Find Us

We are located at:

7578 Concord Rd. Patriot, Indiana 47038

Sunday School.                                                                                               9 am

Service.                                                                                                               10 am on Sundays.

111 Replies to “Find Us”

  1. PRAISING AND REJOICING< We can spread the GOOD NEWS about GOD and about Concord Community Church through the air waves now. THANKS PASTOR AND OUR WEB TECH for this beautiful site.
    GOD BLESS YOU BOTH Amen

    1. Hey Bonnie!

      Welcome to the site. Thank you for loving the church so much and being such a good friend to Jerry! We’ll see you in the Fall! Hope you are around.

      1. Hello Bill Belew<

        BLESSINGS for posting Pastor Steve's sermons .
        Is it possible to make a tab at the top for SERMONS???

        PLUS, under EVENTS, will you please post the times and dates
        in November 2020 for Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes?

        NATIONAL COLLECTION WEEK
        November 16 – 23, 2020
        FOR OPERATION CHRISTMAS CHILD
        SHOEBOXES DROP-OFF
        at Concord Community Church

        November 16 9-11 am
        November 17 1-3 pm
        November 18 5-8 pm
        November 19 9-11 am
        November 20 9-11 am
        November 21 8-10:30 & 11-Noon
        November 22 Noon – 3 pm
        November 23 8-10 am

        Praying in Jesus' name that this note finds you and your family cozy at home and healthy< Amen HALLELU-YAH
        Bonnie Schreiner

  2. I am trying to find a contact number for your church.I am wanting to have my wedding there in February 2020..thanks Kirstin works

  3. Palm Sunday, April 5, 2020

    Greetings from Concord Community Church and from Pastor Steve Ward. May you be experiencing God’s peace and joy in these troubling and troubled times.

    Our Scripture passage for this morning is from the 19th chapter of the book of Luke. I hope you can find a quiet time and a quiet place to sit and pray and to meditate on His Word.

    Suggestion: (1) Notice the response of the crowds to the coming of Jesus into Jerusalem. (2) Notice the response of the Pharisee, who objected to the praises and acclamations of the crowds. (3) Notice the response of Jesus to the Pharisee, that nature, itself, would do the praising if the crowds were quieted.

    Luke 19:28-40

    Jesus Comes to Jerusalem as King
    28 After Jesus had said this, He went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 As He approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, He sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30 “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.
    32 Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as He had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”
    34 They replied, “The Lord needs it.”
    35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it.
    36 As He went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.
    37 When He came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
    38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”
    “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
    39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples!”
    40 “I tell you,” He replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.

    Today, April 5, 2020, is Palm Sunday, a day of celebration and proclamation.
    It seems that, to Jesus, it must have been the most conflicted day possible. Even though He was now being proclaimed king, He also knew that this “triumphant” ride into Jerusalem was going to culminate in the crucifixion. And only then, after the cruelty and agony of the crucifixion, would there come the victory of the resurrection.

    So, we celebrate the Kingship and Lordship of Jesus; the crowds and disciples were proclaiming Him King and Messiah; the Pharisees were objecting, but even all of nature was prepped and ready to join in to praise Him and to declare Him King..

    Today, if you look around you, you will see many of the beautiful signs of spring: Magnolia trees and other trees blossoming, and flowers springing up and blooming everywhere. It is, indeed, an irony that the streets, made beautiful and cheerful by the colors of Spring-time blooming, are nearly empty because of the lurking danger and ugliness of the COVID-19 virus, which threatens to destroy anyone it can.

    A similar irony can be seen in the scene of the “Triumphal Entry.” The beauty of the loving heart of Jesus, the Sacrificial Lamb, is all the more striking when seen against the emptiness and ugliness of the human hearts which could praise Him one day, and then call for His crucifixion a few days later.

    As Christians, we are called to be the beauty in the midst of the ugliness and the emptiness of selfishness, wickedness, and sin all around us. IT IS A DISEASE! And it threatens to destroy every one of us it can. There is only one cure, and it was procured by Jesus when He detoured from the promise of an immediate, earthly kingdom, to the agony of the cross, so that each one of us would have the chance to share in His eternal Kingdom in Heaven. Think about it: It’s even more crucial than a cure for the COVID-19 virus!

    Let us BE the beauty of Jesus. We are bearers of the cure! As the song says, “Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.”

    15 “So then, my brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold to the teachings that have been passed on to us. 16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, 17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.”

  4. Greetings from Concord Community Church. This text or e-mail is coming to you because of your relationship – one way or another – with Concord Community Church.
    On Sunday, March 29th, we are not able to meet as a congregation, but I would like to encourage you to find a quiet place to sit down and read and to pray and to meditate on the Scripture passage.

    Our Scripture for the morning is Ephesians 1:1-23. As you read, please notice 7 words and 2 concepts.

    7 Words: (in order as they appear)
    1) predestined 2) redemption 3) forgiveness 4) trusted
    5) believed 6) sealed 7) faith

    2 Concepts/thoughts/ideas
    Look for all the blessings we have in Christ
    Notice Paul’s prayer –lots there
    Ephesians 1 New King James Version (NKJV)
    Greeting

    1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God,

    To the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus:

    2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Redemption in Christ

    3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

    7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, 9 having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, 10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him. 11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, 12 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory /// 13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who[d] is the [e] guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

    Prayer for Spiritual Wisdom

    15 Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power 20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. 22 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

    Words to notice:

    predestined (v. 5,11)—we are wanted – before the foundation of the world
    redemption (v. 7,)—— we are bought back, after having been lost to God.
    forgiveness (v.7)——- “according to the riches of His grace”
    trusted (v.12, 13)—— an important part of believing
    believed (v. 13)——– a heart belief which includes trust.
    sealed (by the Holy Spirit)—We are sealed and secured and marked as His own.
    faith (v. 15)—-again, part of believing and trusting.

    Concepts:

    Try to find all the blessings in the passage. Keep counting – even on the 2nd and 3rd reading.
    Notice Paul’s prayer (v. 16-23). A prayer for each of us, too, and a prayer we can pray for one another – a prayer that may sound a bit familiar (see Paul’s prayer in chapter 3:14-19 at end of this message)

    In your prayer time, this morning, let’s pray for one another – we could pray both prayers – from this chapter and also the prayer we’ve been praying from chapter 3.

    Pray for our church and for churches everywhere.

    Pray for the COVID-19 crisis, our nation, our leaders, leaders of world nations.

    Pray for my brother, Chris, my nephew, Stephen, and for Tristan, Deanna/Jame’s son.

    All working in hospitals with COVID-19 patients.

    Please add you own prayers, joys, and requests.

    If it’s possible for you to stop and read and pray at 10:00 AM, it would be great for as many of us to pray together at that time. Many blessings to each one. Love from Sharon and myself. (We plan to be sitting by the river to pray and read, etc.)

    PRAYER from Ephesians 3:14-21 NKJ

    (14) “For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

    (15) from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,

    (16) that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man,

    (17) that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,

    (18) may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height–

    (19) to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

    (20) Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,

    (21) to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen”

    4

  5. Good Friday Thoughts and Worship

    Greetings from Concord Community Church and Pastor Steve Ward. Friday, April 10, 2020

    Today is Good Friday, and, as Christians, it is a day that we observe; we even call it good because, as a result of the death of Jesus, by crucifixion, we have Salvation through Christ by our faith in Him and in His finished work on the cross.

    Sometimes we even say we “celebrate” the day, and, again, the end result of what Jesus did for us is absolutely celebrational and even sensational.

    But it’s also rather hard to celebrate the events of the day because it was a dark day, a sad day, a day of despair, of weeping and bewilderment.  It was a day when sin seemed to have won.  It was a day when evil men with evil intentions seemed to have triumphed.

    It is a hard day, in many ways, for Christians to observe and to commemorate.  It’s hard enough to think through the indignities, the humiliations, the injustices, the impunity that Jesus endured – all with His own voluntary consent!  What kind of determined self-squelching of His own power and attributes must have overcome the human part of Jesus – the part that hurt, was insulted, that was revolted, and reviled against, that was beaten and whipped to an unrecognizable form.  All those atrocities are hard enough to consider and to try to imagine, but is it not harder, still, to realize, that they – the atrocities –  one by one, one after another, and each one heaped on each other, were also caused by me and by you.  We are and were the reason He was there.  We are and were the reason He chose not to retaliate, to exert the power at His disposal and at His finger tips.  Every whip lashed against His back,, every thorn jammed upon His head, every blow from every soldier – every long second of agony was suffered expressly for you and for me.  Let’s go through this day with reverence and awe, and let’s allow ourselves to be overwhelmed be His great love for us.  As the song says,

    “How can it be . . . . that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
    Amazing love, how can it be, that Thou, my God shouldst die for Me?”  

    REMEMBER…
    “It’s Friday; Sunday’s a’ comin’.”

  6. “Social Distancing” Sermon for April 19, 2020:

    Greetings from Concord Community Church and from Pastor Steve Ward. It’s been just a week since we celebrated Easter, and that same time span – a week – is represented in our Scripture passage, this morning, which begins on the very first Resurrection Sunday, (Easter) and takes us through the next Sunday. Again, I encourage you to find a quiet time and place to read and reflect, pray and worship – perhaps at 10:00 AM, so we could “be together.”

    John 20:19, 20; 24-31
    19 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.

    Seeing and Believing

    24 Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”

    So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

    26 And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” 27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

    28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

    29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

    That You May Believe

    30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.

    Many people have believed, and many people have doubted. In our present age, it seems to be more fashionable to doubt than to believe. In an effort to support their doubt, for example, many ideas and theories have been advanced, suggesting that Jesus didn’t really die, that He went into a “swoon” or a coma and later revived. Maybe someone else was crucified, instead. So many Thoughts! So much rationalizing! So much doubting!

    Jesus did rise from the dead and appear to His disciples, (“The Twelve” – minus Judas and minus Thomas), to the women who went to anoint and prepare His body, and to many others.

    In dealing with this assertion, we have the same hurdle to overcome that the people, then, had to overcome: How is this possible? How can I believe this?

    In looking back to that time, we also have a tendency to see those events through the dim and somewhat blurred filters of time and distance. Since those happenings were long ago and in a rather far-away place, we often think of them in a remote way, almost as “less than real,” because we don’t have to confront them, very often, “head-on,” or “up close and personal.”

    The first women to come to the tomb had been up close when Jesus died. They had been there through every agonizing detail of His terrible death; They had endured it with Him. They had seen every gut-wrenching moment as they watched in horror and near disbelief at the cruelty and brutality of the event.

    Then, they had had the Sabbath to quietly mourn, and now they had to face reality again. The one reality that was thrust upon them, try as they might to ignore, forget, and deny it, was that, with their own eyes, they had seen Him die. With their own eyes they had seen Him stabbed in the side “just to make sure,” and, with their own eyes, they had seen His limp, life-less body removed – no doubt, in a cold and callous way, from the cross. They had had the presence of mind to observe where the body was taken, and now they were coming to prepare His body for a proper interment. They knew He was dead.

    Thomas, also, knew Jesus was dead.

    In our Scripture, from the Gospel of John, we have the account of Jesus appearing to the Disciples, not including Thomas. Thomas is told of the appearance of Jesus – and, by implication, His resurrection – and he insists that he will not believe until he sees Jesus with his own eyes and touches Him with his own hands. Although there is an obvious amount of doubt in Thomas’s mind, I wonder, also, if there is a good bit of wonder, even as one of us might have if something wonderful had happened, and we declare, “I can’t believe it! I can’t believe it!” — as in “I can’t believe I won the contest! I won’t really believe it until the prize money is in my hands!” Thomas says, basically, “I won’t believe it until I see Him with my own eyes and touch Him with my own hands.”

    Thus, besides expressing his doubt and his wonder, Thomas was also making another, not-so-obvious statement. It is as though he was also saying, “I know He died! How can I believe He’s alive? For us, a somewhat hidden and ignored truth in the story of “doubting Thomas” is that Thomas was thoroughly convinced that Jesus had died! Thomas could not have doubted the resurrection without being convinced of His death!

    Please notice one more thing about this episode. There is no other recorded purpose for Jesus appearing to His disciples on this occasion than to present Himself to Thomas as the risen Lord. Jesus made this one appearance to all of the disciples, specifically, it seems, for Thomas. Jesus accommodated Thomas’s doubts. Jesus responded directly, personally, and especially to Thomas.

    You are just as special. You and I are just as precious to Jesus as Thomas was, and Jesus is just as interested in accommodating and reassuring you and me in our doubts as He was in the doubts that Thomas had. He even talked about you and me when He spoke to Thomas. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

    At another time there was a man who brought His son to Jesus to be healed. When Jesus told the man that all things are possible to them who believe, the man responded, “Lord, I believe. Help Thou my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24) I do believe that this is a very proper and appropriate prayer for us to pray, also. Recognizing our failing and inadequate faith – our incomplete beliefs – our doubts – we can confidently approach our compassionate, caring Savior and pray, “Lord I believe. Help Thou my unbelief.”

    “Casting all your cares upon Him, for He careth for you.” (I Peter 5:7)

  7. Sunday, April 19, 2020

    Dear Concord friends and family<
    Sunday BLESSINGS from Bill & Bonnie!!! May you feel God’s EVERLASTING ARMS holding you and bringing you PEACE, PROTECTION, and PROVISION. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen
    We are sharing this prayer(below) that you may use it today or tomorrow morning. In our bulletin for church, Steve always reminds us to pray at 6:30 pm, knowing that the rest of Concord are praying with you, too. TO GOD BE THE GLORY <

    April 19, 2020
    (GOD’S MINUTE: A Book of 365 Daily Prayers
    Sixty Seconds Long for Home Worship
    Copyright 1931)

    “Let the people praise Thee, O God;
    let all the people praise Thee.
    Then shall the earth yield her increase;
    and God, even our own God, shall bless us.
    God shall bless us;
    and all the ends of the earth shall fear Him–”
    Psalm 67:5-7

    OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN, we thank Thee for this day and all its opportunities. Help us to show our gratitude by the use we make of it. May Jesus Christ so dwell in our hearts that we shall be kept from sin. Wilt Thou rule and bless our home this day. We pray Thy blessing on friends and neighbors. May we so live before them that we may honor Thy Name. Bless, we pray, the poor and sick and suffering. May their need be to us a call to service.

    We pray for Thy blessing on our church. May we strive to win men to Jesus Christ. We pray for town and state and country, that righteousness may prevail. We pray that the Gospel message may speedily go into all the world; that wars may cease; that sin and greed may no longer rule. To this end may we give as Thou hast blessed us. May the peace of God dwell in our hearts this day.

    We ask it all in the name of Jesus Christ, our Saviour. Amen.

  8. Sunday, April 26, 2020
    Greetings from Pastor Steve Ward and from Concord Community Church. This is our third Sunday of not being together in our church building. I find myself singing “Blest Be the Tie That Binds.
    Our hearts in Christian love,
    The fellowship of kindred minds
    Is like to that above.”
    Sharon and I miss being together with our church family on Sundays. In the meantime, I encourage you to find a quiet time and a quiet place to worship, hopefully at 10:00 AM, for togetherness sake.

    Our Scripture lesson, today, is a bit long, but it’s also one of my favorites. It’s the story of the two followers of Jesus who were travelling to the little village of Emmaus, not too far from Jerusalem.

    As you read, try to imagine the action as though it were happening before you. As you will see, Jesus joins the two travelers, but they don’t recognize Him. He asks about their conversation and comments about the sadness in it. What was in Jesus’s thoughts and mind? Did He feel an empathetic but compassionate hurt in His heart for the frustrations and disappointments of the two travelers? Did He also feel a hurt in His own heart for their failure to understand and to believe what He had been telling them and “the Twelve?” Did Jesus have, maybe, even a little bit of fun in His incognito “adventure,” as He gave these disciples a lesson – a complete course, actually, — in Bible Prophecy? Wouldn’t you have loved to have been there when Jesus broke the bread, at the table, and then disappeared . . .

    Imagine yourself in the shoes of these two travelers/disciples as they were somehow suddenly – and perhaps mysteriously – joined by this stranger, who, in the first place doesn’t seem to be aware of what has happened in Jerusalem in the past few days, and, in the second place, slowly unfolds to them – to their somewhat non-understanding ears – that He knows more about the events and the subject than they could possibly ever know.

    Try, too, to imagine the moment He breaks the bread and they recognize Him – the heart race of that moment, the following moment of utter confusion and astonishment at His disappearance, and the moment or moments when it all came crashing down on them – the glorious, exultant “ahah moment” – when it all came together and they realized what had just happened and who had been with them. “He’s alive!” “He was here! He was right here!” “It was Jesus!” What kind of rush and tumult was it when they realized that they just had to return to Jerusalem, immediately, to tell the others? Don’t you just know that they “jabbered” all the way back? Don’t you just know that they almost couldn’t contain themselves? Do you think they had ever made a faster trip to Jerusalem?

    The Road to Emmaus – Luke 24:13-35
    13 Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 And they talked together of all these things which had happened. 15 So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him.

    17 And He said to them, “What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?”

    18 Then the one whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him, “Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?”

    19 And He said to them, “What things?”

    So they said to Him, “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. 21 But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened. 22 Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us. 23 When they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. 24 And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see.”

    25 Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” 27 And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

    The Disciples’ Eyes Opened
    28 Then they drew near to the village where they were going, and He indicated that He would have gone farther. 29 But they constrained Him, saying, “Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.” And He went in to stay with them.

    30 Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight.

    32 And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” 33 So they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 And they told about the things that had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of bread.”

    Because of this passage of Scripture, I have a notebook, and, as I read the Bible, I’ve been trying to compile all the Biblical prophesies that tell about the coming of the Messiah. What an astounding thing it would have been to have walked beside Jesus and to have heard Him expound on all of the prophesies about Himself.

    We need to understand that writer after writer and book after book give us precise, accurate predictions about the coming Messiah and that every one of those prophesies has or will come true. In this story Jesus confirmed those prophesies and brought them to the remembrance of these two men.

    Jesus showed Himself to these two men as evidence of His resurrection;; Many of His appearances were not only proofs of His resurrection, but also personal expressions of compassion for individuals. Jesus showed Himself to Peter, alone; He showed Himself to His brother James, alone; He showed Himself to the eleven once without Thomas and then again especially for Thomas’s sake.; His appearance to Mary, outside the tomb, was purely compassionate, and loving, and intended for her, personally.

    He wants to be personal with you and me, also. His love isn’t just an all-encompassing love for all man-kind; it’s a personal love for each one of us. He loves you, personally. He loves me, personally. He wants to be your Savior, personally. Won’t you open up your heart and let Him come in?

  9. Greetings from Pastor Steve Ward and Concord Community Church. It has been a good while since we have been able to meet together and to see each other face to face, and we all miss it. Let’s pray for wisdom and discernment in deciding when to start meeting, again. For this morning, I hope you will find a quiet time and a quiet place to read, to pray, and to worship.

    Today’s Scripture Reading is about another post-resurrection appearance of Jesus as He shows Himself to a group of disciples, again. This time it happens after the disciples have gone fishing for the night and are coming home empty-handed.

    John 21:1-13; 24,25- New King James Version

    Breakfast by the Sea
    21:1 “After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.”

    They said to him, “We are going with you also.” They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing. 4 But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?”

    They answered Him, “No.”

    6 And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish.

    7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the little boat (for they were not far from land, but about two hundred cubits), dragging the net with fish. 9 Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.”

    11 Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not broken. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and eat breakfast.” Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, “Who are You?”—knowing that it was the Lord. 13 Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them, and likewise the fish.

    24 This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true.

    25 And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen.

    There is so much going on in this Scripture passage that it would require much more time than we have to cover it all. In fact, that’s the point of our thoughts, this morning: John, the writer, was overwhelmed by all the things he was remembering about the life of Jesus, and, in this passage, He is trying to convey to the reader the eventfulness of that morning – Jesus by the seashore, their failure to recognize Him, the question about catching any fish and the instructions to cast the net out on the other side of the boat where they caught more than a net-full, their sudden realization that this stranger on the shore was none other than the resurrected Jesus, working over a fire, fixing breakfast – of fish and bread ! . . . John was eager to relate to his readers as many of the things he could remember about Jesus and His life and His resurrection.

    In verse 24, he testifies to his own participation as an eyewitness, as the writer, and as a faithful, true, and reliable observer and recorder of facts: “This is the disciple . . . his testimony is true.” As if to say, “I’m the one who saw it, and, I’m telling you, it’s true!”

    Then, in verse 25, he expresses the seeming impossibility of his task – the insurmountable mountain of evidence that could have been written to document the life and, especially, the resurrection of Jesus By the time John wrote down the “Gospel of John” he had been preaching and spreading the gospel for some 40 years, and now, in this written account, he wants to emphasize that there is so much evidence, so many facts, so many stories and proofs, that, try as he might, it would seem to be impossible to set them all down.

    There was another time when John alludes to “many other” things which could have written to further document the truth of the resurrection:

    John 20:30

    30 “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”

    It’s not just a made-up story; It’s not just someone’s imagined account of something someone heard from someone who heard it from someone else. It’s not just something “I think . . .” is true. The fact is, that we can hold in our hands an accurate copy of an actual eye-witness account – someone who saw Jesus in the flesh, eating breakfast, even – saw with his own eyes – and had much more to tell.

    Ours is only to believe it. It really is a sure thing.

    WCB
    8:42 AM (58 minutes ago)

  10. Happy Easter from Concord Community Church and from Pastor Steve Ward.  May God richly bless you as you celebrate the wonder of Easter and the glory of the resurrection of Jesus.  I hope you will find a quiet place to read and to worship with your household.  If possible, stop and pray and join in spirit at 10:00 AM, so, as much as possible, we can worship together.

    Luke 24:1-12(New King James Version)
    He Is Risen
    1. Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. 2 But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. 3 Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. 5 Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, 7 saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’ ”
    8 And they remembered His words. 9 Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles. 11 And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter arose and ran to the tomb; and stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying by themselves; and he departed, marveling to himself at what had happened.
      

    What is your favorite part about the Easter Story?  Is it John and Peter running to the tomb to see for themselves that Jesus was not there?  Is it the women finding the stone rolled away and seeing the angel and hearing “Fear not. for I know you seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said; come, see the place where the Lord lay?”  Is it the tender moment when Mary, thinking she is talking to the gardener, trying to figure where Jesus’ body was, heard the voice of Jesus behind her: “Mary?” Perhaps you like the story of two followers of Jesus, on their way to Emmaus who were joined by Jesus, Himself. Or, perhaps you like the story of Jesus suddenly appearing to the disciples while they were together in a secretive location behind closed doors. Perhaps it’s when Jesus appears to Thomas, who says, in response, “My Lord and my God.”

    And did you notice that every one of those incidents is about people? They were people who saw and were astonished.  They became people who had seen and heard and then told the world. There were many, and the groundswell of their testimony challenged the world and changed it.  They told their story everywhere.  They couldn’t be stopped. They couldn’t be quieted.  They certainly couldn’t “unsee” the incredible sight of a “dead,” crucified man actually standing in front of them, speaking to them, every bit alive and real.  And they never stopped telling their story.

    They were the changed ones. They were the eye-witnesses.

    At one point, 500 people – together –  saw the risen Lord –  at the same time, in the same place!  It wasn’t just a few who saw Jesus after He died, was buried and returned from the dead.  Paul tells of the hundreds, and he gave us names, and those names were known to Paul’s listeners and his readers.  His facts could have been challenged if they were refutable, but they weren’t.

    It is difficult to find a better authenticated fact of history than the “in the flesh” resurrection of Jesus.  How many eye-witnesses were there?  How many do you need? 

    Every one of the 11 remaining apostles was changed.(Judas had hanged himself.)  Every one of them  suffered a martyr’s death –  some of them violently.  Still, not one of them recanted.  Not one of them said, “We made it all up. It’s fake news.”  Not one. 

    They had not become “the 12” because they were bold, outspoken leaders of their time. Instead, they were tentative, doubting, questioning, hesitant, even unlearned men.  Yet, their time with Jesus, and their witnessing of Jesus being alive, risen, and returned from the dead, changed them, emboldened them, converted them.  Along with other eye-witnesses, they became crusaders. They became men with a purpose.  They became evangelists and teachers, and, by the grace of God, they became miracle-workers and healers and prophets . . .  and they spent their lives and they laid down their lives for a message they knew to be real and true and vital to everyone who would hear and believe, because the message carried with it the potential for eternal life because of this Jesus/Savior,/Messiah who had brought it to them, taught it to them, and died for it and for them and for us.

    Today we celebrate that story.  It was life and death to them.

    What does it mean to you? . . . 

    Allow the Resurrection to change your life.  Allow the Resurrection to change your future.  Allow it to change your day.  Allow it to change you thinking, you intentions, your outlook.

    Remember: “If any man be in Christ, He is a new creation. Old things are passed away. Behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

  11. May 10, 2020

    Greetings from Concord Community Church and from Pastor Steve Ward. May you be experiencing God’s peace and joy in these troubling and troubled times.

    Our Scripture passage for this morning is from the 1st  chapter of the book of I Samuel.  I hope you can find a quiet time and a quiet place to sit and pray and to meditate on His Word.

    We will be meeting as a congregation this Sunday, the 10th of May for the first time since before Palm Sunday.  Join us if you’re comfortable doing so.

    In this passage we see the distress and anguish of Hannah, a Godly woman who was the wife of a faithful & devout Israelite.  Look for the source and cause of her difficulty and for her solution.   

    I Samuel 1:1-28
    1 Now there was a certain man . . , and his name was Elkanah . . . an Ephraimite. 2 And he had two wives: the name of one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.  . . . 6 And her rival also provoked her severely, to make her miserable, because the Lord had closed her womb. 7 So it was, year by year, when she went up to the house of the Lord, that she provoked her; therefore she wept and did not eat.
    Hannah’s Vow
    8 Then Elkanah her husband said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons?”
    9 So Hannah arose after they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the tabernacle of the Lord. 10 And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the Lord and wept in anguish. 11 Then she made a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head.”
    12 And it happened, as she continued praying before the Lord, that Eli watched her mouth. 13 Now Hannah spoke in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli thought she was drunk. 14 So Eli said to her, “How long will you be drunk? Put your wine away from you!”
    15 But Hannah answered and said, “No, my lord, I am a woman of sorrowful spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor intoxicating drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord. 16 Do not consider your maidservant a wicked woman, for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief I have spoken until now.”
    17 Then Eli answered and said, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition which you have asked of Him.”
    18 And she said, “Let your maidservant find favor in your sight.” So the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.
    Samuel Is Born and Dedicated
    19 Then they rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord, and returned and came to their house at Ramah. . . . 20 So it came to pass in the process of time that Hannah conceived and bore a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, “Because I have asked for him from the Lord.” . . . . 24 Now when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with three bulls, one ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the Lord in Shiloh. And the child was young. 25 Then they slaughtered a bull, and brought the child to Eli. 26 And she said, “O my lord! As your soul lives, my lord, I am the woman who stood by you here, praying to the Lord. 27 For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition which I asked of Him. 28 Therefore I also have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives he shall be lent to the Lord.” So they worshiped the Lord there.

    Notice:
    1. Hannah Suffered anguish, pain, and persecution –  not alone, Hannah personifies the pain and disappointment of countless women who hurt in not having children. Like Hannah, & through no fault of their own, but through circumstances or accident or health issues, many women are deprived of the opportunity to be a mother.  Like Hannah, no woman need feel abandoned or devalued in not giving birth.  Like Hannah, all of us need to recognize that our refuge is in the Lord.

    2. Hannah took her Problem to God.  She didn’t look for other solutions as her first. Resort. God was her first resort.

    3. Hannah Prayed – fervently.  She poured out her distress with earnestness of heart.  ( James 5:16 says, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”)  In her prayer Hannah made a promise; It wasn’t a casual, off-hand, “by the way” kind of promise.  Here was Hannah, praying for the desire of her heart, the relief of her anguish and her persecution, her longing and hope – her first child, her symbol of motherhood, in those days, a tribute to her worth – to herself, and, especially, to her husband, and, with all of that riding on God’s answer to her prayer, she promised that if God would give her a child, she would give that child back to God! 

    Could you do that?  Could I do that?  Can I pray for my heart’s desire and, in the same breath, can I promise to give back to God whatever it is I am requesting?  There’s one way.  I can promise to return such a gift from God if I know God wants me to have it.  . . . and I can return that gift to God if I am praying for God’s will in my life and if God’s granting my request will bring honor and glory to Him.

    What kind of realignment of my life does that require?  How much do I have to shift my priorities?  Do I have to put my wishes on a shelf? How about what I want?           Is that anywhere near the right question?

    How about what God wants?  It’s when my wants align with the wants of God that my life finds it’s most complete fulfillment.  You don’t believe me?  Try it.  Ask Hannah.

    4. Hannah kept her promise to God.  Her child, Samuel, was taken to the temple, where he served for the rest of his life and became one of the most respected, memorable and important judges of the Old Testament.

    5. Hannah Rejoiced and Gave God the Credit
                rejoicing, thanking, praising, worshiping

    Isn’t this the perfect day to see to it that what I want and what God wants are the same thing?  Isn’t this the perfect day to see to it that my priorities are lining up with God’s priorities?

    After all, it’s the only right way.  Let’s make God’s way your way and my way..

  12. M
    Greetings from Pastor Steve Ward and Concord Community Church.  It has been a good while since we have been able to meet together and to see each other face to face, and we all miss it.  Let’s pray for wisdom and discernment in deciding when to start meeting, again.  For this morning, I hope you will find a quiet time and a quiet place to read, to pray, and to worship.

    Today’s Scripture Reading is about another post-resurrection appearance of Jesus as He shows Himself to a group of disciples, again.  This time it happens after the disciples have gone fishing for the night and are coming home empty-handed.

    John 21:1-13; 24,25- New King James Version
    Breakfast by the Sea
    21:1 “After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.”
    They said to him, “We are going with you also.” They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing. 4 But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?”
    They answered Him, “No.”
    6 And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish.
    7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the little boat (for they were not far from land, but about two hundred cubits), dragging the net with fish. 9 Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.”
    11 Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not broken. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and eat breakfast.” Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, “Who are You?”—knowing that  it was the Lord. 13 Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them, and likewise the fish.
    24 This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true.
    25 And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen.

    There is so much going on in this Scripture passage that it would require much more time than we have to cover it all.  In fact, that’s the point of our thoughts, this morning:  John, the writer, was overwhelmed by all the things he was remembering about the life of Jesus, and, in this passage, He is trying to convey to the reader the eventfulness of that morning – Jesus by the seashore, their failure to recognize Him, the question about catching any fish and the instructions to cast the net out on the other side of the boat where they caught more than a net-full, their  sudden realization that this stranger on the shore was none other than the resurrected Jesus, working over a fire, fixing breakfast – of fish and bread ! . . . John was eager to relate to his readers as many of the things he could remember about Jesus and His life and His resurrection.

    In verse 24, he testifies to his own participation as an eyewitness, as the writer, and as a faithful, true, and reliable observer and recorder of facts:  “This is the disciple . . . his testimony is true.”  As if to say, “I’m the one who saw it, and, I’m telling you, it’s true!”

    Then, in verse 25, he expresses the seeming impossibility of his task – the insurmountable mountain of evidence that could have been written to document the life and, especially, the resurrection of Jesus  By the time John wrote down the “Gospel of John” he  had been preaching and spreading the gospel for some 40 years, and now, in this written account, he wants to emphasize that there is so much evidence, so many facts, so many stories and proofs, that, try as he might, it would seem to be impossible to set them all down.

    There was another time when John alludes to “many other” things which could have written to further document the truth of the resurrection:

    John 20:30
    30 “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”
    It’s not just a made-up story; It’s not just someone’s imagined account of something someone heard from someone who heard it from someone else.  It’s not just something “I think . . .” is true.  The fact is, that we can hold in our hands an accurate copy of an actual eye-witness account – someone who saw Jesus in the flesh, eating breakfast, even – saw with his own eyes –  and had much more to tell.

    Ours is only to believe it.  It really is a sure thing.

  13. May 17, 2020
    Greetings from Concord Community Church, Patriot, Indiana, and from Pastor Steve Ward. Our congregation is meeting, today, at 10.00 AM. If you can’t be with us, you can still worship with us by finding a quiet time and place and joining us in the Scripture and these thoughts.
    You’ll be asked, later, to take note of those sections in italics and those without italics.

    Ephesians 4:1-4;22-32; 5:15-21 (New Living Translation)
    4:1-4 1. Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. 2 Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4 For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.

    4:22-32 22. throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.

    25 So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. 26 And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 for anger gives a foothold to the devil.

    28 If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. 29 Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.

    30 And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, ] guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.

    31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

    5:15-21 15, So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. 16 Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. 17 Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. 18 Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, 19 singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. 20 And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
    21 And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

    Eph. 6:1-4 1. Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. 2 “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise: 3 If you honor your father and mother, “things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.”]

    4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.

    Did you see this? There was a sign out in front of a bookstore: Our “Post Apocalyptic” section has been moved to our “Current Events” section.

    As I was going to Dr. Frede’s office for a routine test, I saw a man there with whom I had often exchanged greetings, and I said, “I’ll be glad when they get this stuff straightened out.” – pointing at face masks and referring to the virus.

    Then one of us said, “We ought not to have to live this way.” and the response was, “That’s for sure.”

    Upon reflection, it occurred to me that much of the way we live is not the way we ought to live.

    Of course, in the midst of this current health situation, we “kinda hafta” live the way we are living: face masks, “don’t get too close,” hands away from face, wash your hands often and thoroughly, etc., but in our private, “stay-at-home-lives,” and for the rest of our lives, we have many more choices about how to live, and we don’t always make the best ones.

    Our Scripture, this morning, is taken from several different sections from the book of Ephesians. Ephesians was written by the Apostle Paul to the church in the city of Ephesus. This church had a large Gentile population, being in modern-day Turkey, and being largely Gentile was a big thing. Paul devotes much of his letter to addressing the fact that, in Christ, Jew and Gentile have been united in one body – the church, the body of Christ.

    He also addresses behavior – the way we live – what we do and say, and, doing so, his words are also very pointed and appropriate for our own lives and for the way we live.

    Please look back at the Scripture, which, like much of Scripture, begs to be read at least twice, anyway. I would ask you to notice the parts in italics, and those sections not in italics. The sections in italics are general instructions, but they are principles – over-riding concepts or precepts; The sections not in italics are specifics: “Don’t do this; do that; stop doing this,” etc. The specifics – not in italics – are not exclusive; they don’t include everything you should do and shouldn’t do. They include a lot of important things and can serve as a guide for the kind of things to do and not to do. We will concentrate on the principles – in italics – understanding that the rest of the text – not in italics – helps to fill out our understanding.

    The first principle is found in chapter 4, verse 1: “Lead a life worthy of your calling,” and, by the way, “you have been called by God.” Is there any need for any further instruction? There shouldn’t be a need for saying anything more. If you read the rest of the passage, you will find ways to lead a life worthy of our calling. By the way, again, how often are we humble and gentle and patient, fore-bearing, united, and peaceable? – “Just sayin’.”

    The next principle is found in chapter 4:22-24. Put off the “old nature” – the sinful one – and “put on the new nature” –the righteous and holy one. Mission accomplished? ‘Nough said? Once again, this ought to be all we need to hear.

    The third principle: “Do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live.” After all, He identifies you as His own. You’re “wearing His jersey.” You’re not just on His team; you’re part of the family. He’s actually looking forward to being proud of you. There would have never been a more devastating thing for my Father to have said than, “I’m ashamed of you.”
    I don’t think I could have taken it. Are we just as anxious for God to be pleased with us?

    Fourth principle: “Be filled with the Holy Spirit.” (5:15-21) Read everything that goes with that, and don’t forget to be “making music to the Lord in your hearts.” Also, don’t forget that super hard one: “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Do that, and you will solve the vast majority of your relationship problems.

    The Fifth principle: “Children, obey you parents in the Lord,” and parents, bring your children up “with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.” This is the biggest lesson society needs to be learning from the coronavirus and “stay-at home” orders: Discipline and instruction. It’s an old, old, formula, often discarded by “modern” educational theories. By the way, (again) discipline and instruction are still incomplete; By themselves, they are not enough. They are right only when the discipline and the instruction comes from the Lord.

    In Summary:
    1. Lead a life worthy of your calling.
    2. Throw off the old sinful nature; put one the new (holy, righteous) nature.
    3. Do not bring sorrow to the Holy Spirit by the way you live.
    4. Be filled with the Holy Spirit.
    5. Children, obey your parents. Parents, use Godly discipline and instruction.

    Do any one of the first four, and it will likely turn your life around. Do the last one: Children, it’ll change your life forever; Parents, it could change your children’s lives forever.

  14. Sunday, May 24, 2020
    Blessed Is the Nation Whose God Is the Lord

    Greetings from Concord Community Church, and from Pastor Steve Ward. We are located half-way between Patriot, Indiana, and Florence, Indiana – “the Little White Church down the lane.” We have been back together, now, as a congregation, for several weeks. Please feel free to join us at 10:00 AM on Sunday mornings. Social distancing is in effect and graciously observed. Face masks are welcomed and encouraged. A spirit of prayer, worship, and praise is sought and desired.

    Psalm 33:8-22

    8 “Let all the earth fear the Lord;
    Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.
    9 For He spoke, and it was done;
    He commanded, and it stood fast.

    10 The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
    He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect.
    11 The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
    The plans of His heart to all generations.

    12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
    The people He has chosen as His own inheritance.

    16 No king is saved by the multitude of an army;
    A mighty man is not delivered by great strength.
    17 A horse is a
    vain hope for safety;
    Neither shall it deliver any by its great strength.

    18 Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him,
    On those who hope in His mercy,
    19 To deliver their soul from death,
    And to keep them alive in famine.

    20 Our soul waits for the Lord;
    He is our help and our shield.
    21 For our heart shall rejoice in Him,
    Because we have trusted in His holy name.
    22 Let Your mercy, O Lord, be upon us,
    Just as we hope in You.”

    Now that warm weather has begun in earnest, you might appreciate this story: A little church was preparing for summer and anticipated hot weather, so they purchased several air-conditioners. However, the air-conditioners were stolen. The pastor posted this notice on the sign in front of the church: To the thief who stole our air-conditioning units: Keep one; It’s going to be hot where you’re going!

    Now, to the Scripture for the day: “Blessed Is the Nation Whose God Is the Lord.” When this phrase was first written, and when this Psalm was first penned, the author was talking about the nation of Israel, and there weren’t that many nations in that same category – nations who claimed that God was their Lord. In fact, Israel was the only nation who claimed God – Jehovah – as their God. The writer wasn’t just making a general statement that “Whenever a nation has God – Jehovah – as Lord, they will be blessed.” He was specifically saying, and rejoicing in the fact that Jehovah-God was the God of Israel, and that they were blessed in being in that position.

    When our country was first established, it could have been said, quite accurately, that God – Jehovah was our Lord. Not that there weren’t those who didn’t follow Him, but our country was established on Godly and righteous principles, and we, as a nation, recognized God as creator, Lord, Savior, and sustainer.

    However, if a person were to come to this country today, without any prior knowledge of its background or history, he might go a long time before he ever even suspected that God was involved in the country, at all.

    You know, as I do, that if a newcomer were to read a newspaper, today, he or she would find little mention of the idea that God is the Lord, here. If that same person were to turn on the radio or TV, would he or she find anyone, anywhere in this entire country who would try to say that God is the Lord of this land?

    Still, it’s quite undeniable that God has blessed America. He has protected her and shielded her and even defended her. Even now, in the midst of anti-God, anti-Christianity, and anti-religious sentiment across the country, God still seems to have a restraining hand on the evil forces that would fight against Him.

    How long will that last? How long will it be before God’s patience runs out?

    Do you remember, in the Old Testament, when Abraham prayed to God for the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and he asked if God would spare the cities if there could be found fifty individuals who followed God? Then he actually bargained with God until God agreed to spare the city if 10 such people could be found.

    Even 10 individuals could not be found, and the cities were destroyed.

    Is there a limit for America? Is there a minimum number of faithful followers whose presence might turn away God’s wrath? Is that number dwindling? Are the percentages slipping away?

    Yes, God’s mercy is great; His patience is longsuffering. His forgiveness is unending. Yet, even His chosen people, Israel, pushed Him too far, and they were punished by being over-run and conquered!

    Today and tomorrow, as we remember our fallen soldiers and departed loved ones, let’s remember and give thanks, especially, for those who served God and country! Let’s maintain an extra honor for those whose allegiance was to both the country they loved and to the God they loved, and let’s be among those faithful Americans for whom God is our Lord!

  15. Sermon May 31, 2020

    Greater Is He That Is in Me

    Greetings from Concord Community Church and from Pastor Steve Ward. If you can join us at 10:00 AM on Sunday mornings, we would love to have you. We are located half-way between Patriot, Indiana, and Florence, Indiana – “the Little White Church down the lane.” Social distancing is in effect and graciously observed. Face masks are welcomed and encouraged. We seek a spirit of prayer, worship, praise, and devotion.

    Our Scripture Reading, today, is in two parts. The first part, in Galations 5, is about the fruit of the Spirit – the kind of things that should be in our lives because God – in the person of the Holy Spirit – is in our lives.

