I was thinking the other day how America is hungry but they promote a menu that lacks substance. You see people trying to find fulfillment in many things other than God. How did that come to be you ask? Let me take a stab at it. “We all like sheep have gone astray, each one has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all”Isaiah 56:3.
It wasn’t until Truth started to be removed from everyday life and then our educational institutions that we started seeing a slippery slope falling away from God’s original design. The fingerprint of God was removed from elementary and secondary education and was also stripped from colleges and universities. Many forget that Higher education was founded as Christian institutions. Take Harvard for example. Harvard University was began because John Harvard willed some money and his library collection of 320 books to be used to educate young Christian men in ministry. The official motto in 1692 was Truth for Christ and the Church. Later it simply turned to Truth.
The original Rules and Precepts in 1646 was this instruction: “Let every student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the main end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life (John 17:3) and therefore lay Christ in the bottom, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and Learning. And seeing the Lord only giveth wisdom, Let everyone seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seek it of him (Proverbs 2:3) [The Founding of Harvard College by Samuel Morrison].
Many of the Ivy League institutions were founded for the purpose of furthering the Gospel of Christ. Many of the founding presidents were pastors. Society has followed suite and has moved away from Christian roots seeing a downward spiral of moral and biblical decay. We need to get back to our roots and honor God in our learning and living.
Starting on Sunday, September 30, we begin our Fall Revival. This is a high priority at our church. We come and focus on the Truth of God’s Word from our children all the way through the adults. The services are powerful and we provide meals Monday through Wednesday to make it a little easier for families to attend during busy schedules. It is important to always make it a priority to get into the Word of God especially when the world seems to be de-prioritizing it so much. As society becomes more hostile to the Christian faith, make sure you do all you can to counteract this by setting aside just 4 days for spiritual renewal. It may not counteract everything you encounter but it’s a start and a continuation of putting God first.
What would it be like if we said, “Oh, I’m sorry, I can’t go to that school event tonight because I have a service to attend.” What a concept. Who knows, something may happen to influence a future decision or an eternal destiny. Let’s pray for our services and children’s events that will happen on Sunday and Wednesday nights. Pick up an insert on Sunday and share it with some friends. Let’s grow together!
I am looking forward to worshipping with you on Sunday.
Joy in Jesus!
In just a few days Hurricane Florence will be coming on the Eastern shores around South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia. There are millions of people leaving those areas under a mandatory evacuation. People are nervous and are wondering what they will return to in the aftermath of this category 3 Hurricane.
Meteorologists have so much equipment now that will predict the effects of these massive storms many days before they actually come on land. Unfortunately in life, we do not have any technology that will warn us from the many tragedies that hit our lives. You hear about families giving up and ending in divorce, tragic accidents that happen, unforeseen personal tragedies, and diagnosis that hit us like a ton of bricks. No matter what the tragedy, we are always reminded that the things of this world are not meant to last forever. Even our temporary tents we live in fade away. If you can see it with your eye then it has an expiration date.
Every day the rain and winds come. Flooded rivers and flooded basements. Sometimes the storms in our lives are inescapable. Sometimes the storms we suffer are of the soul. What does the Bible say about God’s protection in the storms of life?
“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you” Psalm 56:3.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you” Deuteronomy 31:6.
“1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” 3 Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. 4 He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. 5 You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, 6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday” Psalm 91:1-16.
There is a song that was written by Ryan Stevenson called “Eye of the Storm.” Everything in his life was turning upside down. His mother died from bone cancer, his wife had a miscarriage, his church was under attack, friends were addicted to drugs, and he was at the end of his rope. As he was by himself, he wrote a song to help him direct his faith back to Jesus and how he does not stop paying attention to the details. Jesus cares about all. He feels what we feel and he is never taken by surprise. So look at the words of this song and be reminded of how God protects us and keeps guard of soul. We can all take courage in Him.
“Eye of the Storm”
In the eye of the storm, You remain in control.
And in the middle of the war, You guard my soul
You alone are the anchor, When my sails are torn
Your love surrounds me, In the eye of the storm
When the solid ground is falling out from underneath my feet
Between the black skies, and my red eyes, I can barely see
When I realize I've been sold out by my friends and my family
I can feel the rain reminding me
When my hopes and dreams are far from me
And I'm runnin' out of faith.
