ran out of wine. It was the bridegroom’s responsibility to furnish refreshments for the duration of the wedding celebration. Apparently, he either miscalculated or was too poor to provide the sufficient quantity of wine for the guests.
Mary's intervention indicates her connection to the bridegroom’s family. After discussing the situation with Jesus, she instructed those helping, “Whatever He says to you, do it” (John 2:5). That’s when Jesus performed His first miracle and turned water into wine.
It was customary to serve the best wine at the beginning of the wedding feast in order to make a good first impression. But upon tasting the water turned to wine, the master of the feast could not believe his taste buds. Calling for the bridegroom he said, “Everyone serves the best wine first. When people are drunk, the host serves cheap wine. But you have saved the best wine for now” (John 2:10).
Here we see the way of the world juxtaposed with the way of God. It is the way of the world to serve the best wine first. Worldly living is like a sparkler on the fourth of July. It burns brightly at first to only fizzle out in the end. It begins with a burst of speed and ends in a slow crawl. What starts with a shout ends with a whimper. That is life as offered by the world.
But the way of God is completely different. With God life is always moving along an upward trajectory. Like an ever-ascending staircase it goes “from glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18). It builds to a climactic crescendo. The life truly lived for God just keeps getting better with time.
In the beginning we are translated from death to life. We quickly learn that the life to which we have been saved is life with a capital “L"! In the words of John 10:10, it is “life more abundantly.” It is life that grows and overflows. It cannot be contained. “My cup overflows” (Psalm 23:5). Just about the time you think it cannot get better, it gets better! As the songwriter put it, “Every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before.” All through our Christian journey we say on multiple occasions, “You have saved the best wine for now.”
So goes life in the Spirit until the day we stand before Jesus face-to-face. Looking back over the joys and thrills of a life lived for the Lord we will realize He has once again saved the best for last, “When He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2).
Solomon beautifully summarized the Christian life with this proverb, “But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day” (Proverbs 4:18). On that glorious day when faith has become sight, we will join the multitude amid the wonders of heaven and declare, “You have saved the best wine for now.”
Pastor Todd Weston
What About The Rainbow?
September 5, 2019
So what about the rainbow? What is it about this multicolored optical illusion caused by refracted light hitting drops of water that is so fascinating?
We might as well admit it. We are captured by these products of storm and sunshine. When a rainbow appears in the sky people stop and look. Children point. Photographers take pictures. Judy Garland sang about them, “Somewhere over the rainbow…” Fables and myths have arisen concerning them such as the leprechaun’s pot of gold at the rainbow’s end.
Did rainbows exist prior to the Flood, or were they a new phenomenon? The Bible doesn’t say. What we know is that they are first mentioned after the Flood in Genesis 9:13. Imagine Noah looking up in wonder at the beautiful rainbow and hearing God say, “I have placed my rainbow in the clouds. It is the sign of my covenant with you and with all the earth.”
Before contracts were written documents, it was customary to appoint a visual sign that both parties agreed on as a perpetual reminder. (Note: in Genesis 31:44-53 Jacob and Laban built a stone memorial as a sign of the covenant made between them.)
The rainbow was a token of the covenant God made with the human race that, “never again will floodwaters kill all living creatures; never again will a flood destroy the earth” (Genesis 9:11). Think of it as a visual peace-sign placed in the sky for all to see. The rainbow at the end of the storm is a visual reminder of God’s divine restraint. True to His promise, He holds back the threatening flood tide. In wrath He remembers mercy (Habakkuk 3:2).
This does not mean God has changed His mind about sin. God is provoked every day by the sins of the human race (Psalm 7:11). What was unacceptable to God in Noah’s day is unacceptable to Him today. Rather than seeing the rainbow for what it means and being grateful, humanity has descended to greater depths of wickedness. Some have even taken the sacred symbol to represent a lifestyle choice incongruent with the Bible. While these store up wrath for the day of wrath (Romans 2:5), God remains patient, “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). The rainbow remains.
