Don’t give up

 I heard two people ask recently “why hasn’t God blessed us with growth? We have been doing everything we can to reach people.” That is a very fair question….and a natural one. I’ve told you before that I have not seen anyone who works as hard as the people of Church on the Bluff. After every event you are rightfully exhausted. You are willing to try almost anything new or different to better reach people. And, God knows, you are the most loving and accepting people I have ever met. No one….no one…ever visits this church and goes away without being spoken to and loved on.

So why? Why haven’t we grown? First of all, we have grown. Look around on Sunday mornings and you will see several faces you didn’t see a few years ago. The fact is, though, that we have lost more by mobilization (folks moving away) and death, than we have gained. That isn’t an excuse, though.  We still haven’t seen the growth we should be seeing. So let me list a few things we should consider.

Perhaps we aren’t offering what people want. That, in itself, is not a bad thing if people are looking for the wrong thing. But I have to believe that we are offering the right things….a saving relationship through Jesus Christ, a closer walk with God, and personal spiritual growth that affects our life and our lifestyle. It could very well be that we simply aren’t through building the foundation for growth. If a church is to succeed in the eyes of God there has to be a good foundation. The infrastructure has to be right.  So we will be taking a closer look at that.

It could also be that you have an old fuddy-duddy, stick-in-the-mud, dinosaur of a pastor. I sincerely hope that is not it; I’m about as hip and happening as I’m going to get. But I promise not to give up, and I know you won’t either. As long as the Lord allows me to pastor I will preach that sin is real and hell is hot. I will preach righteous living,  commitment and dedication to the Lord through His church, and spreading the love of God through the gospel to all people. We may not be “Culturally correct” but we will be scripturally correct; whatever our size, we will strive to be obedient to God.

Don’t give up and don’t despair ….God isn’t through  with us yet. Not by a long shot.

Bro. Tony

 


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The Battle isn’t lost

                I often wonder, in a nation with 83 percent of the people identifying as Christian, why we are going through the moral/social crisis that we are.  And make no mistake about it, we are going through a crisis.  The fact that we are actually arguing about what makes a person male or female is ludicrous; absolutely insane. It is the apex of foolishness, yet many learned people are being brainwashed or shamed into espousing that very idea. Why is that so? Why is that belief even grabbing a toehold in our thinking?

As a Christian I believe it is another in a string philosophies that show how far our nation has drifted from God and His purpose for creation. It is also another point of contention Satan is drawing to discredit the very Word of God in order to marginalize Christianity.  Let me explain.

As Transgenderism is vigorously promoted as normal and natural the people who disagree with that are branded as “transphobic” and “hateful”. We already see that and it will only get worse.  When Christians point to the Bible as their guiding view for a male/female sexual identity, then the Bible is  regarded as a “hateful” piece of literature; it is seen, by those brainwashed to see Christians as haters, to be book filled with hate.  It stands to reason then that we should not use, for any of our ideals and laws, a “hateful book”. See how easy it is to make the connection that transgenderism is natural so the Bible is hateful?

The devil is sneaky and crafty, to be sure. How else, unless blinded by the father of lies, can someone take the most loving, compassionate book ever written and view it as hateful?  We Christians have a long road in front of us.  Just remember this one thing: God doesn’t change minds…He changes people. Pray for un-believers and the true “haters” of God.   The battle is not lost.

 

Bro. Tony

 


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Hard Times

            Who’s ready for some nice, spring weather?  There is something inspiring about crawling out of the bleakness of winter and walking outside, basking in the warm sun and looking at the beautiful blossoms and greenery. We are glad when winter is over, aren’t we? 
           But let’s never forget that the winter was necessary. Botanists tell us that the season of cold weather actually helps plant life, especially fruit and nut trees, to prosper and become more productive. I’ve read that apple trees need at least 1000 hours of temperatures below 47 degrees in order to produce at optimum level.  The longer it stays cold, the less insects will have time to awaken and breed, giving us a few less mosquitos. Yes, the cold, bleak, gray days are part of God’s plan. They may not seem as beneficial or as pleasant as springtime weather, but things are certainly better because we go through them.

            The same can be said of the “winters” in our lives; those darker times that seem like burdens and problems.  We may not understand at the time why we experience certain things in life, but rest assured that God is using every part of our life experiences to her help us grow and prosper.  If you are going though one of times, hand in there and trust God….Spring is coming for you. 

Be blessed,

Bro. tony


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Resurrection

                I saw an interesting commercial concerning Easter.  It was a commercial for a chocolate rabbit. The closing line said this: “This year make the magic of Easter come alive” (with one of their special chocolate bunnies).   I wonder if they are really dumb and accidentally belittled the meaning of Easter or if they purposely sought to insinuate that their chocolate confection was as important to the day as the resurrection. Make Easter come alive….with chocolate.  What an  insult to every Christian who believes that  the resurrection of Christ assures us of our resurrection in the presence of God when this life is over. Paul said that we are “made alive” in Christ (1 Corinthians 15:22).