    The second Scripture, the rather famous “love chapter,” or I Corinthians 13, speaks about the importance of love in our lives. Although the two passages are quite different, both in purpose and in content, look for similarities in the two.

    Scripture Reading: Galatians 5:22,23; I Corinthians 13:1-13 (NKJV)
    22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

    I Corinthians 13:1-13 The Greatest Gift
    13 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

    4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

    8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.

    11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.

    13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

    The similarities in these two portions of Scripture are, at first glance, rather “hit and miss.” There is certainly not a lined-up, paralleled list of characteristics which can be readily matched and seen to be direct links, .but there is a definite – though subtle – over-lap and similarity between the two lists which begins to appear and to even show itself as one reads and re-reads the two passages.

    There are some obvious match-ups: “Love suffers long and is kind = “the fruit of the Spirit is . . . longsuffering, kindness . . . or “love does not envy, love does not parade itself, does not behave
    rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil” all fit together with “the fruit of the Spirit is . . . goodness.” So does “does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth.”

    “Love bears all things” – longsuffering;
    “Love believes all things” – faithfulness.
    “Love endures all things” – faithfulness. And longsuffering
    “Love never fails” – longsuffering, faithfulness, self-control.

    There is another list to which I Corinthians 13 also alludes, but we’re not always so eager to see this connection. Remember, I Corinthians 13 follows immediately after this sentence by Paul, the apostle: “And yet, I show you a more excellent way.” A more excellent way than what? In chapter 12, Paul has been talking about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and he has been showing the need for unity in the church, the body of Christ – all within the context of such a wide diversity of gifts which God gives us.

    He mentions, in verses 8-10, “the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, the working of miracles, prophecy,discerning of Spirits, tongues, interpretation of tongues, etc.

    Then, in v. 28 – 31, he gives quite a long list of the gifts of the Spirit, and he concludes with these words, verse 31, “But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.” Thus, it is obvious, in chapter 13, that he is referring to gifts of the Holy Spirit as he says, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, . . . 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains . . . all these gifts – any one of these gifts – minus love, is useless, meaningless, totally ineffective, and of zeroe value – null and void.

    So, perhaps the sum of it all is that we have the fruit of the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit, and the ultimate gift from God, — I’m referring to love – and they are all potentially a part of each one of our lives. Thus, we should be full of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness, and those should be all operating in the midst of God’s separate gifts to each one of us — the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, the working of miracles, prophecy,discerning of Spirits, tongues, interpretation of tongues, etc., — the Spiritual gifts – none of which is the least bit worthwhile without love as the over-riding factor., but all of which, combined in our lives in God’s divine proportionment, combines into a powerful, dynamic, unimaginable force.

    It’s no wonder Jesus said, “But ye shall receive power after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you, . . . .”

    Are you willing to pray that the fruit of the Spirit would come alive in your life and that His love would so envelope your every word, thought, motive, action, attitude, and response, that nothing is done without it?

    Be sure of this: the true fruit of the Spirit and the true gifts of the Spirit are initiated, empowered and perpetuated by love. – and every one of them is useless without it.

  16. Scripture and Thoughts, June 7, 2020
    All Your Anxiety

    Greetings from Concord Community Church at 7578 Concord Road, Patriot, Indiana. We’re actually half-way between Patriot, Indiana, and Florence, Indiana. Our Morning Worship Service is at 10:00 AM. We encourage social distancing and face masks. Our aim is to worship God respectfully, to give Him the praise and honor due to His name, and to fellowship together as Christians who love our God and Savior!

    Our Scripture, this morning, is from a great number of sources. I trust that you will find a common theme and that that theme will help us direct our thoughts.

    II Timothy 1:7 “After all, the spirit given to us by God isn’t a fearful spirit; it’s a spirit of power, love and prudence.”
    Philippians 4:6-7 “Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
    Proverbs 3:5,6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.”
    Psalm 56:3,4 “But when I am afraid, I will put my confidence in You. Yes, I will trust the promises of God. And since I am trusting Him, what can mere man do to me?”
    Psalm 34:4 “For I cried to him and he answered me! He freed me from all my fears.”
    Psalm 55:22 “Give your burdens to the Lord. He will carry them. He will not permit the godly to slip or fall.”
    Romans 8:28 “We know, in fact, that God works all things together for good to those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose”
    Philippians 4:19 “What’s more, my God will meet all your needs, too, out of His store of glorious riches in King Jesus.”
    1 Peter 5:7 “Throw all your care upon Him, because he cares about you.”
    Isaiah 41:10 “Fear not, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed. I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will uphold you with my victorious right hand/”
    Deuteronomy 31 “Be strong! Be courageous! Do not be afraid of them! For the Lord your God will be with you. He will neither fail you nor forsake you.”
    John 14:27 “ ‘I’m leaving you peace. I’m giving you my own peace. I don’t give gifts in the way the world does. Don’t let your hearts be troubled; don’t be fearful.”
    Matthew 6:34 “ ‘So don’t worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow can worry about itself. One day’s trouble at a time is quite enough.’ ”
    Romans 5:13 “I pray that God, the source of hope will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

    Have you ever wondered why so many Bible verses deal with burdens, anxiety, worry, and lack of peace?

    On one hand, of course, it’s because God is the perfect solution to our anxieties, our worries, burdens, and lack of peace. On the other hand, it’s also because we humans seem to be the perfect anxiety machines. We’re the best worriers on the planet; We’re expert and well-practiced burden-carriers.

    When I began thinking about a topic for this morning’s thoughts and sermon, I was quite intent about the subject of commitment – our need to commit our lives to God and to dedicate ourselves to His work. However, it seemed that every time I started jotting down notes and choosing songs about commitment, those thoughts and those song titles kept getting re-directed toward the subjects of anxiety, worry, burdens, and lack of contentment or peace.

    That’s when I realized that there’s a vital and very important connection between the subject of commitment and the subjects of worry, anxiety, burdens, and contentment/peace. The connection is that if we want God to undertake in our feelings of anxiety and worries, etc., then we have to trust Him enough that we are willing to turn our lives over to Him. – and that’s called commitment!

    Do we really expect God to give us peace if we don’t accept His care and protection? Do we really expect God to take our burdens when we keep on insisting that we can solve them, ourselves?

    How do we expect God to follow through on this promise:

    Fear thou not, for I am with you. Be not dismayed, for I am thy God. I will strengthen thee. I will help thee. I will uphold thee with my right hand.

    How does it work for Him to tell us to “be not dismayed, for I am thy God,” if we refuse to let Him be our God? How can He really be our God – and our ruler – if we’ve already elected ourselves to that position? Are we insisting on being our own ruler? Are we the only ones we allow to be in charge of our lives?

    Listen to the words of this song:

    “Is there a heart bowed down by sorrow? Is there a life bowed down by care? Come to the cross, each burden bearing. All your anxiety – leave it there.”

    So, what do we do? Do we bring our burdens to the cross and then keep on walking – with our burdens still on our shoulder?

    All your anxiety, all your care,
    Bring to the mercy seat, leave it there,
    Never a burden He cannot bear,
    Never a friend like Jesus!

    But there’s one burden that Jesus cannot bear. He can’t bear the burden that you refuse to give up. How can He solve your problem if you insist on trying to solve it yourself? I will admit that Jesus can overcome even our stubborn will. He can put you in such a situation that you just have to give up, but, for the most part, He won’t. He would much rather that we would surrender our trials and troubles to Him to take care of, but, too often, we don’t – and/or we won’t.

    Too often, we want to get rid of our worries and anxieties, but we only want God to do the work of carrying our burdens away. Then we want to go on with our lives as though nothing happened. We think our part should be ultra easy, and, in a way, it is – let God take over, but, at the same time, it’s extra hard: We have to release our burdens to God! We have to let go. We have to trust God, yes, but that means trusting God with our lives – not just with our worries and troubles, but with the whole of our lives!

    That’s why there’s such a connection between anxieties and commitment. We can’t really get rid of our anxieties without committing our lives to God.

    “No other friend so swift to help you,
    No other friend so quick to hear,
    No other place to leave your burden,
    No other one to hear your prayer.

    Refrain:
    “All your anxiety, all your care,
    Bring to the mercy seat, leave it there,
    Never a burden He cannot bear,
    Never a friend like Jesus!”

  17. Sermon June 14, 2020

    Greetings from Concord Community Church and Pastor Steve Ward at 7578 Concord Road, Patriot, Indiana. We’re actually half-way between Patriot, Indiana, and Florence, Indiana. Our Morning Worship Service is at 10:00 AM. We encourage social distancing and face masks. Please come and worship God together with us and share in fellowship as Christians who love our God and Savior!

    Scripture: Deut. 20:1-4; II Sam. 5:22-25; II Kings 6:14-17
    “When you go out to battle against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them; for the Lord your God is with you, who brought you up from the land of Egypt. 2 So it shall be, when you are on the verge of battle, that the priest shall approach and speak to the people. 3 And he shall say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel: Today you are on the verge of battle with your enemies. Do not let your heart faint, do not be afraid, and do not tremble or be terrified because of them; 4 for the Lord your God is He who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.’ ”

    II Sam. 5:22-25 22 “Then the Philistines went up once again and deployed themselves in the Valley of Rephaim. 23 Therefore David inquired of the Lord, and He said, “You shall not go up; circle around behind them, and come upon them in front of the mulberry trees. 24 And it shall be, when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the mulberry trees, then you shall advance quickly. For then the Lord will go out before you to strike the camp of the Philistines.” 25 And David did so, as the Lord commanded him; and he drove back the Philistines from Geba as far as Gezer.”

    II Kings 6:14-17
    14 “Therefore he (the king of Syria) sent horses and chariots and a great army there, (where Elisha was) and they came by night and surrounded the city. 15 And when the servant of the man of God arose early and went out, there was an army, surrounding the city with horses and chariots. And his servant said to him, ‘Alas, my master! What shall we do?’

    16 So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17 And Elisha prayed, and said, “Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”

    These three very different stories are all focused on one thing: The almighty power of God to deliver His children.

    In the Book of Deuteronomy, we find Moses addressing the children of Israel as they are about to cross over the Jordan River and enter the Promised Land. Moses’ great sadness is that He will not be going with them. Thus, the entire book of Deuteronomy consists of three long, impassioned sermons from Moses to prepare the people to go on without him. He has seen them when they did follow God and when they did exhibit their faith in Him. He has also seen them falter and fail. He has even seen them refuse to trust God and rebel. Forty years prior to this time, they had decided that the land God promised them would be too difficult for them to conquer.

    Thus, the key phrase from this passage of Scripture is when Moses says, “ ‘. . . for the Lord your God is He who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.’ ”

    The application for us is just as simple: God goes with us. He’s not just a companion and not merely a comforter. God goes with us to fight against our enemies! He is there for us; He “has our back.” Moses wants to emphasize that God is there to fight for them. God is just as powerful in our time as He was when He led the Israelites out of Egypt and into the promised land.

    What is God’s purpose in your life? What does He want for you? Rember, He wants the best for you. Be assured that it is God who is the power to accomplish what He wills for you.

    The next story is about King David, who was being attacked by the Philistines. When David asked God if he should confront them in battle, God told him to circle around behind them, and wait for the sound of a marching army in the tops of the mulberry trees! How amazing would that be? This would be the signal that God would be going before them to strike the enemy. God often surprises us by the way He fights for us; Have you heard God in the mulberry trees, lately? With God, the unexpected – even the impossible – can easily be the norm. Remember: “God works in mysterious ways.” Be sure that He will go before you!

    Lastly, we have the story of Elisha, who is being sought by the entire Syrian army, which had come, initially, to fight the Israeli army. Syria had been frustrated, however, because the king of Israel always seemed to know the Syrian moves ahead of time. Fed up with being out-maneuvered, and suspecting a spy, the king called his officers together to try to find who the traitor might be. Instead, he was told that it was Elisha, the prophet, who was informing the Israelites of the Syrian plans and movements.

    Think, now, of the irony of the next move: The Syrian king decides to capture Elisha! He decides to catch the prophet who has already been one step ahead of him every time he tries to make a move!

    He finds out where the prophet lives, and then he puts his plan – such as it is – in motion.

    That’s where our Scripture text begins. Elisha’s servant wakes up in the morning and sees the city surrounded by an army and horses and chariots. Not realizing God’s power of protection, (does that sound like us?), the servant comes to Elisha in a panic. “What shall we do? What shall we do?” (Does that sound like us, too?)

    Don’t you wonder if Elisha might have had a little smile on his face? The first part of his answer was simple: “Don’t worry,” he said, in effect, “Those who are with us are more than those who are against us.”

    Still, the servant was looking at the entire army of the Syrian forces, and that was no small matter!

    Would Elisha’s answer have been enough to calm the fears of the servant? Would it have been enough for us, if we looked out the window one morning and saw that troops and vehicles and war machines were out there waiting for us to show ourselves?

    Elisha went one step further in order to quell the servant’s fears: He asked God to open the eyes of the servant so that he could really see what was out there. He wanted his servant to see the protective forces of the armies of the hosts of Heaven! When he looked again, he saw, all over the country-side, the vast array of the “horses and chariots of fire” which God had sent for their protection! Can you imagine? God allowed this man to merely look and to see God’s power and protection all around him!

    Do we need to have our eyes opened to see God’s mighty army of protection all around us?

    The story, by the way, does not end there. Remember the plan of the Syrian king to capture Elisha? How successful do you think that “mighty” king was in his plot to frustrate the protection of God?

    The “rest of the story” is that Elisha simply asked God to strike the king and his army with blindness! Then Elisha went to the blind king and offered to take him to “the man you seek.” (Remember, the king was out to capture Elisha for upsetting his plans to fight the King of Israel.) Elisha led the unwitting Syrian king right to the court of the king of Israel! There, of course, he could have expected, at least, to have been taken prisoner, if not something far worse.

    Instead, Elisha told the king of Israel to give the captive king and his army a grand feast and to send them on their way home. Hopefully, by now, he should have learned enough about the power and protection of the God of Israel to give Him due Honor and respect.

    It makes a person wonder what God might have to do in order for us to really believe in and trust the power and protection of God. How slow are we in recognizing God’s power at work in our lives at any time?

    Let’s remember these three truths:

    1. From the lips of Moses: 4 “for the Lord your God is He who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.’ ”

    2. From the story of David, listening for the sound of an army marching among the tops of the mulberry trees: “the Lord will go out before you” Let’s listen for His army.

    3. Elisha’s prayer for his servant: “open his eyes that he may see.” (“Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” )

    May we, too, be aware of the mighty power of God, His wish and will to take care of us, and our need, continually, to have our eyes opened to see and recognize His protection, power, and care.

  18. Rules of a Godly Life

    Scripture and Thoughts, June 21, 2020 – Fathers Day

    Greetings from Concord Community Church at 7578 Concord Road, Patriot, Indiana. We’re actually half-way between Patriot, Indiana, and Florence, Indiana. Our Morning Worship Service is at 10:00 AM. Please come and join us.

    Scripture
    Proverbs 23:22-25 (NKJV)
    22 Listen to your father who begot you,
    And do not despise your mother when she is old.

    23 Buy the truth, and do not sell it,

    24 The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice,
    And he who begets a wise child will delight in him.
    25 Let your father and your mother be glad,
    And let her who bore you rejoice.

    Psalms 103:13 (NLT)

    13 The Lord is like a father to his children,
    tender and compassionate to those who fear him.

    Psalms 68:4, 5 (NLT)
    4 Sing praises to God and to his name!
    Sing loud praises to him who rides the clouds.[a]
    His name is the Lord—
    rejoice in his presence!

    5 Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—
    this is God, whose dwelling is holy.

    Ephesians 6:4
    4 Fathers,[a]

    do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.

    Rules of a Godly Life
    Part III: WORKS

    9. Do not think that it will suffice to only serve God yourself, and not see to it that all in your care do likewise. The duty of every father lies not alone in personal service to God, but also in influencing his family and servants to do likewise. God has commanded, “And these words, which I command you this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou risest up.” Deut. 6:6,7. So did Joshua, the God-fearing hero, informing the people of Israel that whether or not they served the Lord, he and his house would do so. Josh. 24:15. A father is as accountable for the welfare of those in his house as a government for her charge or a pastor for his flock. He must therefore be deeply concerned that his entire household truly worship and serve God, . . .

    17. Preside over those in your charge with kindness and meekness . . . God requires meekness and humility of those in authority as well as justice. Therefore govern . . . with love and mercy, . . .

    18. Finally, be friendly to all and a burden to no one. Live holy before God; before yourself, moderately; before your neighbors, honestly. Let your life be modest and reserved, your manner courteous, your admonitions friendly, your forgiveness willing, your promises true, your speech wise, and share gladly the bounties you receive.

    Have you heard this story?

    There was a very rich man who was also very wise – so wise that people came from miles around just to hear him expound on matters of all kinds – from philosophy to plants, from poetry to the wisdom of the ages.

    However, this very wise man had a very foolish son, and, even though the wise man had many things to say about fools and the shame of giving foolish sons authority or positions of power, the wise man allowed his foolish son to become king, in his place, when the wise man died.

    When the foolish son did become king, his very first decision was a foolish one. He even went against the advice of his father’s trusted counselors, for he told the people that he was going to increase their tax burden beyond the heavy requirements that his father had imposed.

    As a result, the majority of his kingdom – more than 90% – rebelled and split away and set up an opposing, rival nation right next door to his. They would oppose him and become a thorn in his flesh – and his nation – for years to come.

    This unfortunate father, the wisest and the richest man in all the world, left, as a legacy, an undisciplined, disrespectful, ungodly son who caused the division of the nation as well as their departure from even the pretension of godly ways, and this apostasy lasted at least 20 years and two kingdoms before a God-fearing king was again placed on the throne.

    You probably recognize this “foolish” father as none other than King Solomon, otherwise known as the wisest man who ever lived, who was very unwise in at least three ways: the women he married (emphasizing the plural), the ungodly choices he made because of them, and the son whose discipline and training he neglected. Yes, it was his son who foolishly caused the division and split of the kingdom which God had established, nourished, empowered, and made great through King Saul, David, and Solomon, and it was Solomon, that wise, wise, revered, and rich, rich, rich king who neglected his duty as a father and reared – may I say it? – a spoiled “brat” for a son.

    What good did it do for Solomon to be so wise if he was going to end his life in such a foolish way? But that’s just what he did.

    What good did it do for Solomon to be so rich if those riches were to be squandered and soon lost to the King (Pharoah) of Egypt when he invaded The tiny (Southern) Kingdom of Judah?

    Each of us, as fathers, has the opportunity to be wiser than Solomon in the raising of our children. “Train up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) Spoken, by the way, by King Solomon.

    Will you be a wise father? Will you be a Godly Father? Will it be your aim to live a Godly life before your children and your household and to provide the instruction and discipline required to raise Godly children? These are our challenges. This should be our goal.

  19. Scripture and Thoughts, June 28, 2020

    Greetings from Concord Community Church at 7578 Concord Road, Patriot, Indiana.
    We’re actually half-way between Patriot, Indiana, and Florence, Indiana.
    Our Morning Worship Service is at 10:00 AM. Please come and join us.

    Sripture Reading:
    Col. 1:9 For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;

    Hebrews 12:1,2 1. Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2. Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

    Hebrews 12:2 NKJV – – Bible Gateway

    Concord Community Church – Who Are We?

    We are the “Little White Church Down the Lane”
    in the middle of a cornfield between Florence and Patriot, Indiana.
    We are a small, independent, community church with a proud history
    of sharing and proclaiming the Gospel. We are, and intend to be

    Our church invitation is
    “Come share God’s Love with us.”

    We are, and intend to be, a church of prayer

    We believe in the authority of the Scriptures. – We believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God.
    We believe in Jesus Christ and His redeeming work on the cross. Jesus is His name; it means “Saviour.” “Christ” Means the Messiah ,– meaning the Messiah foretold in the Old Testament – the coming king, Savior, and Redeemer.
    We believe in the fundamentals of the Christian faith.

    Some of the basic fundamentals of the faith are:
    the virgin birth,
    the inspiration of the Bible, the Trinity, the power and indwelling
    presence of the Holy Spirit, the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus,
    the Christ, the Son of God, We believe in His sure and coming return, and
    we believe all true Believers will spend eternity with Him.

    The following is something that is not set down anywhere, but I
    believe it is true. It should be true for each one of us as well as for all
    of us, together:

    We believe, and we seek to practice, that the love of Christ
    must be at the center of the life of every Christian,
    the center of the life and work of the church,
    and that it must motivate our every
    thought, word, and action.

    The following comes from our by-laws and our statement of faith. It is referred to as our church covenant:

    Our church covanent challenges us to
    -Walk together in Christian love.
    -Strive for the advancement of this church
    in knowledge, holiness, and comfort.
    -Promote its prosperity and spirituality
    -Sustain its worship, ordinances, and doctrines.
    -Contribute cheerfully and regularly to the support of the ministry,
    the expenses of the church, the relief of the the poor and the
    spread of the gospel to and through all nations.
    -Maintain family and personal devotions
    -Religiously educate our children.
    -Seek the salvation of our kindred and acquaintances.
    -Walk humbly in the world.
    Be just in our dealings, faithful in our engagements,
    and exemplary in our deportment.
    Avoid all tattling, backbiting, and excessive anger.
    Be zealous in our efforts to advance the kingdom of our God and Savior. ****
    Watch over one another in brotherly love,
    Remember each other in prayer. ****
    Aid each other in sickness and distress.
    Cultivate Christian Character in feeling and courtesy in speech.
    Be slow to take offense, but always ready for reconciliation, being ever-mindful
    of the rules of our Savior to secure it without delay.
    (If you are on the way to the altar and discover?realize there is a problem between you and a fellow Chriatian, leave you gift of sacrifice, aand go mend the rift with your fellow-Christian!)
    Who are you, today? Where are you, today? Do those words of our church covenant suggest any changes or adjustments you may need to make in your life?

    What are your good qualities and assets?
    What are your bad – not-so-good- qualities and assets?

    Between today and tomorrow, what do you want/need to change?
    Can you make a start?

    Bonus Question: What would your wife or husband want you to change?
    Can you make a start?

    Second Bonus Question:
    What would God want you to change?
    Can you make a start?

    Why don’t you set a time – perhaps this afternoon – when you can contemplate these questions – especially the three:

    1. What do you want/need to change in your life?
    2. What would your wife or husband want you to change?
    3. What would God want you to change?

    However, before you ask God what He wants you to change, would you please do something else? Would you just pretend you’re a child coming home from a very
    disappointing and hurtful day at school, and all you want to do is crawl up onto your Mommy’s lap or your Daddy’s lap and sob and cry and hang onto Mommy or Daddy? You just want to hold on.
    –only, you are not a child. And, instead of Mommy or Daddy, it’s Jesus; it’s God.

    You need a lap. You need more than a hug. You need to cling! You need to hold on to God and let Him protect you from the fears of the “Monsters in the Night.” You need His soothing voice to calm your hurts and disappointments from “those meanies” who have been tormenting you. You need to cling and to “cast all your cares upon Him” (“for He careth for you.”) You need Him to tell you it’s OK that you failed or messed up. That’s part of what He meant when He said, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” He means, in part, “Unburden yourself.”

    Cling to Him; hold on to Him. Let Him be the One who comforts you. Let Him be the one who protects you. Sit there with Him “On His lap,” so to speak. Wrap you arms around Him and cling.
    There’s no time limit, here.
    He is your Savior and Lord, right? You belong to Him. You truly believe He died on the cross to take away you sins, right? You do accept Him as your Savior, right? You’re His child, right? (If not, now’s the time.)
    So . . . ask Him. (What does He want you to change?)

  20. Scripture Reading and Thoughts for July 5, 2020
    Freedom: Are We Losing It?
    Greetings, and welcome from Pastor Steve Ward and Concord Community Church at 7578 Concord Road, half-way between Florence, Indiana, and Patriot, Indiana. We are now meeting for “in-person” church, practicing social-distancing and encouraging face masks. Please join us for our Sunday Morning Worship Service at 10:00 AM.

    Scripture Reading: Psalms 108:1-6, 12, 13
    O God, my heart is steadfast;
    I will sing and give praise, even with my glory.
    2 Awake, lute and harp!
    I will awaken the dawn.
    3 I will praise You, O Lord, among the peoples,
    And I will sing praises to You among the nations.
    4 For Your mercy is great above the heavens,
    And Your truth reaches to the clouds.

    5 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens,
    And Your glory above all the earth;
    6 That Your beloved may be delivered,
    Save with Your right hand, and hear me.
    12 Give us help from trouble,
    For the help of man is useless.
    13 Through God we will do valiantly,
    For it is He who shall tread down our enemies.

    In 2001, on September 11, now known simply as 9-11, a group of terrorists commandeered 4 airplanes, with the intent of crashing them into the twin towers of New York City, the Pentagon, and, apparently, another location in Washington, D.C., possibly the White House. The two airplanes designated by the terrorists to destroy the twin towers were successful, as was the plan to fly an airplane into the pentagon, The fourth plane, now known as flight 93, had been headed toward Washington, D. C. when passengers on board thwarted the plans of the hijackers.

    Part of the results of that day, in reference to changes in the everyday lives of Americans, has been a greatly increased scrutiny for passengers and flights, increasingly stringent enforcement of security at all points of entry into the country, new travel restrictions, (for example, the need for a passport to travel to and from Canada), new Drivers License requirements, greatly increased security at government buildings, and greatly increased observation and even investigation into our daily lives by government agencies, such as NSA.

    Our privacy has been invaded; our access to travel has been limited; our feelings of safety and protection have greatly changed. What other changes are we seeing?

    After all, we are Americans, citizens of the United States of America – the land of the free!

    But are our freedoms still intact? Is our land truly free?

    Beyond the need for heightened security, are our other hard-won freedoms still ours? For example, is our Freedom of speech still intact in this country, or are there some things you don’t dare say without fear of being arrested or even jailed?

    Do we still have freedom of religion, or are we in danger of being controlled by government officials and agencies who have insisted that if a minister’s comments stray too far from certain definitions of religious subjects and come too close to similar definitions of “political” subjects, then that church could easily lose their tax-free status? Is that freedom of religion or is that intimidation? Wasn’t there even talk of having “monitors” or observers who would tell the government if a pastor crossed the line or became too political? Does that sound like America? Or does it sound more like a country like communist China?

    Does the same attempt to limit and regulate religious conversations also infringe upon the freedom of speech? Does freedom of speech really exist if you are only free to speak about certain subjects or about certain people?

    Our freedoms are under attack. Our rights are becoming abridged and diminished.
    Our privacy is invaded because of the needs for national security, yes, but even more so because of the greed and self-enrichment “needs” of large corporations – and small – who pay social media companies and on-line “spying” specialists to keep them informed of our every personal preference and curiosity and on-line search until the mere mention – on-line – of a brand or a model will bring to your phone, tablet or computer a deluge of ads and “stories” and “infomercials.”

    Very recently, a married couple, apparently fearing for their lives when a small, angry group of people broke down their gates and illegally entered their property, yelling and cursing, and shouting threats, retrieved their privately-owned, legally licensed firearms for protection, and found themselves condemned by the media and arrested by the police, all, apparently, because the invading, angry mob was of a different race.

    Do we still have the freedoms and constitutionally granted rights we once thought we had?

    It would be hard to argue that our constitutionally granted freedoms and rights are not under attack.

    However, I want to tell you about freedoms and rights and privileges that you may have never known you had.

    We, as Christians, have freedoms and privileges which are not guaranteed by the constitution of the United States of America. We have freedoms and rights which are not available from any government or territory or system of laws, anywhere.

    Has it occurred to you that, as a Christian, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, you have more Freedoms than any other American or group of Americans or citizens of any other country in the world?

    For one thing, we are FREE from the penalty of sin. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1) Romans 3:23 says “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord.”

    “If the Son, therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free, indeed.” (John 8:36)

    Without the salvation provided by Jesus Christ on the cross, the Bible describes mankind as being bound by sin. He/she is unable to break free from it. We are naturally inclined toward sin. By ourselves, we cannot be rid of it. The cross, however, where Jesus died and gave His life for the forgiveness of our sins, has set us free. We have been redeemed and made free from the penalty of sin.

    What are some of the other rights and privileges we have as followers of Christ? One of the great benefits we have is expressed by the Apostle Paul in the book of Romans, chapter 8, verses 38-39 “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

    Call it a right; call it a privilege; but call it a fact. We are inseparable from God and His Love. We are citizens of Heaven! Now what do you think of your rights and privileges and freedoms? We are offered Love, Joy, Peace, Longsuffering, Gentleness, Goodness, Meekness, Faith.

    They are called the fruit of the Spirit, and they are part of our inheritance, our rights, and our privileges.

    You are, after all, a child of the King. What other rights and privileges do we need?

  21. In Your Own House 7/12/2020

    Greetings and welcome from Concord Community Church and from Pastor Steve Ward. Our church motto is, “Come and celebrate God’s love with us.” We meet for worship service at 10:00 AM each Sunday morning at 7578 Concord Road, Patriot, Indiana. We’re actually located half-way between Florence, Indiana, and Patriot, Indiana. Please come and join us. We do social distancing, and face masks are encouraged and welcome.

    Our Scripture passage, this morning, is from the 8th chapter of Romans, verses 1, 5, and 6.

    “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

    5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”

    Let me tell you a story.

    A man named Robert Freeman was in bed in his house, and he heard a noise, downstairs. Quietly tip-toeing down the steps, Robert proceeded to investigate. When he reached the first level of his house, he heard sounds coming from his study. As he quietly made his way in that direction, it sounded like someone rustling through his papers and desk drawers.

    Robert came to the door of his study and found a gentleman who was, indeed, going through his desk drawers and papers in an almost desperate manner. He thought he heard the intruder mutter, “Now, where did I put that check book?”

    Throwing caution aside, Robert stepped fully into the room and addressed the stranger: “Who are you, and what do you think you’re doing?”

    “I’m looking for the check book. You’ve gone and misplaced it, again, and I can’t find it, anywhere. Where is it?”

    “The check book is mine,” Robert retorted. “Why would I want you to have it?”

    “I thought I’d just grab the check book and run down to the corner and buy us a nice bottle of whiskey.”

    “Buy us a bottle of whiskey? I don’t drink! I ditched that stuff years ago, when I got married.”

    “Well, you shouldn’t have! Look at you! You’re all uptight and proper – and stuffy – and no fun, at all! You gotta loosen up, man!

    “How about you give me a few dollars cash, and I’ll go get us a bottle of fun!”

    Robert had had just about enough, and he wanted to get back to bed and assure his wife – assure his wife? – that wouldn’t be likely! A stranger in your house is looking for your check book so he can buy some whiskey to drink together! That would certainly assure her, now, wouldn’t it? And he didn’t need the temptation.

    “Aha!” exclaimed the stranger. “Here’s a twenty! You forgot about that, didn’t you? Hold on, right there. I’ll be right back.”

    With that, he flew out the door.

    Robert was relieved, of course, and he was willing to fore-go the $20.00 just to be rid of the man. He hadn’t seemed harmful – almost nice, even, but it was nice that he was gone.

    “I’m going to the kitchen for a drink of water.”

    That’s where he was when the man returned – with the whiskey – and it was tempting – and maybe he had been a little uptight, lately – and probably, he reasoned, his wife wouldn’t find out – and maybe she wouldn’t even mind.

    The man’s name was Bob. Funny. Robert meets Bob. Bob buys them both a drink – with Robert’s money – and they talk and drink all night, as though they were old acquaintances.

    Before daylight, Robert wanders off to bed and tries to “assure” his wife, who wonders how he’ll ever get to work in that condition. Bob has gone to sleep on the sofa. He’ll stay for breakfast.

    In the months that follow, Bob and Robert become buddies – sometimes drinkin’ buddies, which doesn’t please Robert’s wife the least bit – but Robert is convinced he is having a lot more fun, even though his boss doesn’t seem too pleased with his new personality. His jokes are a little shadier and his conversation a bit more coarse.

    Eventually, Robert gets home later and later from work; he and his wife argue more, and his former friends worry about him, but Bob is always there, and Robert is quite sure he’s having more fun than he used to.

    Have you ever had a friend like that? Perhaps we all have one. Perhaps we all have one right in our own “house.” Sometimes he/she has the same name as we do such as Robert and Bob. Sometimes the friend is actually more of an enemy than a friend.

    In our story, the friend, Bob, has come to live in Robert’s house. Do you realize that we all have our own resident worst enemy who tries to influence us in wrong directions? Our resident enemy is simply called “the sin nature,” or the “old nature,” and it’s a part of us. It will always try to influence us in the wrong direction, and if we listen to it, it will lead us astray.

    As Christians, however, we also have a new nature. The Apostle, Paul, tells us, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation.” We have the opportunity to follow the new nature which we have in Christ. We don’t have to listen to the old nature that hangs around within us.

    The enemy’s in our own house. So is the solution.

  22. Scripture and Thoughts                                                     7-19-2020
    Greetings from Concord Community Church at 7578 Concord Road, Patriot, Indiana. 
    We’re actually half-way between Patriot, Indiana, and Florence, Indiana. 
    Our Morning Worship Service is at 10:00 AM.  Please come and join us.

    Scripture Reading:  :
     Romans 8:1,5,6 KJV
    “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”  5 “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”
    Colossians 2:7 NLT
    “Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him.  Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.”
    I Peter 2:1-3 NLT
    “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.  Like newborn babes, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”

    Little Johnny was at home with his mother when a mean man came and began yelling at her.  Johnny was afraid.  First he hid behind his mother, but, as the man became meaner and meaner, Little Johnny ran to his room and hid in the closet.  He could tell the man was hurting Mommy, and he was very afraid.

    He didn’t see the mean man, again, until he was 8 years old.  He was afraid, again, but he was brave enough to yell at the man and to tell him to “leave Mommy alone!”  The mean man even took a swing at Little Johnny, but not before Johnny managed to call 911 and ask for the police.  Johnny got hurt, and his Mommy was hit and hurt, again, but Johnny was determined to defend his Mother, and he felt good that he had stood up to the mean man and had tried to keep his Mother safe.

    The mean man didn’t come back, again, until Johnny was 18, and Johnny was ready for him. Still, the mean man was big, and strong, and used to fighting, and, although Johnny protected his Mother, he still ended up hurt, battered, and bruised,
    but he also knew that he was now able and prepared to defend her and himself. Johnny was growing up in a mean, hateful world, and he was learning to find his way, in it.  In his life he encountered many who would hurt and steal and bully their way around people and groups, whether that took place on the streets or in supposedly civil settings.  

    You and I, too, are called upon to stand up and be heard in a mean, hateful world.  They even hate and attack Christianity.  We are called to be defenders.  Sometimes the enemy is a “meany,” whose intent is to push their way around.  Sometimes it’s a hateful person — one who hates Christianity and all that it stands for.  Sometimes it’s the seemingly nice person who attacks your beliefs and principles while pretending to be interested but is only interested in discrediting you and your beliefs.

    Sometimes, when we’re new to Christianity, the attacks can be scary, as they were to Johnny.  Johnny could have gotten hurt.   We may also be afraid.  There are many ways we may be afraid.  We could lose face; We could lose credibility; We could lose our standing with our friends.  It may be that in the very near future our fears may include the fear of losing our status on the job, our hope for a promotion or advancement, or our job, itself.

    We may hide in a closet, at first.  We may be quite afraid.
    However, as we grow, and as our faith becomes more and more dear to us, we may well become emboldened, and we may realize that what we have to defend is much more valuable than what we have to fear.  We may realize that what we have to protect is much more important than what we have to lose.

    When we become mature, we may come to realize that the One who died for us is the one worth fighting for and even dying for.

    How dear is He to you, and how dear is he to me?  Am I learning how precious He is?  Have I begun to learn how precious I am to Him?

    Remember that in our spiritual walk with God, knowing Him, believing and trusting in Him – even for a long time – doesn’t necessarily mean that we have grown.  It doesn’t mean that we are mature.

    Growing up is not automatic.  Becoming mature takes more than time.

    Have you attended a class reunion, lately?  Maybe 20 years or thirty or . . . .?(more!) years have passed since your graduation from high school, and you have a reunion.  Have you noticed that, in your high school class there are still those people who haven’t “grown up?”  Many of our high school friends – even from long ago —  haven’t really changed their behavior since Junior High School.

    It’s the same way with being a Christian.  Some of us never grow up!  Most importantly, many of us are still afraid of standing up for what we believe!  We are afraid of being hurt.  We are afraid of being different than our friends.   We are still worried about how we will look, how people will think about us.  We are, too often, still so locked in to ourselves and our own self-importance, that we’d rather go hide than take a stand for Jesus.  We don’t want to get hurt. 

    Little Johnny was afraid for himself, at first.  The mean man made him worry that he might get badly hurt.

    As he grew up, he also developed a deep concern for his mother, because, now, she was very important to him.  He loved her, and she was very precious to Him.

    Is Jesus precious enough to you to make you willing to stand up for Him?  Do you love Him intensely?  Is He someone you would want to defend?
    Have you grown in your walk with God?  Have you become stronger in your faith and in your determination to stand up for Him?
    Are you willing to stand up to the enemy and to stand up for God and your faith in Him?

    Let’s be praying for our own growth as well as for our courage.  Let’s be growing up in our walk with Him. 

    You need to be reading His Word.  “Desire the sincere milk of the Word, that you may grow thereby.”  1 Peter 2:2
    You need to be talking with Him.  “Pray without ceasing”  1 Thessalonians 5:16
    You need to be learning who He is and how much He loves you.
    “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height – to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God,” Ephesians 3:16-19

  23. Scripture Reading and Thoughts                                              August 2, 2020

    Greetings and welcome from Concord Community Church, 7578 Concord Road.  Our Sunday morning services are at 10:00 AM  Please join us.

    This morning, we will not have a sermon,  Instead, we will sing, read, and meditate on a particular subject, and the readings, the songs, and the meditations are all in the Sunday morning bulletin for this week.  Therefore, we are sending you a copy of our bulletin for this morning.  Obviously, read the Scriptures and the meditation.  Also, the Hymns are a vital part of the thoughts for the morning.  If you can sing them through.

    Concord Community Church           
          August 2, 2020
       Rev. Stephen G. Ward, Pastor

    Prelude: Hymn #713, “Seek Ye First,” Hymn #224, “We Have Come into His House,” #22, “Praise the Name of Jesus”
     
    Contemplation & Reflection
    “Beloved, let us love: love is of God;
    In God alone love has its true abode.
    Beloved, let us love: for those who love,
    They only are his children from above.
    Beloved, let us love; for love is rest,
    And those who do not love cannot be blessed.
    Beloved, let us love: for love is light,
    And those who do not love still live in night,
    Beloved, let us love: for only thus
    Shall we see God, the Lord, who first loved us.”

    Hymn #606, “O Love, That Will Not Let Me Go”
    Opening Prayer and Morning Announcements.

     Scripture Reading and Prayer
     I Corinthians 13:1-7
    Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body [a]to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
    4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not [b]puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, [c]thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

    Hymn #648, “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling

    Meditate: “ Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” (Matthew 22:37, 38; KJV) 

    I John 4:7-12
    7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
    12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. 
    (I John 3:1) “ Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!
    (I John 3:16) “16 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?”
    (I John 3:23) “ And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave  us commandment.”
    (I John 4:20) “ If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, [d]how can he love God whom he has not seen?”
    (I John 5:2)  By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. 
     
    Closing Song: #404, “Faith of Our Fathers” v. 3

    *****************************************************
       
    For further contemplation and for growth:

    Colossians 2:7
    “Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him.  Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” (NLT)

    I Peter 2:1-3
    Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.  Like newborn babes, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. (NLT)

  24. Scripture and Thoughts                                                          August 9, 2020
    Christian Growth/Spiritual Growth

    Greetings from Concord Community Church and from Pastor Steve Ward.  Concord Community Church is located at 7578 Concord Road, Patriot, Indiana.  We’re actually located half-way between Patriot, Indiana, and Florence, Indiana.  Our Sunday Morning service is at 10:00 AM.  Please join us.

    Our Scripture reading, this morning, is actually quite long, but very important.  Notice that some verses are printed in regular print, while others are in italics.  For the most part, the italisized sections are those referring to specific behaviors and patterns of living, while the sections in regular print are about the principles and over-all ideals of the Christian life and growth.

    Ephesians 4:1- 32  “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
     11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
    14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

         . . . .  17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.
    20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
     
    .  . . 25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin” : Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

           . . .29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.

     32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

    I used to think of Christian growth – Spiritual growth –  as the process by which Christians are “church-i-fied.”  You learn all the stories in the Bible; you learn all about the Bible; you learn the basics, at least, of Biblical Doctrine, and, you learn how to pray with all the “thys and thous and thines, etc., that are found in the King James Bible. I thought that that was a pretty good start towards Christian growth/ spiritual growth.  There are all kinds of thoughts about and many different aspects of Spiritual growth.  Many churches teach Biblical Doctrine in extensive detail, which can be very good, but I’ve also seen many of those churches with a “my way and nobody else’s way” attitude.  Our Scripture takes a different direction.

    In verse 1 of our Scripture, we are urged to live a life worthy of our calling – humble, gentle, patient, loving, keeping the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.  Question: Are we doing that?  Is our church doing that?  Are we living lives worthy of His calling?