I see the future I picture slowly fade away
And when the tears of pain and heartache
So remember those who are in the path of Hurricane Florence. Pray for their safety. Pray for the ones who are going through different types of storms. Just pray for each of us to keep our eyes on the Lord.
I am still praising God for all of those who have been baptized these past few weeks. My heart is overflowing with Joy and love for the Lord who cleanses us from within. I look forward to worshipping with you this Sunday.
Joy in Jesus!
As many of you know, the highway in front of our church is in the process of expanding from 4 to 6 lanes. Since it is expanding, they have decided to put a sound barrier in front of the church. It is supposed to be 18 feet tall. It is twice the height of Goliath.
I have enjoyed watching their progress as they have been preparing to pave this side of the highway. Vaughn, John, and I walked out where the wall will be built and I was able to take a few pictures. I never dreamed I would ever stand out in the middle of the future highway. In the middle of construction you can get away with a few things that you would never be able to do after the completion of the project.
We did not ask for the wall and they certainly didn’t ask our opinion. Their minds were already made up when they invited us to hear what they were planning on doing a few years back. I will have to admit that I was a little upset at first because it was nice to have visibility along the highway. This church purposely chose this piece of property because of the location. God quickly reminded me that there is no wall that will ever get in His way of reaching the lost.
In Joshua 4, there is a story where Joshua was leading the people of Israel to the Promised Land. Shortly before, Moses, one of the greatest leaders of all time, passed away and left the baton to Joshua. Joshua was nervous because he had to fill big shoes. On their journey they followed God and consecrated themselves to Him and was able to cross the Jordan River. Again, Joshua could have been tempted to think, “Oh this is great. I am following in the footsteps of the greatest leader Israel has ever had and we are facing insurmountable obstacles. It was at flood stage and very deep. When the priests stepped their foot in, the waters upstream stopped flowing. The people walked across on dry ground. Nothing was getting in their way because the Lord was with them. He has a way of making obstacles building blocks.
Now we come to Joshua 6 where they are looking at big walls surrounding Jericho.
“Then the Lord said to Joshua, ‘See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men’” Joshua 6:2.
They could have been overwhelmed with the task of defeating Jericho with those big walls. Especially with the God’s plan of attack. To walk around the walls 6 days and then on the 7th day to walk around 7 times and give a concert (MLM translation)? Joshua was not hesitant because the Lord had already delivered Jericho into his hands. He had total trust in the Lord.
From that, I am confident no wall will ever get in the way of this church making Christ-like disciple of all who travel the highways and byways of this community. If God says it, we faithfully follow no matter what obstacles get in the way.
Maybe we can form a committee every Saturday night to put graffiti on the walls that just so happen to resemble our logo. “No officer, I have no idea how that got there!” We will call that man’s attempt to reach out. My confidence lies not in the ways of man but in the ways of my God. His ways are perfect and they always work out in the long run. There is no wall too tall for God. The mission of the church will continue to move forward.
I am excited for another Sunday where several people will be walking in the waters of baptism. God is moving amongst our church and it is an exciting place to be. Come with great anticipation and pray for His Spirit to move our hearts to revival.
May we live our lives in such a way that there will be no barrier in the way of us totally committing to the ways of God and growing deep with Him.
Joy in Jesus!
I am still excited from the service this past Sunday. It is so good to hear the stories of New Life in our midst. We are going to have another baptism on Sunday, September 9. I know the Lord is speaking to some in our church to take the step of baptism in their faith journey. Pray with me as we continue to grow together to be more like Jesus as we humbly walk as He walked.
I want to send out an invitation for you to come to our Front Row Ministry on Wednesday mornings at 6:30a – 7:30a. It is where the church gathers to pray for the needs of our Nation, our Church, our community, and our families. We will also pray through the prayer list and for the families of our church alphabetically. So if your last name begins with “N,” then we prayed for you this morning. Many have said that the strength of a church is based on how serious they are about praying. I realize that many people are traveling to work during the hours that we meet. Let me encourage you to pray with us wherever you are. If you can join us, you will be blessed.
This morning during our prayer time, I read Psalm 27. What stood out to me was the posture that we need to have when walking through life.