The resurrection is what the celebration is all about; it makes the events on the previous Friday “good”. Without the resurrection the crucifixion would be watered down to story about a martyr instead of the sacrifice of the Savior. Maybe I’m  just getting old and grouchy, but, for some reason, that chocolate rabbit being associated with “coming alive” strikes a nerve.

That’s my rant about secular Easter. I always look forward to the real meaning and, of course, our services on Easter and this year is no different. We are going to have a glorious day of celebration. Please remember our special service times: Sunrise Service at 6:30, Bluff Perk fellowship at 7:00, Bible Study groups at 8:00, and Worship Service at 9:00. Invite friends and family to join us on this most special day.

Bro. Tony, pastor

Church on the Bluff

 


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Control

                The weather has been kind of wacky this spring. Lots of rain, cold nights, frost in the mornings, heat on in the car going to work and air conditioner on coming home. I complain about it, sure, because my yard needs cutting but is too wet to even try. But I don’t worry about it.  There is one thing for sure: I cannot control the weather.  All I can do is dress for it.  I adapt until things change.

                I believe that we can all benefit from that attitude. Not just about the weather, but about all the “un-controllable“ things in our life.  Jesus said in Matthew 6:27 “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”  That is an awesome teaching.  The key to that, though, is  recognizing all the things that are out of our control; the foremost being people.  For the most part people are out of our control. We can offer advice, let our feelings be known, and even get a little “preachy” but the bottom line is that they will do what they want to do.  The only One who can change people is God, Himself.  And I’ve seen Him do it.  I suspect that you have, too.

So, how do we handle those things, and people, we cannot control? Paul tells us in his letter to the church at Philippi: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”  (Philippians 4:6-7)

We usually phrase it like this:  Turn it over to the Lord.

 

Bro. Tony, pastor

Church on the Bluff

 


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Growth

How many of you are itching to get outside and work in the yard and/or garden? I planted some trees last year and I’ve walked out to them several time to see if there is any signs of life in them. A few are actually sprouting tiny leaves and that is exciting because growth is the one way I know they are alive.

But the same can be said about our relationship with God. Growth is a sure sign that the relationship is alive and thriving. If we are growing in the Lord there will be signs.  They will of course differ with people, depending on the situation.  Perhaps for some they will grow in their ability to forgive people who hurt them. Someone may grow in their compassion for people. You may even grow in your effort to love people who are difficult to love. The important thing is that we don’t stop growing.  None of us has attained that “full measure of Christ” as Paul put it.

Let’s each one examine our lives and look for places where we know we need to grow.  As we do, remember this: Many times God shows us those places by putting people and events in our life that reveal those places to us. As a friend once said, we don’t have problems we have opportunities. Look for those opportunities to grow in the Lord.

Easter is just around the corner. It’s going to be a great day! Remember to invite folks for our special times that day. Sunrise service will be at 6:30, Bluff Perk breakfast and fellowship is at 7:00. We will have Sunday School at 8:00 and will follow that with our Easter worship service at 9:00.

Bro. Tony, pastor

Church on the Bluff


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Parents rights

This past week a judge in Ohio removed a teenaged girl from her parents and gave permanent custody to her grandparents. What horrible thing did those parents do that would cause a judge to take such drastic action? Were they starving her or beating her? Had they locked her in a room and held her prisoner? Just what kind of depraved behavior by the parents would warrant that judge’s decision?

            The parents wouldn’t allow her to get hormone therapy so she could turn into a boy. You read that right. The girl wanted to start intense hormone treatments so she could be a boy and her parents said no so the government took their daughter away from them.  Here is one of the most important aspects of that story: the lawyer for the girl cited the parents religious beliefs as one of the reasons that they said no. They’re were chided for seeking a Christian counselor to help her. Their Christianity was publicly used against  them concerning their fitness in raising their daughter.

            That should scare us. Which of our sincere, long-held beliefs will be next? I guarantee that it isn’t over. As long as we strive to live Biblically we will be persecuted. The evil one is emboldened with every judgment against Christian faith and lifestyle and will only push harder. Those misguided folks who hate us will find ways to keep up their assault.

            While it is, indeed, so sad that this great nation, founded on Christian principles is turning its back on the very God who helped us and sustained us as we held firm to His teachings, we should have expected it. Jesus said “ If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you” (John 15:18 NIV).  So our reaction should be Biblical, too. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”

(James 1:2-3 NIV) Have faith and be courageous. Like the Psalmist in the 23rd Psalm: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I fear no evil. Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me”.

 

 

Bro. Tony, pastor

Church on the Bluff


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What to eat?