    In verse 13 Paul refers to unity in the faith and attaining the “full measure of the fullness of Christ.”  — Unity in the faith?  — the full measure of the fullness of Christ?  I’m afraid churches spend more time arguing about details of our faith and doctrine than they do in reaching “the full measure of the fullness of Christ.”

     In other words, although the importance of sound teaching is emphasized in verses 11-13, where God gives apostles, prophets, evangelists and teachers, we are to be equipped “for works of service” being built up in love – verse 16: “ . . . speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”

    We are to put on the new man, v. 24, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
    Again, we are sometimes much more concerned about being “right” than being righteous and holy.

    Finally, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

    Every greeting, every meeting, every hand-shake (elbow-bump) and every conversation in the church and outside the church needs to be immersed in this attitude: to be kind and compassionate, forgiving each other.
    So, check you own growth in Christ.  Is your walk worthy of your calling?  Are you seeking “the full measure of the fullness of Christ – in the unity of the faith?  Are you putting on the new man and putting off the old man?  Are you kind and compassionate toward others, forgiving one another, as God has forgiven you?

  25. Scripture and Thoughts August 16, 2020
    A Changed Person

    Greetings from Concord Community Church and from Pastor Steve Ward. Concord Community Church is located at 7578 Concord Road, Patriot, Indiana. We’re actually located half-way between Patriot, Indiana, and Florence, Indiana. Our Sunday Morning service is at 10:00 AM. Please join us.

    When Peter was called to be a follower of Jesus, he was working on a fishing boat.
    Jesus told him to “Come, follow Me,” and he did. That didn’t make him into the bold preacher that he became. In fact, for the moment, it probably didn’t change Peter much, at all. James and John did the same thing, but they didn’t instantly become candidates for being New Testament authors and leaders of the New Testament Church.

    As we look around the table at the last supper, after three years of following Jesus and listening and watching and learning, we still find a group of twelve bewildered, questioning men who seem to have very little idea of what is going on.

    When Jesus said, “This is My body which is broken for you,” they, no doubt, were still trying to see some connection with the unleavened bread of the Old Testament Passover which was unleavened – prepared without yeast – because it was “prepared in haste” for the impending trip out of Egypt. The cup, which, as Jesus said, represented His own blood, shed for them and for us, would also, most likely, still be connected, in their minds, to the traditional Passover symbolism of the shed blood of the Passover lamb.

    The point is that these men had been with Jesus for close to three years, but they were far from being dedicated, die-hard followers of Jesus, the Christ. This became obvious when they each so readily deserted Him on the night He was arrested.

    But they changed. Between the time Jesus was arrested and the time when Peter stood up and addressed the crowd on the day of Pentecost, each one of them went through a transformation.

    We know what they saw. We know what they experienced. We know they saw, from afar, the trial, the crucifixion, and the burial of this man, Jesus, whom they had been following. Then they also saw Him alive after His burial. They had seen the empty tomb. They had touched Him. They had eaten with Him. They were believers, and they were eye-witnesses. The change for them was dramatic.

    For us it may be not be. Yet, the fact remains that Jesus changes lives. He changes attitudes and priorities and outlooks. How can it be otherwise when we realize, recognize, and believe the same truths that the disciples came to know and believe?

    Do you believe and trust Him? Is your faith in Him?

    “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

    Are you a changed person?
    Has Jesus Christ made a difference in your life?
    Is He the risen Lord of your life?
    Let Him be the changing force in your life.
    We all should be transformed.
    Have we let Him do that?

  26. Scripture and Thoughts, August 23, 2020

    Good Morning, and welcome. Greetings from Concord Community Church and from pastor Steve Ward. If you can actually join us in person on Sunday mornings, please do so. Our Sunday morning worship time is 10:00 AM. Remember: 7578 Concord Road, Patriot, Indiana – half-way between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.

    Our Scripture, this morning, is quite varied and from several sources, and, as you might see, “The sermon is in the Scriptures.” Read them slowly and thoughtfully, please, and let your heart join the verses of praise, those of prayer, and the verses from the Book of John, which lay out very clearly who Jesus is: the Son of God, God in the flesh, the Light of the world. You will also find some of the words of a few of the morning’s songs sprinkled in among the verses of Scripture.

    Psalms 95:1,2 “Oh come, let us sing to the Lord!
    Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
    2 Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving;
    Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.”

    Hymn #31, “I Exalt Thee” “For Thou, O Lord, art high above all the earth; Thou art exalted far above all gods. I exalt Thee, I exalt Thee, I exalt Thee, O Lord.”
    Psalms 139:1,2; 23, 24
    “O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
    2 You know my sitting down and my rising up;
    23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    Try me, and know my anxieties;
    24 And see if there is any wicked way in me,
    And lead me in the way everlasting.”

    Hymn # 338, “Wonderful Grace of Jesus, Greater than all my sin. How shall my tongue describe it? Where shall its praise begin? Taking away my burden, Setting my Spirit free; For the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me. Wonderful the matchless grace of Jesus; Deeper than the mighty rolling sea. Higher than the mountain, flowing like a fountain, all sufficient grace for even me. Broader than the scope of my transgressions, greater far than all my sin and shame. O magnify the precious name of Jesus; Praise His name.”

    John 1:1-14 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

    6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. 9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.

    10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

    1. 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

    I Corinthians 10:3,4: 3 “(Our fathers} all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.”
    Hymn #342, “Rock of Ages, cleft for me. Let me hide myself in Thee.”
    Hymn 343, “Amazing Grace”
    Hymn #345, “What a Wonderful Savior”

    A Changed Person (II)

    Jesus changes people. Getting to know Him changes people. Walking with Him changes people. Talking with Him changes people. Listening to people talk about Him – such as the disciples and other followers – changes people. That’s why reading the Bible changes people – especially when you realize that the entire Bible is about Jesus. The entire Bible is about the redemptive plan of God, and the whole sweep of history and prophecy and poetry in the Bible culminates in the redemptive action of Jesus when He died for our sins, was buried, and rose again. When we realize that – and, especially, that He died for each one of us, individually, it should change us.

    Has it changed you? Has it changed me? It should be changing us every day. It should be making a difference in the way we live our lives from the time we wake up in the morning to the time we go to bed at night.

    Don’t hang it on the shelf when you walk out of church on Sunday. Make it yours. Grasp it close. Don’t let it go. Don’t let it out your sight. Don’t allow it to leave your consciousness. Keep it in your thinking, always.

    Closing Song: #503, “Since Jesus Came into My Heart”

    “What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought
    Since Jesus came into my heart;
    I have light in my soul for which long I have sought,
    Since Jesus came into my heart.

    o Refrain:
    Since Jesus came into my heart,
    Since Jesus came into my heart;
    Floods of joy o’er my soul like the sea billows roll,
    Since Jesus came into my heart.”

    Concord Community Church -www.concordcommunitychurch.org

  27. Scripture Reading and Thoughts
    Aug 16th: Part I: A Changed Person
    Aug 23rd: Part II: Has it Changed you?
    Aug 30th: Part III: Changed

    Sermon 8-30-2020
    Good Morning, and welcome. Greetings from Concord Community Church and from pastor Steve Ward. If you can actually join us in person on Sunday mornings, please do so. Our Sunday morning worship time is 10:00 AM. Remember: 7578 Concord Road, Patriot, Indiana – half-way between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.

    Romans 7:14-25 “ . . . but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
    21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.”
    Hebrews 12:1,2 “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance (patience) the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
    Phillipians 3:13, 14 “ Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
    Romans 12:1,2 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

    We’ve been talking about change, recently – the new nature and the in-dwelling Holy Spirit and how, as Christians, we are a “new creation” in Christ. Nevertheless, Paul lays out for us, here in the 7th chapter of Romans, every man’s and woman’s dilemma. “I want to do good, but I end up doing evil.”

    “I’m trying to reform, but sin is still at work in me.”

    He caps off his struggle with the following statement: . 19 “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”

    Why didn’t we think of that argument while we were growing up? “It wasn’t me. I didn’t do it. It was the sin living in me that did it.”

    Sounds a little like Flip Wilson: “The Devil Made me do it.”

    Still I’m quite sure that every one of us identifies with Paul’s struggle. “I want to do what is right, but I still do what is wrong.”

    Paul goes on to show us that it’s because of the sin nature within us that we keep on struggling and why we keep on sinning.
    I hope you noted that Paul’s struggle ends with a high note of victory. Paul’s lowest point of despair and desperation was: “O, wretched man that I am . . .” His victory, and ours: Who shall deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

    One evening, not too long ago, I was in downtown Vevay, and I was inside a building, looking out onto the sidewalk, and along the sidewalk came some people walking past the window, going into the building next door. One of those people was walking with a particularly determined step, and with a very determined look on his face, and I knew he was fighting a battle. The battle was almost over; it had already been decided, and he knew he was going into that building, and I knew that he probably wouldn’t be coming out until two or three o’clock in the morning, and he would not be coming out sober. That was his battle.

    His determination was in line with his intention. He had fought the battle with his inner self, and now he was determined to carry out the culmination of his battle. It would culminate when he started the drinking, and his addiction would take over from there. He lost the battle. The victory would not be his, even though he ended up doing what he really wanted to do.

    It was just as Paul said, “Who shall save me from this body of death?”

    Jesus is still in the rescue business, and we are still fighting the battles – like the man I saw on Ferry Street, and, like him, we often fight the battle within our own selves.

    The Christian life is a series of battles. How often is that a struggle with our own selves – a struggle to overcome sin, and a struggle with our own tendencies to do wrong?

    And this Christian life – the life we try to live for God – let’s not confuse the Christian life with the wrong things. For example, let’s not confuse the Christian life with feelings about the Christian life. If you go to a meeting or have a wonderful experience and have wonderful feelings afterward, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a changed person. It may only mean that you had a wonderful meeting and a wonderful feeling about it. Don’t confuse feelings for the Christian life.

    Let’s not confuse doctrinal teaching and much learning with what God wants for us to be as Christians. No amount of head-learning is ever going to be a substitute for the life of Christ flowing through you. Let’s not confuse teaching and learning – even good doctrine and good learning – with the Christian life.

    Let’s be careful not to confuse formalities of the church with the change God wants to come over our hearts. Formalities and traditions can be meaningful and beautiful, but let’s not confuse them with the Christian life.

    And, finally, let’s not confuse “Christian activity – or activities – with God’s plan for our walk with Him. Lots of people get involved in a lot of things to do – good things – that still fail to hit the mark for what God has in mind for your life. You still need a personal walk with God.

    Paul gives us three admonitions in the other verses that we read, this morning. First of all, in Hebrews 12:1,2: Lay aside every weight and sin. Lay it aside. Do not encumber yourself with it. Do not let it be an additional burden or distraction, but let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.

    Then, in Philippians, we are told to forget the things that are behind and to reach forward to those things which are ahead, and to press toward the goal for the prize for the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

    And, finally, in Romans 12, to present our bodies a living sacrifice, to not be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our mind.

    The change in the Christian life is not simply a decision to change, but the ongoing battle to lay aside our old sins and distractions and to keep our focus on God at all times.

  28. Scripture and Thoughts (Pray for One Another) 9-6-2020
    Greetings and blessings to you from Concord Community Church and from pastor Steve Ward.
    We hope and pray that you remain well during this time. If you can join us at 10:00 AM on Sunday mornings, please do so. We’re at 7578 Concord Road, half-way between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.

    Our many Scripture verses, this morning, are all about one subject. It won’t take you long to figure out what it is. (Unless otherwise noted, these verses are from the New International Version.)
    Scripture Reading:
    I Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
    I John 5:14 “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”
    I Chronicles 16:11 “Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.”
    II Chronicles 7:14 “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
    Ephesians 6:18 “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”
    Jeremiah 29:12 “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.”
    John 17:15 “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.”
    James 5:13 “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.”
    Matthew 5:44 “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”
    Psalms 17:6 “I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.”
    Psalm 102:17 “He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; he will not despise their plea.”
    Psalms 141:2 “May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.”
    Romans 12:12 “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”
    Psalms 145:18 “The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.”
    Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
    Colosssians 4:2 “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”
    I Thessalonians 5:17 “pray continually,” (KJV: “Pray without ceasing.)
    I Timothy 2:8 “Therefore I want men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing.”
    James 5:16 “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
    I John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
    I Timothy 2:1 “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—
    Jeremiah 33:3 “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.”(KJV)

    Thoughts:
    Prayer changes things. Prayer even changes people. Perhaps the most dramatic change that can come over people is not just when they are prayed for, but when they are praying for someone else.

    People who pray for other people are somehow different. They are somehow unique. Perhaps you’ve noticed it. They often have a compassionate air about them – even a deeply-felt empathy for other people that can be seen and noticed. It makes sense, because the compassionate, caring person praying for another person needs to know and even feel the needs, hurts and, perhaps the sorrows of the one for whom they are praying.

    James tells us, (James 5:16) – “Confess [your] faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

    Then, we find the Apostle, Paul, instructing the church at Ephesus to be
    (Ephesians 6:18) – “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;”

    Then, writing to the Colossians, in chapter 1, verse 9, he says, “For this cause we also, since the day we heard [it], do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;”

    Are you praying for someone? Perhaps you’re praying for several or even multiple people. I urge you to do so. I urge you to pray fervently for others.

    As members of this congregation, we ought to be praying for each other. Let’s be a church where we care about each other’s needs and hurts and difficulties. Let’s be a praying church. Let’s be a church beseeching the Lord on behalf of each other.

    It’s not that we want to neglect other needs – our neighbors, our co-workers and other acquaintances, our country, our schools, etc., etc., but we need to pray for each other.

    “Brethren, pray for us!”
    “always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” (Ephesians 6:18)

  29. Scripture and Thoughts (Pray for One Another II) 9-13-2020
    Greetings and blessings to you from Concord Community Church and from pastor Steve Ward.
    We hope and pray that you remain well during this time. If you can join us at 10:00 AM on Sunday mornings, please do so. We’re at 7578 Concord Road, half-way between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.

    The setting for this Scripture is immediately after the last supper, the night when Jesus would be betrayed and arrested. His 12 disciples are with Him, and He is praying for them. You will see that He also prayed for us.

    Scripture Reading: John 17:9-26
    9 “I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. 10 And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. 12 While I was with them [e]in the world, I kept them in [f]

    Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.”
    Jesus Prays for All Believers

    20 “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: 23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.

    24 “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. 26 And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”

    Jesus prayed for you, and He prayed for me. Can you believe it? As mentioned earlier, Our Scripture records the prayer Jesus prayed as He was with His disciples on the night before He died on the cross.

    Although He knew He was going to die, and although He knew how He was going to die and although He knew all the agony He would be going to be going through, He was still thinking about you, and he was thinking about me. After He prayed for His disciples, — that is, the apostles — He prayed for us.

    “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in me through their word;” (verse 20)

    Last week we talked about praying for each other, and those of us who were at the church spent the entire service praying for each other.

    Prayer is powerful, and being prayed for is powerful. Being prayed for by the whole church is powerful.

    Being prayed for by one person is powerful.

    When I was away from home, going to Bible School, and I knew my Mother was praying for me, how powerful (and humbling) do you suppose that was! When I got up early in the morning and walked the 15 blocks to the college so I get in 2 hours of piano practice before breakfast, in those early hours of the morning, my Mother was praying for me, and I knew my Father was at his desk, having His Bible study and prayer time and praying for me.

    That’s powerful. Many of you have similar stories and similar experiences.

    What if you had Jesus praying for you and interceding for you, now?

    Hebrews 7:25 “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”

    Jesus is at the right hand of the Father, making intercession for us?

    Romans 8:33-35
    33 “ Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?”

    There it is, again. Jesus is at the right hand of God, the Father, and He makes intercession for us.

    I John 2:1
    “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”

    Jesus is our advocate! John’s message is clear as well as reassuring. He is encouraging us to live Godly, righteous lives – preferably, without sin. “and if anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous.” When you or I sin, Jesus is right there, saying, in effect, “I’ve got it covered. I already paid for that. My blood was shed for that sin; you can’t charge it against her/him. It was already charged against Me, and I paid the full price for him/her.”

    Jesus never forgets us, and He’s never not mindful of us. How can we forget to pray for one another?

    As Samuel said, (I Samuel 12:23) “Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you:”

    Let’s always continue to pray for one another.

  30. There Comes a Moment 9-27-2020
    Greetings and welcome from Concord Community Church at 7578 Concord Road in Switzerland County, Indiana. If you can join us for Sunday Morning Worship at 10:00 AM, we’d love to have you.

    Scripture Reading: I Kings 17:8-16
    8 And the word of the Lord came unto him, saying,
    9 Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee.
    10 So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, the widow woman was there gathering of sticks: and he called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.
    11 And as she was going to fetch it, he called to her, and said, Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand.
    12 And she said, As the Lord thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die.
    13 And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son.
    14 For thus saith the Lord God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth.
    15 And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days.
    16 And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by Elijah.

    A young woman rose from her bed early one morning. Her agitation was great and her worries had turned into great despair. It wouldn’t have been so bad if she were the only one doomed to die, but there, sleeping in the same house was her young son who would die with her.

    It was not another person who threatened their lives; it was not an army or a court or a powerful land-owner. Instead, she and her son were facing certain death by starvation. There was a severe drought in the land; there had been no rain. The rivers and the streams were drying up. There were no crops, and there was no food to buy – at least not for common folk. – and she was poorer than most common folk. Her husband was dead. Her son was too young to work. She had no means of support.

    She had looked, again, yesterday, into the jar containing the meager supply of ground meal that had been sustaining her and her little son. Between the little scratch of flour and the meager bit of oil, she would be able to manage one little cake or bit of bread. After that, she could conceive of no hope. No doubt, she struggled against hopelessness and desperation. Biting her lip and setting her jaw in determination, she gathered her resolve and prepared for the daily tasks ahead. Would this be the last time she would ever gather wood for a cooking fire? Would this be the last time her capable hands would mix and prepare a meal? She tried not to think about it as she stepped outside to look for sticks and firewood.

    We know about this woman and the rest of her story, for, once outside, she heard the voice of a man she had never met, who requested of her a drink of water. However, as she turned to fulfill his request, he made another one, and it undoubtedly stopped her in her tracks. He asked for a morsel of bread. She kindly and, perhaps hesitantly, told the man of God that she not only didn’t have any bread or cake in her house, and, perhaps with boldness, she told him that even now, she was gathering sticks to bake the last bit of meal and oil to feed herself and her little son in their final meal before they would be forced to a certain starvation.

    Elijah, having been told by God that this woman would be instrumental in sustaining him, reassured her that she should feed him first, and that the oil and flour would not run out.

    Not run out? How could he make such an outlandish statement? Who did he think he was, anyway, to make such a request?

    Neverthless, she did recognize the man as a servant of God, and, somehow overcoming her doubts and reluctance, she went into the house to do as he had requested.

    But can you imagine, with me, that as her hand went into the jar containing the meal, there must have been a final moment of questioning and, perhaps, doubt? Was there a moment when she knew that she could still back out, a moment when her hesitation could become permanent and her doubts could become refusal?

    Such moments come to us. We are often asked to believe and to trust – even when we have doubts and hesitations. . . . and there comes a moment when our faith and trust are put to the test. Sometimes it seems that God specialize in putting us to the test.

    A man who once attended this church seemed to have been confronted by trials, and those trials and tests wee severe enough that his moment resulted in his forsaking his journey back to God and to tell me, essentially, that if this was the cost of being a Christian, it was too much, and that he could not endure it.

    Another woman, living in Jerusalem, faced such a moment, and her moment was another one in which her last bit of sustenance was called into question. Her decision, in that moment, resulted in her being remembered forever as having what we still call “the widow’s mite.” Her very last coin was donated to the temple, and Jesus, speaking to his disciples, explained that by giving the last bit of money she had, she had given more than anyone else – including the very rich, the very powerful, and even the most prominent.

    She may have had a moment when she made her decision. Perhaps she hesitated, but her devotion to God won out over her doubts forself and for her own welfare.

    We, too, are called to give our all. We are adked to give, not only from our wealth or from our meager earnings, but from our wealth of time, energy, care, and compassion.

    We may face a moment when we are asked to give of ourselves beyond our common sense and our well-thought-out logic and deductions, but He will not ask for more than He will give us. He will noy ask us to out-give His own grace and strength, but He may very well test us, and when He does there may come that moment when we suddenly realize that this is time when we can obey and follow His leading or we can turn away and think that He asks too much. Be assured He never does.

    King David faced such a moment, but it was a moment of temptation. Surely there was a moment when he wrestled with himself and the temptation that jumped out at him. Was Bethsheba just too beautiful to resist, or was David just too willing to lose the battle? Such moments come to us, and we are altogether too prone to fall unless we are determined to resist and to turn our backs on the temptation.

    What will it be when that moment comes to you?

    I truly believe that the best way to fight temptation is to determine beforehand what your action will be. If you are determined to follow God – in moments of temptation, in times of trials or testing, or when called to follow His leading, then your only decision is whether the course of action in question is one that would please God, one that is consistent with His way and His character.

    Let’s be ready when the moment presents itself.

  31. Sermon October 4, 2020

    Good Morning, and Greetings from Concord Community Church and Pastor Steve Ward. This morning our Scripture reading is from Romans 8:1-11:
    .
    8 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God, did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the
    flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.
    6 For to be [b]carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the [c]carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

    9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. 10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.(NKJV)

    There was once a man who couldn’t remember who he was – even from the time he was a child. Can you imagine having a child who didn’t remember who he was?

    That’s the way it was with Charlie – we’ll call him Charlie, although his full name was Charlie Smith – which didn’t matter much to him, since he couldn’t really remember.

    It wasn’t as though he was from a terrible family or that he had a reason that made him want to forget who he was. Actually, Mr. Smith – Charlie – was from a very nice family; his father, in fact, was quite nice – and very rich; he owned lots of real estate, including farms and ranches, factories and office buildings. His even owned a couple of gold mines and oil wells, and he owned houses in nearly every part of the city and outside the city. Mr. Smith Sr. owned real estate in every part of the country, and, in fact, every part of the world, and our Mr. Smith – Charlie – had his name on every piece of property that his father owned, so he was co-owner, – but usually he forgot.

    The fact is that Mr. Smith Sr. was a very wealthy man. It could accurately be said that “he owned the cattle on a thousand hills.”

    Now, every Sunday afternoon they would have a family get-together. What a wonderful time. When Charlie was at one of their family get-togethers, he never forgot who he was. He was quite popular, then, and he immensely enjoyed being surrounded by his family – all the people he knew and loved – and all the people who knew and loved him.

    But the next day – Monday – Charlie forgot.

    Far example, one Monday Charlie marched into a barbershop, got a haircut, paid for it, and went back outside, right across the street from a barbershop his father and he owned, where he could have gotten a much nicer haircut for free, – but Charlie forgot.

    In the evening, Charlie felt like eating out, so he went to a restaurant, and, because Charlie forgot who he was, he went to a restaurant that was a competitor to the one he and his father owned. He ordered his favorite meal, had a wonderful time chatting and joking with the owner – actually an enemy of his father, paid for the meal, left a big tip, and went home. He could have had a much nicer meal for free in his father’s restaurant. All he had to do was tell them who he was – but Charlie forgot.

    You would almost think that perhaps Charlie didn’t enjoy being part of the Smith family – except on Sundays, of course, and it certainly did seem that he enjoyed thinking he was not part of the Smith family on every other day of the week. It often seemed that Charlie would rather be with people who were not of his family and being in places that didn’t much like the Smith family – except, of course, on Sunday – because he certainly enjoyed those family get-togethers.

    We could talk about a lot of other examples of how Charlie forgot, but heres a question:

    Do you and I sometimes forget who we are? Do we sometimes forget that we’re part of the family of God? Do we so much enjoy being a part of the rest of the world that we rarely think of who we are except on Sundays, when our spiritual family gets together?
    Do we sometimes have such a good time in the company of the enemies of God that we forget who we are, and, in fact, maybe we start acting and talking just like them?

    How many times a day does it go through your head that you are a Christian? Is it ever a constant state of mind? Shouldn’t it be? Shouldn’t we be so conscious of who we are that there’s never a moment when there’s the slightest bit of amnesia or absent-mindedness about our identity with Jesus Christ? . . . or do we sometimes forget? – or at least act as though we don’t remember?

    What about those times when you’re agitated or disturbed over something someone said or did, and you can’t get over it – or maybe you refuse to get over it because you’d rather be mad?

    . . . but I also think that sometimes we take our Christian identity, wrap it up all neat and tidy and put it in a box where we can get to it if we have to or if we really want to. Otherwise, it’s just more convenient to forget it – like Charlie did.

    “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.”

    Don’t you think it must be frustrating to God to have a child who doesn’t even remember to whom he or she belongs?

    After all, we are part of God’s Family – and don’t you ever forget it!!

    “To be spiritually minded is life and peace.”

  32. Sermon October 11, 2020

    REFORM

    Greetings, and good morning from Concord Community Church at 7578 Concord Road, half-way between Patriot and Florence, Indiana. If you can join us in person, our Morning Worship Service is at 10:00 AM, Sunday mornings.

    Sometime ago I read an article about educational reforms, and the article talked about the reforms that have been implemented over a number of years.

    We’ve had everything from:
    Reagan–”a nation at risk”
    Bush(‘41)–George H.–America 2000
    Clinton—Goals 2000—Standards-based reforms
    Bush(‘43)–George @.–No Child Left Behind
    Obama—Common Core

    Since then we’ve had an emphasis(and disagreement) on school choice, magnet schools, vouchers, and funds for private schools etc., etc.

    Still, with all these attempts at reform, we have one of the poorest performing school systems in the world, and yet we spend more money per child than any other country in the world.

    So, what’s the matter with us?

    One thing I can say is that the more we spend on reforms, according to the article, the larger the bureaucracy grows which creates the reforms, creates the tests, tests the teachers and schools, and shows that the reform isn’t working, and that therefore we need more education reform and that means we need more money to perform the reform!

    Sounds as though we need to reform the reformers.

    Of course, education isn’t, by any means, the only reform we need.

    The current president is strong on immigration reform.

    …and, of course, we need tort reform—too much of everybody suing everybody else and getting way too much money.

    At least part of our country needs voter-registration reform as well as ballot box reform—including ballot-counting reforms. We’ve had health-care reforms, which may need to include reforms in the insurance industry.

    We’ve talked about postal service reform from perhaps the time of the pony express—and many people, including, especially, a good number of disgruntled postal workers, think they still don’t have it right.

    We need prison reform, political reform, government reform, tax reform, lobbying reform, tax reform, and then more tax reform. We need IRS reform—which is not the same as tax reform—campaign reform, campaign-funding reform, and—could someone manage to implement something like campaign promise reform?

    Many people insist that we need college sports recruiting reform.

    It seems like there’s hardly anything that doesn’t need reform.

    However, the unfortunate truth is that amidst all of the outcry to reform this and reform that, we still don’t hear the cry for moral reform, and we don’t hear the cry for ethics reform. We certainly need to reform the ethics and morality of the business world and the political world and the entertainment world. All these moral and ethical reforms assume, I suppose, that there are some ethics and morals out there.

    On the other hand, according to this world in which we live, we Christians need some major reforms. According to the world in which we live, we need to reform our ideas of what is right and wrong, because a lot of the behavior of the world in which we live is at odds with our concept of right and wrong, and, according to a lot of people in this world of ours, we are displaying an attitude of hate if we are not approving enough of their behavior.

    I’m sure there are plenty of reforms we should make, but not because the rest of the world thinks we should.

    …Many of us need reforms in our prayer life and prayer habits and practices
    …We may well need to reform our attempts—or lack thereof—to have a significant and meaningful relationship with God.
    …Do we need to reform the way we read and study the Bible?
    …How about our relationships with other people? God any grudges? Got some fences to mend? Would you have fences to mend if other people knew what you have been saying about them?

    The Bible says, “Rend your hearts and not your garments.” In other words, don’t just make an outward show of being sorry—of reform. Don’t just make reforms on the outside, where people will see, but make reforms in your heart.

    This country may never get it right, but each of us is responsible to get it right–
    with God, with our spouses, with our family, with our friends.

    THAT ENDS STEVE’S Sermon, but we have an extra message for you!!!

    BLESSINGS, HUGS, PRAYERS, AND LOVE LOVE LOVE,
    Concord family and friends<

    October is Pastors Appreciation Month!!!
    Think of something special to say(text or phone or email)
    or do for Pastor Steve and Sharon.

    They are settling into their new home on the river. They will soon be celebrating their first year living in Markland. This week they are getting their tin roof, soffets, and eaves molding painted by an Amish man they frequently drive on trips. It is a sweet friendship. Sharon is feeding the work crew.

    Of course, the BIG EVENT this weekend is their granddaughter Beth Markland’s wedding to Clint Javion at Concord by Steve Saturday at 6 pm. Steve has also had two other weddings this month!!

    Their new adventure is their 16 passenger van that they drive groups/families on trips!!!
    Early morning pickups and late nights getting back home have been keeping them busy. Just this last week Steve was hired to be the Center Square Amish School bus driver.
    So, Monday through Friday he picks up 14 children on good weather days. Then, on bad weather days, three little ones who are close to the school are squeezed in. He says that it is a JOYFUL RIDE.

    Praying that you are well and blessed,
    Bill and Bonnie

  33. Scripture and Thoughts 10/18/2020

    Greetings and welcome from Concord Community Church and Pastor Steve Ward. We are located at 7578 Concord Road, Patriot, Indiana, half way between Patriot and Florence, Indiana. We meet at 10:00 AM on Sunday mornings; please join us.

    Our Scripture, this morning, comes from 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 (NIV).
    “ Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, 2 not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us—whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter—asserting that the day of the Lord has already come. 3 Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. 4 He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.

    5 Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? 6 And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. 7 For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, 10 and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion.” [We must be careful not to think that God is deceiving anyone, here. We know that God’s will is “that all men should come to repentance.” It might be better to think in terms of God allowing a delusion to come. Notice, also, the reason this is allowed: “because they refused to love the truth and so to be saved.” (v.10)] “so that they will believe the lie 12 and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.”

    Notice, in our Scripture, that Paul is talking about the coming of the anti-Christ, and he calls him “the man of lawlessness;” or “the lawless one.”
    It’s no wonder that Paul wrote the following words to the church at Corinth:

    2 Corinthians 6:1,2 (NIV)
    1.” As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain.
    2 For he says,
    ‘In the time of my favor I heard you,
    and in the day of salvation I helped you.’
    I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.”

    I hardly have to remind you that in recent months we have witnessed, in our country and in the world, wave after wave of violence – lawlessness and disruption.

    — We’ve had lawlessness across the country; in city after city we’ve had unlawful and destructive disruptions and riots. In Seattle we had a self-declared anarchy zone, if you will. We have managed to intimidate the police so much that they hold back from doing their job and even resist going out into the streets.

    We’ve had Presidents of the United State who act as though they are above the law. – and I emphasize the plural use of the term.

    — We’ve had lawlessness in the streets

    — We’ve had lawlessness across the world, including acts and threats of violence that are beyond the tolerance of any civilized nation or people.

    — Africa has repeatedly run amuck in violence, killings, kidnappings and abductions — but you could use the same words for Detroit, Indianapolis, or dozens of other cities.

    The fact is that the prevailing attitude of many people is not: “What can I do according to the law,” but “What can I get away with?”

    When people were protesting in the streets, recently, about whether or not the police had acted rightly, there were people everywhere burning, looting, and destroying anything and everything they came to, whether or not it was in any way related to the “ideals” of the protests. How can that be right? How can that be anything but lawlessness?

    We have Senators and representatives who flaunt their protections from the law of the land. These are people who represent the likes of you and me who demonstrate, regularly, their disdain for the law.

    What does the Bible say about the situation in the days of Noah(?) Doesn’t the Bible say that “People did whatever was right in their own eyes.” Surely we don’t think that was a good thing.

    In the days of Israel and Judah, — when the Kingdom was divided — there was a king named Ahab, and he wanted a particular vineyard for his own, but it belonged to another man who wouldn’t sell it. Abab’s wife, Jezabell, demonstrated to him, and to the world, just how easy it is to get around the law. She had the owner of the vineyard accused, tried, and convicted of something he did not do, and when the man was executed, she told Ahab to just go and take possession of the land that the man owned. This, of course, is an example of one of the most blatant of lawless acts that you will find, but we all know that it happens today, in one form or another, and I’m afraid that we would be appalled at how often it happens

    I feel that we have two levels of lawlessness:

    One level is found, simply, in today’s morality, such as so-called “victimless” crimes. Our actions may be wrong or even illegal, but as long as no one gets hurt, we think it’s “OK.” Situation ethics, too, allow us to “do wrong” as long as no one gets hurt. In “situatin ethics” we make it too easy to decide what is right depending on what we want to do.

    Another level of Lawlessness is when people simply live above any law, and they demonstrate, blatantly, that they have no regard for any law.

    We find this in terrorists, in anarchists, in revolutionaries, and in rulers, all of whom live according to their own law, whose rule of thumb is to disregard any law, and to live and act according to “whatever is right in their own eyes.”

    How are we going to deal with these kinds of lawlessness?

    We may all have our ideas about how to solve things, politically. I know there are plenty of candidates who are anxious to tell us that they have the solution. They have the answer.

    What does God have to say about all of this?

    In the first place, God doesn’t address the political situation. In the second place, God addresses a much more difficult area, — but it’s the only one that works.

    Listen to the words of the Apostle, Paul, in Colossians 3:3-9:
    3. “ Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

    5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”

    In the book of 1 John 3:3-4 (NIV), we read these words:
    3 “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.
    4 Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.”

    There is no easy or even enforceable remedy for the lawlessness in which people want to engage. After all, we are a nation which relies on what we call “the consent of the governed.” And we are a people who are deeply divided over that term, CONSENT.

    But there is a remedy for the lawlessness that threatens to rule in our hearts, and that solution is a surrender of our wills and our hearts to the will and heart of God. It means not trying to be the ruler and not having to be the law-breaker; It means allowing God to be the ruler and the law-giver, because He rules and governs our hearts & lives with love. He directs our paths to our own good. He directs us with our interests in mind.

    What is our response? What is God’s call to us, as individuals?
    He calls us to be righteous. He calls us to be His people, to be His followers. His law is one that’s so difficult to follow: “Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”

    If you have never accepted Jesus as your Saviour, then do so, today. If it’s time for you to determine to turn your life over to God in a more complete and obedient way, then do so, today.

  34. Scripture and Thoughts – October 25, 2020

    Hope for America

    Greetings and welcome from Concord Community Church and from Pastor Steve Ward.  Our Sunday Morning Worship is at 10:00 AM;  Please join us.  We’re located at 7578 Concord Road, (Patriot, Indiana) half-way between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.

    In our Scripture passage, this morning, the prophet, Joel, is calling for a national assembly, fasting, weeping, mourning, and prayer.

    On the eve of our national, critical elections, we, too, find ourselves in need of divine intervention and aid and a return to God.

    Scripture Reading: Joel 2:12 -17
    12 “Now, therefore,” says the Lord, “Turn to Me with all your heart,
    With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.”
    13 So rend your heart, and not your garments; Return to the Lord your God,
    For He is gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, and of great kindness;
    And He relents from doing harm.
    14 Who knows if He will turn and relent, And leave a blessing behind Him—
    A grain offering and a drink offering For the Lord your God?
    15 Blow the trumpet in Zion, Consecrate a fast, Call a sacred assembly;
    16 Gather the people, Sanctify the congregation, Assemble the elders,
    Gather the children and nursing babes; Let the bridegroom go out from his chamber,
    And the bride from her dressing room.
    17 Let the priests, who minister to the Lord, Weep between the porch and the altar;
    Let them say, “Spare Your people, O Lord, And do not give Your heritage to reproach,
    That the nations should rule over them. Why should they say among the peoples,
    ‘Where is their God?’ ”

    Our congregation, this morning, will join in praying the following prayer given by Billie Graham:
    “Our Father and Our God, we praise You for Your goodness to our nation, giving us blessings far beyond what we deserve. Yet we know all is not right with America. We deeply need a moral and spiritual renewal to help us meet the many problems we face. Convict us of sin. Help us to turn to You in repentance and faith. Set our feet on the path of Your righteousness and peace. We pray today for our nation’s leaders. Give them the wisdom to know what is right, and the courage to do it. You have said, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” May this be a new era for America, as we humble ourselves and acknowledge You alone as our Savior and Lord. This we pray in Your holy name, Amen.”

    The following words are also from Billie Graham:

    Billie Graham: My Heart Aches for America
    “Some years ago, my wife, Ruth, was reading the draft of a book I was writing. When she finished a section describing the terrible downward spiral of our nation’s moral standards and the idolatry of worshiping false gods such as technology and sex, she startled me by exclaiming, ‘If God doesn’t punish America, He’ll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.’
    She was probably thinking of a passage in Ezekiel where God tells why He brought those cities to ruin. ‘Now this was the sin of … Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen’ (Ezekiel 16:49–50, NIV).
    I wonder what Ruth would think of America if she were alive today. In the years since she made that remark, millions of babies have been aborted and our nation seems largely unconcerned. Self-centered indulgence, pride, and a lack of shame over sin are now emblems of the American lifestyle.
    Just a few weeks ago in a prominent city in the South, Christian chaplains who serve the police department were ordered to no longer mention the Name of Jesus in prayer. It was reported that during a recent police-sponsored event, the only person allowed to pray was someone who addressed “the being in the room.” Similar scenarios are now commonplace in towns across America. Our society strives to avoid any possibility of offending anyone—except God.
    Yet the farther we get from God, the more the world spirals out of control.
    My heart aches for America and its deceived people. The wonderful news is that our Lord is a God of mercy, and He responds to repentance. In Jonah’s day, Nineveh was the lone world superpower—wealthy, unconcerned, and self-centered. When the Prophet Jonah finally traveled to Nineveh and proclaimed God’s warning, people heard and repented.
    I believe the same thing can happen once again, this time in our nation. It’s something I long for . . .”
    Let me leave you with a rather startling thought:  No matter who becomes President; no matter who wins the Senate or wins a majority in the House of Representatives; no matter who wins any governorship, or any office, whatsoever, the only thing that will put this nation on a right track and a proper course is a return to God.

  35. BLESSINGS CHURCH FRIENDS
    FOR SPREADING THE GOSPEL
    TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH
    BY PACKING A SHOEBOX FOR
    Samaritan’s Purse
    OPERATION CHRISTMAS CHILD

    Concord Community Church
    is a collection site
    for the Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes

    NATIONAL COLLECTION WEEK
    IS
    November 16-23, 2020

    People will be at Concord 2+ hours each day
    to collect your shoeboxes

    Monday, Nov. 16 9 – 11 am
    Tuesday, Nov. 17 1 – 3 pm
    Wednesday, Nov. 18 5-8 pm
    Thursday, Nov. 19 9 – 11 am
    Friday, Nov. 20 9 – 11 am
    Saturday, Nov. 21 8- NOON
    Sunday, Nov. 22 NOON – 3 pm
    Monday, Nov. 23 8 – 10 am

  36. Scripture and Thoughts         God’s People Should Be Home November 8, 2020

    Greetings from Concord Community Church and from Pastor Steve Ward.  Please join us in our thoughts on the following Scripture passage, and, if possible, join us for Worship Service at 10:00 AM.

    In this passage, Jesus is praying for His disciples just before His arrest, trial, “conviction,” and crucifixion.

    John 17:20-26A
    20 “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: 23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.
    24 “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. 26 And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”

    Allow me to paraphrase and quote a recent God Calling devotional, because it contains a central idea for today’s thoughts and is, in fact, the inspiration for them.

    The world would be brought to Christ so very soon, “if only all those who acknowledge Him as Lord, as Christ, would give themselves unreservedly to be used by Him.” 

    Again: The world would be brought to Christ so very soon, “if only all those who acknowledge Him as Lord, as Christ, would give themselves unreservedly to be used by Him.” 

    Think about this for a moment: Jesus did not come to earth as a spirit, but as a person – in an earthly body, and in human form.  His was a body that could walk around, touch, feel, and be touched.  In a body He could walk from place to place; He could be seen, He could be heard; He could be sensed.  In that body He did miracles; He showed compassion with His eyes. He expressed love with His voice, His gestures, His touch, and His facial expressions.  In that body He was arrested, accused, abused, charged, and wrongly convicted.  It was in that body that He was crucified and He died; He was buried, and He rose from the dead.  He presented that risen body to be seen and touched by His disciples and followers.  It was that body that Thomas touched, and beheld, and declared, “My Lord and my God!” 

    The first chapter of John says, “And the Word (Jesus) became flesh and dwelt among us . . .”

    However, Jesus is no longer with us “in the flesh” in the way He was back then.
    He no longer physically walks from place to place.  His physical hands do not touch and heal as they did.

    Nevertheless, He could use each human body of every Christian just as mightily as He used His own human body as a channel for Divine Love and Power.  Your body.  My body.  We are His presence, here, on earth.  We are His body.

    Jesus said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me.”

    He meant that when He would be raised on the cross of Calvary, that all men would be drawn unto Him.

    That drawing power can still continue, because we, the body of Christ, still have the privilege and the responsibility to lift Him up.

    We could lift Him up!  We could show Him to the world!  We could be His body;  we could be the embodiment of Christ!  We should be the embodiment of Christ!