It is significant that in his vision, John saw a rainbow around God’s throne (Revelation 4:3). God’s heavenly throne is one of grace where mercy can be obtained (Hebrews 4:16). But at the last judgment the rainbow is gone (Revelation 20:11). The wrath of God that has been building for several millennia will finally be released and the world will be judged, not by flood, but by consuming fire (2 Peter 3:10).
In His mercy, God has erected another peace-sign. It’s the cross of Jesus Christ. The worldwide invitation is to look and be saved (Isaiah 45:22). As Noah looked at the rainbow and saw the symbol of God’s everlasting covenant, we look to the cross. There the wrath of God was poured out and spent. In the cross of Christ we find the permanent solution to sin and judgment. Through faith in the One who died there for all, we can have peace with God.
Pastor Todd Weston
The Way Of Cain
August 29, 2019
In the next to the last book of the New Testament, Jude introduced three bad guys from the Bible. The devious Balaam. The rebellious Korah. And the notorious Cain.
Some time after their expulsion from the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve welcomed their first child into the world; a son whom they named Cain. Remembering the first prophecy of the Bible, Eve may have looked into the face of her newborn thinking he could be the promised “seed of the woman” sent to crush the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15).
If that is what Eve thought, she could not have been more wrong. It would be thousands of years before another young mother would look into the face of her newborn son and hear the angelic announcement, “There is born to you this day…a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). Cain was not Christ. That soon became evident to Cain’s family, especially to his brother Abel.
We cannot imagine what it must have been like to be a member of the original family. Adam undoubtedly told his sons about the wonders of the world before it was ruined by the curse of sin. We can imagine the day when Adam took Cain and Abel to a place where they could see the entrance of the Garden of Eden from a safe distance. There at the gate was the angelic creature with the flaming sword drawn, barring the way into the garden and to the mysterious Tree of Life. Cain and Abel listened attentively as their father told the story of the serpent, the forbidden fruit, and the awful act that changed the course of human history.
The first to feel the sting of sin, Adam and Eve fashioned homemade garments in an attempt to cover their shame. It didn’t work. It never does. God Himself sacrificed an animal to provide a covering. In that moment the timeless principle was established, “without shedding of blood there is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22). Adam later explained to his sons that the way to peace with God is through blood sacrifice. That is God’s way. It was a finger pointing to Calvary. But Cain came up with his own way.
Cain was not an atheist. He just had his own ideas about God and how He might be approached. Rejecting the idea of blood sacrifice, Cain invented the religion of human works. Looking with disdain on the sacrifice offered by Abel, Cain presented the product of his own efforts. False religion began with Cain.
Cain represents many today who are religious, but not righteous. They are not righteous because they have despised the one and only way provided by God.
It all comes down to this. There is the way of the cross, or there is the way of Cain. There is God’s revealed plan, or man’s created plan. That’s it. To those who choose the way of Cain Jude says, “Woe to them!” Great sorrow awaits those who think they can be saved on their terms. “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12).
Cross-less Christianity may look pretty, but it is utterly powerless to save. Reject the way of Cain. Be like Paul and glory in the cross of Jesus Christ and the sacrifice offered there (Galatians 6:14). It is the way that leads to life.
Pastor Todd Weston
Among other things, the ordeal recorded in the Book of Genesis was a test of endurance.
Noah was five-hundred years old when God announced the coming flood and told him it would be a good idea to build the Ark. He was six-hundred years old when the flood finally came, and well over seven-hundred years old when his feet stood once again on dry land.
It was a cataclysmic event to say the least. For forty days and nights torrential rains fell. The subterranean waters broke through the earth’s surface with volcanic force. Towering tidal waves caused by oceanic earthquakes inundated the land. For a period of one hundred and fifty days the waters continued to rise until even the mountains were covered.
Noah and his family were on the Ark for a total of 377 days…with the animals! Do you ever wonder how that went? We normally think the test of faith for Noah was in the building of the Ark. Obviously, that was a test. But it didn’t end there. Living on the Ark had to test Noah’s faith and endurance to the max.
Nowhere in the biblical record was Noah ever told how long the flood would last. Nowhere was Noah told how long he and his family would be on the Ark. There was no cruise itinerary. No schedule of destination stops. There was no place to stop. Everything was under water! At some point somebody on the Ark had to ask, “Is this going to last forever?” Imagine being trapped in a large boat with thousands of animals and having nowhere to go.