In the past month I have seen three separate articles or videos stating that Christians shouldn’t eat pork. They were followed by vigorous discussions about whether or not that was true. I read some of the things people wrote and the discussions soon spread to catfish and shrimp. Honestly I felt like I was roaming the desert with Moses or sitting at the table with Pharisees. Listen, I am doing neither; I  am striving to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and He said I was “set free” from certain things.  But what?

First, and foremost, I have been set free from my sin. I am no longer a slave to the passions and burdens of my sins. I am not a prisoner of my past. I am a new creature, washed white as snow by His blood. But also, I am set free from the burden of “the law”. Let me explain.

Many of the Old Testament laws from God were given for a couple of specific purposes. One was, of course, to set God’s people apart from those who were morally and spiritually bankrupt; those who worshipped false gods as well as those who worshipped no gods.  Another was the dietary and cleanliness laws designed to keep God’s people as physically healthy as possible. Hence, don’t eat hazardous animals or touch dead bodies. All of God’s expectations were greatly enhance with human logic over the years, even to the point of being detrimental to a loving relationship with God.

Then Jesus appeared and brought grace instead of the law.  He touched dead bodies, ate with unclean hands, forgave even adultery, and gathered food on the Sabbath. He said that a right relationship with the Father was accomplished, not by ceremony and ritual, but by salvation by His grace through faith and that it would play out by loving Him and loving our neighbor.

That doesn’t give us a license to sin. The Ten Commandments are pretty clear in themselves and Jesus evens heightened them by prohibiting the things that lead to our breaking of those precious commands. But it does mean that we don’t have to micro-manage God’s word to the point that we trade the slavery of sin for the slavery of judgement and ceremony. I like what Paul said in his letter to the Galatians: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1).

 

 

Bro. Tony, pastor

Church on the Bluff

 


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Respect for those who a different

The absolute last thing I want to do with anyone with whom I interact is to hurt their feelings. I don’t want to hurt anyone. I can’t fathom someone hurting another person’s feelings on purpose and believe that the overwhelming majority of you feel the same way.  So what do we do when a person we know takes a lifestyle stance that is opposite to what the Bible teaches?  Suppose you have a family member that “comes out” as gay or transgender; how do you handle that without hurting them? If a friend or neighbor tells you that they are an atheist or even a member of some hate group, how do you maintain any sort of relationship to them?

First we must remember that as Christians our purpose is to bring help and healing to people; we are called to show the love and purpose of Christ. There is no wiggle room in there for anything else if we are to let others see Jesus in us. We will never reach anyone for Christ if we allow ourselves to look down on others or judge their sin as worse than ours.

So the first thing is respect. We must work to developers mutual respect with those who believe/think/act differently. That doesn’t mean acceptance of their chosen lifestyle and it doesn’t mean affirming what they believe. It is simply a mindset of compassion and understanding based on our knowledge that God loves them and wants what is best for them.  That allows meaningful dialogue with them.

Next is patience. Things don’t happen overnight or with just one discussion. Impatience can lead to argument rather than discussion and, as far as possible on your end, you must keep the door opened for more interaction. Be patient because you have the truth and they have been hearing lies from everywhere else. You may be the only truth they hear; they need that. The truth will set them free

And last, but not least, you must know the truth and be prepared to share it lovingly. Know how to answer such lies as “God made me this way” or “I was born like this”. Be prepared to respond to truths that they miss-use: “God loves me just like I am” or “You can’t judge me”.

It is tough many times for they are being taught that because you disagree with them that you hate them.  Have faith in God’s word that through all the lies and misconceptions, the Spirit can and will reveal the true love in your heart.

 

Bro. Tony, pastor

Church on the Bluff

 


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Opening up to God

 

Almost every week some celebrity “opens up” about something. Today one opened up about his battle with depression. One opened up about her sickness during pregnancy. Last week one opened up about her divorce. Too often these “opening ups” coincide with the release of a new book/song/movie and are more of a publicity set-up than just an urge to cleanse the soul. But truly “opening up” can be a great thing.

                When is the last time you opened up to God? I mean truly opened up? When is the last time you just got away by yourself and poured your heart out to him; telling him your fears and concerns? When did you last talk to him, confessing your sinful desires and un-Godly thoughts? Have you ever really poured yourself out to him?

It’s ok to tell Him that you are angry with him because of something that happened, or to tell him you have honest questions about why things are going on in your life. He wants you to open up to Him about your weaknesses and your problems. Listen….He knows those things anyway. He certainly does. He is just waiting to have a meaningful dialogue with you. He loves you tremendously and is waiting on a conversation with you about it; not wanting to chastise or punish, but to help.

Just be ready to listen, too. The listening is as important as the telling. Listen as He speaks to your soul. Listen as He speaks through scripture. Listen as He works in people and events around you. God is waiting on you to open up to Him because He is ready to open up to you. And, while some of what He says may be tough to hear, He speaks the truth. We all need His truth.

Bro. Tony, pastor

Church on the Bluff

 

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