    These are the words from  God Calling:

    “The world would be brought to Me so soon, so soon, if only all who acknowledged Me as Lord, as Christ, gave themselves unreservedly to be used by Me.
    I could use each human body as mightily as I used My own human body as a channel for Divine Love and Power.
    I do not delay My second coming.  My followers delay it.
    If each lived for Me, by Me, in Me, allowing Me to live in him, to use him to express the Divine through him, as I expressed it when on earth, then long ago the world would have been drawn to Me, and I should have come to claim My own.
    So seek, My children, to live, knowing no other desire but to express Me, and to show My Love to your world.
    “He must increase, but I must decrease.”  John 3:30

  37. Sermon November 15, 2020

    Greetings from Concord Community Church and Pastor Steve Ward.  We meet on Sunday mornings at 10:00 AM at 7578 Concord Road, Patriot, Indiana, halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.  Please join us.

    Scripture Reading: Hebrews 4:12-16
    12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
    13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.
    14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.
    15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
    16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

    This passage contains three highpoints which should be noted and even absorbed by every Christian.

    The first is an assurance and a guarantee of the uniqueness and the living quality of the Word of God.  “For the Word of God is quick, (alive) and powerful, (another aspect of life) and sharper than any two edged sword . . . and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” 

    What we also know is that the Word of God has the ability to open the heart, to expose the truth, and to shed light on the mysteries of God.  The Word of God rises above any work of literature or any utterance of man because it is “God-breathed.”

    Secondly, we, as Christians, are represented in Heaven by our own high priest. Not only is He our advocate and intercessor, but He is also our Sacrifice, by which fact He is become our Savior!  Furthermore, this Savior, this high priest, this advocate, this intercessor, is also the one who feels our weaknesses, our hurts, and our temptations.

    Thirdly, on account of the strength of the Word of God and the priesthood of our Savior, Jesus Christ, we actually have access to – we  can enter into the presence of the most holy God!  We are encouraged to come boldly – not timidly, and not fearfully – because we are not only entering into the presence of the most high God, but we are entering into the presence of the one who loves us – so much “that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, have everlasting life.”

    That’s the Word of God.  That’s our Savior.  That’s our Father.  You are welcome. We are welcome.  He loves us, and that’s the why of all the above.   

  38. Scripture and Thoughts —  November 22, 2020
    The Word of God

    Greetings from Concord Community Church and from Pastor Steve Ward.  You are also welcome to join us in person at 7578 Concord Road, Patriot, Indiana, halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana. Our Sunday Morning Worship Service is at 10:00 A.M.

    Our Scripture Reading for the morning is the same as it was, last week.

    Scripture Reading: Hebrews 4:12-16
    12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
    13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.
    14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.
    15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
    16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

    There was a young man, a Christian, who had accepted an invitation from an older pastor to go out into the streets and the neighborhoods and visit door-to-door, spreading the gospel and telling people about Jesus Christ.  As he anticipated his mission and what might be required of him, he began studying the many arguments concerning the existence of God and the trustworthiness of the Bible.  He read up on the history of the Bible, and he reviewed articles about the truths of the resurrection.

    He also studied the stories in the Bible, and he looked up scientific facts and historical findings that would support the validity of those stories.

    At the first house he was accosted with the denial of the truth about Jonah and the whale.  The householder didn’t believe it, but the young man was ready. He had come prepared for skepticism.  He quoted scientific evidence which held, emphatically, that there were whales big enough to swallow a man, and he even quoted from an old article about a man from Scotland who had, indeed, been swallowed by a whale and had lived to tell about it.  When he was done he was convinced that he had done a superlative job in making his case and in proving the truth about Jonah and the whale.  But the listener was unconvinced and was not moved to lay aside his doubts – nor was he interested in talking further.

    At the next house, the old pastor was to do the talking. Instead of arguing, he simply quoted and read from the Bible.  People listened and lives were changed.  It wasn’t that the pastor had a better way of explaining things or that he had more skill in talking with people or in arguing his points.  The difference was the effect that the Bible has on people when they hear it.

    “The Word of God is alive and powerful . . .”
    That’s why when Billy Graham would say “The Bible says . . .,” it wasn’t a power from his voice that caught the attention and the interest of the listener.  It was the power of Scripture – the Word of God.

    “For the Prophecy came not in old time by the will of; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” 2 Peter 1:21 (KJV)

    Should we be surprised that there is something supernatural about it? 
    Should we be surprised that it has a way of working its way into a person’s heart? 
    I urge you to become familiar with it.  I urge you to study the Bible and to memorize the Bible.  Make it a part of your daily routine.  It can change your life.

     16 ”All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
    17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
    I Timothy 3:16, 17, (KJV)

  39. Scripture and Thoughts —  November 29,2020—Singing with Grace

    Greetings from Concord Community Church and from Pastor Steve Ward.  You are also welcome to join us in person at 7578 Concord Road, Patriot, Indiana, halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana. Our Sunday Morning Worship Service is at 10:00 A.M.  Please come.

    Our Scripture Reading for the morning is from Colossians 3:12-17

    12 “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;
    13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
    14 And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.
    15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.
    16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
    17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.”
    Let’s look, especially, at verse 16.
      “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom
      Teaching and admonishing one another in Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
      singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”

    How do we “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom?”
    How do we “Teach and admonish one another in Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs?”
    How do we “sing with grace in your hearts to the Lord?”

    Perhaps the key word for the first question is “dwell.” “Let the Word of Christ dwell in richly in all wisdom;” It doesn’t say “be,” and it doesn’t say to let the Word of Christ “come to you,” or even to let the Word of Christ “be yours.”  It says, “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you . . .”  The word “dwell” seems to suggest an “activity” that is quite settled and at rest.  If you dwell somewhere, the implication is that you live there, that you’re staying there, and that you’re settled – even to the extent of being established.  What if we could let the Word of Christ actively settle and live and rest in us?  What if the Word of Christ were allowed to be settled and to live and rest in us richly – perhaps in a bountiful, over-flowing, life-filling way?  What if the Word of Christ were to dwell in us richly and be bathed and nourished in wisdom?  Could we let the Word of Christ do that?  “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom”

    Next, we’re told to teach and admonish one another with Psalms and hymns and Spiritual songs.  In the realm of Christian music and Christian music education, the emphasis always seems to be placed on the different types of musical song:  Psalms or hymns or spiritual songs.  However, let’s also look at what is being suggested that we should be doing.  It’s clear that we are to be teaching and admonishing one another, and music is a means of doing that.  Music is the vehicle.  Music becomes the way that the message is carried.  A child – even a baby – is soothed by it.  All of us can be lulled by it, but we can also be called to arms and stirred to action by it’s strains, it’s rhythms and it’s drive.  Music can be the perpetuator of many a noble thought and deed or emotion or wish. The “old-time hymns” that we will be singing, today, have been the carriers of many-a –message and many-a-challenge.  The Bible, here, actually endorses the use of music in the endeavor to teach one another and to admonish one another.

    In order to do so, though, any message, any teaching, any exhortation requires two parties: a source and a recipient.  May I assert that you cannot be a true source – a true beginning point – for God’s message – unless that message – intended to reach someone else’s heart – first goes to and through your own heart?  How can you expect to actually communicate and teach and admonish unless those words and those thoughts of the song can first affect your heart and your head and your soul and spirit? “Teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual song. . .   It should be the objective of every song you sing.  Don’t forget:  your heart should also be, not only the source, but also the recipient – singing with grace in your heart to the Lord.

    Yes, we are teaching and admonishing one another – and ourselves – and we are also singing, filled with His grace, to the Lord.  Can we relish that thought?  Can we bask in the privilege of singing to the Lord?  The words of one of our songs go:  “What a fellowship, what a joy divine, Leaning on the everlasting arms. What a blessedness, what a peace is mine, Leaning on the everlasting arms.”  I’m singing to Him while He is holding me!

    Have you ever held a child in your arms while they sang to you?  There is little that could be more precious!  Could I possibly be that precious to God?  . . . and more so?  It doesn’t seem possible, but it’s true, although I can’t really comprehend it.

    Could this be our prayer?
    May I sing with grace in my heart – to God, to me, and to those around me;
    May my songs ever be bathed in the Word of Christ to teach and admonish – both myself and others.  Let us pray that He may be pleased with our hearts – and with our music.

  40. AUTUMN SOUP

    2 pounds ground beef
    minced onions
    6 cups water
    3 cups diced carrots
    3 cups cubed potatoes
    1 Tablespoon salt
    ½ teaspoon pepper
    2 bay leaves

    1 large can tomato sauce
    1 large can tomato puree

    1. Brown the meat and drain off the fat.

    2. Put the first 8 ingredients in a large saucepan.

    3. Heat to boiling. Let bubble 5 minutes.

    4. Then reduce the heat. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
    Stir occasionally.

    5. Add the tomato sauce and the tomato puree. Simmer for 10 more
    minutes.

    < It was first served and enjoyed on November 29, 2020, at Fifth Sunday Dinner at Concord Community Church. It was the recipe of an aunt of Bill Schreiner. The next Fifth Sunday is January 31, 2021.

    < COME JOIN US FOR WORSHIP SERVICE AT 10 AM AND POTLUCK DINNER AT 11 AM <

  41. Scripture and Thoughts        A Church of ScriptureReading                        December 6, 2020

    Greetings and blessings to you from Concord Community Church and from Pastor, Steve Ward.
    Please join us in person at 7578 Concord Road, Patriot, Indiana, half-way between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.

    We have frequently spoken about our wish/prayer for Concord Community Church to become and be a church of prayer.  I believe we are a church of prayer, although we can never relax the necessary vigil to make it so.  We must never cease to strive to be a church of prayer.  Becoming a church of prayer (or being a praying church) is not the same as continuing to be a praying church – a church of prayer.
    Nevertheless, we consider ourselves to be a church of prayer and we believe, strongly, in the power of prayer.  Even people outside our church recognize us as such – that is, that we are a praying church and that our praying has been powerful and effective in their lives.

    That being said, there’s a huge possible deficit that may still exist in our church, a deficit that is common in churches, today.

    Did you ever play softball or baseball or tennis – or any sport, for that matter – when nobody playing knew the rules?  Have you ever been a member of a committee or board where nobody knew the guidelines? Would you ever consider writing a paper or a report for school without knowing what the teacher wanted? I remember a class where the teacher, himself, was so unclear about what he wanted us to do, that the students actually stayed around, after class, and held a meeting to determine what it was that this teacher wanted done, or read, or reported, for the next class.

    That story seems like an illustration to show how important it is for teachers to make their instructions clear, but it is also a story to show how important it is to get the instructions right.

    How do you do that, unless you have the instructions?  What if you do have the printed instructions, but you don’t read them?

    I’m afraid we have Christians, everywhere, who don’t read the guide-book!  Someone has called the modern-day church the “illiterate church,” because today’s Christian does not read the instructions.  He or she is ignorant of the instruction book.  We don’t read it!
    You know, of course, that the instruction book to which I am referring is the Bible, that the Bible is the guide-book, and you probably know that reading the Bible, is, to many Christians, an extra-curricular activity – “not for daily consumption.”

    “Let the preacher do it!”  Let the Sunday-School Teacher do it!”  “Let the Youth-Leader do it.”

    Christians attending today’s modern church seem like the infrequent flyer walking into an unfamiliar airport:  “Where do I go?”  “Which way to Delta,” or American, or United?  “I want to fly to California” (No, you don’t!) “Which way should I go?

    Charles Spurgeon, the great preacher, evangelist, and pastor of the 19th Century, said,

    “If other forms of knowledge are useful, they are like the planets; but the knowledge of God as revealed in Christ Jesus is as the sun. Let this always be the center of your system of knowledge, and let all the rest that you know move in subordination and subjection to that first and best form of knowledge….if you find a professing Christian indifferent to his Bible, you may be sure that the very dust upon its cover will rise up in judgment against him…My dear friends, I should like you so to read the Bible that everybody in the Bible should seem to be a friend of yours. I should like you to feel as if you had talked with Abraham, and conversed with David. I can truly say that there is hardly anybody in the world that I know so well as I know David. But do find your choicest friends in the Scripture…Take the whole company of Bible saints home to your heart, let them live inside your soul. . Let old Noah come in with his ark, if he likes; and let Daniel come in with his lions’ den, if he pleases; and all the rest of the godly men and women of the olden time, take them all into your very nature, and be on familiar terms with them; but, most of all, be specially intimate with him of whom they all speak, namely, Jesus Christ your blessed Lord and Master.”

    The following is taken from a sermon by Reverend David Curtis from Berean Bible Church in Cheasapeake, Virginia.

         “Paul says, ‘Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you…” “Within you” is (en humin). Not “among you.” Paul is referring to what’s within believers. . . .
    Now I want you to see something about this text that is very important. Look with me at:
    Ephesians 5:18 (NASB) And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit,
    Paul tells the Ephesians to “be filled with the Spirit,” then he says:
    19 (2)speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your hearts to the Lord; 
    20 (4)always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to our God and Father; 21 and subject yourselves to one another in the fear of Christ”
    22 Wives, subject yourselves to your own husbands, as to the Lord.”
    Paul tells the Colossians, “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you…,” then he says:
    (2)teaching and admonishing one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, (3)singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 
    17 Whatever you do in word or deed, (4)do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.
    18 Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.”

    They are almost the same!  One says “letting the word of Christ richly dwell within you,” and the other says, “being filled with the Spirit.” Each phrase serves the same function! As they were  identical, because the passages that follow each are so similar. The result of being filled with the Holy Spirit is the same as the result of letting the Word richly dwell in one’s life. The two are, (in the words of Rev. Curtis, now,) “the same spiritual reality viewed from two sides. To be filled with the Spirit is to be controlled by His Word. To have the Word dwelling richly is to be controlled by His Spirit. Since the Holy Spirit is the author and the power of the Word, the expressions are interchangeable. In other words, the WORD-FILLED CHRISTIAN is a SPIRIT-FILLED CHRISTIAN.”

    Think about that for a moment.

    It’s as though, as the children of the house are being awakened by their Father, one morning. And, as he steps into one room, saying “It’s time to wake up – and your Mother says to tidy up your room!  At the next bedroom he says, “It’s time to wake up – and, by the way, the rules of this house are that we keep our own rooms straightened up.” One time he refers to the person; the next time he refers to the rules.  Mother – the rules – same thing.

    “Be filled with the Spirit.” (The author)  “Let the Word of Christ” – the rulebook – what God wrote.
    Rev. Curtis continues: “When Paul says, ‘Be filled with the Spirit’ he is giving a command. The word ‘filled’ is the Greek word pleroo, which means: ‘controlled.’ Believers who have the Spirit are commanded to be controlled by Him. So, the question is how are we controlled by the Spirit? The Spirit’s control is not an automatic, mechanical control. The Spirit’s control is brought about by means. We must take possession of the divine strength He has made available to us in Christ.”
     
    Therefore, as Rev. Curtis says, appropriating the controlling grace of the Spirit  “is through the means of letting the word of Christ richly dwell within us.”

    “Believers, we need more than a casual acquaintance with the Bible. God’s word is to dwell in us abundantly – it is to saturate us. It must become part of our very being, transforming the way we think and act. To use terminology from the area of computer technology, it must be the program always running that controls everything else. Everything depends on it. The Word of Christ is to abundantly dwell in us, because it is the only source of truth we have about God:”
    2 Timothy 3:16 (NKJV) ‘All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, . . .’
    Paul is saying to Timothy that the Bible comes from God. He is its ultimate author. The Bible provides information that is not available anywhere else. The Bible is divine self-disclosure. In it the mind of God is revealed on many matters. With a knowledge of Scripture, we do not have to rely on secondhand information or bare speculation to learn who God is and what he values. In the Bible, God reveals himself.
    1 John 5:3 (NKJV) ‘For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.’
    We love God by living in obedience to Him. How can we possibly do this if we don’t spend time in the Bible to know what obedience is?
    He is our Creator and Redeemer. If we are going to live a life of purpose, we must know who He is and what He expects from us. The only place that we can get that information is from the Word of God.
    I think that most of us understand that the Bible lays out the terms of salvation, but once we trust the Lord for salvation, does the Bible lose its usefulness? Not at all!
    John 17:17 (NASB) ‘Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth.’
    1 Peter 2:2 (NASB) ‘like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, . . .’
    We grow in our Christian walk as we read and study the Bible. The only place where we are going to hear God’s voice is in His Word. The world around us will always be giving us its view, but we’ll only get God’s view as we spend time in His Word letting it abundantly dwell within us.”
     
    Joshua 1:8 (NASB) “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.
    “Joshua doesn’t say, “Have a devotion once in a while”; he says, “meditate on the Word day and night”. That is letting the Word abundantly dwell with you. Now, who doesn’t want their way to prosper and have good success?  . . . . Notice that it is not just learning, but it says, “….you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it… ” That, folks, is why we want the Word to abundantly dwell within us – that we may live it out!  ”

    How can we have the Word of God dwell in us richly, abundantly, and in a life-filling way if we don’t read it (or listen to it… think: audio books) or take it in in some way?

    Before Clara Schumann, the widow of German composer Robert Schumann (1810-56), would play any of her husband’s music in public, she would first privately read over some of his old love letters.
    Inspired by his words, she said it seemed as if his very life filled her, and she was then better able to interpret his musical compositions to the public. In the spiritual realm, if we will read God’s words of love to us until we are thrilled by their truth, His Spirit will fill our hearts and minds. 

    May we take up the challenge – even, perhaps, the necessity – of inserting the Word of God into our lives so that it does, truly, “Dwell in us richly.”

  42. Scripture and Thoughts Could Jesus Come Right Now? 12/13/2020

    From Concord Community Church and Pastor, Steve Ward, warmest greetings. May His grace and peace be yours through these troubling times. At Concord, we continue to meet for in-person worship at 10:00 AM each Sunday morning. We are at 7578 Concord Road, Patriot, Indiana, halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana. Please come and join us.

    Of our four Scripture passages, the first two are prophesies about the coming of Christ as a baby. The next two are about Jesus coming back for His own.
    Isaiah 7:14 (KJV)

    14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel

    Micah 5:2(KJV)
    2 But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.

    1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 (KJV)
    16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
    17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
    18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

    John 14:1-3 (KJV)
    “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

    Our Scriptures speak of two separate times when the Messiah was and is to come. The first coming, we celebrate at Christmas. In the words of the Apostle, John, “And the Word became Flesh and dwelt among us . . . .” (John 1:14) He will come, again, also, and there are two aspects of His second coming: He will come back for His saints, an event we refer to as the “rapture,” when Jesus will meet us in the clouds – at the sounding of the trumpet, “and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” He will also come back at the end of the tribulation – that seven-year period of persecution and trial – which will end when Jesus comes back to rescue the remaining remnant of His people, Israel, at which time He will defeat the nations pitched against them in the Battle of Armageddon. This is referred to as the “Second Coming.”

    Now the question on our minds is, “Could He come today?” Yes, I believe He very well could and very well might. We even speak of the imminent return of Christ, meaning that His return could be immediate; there is nothing standing in the way – prophetically or politically, or any other way. The prophecies have all been fulfilled. It could happen NOW!

    The stand-out question is, “Are you ready?” Are your affairs in order as far as God is concerned? Have you given your heart to Jesus and trusted in Him as your Savior? Will you be able to look, unashamedly into His loving and compassionate eyes and hear Him say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant?”

    Might you even look forward to His arrival in hopeful anticipation, as the did the aging saint of God who had taped a note on the corner of His study desk, “Perhaps, today . . .” Maybe He’ll come today. What a joyful thought! Maybe we’ll get to celebrate Christmas in Heaven! (. . . . according to Heaven’s dating, however.)

    If there are presents under your tree, I sincerely hope there would be no one left to open them. What if He would come today?

    Here’s another thought about Jesus making an appearance in our world – be it today, tomorrow, or any other day. I would like for you to consider, with me, this morning, this other “coming of Christ,” and it could happen today.

    First, let me tell you a story.

    The story is about an event in a previous century in a run-down, cheap lodging house, perhaps in London, where there lived a varied group of people, a company of needy and, as the story goes, “seedy” folk, and where there was a poor, unschooled servant-girl, not well-mannered and not much of a worrier about morals or character. Into this place there came one day a lodger who at once seemed to be different, and who occupied a room on the third floor. He quickly revealed himself to have a very kind heart and way. He always had a kindly word for the young woman, the servant girl, who was usually so ignored and down-trodden. She almost worshiped him. The other lodgers, too, were very grateful to him for his many deeds of helpfulness. He was always doing something for somebody, in his kindly, sympathetic way. At last the day came for him to move elsewhere. The young maid watched him, open-eyed, as he walked with his bit of luggage to the front door; and as he turned to her with a smile and a gentle pat on the shoulder, she took her leave of him with the words, “Please, sir, are you ‘Im?” (Crossing the Border [Fort Washington, Pa.: Christian Literature Crusade, 1974], pp. 92-93).

    “Are you Him?”

    “Are you the One who would come?”

    As John the Baptist asked Jesus, “Art thou He that should come, or look we for another?” (Luke 7:20, KJV)

    “Are you the One who once came?”

    Who did she see in that virtuous and kind man? Did she detect the likeness of Jesus Christ, Himself?

    “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus . . . “
    Should we also so live our lives that when people look at us, they see Christ? Should His presence be so reflected in our lives that people could actually wonder whether they might be seeing the Christ? “ . . . that men may see your good works and glorify your Father, which is in Heaven.” Might they even say to us, “Are you Him?”
    Shouldn’t we so clothe ourselves with Jesus Christ that when people look at us, they see Christ?

    Are you enough like Christ that people couldn’t tell the difference?

    Could Jesus be so alive in you that when you meet someone, that person will have met Christ, and Christ will have, in effect, “Come again” to that person?

    1.”Marvelous message we bring,

    Glorious carol we sing,

    Wonderful word of the King,

    Jesus is coming again!

    Chorus

    Coming again, Coming again,

    May be morning, may be noon,

    May be evening and may be soon!

    Coming again, Coming again;

    O what a wonderful day it will be –

    Jesus is coming again!

    (John W. Peterson – Jesus is Coming Again)

  43. Scripture and Thoughts                    A Gift Is So Simple   12/20/2020

    From Concord Community Church and Pastor, Steve Ward, we extent our warmest greetings.  May His grace and peace be yours at all times.  At Concord, we continue to meet for in-person worship at 10:00 AM each Sunday morning.  We are at 7578 Concord Road, Patriot, Indiana, halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.  Please come and join us.

    Luke 2:1-20
    1.  And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.
    4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. 6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
    Glory in the Highest
    8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
    13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
    14 “Glory to God in the highest,
    And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
    15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.

    A gift is so simple.  At least, a gift can be so simple.  The gift given by a child is so simple.  What Mother, going about her daily routine, hasn’t ever had a child hand her a dandelion or other seemingly worthless blossom as though it were an exotic tropical flower.  . . . or, Dads, have you never been given a piece of paper with those barely-discernible stick figures which, you are proudly told, are “Mommy” and “Daddy,” and, of course, the “painting” is at least on the level of the “Mona Lisa” or something in the Sistine Chapel.  – but it’s a gift, and it’s a gift for you, and it’s given out of the purest love we can imagine.  Simple.

    Even a child can give of himself or herself. 

    Have you ever been upset or despondent and then had a child come to comfort you or to cheer you up?  Again, they are giving you a gift; they are giving of themselves.

    You and I can do that.  We can lend a listening ear.  We can show compassion.  An individual may be much more in need of some compassionate time than a new sweater or a pair of gloves. 

    This same principle should govern every part of our lives: compassion first, accessories later.  Meet the need, first. Know that people need you & me to care – they especially need to know that we care.

    Tomorrow, right here, at this church, three people are going to come, and they are going to give us a gift.  They will give us the gift of water – and much more.  It won’t be a gift of money or other monetary values.  They will be giving us something much more valuable. 

    One man is giving of his skills and talents, his gift of organizing and co-ordinating, and the gift of his time.  One man is giving the gift of the use of his digging equipment, his skills to run it, and the gift of his time to do so.  Another man is giving us a water tank, and he will be here, tomorrow, to help with his skills, time, effort, and concern. 

    Also, if you went past the bathrooms, this morning, you may have seen a water pump sitting there. It’s a gift from the Vevay Assembly Church in Vevay to Concord Community Church.  It’s already wired in; tomorrow it will be plumbed and made ready to go.  Although each of these gifts could be given a monetary value, the generosity they represent is much more personal and even more valuable than anything that could be measured.  These people are giving of themselves.  Equipment, yes; time, talent, and effort, yes, but there is little that is more valuable than to give of yourself.        

    The book, God Calling, goes so far as to say, “Give to all you meet, or whose lives touch yours, of your prayers, your time, yourselves, your love, your thought.  You must practice this giving first.

    “Then give of this world’s goods and money, as you have them given to you.  To give money and material things, without first made the habit daily, hourly, ever increasingly, of giving on the higher plane, is wrong.” 

    What if we could be great givers – great givers of ourselves?

    Would we not, also, be great imitators of Jesus Christ?  
    Would we not become “a light set upon a hill?  
    Would we not become individual magnets drawing people to Jesus Christ?

    This Christmas, let’s look at needs, and let’s give of ourselves to meet those needs. 
     Let’s be great givers.

    What simple, priceless gifts we could give.

  44. Scripture and Thoughts Communion December 27, 2020

    From Concord Community Church and Pastor, Steve Ward, we extend to you our warmest greetings.  May His grace and peace be yours at all times and, especially, during these times of trial, testing, and uncertainty.  At Concord, we continue to meet for in-person worship at 10:00 AM each Sunday morning.  We are at 7578 Concord Road, Patriot, Indiana, halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.  Please come and join us.

    Our Scripture readings, this morning, are from the Gospel of Luke and from the first epistle to the church at Corinth, written by the Apostle, Paul.  They both describe the same event – the establishment of the Last Supper, or Communion.

    Scripture Readings:
    Luke 22:7-22
    7 Then came the Day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover must be killed. 8 And He sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat.”
    9 So they said to Him, “Where do You want us to prepare?”
    10 And He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him into the house which he enters. 11 Then you shall say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, “Where is the guest room where I may eat the Passover with My disciples?” ’ 12 Then he will show you a large, furnished upper room; there make ready.”
    13 So they went and found it just as He had said to them, and they prepared the Passover.
    Jesus Institutes the Lord’s Supper
    14 When the hour had come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him. 15 Then He said to them, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 16 for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”
    17 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; 18 for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”
    19 And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”
    20 Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you. 21 But behold, the hand of My betrayer is with Me on the table. 22 And truly the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!”

    I Corinthians 11:23-29
    23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
       26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.
    Examine Yourself
       27 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 

    When Jesus and His disciples sat down to eat at what we now call “The Last Supper,” the focus – especially for the disciples – was not at all on any kind of “Last Supper,” or “Communion” or “The Eucharist,” or the “Holy Sacrament.”  Their thoughts were on celebrating a very important Jewish custom and tradition called “Passover” and/or the “Feast of Unleavened Bread.”

    When a Jewish family celebrates this tradition or feast day, they are celebrating and remembering the occasion of their freedom from bondage in Egypt.  One of the first things they do in this observance is to remove all leaven from the whole house.  Leaven, basically, is yeast, and on that first Passover, when they were getting ready to leave Egypt, God told them to bake “unleavened bread” because they would be in such a hurry.  They wouldn’t have time to wait for the bread to rise.  Removing leaven from the house also symbolizes the removal of sin from our lives. 

    Next, they would have a ceremonial washing of the hands which also was symbolic of cleansing;  This is the point at which Jesus washed the feet of the disciples, setting an example of humility and service for all of us.

    Then the candles are lit.  In a household, the candles are lit by the mother, and they represent bringing the light of God to the world.  Bringing the light of God into the world has always been a purpose and an intention of God for His chosen people – to be a light to the nations.

    Once the candles are lit, the story of the Passover can be told.  The story tells about when the Israelites were in bondage in the land of Egypt, and Moses demanded of Pharaoh that they be set free.  When Pharaoh refused, of course, God sent the ten plagues – one at a time – to persuade Pharaoh to set the people free.  The final plague is the one from which the “Passover” feast gets its name.

    As the last and final plague, God told the people that the life of every first-born child of every family in the entire land would be taken – except those of the Hebrews, as long as they followed His instructions.  His instructions were that a lamb – without blemish or spot – be selected from their flock – one for each household – and that lamb would be killed for the Passover meal.  The blood of the lamb was to be put over the door and on the door posts so that when the angel – the destroying angel or the Angel of Death – came to that house, that household would be identified as a Jewish family, and the angel would pass over them.  This, of course, is why the celebration is called the “Passover.” 

    At this dramatic and tragic time, Pharoah finally agreed to let the people go.

    In the celebration of the Passover meal, after the telling of the story, the four cups of wine are blessed, and the first one is passed around.

    The second cup of wine is passed around and is accompanied by the recitation of the ten plagues brought upon the Egyptians.

    After the second cup of wine, in modern households, at least, there follows a brief presentation connected with bread, greens, herbs and other symbolic items to memorialize such things as the tears of the people, the bitterness of various aspects of their lives, the bricks and mortar they were forced to make in Egypt and the sacrifice of the Passover lamb.

    Then the meal is served.  In modern times it can be quite lavish and celebrational.  Of course, it can also be quite simple, as it probably was in the upper room with Jesus.

    After the meal, there is more bread, and this may be when Jesus told them that the bread represented His body, which would be broken – sacrificed for us.

    After the meal, also, was the third cup of wine.  Traditionally, this third cup of wine was called the cup of redemption.  It recalled the shed blood of the passover lamb which was shed to redeem the Israelites from their bondage and slavery in Egypt.  This is the cup which Jesus held when He said, ““This cup is the new covenant in My blood which is shed for you. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

    This was the cup of redemption.  Notice that in each of the two accounts of the establishment of the Last Supper, it is specifically stated that this is the cup after supper.  The Jewish reader, especially, would know, very specifically, that Jesus was using the cup of redemption and identifying it with His own blood and sacrifice.  He was, and is, the perfect Lamb of God, offered to redeem us and to set us free.

    Thus, in the middle of a meal and observance of an historic tradition and celebration, Jesus interrupts the sequence of events twice and announces completely new and different meanings to two parts of the meal!  He also declares that this observance of a national, yearly celebration will henceforth be connected to the memory of His own sacrifice, implying, even, that the former memorial be replaced by a new celebration and observation in memory of His own sacrifice, shedding of blood, and death.

    Jesus tells us to do this in memory of Him.  It would be crazy to partake of this celebration if we didn’t believe, and it would be crazy not to partake if we do believe.

    We will be observing communion, today in our church, and we invite all believers to join with us in the spirit of communion, celebration, and gratefulness, thanking God for His great salvation.

  45. Scripture and Thoughts The Christmas Gift January 3, 2021

    From Concord Community Church and Pastor, Steve Ward, we extend to you our warmest greetings.  May His grace and peace be yours at all times and, especially, during these times of trial, testing, and uncertainty.  At Concord, we continue to meet for in-person worship at 10:00 AM each Sunday morning.  We are at 7578 Concord Road, Patriot, Indiana, halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.  Please come and join us.

    I Timothy 6:17  “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. 18 Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, 19 storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”
    James 1:17  “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”
    Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”

    A family was in the kitchen baking Christmas cookies and candy, enjoying family time and bubbling over with the excitement of having a hand in helping a young mother have a nice Christmas.  She was 22 years old, working in a factory, and raising a 10-month- old baby and a 12 year-old boy by herself.  The family in the kitchen would go shopping, later, with the money promised to be given for the needy family. 

    However, early that afternoon, a disappointing phone call came.  The expected finances would not come.  No presents, no shopping; not much of a Christmas for the needy family.

    The family in the kitchen suddenly lost their cheer.  Kinsie, the 7-year old daughter who had been especially cheerful about helping the other family, had gone silent. Without a word, she slipped from her chair and ran out of the room.  It didn’t feel much like Christmas anymore.

    Kinsie returned, however.  This time her face was set with determination.     She had opened up her piggy bank, and now she counted out the coins and crumpled dollar bills, one by one, onto the kitchen table: $3.30.  Everything she had.

    “Mom,” she said, “I know it’s not much, but maybe this will buy a present for the baby.”
    Then suddenly everyone was reaching into pockets and purses.  The two older boys gathered small bills and handfuls of change.  The older sister ran into her room and cleaned out her own coin bank.  Adding to Kinsie’s gift became a game, with everyone hunting for loose change.  Kinsie’s squeals of joy rang through the house.

    As the money piled up on the kitchen table, one of the boys began rolling the coins into paper sleeves.  By the time the search ended, there was a small mountain of bills and a neat stack of rolled coins.  The total: $130.00.  “God multiplied your gift,” her Mother, Ann, said to Kinsie.

    At a breakfast meeting at work, the next day, Ann told her coworkers about Kinsie’s latest project.  To her surprise, staff members began to open their purses and empty their pockets to add to Kinsie’s stash.  The generosity was contagious.

    Throughout the day, Ann’s colleagues dropped by with donations.  Each time a little money came in, Ann called home, and with each report from her mother, Kinsie would scream into the phone and do a little dance of triumph.

    By day’s end, the story of Kinsie’s gift had spread beyond Ann’s office.  She received a call from an anonymous donor.  If a 7-year-old could give everything she had, he said, he should at least be able to match her gift 100 to 1.  He contributed $300.00.

    The total was now $500.00 – plenty for a Christmas for three.

    That evening, Kensie went with her mother and sister to spend the money.  They bought pants, shirts, pajamas, and household necessities in bulk. There was a pair of cool-looking boots just right for a 12-year-old boy, a pretty scarf for Ashley, the mother, and heaps of toys for the baby.  They even had enough to buy food for a Christmas dinner.

    On Christmas Eve, Ann drove through pouring rain to the small trailer where the family lived, then backed her Trailblazer close to the door.  When Ashley opened the door, Ann stood under her umbrella and wished the astonished woman a merry Christmas.  Then she began to unload the gifts from the car, handing them to Ashley one by one.

    Ashley laughed in disbelief, and still the presents came.  Ann abandoned the umbrella, and the young woman joined her in the rain, passing the gifts to Kenny, the 12-year-old.  “Please, can I open up just one tonight?” he begged.  Soon both women were soaked to the skin, and surprise had turned to something deeper, the kind of joy that brought them close to tears.

    Reflecting on the little girl’s generosity, Ashley says, she hopes she’ll one day be able to do something similar for someone else in need.  “Kinsie could have used that money for herself, but she gave it away,” Ashley says.  “She’s the type of kid I’d like my son to grow up to be.”

    A piggy bank with a sum total of $3.30 became the gift that brought others to join the effort.

    It was a gift to fill a need.

    It was all she had.

    She gave with joy.

    Can we do the same?

    I’m not sure I’ve ever been a part of a church as generous and giving as Concord Community Church.  Your gifts and contributions have helped dozens of people and several dozen families, just this year.  The mere existence of the “Pastor’s Fund” is a testimony to the desire to reach out to people, whoever they are, and whether you know them or not, to lend a hand or a few dollars to people who need it.  The efforts have grown, and, the mere existence of the fund and the desire and the doing have even prompted other churches to ask us about giving in the same way.  “God has multiplied your gift.” 

    One church asked us to distribute the money they had designated for Christmas giving, because they figured we knew who might need it the most.  We’ve been assisted in that regard by other Christians who know many of the families who are in need.  There are at least two ladies who, when we’ve gone to deliver food, are, themselves helping other families who need child care and can’t afford it.
     
    I know we often have trouble knowing who to help or knowing to whom to give or knowing how to give, but some of the problem is how we relate to other people.   We tend to relate best to people who are most like us.

    However, I’ve seen the best relationships develop when you not only reach out to someone else, but when you actually delight in getting to know that person; you want to be their friend.  I am constantly being instructed and challenged in the art of loving and liking many different kinds of people by seeing the example set by my wife, Sharon. When she meets someone, she loves them first – without judging them the way I probably do and, perhaps, the way you may judge them, too.

    God did the same thing for us.  He didn’t love us because we were wonderful.  He took us the way we were, and He delighted in us.  He loved us first, no questions asked.  We don’t have to fill out a questionnaire to see if we qualify for His love.  “For God so loved the world that He gave. . . .”

    You can make difference in another person’s life.  Remember that the most important thing you can give is the gift of yourself, and the most important part of the gift of yourself is the gift of your love.

    What if God could say, one day, “For Steve Ward so loved the world that he gave . . .”  For Dan or Paula or Allen or Bill so loved the world that they gave . . .” ?

    You can give of yourself to another person.  You can love other people.  You can make a difference in their lives.

    Look at the words of our last hymn, #670, “Make Me a Blessing”

    1. “Out on the highways and byways of life,
    Many are weary and sad.
    Carry the sunshine where darkness is rife,
    Making the sorrowing glad.

       (Chorus) Make me a blessing; Make me a blessing, 
       Out of my life may Jesus shine.
       Make me a blessing, O Savior, I pray. 
       Make me a blessing, to someone today.   

    2. Tell the sweet story of Christ and His love;
    Tell of His pow’r to forgive,
    Others will trust Him if only you prove
       True every moment you live.

    3. Give as was given to you in your need;
    Love as the Master loved you.
    Be to the helpless a helper indeed;
    Unto your mission be true.

       (Chorus) Make me a blessing; Make me a blessing, 
       Out of my life may Jesus shine.
       Make me a blessing, O Savior, I pray. 
       Make me a blessing, to someone today.

  46. Scripture and Thoughts – Never Sent, Never Seen, Never Heard, Never Believed 1/10/2021
    From Concord Community Church and Pastor, Steve Ward, we extend to you our warmest greetings.  May His grace and peace be yours at all times and, especially, during these times of trial, testing, and uncertainty.  At Concord, we continue to meet for in-person worship at 10:00 AM each Sunday morning.  We are at 7578 Concord Road, Patriot, Indiana, halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.  Please come and join us.

    Romans 10:1-4 “Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. 2 For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. 3 Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

    10:9-21  9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
    14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
    16 But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” 17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. 18 But I ask: Did they not hear? Of course they did:
    “Their voice has gone out into all the earth,
        their words to the ends of the world.”
    19 Again I ask: Did Israel not understand? First, Moses says,
    “I will make you envious by those who are not a nation;
        I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding.”
    20 And Isaiah boldly says,
    “I was found by those who did not seek me;
        I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.”
    21 But concerning Israel he says,
    “All day long I have held out my hands
        to a disobedient and obstinate people.”
    Let me tell you a story about a knight in shining armor who was sent out from the castle on a very important mission.  His instructions were to go out over the whole countryside and to tell the people that a terrible dragon had recently been sighted, and the dragon was steadily making its way toward the kingdom.  In order to be safe, the knight was to say, all the people should leave their homes and fields and come to the castle where it’s high, thick walls would offer protection until the valiant knights of the kingdom could conquer the dragon and save the kingdom from danger.

    The knight mounted his magnificent steed, the white charger of glorious fame, and, together, the knight and his horse bolted from the courtyard, through the gate, and across the bridge that spanned the moat.

    But the knight in shining armor did not believe the report about the terrible dragon and the danger that had arisen for the kingdom, so he saw no compelling reason to frighten and disturb the people, and he saw no reason to put himself through all the difficulty of riding to every house and farm and town just to tell the people of a supposed danger.  Besides, he had other things on his mind, for he was in love with a beautiful maiden, and he went riding straight to her house, where he hoped to impress the fair lass as well as her father and mother.

    When the knight returned to the castle, the king asked him how his mission had fared, and how well he had succeeded in delivering the message of the dangerous dragon.  The knight assured the king that the task had been a very easy one which he had accomplished quickly.

    “But where are the people?” the king asked.  “I would think that by now they would be arriving at the castle for safety.”

    And the knight replied, “Oh, you know how the people are – lazy and uncooperative.  I don’t suppose many of them will come.”

    I must leave it to your imagination as to what happened when the terrible dragon arrived and began chasing and destroying everything and everybody it could find, and I must leave it to your imagination as to how many were hurt or killed when they could easily have been saved. 

    The knight, of course, represents each of us, for we have been given the mission of spreading the word: we have been sent; we are the ones who will tell the story, live the story, and preach the message – either by word or by our lives – or by both our words and our lives.

    The Bible says, “But ye shall receive power after that the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1:8 NIV)

    And Jesus said, (19) “So you must go and make disciples of all nations.  Baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And you can be sure that I am always with you, to the very end.”  (Matt. 28:19, NIV)

    or, in the King James Version:  “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (20) teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.”

    The gallant Knight’s lack of diligence represents our own nonchalant treatment of the gospel, for even when we believe it, we, too, often treat the message of Salvation as unimportant and even optional, and we act as though it is not significant enough to be delivered.

    The knight had his own distraction, didn’t he?  The fair maiden with whom he was in love represents all the worldly attractions and activities that take our attention and time, energy and resources.

    Perhaps someday our Savior will welcome us home and ask us where all the people are – the ones whom we were supposed to warn and to invite to come to the protection of the Good Shepherd, to respond to His offer of Salvation and protection and an eternal home.

    As this morning’s Scripture says
    14 “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?”  (Romans 10:14, 15, NIV)

    And another question is this: What happens when they are sent, and they don’t go, they don’t tell the message; they don’t share the good news?