Finally the day came when Noah and his family were able to leave the Ark. It’s no wonder that the first thing Noah did was build an altar and give thanks. The long ordeal was over.
Noah endured. He endured the one-hundred years of mocking and ridicule while building the Ark. And he endured the 377 days inside the Ark. Because he endured, he was saved.
The Book of Hebrews was written to Jewish believers who were living in troubled times. Aware that these believers were feeling the pressure to renounce their faith in Christ, the Hebrew writer said, “You have need of endurance” (Hebrews 10:36).
The Bible makes it clear that the “last days” will be marked by a lack of endurance among believers, “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons” (1 Timothy 4:1). Abounding sin and increasing deception will take their toll. Hard times will wear people down. Many will call it quits. “But he who endures to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 24:14).
If you are tottering on the border between belief and unbelief, commitment and abandonment, “You have need of endurance, which has great reward.” The prize goes not to the person who starts the race, or even runs the race. It goes to the person who having started and ran, finishes.
Pastor Todd Weston
Encourage Yourself In The Lord
August 15, 2019
David was one of the tough guys of the Bible. Anyone whose resume’ includes killing lions, bears, and giants isn’t just another guy. David was a John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Chuck Norris, and Rocky Balboa rolled up in one Old Testament king. He was something of an enigma; a unique combination of poet, musician, and warrior. He played a harp and swung a sword.
In 1 Samuel 30 David the tough guy was in trouble.
While on a mission with his men, David’s home base of Ziklag was raided by a renegade band of Amalekites. David and his men returned to find their families gone and the city burned to the ground. In that there were no casualties indicates there was no battle. David had apparently failed to leave a garrison in the city. Taking the entire population captive, the Amalekite aim was to sell the prisoners as slaves — a fate in some cases worse than death.
What a horrible day this was for David and his men. The Bible says they sat down and wept until they could weep no more. Then the anger set in with thoughts of vengeance, and David was the nearest target.
David had been in some dangerous situations before, but this one was different. He knew the Amalekites and Philistines hated him. He knew that Saul was out to kill him. But now there was talk among his own men of stoning him. The threat level had just gone from elevated to severe!
Grieving his own personal loss, and with rising discontent in the air, David did the best thing he could do. Standing alone amid the smoldering ruins of Ziklag, “David encouraged himself in the LORD his God” (1 Samuel 30:6). At the very place of failure and loss, the crossroads of devastation and disappointment, David turned to God. It’s not like he could sit down and talk things over with one of his friends. They all wanted to stone him. David got alone with God and received the strength he needed to not only survive, but to make an amazing comeback.
Sometimes life hits you hard. It may be a single problem that confronts you. Or you might be ambushed by a multiplicity of issues. You need a game plan when stunned by crisis, and David provides one. Tune out other voices, tune in God’s voice, and encourage yourself in the Lord.
Remember who God is, and remind yourself of the awesome things He has done. Rehearse His many blessings in your life. Declare His unfailing faithfulness. Proclaim His promises. Sing of His goodness and greatness. Do what Jude said and build yourself up on your most holy faith.
There may be days when we are hard pressed to find encouragement anywhere else, but we can always find it in Jesus. With David we will testify, “In the day when I cried out, You answered me, and made me bold with strength in my soul” (Psalm 138:3). As Paul stated it, we are “strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man” (Ephesians 3:16).
David could have allowed himself to be crushed by what happened at Ziklag. He could have become embittered by the loss. Instead, he encouraged himself in the Lord. The chapter goes on to report that David fully recovered everything. And the next book of the Bible records how David came into his full inheritance as King of Israel.
When trouble comes, encourage yourself in the Lord. When all seems lost, encourage yourself in the Lord. “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him” (Palm 34:8).
Pastor Todd Weston
August 8, 2019
“Be joyful always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16).
Hmph! Whoever wrote that short verse must have lived a charmed life. His checks never bounced. His stock portfolio never dropped. His boss never complained. His neighbors were never grumpy. His car battery never died, and his flights were never canceled. His was undoubtedly a life of ease free from pain and strife.