We pray often for the enemy to be bound and that he would not get a stronghold in our lives. In 2 Corinthians Paul focuses our attention on having divine power to destroy strongholds. Webster’ dictionary defines stronghold as “a place dominated by a particular group or marked by a particular characteristic.” The enemy will never give up trying to dominate our mind therefore impacting our responses to God.
In Psalm 27: 1 it says, “The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?”
The Lord is the one whom I want to have a stronghold on my life. I believe the result of God being our stronghold is clarified in the 2 verses following.
“When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall” Psalm 27:2. Do you see it? You are not impacted at all. It is if no one is advancing against you.
“Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident” Psalm 27:3. That is the way I want to respond to any attack of the enemy as he tries to get a stronghold in my life. I want to wear a sign that says, “The Lord is my stronghold – nothing can get in or out without the Lord’s permission.” Ok, maybe that sign would be a little too big to wear. I think you get the picture.
Read Psalm 27 today and take your time as you read it. See if you can’t see a contrast between verses 1-6 and 7-14. The first half is filled with praise, confidence, victory, and even singing. The last half is filled with needs – a whole host of requests. But it ends with David saying to, “Wait!” Even in the midst of great confidence, the enemy still tries to strike us with fear. Fear is paralyzing. Don’t become overwhelmed with your circumstances. Give it to God and remember to wait on the Lord. His timing is always perfect.
Joy in Jesus!
“The Priests and the Levites stood to bless the people, and God heard them, for their prayer reached heaven, his holy dwelling place.”
2 Chronicles 30:27
If you were to read the preceding verse in context, you would quickly see that there was a lot of preparation happening in order for the final result of their prayer reaching heaven. They were celebrating joyfully. It reminds me of the book of Acts. The earlier followers of Jesus soon discovered that the most fruitful part of their ministry was prayer and the Word. It brought about tremendous results! The book of Acts is literally an account of a series of prayer meetings and what happened as a result of those prayers. When they prayed – things happened!
When the busyness of life began to press in upon the apostles they looked for help because they could not allow their prayer time to be crowded out. They knew the importance of the ministry of prayer and the Word. In Paul’s writings throughout the New Testament, it is evident that he counted time spent in prayer as time well spent. I am amazed at how often he mentions his prayer ministry:
“God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you.” - Romans 1:9
“I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. “ - Ephesians 1:16
“In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy “ - Philippians 1:4
“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you,” - Colossians 1:3
“With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. “ - 2 Thessalonians 1:11
“I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. “ - 2 Timothy 1:3
Notice how Paul says, “constantly,” “always,” “never ceasing.” In order to pray for all these people he had to spend a good time praying. The leaders of the early church counted prayer as their most important work. Prayer came before the ministry of the Word. This is the correct order.
Starting next Wednesday at 6:30am, we will be starting our Front Row Ministry back up in the Worship Center. There are plenty of things to pray for as we come together. In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit descended in power, a multitude came together, heard the Word and were saved. That is something the Spirit of God wants to repeat today. As a matter of fact, God wants to do that each and every Sunday as we gather together to worship. This Sunday is going to be a great day as we baptize many believers. God wants to do a brand new thing amongst us and He wants to begin with you.
Joy in Jesus!
4 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. - 1 Peter 2:4-5
These verses start out by saying, “as you come to him…”. This is not referring to someone initially coming into relationship with Jesus, it is speaking about an intimate fellowship between a believer and Jesus. It is an ongoing relationship that continues to be built on a solid foundation. I love how Peter used a unique figure of speech. He moves from our living hope we experience through the new birth, then to being born again through the living Word, and continues by referring to Christ as the living Stone.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. - 1 Peter 1:3
For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. - 1 Peter 1:23
Peter is saying that this Stone is living. It has life in itself and gives life to others. We are in constant relationship with the living Stone and then it goes on to say that believers are identified with Christ by being like Christ (like living stones). Throughout the day we are to be mistaken for Christ. So everything that happens today is in a sense a divine appointment showing others the living hope through the resurrection of Jesus, the living Word that has transformed us, and the living Stone that lives in us.