    Let’s be the ones who spread the message;  let’s be the ones who share the good news.

    Final Song:  “So Send I You”  #440
    So send I you to labour unrewarded
    To serve unpaid, unloved, unsought, unknown
    To bear rebuke, to suffer scorn and scoffing
    So send I you to toil for Me alone

    So send I you to bind the bruised and broken
    Over wandering souls to work, to weep, to wake
    To bear the burdens of a world a-weary
    So send I you to suffer for My sake

    So send I you to loneliness and longing
    With heart a-hungering for the loved and known
    Forsaking kin and kindred, friend and dear one
    So send I you to know My love alone

    So send I you to leave your life’s ambition
    To die to dear desire, self-will resign
    To labour long, and love where men revile you
    So send I you to lose you life in Mine

    So send I you to hearts made hard by hatred
    To eyes made blind because they will not see
    To spend, though it be blood to spend and spare not
    So send I you to taste of Calvary

    “As the Father hath sent me, so send I you”

  47. Scripture and Thoughts New Beginnings     January 17, 2021
    From Concord Community Church and Pastor, Steve Ward, we extend to you our warmest greetings.  May His grace and peace be yours at all times and, especially, during these times of trial, testing, and uncertainty.  At Concord, we continue to meet for in-person worship at 10:00 AM each Sunday morning.  We are at 7578 Concord Road, Patriot, Indiana, halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.  Please come and join us.
    New Beginnings                                
    Lamentations 3:22-23(NLT)
    22 “The faithful love of the Lord never ends![a]
        His mercies never cease.
    23 Great is his faithfulness;
        his mercies begin afresh each morning.”

    Lamentations 3:22-23 (The Living Bible)
    22 “his compassion never ends. It is only the Lord’s mercies that have kept us from complete destruction. 23 Great is his faithfulness; his loving-kindness begins afresh each day. (The Living Bible)

    This is the time for New Beginnings.  We’ve already made our New Year’s Resolutions – and many of them have been broken, already.  And yet, at the start of a new year, we feel the need to start over, to get a fresh start, to begin with a new slate.

    If there was ever a Book that encourages new beginnings, it’s the Bible.  From the story of the creation – the story of all things new – through the flood – the ultimate new start – through the freeing of the entire nation of the Hebrews and their national opportunity to enter and possess the Promised Land with all it’s possibilities and fortunes and potential, the Bible recounts, again and again, the renewed promises and efforts by God to extend second chances.

    He gave a second chance to David, a great king whose miserable failure might have sent any one of us scurrying and hiding from the very presence of God Almighty.  Yet, God’s rebuke, though stern and firm, still gave David an opportunity to repent and to return to the God who loved Him so.

    David says,11 “Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
    12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.” (Psalm 51:11, 12 KJV)

    In an earlier verse, He pleads, (v. 10) “Create in me a clean heart, Oh, God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

    God is ready and willing to give to everyone of us a fresh start. A new start. 

    Our response needs to be the same as David’s response.  As children of His, we turn to Him in repentance, acknowledging our sin or sins.  “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9)

    Remember that when we sin, we don’t lose our salvation.  We don’t cease to be Christians as a result of our way-wardness.  We still belong to Him.  The blood of Jesus Christ was a one-time, complete sacrifice.
    12 “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12 KJV)

     What we lose when we sin is our fellowship with Him.  “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.”  God is waiting for and listening for our repentance.

    God is willing and ready to give us a new start.

    When we come to God for the first time.  God wants to give us a new heart and a new start.  Mankind walked away from God in the Garden of Eden, and, even then,  God extended His hand of redemption and forgiveness in the promise of a coming Redeemer and Savior.  God does not give up on us or leave us stranded without hope. 

    “For when we were yet without strength, in due time”  — at just the right time – “Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6 KJV)  and in v. 8 “But God commended His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

    Remember, “If any man be in Christ, He is a New Creature (a new creation)   Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
    New beginnings: God designed one for you, and He designed one for me.  Let’s take Him up on it.

  48. Scripture and Thoughts – Accepting God’s Peace 1/24/2021
    From Concord Community Church and Pastor, Steve Ward, we extend to you our warmest greetings. May His grace and peace be yours at all times. At Concord, we continue to meet for in-person worship at 10:00 AM each Sunday morning. We are at 7578 Concord Road, Patriot, Indiana, halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana. Please come and join us.

    Our Scripture Readings come from three sources: Luke, John and Philippians

    Luke 2:13,14

    13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
    14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

    John 14:27
    27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

    Philippians 4:4-9
    4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
    8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

    In our Scripture Readings, this morning, from three different Books of the Bible, we have the mention of peace in each of the three.

    In the first, we have peace announced – proclaimed, really – by the angels as they announce and proclaim the birth of the Savior.

    In the second reading, from the book of John, we have Jesus, Himself, announcing that He was leaving peace with the disciples, that He was giving them His peace.

    Finally, in the third reading, we have the inspired words of the Apostle, Paul, as he gives us the greatest assurance we could find, anywhere, that God offers us peace beyond our understanding and that peace will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

    Thus, at the beginning of Jesus’ life, we have the announcement of peace; at the end of His life, we have the gift of His peace, and after the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, we have the assurance the confirmation, if you will – that the peace of God will be the guardian of our hearts and mind.

    Next week, if God so wills, we hope to explore these three promises of peace in a little more depth and analysis, and we will praying, in the meantime, that God will richly bless us with His peace and the guardianship of that peace in Christ Jesus. Be assured that this is what He wants for you and for me.

  49. Scripture and Thoughts – Accepting God’s Peace-         January 31, 2021
    From Concord Community Church and Pastor, Steve Ward, we extend to you our warmest greetings.  May His grace and peace be yours at all times.  At Concord, we continue to meet for in-person worship at 10:00 AM each Sunday morning.  We are at 7578 Concord Road, Patriot, Indiana, halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.  Please come and join us.

    Luke 2:13-14
    13 “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
     14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
    John 14:27
    27  “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
    Philippians 4:4-9
    4  “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
    8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
    Isaiah 53:5 (NIV)
    “But he was pierced for our transgressions,
        he was crushed for our iniquities;
    the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
        and by his wounds we are healed.”

    As we pointed out, last week, we find the angelic announcement of peace at the birth of Christ, the bestowal and gift of peace at the end of His life, and the confirmation and assurance of peace by the apostle, Paul.  In addition, we have the prophetic word from Isaiah that the “punishment that brought us peace was upon Him.”

    The central, common figure, of course, is Jesus Christ. We could call Him the irreducible common denominator.

    Let’s look again at Philippians 4:4-7:
    “ Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

    There is a very short sentence, here, which gives us the key, I believe, to the peace of God.  After Paul tells us to rejoice always and then repeats it and then tells us to let our gentleness be seen and apparent to all, He says, “The Lord is near.”

    Let’s read it in a way that emphasizes the idea that God’s nearness is very important:  “The Lord is near. Don’t be anxious about anything, because the Lord is near.  Instead, in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God:  after all, remember, He is near.  Consequently, the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

    Could it be that the peace of God is ours, especially, because He is near, because He is here, because He simply is, and that when we know that and when we trust in that, then the peace of God is ours – transcending all understanding, guarding our hearts, guarding our minds, fulfilling the prophesy of the angels, granting the gift of peace from Jesus, and showing how it comes to us?

    The peace of God, after all, is vitally linked to our trusting and having confidence in His ability and His willingness to look out for us.  It starts in the quiet assurance in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross whereby He took our punishment and set us free.  “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” 

    Do you believe that?  Is it keen on your consciousness that  “. . .God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”?

    Look at the words we read, earlier, from the book of Isaiah:

    Isaiah 53:5 (NIV)
    “But he was pierced for our transgressions,
        he was crushed for our iniquities;
    the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
        and by his wounds we are healed.”

    “. . . the punishment that brought us peace was on him . . .”

    He could tell His disciples that He was giving them peace, that He was leaving them peace, because He was about to bear the punishment that would bring them peace and would bring us peace.

    What if you trust in Him so completely that you end up having peace? What if He gives you peace in your heart, peace in your soul, peace in your life, peace in your relationships, peace in every part of your existence?  Would that take a whole lot of trust?  How much more trust would it take?  Think about it.  Are you confident that God is near?  Are you confident in “Casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you?”  (I Peter 1:7, KJV)

    Listen, once again, to these words from our Scripture readings:

    “ . . . and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

    “ Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you:’

    “ . . . The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
    “And the God of peace will be with you.”

    “ . . . the punishment that brought us peace was on Him”
       
    Not from our morning Scripture readings, but we find these words in Isaiah 26:3 (KJV) “Thou wilt keep Him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee.”
    How about it?  You know who He is.  You know what He has done for you.  You know He is all powerful and omniscient (all-knowing) and omnipresent (everywhere present.)  You know that He raised Jesus from the dead, just He said He would.  You know that “We love Him because He first loved us.”  You know you can trust Him.  He simply asks you to do it.

  50. Scripture and Thoughts –                                                                February 7, 2021
    From Concord Community Church and Pastor, Steve Ward, we extend to you our warmest greetings.  May His grace and peace be yours at all times.  At Concord, we are meeting for in-person worship at 10:00 AM each Sunday morning.  We are at 7578 Concord Road, Patriot, Indiana, halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.  Please come and join us.

    Scripture Reading: Psalms 116
    1. I love the Lord, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications.
    2 Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.
    3 The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow.
    4 Then called I upon the name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.
    5 Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful.
    6 The Lord preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me.
    7 Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee.
    8 For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling.
    9 I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.
    10 I believed, therefore have I spoken: I was greatly afflicted:
    11 I said in my haste, All men are liars.
    12 What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?
    13 I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord.
    14 I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people.
    15 Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.
    16 O Lord, truly I am thy servant; I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid: thou hast loosed my bonds.
    17 I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord.
    18 I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people.
    19 In the courts of the Lord’s house, in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem. Praise ye the Lord.

    Abdicate
    Perhaps the world got its first historical illustration of the word “abdicate” when King Edward VIII of Great Britain abdicated the throne of the British Empire because he wanted to marry a woman named Wallis Simpson, an American socialite, with whom the bachelor Monarch had fallen helplessly in love.  When he did so, he gave up all rights and claims to the throne of England, and his brother, Albert, reigned in his stead, as King George VI.

    I cannot imagine all the results and ramifications of this action, but suffice it to say that lives and legacies were changed irreversibly and cataclysmically.

    This was, of course, an event of global proportions and of world-wide interest.
    .
    When a person – such as King Edward VIII abdicates the throne, he or she resigns all rights and claims to his or her former position.  He declares himself or herself to be free of all accompanying responsibilities and obligations.  He or she is no longer  king – or queen.

    There are other times and other situations when individuals seem to abdicate their position and their responsibilities on a much smaller scale, and sometimes even for a limited time.

    I think, for example, that parents sometimes abdicate their rights and responsibilities to be parents.  We see it all the time: parents refusing to act like parents, parents stepping away from their responsibilities, parents acting like children.  (Of course, for that matter, we sometimes see grandparents acting like children, but that’s a different story.  I won’t even ask for a show of hands.)   Parents just don’t always act like parents.  Sometimes they seem to think that they ought to act like best friends instead of parents – or like advisors, but not like parents.

    We’ve also seen, for years, parents who yield to other passions – not always to passions toward another person, as was the case with King Edward VIII, but passion for alcohol and passion for drugs have robbed many-a parent of their moral right – and, often, even their legal right, to be parents.

    Yes, many of our modern-day “parents” have abdicated their role as real mothers and real fathers. There are other ways in which people there abandon their rights and responsibilities also.

    For example, we have people who claim to run for an elected office – supposedly to be a “public servant.”  However, once the position is secured, they “abdicate” their responsibilities to be the governing force they were elected to be.  We call them politicians, and they too often abandon – abdicate, if you will – their position.  They may be a senator or a representative – even a president or a vice-president – but as soon as they are elected, they become something else, often a grand-standing photo-opt expert, a professional, perpetual  vote-getting, re-election machine.  – but certainly not a “public servant.”

    On the other hand, we have many citizens in this country, today, who abdicate their responsibilities on election day when they fail to vote.

    If, by any chance, you missed the opportunity to vote recently, I urge you, especially as a Christian, to find a way – even to the point of forcing yourself &/ or being hard on yourself – to get to a voting site and let your voice be heard.

    You might also think about other groups of people who fail in their responsibilities.  In Bible history, the people of Israel, chosen by God, the recipients of God’s mighty promises, rescued from slavery and from the most powerful nation on earth at the time, physically led by the very presence of God, Himself, through the wilderness, and then led into their own promised land, given possession, protection, divine military aid, and the promise of an eternal inheritance, nevertheless stepped away from their privileged position – abdicated, if you will, the most wonderful opportunity a nation has ever had.

    Of course, America ran an awfully close second for a long while.  She, too, is a long way down the road of abandoning her God-given position of prominence, privilege, leadership, and moral example.

    Now, let me ask this question:  Do we, as Christians, often try to step away from our positions as God’s children?  Do we “hold office” for a short part of the week, and then abdicate our Christianity because we’re so in love with the rest of life that we consider Christianity to be too “inconvenient”?

    In other words, do we abdicate our position as God’s children in order to do something else for a while?  You see, our society is actually wonderful for its opportunities to compartmentalize our lives.  That is, we can divide up and segregate the different areas of our lives to such a degree that one part of our life can be totally removed from another part of our life.  A man or a woman can go to Bible study on Wednesday night and then go to a private club on Thursday night, and the kind of conversation and jokes and behavior at one of those places might be completely out of place in the other.  How do we manage to do that?

    Logistically, it’s simple.  We simply go to one place, and then we go to the other place, but in terms of loyalty and in terms of our position as Christians, we may end up stepping out of character and our position as Christians in order to assume a different character – even a different personality – and definitely a different identity.  WE ABDICATE OUR POSITION AS CHRISTIANS!  And, in our society, it may seem to us that we get away with it.

    In our relationship with God, however, these kinds of identity switches – abdications, really, are marks of insincere Christianity, disloyalty, and identification with the enemy.  Sometimes we’re being traitors.  Sometimes we’re being wishy-washy. lukewarm, pretend-to-be Christians.  Either way it must register a great distaste in the mind and heart of God.

    Peter had that problem.  He identified with one group when it was convenient, and then went back to identifying with the Jewish legalizers when they were around.

     Just where is our Christianity?  Do we carry it around in our pocket and pull it out when the time is right?  Do we put it away when it’s not so convenient or not quite so acceptable to the people around us?

    Is there a time, for some Christians, when we feel that we have “done our part.”  We have “served enough;” we have “done the church thing,” and now it’s time to take care of ourselves?

    Are we like the modern-day parents who are not really parents at all?  That is, do we somehow make a claim to the title “Christian,” but live our lives as though we have abdicated the position?  What is it that claims our lives, our love, and our very identity?

    May we be so true to God that there is never – not for one moment of disloyalty or faint-heartedness  – a time when we are not absolutely thrilled to be identified as Christians.

  51. Scripture and thoughts Unconfessed Sin February 14, 2021
    Greetings and welcome in the name of Jesus from Concord Community Church and from Pastor Steve Ward..  May His peace be yours, abundantly.  We meet at 9:00 AM on Sunday morning.  We are located at 7578 Concord Rd., half-way between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.  Please come and join us.

    James 4:1-10
    4:1. “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. 4 Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?  Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, ‘The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously’?
    6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says:
         ‘God resists the proud,
         But gives grace to the humble.’
    7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, you sinners;  and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.”

    Let’s turn our attention, especially, to verses 7-10:

    7 “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.”

    Why is it that we are told to lament and mourn and weep?  Why are we to be so sad?  Isn’t it because of our sin and because we hurt and offend God with our wrong-doing?   Isn’t it true that even though we may have been saved, and even though we’ve been forgiven, we are still sinners?  When we sin, we break the bond of fellowship we have with God.  David says, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” 

    When we sin, we bring grief to the heart of the Father.  Here we are, members of His own family, redeemed by the death of His own Son, and we’re going out and stomping through the mud and the dirt and the mire from which He died to save us.

    Does that grieve Him?  Does it break His heart?  You bet it does.

    No wonder we’re told to “Lament and mourn and weep!”  No wonder we are to “Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.”

    Here’s the rest of the problem: Sometimes we never get some of these things cleared up.  Sometimes these things are still walking around in our past, unconfessed, unresolved, and, often without a hint of remorse.

    Here’s a suggestion:  Take a piece of paper and a pencil or pen, and across the top of the page, write, “Unconfessed Sin.”  That will be one column.  The next column will be “Unresolved Conflicts.”

    The first column is pretty much self-explanatory.  This will be primarily between you and God, although there may be some wrongs you’ve committed against other people, too.  These, also, will need to be resolved.

    The second column is for other conflicts between you and another person.  Matthew 5:23,24: (NKJV)
    23 “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”

    In other words, get things right between you and other people.  This can be a long-term project.

    The last category is “Unacknowleged Sin.”  This may be the hardest.  It deals with those areas in your life that you continue to insist aren’t wrong.  “It’s the way I am.”  “I don’t think it’s really sinful.”  Etc., etc. Write them down, anyway, and  really, really pray about it.

    In fact, every one of these lists, when they are as complete as they can be, should be laid before the Lord.  Spread it out before Him.  Perhaps you’ll be in your prayer closet, or alone with God in a quiet place.  It can also happen in a noisy place, but your goal is to get right with God.  You goal is to be honest and to be repentant, to be open to God, and to ask Him to take over in your life. 

    First, you need His forgiveness.  Perhaps you need to lament & mourn and weep.  We’re seeking to cleanse our hands & to purify our hearts.  We need to humble ourselves before God.  We desperately need His forgiveness.  Remember, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.”

  52. Scripture and thoughts February 21, 2021
    Greetings, and welcome in the name of Jesus from Concord Community Church and from Pastor Steve Ward..  May His peace be yours, abundantly.  We meet at 9:00 AM on Sunday morning.  We are located at 7578 Concord Rd., half-way between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.  Please come and join us.

    First-Hand Witnesses

    Deuteronomy 10:17-22; 11:1-7
    17 For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe. 18 He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. 19 Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. 20 You shall fear the Lord your God; you shall serve Him, and to Him you shall hold fast, and take oaths in His name. 21 He is your praise, and He is your God, who has done for you these great and awesome things which your eyes have seen. 22 Your fathers went down to Egypt with seventy persons, and now the Lord your God has made you as the stars of heaven in multitude.

    11:2-7 2 Know today that I do not speak with your children, who have not known and who have not seen the chastening of the Lord your God, His greatness and His mighty hand and His outstretched arm— 3 His signs and His acts which He did in the midst of Egypt, to Pharaoh king of Egypt, and to all his land; 4 what He did to the army of Egypt, to their horses and their chariots: how He made the waters of the Red Sea overflow them as they pursued you, and how the Lord has destroyed them to this day; 5 what He did for you in the wilderness until you came to this place; 6 and what He did to Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, the son of Reuben: how the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, their households, their tents, and all the substance that was in their possession, in the midst of all Israel— 7 but your eyes have seen every great act of the Lord which He did.

    On September 8th of the year, 1900, Galveston, Texas, was nearly obliterated by a category 4 hurricane, which, for all practical purposes, erased the entire city off the map. Galveston had been the pride of Texas. “It boasted the biggest port, the most millionaires, the swankiest mansions, the first telephones and electric lights. . . After the 1900 storm, she would never regain her status.” (From Morning Edition)

    Eye-witnesses tell us that there was almost nothing left standing, and that on the morning after, there were dead bodies strewn everywhere. The toll of human lives lost is estimated at between 6,000 and 12,000 persons. The storm is still known as the worst natural disaster to ever occur in the United States and the worst hurricane in U.S. History.

    Katherine V. Parks, a little girl at the time, recounted that her brother and cousin came running to her house, shouting that the gulf looked like a big gray wall about 50 feet high, moving slowly toward the city.

    At the height of the storm, John W. Harris remembered two dozen terrified people clamoring in through the windows of their home to escape the rising water. He said that his mother prepared for the rising floodwaters by lashing her children together with leather straps so she could hold onto each one of them as long as she could.

    There are many stories of bravery and heroism, stories of spectacle and of the might and the fury of nature – of the otherwise unbelievable strength of wind and water.

    The storm surge was 15 feet high, and the entire city was only 8 feet above sea level.

    I tell you of eye-witness accounts, of course, and they are riveting and convincing. They are also true. I don’t doubt them, and you don’t doubt them. There is no reason to doubt them. These are people who were right there, who experienced every part of the horrible nightmare for themselves and witnessed the events with their own eyes.

    We’ve said it before: The Bible, also, is a book of first-hand accounts. It’s a story of verified history and of historically reliable record. In the book of Genesis, Moses reminds the people that they were eye-witnesses to the miracles and wonders of God. We’re not talking about twenty or thirty people standing there listening to Moses. We’re not talking about twenty or thirty families. We’re talking about a migration – a nation – of six million people who had come out of Egypt – six million people who had seen, first-hand, the miracles of God and the powerful hand of God.

    Listen to verse 2-7 of chapter 11 of the book of Deuteronomy:
    2 Know today that I do not speak with your children, who have not known and who have not seen the chastening of the Lord your God, His greatness and His mighty hand and His outstretched arm— 3 His signs and His acts which He did in the midst of Egypt, to Pharaoh king of Egypt, and to all his land; 4 what He did to the army of Egypt, to their horses and their chariots: how He made the waters of the Red Sea overflow them as they pursued you, and how the Lord has destroyed them to this day; 5 what He did for you in the wilderness until you came to this place; 6 and what He did to Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, the son of Reuben: how the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, their households, their tents, and all the substance that was in their possession, in the midst of all Israel— 7 but your eyes have seen every great act of the Lord which He did.

    The Israelites were eye-witnesses.
    The disciples of Jesus, too, were eye witnesses. They had seen and experienced the life, teachings, miracles, and even the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus; Moses could refer to the eye-witness accounts of the Israelites to whom he was speaking; he and they had seen for themselves the miracles – the plagues – in Egypt, the crossing of the red sea, the voice of God at Mt. Sinai, the water from the rock, the manna, the quail, and the defeat of at least three mighty armies.

    We are the direct beneficiaries of those eye-witness accounts. What we hold in our hand and proclaim to be the very Word of God contains the powerful writings of many eye-witness accounts.

    In the wide scope of human history, not very many men or women can claim to have walked and talked with God, but Moses did; the Israelites did; the Disciples did; Paul did, and so did many others,. . . and it’s all condensed into one volume. It’s all right here. There is no other book containing so many 1st-hand accounts of encounters with God as this book – unless they are commentaries and studies on and about this book.

    In this book we have the answer to the challenge of the ages, the challenge of the centuries: Is there a God, or not?

    What is our response? Are we reading the deposition? Are we examining the record? Are we familiar with the evidence? Shouldn’t we be? Shouldn’t we be listening to the witnesses? Shouldn’t we – and shouldn’t those people who pretend to “know” there isn’t a God – shouldn’t we and they know what’s in here before we or they entertain every other notion that man can cook up for themselves for not believing in the God of this book?

    There’s another challenge for us. What are the events and stories in our lives of which we are eye-witnesses that demonstrate and attest to the mighty hand of God? What are the stories we can tell? What is the evidence in your own life which tells of the person of God, the power of God, the presence of God, the intervention of God, or the love of God in your life?

    Perhaps you can tell of the time your car went off the road – backwards, while doing a somersault – end for end – and ended up on its wheels and kept on going, and you looked out the window and saw jagged glass where your head and neck might have gone, and you found a heavy newspaper camera after it left the back ledge and sailed right past your head – probably at 50 miles an hour – before it crashed into the dashboard and dropped to the floor, and yet you came away with no more than a scratch on the top of your head.

    There are miracles that happen to us. Moses would say we are eye-witnesses; we saw it happen. We can attest to the protection of God – the miracles of God.

    I believe we can all tell of our own experiences – the quiet but mighty power in our lives, the times when God took over for us, the times when God gave us peace, or encouragement, or strength or comfort. Let’s refresh our minds of such times; let’s retell with each other of the times when we’ve experienced God, when we have seen His work first hand, and let us not forget the miracles in our lives – the times when we should have been hurt but we weren’t, the time we might have been killed, but we weren’t, the times when, medically speaking, we shouldn’t have pulled through, but we did. The first-hand accounts of the Israelites and the first-hand accounts of the disciples and of our own stories should cement our faith in the reality of God and in the truth about Jesus Christ.

    Our own experiences, our own first-hand accounts, give us a reason to proclaim the power of God, the intervention of God, and the compassion of God.

    Let’s remember them; Let’s tell about them. God is alive; Jesus, the Son of God, is risen. The Bible proclaims to us the truth of God, and it is substantiated by none other than first hand, eye-witness accounts. Praise the Lord!

  53. Scripture and Thoughts –                                         February 28, 2021

    From Concord Community Church and Pastor, Steve Ward, we extend to you our warmest greetings.  May His grace and peace be yours at all times.  At Concord, we are meeting for in-person worship at 10:00 AM each Sunday morning.  We are at 7578 Concord Road, Patriot, Indiana, halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.  Please come and join us.

    Being in the Way, the Lord Led Me

    Genesis 24:14-21,23-27
    (The occasion for our Scripture was that Abraham had sent his trusted servant, Eliezer, to find a wife for Abraham’s son, Isaac.  The servant was seeking his master’s relatives so he could find a wife from among his own people.  As our Scripture begins, we find the servant praying:)  
    14 And let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say, Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: let the same be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac; and thereby shall I know that thou hast shewed kindness unto my master.
    14 And let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say, Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: let the same be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac; and thereby shall I know that thou hast shewed kindness unto my master.
    15 And it came to pass, before he had done speaking, that, behold, Rebekah came out, who was born to Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, with her pitcher upon her shoulder.
    16 And the damsel was very fair to look upon, a virgin, neither had any man known her: and she went down to the well, and filled her pitcher, and came up.
    17 And the servant ran to meet her, and said, Let me, I pray thee, drink a little water of thy pitcher
    .18 And she said, Drink, my lord: and she hasted, and let down her pitcher upon her hand, and gave him drink.
    19 And when she had done giving him drink, she said, I will draw water for thy camels also, until they have done drinking.
    20 And she hasted, and emptied her pitcher into the trough, and ran again unto the well to draw water, and drew for all his camels.
    21 And the man wondering at her held his peace, to wit whether the Lord had made his journey prosperous or not. 
    23 And said, Whose daughter art thou? tell me, I pray thee: is there room in thy father’s house for us to lodge in?24 And she said unto him, I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, which she bare unto Nahor.
    25 She said moreover unto him, We have both straw and provender enough, and room to lodge in.
    26 And the man bowed down his head, and worshipped the Lord.
    27 And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of my master Abraham, who hath not left destitute my master of his mercy and his truth: I being in the way, the Lord led me to the house of my master’s brethren.

    A young man and his wife were in a serious automobile accident, and the wife was badly injured.  Her husband rushed to her side to comfort her, but, besides her extensive injuries, she was beside herself with worry for her children.  “Oh, whatever shall we do?  What if I don’t make it?  What if I die?”  They began to discuss the terrible possibilities, and whether to call her sister or her mother, and how the husband could drive the children to school and pick them up after work at their friend’s house, and, if he had to work on Saturdays, couldn’t his mother take care of them?  About that time another driver pulled up.  “How long has it been since you called “911”?,”  he asked.  Of course, they hadn’t called “911”.  They had been too busy discussing what to do if she died.
    Sometimes we’re like that. We sit around and talk about it instead of getting ourselves in motion and doing something.

    Eliezer, on the other hand, said, “I, being on the way, the Lord led me.”  Moses’ servant did everything he knew to do in trying to find a wife for Isaac.  He followed all the directions he had been given, and he had listened to Abraham’s detailed instructions and had followed them.  Nevertheless, he still could have chosen to be resting under a shade tree taking a nap at the exact time that Rebekah had come to the well.  He could have stopped, the night before, and played poker until midnight, and he probably would have missed her.

    All kidding aside, the point is that Abraham’s servant got himself in motion – he got himself “in the way/ on the way,” and the Lord led him.

    Someone has said, “It is hard to steer a parked car.”  There is a reason for the phrase, “Gentlemen, start your engines.” Or even, “Get in the saddle.”

    We need to be in motion in order to get somewhere.  That motion, of course, needs to coincide with God’s clear instructions and directions, as He has given us in His Word.

    Evangelist, preacher, and author, E Stanley Jones, said, “Don’t ask for the whole way; ask for the next step.”  Sometimes the Lord wants to show us the next step, and we haven’t even gotten our shoes on.

    Abraham’s servant felt it was his duty to be on the way, and to trust God to guide him along the way.

    Are we sitting by the side of the road, wondering what will happen, or, like Abraham’s servant, are we doing everything we know to do to accomplish His will and looking for God to lead us in the next step?

    Let’s be on the way, not on the wayside.  Let’s not be wondering whether He will lead us.  Let’s step out and expect His leading.  It is faith, not only to follow His leading, but, also, to be “in the way,” trusting He will lead.

  54. Scripture and Thoughts – March 7, 2021

    From Concord Community Church and Pastor, Steve Ward, we extend to you our warmest greetings.  May His grace and peace be yours at all times.  At Concord, we are meeting for in-person worship at 10:00 AM each Sunday morning.  We are at 7578 Concord Road, Patriot, Indiana 47038, halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.  Please come and join us.

    Blessed by God; Trapped by Satan

    Genesis 46:2-7  This Scripture takes place when Joseph – now one of the most important and most powerful men in Egypt – had invited his brothers and his father and all their families to come to Egypt to live in order to weather the severe blight of the famine.  Remember:  “Israel” is “Jacob; “Jacob” is “Israel.”
    2 And God spoke to Israel in a vision at night and said, “Jacob! Jacob!”
    “Here I am,” he replied.
    3 “I am God, the God of your father,” he said. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. 4 I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again. And Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes.”
    5 Then Jacob left Beersheba, and Israel’s sons took their father Jacob and their children and their wives in the carts that Pharaoh had sent to transport him. 6 So Jacob and all his offspring went to Egypt, taking with them their livestock and the possessions they had acquired in Canaan. 7 Jacob brought with him to Egypt his sons and grandsons and his daughters and granddaughters—all his offspring.

    Genesis 48:3,4
    Later, Jacob, in Egypt, becomes ill, and when Joseph hears about it, he takes his two sons to see their grandfather.
    3 Jacob said to Joseph, “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and there he blessed me 4 and said to me, ‘I am going to make you fruitful and increase your numbers. I will make you a community of peoples, and I will give this land as an everlasting possession to your descendants after you.’

    We know that the Israelites stayed in the land of Egypt for well over 300 years after their arrival.  They grew and prospered and multiplied.  Nevertheless, Jacob had spoken of the land God had given to him and his descendants – the land of Canaan.  The question could well be asked:  Why were the Hebrews still in Egypt?  Especially, why did they stay in Egypt after Joseph was gone, after their protector was gone and the famine was over in the land of Canaan – their land, given to them by God, Himself?  Why did they not go back to their land?

    You might say that they stayed there so that God could show His power in rescuing them from their slavery, but does God really want us to put ourselves in a position  to be enslaved and put under subjection, to be used by another power or nation which does not even recognize Him?  Yes, God showed Himself strong on their behalf, but that was His rescue operation.  What the nation of Israel had done was to put themselves in a position in which they were vulnerable to another power.

    If a hurricane is coming and the people in its path choose to stay in its path, they are choosing to take their chances with the might and power of the storm.  They are choosing to be vulnerable, and they are choosing that, if the storm is too powerful and too life threatening, then someone else may have to put themselves in danger in order to rescue them.

    We do the same thing.  We too often ignore the revealed and even obvious will of God and go our own way – or stay in our own comfort – even if it might mean that God will have to rescue us from our own predicament.

    God actually blessed and protected the children of Israel by using Joseph to care for them and to even establish them and to strengthen them, but God never intended to give them the land of Egypt.  He had already given them a homeland and a possession.  What were they doing in Egypt?  Why hadn’t they gone back to Canaan?  Why had they not gone home?

    Perhaps it was because they were trapped!  Oh, of course, they were not trapped by snares and nets and devises that caught them and held them.  Perhaps you could say that they were caught and trapped by their own preferences and choices.  Satan does that, you know.  When we know what we really should do, he just reminds us of what we, ourselves, would like to do.

    What was it that trapped the Israelites?

    Well, perhaps they were trapped by their own complacency.  They were satisfied with where they were and the way things were.  It was fine; it was comfortable; it was O.K.  Their homeland was waiting for them to return to, but they were satisfied to stay where they were.

    Are we sometimes satisfied with what we have instead of being eager for what God has for us?  Do we sometimes allow ourselves to be satisfied with our circumstances instead of being excited about God’s possibilities?

    They also may have been trapped by their prosperity.  Goshen was the best land in all of Egypt for their occupation as shepherds and owners of herds and flocks.  They may well have thought, “Joseph arranged for us to live in this land.  Why go back to where we were before?”  The unspoken part of that question is, “Why go back to what God gave us?”

    We may all need to ask whether we’re in a “place” that is comfortable but not God-intended or God-directed.  Are we possessing the territory God has given us?
     
    At Walloon Lake Elementary school there was a lady who worked in the office who was one of the nicest persons I had ever met.  I soon learned, however, that she was married to one of the meanest persons you would ever care to meet, and her whole life was limited by his actions, his attitudes, and by the restrictions he imposed on her and on the rest of the family.  You might say that she was trapped by an ungodly spouse.  Sometimes we get trapped by our choices, and we are severely limited in the extent to which we follow God’s leading in our lives.

    Sometimes we get trapped by our purchases or by our spending.  In a day of credit cards and loans it is very easy to get trapped by indebtedness. 
    Sometimes we get trapped by where we choose to live. 
    Sometimes we get trapped by our own habits. 
    Sometimes we get trapped by the friends we choose.  In some situations, (such as middle school and high school, for example,) we can get trapped by the friends who choose us.

    Are there things in your life that keep you from following God’s will to the deepest extent?  Are there things that we can lay aside and be rid of?  Remember, God wants our total commitment and our total obedience.  Don’t let Satan keep you trapped while you continue to think it’s O.K

  55. Scripture and Thoughts: Wrestling with God May 2, 2021

    From Concord Community Church and Pastor, Steve Ward, we extend to you our warmest greetings.  May His grace and peace be yours at all times.  At Concord, we are meeting for in-person worship at 10:00 AM each Sunday morning.  Please make plans to join us.  We are at 7578 Concord Road, Patriot, Indiana, halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.

    Scripture Reading:  Genesis 32:24-30
    24 And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.
    25 And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him.
    26 And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.
    27 And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob.
    28 And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.
    29 And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there.
    30 And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.

    As our Scripture begins, Jacob is confronted by “a man” who not only confronts him, but actually wrestles with him.  We find out, rather quickly, that this is no ordinary man, because He merely touches Jacob’s thigh, and Jacob’s thigh is immediately out of joint.

    We also see that Jacob recognizes the extraordinary character of this “man,” as Jacob persists in this wrestling match, insisting that he will not quit until and unless “the man” blesses Jacob. Jacob, in fact considers this to be God, Himself, as you can see from the last phrase, “I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.”

    Jacob has encountered God before. It was the occasion that we often refer to as “Jacob’s ladder.”  In that instance, Jacob has a dream in which he sees a stairway leading up to Heaven, and, in that dream God promises to bless Jacob.  In reaction, Jacob makes this promise: (If you can call it a promise.)  He says, “If the Lord will be with me, and if He blesses me as He says, then I will make Him my God.”  Jacob calls this the “dwelling place of God – a demonstration, of course, of how little Jacob really knows about God.

    Now, in our Scripture, Jacob is returning from Haran, where he has been working for his uncle, Laban, who has not treated him very well or fairly.  Remember the story of Leah and Rachel?  That’s where Jacob was in love with Rachel, but Laban tricked him into marrying Leah. Then Jacob had to agree to working an additional 7 years for Rachel.
    There were other switches, too, such switching the kind of goats – spotted or striped – that Jacob got to keep – and every time the switch was made, God blessed Jacob, despite any attempts made to trick or cheat him of what he was  supposed to get.  

    Finally, Jacob decides to return to his home land.  He will meet up with his brother – not an altogether happy prospect, because the last time he had been near Esau, his brother was talking about killing Jacob.

    This is when our story takes place;  Jacob is on his way back home;  Rachel and Leah are with him, along with his eleven sons and all the sheep and goats and the cattle he has obtained.

    As he draws nearer and nearer to meeting his brother, he gets more and more nervous.  On this last night he sends his wives and their little ones across the river so that they will be safer.  It is while he is there alone that a stranger appears, and, as the Bible says, they wrestle.
    Can you imagine?

    Jacob hears someone; or he sees someone standing near his camp.

    “Who’s there?” Or “What do you want?”

    “What are you doing here?  Are you looking for trouble?  . . .because, if you are, I’m here to give it to you.”

    Remember what kind of man Jacob had been.  He had struggled and worked and even cheated others for everything he had gotten.  He out-tricked his brother twice, he had tricked and fooled his father into giving him the blessing intended for Esau, and now he had out maneuvered his uncle several times.  Still, God had blessed him greatly.  Even then, he was just sneaky enough to leave in the middle of the night without even telling anyone that he was going away, and he was taking the two daughters and the grandchildren of his aunt and uncle with him.

    So when Jacob meets a stranger in the camp, he probably wasted no time in challenging him.

    What was the stranger’s answer?

    Perhaps he said something like, “I have come here to contend with you,”

    Jacob thinks it’s a fight, so he readies himself, and the face-off begins.

    Perhaps they circle each other, as wrestlers do.  One of them fakes a move; one makes a grab – maybe for a leg, trying to trip the other.  There’s another grab; there’s a lunge.  The wrestling becomes heated and intense.  The dust rises around them.  Their bare feet move around in the sand.  Their eyes never leave each other.  They lock together, again, and they try to force each other to the ground.  Neither wants to give way.  Jacob is determined not to be bettered by anyone.

    As they fight, the stranger – described in the Bible as the Angel of the Lord – does something unexpected..  The Bible says he touches Jacob’s thigh, and it suddenly goes out of joint.

    Is the match over?  Does Jacob give up?

    Have you ever fought someone while you had a dislocated hip?  Have you ever played any contact sport with a dislocated hip?

    But Jacob hangs in there.  He won’t give up.  The angel says, “Let me go.  It’s getting to be morning.” “Give it up, already!”

    But Jacob refuses to give up or to let go.  He says, “I will not let you go until you bless me.”

    By now Jacob realizes that he is not fighting with a mere man.  He decides that he is wrestling with God, Himself, and, at that realization, he still hangs on, and he asks God to bless him.

    The angel gives him a new name – Israel, and the angel does bless him.

    Do you realize what is so curious about this whole scene?

    Jacob was wrestling with the God who was already on his side!  Do we do that? 

    Do we wrestle with God, even though God is trying to give us what we really need?

    God was the one wanting to bless Jacob, and yet Jacob fought against him.

    Jacob was going along his way – his own way – without much recognition of God.  God had been working in his life already, blessing him and protecting him, but now, as though God has to slap him up a little, God actually confronts him.  There’s no indication that the angel threw out the common playground challenge:
    “Do ya wanna fight?”  We have no reason to think that he said to Jacob, “You wanna go a coupla rounds?”

    But God was there, I believe, to confront Jacob.  He was there to force his way into Jacob’s life.

    Does God have to do that with us, sometimes?  We want to do things our way; we want to go along with our own plans and our own decisions, and God has to step in and say, “Hey, what’s going on, here?  Let me be a part of this project.” – and, still, we wrestle with Him.

    Jacob had been on the run since he was a youngster.  He wasn’t getting any closer to God.  Now, then, God steps in and He actually gives Jacob a crippling injury – one that he’ll carry for the rest of his life – and, in a way, He forces Jacob to accept the blessings He had been wanting to give Him all along.  Maybe He especially wanted Jacob to give God the credit.

    Yes, we do the same thing.  God has to step in once in a while, and sometimes he has to set us back on our heels, so to speak, and He has to force us to take the blessing He has been trying so desperately to give to us.

    Who is this God with whom we wrestle?

    This is . . .
    A God who is willing to confront you . . .

    A God who will not leave you untouched . . .

    A God of staggering proportions . . .

    A God who could wilt you with His breath, and yet is so gentle as to hold you in His bosom . . .

    A God whose might is absolute, whose will is sovereign, who has the right to say, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.”  And yet it is the God who says, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.”

    Job was another man in the Bible who wrestled with God;  He argued with Him.

    God’s answer to Job:  “Who are you to question me?  Where were you when the seas were formed? . . .”

    Many times we mistake the hand of Satan for the hand of God, and, instead of recognizing our battle against Satan, we try to wrestle with God.

    In the case of Job, his first reaction to his calamity was the right one: Job 1:21, “Naked came I from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return.  The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

    Have you been fighting with God, lately?  If so, is it time to remind yourself that you are on the wrong side?  You’re on the wrong team.  God wants the very best for your life.  There’s nothing better than to realize that you don’t have to fight with God – and there’s no better alternative than to fight for God, instead.  