Of course, we know that wasn’t the case. The author of the verse was the apostle Paul who gave this testimonial, "We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food” (2 Corinthians 6:4-5).
That’s the guy who said, “Be joyful always.”
Being joyful always is a nice thought. I mean, who wouldn’t want that? But is it possible? Surely, the Lord would not tantalize us with something unobtainable. He would not tease us with the promise of something that could never be fulfilled. That’s right. He wouldn’t. What God commands, He makes possible.
Paul’s command is possible to every believer who chooses joy. Notice, I didn’t say “happiness.” Happiness is an emotion based on external factors. Happiness depends on what happens to you. When the skies are clear and sunny, I am happy. But when they are dark and stormy, I am sad. Personally, rainy days and Mondays always get me down. But enough about me. Like the weather, happiness can fluctuate on a daily basis.
On the other hand, joy is an inside job. It’s an attitude based on internal factors. As such, joy is not dependent on outside forces. The attitude of joy can be a constant in the midst of ever-changing circumstances. This explains how Paul was able to write from a Roman prison cell, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)
According to Galatians 5:22 every Christian has joy, “The fruit of the Spirit is…joy.” Joy is a present and renewable gift of the Holy Spirit. But having joy and being joyful are two different things. Having the spiritual fruit of joy, we must choose to be joyful. That is what Paul said to do, and he said we should exercise the fruit of joy always.
Sing when you want to scream. Smile when you want to cry. Give thanks when you want to complain. Praise when you want to grumble. Look up when you want to look down.
I believe I have the full support of Scripture when I say it is not God’s will that His people live as joyless, miserable creatures simply enduring life. The Christian life is something to be enjoyed, not endured!
Refuse the wretchedness of a joyless existence. Don’t allow circumstances to dictate your outlook. Choose joy and be joyful…always! It’s the better way to live.
Pastor Todd Weston
August 1, 2019
He uttered no prophecies like Isaiah. He performed no miracles like Moses. He composed no songs like David. He wrote no books like Paul. And yet he was known as the “father of the faithful” (Romans 4:11), and the “friend of God” (James 2:23).
His name was Abraham, and his faith journey had a peculiar start. God spoke to Abraham saying, “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1). The first part of the command was specific, “Get out of your country.” The last part of the command was rather vague, “To a land that I will show you.”
What did the “father of the faithful” do? The Hebrew writer tells us, “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8).
Abraham didn’t know, but God did.
God had reserved a piece of property uniquely situated at the crossroads of the ancient world. The trade routes connecting Asia, Europe, and Africa ran directly through the land of Canaan. God had big plans for Abraham and his descendants on this choice piece of real estate, and it all started with the call, “Get out of your country.” In one giant step of faith Abraham “went out, now knowing where he was going.”
Don’t you love it when God does that? Rather than giving you the whole game plan, He just gives you the first play. Instead of the entire travel itinerary, He just gives you the first part.
I have made a discovery about walking by faith. It’s pretty easy until I am the one who has to do it. I’m sure Abraham’s servant felt that way in the 24th chapter of Genesis. Abraham was by now an old man, and it was time for his son Isaac to get married and start a family. So Abraham told his servant to go back to the old country and find a wife for Isaac.
Talk about looking for a needle in a haystack! That’s probably how the servant felt about his new assignment. How on earth would he find the right girl?!
So the servant “went out, not knowing where he was going.” Arriving at a certain place, he stopped to pray for guidance. Before finishing his prayer he saw a beautiful young lady approaching. Her name was Rebekah, the future bride of Isaac. Looking back on the whole episode the servant made this inspiring observation, “As for me, being on the way, the LORD led me” (Genesis 24:27). Specific direction was given, not in advance, but during the course of the journey.
To get into the new, God has to get us out of the old. That sometimes starts with just taking the first step, “Get out of your country.” But as Abraham learned, as his servant discovered, and as countless other believers have found to be true, the Lord leads those who walk by faith.
He leadeth me! He leadeth me!
By His own hand He leadeth me;
His faithful follower I would be,
For by His hand He leadeth me.
Pastor Todd Weston