Steve's Blog

An Open Heart

27th Mar 2020

Oh, dear Corinthian friends! We have spoken honestly with you, and our hearts are open to you. 2 Corinthians 6:11 (NLT)

It can be very difficult at times to maintain a heart that is open, tender and compassionate. There are certainly risks involved when we allow our hearts to be open and loving, but the alternative of closing our hearts to others is ultimately more damaging to ourselves and others.

A heart needs to be trained and exercised so that it can increase in capacity, both physicall...

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Labor of Love

27th Mar 2020

Yesterday, we celebrated Labor Day here in the United States. Without dwelling on the origins of the holiday or the meaning behind it, let us simply say that for many people, it was a day to relax and not labor. In any organization, but specifically in churches, there are both visible and invisible jobs to be done. However, do not assume that just because a job does not have visibility, it is not important. Therefore it is incumbent upon leaders to recognize and honor those who serve in jobs tha...

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I had a conversation this week with a friend of mine who has many years of experience as a worship leader. The essence of the discussion settled on the fact that worship encompasses more than singing. We can sing songs of praise, sincerely and with the right motivation, but still not be a worshiper of God. Someone who sings and proclaims the praises of God can do so without being fundamentally changed, but a worshiper is someone whose life is devoted to the one whom they worship. A worshiper’s l...

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So Moses told the people of Israel what the LORD had said, but they refused to listen anymore. They had become too discouraged by the brutality of their slavery. Exodus 6:9 (NLT)

If we are rebuffed when sharing the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we must be very careful that we do not assign the wrong attitude or motivation upon those who do not receive our message. Without complete understanding, which is very difficult when it comes to other people, we may perceive that rejection o...

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In California where I live, we have been facing drought conditions for several years. The solution to a drought crisis is obviously water. Even in the best of times there is not enough rainfall to supply all of the needs in Southern California. We depend upon rivers and aqueducts to bring the water to us.

It is impossible to sustain life, physically or spiritually, without water. The Psalmist declared, “You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you...

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And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of a...

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Just in Time

27th Mar 2020

Waiting patiently is not high on the list of my attributes. I am much happier when things go according to my schedule. I know that I am not alone in my impatience because we live in a society that caters to instant gratification. We have fast food and microwave ovens. The cable and satellite television companies offer movies on demand. Many areas of life are tailored for convenience and hurriedness. However, patience is something that God wants to develop in each one of us. In 1 Corinthians 13 w...

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Recently, I listened as someone offered a prayer for someone who was traveling. They prayed for smooth flights, easy connections and no interruptions. I’ve heard prayers before a church service asking that everything would go according to plan, smoothly and once again with no interruptions. On the surface, these seem like very normal, even noble prayer requests, but what if it is really better for us to pray that instead of our journey being on a smooth path, we ask for a road of opportunity.

T...

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Last week we looked at the contrast between the desire to have things go smoothly, as planned and without interruption versus the realization that interruptions and obstacles might actually be divine appointments that allow us to see God at work while ministering to others. We looked at a few examples from Jesus’ ministry in which he was seemingly interrupted by those in need. Now in the 2nd part we will examine some steps that we can take so that we are not caught off guard by opposition or any...

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Which End of the Pool

27th Mar 2020

One of the ways to stir up lively discussion among Christians is to bring up the subject of “Seeker Sensitive Churches.” Inevitably, blood pressure will rise and charges will be thrown back and forth. For some, “Seeker Sensitive” is a code word for a gospel message that has been compromised or watered down while others view it as a way to introduce people to Jesus in a nonthreatening manner. A question that often comes up in my mind is this: “What do we call the opposite of seeker sensitive?” Se...

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Reconciliation

27th Mar 2020

It doesn’t take a genius to look around us and see that we have a problem. It is not about the specifics of any one incident, but rather it is an environment that breeds contempt and distrust. It is ridiculous to think that we can either ignore or deny that there is a problem with racism in our country today. Benjamin Watson, a football player for the New Orleans Saints wrote an essay in which he said the following, “…ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem. SIN is the...

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The Christmas story is filled with contrasts and extremes. On one hand Christ birth brought some extreme joy, while others were filled with terror. One of my favorite opening sentences in all of literature is from Charles Dickens, “A Tale of Two Cities.” “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

What a great impact was made when the One who is the Light entered our world as a man. To those shepherds, wise men, and others like Simeon who welcomed and sought after the LIGHT OF THE W...

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My blog post is a day late this week because I was preoccupied with a more pressing issue. On Sunday around midnight, the AGIF website stopped working after an automated system upgrade. I spent several hours on the phone with various technical support people and I kept pressing the point that this situation was their fault because everything was working fine before the upgrade and now it was broken. There was no clear indication of what the problem was and it took many hours of diagnosis on my p...