  56. Scripture and Thoughts: What Does God Want?                  Happy Mother’s Day                           May 9, 2021

    Welcome, and may God’s peace be yours – from Concord Community Church and pastor, Steve Ward.  We invite you to join us in person.  We are at 7578 Concord Road, Patriot, Indiana.  Our Morning Worship service begins at 10:00 AM each Sunday morning.

    Micah 6:1-8
    1. Hear ye now what the Lord saith; Arise, contend thou before the mountains, and let the hills hear thy voice.
    2 Hear ye, O mountains, the Lord’s controversy, and ye strong foundations of the earth: for the Lord hath a controversy with his people, and he will plead with Israel.
    3 O my people, what have I done unto thee? and wherein have I wearied thee? testify against me.
    4 For I brought thee up out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed thee out of the house of servants; and I sent before thee Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.
    5 O my people, remember now what Balak king of Moab consulted, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him from Shittim unto Gilgal; that ye may know the righteousness of the Lord.
    6 Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old?
    7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
    8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

    In this passage of Scripture, God, through the writer, Micah, is setting up a conflict and a controversy. The people have grievously strayed, and God is offering to defend Himself, basically saying, almost facetiously, “What have I done wrong, that you have abandoned Me?”

    Then, in verses 6 & 7 Micah presents the question of “What would it take to please God – burnt offerings? Thousands of rams, thousands of rivers of oil? My firstborn child?  He answers his own question by saying, essentially, “You already know what God wants.  He wants you to “. . . do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”

    Is that all there is to it?  Is that all that God wants?

    Actually we know about a lot of things that God wants.
     God Wants:
    -Our Love, our Honor, our Worship, our praise, our Devotion,
    -to be glorified.
     -us to accept His Son as our Savior
     -the sick & broken to be healed
     -us to develop the character of Christ
     -Our fellowship, our attention, our conversation,
     -us to love one another – and that’s included in “to do justly, and to love
      mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.”  
    -Our obedience
    -to bless us
    -“I desire mercy and not sacrifice”
    -our repentance (our recognition of ourselves as sinners)
    -US

    Yes, God wants us. That’s why the way to him is open. Because it is his desire for us to be restored to a relationship with him.

    When the Pharisees saw Jesus dining with those who were commonly thought to be unworthy – tax collectors and sinners – not only were the Pharisees offended, but they were sure that God was offended, too.  The fact is that Jesus was dining with tax collectors and sinners because that’s who knew most clearly that they needed redemption, and I suspect that they sensed that Jesus was calling them, sinners as they were, to Himself.

    You will notice that our God never asks us to do anything in order to be saved.  We can’t climb the mountain, we can’t run through fire, we can’t walk through deserts – not in order to be saved, to be His child.  He doesn’t ask for some grandiose act of appeasement.  He calls us, rather, to simply repent from the heart, and, if you will, to simply return to Him.  His arms are open.

    Forgive me if it sounds like I just over-simplified our salvation; I don’t mean to do that.  It almost can’t be done.0
    These are the words of writer, Rachel Starr Thomson.  She writes: “Here is why Christianity is right to insist that all people recognize themselves as sinners: Not because God is angry and wants us to suffer for our sins, but because he deserves all our love, worship, and adoration, and he wants fellowship and relationship with us, and we have withheld our hearts, denied him our trust, and worshipped vain, petty, and empty things as god. We have made golden calves out of things that abuse us and adored them in place of our Father.
    The amazing thing is that this relationship can be healed. If we are willing to come back, God is willing to take us.
    As Jesus reminded the Pharisees in quoting Hosea 6, God is a faithful and forgiving bridegroom whose beloved has cared nothing for him. But in Hosea’s story, it was not the unfaithful wife who somehow paid for her unfaithfulness and convinced Hosea to take her home. Rather, after his wife had run away from him, Hosea paid to redeem her from her enemies and bring her back to his home and his faithful love.
    In a great twist, it is not we who offer a sacrifice great enough to make up for our sins and to reconcile us to God.
    Rather, it is God who makes the sacrifice, choosing to give his own life for the sake of humanity — for the sake of relationship with each one of us.
    This is the principle of “mercy and not sacrifice” taken to its furthest possible extreme; and in a strange and piercing turn of history, it has happened.
    The unimaginable is part of our history. We have abandoned God, but he has paid the highest price to bring us home — not because he had to, but because he desired us.”
    He wants US!

  57. Greetings and peace from Concord Community Church and pastor Steve Ward.  May His grace and peace rest upon you and be present in each part of your day.  Please join us, if you can, (10:00 AM) at 7578 Concord Rd., halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.

    Scripture and Thoughts: Such a Little Thing   June 6, 2021

    James 3:1-10 King James Version

    1 My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.
    2 For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.
    3 Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body.
    4 Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth.
    5 Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!
    6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.
    7 For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind:
    8 But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
    9 Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.
    10 Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.

    I can hold in my hand a very small pill, but in that small, tiny pill may be the potency to lift me or you out of a nearly dead state to a very alive, thriving, and vibrant individual.

    By the same token, there are very tiny pills that can bring a person down from a very lively state to a state of near lifelessness.

    There was a man, in fact, who was hospitalized for another ailment, but who, in the process of sorting his medications, was given a slightly stronger dose than he was supposed to have.  That little extra medication was significant enough that the heart doctor immediately ordered round-the clock monitoring of his pulse and blood pressure.

    — such a little thing . . .
     
    Jesus proposed a very tiny seed to be big enough to move mountains and to disrupt the waters of the sea, that is, if that tiny seed represented the size of your faith or my faith.

    How can such a tiny little thing do so much and be so powerful?  Perhaps only because in the same way that you and I don’t understand the power in a tiny pill we might hold in our hand, so, too, we cannot, in our finite, limited-understanding minds, understand the vast and infinite power of God that can be unlocked and unleashed by our faith.

    But the unfortunate thing, also, is that we fail to understand the power and impact of a tiny word or phrase or gesture.  By unleasing a tiny phrase, we can unlock a life-time of grief and hurt. 

    “Of course she colors her hair; she’s ______ years old; nobody gets by without gray hair at her age.

    Little Kenny Nelson was a struggling eighth grader sitting in art class stewing in what he perceived was the uselessness of his life.  Living in a ghetto-like neighborhood and raised on little more than junk food, hand-outs, and stolen money, his parents didn’t have the funds or even the interest to raise him in any way that even approached “right and proper.” 

    As he was sitting there at his art table, he heard the words, “You can do anything.”

    The words came to him as though they were “out of the blue,” and they startled him out of his near-stupor and his dull-mindedness.  He didn’t even realize that the words had been part of the instructions being given by his art teacher, and, instead, took them to be a special message to him, alone.  He was so taken with the message that he wrote it down on the cover of his notebook, and, from then on, it was on every notebook he would ever own. In high school he developed an interest in science and, oddly, it seemed to him, he had a real knack for it.  With his new-found skills and abilities, plus his notebook- cover encouragement, Kenny began to excel and to show great promise.  He eventually became a NASA scientist and worked on some of the early space missions undertaken by the United States.

    Such a little thing . . .

    The Bible tells us the other side of the story about the tongue, and it’s not a pretty one.

    The Bible talks about a tiny member – more important than a rudder on a ship or a bridle on a horse – a tiny part of the whole which can change the course of nature, defile our bodies, bless God and curse mankind, perhaps in the same breath, but cannot be tamed.  It is evil; it is unruly and un-rulable and un-tamable; it is full of poison & full of iniquity.

    And you and I are the owners of this terrible little thing.  It belongs to us!

    Even though James, the writer describes the tongue as un-trainable and un-controllable, he also hands the responsibility back to us in the last phrase of this passage:  “My brethren, these things ought not so to be.”  The fault is obviously ours and the responsibility is obviously ours.

    Our unruly tongues can inspire and uplift;  they can also tear down and destroy, but James also makes it obvious that it is our responsibility to keep them in check.

  58. Greetings and peace from Concord Community Church and Pastor Steve Ward.  May His grace and peace rest upon you and be present in each part of your day.  Please join us, if you can, (10:00 AM) at 7578 Concord Rd., halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.

    Scripture and Thoughts: Forgiveness                June 13, 2021

    Matthew 6:14-15
    14. “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
    15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

    Matthew 8:21-22
    21 “Then came Peter to him, and said, ‘Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Till seven times?’   22. Jesus saith unto him, ‘I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but Until seventy times seven,’”

    What is there in your life that you find so hard to forgive and forget that it seems nearly insurmountable?

                Pastora is the name of a lady who lived Columbia, South America; she lived in a small town which was constantly under attack by armed groups.

    Her father was murdered when she was just a young girl.

    She married at 18 and had a child.  Before her little girl was even three months old, her husband was killed.
                When her daughter grew up, she was kidnapped.  She was 22 years old.  Pastora  never quit looking for her – until she found out that she had been killed.  Still, she looked for her remains, and, in doing so, found others who had been killed – but it allowed her a sliver of peace by being able to comfort others who had been looking for their loved ones.
               Eventually she buried her daughter.  Before long, however, her son was kidnapped.  He, too, was killed after being tortured,  Pastora found his body by the side of the road.  A few days after his burial, she found another man – injured – near the place where her son was found.  She took him home and cared for him, tending to his wounds and nourishment.  However, even while she was caring for him, she discovered that he was one of the ones who had killed her son.
                She prayed for the strength and grace to forgive.  So it was that she cared for the murderer of  her child and even came to love him so much that she grieved when he was killed as though he were her own son.
     C,S. Lewis said, “It is perhaps not so hard to forgive a single great injury.  But to forgive the incessant provocations of daily life – to keep on forgiving the bossy mother-in-law, the bullying husband, the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son – how can we do it?  Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say in our prayers each night, ‘Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.’   “We are offered forgiveness on no other terms.  To refuse it is to refuse God’s mercy for ourselves.  In order to receive mercy we must show mercy; in order to receive forgiveness we must forgive.
     
    Saint Faustina wrote, “We resemble God most when we forgive our neighbors”
     “Only through the Spirit by whom we live can “our” mind become the same mind that was in Christ Jesus.”

    Just before commencing work on his “Last Supper,” Leonardo da Vinci had a violent argument with a fellow painter.  He was so enraged and embittered that the best revenge he could think of was to paint the face of his enemy, the other painter, into the face of Judas, thereby handing down the man to scorn and infamy to succeeding generations.  The face of Judas was therefore one of the first that he finished, and everyone could easily recognize it as the face of the painter with whom he had quarreled.

    But when he came to paint the face of Christ, he could make no progress.  Something seemed to be baffling him, holding him back, and frustrating his best efforts.

    He eventually came to the conclusion that the thing that was checking and frustrating him was the fact that he had painted his enemy into the face of Judas.  He therefore painted out the face of Judas and commenced anew on the face of Jesus, and this time with the success that the ages have acclaimed.

    You cannot at one and the same time be painting the features of Christ into your own life and painting another face with the colors of enmity and hatred.

    May we paint out the faces of our enemies and antagonists from the canvass of our lives, and paint, anew, the face of our Savior as the one to whom we should look and the one whose example we should follow.
    Remember, He said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

  59. Greetings and peace from Concord Community Church and Pastor Steve Ward.  May His grace and peace rest upon you and be present in each part of your day.  Please join us, if you can, (10:00 AM) at 7578 Concord Rd., halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.

    Scripture and Thoughts                                                                     6/20/2021

    Prayer

    Scripture Reading: Matthew 6:5-13 (NIV)
    5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
    9 “This, then, is how you should pray:
    “‘Our Father in heaven,
    hallowed be your name,
    10 your kingdom come,
    your will be done,
        on earth as it is in heaven.
    11 Give us today our daily bread.
    12 And forgive us our debts,
        as we also have forgiven our debtors.
    13 And lead us not into temptation,[a]
        but deliver us from the evil one.[b]’
     We are going to look at two stories, this morning.  Together, they say a lot about prayer.

    He sits by himself at a table for two.
    The uniformed waiter returns to his side and asks, “Would you like to go ahead and order, sir?” The man has, after all, been waiting since seven o’clock — almost half an hour.
    “No, thank you,” the man smiles. “I’ll wait for her a while longer. How about some more coffee?”
    “Certainly, sir.”
    The man sits, his clear blue eyes gazing straight through the flowered centerpiece. He fingers his napkin, allowing the sounds of light chatter, tinkling silverware, and mellow music to fill his mind. He is dressed in sport coat and tie. His dark brown hair is neatly combed, but one stray lock insists on dropping to his forehead. The scent of his cologne adds to his clean cut image. He is dressed up enough to make a companion feel important, respected, loved. Yet he is not so formal as to make one uncomfortable. It seems that he has taken every precaution to make others feel at ease with him.
    Still, he sits alone.
    The waiter returns to fill the man’s coffee cup. “Is there anything else I can get for you, sir?”
    “No, thank you.”
    The waiter remains standing at the table. Something tugs at his curiosity. “I don’t mean to pry, but…” His voice trails off. This line of conversation could jeopardize his tip.
    “Go ahead,” the man encourages. His is strong, yet sensitive, inviting conversation.
    “Why do you bother waiting for her?” the waiter finally blurts out. This man has been at the restaurant other evenings, always patiently alone.
    Says the man quietly, “Because she needs me.”
    “Are you sure?”
    “Yes.”
    “Well, sir, no offense, but assuming that she needs you, she sure isn’t acting much like it. She’s stood you up three times just this week.”
    The man winces, and looks down at the table. “Yes, I know.”
    “Then why do you still come here and wait?”
    “Cassie said that she would be here.”
    “She’s said that before,” the waiter protests. “I wouldn’t put up with it. Why do you?”
    Now the man looks up, smiles at the waiter, and says simply, “Because I love her.”
    The waiter walks away, wondering how one could love a girl who stands him up three times a week. The man must be crazy, he decides. Across the room, he turns to look at the man again. The man slowly pours cream into his coffee. He twirls his spoon between his fingers a few times before stirring sweetener into his cup. After staring for a moment into the liquid, the man brings the cup to his mouth and sips, silently watching those around him. He doesn’t look crazy, the waiter admits. Maybe the girl has qualities that I don’t know about. Or maybe the man’s love is stronger than most. The waiter shakes himself out of his musings to take an   order from a party of five.
    The man watches the waiter, wonders if he’s ever been stood up. The man has, many times. But he still can’t get used to it. Each time, it hurts. He’s looked forward to this evening all day. He has many things, exciting things, to tell Cassie. But, more importantly, he wants to hear Cassie’s voice. He wants her to tell him all about her day, her triumphs, her defeats….anything, really. He has tried so many times to show Cassie how much he loves her. He’d just like to know that she cares for him, too. He sips sporadically at the coffee, and loses himself in thought,
    knowing that Cassie is late, but still hoping that she will arrive.
    The clock says nine-thirty when the waiter returns to the man’s table. “Is there anything I can get for you?”
    The still empty chair stabs at the man. “No, I think that will be all for tonight. May I have the check please?”
    “Yes, sir.”
    When the waiter leaves, the man picks up the check. He pulls out his wallet and signs. He has enough money to have given Cassie a feast. But he takes out only enough to pay for his five cups of coffee and the tip. Why do you do this, Cassie, his mind cries as he gets up from the table.
    “Good-bye,” the waiter says, as the man walks towards the door.
    “Good night. Thank you for your service.”
    “You’re welcome, sir,” says the waiter softly, for he sees the hurt in the man’s eyes that his smile doesn’t hide.
    The man passes a laughing young couple on his way out, and his eyes glisten as he thinks of the good time he and Cassie could have had. He stops at the front and makes reservations for tomorrow. Maybe Cassie will be able to make it, he thinks.
    “Seven o’clock tomorrow for party of two?” the hostess confirms.
    “That’s right,” the man replies.
    “Do you think she’ll come??” asks the hostess. She doesn’t mean to be rude, but she has watched the man many times alone at his table for two.
    “Someday, yes. And I will be waiting for her.” The man buttons his overcoat and walks out of the restaurant, alone. His shoulders are hunched, but through the windows the hostess can only guess whether they are hunched against the wind or against the man’s hurt.
    As the man turns toward home, Cassie turns into bed. She is tired after an evening out with friends. As she reaches toward her night stand to set the alarm, she sees the note that she scribbled to herself last night.
    “7:00,” it says. “Spend some time in prayer.” Darn, she thinks. She forgot again. She feels a twinge of guilt, but quickly pushes it aside. She needed that time with her friends. And now she needs her sleep. She can pray tomorrow night. Jesus will forgive her.
    And she’s sure he doesn’t mind.

    Prayer

    An Empty Chair
    A man’s daughter had asked the local pastor to come and pray with her father. When the pastor arrived, he found the man lying in bed with his head propped up on two pillows and an empty chair beside his bed. The pastor assumed that the old fellow had been informed of his visit. “I guess you were expecting me,” he said.
    “No, who are you?”
    “I’m the new associate at your local church,” the pastor replied. “When I saw the empty chair, I figured you knew I was going to show up.”
    “Oh yeah, the chair,” said the bedridden man. “Would you mind closing the door?”
    Puzzled, the pastor shut the door.
    “I’ve never told anyone this, not even my daughter,” said the man. “But all of my life I have never known how to pray. At church I used to hear the pastor talk about prayer, but it always went right over my head..”
    “I abandoned any attempt at prayer,” the old man continued, “until one day about four years ago my best friend said to me, ‘Joe, prayer is just a simple matter of having a conversation with Jesus. Here’s what I suggest. Sit down on a chair, place an empty chair in front of you, and in faith see Jesus on the chair. It’s not spooky because he promised, ‘I’ll be with you always.’ Then just speak to him and listen in the same way you’re doing with me right now.”
    “So, I tried it and I’ve liked it so much that I do it a couple of hours every day. I’m careful, though. If my daughter saw me talking to an empty chair, she’d either have a nervous breakdown or send me off to the funny farm.”
    The pastor was deeply moved by the story and encouraged the old guy to continue on the journey. Then he prayed with him, and returned to the church.
    Two nights later the daughter called to tell the pastor that her daddy had died that afternoon.
    “Did he seem to die in peace?” he asked.
    “Yes, when I left the house around two o’clock, he called me over to his bedside, told me one of his corny jokes, and kissed me on the cheek. When I got back from the store an hour later, I found him dead. But there was something strange. In fact, beyond strange. –kinda weird. Apparently, just before Daddy died, he leaned over and rested his head on a chair beside the bed.”

  60. Greetings and peace from Concord Community Church and Pastor Steve Ward.  May His grace and peace rest upon you and be present in each part of your day.  Please join us, if you can, 10:00 AM at 7578 Concord Road, halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.  This Sunday, Lary Jones will be the guest speaker, while Pastor Steve rests at home.
    Revival for Me    June 27, 2021                                                            Lary Jones
    Revival:  (chayah)  means to bring back to life, “to restore to consciousness”  or to “Restore to a previous condition” 
              Restoration, rejuvenation,  or renewal of interest after spiritual neglect.
    Israel went into spiritual decline 13 times and God had to restore them back through Judgment and then spiritual Revival.   How did  He do this?
    It was after a king or priest found the word of God and became  convicted that they were in sin and that is why  judgment came or they would  so go into judgment.
    After the Word of God was read to the people, they would ask forgiveness and pledge their life to follow the laws of God and restore temple sacrifices for their sins.  They would proceed to remove the idols but often they would not remove all the alters in the high places that  they sacrificed to. 
    What  were the idols that  Israel embraced, where did the ideas come from for these idols?
    Three  most popular idols were:
    Baal:  was  a male fertility deity and very important in an agrarian  society.  He was Lord of the Rain.
         In America I would say we do not have carved idols set on a hill to worship but we still
         Have deities that we put in place of God.  America worships  the Government as a replacement for God.  If there is a national catastrophe or dip in the economy or    sickness we look to the Government to bail us out or tell us what to do.   America was birthed by God and we said in God we Trust.   Now our government is attempting to shut down churches and Christians who voice opposition to their actions.  Our government is being used to dismantle the Christian Moral Foundation in our country that has stood for 300  yrs.
    Moloch:  Was associated with child sacrifice.  Taking your living child to the alter and laying it on the alter to be burned as a sacrifice to the idol Moloch to obtain favor.
    The Supreme Court in 1973 confirmed Roe Vs. Wade and legalized killing of innocent children.  America has sacrificed over 60 million babies in since 1973.  The baby is sacrificed for personal pleasure.  It was not convenient to start a family or the pregnancy was out of wedlock.  Many women have multiple abortions.  Now the baby can be born and left on a metal table to die.  They often use a hypodermic needle to insert a saline solution into the womb and chemically burn the baby to death.  Sonograms show the baby screaming and trying to get away from the needle.  Our government helps finance abortions.
    Leviticus 18:21 “‘Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molek, for you must not profane the name of your God. I am the Lord.
    We profane God because Children are created in the image of God.  The fruit of the womb is a blessing.  We are taking God’s blessing and throwing it in the trash.
    Psalm 106:38 They shed innocent blood,
        the blood of their sons and daughters,
    whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan,
        and the land was desecrated by their blood.
    Desecrate:  to soil, especially in a moral sense- corrupt, defile, greatly pollute, profane.
    God avenges innocent blood
    Joel  3:21 Shall I leave their innocent blood unavenged?
        No, I will not.”
    Asherah: was the female deity and wife of Baal.  She was worshipped by fornicating with temple prostitutes.  Most cult practices will have immorality as a part of their worship.

    The Greek word for Fornication is “porno”  from which we get pornography. 
    When men look  at pornography they are bowing down to the idol Asherah.  It is very addictive and many Christian men have problems with pornography.   
    We  can not serve two masters,  satan and God.
    The sin of Sodom and Gomorra  was homosexuality, and because God did not find 10 righteous people in the  towns he destroyed them.  When a mind is given over to immoral  practices it loses its sense of right and wrong,  its conscience is cauterized.  The Bible calls this a reprobate  person.   Now we have a society that has lost its Christian moral foundation.  Boys can change their gender and compete in girls sports and use girls restrooms.   We have lost all since of integrity. 
    How do these things effect me, you ask.  I do not agree with these sins. 
    As these sins are promoted in the public, they infiltrate our media, adds, billboards, are taught to school children.  The ways of the world infiltrate our churches. 
    We slowly lose our since of holiness, sanctification, being set apart for God.  We try to share Jesus to our unchurched friends but they are not interested.  We send our children off to college that were raised in church but now they do not go to church and appear to have no interest in God.
     Can Christians become lukewarm in their devotion to God?
    Revelation 3:16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
    Lukewarm, a condition of the soul fluctuating between loving the world and loving God.
    I think the current condition of our world convicts the church of being lukewarm.
    The world does not see any  difference between the church and the world.
    Divorce rates are the same in the church and the world.  Probably abortions occur in the church, but I do not know of any.  Pornography is in the church.  Immorality is in the church.
    Unmarried couples attend  without any pain of conscience.  Homosexuals attend without any pain of conscience.  We have dummied down our doctrine of holiness with fake love so that we do not distinguish between the profane and the holy.
    We watch TV or Movies  with scenes of immorality, violence and bloodshed.
    America’s decline started in 1960’s when we took God out of our schools.  We became an affluent society and did not hold back anything our children wanted. 
    Now we are in a tail spin heading to disaster, and we do not know how to stop it.  
    Well, I can tell you  how to stop it.
    We need revival to bring sanctification and holiness in our lives.  It starts with us in the church.  We need to repent of our worldliness and lack of holiness.  We have lost our first love.
    God said to repent and return to your first love. 
    I was always interested how Daniel, Nehemiah and Ezra and others repented of the sins of Israel that occurred before their lifetime.  They realized that God had blessed their nation and yet the country turned to apostasy and forsook God.   We have done the same thing in America and it is because the church did not hold up a standard of holiness.
    In the 40’s and 50’s a man  may not be in church or a Christian, but if he committed adultery he knew it was a sin.  Now  living outside wedlock is not considered a sin.  Why is that, because the ones given the responsibility to uphold God’s righteousness have forsaken it.
    How can we get back to holiness?
    It starts with repentance.  Cry out to God to forgive us for your casual relationship.  Forsaking Him as your Lord and making Him your friend.  
    Start to study the Bible Daily, Pray, ask God to give you a fire in your heart for the lost.

       Psalm 25:10 All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful toward those who keep the demands of his covenant.
       Proverbs 34:12 If you say, “Surely we did not know this,” Does not He who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?
       Psalm 119:10-11
    With my whole heart I have sought You;
    Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!
    11 Your word I have hidden in my heart,
    That I might not sin against You.
       1 Samuel 12:20
    “Do not fear. You have done all this wickedness; yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. 
       2 Corinthians 13:5
    Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.
       2 Chronicles 7:16-17
    When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, 14 if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 15 Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer made in this place.  
       2  Corinthians 9:8
    And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.
    God is able to heal America and turn us back from Evil if we do our part to repent and pray  and seek His face, turn from our casualness with sin, become sick of sin and the profane condition of our country.  
       John 15:2
    Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more
     
    The Scariest verse of scripture in the Bible.
       Matthew 7:21-23
    21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
    lawlessness!  A disregard for law, iniquity, evil deeds
    Is  your heart broken because of the corruption in America?
    Knowing God is taking time to fellowship with Him, to listen for his voice, to receive his command.  He will direct our path and make us productive if we will be obedient.  But it starts with a heart submitted to His lordship and to hang around Him.  Seek Him,  He loves our fellowship.
       Psalm 119:107  O LORD, according to your word! I am severely afflicted, O LORD; revive me through Your word.
       Psalm 119:93   I will never forget Your precepts, for by them You have revived me.
       Psalm 80:15 Then we will not turn away from you; revive us, and we will call on your name. Then we will never abandon you again.
       Psalm 119:156  LORD, how great is your mercy; let me be revived by following your regulations

    This was a word by Dutch Sheets: 
    The wells of revival are about to be uncapped.
    Receiving the strengths and power of past revivals.
    The world is about to experience the greatest revival ever.
    Auzua St. is about to do it again.
    American thinks it has stopped God.
    Increase baby sacrifices
    The bowls of iniquity are full
    The church will tip these bowls as we pray,  the kingdom of  God come. 
       Psalm 2: 1-6   
    Why do the [a]nations [b]rage,
    And the people plot a [c]vain thing?
    2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
    And the rulers take counsel together,
    Against the Lord and against His Anointed,[d] saying,
    3 “Let us break Their bonds in pieces
    And cast away Their cords from us.”
    4 He who sits in the heavens shall laugh;
    The Lord shall hold them in derision.
    5 Then He shall speak to them in His wrath,
    And distress them in His deep displeasure:
    6 “Yet I have [e]set My King
    [f]On My holy hill of Zion.” 
    Gods first choice is to redeem those who oppose him
    But if  they will not repent He will move against them. 
       John 3:18-21
    18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God

  61. Greetings and peace from Concord Community Church and Pastor Steve Ward.  May His grace and peace rest upon you and be present in each part of your day.  Please join us, if you can, (10:00 AM) at 7578 Concord Rd., halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.

    Scripture and Thoughts                                 July 4, 2021

    Scripture Reading:  Psalm 33:12-22 (ESV)
    12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
        the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!
    13 The Lord looks down from heaven;
        he sees all the children of man;
    14 from where he sits enthroned he looks out
        on all the inhabitants of the earth,
    15 he who fashions the hearts of them all
        and observes all their deeds.
    16 The king is not saved by his great army;
        a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
    17 The war horse is a false hope for salvation,
        and by its great might it cannot rescue.
    18 Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
        on those who hope in his steadfast love,
    19 that he may deliver their soul from death
        and keep them alive in famine.
    20 Our soul waits for the Lord;
        he is our help and our shield.
    21 For our heart is glad in him,
        because we trust in his holy name.
    22 Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
        even as we hope in you.
    In a letter to Benjamin Lincoln on June 29, 1788, George Washington, writing from Mount Vernon, said the following:
     
    “No one can rejoice more than I do at every step taken by the People of this great Country to preserve the Union—establish good order & government—and to render the Nation happy at home & respected abroad. No Country upon Earth ever had it more in its power to attain these blessings than United America. Wonderously strange then, & much to be regretted indeed would it be, were we to neglect the means, and to stray from the road to which the finger of Providence has so manifestly pointed. I cannot believe it will ever come to pass! The great Author of all good has not conducted us so far on the Road to happiness and glory to withdraw from us, in the hour of need, his beneficent support. By folly & misconduct (proceeding from a variety of causes) we may now & then get bewildered; but I hope, and trust, that their is good sense and virtue enough left to bring us back into the right way before we shall be entirely lost.

    It sounds very much like the assumptions and hopes that we might have or might have had in our own anticipation of the future.  No one wants to over-simplify, but George Washington and we have anticipated and trusted that good would win out.  We have counted on the overwhelming faithfulness and trust in God to over-ride the wrongful actions and attitudes and rhetoric of those who oppose our great country, its ideals, its leadership, and even its people.

    Washington seems to be bold in the very suggestion that anything could ever go wrong in the process of the development and growth of our country on the path to goodness and greatness.  And, indeed, it never should have!  Washington admits that he “cannot believe that it will ever come to pass.”

    The tradegy is, of course, not only that we see those evil forces at work in energetic fashion, but that they have undermined the very faith in that “Providence” that has so benefitted us in our day as well as in his.  God has indeed been good to this country, but it has to be admitted that we have strayed from the “road to happiness and glory.”  We have, in many ways, abandoned the God who loves us.

    As Christians, however, we are never out of options.  We are never defeated.  We are never too weak to win over wrong and darkness. Remember, His strength is made perfect in weakness

    By Abraham Lincoln:
    It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God; to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord. . . .We have been the recipients of the choisest bounties of heaven; we   have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown.
    But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us. 1

    It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended power, to confess our national sins and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.”
    1863
    Will you join in prayer for our nation?  Would you pause your celebration from time to time in order to stop & pray for our country and to ask God’s forgiveness, His strength and power for a nation that needs to depend on Him?  I can’t change this country; you can’t change this country.  Only God can change and save this country from its own destruction.

    Let’s make earnest, diligent, and intense prayer the hallmark of this year’s celebration of the birth of our country.

  62. Greetings and peace from Concord Community Church and Pastor Steve Ward.  May His grace and peace rest upon you and be present in each part of your day.  Please join us, if you can, (10:00 AM) at 7578 Concord Rd., halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.

    Scripture and Thoughts:
    YOUR ADVERSARY                                                          July 11, 2021

    Scripture Reading:  I Peter 5:5-11

    5 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.
    6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:
    7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.           
    8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:
    9 Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.
    10 But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.
    11 To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

    That term, “adversary,” says it all, doesn’t it?  And when Peter uses the terms, “your adversary, the devil . . .,” it evokes a particular feeling of animosity and of antagonism.  It ought to.

    Some people have human adversaries in their lives.  Let’s say you stole your friend’s girlfriend in high school, and she was “the love of his life,” and you married her, and, according to him, you ruined his life.  He can’t forget it; he can’t forgive you.  He’s so bitter that he follows you around, trying to make your life miserable.

    In the Bible, this kind of enemy put rocks back in your field after you had thrown them all out.  In the Bible this kind of enemy planted weeds all through your crop so as to diminish your yield. 

    Let’s say you go to town to have coffee and a chat at a restaurant, and when you come out to go home, you have a flat tire, and you know who did it.  You build a shed on your farm, and he brings out the building inspector to show him anything and everything you did wrong, and any building code violations he can find.

    When our son ran for school board he found himself to be under unusual scrutiny.  It wasn’t justified scrutiny.  It was mean scrutiny.  The sheriff came out to his house because someone had spread a false story about him.  Suddenly, someone was trying to find fault with anything and everything he did.

    Have you ever contemplated writing a letter to the editor and declined doing so because of the fear of making life-long enemies?

    For Josh and for his election-year woes, at least it only lasted until the election was over.  The kind of adversary we’re talking about is for life, and they’re not just out to do you harm.  They’re out to destroy you.  They hate you. They wish you weren’t alive.  Your wife receives an anonymous letter in the mail casting doubt about your character or even about your fidelity.  Rumors are spread about your honesty or your “wrong bunch of friends.” You go out of town to a convention and your wife hears a story about your being in another town living it up, having a wild time and hitting all the bars at night.

    The IRS audits you every year because someone claims that you’ve been cheating on your taxes.  – or, worse yet, because your adversary, your enemy, has a friend at the IRS – meaning, of course, that the IRS is being used for some else’s “dirty work.”

    This is your adversary.  And he shows up at every barn dance and cuts in to dance with your wife and tells her what a clod you are and how she should have married him, instead.  The sheriff shows up on your doorstep and tells you you’ve been accused of some kind of misconduct, or could he check out your garage to see if there might be some stolen merchandise there.

    This is  “your adversary,” and it’s not merely someone who is opposed to what you are doing, but someone who is opposed to you.  “Your adversary” is someone who is out to obstruct everything you do in whatever way they can.

    Too often our view of Satan is rooted in the idea that he is just out to do a bit of mischief or to trick you into some little sinful event or situation.  He’s mischievious and playfully under-handed, inserting naughty little suggestions into your thoughts or into your daily life.

    Too often he’s not much more harmful than to provide us with the handy, but supposedly “innocent” excuse, “The devil made me do it.”  That’s the popular view of Satan, according to modern society.

    But he is your adversary!  His ultimate goal is to pull us down and so utterly whip us that we can’t even get up and go on. 

    Perhaps you don’t believe in a personal Satan; Perhaps you think he’s not real.   We don’t have to agree about that, right now, but you can’t tell me that you don’t recognize that there is evil in this world.  I think we all can recognize a force or a spirit that pulls people away from the right and into the way of wrong.

    The Bible calls him Satan, the devil, Lucifer, that old serpent.  He is our adversary, and he is our enemy.  His ultimate aim is to destroy you, to destroy your efforts or your marriage, your personal life, your reputation, your family, and your eternity.

    We don’t have an accurate or proper view of Satan until we see him with goals and aims that have eternal consequences.  Our imaginations have not been adequately stirred until they begin to envision the fact that, for Satan, his goal is our eternal destruction, and that lasts forever.

    The verse in I Peter says, “Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary, the devil, walketh about, as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may destroy.”  “. . .seeking whom he may devour.”

    “Be sober” —   be sober-minded; be serious, somber, clear-headed, solemn, and down-to-earth.   

    “Be sober, be vigilant . . .”   Be on your toes, be alert and on guard.  Being vigilant means not letting your guard down.  Being vigilant suggests being very alert and ready for an attack. When you come out of the restaurant, check your tires.  Check your conversation. Check your arguments.  Someone is out to destroy you.

    “because your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion . . .”  The lion is not meekly looking around, yawning, and wondering whether “maybe” he could find something to eat. This is a roaring, active, agitated, and deadly predator.  He’s not going to stop or to lie down and wait. He is hunting; he is pursuing; he is stalking; he is seeking! 

    “walketh about” some translations say “prowls about.”  You’d better believe he’s “on the prowl,” in the worst, deadliest way possible.

    “seeking whom he may devour.”  That means what it says.  He’s looking for those he may devour – destroy and ruin.  – Not just those he can “bother,” not just those he can “irritate,” or even those he can harm.  He’s seeking those he can devour.  “Looking for someone he may devour.”

    . . .and not just “someone,” but “whomever.”  If you’re walking around near a stalking, hunting, hungry, on-the-prowl lion, you’re also a very likely prey; you’re also a very likely victim.

    Not only does Satan aggressively look for any and every prey, but he also looks for any and every vulnerability.  If you have a weakness, or if you have a vulnerability, you can be sure that he will find it and, if at all possible, exploit it. 

    Do you have a temper?  That’s a vulnerability.  Are you a little proud of yourself here and there?  That’s a vulnerability.  Are you timid and a little unsure of yourself?  — another vulnerability.  It doesn‘t have to be a weakness.  It doesn’t have to be a short-coming.  He’s willing to use your strong points; he’ll use your strengths if he can. 

    A boxer knew that his opponent had a strong and deadly uppercut, but he had also observed that immediately after throwing that upper cut, he left himself open for just a split second.  Perhaps he was so confidant of his destructive punch that he let down his guard.  For just an instant he would drop his gloves – kind of like gloating, and for an instant he would be vulnerable.  So the boxer tricked his opponent into throwing that fearful uppercut, but, of course, knowing what was coming, he sidestepped out of the way, and he threw his perfectly-timed punch just as his opponent left himself open for a split second.

    Satan wants to take you out.  He knows your strengths and weaknesses, and he will use whatever he can to take you down.  “Be sober, be vigilant.

    What do you do?  First, get right with God. Confess your sins to Him.  Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior.  Acknowledge Him as your Lord.  He will be on your side.  The temptations will still be there, but now you will have an advocate. Satan will continue to attack.  The fact is that he hates it when a person comes to Christ,  because, now, God will be on your side.

    In I Corinthians 10:13, the Bible says, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man:  But God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able, but, will, with the temptation, make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”

    Don’t kid yourself. Satan is real, and he may be the driving force behind many of your problems.  You can’t fight him alone.  He’s been winning for thousands of years.  He’s too good at it.  You need God on your side, and you need to be in constant communication with Him.

    Still, watch out!  Many of us signed up to be on “God’s side” long ago, and, for too many of us, that’s where it ended.  We’re on the roster, but we’re on the inactive list.

    Don’t try this alone.  He has an uppercut and a right and a left, and a round-house punch and all the karate and tae kwon do, and he’s out you defeat you.  He can defeat you with the negative, and he can defeat you with the good life and the comfortable life and the life of accomplishment.  Come to God and trust in Him, and let Him help you defeat this enemy, because He already has.

    He already has!  He is the victor! He is the conqueror!  He actually died so that he could rescue you!  He is here to save you.  Paul says, “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from this death?”  “Thank God,” he says, it’s Jesus Christ My Lord!

  63. Greetings and peace from Concord Community Church and Pastor Steve Ward.  May His grace and peace rest upon you and be present in each part of your day.  Please join us, if you can, (10:00 AM) at 7578 Concord Rd., halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.

    Scripture and Thoughts                                                     July 18, 2021

    Go and Preach the Gospel      

    Matthew 10:10:5-7;32-33;38-42

    5. These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not:
    6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
    7 And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.

    32 Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.
    33 But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.
     
    38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.
    39 He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.
    40 He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.
    41 He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward.
    42 And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.

    In our Scripture passage, Jesus is preparing His disciples to go and and preach about the Kingdom of God.  He says,

    “Go out and preach that the kingdom of Heaven is near (at hand)”

    At the end of this service, you will go out.  You may not preach, and, yet, by your lives you will proclaim and declare.  By your lives – perhaps more than by words – you will proclaim the gospel – the good news.

    The song says, “Take the name of Jesus with You.”  That’s what you and I will be doing, isn’t it?  We’ll be taking the name of Jesus with us.  We will be proclaiming the name of Jesus with our lives, with our speech, with our actions and with our attitudes.  You and I will be spreading the gospel.

    . . . but you won’t be proclaiming the gospel according to Matthew, or the gospel according to Mark, or Luke, or John.  You will be proclaiming the gospel according to you – Jerry, or Bill, Sharon, Dan, Deborah, Allen, etc.

    Unfortunately, some of us will be proclaiming that the gospel is not very important.  We may be saying – to those who are watching us – that the Kingdom of God  is not very near, at all, because we don’t act as though it is, we don’t pay any attention to it, and nothing we say or do suggests any urgency in preparing for it.

    Nevertheless, when you and I go out that back door – or this side door, we will be taking our Christianity with us.  We don’t really have any choice – unless we decide to camp out at the church and to not go anywhere.
     
    And when we take our Christianity with us, we will be proclaiming our Christianity to the world around us.  We will be telling them, as we sit down to a meal at a restaurant, or with friends or loved ones, whether it is important to us to give thanks to God or not.  We will also be telling them, as we engage in conversation, whether or not God is an important part of our lives.  Is He worth talking about?  Does He ever come up in our conversations?  Would He approve of our conversation?

    The world into which we step, outside of these  doors, will hear us preach – with or with-out words.  They will see and hear the gospel according to you and to me whether we intend them to or not, and they will understand what you think about Jesus, the Christ, by seeing the way we live and by comparing the way we live with what Jesus taught.

    How many times, for example, in the next day or two, will we be seen turning the other cheek?  When we get slapped upon one cheek, will we turn the other cheek for another slap?  . . . but isn’t that what Jesus taught?  (Matt. 5:38, 39, “But I tell you, ‘Do not resist an evil person.  
    If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other, also.”  What if we get slapped really hard, in the first place?  – on the first cheek?  Will we turn the other cheek for another hard slap? Are we able to take an insult and wait quietly for another one?  How often, instead, do our tempers flare?  How often are we indignant beyond restraint?

                – by the way, would someone please volunteer to take this message to Washington, D.C.?  It doesn’t seem as though anybody there has ever heard this lesson or idea before.

    Let’s go on . . .
    How many times, in the coming days, will we go the extra mile?  How many times, in the coming days, will we go the extra mile for someone  we don’t even like?   — How much is an extra mile?

    In the days of Jesus, the Roman government was in charge; they were in control.  Instead of having policemen, they had Roman soldiers.  They were the policemen.  They were the law, – and they were not well-liked.  Often they were hated.  Almost always they were deeply resented.   — and there was a law, and the law said that if a Roman soldier wanted you to carry his equipment – whatever it was – then you were required to carry it.  You had to carry the soldier’s equipment — for up to a mile.  You couldn’t object; you couldn’t offer excuses or reasons for why you couldn’t do this “duty.”  You just had to do it.