What divine appointment will come your way today? People to respond to, problems to solve, places to serve: each one is an opportunity to display the servant heart of Jesus through your attitude, behavior, and words. Each one is an opportunity to catch a glimpse of how God is transforming your heart, and each one gives you an opportunity to be transformed by responding to the prompting of God’s Spirit. There are going to be things that happen that are meant to stretch, strengthen, and move you in ways that could determine the outcome of your spiritual fervor. What will divine appointments reveal in you today?
I am looking forward to the next two weekends as we focus on Baptism. We have called it, “I Have Decided.” It is going to be a great weekend and I pray that we will better understand the obedient step in going public with our faith. Come and anticipate the Lord speaking in a powerful way. Invite a friend to attend with you. Ask the Lord of the harvest to set up a divine appointment this week and make it obvious as to whom you will invite.
Joy in Jesus!
In the Hymn, “At the Cross,” there is a verse that describes the state we were in before God entered our life. We were nothing. Without God, we still are nothing. Look with me what Isaac Watts penned over 300 years ago, “Alas, and did my Savior bleed? And did my Sovereign die? Would He devote that sacred head for such a worm as I?”
This is a vivid illustration of sinful mankind – lost, undeserving, spiritually worthless, wicked within and without. Drawing from Job 25 and Isaiah 41, the hymnist painted such a picture, using the very term Scripture uses – worm. We are all worm-like before the righteousness of God overwhelmed our soul.
The chorus says, “At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light, and the burden of my heart rolled away. It was there by faith I received my sight, and now I am happy all the day!”
When I take the plunge and go all in, repenting of my sins and receive new life, my soul becomes happy. My faith and hope is now built on Jesus Christ and his shed blood on the cross. I can shed the worm-like existence and walk in newness through Jesus Christ. He sought me out and paid the price I could never pay. I am no longer a worm but a child of God.
In more recent years, Chris Tomlin wrote a song with the same title. Let me bring your attention to the second verse, “There’s a place where sin and shame are powerless. Where my heart has peace with God and forgiveness. Where all the love I've ever found. Comes like a flood, comes flowing down. At the cross, at the cross, I surrender my life. I’m in awe of You, I’m in awe of You. Where your love ran red and my sin washed white I owe all to You, I owe all to You, Jesus.”
Am I still undeserving? Yes I am. Can I be selfish at times? Absolutely. Am I useless or unimportant? Not at all. God declares us righteous when we are in Christ and Christ is in us.
1 I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. 2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. 3 He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him. Psalm 40:1-3
Praise the Lord that He set us on a firm foundation and we can continue to build on that foundation by making His Word a light unto my path each day. I can’t say it enough – saturate in the Word of God daily in order to walk where He is leading. Don’t let the worm mentality crawl back in your life. You are a child of God!
Just a reminder to put the church picnic on your calendar for Sunday, August 12 at 5:30pm. It will be held on the church lawn. Come and enjoy getting back in a good rhythm again. Now let the song fill your heart and mind today as you seek the Lord in all you do.
Joy in Jesus!
After Jesus’ famous “I am” statements in John 14 with the disciples saying, “I am the way and the truth and the life,” Jesus tells them that if they see him that they see the Father. He proceeds to tell them that they will do even greater things than what they have seen him do. Now here is what I want to look at – “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” John 14:13-14.
Ask for anything? I believe that many people have taken this the wrong way. This does not mean that Jesus can be our puppet or my token god, only there to spoil me by granting my every wish. I believe we can go the other extreme and not ask for anything.
If all of your prayers were answered, how many would be about you? Would they all benefit you? Would they bring glory to the Father?
In 1 Kings 3, Solomon is well into the kingship that his father David handed down to him. He showed his love for the Lord by walking according to the instructions given him by his father David, and went beyond that by offering sacrifices and burned incense on the high places. The Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream and said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”
Look at Solomon’s response, 6 Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day.
7 “Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. 8 Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. 9 So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” 1 Kings 3:6-9
Did you see his humble request? He wants a discerning heart to lead the people and know the difference between right and wrong. The Lord was very pleased with his request. The Lord told Solomon that He will grant what he asked for and that He would also grant what he didn’t ask for. He even lists the things he could have asked for but chose not to – long life, wealth for himself, or the death of his enemies.