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Preparing the Way

27th Mar 2020

God says, “Rebuild the road! Clear away the rocks and stones so my people can return from captivity.” The high and lofty one who lives in eternity, the Holy One, says this: “I live in the high and holy place with those whose spirits are contrite and humble. I restore the crushed spirit of the humble and revive the courage of those with repentant hearts. Isaiah 57:14-15 (NLT)

There are Scriptures which call us to “Prepare a way for the Lord.” However, our text clearly directs us to rebuild...

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Give Me This Mountain

27th Mar 2020

The account of Caleb’s life in the Promised Land is found in Joshua 14:6-15 and there are four lessons from his life as we begin this New Year. “I am still as strong today as I was the day Moses sent me out, and I am just as ready to fight now as I was then. So give me the mountain country the LORD promised me that day long ago.” Joshua 14:11–12a (NCV)

The first lesson that we can learn from Caleb is to have a passionate heart for God. There are six references in Scripture that indicate to...

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Take Up Your Cross

27th Mar 2020

What does it mean to “take up our cross?” Some take it to mean a burden such as a physical challenge or a relationship that is difficult. People would describe something in their life and they will tell you that it is “their cross to bear.” But does that have any bearing on Jesus’ call for us to take up our cross and follow him?

There are several accounts in the gospels where at various times Jesus told his followers that if they wanted to be a disciple of his, they must deny themselves, take...

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Endurance

27th Mar 2020

“Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.” Hebrews 10:36 (NLT)

The Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines endurance as “the ability to withstand hardship or adversity; especially: the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity.” I enjoy riding my bicycle, in fact, I will usually ride several thousand miles per year. However, without making any excuses, I recently emerged from...

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Prioritizing Truth

27th Mar 2020

As we study Scripture, we encounter many truths and promises that God makes to us as His children. On one hand, there are promises of blessing and prosperity and on the other, warnings about persecution and hardship. Both are true, the Bible tells us in many places that God blesses and prospers his people and it also tells us that persecution, hardship and suffering awaits those who follow Jesus.

The problem with emphasizing persecution, hardship and suffering and bypassing promises of blessin...

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Faith is a difficult thing to quantify. Jesus said that if you have faith the size of a mustard seed that you would be able to command a mountain to be moved from here to there. The seed of the mustard tree is among the smallest seeds, so we could only imagine what we might be able to accomplish if our faith was much larger, but for most of us even the idea of having mustard seed sized faith is daunting. Many of us probably relate to the father who cried out to Jesus, “I believe, please help my...

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Blessed for a Purpose

27th Mar 2020

Blessed for a Purpose

It should go without saying that we should be thankful year around and not just on the 4th Thursday of November. It is wonderful that we set aside one day in particular to express our gratitude and Thanksgiving for all the blessings that God has given to us, however with the blessings that we have received comes an obligation.

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do...

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Have Faith in God

24th Mar 2020

“Have Faith in God.” These words from Jesus follow immediately after the observation that the fig tree that Jesus had cursed earlier in the day had indeed withered and died and they immediately precede the statement by Jesus in which he said, “I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart.” Mark 11:23 (NLT)

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"But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father." John 15:7–8 (NLT)

What did Jesus actually mean when he said, "you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!" Did he really intend for us to think that there was no boundaries regarding our requests? Can we ask for extravagant amounts of money or fame? Perhaps, but I believe...

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A Great God

23rd Mar 2020

“For the Lord is a great God, a great King above all gods.” Psalm 95:3 (NLT)

The percentage of Christians who would agree with the declaration “The Lord is a great God” is probably pretty high, but what does it really mean to us and in what ways does it affect our outlook on life?

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Giving Birth

23rd Mar 2020

Writers know that a provocative title can entice people to read what they have written. However, the ploy cannot be overused because it will soon lose its effectiveness. I am writing this because I have been inspired by the words of Paul to the Galatians. “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you.” Galatians 4:19 (NIV). Paul used the illustration of childbirth to convey the seriousness and determination that he had to see the life and character of Christ developed and formed in the lives of those who were in the church at Galatia.

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What Does Love Think?

23rd Mar 2020

Although I have my thoughts on what is going on in the world pertaining to the torture and martyrdom of Christians, a better question might be, “What does love think?” I have been particularly struck by a phrase in 1 Corinthians 13:5 (NKJV), “(Love) thinks no evil.” Other translations such as the NIV render the text as “it keeps no record of wrongs.” In either case, I would like to explore the question, what does love think and do my thoughts align with it?

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