    It was in this context that Jesus said, “If you are required (forced) to go one mile, go with him two miles.”

    How many times have you gone that extra mile for someone you disliked – or resented, or who had wronged you?  How many times are you going to do that tomorrow? Or today?

    Is the right gospel going with you?

    When we go out these doors, today, we will be proclaiming the gospel – according to us – according to you and according to me.

    What is the gospel that people will hear and that people will see?

    In the book II Corinthians, chapter 13, in the Living Bible version, it says this:    
    verse 5. “Check up on yourselves.  Are you really  Christians?  Do you pass the test?  Do you feel Christ’s presence and power more and more within you?  Or are you just pretending to be Christians when actually you aren’t at all?
    7. I pray that you will live good lives.
    I close my letter with these words:
       Be happy.
       Grow in Christ.
        Pay attention to what I have said.
        Live in harmony and peace,  And may the God of love and peace be with you.”

    Our Closing Song:  “So Send I You” #440

    So send I you to labour unrewarded
    To serve unpaid, unloved, unsought, unknown
    To bear rebuke, ot suffer scorn and scoffing
    So send I you to toil for Me alone

    So send I you to bind the bruised and broken
    Over wandering souls to work, to weep, to wake
    To bear the burdens of a world a-weary
    So send I you to suffer for My sake

    So send I you to loneliness and longing
    With heart a-hungering for the loved and known
    Forsaking kin and kindred, friend and dear one
    So send I you to know My love alone

    So send I you to leave your life’s ambition
    To die to dear desire, self-will resign
    To labour long, and love where men revile you
    So send I you to lose you life in Mine

    So send I you to hearts made hard by hatred
    To eyes made blind because they will not see
    To spend, though it be blood to spend and spare not
    So send I you to taste of Calvary

    “As the Father hath sent me, so send I you”

    by Margaret Clarkson; Music by John Peterson

  64. Scripture and Thoughts: Salt of the Earth August 1, 2021                                                             

    Matthew 5:1-16  1“And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:
    2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,
    3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
    4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
    5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
    6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
    7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
    8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
    9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
    10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
    11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
    12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
    13 Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
    14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
    15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
    16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

    Why do we need Revival?  Why do we need reviving?  Is there something about us that makes us seem “unrevived?

    In the church we often use the term “revival” to refer to a series of meetings which are intended to draw people to the church, to evangelize them as “first-time believers” or to bring them back to church after they may have “sliden away.”
    Consider this question:  Does revival require meetings?  Does revival require an evangelist?  Are altar-calls indispensable parts of revival?

    The answer is, “No.”

    Never-the-less, we do need revival.  We need to be re-awakened.  We need to be revived; we need to have the life brought back into us.

    We, as Christians, have often lost the impact that our Christianity should have on those around us.  We have lost the distinctiveness that makes Christianity recognizable as unusual and important and necessary to the rest of the world.

    The truth is, of course, that we sometimes work hard not to be too unusual.  We sometimes work hard not to be too distinctive or “stand-outish” from the rest of the world.  We have to admit that we often feel embarrassed to be so unusual as to be noticed by everyone else.

    That brings us to the question of being the “salt of the earth.” 

    It would seem, from the words of Jesus, that he does want us to bring a distinctiveness to the world around us.  He does want us have a recognizable influence on those around us.  He wants that there would be something about us that is distinctively Christian and decidedly Christ-like.

    Now, when you are the salt of the earth, you bring a taste and a definite, discernable flavor to your environment – to your world – to those within your sphere of influence.

    If you had some salt that just didn’t have a salt-like flavor, it would be useless for bringing that flavor to the object to be salted.  In the same way, if we don’t have a Christ-like “taste” and “smell” and atmosphere in our lives, and if we don’t give off the fragrance and aura and beauty of Christ from our lives, then we won’t be flavoring the world around us with a sense of Christ or with an awareness of Jesus.

    How do you lose the flavor of salt? How do you get that taste out of food?  If you put a teaspoonful of salt into a recipe that calls for half a teaspoonful, you’re likely to have a problem.  There are things, I’m told that help to decrease saltiness.  Throw in some flour or some soda or even some vinegar – those things will reduce the salt taste.  Of course, they may ruin your recipe, too.

     There is another sure-fire way to fix the problem of too much salt in a recipe, a way of reducing the impact of having too much salt.  If you have put twice as much salt into your mix than you need, then just double your recipe for every-thing else!  Put twice as much of everything else in, and things come out even.  By adding other ingredients, we reduce the effectiveness of the salt.

    Sometimes we try to do that in the Christian life.  We add other things to our lives, and that can easily reduce the effectiveness of our Christianity.

    “You sound too much like a Christian.  Why don’t you listen to a lot more of this kind of song or that kind of music.  You should watch these kinds of shows more on television, maybe then you wouldn’t sound so much like a Christian.  You could cover over some of those Sunday-School ideas of yours if you just added a whole lot more influence from over here or from this comedian or from that personality.”

    The truth is, all too sadly, that we don’t always want to stand out with a distinctive air about us.
       
    We don’t always want to be the salt of the earth; Sometimes we just want to blend in. We don’t always want to be flavorful.  We don’t always want to be different.

    But that’s what God is calling us to do.  That’s what God is calling us to be.  God is calling us to be the salt of the earth.  He is asking to bring flavor and life to the world.  He is asking us to be an influence, a distinctiveness.  He wants us to bring zest and enhanced living to our world, to our friends and to our environment.

    . . .ye shall be witnesses to me . . .

    “Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ . . .”

    Romans 1:6, “For you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.

  65. Greetings and peace from Concord Community Church and Pastor Steve Ward. Grace and peace be upon you and  present in each area of your life.  Please join us, if you can, (10:00 AM) at 7578 Concord Rd., halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.

    Scripture and Thoughts                                           August 8, 2021

    The Unknown Message                                                                
                                                               
     A lady was walking to the parking lot after work, and she started looking for her keys. They weren’t there, where she usually kept them. She looked in her purse and any place she might have put them, but she couldn’t find them;.  She had this nagging notion in the back of her head about another possibility, but she tried to ignore it.  She also had been fighting a tendency to get out of the car without grabbing the keys, and then, when she was in a hurry, she would walk off , leaving her keys in the ignition.  She was afraid she might have done that, which, of course, is an open invitation to have your car stolen.  So, she hurried along, worried about her keys, and worried about a meeting she had to get to.  She came to the parking lot, which was nearly empty, and her car wasn’t there.  Of course, she dashed to the spot she usually left it, and it still wasn’t there.  Now she knew she must have left her keys in the car and that someone must have stolen it.  She was panicked; she called the police, told them her story and gave a detailed description of the car,  She didn’t know what was going to happen.  She really didn’t want to call her husband, because he had warned her many times about the dangers of leaving the keys in the car.  She knew she had to, and as soon as she had spoken to the cops in the patrol car who had come after her call, she knew she had to call him.
                As soon as he answered, she started telling him the whole story, and confessing that she must have left the keys in the car, and how sorry she was and she didn’t know what to do, since she had the meeting she had to get to and now her car was stolen.
                Her husband said, “Honey, you didn’t drive to work, today; I dropped you off.  I was going to pick you up.”
                She felt a little irritated at his tone, and his impatience, and especially that he seemed to be talking to someone else while she stood there needing to get to where she was going.
                “So, why aren’t you here?  Just come and pick me up!”
     “Yes; I will.  Just as soon as I can convince this cop that I didn’t steal your stupid car!” 

    Scripture Reading: 2 Corinthians 4:1-7 (KJV)
     1Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not;
    2 But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.
    3 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:
    4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
    5 For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.
    6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
    7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
    My wife’s phone is frequently buzzing;  You can even, sometimes, identify whether it’s a text or an e-mail or whatever.  But there’s one notification – a high “ding,” that we’ve never been able to identify, and we can never find what it is.  It might be leaving us an important message or notification, but we never know what it is or where on the phone to find it.  Whatever the notification is, or whatever message it is that we are supposed to get, it stays a secret.  It’s worse than a secret code or invisible ink, because you never get to find out what you’re missing.

    It’s like getting a hidden messages, and we can’t ever know what they are.
    Our Scripture, this morning, tells about a hidden message.

    2 Corinthians 4:3-6 King James Version (KJV)
    3 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:
    4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

    Someday, perhaps, we will meet someone who knows how to access those messages on Sharon’s phone, and then we will find out if we’ve been missing something important.
     
    Of course, secret messages have been around, perhaps forever.  Is it around the fourth or fifth grade that everybody begins writing to their friends using secret codes that they made up?  You remember those days.  Some of us learned Morse code, – the series of dots and dashes – and you could use it to send almost any kind of message.

    Do you remember invisible ink?  You could write a letter that couldn’t be seen, and then the recipient – what? – held the message over a slightly hot light bulb? – until the message appeared?

    Do you remember the movie, The DaVinci Code?  It was all about hidden codes and hidden meanings.

    Do you remember the idea that if you played one of the Beatles Records backwards you would hear secret messages?

    When Paul visited Athens, he found a lot of religion, and he found a lot of worship going on, but it seemed that no one knew the true God.  Then Paul discovered a very interesting statue — or monument;  it was dedicated to “The Unknown God.”

    They were worshiping all kinds of different gods, but what if they missed one?  Would that unknown god be offended?  Would they be in trouble or in danger if they missed somebody? So they made sure they were covering all the bases by having a statue dedicated to the “Unknown god.”

    Paul preached a Sermon to the Anthenians, telling them of “The Unknown God”  — the God they did not know.

    Up until that time, they didn’t know about our God, and they certainly didn’t know that Jesus died for them or that they could go to Heaven.  Paul took a message they had never heard and preached it to those who were worried about possibly missing God, and took advantage of a unique opportunity to
    present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those who might have never heard.

    The Prophets of the Old Testament saw the future and wrote the details, but they didn’t always understand the message.  The prophecy often had a hidden or “secret” meaning.
    What did it mean, they wondered, when Isaiah said, 3 “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
    4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
    5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
    6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
    7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.”

    The message really wasn’t clear to most people until after the resurrection,
    When Jesus came, He traveled the countryside preaching the Kingdom of God, preaching repentance, and teaching with parables. Sometimes people “got it,” and sometimes they didn’t.  To many people, the message was hidden.  Many had preconceived ideas about the Messiah, and Jesus just didn’t fit their expectations.
     
    For some people, like Zacchaeus, for example, Jesus just didn’t fit their idea of the way they wanted to live. But when Jesus called him to come down out of that tree, Zacchaeus heard and listened, and it changed his life, and he became a follower of Jesus.  Of course, the message of Jesus still doesn’t fit the way of life many people want to live.  The more you learn about the message of Jesus, the more you understand how much at odds with it are so many people you know or meet.  This is not the way people want to live or to be, at all, and the more you observe or learn about the way people in this world want to be and how  they want to live, the more you understand that the way of Christ is like a foreign language to them.  They can’t understand it.  It doesn’t fit their concept of the way anyone would like to live.

    How many of us “get it?” Is the gospel a hidden message?

    Is it possible that the message of Jesus is being hidden by your own life and life-style?

    Is the message of Jesus in your life like an empty parking lot and a stolen car – and no one can see it?

    What is important to you and in your life? 

    Remember, to many people, the gospel will always be hidden – until you or I uncover it for them.  The unknown message has to be exposed; it has to be revealed; it has to uncovered and explained.  It has to show in our lives; it has to show in our walk, our values, our decisions, and our behavior.

    Do you trust this Jesus of Galilee?  Do you believe He is who He says He is – The Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God?  Do you have faith in Him to save you from your sins?  Paul says the Gospel is Jesus Christ, died, buried, and risen again, and I’m here to tell you that you can believe in that. You can trust in that.

    There are people all around the world for whom an unknown message is waiting.  Jesus said, “Go ye into all the world and make disciples, and baptize those disciples.”  And He said,  “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, teaching them to do whatsoever I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you, always, even unto the ends of the world.”

  66. Greetings in the name of Jesus, and welcome – from Concord Community Church and from Pastor Steve Ward.  Please join us in person, if you can, at 7578 Concord Road. Patriot, Indiana.  We’re “the little white church down the lane,” half-way between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.

    Scripture and Thoughts                                                                                                 August 15, 2021

    1 Corinthians 15:1-11 (NIV)
    1“Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
    3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all He appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
    9 For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect.  No, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.  11. Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.”

    In our Scripture passage we have Paul’s definition of the gospel.   Paul says that it is the gospel by which we are saved; he clearly says that it is believing the gospel that is essential to salvation.

    By way of review, then, the gospel might be said to be three-fold: (1) Christ died for our sins, (2) He was buried, and (3) He rose again.   Notice that when the term “Christ” is used, we are very clearly saying that Jesus is the Messiah, the Promised One, the anticipated Savior and king.  This Jesus, this Messiah, is the one who died for our sins,  That’s point #1.  When we see that, we have identified and believed that the one person who lived a sinless life, was, therefore, the only one, for all time, who was qualified to die for you and to die for me.  If you believe that Jesus is the Messiah and that He died for your sin, you are accepting and acknowledging that Jesus is the one who was sent by God as  “King of King, and “Lord of Lords,” and as the Messiah, Jesus also takes on the mantle of “Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”

    Secondly, the Gospel includes the simple fact that Jesus was buried.  The importance of this part of the gospel is that it emphasizes the fact that Jesus died, and it amplifies that fact that Jesus rose from the dead.

    Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, Jesus rose from the dead.  He rose on the third day, as prophesied and as promised by Jesus, Himself, “according to the Scriptures.”  His resurrection proves that His is the Son of God, as He claimed, that He is the fulfillment of Old Testament Scripture, and that He has conquered death; He has conquered sin by dying for us.

    In our Scripture Reading, Paul attaches some extremely important footnotes. That is, he ticks off the evidence proving Jesus’s resurrection.  He shows that Jesus was seen alive by an incontrovertible line-up of witnesses, starting with Peter, then the twelve apostles, 500 witnesses at once, to James, and then the rest of the apostles, and then by Paul, himself.

    Allow me to quote from “Faithfacts.org/bible-101
    “Note that in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, the first four verses define the gospel. The second four verses give an apologetic for the gospel. In other words, Paul tells us why it is true! This is significant. Those who preach the gospel without an accompanying apologetic are not preaching the gospel biblically!
    “Evidence for the historicity of the resurrection is part of the gospel message. He insists that the resurrection was not a figment of someone’s imagination. There were over 500 witnesses, including Paul himself! By the way, this passage was not written hundreds of years after the events.  Paul penned these words within 20-25 years or so after Christ’s resurrection. He proclaims that if his readers do not believe it, they can go check out these things with the actual living witnesses. Scholars, incidentally, believe that the statement Paul makes in the first few verses of 1 Corinthians 15 is a formal creed used by the earliest Christians that dates back to within 5 years of Christ’s death.”
    “So the gospel is not only about an actual historical event, it is about the consequences to mankind forever.”
    “Let’s look at three other passages, this time from Paul’s letter to the Romans, his letter to the Ephesians, and his letter to the Colossians:
    ‘For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes’ (Romans 1:16).
    ‘And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of  those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.’ (Ephesians 1:13-14).
    ‘But he has now reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—if  you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you have heard….’(Colossians 1:22-23).

    *****************************************************************
    From the same source:
    “Since the gospel is delivered by belief, more light on this can be shed by what is meant by “believe in” in such passages as John 3:16: “Whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The word in (Greek eis) really means “into” or “unto.” Since we do not have an idiom in English “to believe into” or “to believe unto” it is translated “believe in.” But the meaning is deeper than mere intellectual assent (James 2:14-19). It implies that we believe so deeply in Jesus that we will commit our whole being and obedience to him.”   It implies faith and trust.

    Are you ready for that?  Are you ready to believe in Jesus Christ so deeply that you will commit your whole being and allegiance to Him?

    I’m not trying to raise the bar.  I’m not trying to make Christianity harder.  I am trying to show you and me just how far the exaltation of Jesus should go.  Let us recognize Jesus as the fulfillment of those names ascribed to Him in the Old Testament: “Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”  If that’s the Jesus we believe in, because, surely, that’s who He is, then we believe in Him as God, as Savior, as the rightful heir to the highest honor, glory, praise, and tribute.   I thoroughly believe that as we see clearly who Jesus is, as we see Him uplifted and glorified to His rightful position, we will come closer and closer to believe in Him to the highest degree, and we will find ourselves most closely committed to Him and aligned with His purpose, His will, and  His  Kingdom.

    Can you imagine, with me, the presence of Jesus – perhaps in this very room – and, as we see this holy, majestic presence, we also become aware of an over-whelming, shining glory that accompanies Him, and, indeed, surrounds Him?  Can you imagine the glory and honor that accompany Him in Heaven?   Can our minds even faintly grasp the wonder of seeing Him in all His glory?

    What if it happened here?  What if it came here, in this very room?

    Why am I so intent on encouraging you to imagine the presence and glory of Jesus’s heavenly glory happening here?  It’s because I want for us to try to bridge the gap between the heavenly glory that we believe in and the earthly reality that we walk in and live in.  The God whom we see in these pages as the “Word” who “became flesh and dwelt among us” is also the God of dazzling glory described in the book of Revelation as being surrounded by Heavenly thrones and an emerald-like rainbow and the 24 elders with crowns of Gold and the sea of glass and crystal before the throne, with lightnings and thundering and voices and on-going, continual worship and exaltation and praise – the God who made the world, about whom John says,
     
    “He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not.  He came unto His own and His own received Him not, but to as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the Sons of God, even to them who believe in His name.”  

    To them gave He power to become the sons of God.

    This Jesus, this one to whom we ascribe the highest glory and honor and power and might . . . This Jesus, seen to have been resurrected from the dead by witness after witness after witness and by 500 people at the same time, is the one whom you’re being asked and challenged to accept and trust and put your faith in.

    Believe it.  It’s true.

  67. Greetings in the name of Jesus, and welcome – from Concord Community Church and from Pastor Steve Ward. Please join us in person, if you can, at 7578 Concord Road. Patriot, Indiana. We’re “the little white church down the lane,” half-way between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.

    Scripture and Thoughts August 22, 2021

    Matthew 12:7-14
    7 But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

    Healing on the Sabbath
    9 Now when He had departed from there, He went into their synagogue. 10 And behold, there was a man who had a withered hand. And they asked Him, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—that they might accuse Him.

    11 Then He said to them, “What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? 12 Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” 13 Then He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and it was restored as whole as the other. 14 Then the Pharisees went out and plotted against Him, how they might destroy Him.”

    It always gives me great pause when I read this story, found in our Scripture lesson, to find the Pharisees plotting how to get rid of Jesus – by whatever means necessary, including the possibility of killing Him.

    It gives me pause, of course, because they were in the very presence of Jesus when He performed this miracle. They saw the withered hand; they probably knew this man. They may have known him from the time of his birth. In typical Pharisaical fashion, they undoubtedly looked down on him. They likely scorned him, insulted him, and used derogatory talk about him, both in his presence and behind his back. – but, having such close knowledge of Him, being aware of his life-long affliction, and, now, being eye-witnesses of this astounding miracle, they were still unable to see past their own pride, their prejudices, and their lofty position.

    Such a miracle should have stopped them in their tracks, so to speak. They should have recognized that the power of God was working through this man, Jesus, and they had seen it with their own eyes!

    However, that’s not what they saw.

    They didn’t see it because their eyes were blinded. In the words of last week’s text, “The god of this world hath blinded the eyes of them that believe not.” They couldn’t see through their own pride, and their pride told them that they were above everyone else; Their pride told them that they were above Jesus.

    Their prejudices told them that this man with the withered hand was not important – certainly not as important as keeping the letter of the law and all the rules and regulations that were attached to it. Their pride told them that this man, Jesus, was going against their rules and regulations and interpretations.

    Their lofty position told them that they – not Jesus – were the authorities. Their lofty position told them that they were far above this young, upstart miracle-worker from that no-good “podunk town” of Nazareth.

    Now they had watched with more than keen interest as the drama unfolded between Jesus, the Pharisees, and the man with the withered hand.

    Having a withered hand would have been a tough burden to bear. People are cruel enough, and in Jesus’s day it would have also brought accusations of sin, because it was widely believed that all sorts of human ailments and difficulties were brought on by the sin of the person so afflicted or by the sin of their parents. Thus, this man was very likely to have been in the habit of keeping his hand hidden and covered and out of sight. That would have been much easier than putting up with the cruelty and the jeering and the insults.

    Ever feel like hiding your hands? Men, did you ever suddenly discover you had grease on your hands or you had dirty fingernails, and you just wanted to keep your hands in your pockets? Men or women – have you ever have a blemish you tried desperately to cover up?

    Don’t you think this man probably hid his withered hand whenever he could? Don’t you think he was embarrassed when someone stared at it or when someone pointed at his hand and then turned and whispered something to his or her companion? Don’t you think that when he was in public he tried hard not to be noticed?

    However, on this day, he was suddenly at the center of attention. The Pharisees, that very powerful and distinguished party of religious leaders, were all a-buzz, and the buzz was all about him!

    Can’t you just hear them? “Will Jesus heal this man – even on the Sabbath? Do you think He would dare?! Would He dare to break such a sacred rule? Just how insolent does He think He can be?”

    What if you had a shriveled hand? What if you were afraid people would laugh at you or make derisive comments behind your back? Wouldn’t you hide your hand? Wouldn’t you try hard not to be noticed?

    So the man has all these embarrassing thoughts going on in his head, and he keeps his hand hidden, and he keeps his head down, looking at the ground, trying not to be noticed. . . and then someone is standing in front of him, and it’s Jesus – and, of all things, Jesus says, “Stretch out your hand.!”

    My imagination tells me that there was something in the look on the face of Jesus, something in the kindness in His eye. There also was something in the gentleness of His voice that eclipsed all the fear, embarrassment, and his sense of shame, and he decided to hold out his withered hand, even though everyone would see it, and everyone would gasp at the deformity, and everyone would whisper and chatter – And I suspect he was still looking at the face of Jesus when he became aware that the finger pointing and the gasps were gasps of incredulity and wonder, and I think he looked at his hand and nearly fainted to see a completely restored, completely whole hand at the end of his wrist.

    Do you have a weakness or a shortcoming? Don’t we all have something in our lives that we don’t want to expose to other people? Perhaps there’s something you don’t do well, and you are embarrassed to do it in public?

    Maybe Jesus doesn’t want your strong points as much as He wants your weaknesses?

    Sometimes God says, “Show me your hand. Stretch it out there. Show me your weakness; show me your inability; show me your failures. ‘Stretch out your hand.’ Let me have your failures; let Me have your weaknesses. Show Me the things you can’t do; Let Me show you what I can do with them.”

    II Corinthians 12:9
    “And He said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Most gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

    That the power of Christ may rest upon me! – That the power of Christ may rest upon me.
    Stretch out your hand – give Him your weaknesses. Trust Him with your shortcomings and failures. He’s the one who turns our weaknesses into His successes. He’s the one who heals our “withered hand,”

  68. Greetings in the name of Jesus, and welcome – from Concord Community Church and from Pastor Steve Ward.  Please join us in person, if you can, at 7875 Concord Road. Patriot, Indiana.  We’re “the little white church down the lane,” half-way between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.

    Scripture and Thoughts                                                                   August 29, 2021

    The Prayer  That Shook the House               

    Acts 4:13-31
    The Name of Jesus Forbidden
    13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. 14 And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. 15 But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, 16 saying, “What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a [a]notable miracle has been done through them is evident[b] to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name.”
    18 So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. 20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” 21 So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way of punishing them, because of the people, since they all glorified God for what had been done. 22 For the man was over forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed.

    Prayer for Boldness
    23 And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them.  24 So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “ ‘ Lord, you are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, (25) who by the mouth of Your servant, David, have said,
                “Why do the heathen rage, and the people plot vain things?
                (26) The kings of the earth took their stand,
                 And the rulers were gathered together
                Against the Lord and against His Christ.”

    (27) For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together
    (28) to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.
    (29) Now, Lord, look upon their threats, and grant to your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word,
    (30) by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus. (31) And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled was shaken; and they were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.”

                What is happening, here?

    In the first place, a man had been healed.  He is sometimes called the crippled beggar.  The Bible tells us that this man was carried to his place beside the temple gate, and there, every day, he would beg for money from the people going in to the temple to pray.

    When he asked for money from Peter and John, Peter made a famous statement:  “Silver and gold have I none, but what I have I give thee.  In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”

    When the man was thus miraculously healed, people came rushing to the place where they were in order to see about this miracle.  Peter saw that this was a perfect opportunity to tell about Jesus – not only about His healing power, but also His having been crucified, buried and resurrected and that He was and is the Christ, the Messiah.

    The priests, the temple guard, and the Sadducees heard about it, they were extremely upset that the disciples were talking and teaching about the resurrection from the dead.  The Sadducees, especially, didn’t believe in the resurrection.  Never mind that Jesus just rose from the dead.  The fact was that they didn’t believe in it, and that was more important than the truth.  Since they didn’t believe in it, it couldn’t have happened, and, since they didn’t believe in it, they didn’t want other people being told about it happening and risk having them believe it.

    The disciples were thrown into jail and made to appear before the Sanhedrin in the morning.

    There, they told the high court – the Sanhedrin – that the beggar had, indeed, been healed in the name of Jesus “. . .whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.”

    The Sanhedrin was stuck!  They couldn’t deny the miracle.  All Jerusalem was a-buzz about it; everyone knew about it. 

    The Jewish leaders threatened the disciples that they should no longer speak about Jesus.  In response, Peter delivers another famous quote: “We ought to obey God rather than men.”

                When the apostles and others gathered together to pray, they spoke, first of all, in praise of God, and in  acknowledgement of His greatness.
                They then quoted the Scriptures, showing that prophecy has been fulfilled and is being fulfilled, acknowledging, again, the sovereignty of God in doing His purpose and will.
                Then, after all that, they ask for three things:
                            1. That ‘”with all boldness” they might speak “Your word.
                            2. That God would stretch forth His hand to heal.
                            3. That signs and wonders would be done through the name of
                              Jesus.
                                       
    Does it look like that prayer was answered?  When the disciples prayed, that day, the Lord shook the house!  What if the Lord shook this house every time we prayed?

    God did even more that they asked, by the way;  He filled them with the Holy Spirit, and it was only after doing that that He answered the rest of their prayer, because God determined not only to answer their prayer,  but also to equip them with the power of the Holy Spirit so that they would be adequately enabled to do exactly what they asked for – to speak boldly and to be instrumental in healing people.

    Are you ready to pray that kind of prayer?  Are you ready to ask for that kind of an answer, for that kind of power?   Are you ready to be a part of that kind of an answer?

    Elijah prayed a prayer that brought shocking and incredible results –  The essence of his prayer, though is rather simple.  He prayed that God would “show this people that Thou art Lord God, and that I am Thy servant.”  God’s answer, as you know, was dramatic and overwhelming, for He sent down fire from heaven that licked up the water in the trenches and lit the fire on the altar and burnt the sacrifices, there.

    Jesus prayed a prayer that shook the Heavens, too, I believe, but God didn’t give Him His request.  But when Jesus prayed, in the Garden of Gethsemene that He be relieved and delivered from the awful fate that awaited Him – trial, torture, humiliation, shame and crucifixion, I can imagine that the Heavens shook at the great conflict between the love of God the Father for His Son, and the Love of the Father for you and me.  I can imagine God the Father shaking His fist at the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the ruling high priests, shaking His fists at Satan, and the sins of mankind.

    And I can imagine that the tremors were still rippling through the universe as God, resolved in His awful conclusion to allow His own beloved Son to die for the sin of mankind, settled back down on His throne, and, in my imagination, at least, uttered those words repeated later and made famous by Audrey Hepburn in “My Fair Lady, “ Just you wait . . . ”

    In the book of James, chapter 5, verse 16, we find these words, which we have quoted before, but they are still surprisingly simple, direct, and full of promise:  “The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”
    Are you ready for God to “avail much” through your prayer?  Are you ready for God to equip you with the Holy Spirit to give you the power to be instrumental in accomplishing the answer to your prayer?

    How many righteous men and women do we have, here?
                How much might be “availed” through the fervent prayers of this body and through the individuals, here?

                Are you ready to “avail much”?  I believe much has been accomplished.  I believe individuals have been shielded and protected from danger and harm;  I believe people have been healed and made well.  I believe God has stepped into circumstances where we and the people we have prayed for need His help, and I believe God stands poised to do more and more and to show Himself mighty, and the name of His Son, Jesus, as the rightful owner of authority over this world and its people, and I believe the world stands ready to reap the results of those rather forboding words – words in my imagination, but, I have no doubt, formed in His own way and in His own thoughts and in His own words, “Just you wait, world, just you wait.”

    Let’s get ready for God to “Shake the House!”

  69. Greetings in the name of Jesus, and welcome – from Concord Community Church and from Pastor Steve Ward.  Please join us in person, if you can, at 7875 Concord Road. Patriot, Indiana.  We’re “the little white church down the lane,” half-way between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.

    Scripture and Thoughts                                              August 29, 2021

    The Prayer  That Shook the House               

    Acts 4:13-31
    The Name of Jesus Forbidden
    13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. 14 And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. 15 But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, 16 saying, “What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a [a]notable miracle has been done through them is evident[b] to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name.”
    18 So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. 20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” 21 So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way of punishing them, because of the people, since they all glorified God for what had been done. 22 For the man was over forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed.

    Prayer for Boldness
    23 And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them.  24 So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “ ‘ Lord, you are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, (25) who by the mouth of Your servant, David, have said,
                “Why do the heathen rage, and the people plot vain things?
                (26) The kings of the earth took their stand,
                 And the rulers were gathered together
                Against the Lord and against His Christ.”

    (27) For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together
    (28) to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.
    (29) Now, Lord, look upon their threats, and grant to your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word,
    (30) by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus. (31) And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled was shaken; and they were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.”
                What is happening, here?

    In the first place, a man had been healed.  He is sometimes called the crippled beggar.  The Bible tells us that this man was carried to his place beside the temple gate, and there, every day, he would beg for money from the people going in to the temple to pray.

    When he asked for money from Peter and John, Peter made a famous statement:  “Silver and gold have I none, but what I have I give thee.  In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”

    When the man was thus miraculously healed, people came rushing to the place where they were in order to see about this miracle.  Peter saw that this was a perfect opportunity to tell about Jesus – not only about His healing power, but also His having been crucified, buried and resurrected and that He was and is the Christ, the Messiah.

    The priests, the temple guard, and the Sadducees heard about it, they were extremely upset that the disciples were talking and teaching about the resurrection from the dead.  The Sadducees, especially, didn’t believe in the resurrection.  Never mind that Jesus just rose from the dead.  The fact was that they didn’t believe in it, and that was more important than the truth.  Since they didn’t believe in it, it couldn’t have happened, and, since they didn’t believe in it, they didn’t want other people being told about it happening and risk having them believe it.

    The disciples were thrown into jail and made to appear before the Sanhedrin in the morning.

    There, they told the high court – the Sanhedrin – that the beggar had, indeed, been healed in the name of Jesus “. . .whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.”

    The Sanhedrin was stuck!  They couldn’t deny the miracle.  All Jerusalem was a-buzz about it; everyone knew about it. 

    The Jewish leaders threatened the disciples that they should no longer speak about Jesus.  In response, Peter delivers another famous quote: “We ought to obey God rather than men.”

                When the apostles and others gathered together to pray, they spoke, first of all, in praise of God, and in  acknowledgement of His greatness.
                They then quoted the Scriptures, showing that prophecy has been fulfilled and is being fulfilled, acknowledging, again, the sovereignty of God in doing His purpose and will.
                Then, after all that, they ask for three things:
                            1. That ‘”with all boldness” they might speak “Your word.
                            2. That God would stretch forth His hand to heal.
                            3. That signs and wonders would be done through the name of
                              Jesus.
                                       
    Does it look like that prayer was answered?  When the disciples prayed, that day, the Lord shook the house!  What if the Lord shook this house every time we prayed?

    God did even more that they asked, by the way;  He filled them with the Holy Spirit, and it was only after doing that that He answered the rest of their prayer, because God determined not only to answer their prayer,  but also to equip them with the power of the Holy Spirit so that they would be adequately enabled to do exactly what they asked for – to speak boldly and to be instrumental in healing people.

    Are you ready to pray that kind of prayer?  Are you ready to ask for that kind of an answer, for that kind of power?   Are you ready to be a part of that kind of an answer?

    Elijah prayed a prayer that brought shocking and incredible results –  The essence of his prayer, though is rather simple.  He prayed that God would “show this people that Thou art Lord God, and that I am Thy servant.”  God’s answer, as you know, was dramatic and overwhelming, for He sent down fire from heaven that licked up the water in the trenches and lit the fire on the altar and burnt the sacrifices, there.

    Jesus prayed a prayer that shook the Heavens, too, I believe, but God didn’t give Him His request.  But when Jesus prayed, in the Garden of Gethsemane that He be relieved and delivered from the awful fate that awaited Him – trial, torture, humiliation, shame and crucifixion, I can imagine that the Heavens shook at the great conflict between the love of God the Father for His Son, and the Love of the Father for you and me.  I can imagine God the Father shaking His fist at the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the ruling high priests, shaking His fists at Satan, and the sins of mankind.

    And I can imagine that the tremors were still rippling through the universe as God, resolved in His awful conclusion to allow His own beloved Son to die for the sin of mankind, settled back down on His throne, and, in my imagination, at least, uttered those words repeated later and made famous by Audrey Hepburn in “My Fair Lady, “ Just you wait . . . ”

    In the book of James, chapter 5, verse 16, we find these words, which we have quoted before, but they are still surprisingly simple, direct, and full of promise:  “The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”
    Are you ready for God to “avail much” through your prayer?  Are you ready for God to equip you with the Holy Spirit to give you the power to be instrumental in accomplishing the answer to your prayer?

    How many righteous men and women do we have, here?
                How much might be “availed” through the fervent prayers of this body and through the individuals, here?

                Are you ready to “avail much”?  I believe much has been accomplished.  I believe individuals have been shielded and protected from danger and harm;  I believe people have been healed and made well.  I believe God has stepped into circumstances where we and the people we have prayed for need His help, and I believe God stands poised to do more and more and to show Himself mighty, and the name of His Son, Jesus, as the rightful owner of authority over this world and its people, and I believe the world stands ready to reap the results of those rather foreboding words – words in my imagination, but, I have no doubt, formed in His own way and in His own thoughts and in His own words, “Just you wait, world, just you wait.”

    Let’s get ready for God to “Shake the House!”

  70. Greetings in the name of Jesus, and welcome – from Concord Community Church and from Pastor Steve Ward.  Please join us in person, if you can, at 7578 Concord Road. Patriot, Indiana.  We’re “the little white church down the lane,” half-way between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.

    Scripture and Thoughts                                 September 5, 2021

    II Timothy 4: 7 6-8
    I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
    8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

    Philippians 3:8-14
    8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
    9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
    10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
    11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
    12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
    13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
    14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

    Have you ever watched a boxing match?
    Consider , if you will, two boxers preparing for the match of their lives.  They do all the training, they do all the preparations, they watch films of their opponent, they listen to their trainer, they tweak their strengths; they work on their weakness, and, finally, the big moment arrives.  They meet in the ring; they go head to head, toe to toe, and glove to glove.  Between rounds they retreat to their respective corners, flop on a stool, and they get a rub-down, perhaps some first aid, and, most of all, they get advice from their trainer:

                “Watch for that left hook.”
                            “Keep moving”
                                        “Keep up with the jabs to the body”
                                                    Or he might say: “Let him wear himself out; stay away from him,
                                                    but keep him swinging.”
                The advice might be, “Go after him; he’s weakening.”
                            “Stay off the ropes.” Stay in close; stay in tight.”

    And all the time the trainer is coaching and advising, he is saying to himself, if only he would listen to me; if only he would do as I say; If only he would remember his training;”  if only; if only . . .

    How often must a trainer watch his fighter and say, “O.K.  Now!” “”Go!”  “Watch out . . .”
    I’m sure there are many trainers who go to bed after a big fight and say, “Why didn’t he listen to me?  Why did he do such a dumb thing?  I thought he knew better . . .”

    “Do you suppose God does the same thing when we come out of a battle or a struggle:  “Why didn’t she listen to me?  Why did he do such a dumb thing?  I thought she knew better;  if only he had followed my principles and training.”

    Did God watch the struggle and say, “OK, duck; watch for that crooked maneuver; don’t go for the fake.  Why won’t he listen to me?”

    Yes, God longs to be your coach and trainer;  He longs for your willingness to learn and to listen to His rules, His principles, His teaching; He longs for you to train under His tutelage; He longs for you to sit in His corner and to receive His healing and revitalization.

    But there’s something else that God longs for in our fight against the battles, the temptations, and the struggles.

    Let’s consider the idea of a boxing match, again.

    Let’s say that two different contenders are going to fight the current, reigning world champion heavy-weight boxer.

    When contender No. 1 arrives for his big fight, he is glowing with energy, rippling with muscles, extraordinarily well-trained, and as physically fit as he can be.  He looks better than the champion, has trained more aggressively and more consistently, and looks as though he could beat anyone.  When contender # 1 goes against the champion he knows he can swing with all his might for the entire length of the bout; he knows he can dance around the champion continually for as long as the fight lasts.

    The fight commences and the contender wades into the fray with extreme confidence and aggression.  He even appreciates his trainer and seems to listen to advice from the corner – even says “thank you,” but then he goes on and fights the fight his own way.  He may have paid lip-service to all of that good advice, but he decided to follow his own game plan, his own smarts, and his own strategy.

    At the end of the day, the champion is still champion;  The contender survives with his life and not much else.  He lies on the mat, all played out, beaten up, and nearly unconscious; he doesn’t understand what happened.  He knows he fought with all his might, and that he gave it his best effort.  The trainer is saying, “If only . . .if only, . . .”

    Now, let’s fast forward to contender #2.

    Contender #2 is a fine-looking human being, alright, as far as the average human being is concerned, but he’s not particularly impressive in comparison with other fighters.  In fact, as fighters go, he looks a little frail and even slightly anemic. 
    He is not a big person; he is not well muscled or toned, and his over-all appearance looks very ordinary – more like the man on the street.  The champion actually sneers and acts a little insulted at the very thought of fighting this obviously inferior specimen of a fighter.

    When the fight starts and the fighters begin their careful assessment of each other – faking, fading, dodging, and jabbing, the mismatch is even more obvious and almost overwhelming.  The contender is overshadowed and looks belittled merely by being beside the champion.  Despite his bravery and obvious courage, the crowd has a feeling of impending doom for him.

    There is, however, something uncanny going on.  A few among the crowd notice it; many ignore it or even smile at the sight they see.  But in the corner of the newcomer – in the corner of the challenger – the trainer seems to be fighting his own shadow-boxing fight in lock step with the little fighter in the ring.  When the real fighter jabs, the trainer jabs.  When the fighter in the ring ducks, the trainer ducks.  Every move in the ring is replicated outside the ring.  But now, as the fight continues, the onlookers begin to realize that the trainer is not merely following the moves of the fighter in the ring.  No, it’s the other way around.  Instead of the trainer following the moves of the fighter, the opposite is happening.  The fighter in the ring is actually following the moves of the trainer.  Through some amazing, unknown connection, there is a mysterious communication going on to the extent that the fighter moves and fights through a second-by-second one-ness with his trainer.
    But now, an even more amazing development begins to take shape before the eyes of the crowd.  – for every time the newcomer takes a swing at the champion, and even though the swing looks puny and impotent, still, it jars and staggers the champion as though it were thrown with enormous strength. The fighter in the ring takes another swing at the champion.  It seems almost gentle, but it lifts the champion off his feet and sends him flying against the ropes.  The most observant of the crowd saw it coming because they saw the swing of the trainer – full of concentration, full of strength and power, just as the little fighter in the ring followed suit.

    The champ comes back, visibly shaken, surprised, and a little unsteady.  Now the challenger fakes a jab and lands a devastating “one-two combination” that rocks the champion on his heels.  The move was again led by the moves of the trainer.  Now the new fighter moves forward with confidence, and he seems to make a quick calculation, and a quick series of jabs – again, moves that look almost anemic, but they knock the champion to the floor as though hit by a wrecking ball.  There is a simultaneous sigh from the fighter in the ring and the fighter in the corner; the referee gives the countdown; the champion is defeated.  The referee turns to raise the gloved hand of the new champion; it isn’t there.  Instead it is holding high the hand of his trainer, acknowledging the credit of the fight to the one who led him and who somehow seemed to lend his strength to the contest in the ring.

    You see, the fighter in the ring, challenging the world champion, was you or me.  The champion was our arch-enemy.  It might have been pride.  It might have been temptation.  It might have been the lust of the flesh; it could have been the habit of gossip, and it could have been nothing less than “the prince of the power of the air,” the “spirit of darkness,” Satan, himself.

    Yes, in our story of the second contender, the fighter may not have been super strong; he or she may not have known all the best tactics or have been skilled in all the right moves; the most important part of his fight was that he was empowered by his trainer, his God, his Savior, and when the fight was over, he gave credit to the one to whom it belonged – to the God who gave him strength.

    The apostle Paul says, “And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness.  Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (II Cor. 12:9)

    The Psalmist says (27:1) The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

    And, again, (Ps.:26) “My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever.”