There seems to be a cause and effect relationship between Solomon’s loving generosity in making his offering to the Lord, and God’s loving generosity in making him the offer. The answer came from a deep, abiding relationship. This brings a whole new light to Ephesians 3:20 when it says, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” The emphasis is on the power of God at work within me. That makes me want to know God more and more. I ask for the things in the will of God and He will take care of all the other things. That is true contentment.
If you get a chance today, go to 1 Kings 3 and ask yourself what you would ask for if God gave you the chance. Wait, He has already done that.
I am looking forward to continuing in John as we look at having a big faith in a big God.
Joy in Jesus!
Vacation Bible Adventure is in full swing. It has been an excellent week so far. We have so many people that are spending their free time investing in children and families. It is overwhelming the amount of people it takes to pull this week off. I think it gets bigger and bigger every year.
As I walked through the different stations and heard the different stories and verses, I was struck by the fact that we are not only evangelizing and sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ, but we are discipling as well. We are discipling adults and children alike. Not only are the children learning about Jesus, but the teachers and leaders are learning more about Jesus and his love that draws us in.
I want to focus on what Jesus calls us to when we become a disciple of Christ. In Mark 8:34, Jesus says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” In Luke, he adds that it needs to happen daily. That means in every and all situations.
Taking up your cross is the ultimate act of surrender – a conscious choice to deny yourself and live for Christ. It means a willingness to follow and obey Christ to whatever end. God calls us into his kingdom through grace. Being “born again” (John 3:3) means that we have new life. Although salvation is a free gift, it costs us everything. We cannot buy God’s love and forgiveness. But Jesus doesn’t beat around the bush: it will cost us everything to follow him. If we truly follow Jesus with all of our heart, then we can have no other gods before him. There is a plethora of gods we can choose or even teach our children to choose before the Almighty God. To follow Jesus it takes absolute surrender.
That, my friends, is what we are teaching our children. It is about having a deep, audacious commitment to the One who gave his life up for us all. Our theme this year is “SLIME.” It stands for the Savior Lives In Me Everyday.
If you haven’t been able to come out this week, I want to encourage you to come and check it out. As you are here, pray for the children and the families that are participating. We need a spirit-filled renewal amongst our families with young children. I pray that it happens this week.
On Sunday following the second service, we will have our Sunday Funday. The picnic will be for everyone. If you are limber enough, maybe you can participate in some of the activities. If not, then you can enjoy watching others that may think they are limber enough. All I know is that it is going to be a fun-filled day of being together and enjoying hearing the stories of what God is doing.
Joy in Jesus!
This week I have completed seventeen years of ministry at Findlay First as the lead pastor. What a journey it has been. My heart is full of love for the people of this church and our community. I remember when I was first called by Dr. Fairbanks to consider coming for an interview. My first thought was that I was content with where I was and that the Lord was continuing to use us where we were. I told Vickie that I thought my love for Shelby County was increasing. Her response to me was, “Why couldn’t your love for the people of Hancock County increase as well?” I guess she told me. So we decided to just come and interview.
During the interview, the Lord showed up in a powerful way and we knew that we were to come to Findlay. After preaching at a service during the week and fellowshipping with the people, Vickie was right. God placed the people of Findlay, Ohio on my heart. I specifically remember traveling home and wondering how we were going to tell the people of Sidney that God was calling us to another church. It was like mourning a death.
Sure enough, the next day, Dr. Fairbanks called and said that they wanted to continue in the process of calling us to come and be their pastor. After a few weeks and the congregation voted, we started our transition to Findlay, Ohio.
It is mind boggling to think of the many changes and how much we have all grown in the faith. I will be forever grateful for the love this church has shown to my family through the years. Vickie and I will celebrate 30 years of marriage on Monday and to think that we spent more than half of it with the great people of Findlay First Church of the Nazarene. Thank you for loving my family and helping me to raise my children.
It is fun to look at pictures of people and renovations over the years. What a fun journey it has been. Just think, in some respects, we have just begun. I am looking forward to many more years of growing to be more like Jesus with Findlay First Nazarene. Let me close with a prayer the Apostle Paul prayed for a church he was a part of.
15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church,23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. Ephesians 1:15-23
Have a blessed day today and may the Lord open up doors you have been praying for.
Joy in Jesus!
Rev. Mike McClurg
Senior Pastor, Findlay First Church of the Nazarene