    II Cor. 12:10, “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

    The first fighter to face the champion was a super specimen of a fighter.  Again, he is you or me.  Perhaps he sounded great when he prayed; perhaps he went to church every time the doors were open.  Perhaps he was a member of every board on which he could serve.  However, when it came to the test – when it came down to the fight, he was confident that he, himself, was strong enough – that he could win the battle in his own strength, that he could give God the occasional nod, and that he, himself would come out the victor.

    The second fighter knew his own weaknesses.  He knew his shortcomings.  He knew his frailties.  He knew that his only chance was to trust in the strength and guidance of God.  He came out victorious because God fought the fight for him.  He won because in knowing his own weakness, he came to depend upon the strength of his God.

    Does this mean we shouldn’t train?  Does it mean we shouldn’t study? Does it mean we should be unprepared?  No, of course not.  But it does mean that, no matter how strong or weak we are, our victory comes from the Lord.  Again, quoting the Psalmist, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

  71. Greetings in the name of Jesus, and welcome – from Concord Community Church and from Pastor Steve Ward. Please join us in person, if you can, at 7578 Concord Road. Patriot, Indiana. We’re “the little white church down the lane,” half-way between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.

    Scripture and Thoughts – Untied Shoe Laces 9/12/2021
    Luke 3:16 “ . . . I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to loose; he shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire;”

    John 3:30 26. “He that was with thee beyond Jordan to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to Him. 27. John answered and said, ‘A man can receive nothing except it be given to him from Heaven. 28. Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, “I am not the Christ. . . .” 29. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom . . . . rejoiceth greatly . . . this my joy, therefore, is fulfilled.’ 30. ‘He must increase, but I must decrease.’ ”

    John 1:29 -36

    “As the people were in expectation, and all men questioned in their hearts concerning John, whether perhaps he were the Christ, John answered them all, “but he who is mightier than I is coming the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie;”

    Two hunters, Two Moose, and a Pilot
    A couple of hunters chartered a plane to fly into the Canadian wilderness. Two weeks later when the pilot came to pick them up, he saw that the hunters had bagged two animals. So the pilot said to the hunters, “I told you fellows that I could only take you two and one moose. You’ll have to leave one behind.”
    “But we did it last year in a plane this size,” protested one of the hunters, and the other pilot let us load up two moose.”
    “Well, okay, said the pilot. “If you did it before I guess we can do it again.”
    “So the two moose and the hunters were loaded and the plane took off. Because of the heavy weight, it rose with difficulty and was unable to clear an obstructing hill. After the crash, the men climbed out and looked around.
    One hunter said to the other, “Where are we, anyway?”
    His companion surveyed the scene. “I think we got about half a mile farther than we got last year.”

    The title to our message, this morning, “Untied Shoe Laces” – is a reference to the expression of John the Baptist that he was totally unworthy of being even the lowliest servant in the presence of Jesus, as we found in our Scripture reading.

    John the Baptist was in an unusual position, but he wasn’t a very good politician. Here he was with huge crowds, overwhelming response, and amazing results. Modern-day politicians would gloat over such response, and they certainly wouldn’t let such an opportunity go to waste. In fact they’d be out there “pressing the flesh,” kissing babies, making statements to the press, and posing for pictures. He could have done the most popular thing, it seems, for a typical politician; when they asked him if he were the Christ, he could have said, “I haven’t decided, yet, whether I’m a candidate.”

    He could have “led them on” quite easily, in fact. Most politicians will insist that just because they didn’t tell the truth, it still doesn’t mean they told a lie.

    — a little like the Story of the two hunters, two moose, and a pilot.

    So, who ever said that John the Baptist had to tell the whole truth?

    John the Baptist could have encouraged a huge and growing audience; he could have had an increasingly enthusiastic and loyal following.

    Following? John the Baptist wasn’t looking for a following! He went around insulting and accusing his audience.

    The truth is that John the Baptist was, and knew he was, merely a preliminary. He was meant to be the messenger. John the Baptist was the opening act, but he also was not looking to make a name for himself. He was Intended to play, as we have said before, the hardest instrument there is to play; he was intended to play Second Fiddle, and nothing else. His job – his objective, was to turn these people away from himself and to direct them to Jesus.

    Can you imagine any of the popular leaders of today working this way? Can you imagine, for example, a modern-day presidential candidate standing up and saying, “I’m not the one! You need somebody else!”

    NOT GONNA HAPPEN !!!

    How about a great musician staging an appearance, and then, after all the publicity and “hoopla,” and after all the record-breaking crowds had gathered, can you imagine a modern-day musician standing up and saying “I’m not the one you should applaud. There is another – one so great and astounding that I’m not even worthy of being on the same stage with him or of serving on his set-up crew. He’s the one to applaud. He’s the one to be recognized. He must be celebrated and recognized more and more, while I must slip into the background and be forgotten.

    There are relatively few people who truly travel the road of self-denial and true humility. There are few who will readily take a back seat and to then be willing to get out at the next stop. . . . but that’s what John the Baptist was doing.

    Do you remember some of the things that John the Baptist did say?
    (Luke 3:16) “He who is mightier than I is coming, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”
    -John was preparing the way for the introduction of Jesus as the Christ – as one who is worthy of our highest reverence and our most ardent devotion.
    -John was proclaiming himself unworthy of performing the most menial of tasks for Jesus. (so it was no wonder that he felt so unworthy to baptize Jesus, and he did so only at Jesus’ insistence.)
    -(John 1:36) “Behold, the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world.”
    THIS WAS THE ANNOUNCEMENT! THIS WAS THE PROCLAMATION! THIS WAS THE MOMENT FOR WHICH JOHN HAD BEEN BORN, AND FOR WHICH HE HAD BEEN WAITING.
    -(John 3:30) “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
    This was John’s answer to his own disciples who were asking about Jesus baptizing, “all men come to him.” John’s disciples were a little jealous for him. But here, too, we find John the Baptist totally unwilling to wish for or work for any of the glory and honor which, as he knew, must come to Jesus Christ. Here, again we find John reminding his disciples that he was not the Christ.

    Have you untied any shoe laces lately?
    Have you ever had anyone tie or untie your shoes for you? It’s a humbling experience – for someone to just kneel down and tie your shoes. It’s a lowly job – even in our day, and yet we are called to serve, not to be served. We are called to take a position of being the household help. We are not called to be the Master of the house or the debutante or the star.

    The example of Jesus was to wash his disciple’s feet.

    -Yet, by the grace of God, and since He does call us, we get to be “joint-heirs with Christ.” We must never forget His greatness, His magnificence, or the overwhelming majesty of His being, because that is the image that brings us to humility, but it is with that very picture in mind, the picture of His wonder, power, and glory, that we come to the full realization of the astonishing thing He has done for us —to reach down to our poor level of human-ness, and to set us up in a glorified and honored position as members of His very own family and to make us His own, to make us His cherished and prized possession.

    This is the God we serve; This is the God who loves us with an unequalled and unfailing love. This is the God who rescues and saves us.

    How great is this wonderful God we serve! Let us humble ourselves before Him and give Him, as much as we can, the honor that is due Him.

  72. Greetings in the name of Jesus, and welcome – from Concord Community Church and from Pastor Steve Ward.  Please join us in person, if you can, at 7578 Concord Road, Patriot, Indiana.  We’re “the little white church down the lane,” half-way between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.

    Wild West Chow Wagon         September 19, 2021

    Scripture Reading: Philippians 4:1, 4-9; 12-13; 19
    1. Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.
    4 Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.
    5 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.
    6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
    7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
    8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
    9 Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.
     12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
    13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
    19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

    There’s a story I would like to tell you about the Wild West and a Chuck Wagon on a Wagon Train.

    The wagon train was headed west, of course, and they were doing quite well.  Perhaps they were a little behind schedule, and perhaps they had had their share of incidents over the course of their journey, but their trip would have to fall into the category of “normal” —  until two very unusual things happened. 

    First, the wagon train was joined by a small group of men who were traveling on foot.  At first, everyone was suspicious, of course, because a group of men on foot was, by itself, very unusual, and, secondly, what were they up to?  The wagon master was very reluctant to let them join up, but when he realized that they were unarmed —  not a gun amongst them — he was considerably relieved.  Also, they were very willing to pay the entire, normal fee that everyone else had paid at the very start for being guided to the West, and the extra income would be most welcome.  Even then, they would be closely watched. 

    As it turned out, they were certainly worth watching — and hearing — because they were almost nothing but helpful.  When a wagon got stuck or was having a hard time going up a hill or across a stream, well, this bunch was always quick to pitch in — shoulders to push, arms to lift and to steady, and cheery spirits to encourage and to keep things on the bright side.  They were a very welcome addition to the otherwise weary trip.  One of them, their leader, it seemed, loved to tell stories, and became a favorite campfire entertainer.  The parents, especially, liked his stories, because they almost always taught a lesson or a moral value.

    The second thing that happened was truly upsetting.  The Supply Wagon caught on fire.  A wayward burning ember landed, unnoticed, on the canvas, and, before anyone realized it, the wagon was quite consumed.  Very little was saved, and the situation was dire, indeed.  Sugar, salt, flour, spices, and a good bit of dried meat was lost.

    They would have to survive on wild game and whatever they could scavenge from the land, and the land did not look promising.

    The day came when they were at the end of their meager remaining supplies, and they were still several days away from a town.  The small group of men mentioned earlier, the ones traveling on foot, took it upon themselves to try to cheer everyone up.  Their leader, in fact, kept assuring everyone that everything was going to be all right. 

    Then, that evening, as suppertime approached, he could be seen going from wagon to wagon.  He was collecting the last little bits of supplies from each wagon — a few vegetables here and there, three potatoes from one family, along with some wild onions and one rabbit that had been found by the hunters.  He took his little collection of bits of food and tossed them into a small pot with some water and began cooking it over a little fire. 

    At first, people were just very curious, watching him cook this little pot of thrown-together stew over the cook’s campfire.  Some scoffed at his apparent attempt to cook for the camp.  A few started accusing him of planning to prepare a last meal for himself and his little group.  He just smiled and cooked on in silence.

    Soon the enticing aroma began filing the air, and it did smell good!  Then he called out to the entire camp:  “Come and get it!  Come and get it.”  “Everyone, each one of you bring a plate and get some food.”

    Well, the travelers were wishful, but they were mighty doubtful, too, considering the very small size of his cooking pot, but the group of men who were with him encouraged them all to come.  When they circled around, He said a prayer, blessing the food and blessing their journey and blessing their health.

    When He had finished, he called the largest of the families to line up.  Everyone else groaned, because there surely would not be a bite left over after this family got through.  He fed the little ones first, and he spooned deep into the pot for the biggest chunks of meat and the best of the vegetables he could find.  He did the same for each child — all nine of them — and just smiled when the thankful-looking mother said, “Is there anything left?”  He took her plate and spooned into the pot and came up with plenty enough of everything to make a fine helping of fine-tasting rabbit stew.

    The man of the household had, by now, resigned himself to the scrapings and maybe a cup of tea, perhaps, but the new cook just took his big plate and heaped it full with broth and meat and vegetables.

    He called the next family, who came hesitatingly, but not without hope, because the whole camp was eager to see what was to become of that one little pot of stew which had already fed far more than it had the capacity for.

    The rest of the camp was almost on the edge of their seats — or blankets or stumps or saddles or whatever it was they were sitting on, because they were starting to realize that they were witnessing the impossible.  Family after family came through the serving line, gently guided by various ones of the small group of men, and each was given a full plate-full, always adequate for a very satisfying meal.  Everyone was dumbfounded at what had occurred, but no one was willing to ask Him, “How did you do that?”

    That night, around the campfire, this man, the leader of the small group of men — the one who had been the cook of the miraculous supper — started to talk to them, again, as He had done so often before, but this time He said some strange-sounding things, like “I am the bread of life,” and “Whoever believes in me will never die, but will live forever.” and “To anyone who asks, I will give him living water.”

    That night, when everything was still, one of the men of the camp thought he would be funny, and he called out, “Hey, preacher-man, I’m thirsty.  How about bringing me some of that there living water of yours.  Hey guys. Does this mean we don’t have to fetch water from a stream no more?” 

    Another called out, “Hey, preacher-man, how ’bout some of that bread from heaven with jam for breakfast in the morning.  Let’s see what we can do with that.”

    In the morning the “Preacher-man” had moved to the outer edge of the camp, and people began to think that they had  made too much fun of Him. A few people went to talk to Him and to ask Him to cook for them, again.  His reply was that they were only interested in the physical food.  They weren’t interested in the spiritual food He had offered.  After that they left Him alone. 

    Late in the day, as they traveled, they came upon a mountain canyon filled with grouse and pheasants, but they couldn’t fly more than a foot or two off the ground, and the men realized they had found easy prey, and they gathered enough game for the whole camp.

    That evening the “preacher-man” stayed by his own campfire.  Most people stayed away, but a few came and asked if He would tell them more about the things He had told them the night before.

    The next day they came to a ghost town, but it couldn’t have been a ghost town, completely, because there was a bakery there.  It was abandoned, too, but loaves and loaves of bread were set out, not more than a day old, and there was a sign that read, “Take all you want.  I’m moving on.”  It was enough to feed the whole camp.

    Again, the “preacher-man” stayed on the edges of camp with a fire for Him and His men.  A few people came to hear Him, again.

    By this time the wagon-master had called a huddle of all the men in the camp and had told them to be extra careful, cautious, and on-the-alert.  “He’s up to somethin’, that’s for sure!  Nobody can pull off that kind of stuff without a whole lot of trickery and unseen help, somewhere.  You just keep your eyes peeled.  We may be in for the biggest fight of our lives, and I want to be ready.”
     

    In the Bible we find the story about the One who joined mankind and showed Himself to be kind and loving and helpful beyond human comprehension.  In fact, it says, speaking of Jesus, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14, KJV)

    Earlier in the chapter, it says, “He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not.  He came unto His own, but His own received Him not.  But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:10-13, KJV)

    We belong to a Savior who can meet all our needs.  He is abundantly able to feed us physically and spiritually.  We have a God who owns the “cattle on a thousand hills,” and He loves us.  He especially loves it when we trust in Him.  His first interest is in our eternal welfare, our eternal destiny.  Jesus tells us that the lilies of the field are more splendidly adorned than was Solomon in his greatest glory, so why should we fret about what we need and about what we will wear or even what we will eat.  He wants us to realize that we truly are called to cast all our cares upon Him, “for He careth for you?”

    Do we really believe that? Or are we keeping Jesus out there on the edges, off to Himself, with us showing little interest in His message of love and care while we worry about why He doesn’t get Himself “with the program,” feeding us and taking care of us. 

    We teach that God accepts the unworthy, and then we act as though we want to prove to Him that we are still not worthy because we don’t want to change our lives and our talk and our thoughts.  We sometimes act as though God would rather we stay unworthy of Him so we can prove how willing He is to accept the unworthy. 

    May God help us to realize that He wants a new man, a new woman, that He wants to create in us a new creation, one that is fit for His work and for His presence.

    God help us to really listen to how He wants us to change.  God help us to want to be worthy of Him and of His love.  May God help us to seek holiness of person and action and character and heart.  We must not keep Him on the edges of the camp, unwelcome to be a part of us.

    Let us seek to walk with Him.  Let us seek His presence, wholly aware that He is a Holy God who deserves nothing less than holy lives, holy communication, holy thoughts, and holy actions.

    Do we realize, though, that when we ask Him to walk with us, we are asking a holy God to be a part of our lives?  So what do we think?  Do we think God is going to become unholy just so He can walk side by side with us?  Or do you suppose God expects us to become holy so that we can take His hand?

  73. Greetings in the name of Jesus, and welcome – from Concord Community Church and from Pastor Steve Ward. Please join us in person, if you can, at 7578 Concord Road, Patriot, Indiana. We’re “the little white church down the lane,” half-way between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.

    The Wagon Train Reconstructed 9-26-2021

    Scripture Reading: John 1:1-13 (King James Version)

    1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
    2 The same was in the beginning with God.
    3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
    4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
    5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
    6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
    7 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.
    8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
    9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
    10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
    11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
    12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
    13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

    Last week I told you a story about a wagon train — headed west, of course, and, on the trail, they were joined by a small group of men travelling on foot – a real curiosity in the West — and they asked if they could join the wagon train. Despite their unusual travelling habits and some rather reasonable suspicions, they were taken on.

    As we told you, also, the supply wagon for the journey caught on fire, consuming much of what they were relying on to supplement the work of the hunting parties.

    We also told you, when the last of the supplies were quite depleted, that the leader of that small group of men went from wagon to wagon, rounding up every last meager scrap of food from the various families and cooking it in a small pot, and then He started distributing it around, and the supper He had fixed in that small cooking pot stretched and stretched until the entire camp had satisfied their hunger.

    He also wanted them to listen to His spiritual teaching, but they weren’t very interested. They brushed Him off and even made fun of Him. They were only interested in being fed — physical food, that is.

    From then on He stopped going to their campfires where He had told stories each night — stories about life and the right way to live and how to think about God and how to follow God’s ways.

    Instead, He and His men had their own campfire, away from the main camp, because they felt they weren’t welcome, although they did invite people to join them.

    Other things happened, too, as the wagon train kept coming upon various food sources – pheasants, grouse, and even baked bread that had been abandoned. They refused to consider that it had anything to do with the strangers who had joined them. Most of them were quite satisfied to get whatever happened to come along — or so they thought — and to leave well enough alone about where it came from.

    In fact, they were pretty satisfied to have this group of men stay out along the edge of camp where they could help when needed, but where their discussions and ideas could be on a “Take it or leave it” basis. People in the camp wanted to have some distance from religious ideas and influences.

    And so do people, today. We sometimes like to keep God at a distance so that we can do what we want to without feeling too much pressure from what God thinks.

    After all. how many of us wants God in the back seat while we’re letting loose a stream of choice words about another driver – or maybe even about a neighbor or a relative or a fellow church member? How many of us even want God to hear our unkind words about each other? Like the Wagon Train travelers, though, we would like for Him to come along. We even believe — or, at least we say so — that “my God shall supply all your needs.”

    We honestly recognize — at least, in our heads — that He is abundantly able to feed us physically and spiritually. We even know we have a God who owns the “cattle on a thousand hills,” and that He loves us. We know He especially loves it when we trust in Him. We said, last week, that His first interest is in our eternal welfare, our eternal destiny.

    Jesus tells us this:

    25. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
    26. Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
    27. Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
    28. And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
    29. And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
    30. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
    31. Therefore take no thought, saying, ‘What shall we eat?” or, “What shall we drink?” or, “Wherewithal shall we be clothed?”
    32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

    33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

    Last week we talked about being holy, about being righteous, and about associating with a Holy God, and we know that there is only one way for us to be holy; there is only one way for us to be righteous. There is only one way for us to get out from under our own sin.

    The Bible says,
    21 “For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”

    Let’s clarify that a little:
    “For He (God the Father) hath made Him (Jesus Christ) to be sin for us, (Jesus took our sin upon Himself; as though He were the guilty one), who knew no sin; (Jesus is the only man who lived on this earth without sinning) that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (Jesus Christ).”

    The only way for us to be righteous is to take on the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ. He has to give us His righteousness because frankly, “You ain’t got it.” –“I ain’t got it, either”

    The wonderful thing is that it’s ours for the asking. “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved, for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. It is an astounding thing to receive the righteousness of God. Have you ever thought about that? — to actually receive the righteousness of God.

    Have you ever been struck by lightning? — because maybe that’s the way it ought to hit us, like a bolt out of the blue.

    Have you ever been given credit for something someone else did? Did you ever receive a 1st place ribbon that belonged to someone else? Were you ever declared the champion when someone else did the winning?

    Well, God gets the first place ribbon for righteousness, and He’s the grand champion of sinless perfection, and He’s giving you the credit; He’s giving you the award.

    21 “For he hath made him to be sin for us” OH! SO HE GETS CREDIT FOR OUR SINFULNESS!, “who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” JESUS IS IN THE RING WITH US AND HE’S DANCING AROUND HOLDING UP OUR HANDS AS THE WINNER! WE’RE THE RIGHTEOUS ONE!

    So what are we doing mucking around down here with a bunch of sinful self pride and a load of malicious gossip and a heap of not-so-righteous private thoughts and a pile of innuendo-laden whispers and back-stabbing? Why are we still trying to carry on with the sin habits?

    Why are we not filling our lives with every effort to live as God would want us to live?

    The Bible says “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the ends thereof are the ways of death.”

    We said it last week: God help us to realize that He wants a new man, a new woman, and that He wants to create in us a new creation, one that is fit for His work and for His presence.

    I know God will forgive us when we fail. What I’m afraid to ask is, “Will God continue to forgive us if we would just rather keep on sinning?”

    It may be, if we find ourselves in that situation, that we were never truly converted in the first place, and that’s a very scary consideration.

    Here’s the question: Would you rather keep on gossiping, or would you rather be a Christian?

    Would you rather make a hurtful comment or would you rather be a Christian? Would you rather entertain bad thoughts, or would you rather be a Christian?

    We said it last week: God help us to really listen to how He wants us to change. God help us to want to be worthy of Him and of His love. May God help us to seek holiness of person and action and character and heart. We must not keep Him on the edges of the camp, unwelcome to be a part of us.

    Let us seek to walk with Him. Let us seek His presence, wholly aware that He is a Holy God who deserves nothing less than holy lives, holy communication, holy thoughts, and holy actions.

  74. BLESSINGS Concord Family< October is "Pastors Appreciation Month" !!! Pastor Steve is recovering from his left hip replacement surgery on Thursday, September 30th. The surgery was at 8:30 am, and he was home in his comfy chair by 7:30 pm. PRAISING AND REJOICING!!! Steve and Sharon would love to hear from you…they have been our shepherds for 29 years<

    The sermon for the FIRST SUNDAY of OCTOBER was given by a dear friend of Concord, Lary Jones. He continued his teaching on… "REVIVAL"

    HERE IS HIS MESSAGE:

    Currently many prophets are saying we are entering into a worldwide revival, a third Great Awaking. (Dutch Sheets, Ken Christmas, Mario Murillo) One mentioned 300 fires spread across America, fires of revival. There is already signs on the west coast with tent meetings with Mario Murillo, Many salvations and healings.

    Christianity Today had an article in 1971 talking about a last great revival before Christ Returns. The prophesy in Joel 2 and Acts 2 refers to an outpouring of God’s spirit through out the world. Pentecost was surely a beginning but was that the end of that prophesy?

    Acts 2:17-21
    17 ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,
    That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;
    Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
    Your young men shall see visions,
    Your old men shall dream dreams.
    18 And on My menservants and on My maidservants
    I will pour out My Spirit in those days;
    And they shall prophesy.
    19 I will show wonders in heaven above
    And signs in the earth beneath:
    Blood and fire and vapor of smoke.
    20 The sun shall be turned into darkness,
    And the moon into blood,
    Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.
    21 And it shall come to pass
    That whoever calls on the name of the Lord
    Shall be saved.’

    What is Revival?

    Isaiah cried out: Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down that the mountains would tremble before you! Is this not a cry for renewal and revival?
    Ps 85:4 Restore us again, O God our savior.

    What we need today is a mighty manifestation of the glory of God in revival power with signs following. Revival is when God reveals himself in awesome holiness and irresistible power, it is a time as one Christian said, “when God visits the world of men and women to empower a fresh vision of His Power and Grace, which simultaneous reveals our sinfulness, inadequacy and desperate need of his mercy. In times of revival God’s people are restored from backsliding, carelessness, and inactivity. They become preoccupied with things of God. They become intensely prayerful, attending
    God house more frequently for fellowship and worships. They develop a hunger for God’s word which illuminates and powerfully penetrates the hearts of its hearers bringing conviction of our sin. Believers develop a new passion for souls and become deeply concerned about the spiritual welfare of the lost.
    Some say it is not revival we need but repentance.
    Revival is a sovereign move of God that renews people through repentance and a fresh baptism in the Holy Spirit with major effects on the whole community.
    A fresh discovery of Jesus and His love.

    2nd Great Awakening
    Share the story of William Seymour and the Azusa St. Revival of 1906

    Revival Will Overflow, CBN
    We should be praying, “God, I am yours. Everything I have is yours. I belong completely to you. Lord, fill me with your Spirit.” There is something more than forgiveness He has to give us. When He “rains righteousness” on us, when revival comes, we have the voice of God speaking to us. The Word of God comes alive like a flame within our heart. God uses us to take His Gospel to other people He loves. God uses our prayers to bring healing and blessing into the lives of those around us. He brings us “inexpressible and glorious joy,” (1 Peter 1:8). We will walk in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. And, the people of God have His peace, beyond any peace of this world. In a time of revival, there is great peace.
    The Word of God spreads in revival because it becomes so easy to witness to others about salvation. When a personal revival has come to you, then you radiate it. Jesus is such a reality that people come to you and say, “Tell me what it is you’ve got that’s different!” They’re coming to you. Remember, the Scripture records a sinner asking, “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). In times of revival it is just natural to talk about the Lord and His goodness.
    All over America, Christians need to be in prayer. We need to take the steps that are important in revival, to believe “That He [God] exists and that He rewards those that earnestly seek Him,” (Hebrews 11:6). The Bible promises, “You will seek me and find me when you seek with all your heart,” (Jeremiah 29:13). Jesus said, “I will do whatever you ask in My name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father,” (John 14:13). We need to fill our hearts with the promises of God, knowing that this is His reality for us. This is for us today. God has promised it. Remember His promise, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled,” (Matthew 5:6). We can be doing this kind of seeking and praying together with our families, in Believer's cell groups, in our local churches,
    Charisma Magazine J. Lee Grady
    But how do you stay on fire for the Lord? How can you raise your spiritual temperature at a time when many people's faith today has gone from lukewarm to freezing? Do you want God to set your heart on fire? Would you like to have a life-changing encounter with the Holy Spirit?
    It is possible to have that kind of spiritual revival. But it doesn't just happen. There are some steps you must take to warm your heart, prepare it for a holy visitation and increase your spiritual hunger.
    Study God’s Word
    Spiritual zeal is kindled in your heart when you hear God speak through the pages of the Bible. I'm not talking about casually reading daily devotionals with your eyes halfway open or halfheartedly skimming Bible verses on your phone. When you desperately dig into the Scriptures to find truth, you will say, as did the disciples who walked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus: "Were not our hearts burning within us while He was … explaining the Scriptures to us?" (Luke 24:32).
    Stoke the Furnace of Private Prayer
    Fires don't last long if you don't regularly pile wood on the flames. You should guard your quiet time with God as if your life depended on it. You cannot survive spiritually without regular communion with the Lord. Oswald Chambers put it bluntly: "Prayer is the vital breath of the Christian; not the thing that makes him alive, but the evidence that he is alive."
    Praise God With Abandon
    Sometimes the chill of discouragement, fear and anxiety can form icicles in our souls. The only way to melt the ice is to rejoice in the Lord. Are you going through an extended period of heaviness or disappointment? Psalm 47:1 says: "Clap your hands, all you people! Shout to God with a joyful voice."
    When you praise God with exuberance, new strength will arise. Make a decision that this year you will praise God in a more vocal, uninhibited way than ever before.

    Preparing the Heart for Revival 
    By Charles G. Finney
    “Break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till He come and rain righteousness upon you” (Hosea 10:12, KJV).
    What is it to break up the fallow ground? It is to soften the hard and dry heart until it is mellowed and is fit to receive the Word of God.
    Because the Jews were a nation of farmers, Scripture often refers to their occupation to illustrate its points. The prophet Hosea employed this strategy to tell the Jews they were becoming a nation of backsliders. He reproved them for their idolatry and threatened them with the judgments of God.
    Softening Your Heart
    If you want to break up the fallow ground of your heart, you must begin by looking at yourself. Examine your individual sins one by one. Go over them as carefully as a merchant goes over his books. General confessions of sin will never do. Your sins were committed one by one.
    Ingratitude. Write down all the times you can remember where you have received favors from God for which you have never thanked Him. Do not forget the numerous mercies you have received.
    Lack of love for God. Think how grieved and alarmed you would be if you discovered any lessening of affection for you in your wife, husband, or children.
    Neglecting your Bible reading. Note the cases when for perhaps weeks or longer, reading God’s Word was not a pleasure. Some people read whole chapters so carelessly that they cannot remember what they have been reading.
    Instances of unbelief. Recall the times when you have virtually charged the God of truth with lying by your unbelief in His express promises and declarations.
    Neglect of prayer. Think of the times when you have neglected secret prayer, family prayer, and prayer meetings.
    A lack of love for the souls of your fellowmen. Look at your friends and relatives and remember how little compassion you have felt for them. How many days have there been where you failed to pray about their sinful condition or show any ardent desire for their salvation?
    Watchful of your own life. How often have you entirely neglected to watch your conduct, and, having been off your guard, sinned before the world, the church, and God?
    Worldly mindedness. What has been the state of your heart in regard to your worldly possessions? Have you looked at them as really yours—as if you had a right to dispose of them as your own, according to your own will?

    Pride. Remember all the instances when you have found yourself acting or thinking with pride.
    Envy. Look at the times when you were envious of those whom you thought were above you in any way.
    A critical spirit. Remember the times you have had a bitter spirit and spoken of Christians in a manner that did not show charity or love; the times you have spoken unnecessarily about the faults, real or imagined, of members of the church or others behind their back.
    Lack of seriousness. How often have you been lighthearted before God as you would not have dared in the presence of an earthly sovereign? Perhaps you have had less respect for Him and His presence than you would show toward an earthly judge.
    Lying. It is any kind of designed deception. If you decide to make an impression contrary to the naked truth, you lie.
    Cheating. Remember all the cases in which you have dealt with an individual and done to him that which you would not like to have done to you.
    Hypocrisy. How many times have you confessed sins that you did not mean to stop committing?
    Robbing God. Think of the times you have misspent your time, squandering the hours God gave you to serve Him and save souls. Where have you squandered money on your lusts, or spent it for things you did not need, and which did not contribute to your health, comfort, or usefulness?
    Fruitful a Hundredfold
    Break up all the ground and turn it over. Go deep and turn the ground up so that it will all be mellow and soft. Then it will be ready to receive the seed and bear fruit a hundredfold.
    As you go over the catalog of your sins, make a resolution to reform your ways now. Wherever you find anything wrong, resolve at once, in the strength of God, to sin no more in that way.
    Do not expect God to miraculously break up your fallow ground for you. Those who profess to be Christians should never be so self-satisfied that they expect to start a revival by suddenly jumping out of their slumbers, blustering about and talking to sinners. Unless you are right with God and filled with the Spirit, your work will be mechanical and fruitless.
    CHARLES G. FINNEY (1792–1875) was an evangelist who played a key role in the Second Great Awakening. He was involved with the abolitionist movement and frequently denounced slavery from the pulpit. This article is excerpted from How to Experience Revival.

  75. Just One – October 17, 2021
    NU omits into
    Scripture Reading:
    Deuteronomy 6:4-5 “Hear, O Israel: [b]The Lord our God, the Lord is one! 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”

    I Corinthians 8:6” yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.”

    Acts 4:12  “ “ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
    One God
    Just One. “In the beginning God . . .”
    Ten Commandments: “Thou Shalt have no other gods before Me”
    Iranaeus, a first century church leader, and an important church father in the defense of the faith: “But there is one only God . . . He is Father, He is God, He the Founder, He the Maker, He the Creator . . . He it is whom the law proclaims, whom the prophets preach, whom Christ reveals, whom the Apostles make known to us, and in whom the church believes.”
    “For I, alone, am one God. There is none else.”
    “Thou shalt worship the Lord, thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.”
    Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord.”
    THERE IS ONE GOD.
    One Salvation:
    God promised the Messiah in the very beginning – in the immediate aftermath of the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, and He reconfirmed the promise over and over. There was never a time when God spoke of a second or third possible solution. He never suggested a massive “stimulus plan,” or a world-wide salvage trade-in plan. He didn’t send the prophets to sell eternal life insurance or an eternal annuity plan.
    There was only one plan, ever, and it was never dressed up, sold in a pretty package, or presented with a fancy, deceptive label. From the very beginning, God’s plan was to send a Savior – the Messiah – Jesus Christ, the Lord, to die for our sins. That’s it, pure and simple. Even mankind, himself, has tried to add to it: church membership, good works, baptism, communion, service in the church, membership in various religious orders or offices, etc., etc. It’s amazing how mankind can make such an elaborate mess of God’s simple plan of salvation.
    We sometimes want to dismiss the Old Testament as irrelevant, old fashioned, and filled with another way of life, or another era, but in doing so, we often fail to notice that the over-riding purpose of the Old Testament is the same as the over-riding purpose of the New Testament, and that purpose – in both the Old Testament and the New Testament – is to point us to God, and to direct us to the Savior, Jesus Christ.
    Some speak of conflicts between the Old Testament and the New Testament, but we need to see that there is harmony between the Old Testament and the New Testament, between the prophets and the apostles. The Creator spoken of by Moses is the Father revealed in Jesus Christ. His redemptive plan has been the same throughout history, and Jesus, Himself, said it best: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: No man cometh unto the Father but by Me.”
    The New Testament is the completion of the Old Testament; The New Testament shows the fulfillment of the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, God is saying, “Listen to what I’m telling you,” and in the New Testament God is saying, “See? What did I tell you?””See? I told you!”
    Eph 2:8,9, “For by Grace are ye saved by faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
    It has always been the same: God’s grace is set in motion through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
    Consider this: there was one problem: God was holy and man was sinful. The one and only God was the one and only being who could solve mankind’s one big problem.
    THERE IS ONE GOD. THERE IS ONE SALVATION.
    One Savior
    -There is No One Else – there is no statesman, no politician, no king or general, no winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, no esteemed teacher or professor, no Doctor or lawyer,, and there certainly is no other Son of God! How could anyone ever think there could be another Savior?
    – There is just not another Savior. Who else could be a Savior, anyway? Who could possibly pretend, or ever intend, to die for our sins if they had to die for their own sins? There is only one person, ever, to have been born without sin and to have lived without sin, and only He could die for someone else’s sin and not have to die for His own. He is the prophesied, anticipated, expected Messiah, come to present and offer God’s salvation to all of mankind.
    Let’s say you have a convicted murderer, and he wants to know if we can find someone who would take his punishment, and so you march him up and down death row and ask if there is anyone who would take this man’s punishment, and, of course, no one can, because they are all sentenced to be punished for the same sin; they are all scheduled for the same punishment of their own, so none of them can volunteer to die for the convict who wants someone to take his punishment.
    It is the same with our sin. We are all guilty, but when we look around for someone else to take our punishment, there is no one who is not guilty – except Jesus Christ. He, and He, alone can be our Savior.

    -No one else has ever died for our sins – and have you ever wondered why? Because no one else could rise from the dead and come back to establish and prove his claim –
    there is no one else!
    -No one else has ever risen from the dead to demonstrate that He was the Son of God!
    Has history ever recorded someone who, by their own power, of their own volition, and even by his own prediction, has risen from the dead and shown Himself alive – in public and in private, to crowds, to individuals, to as many as 500 people at one time – to prove He was really alive?
    The Bible says, “Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other name under Heaven, given among men whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
    REVIEW: THERE IS ONE GOD. THERE IS ONE SALVATION, AND THERE IS ONE SAVIOR.
    There is One path to following the Christian life.
    — Oh, people will act as though there are many ways. Some people will say there are many paths, but there is only one path to following the Christian life.
    Let’s suppose I am going to blaze a trail through the woods, and I want you to be able to follow it. You may say, “Just go on; I’ll get there; even if I go my own way.”
    But do you realize that my way goes though a valley, and that there is only one way in and one way out. Do you realize that my way leads past green pastures and still waters, and that I am the only one who knows how to get there, and that there has never been anyone who has gotten there without me? Do you realize that the way is dangerous and full of pitfalls, and no one else knows how to avoid them or to maneuver through or around them? Don’t you realize that I am the only one who can carry you when the going gets rough and impossible? Who do you think you are to think you can go your own way and still get to the places I will lead you?
    Jesus didn’t just say, “I am one of the Good Shepherds . . .”
    Why do you think Jesus said, “ Come unto me . . .” ? Why didn’t He say, “Why don’t you all come to me — or one of the apostles, here. . . Who do you like? Just pick someone . . . .”? Why didn’t He direct us to Moses or Abraham or Isaiah or Elijah? Because there is only one person – from all of history – there is only one person to follow, and that one person is Jesus Christ.
    How are we going to know how to behave? How are we going to know how to act?
    Are you going to fashion your life after some famous, popular person? Are you going to imitate a movie star and expect to be pleasing to God? Is there any person in all of history whose life is as safe to imitate? The Bible says, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus . . .”
    “Be ye followers of Christ Jesus . . . “THERE ONE GOD; THERE IS ONE SAVIOR; THERE IS ONE PATH TO FOLLOWING THE CHRISTIAN LIFE, and there is ONE HOLY SPIRIT who is our personal, indwelling Spirit of God, Himself.
    Jesus said, “And I will pray the Father, and He will send you the Holy Spirit.”
    Jesus said, “And ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you; and ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
    THERE IS ONE GOD, ONE SALVATION, ONE SAVIOR, ONE PATH TO FOLLOWING THE CHRISTIAN WALK, AND ONE HOLY SPIRIT.
    Therefore, there is one response, and that one response is to believe. Don’t complicate it with a bunch of add-ons or addendums or attachments or even the fine print.
    Every other part of our life, it seems, bombards us with a multitude of choices and possibilities. If you watch TV, you’ll hear from 14 – or maybe it’s 20 – different insurance companies who want to insure your car – and they can all save you money. There must be between 17 and 2017 health insurance options, and each one is the best there is. There are at least umpteen different medicines you should try to get your doctor to prescribe for you, and there are about the same number of companies making medicine for which you should sue and receive “significant compensation.” There are about 26 NFL football teams you can cheer for – or jeer at; and around 31 basketball teams in the NBA. You can choose from some 30 professional baseball teams – that’s just the Major leagues, and there are colleges participating in every nearly every imaginable sport in almost every major city. – So many choices . . .
    But there is only ONE GOD, ONE PLAN OF SALVATION, ONE SAVIOR, ONE WAY OF LIVING, AND ONE HOLY SPIRIT.
    And there is only one needed response:
    ” Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”
    The Apostle John, after experiencing the ascension of Christ, the descent and power of the Holy Spirit, the exploding growth of the new church, the Power of God in the lives of Christians, the persecutions and even the rejection of the gospel by most of his own nation, wrote, at the end of his gospel, not too long before the end of his life,
    What is your response? Is it time to put you faith and trust in Jesus Christ?

    (John 20:30) “And many other things truly did Jesus in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book;
    31. “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name.”
    What is your response? Is it time to put you faith and trust in Jesus Christ?

  76. Paul’s Simple Advice to Christians             10/24-31/2021

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, and welcome – from Concord Community Church and from Pastor Steve Ward.  Please join us in person, if you can, at 7578 Concord Road, Patriot, Indiana.  We’re “the little white church down the lane,” half-way between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.

    I Thessalonians 4:1-5; 7-12 (NLT)
    4 Finally, dear brothers and sisters, we urge you in the name of the Lord Jesus to live in a way that pleases God, as we have taught you. You live this way already, and we encourage you to do so even more. 2 For you remember what we taught you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.
    3 God’s will is for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin. 4 Then each of you will control his own body and live in holiness and honor— 5 not in lustful passion like the pagans who do not know God and his ways.     {6 Never harm or cheat a fellow believer in this matter by violating his wife, for the Lord avenges all such sins, as we have solemnly warned you before.} 7 God has called us to live holy lives, not impure lives. 8 Therefore, anyone who refuses to live by these rules is not disobeying human teaching but is rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.
    9 But we don’t need to write to you about the importance of loving each other, for God himself has taught you to love one another. 10 Indeed, you already show your love for all the believers throughout Macedonia. Even so, dear brothers and sisters, we urge you to love them even more.
    11 Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. 12 Then people who are not believers will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others.
    Paul gives us, here, four things he wants us to do.  Paul was coming close to the end of his letter to the church at Thessalonica, and he seems to be squeezing in as much instruction as possible in relatively few lines, and we, too, can find instruction from his directions.  The four suggestions are,
                1. Live in such a way that pleases God
                            2. God’s will for you is to be holy
                                        3. Love one another
                                                    4. Seek to live a quiet, peaceable life.

    Let’s look at the first one:
    1. Live in such a way that pleases God

                This seems obvious.  We all know what it means, right?  Well, the truth is, we also all know what it means to go God’s way until we happen to want to go our own way.  We are all too happy to listen to this verse from the pen of Paul, and then we turn around and live our lives the way we want to.

                When we ask ourselves whether we are living a life that is pleasing to God, we answer ourselves in the affirmative:  Yes!  Of course I’m doing my best to live a life that is pleasing to God. – but how many times do you have to justify your actions and your words to yourself in order to convince yourself that what you are doing is “OK” with God. 

                Might it be that most, if not all, of our “secret sins” are also the actions we work hardest to justify?  “Oh, I’m sure it’s O.K – just . . .  . .”

    But about that?  Do we really know what Jesus would approve?  Do we really know what would please God?  How do you figure it out?  You use the Old Testament “Laws” to find out about God’s standards.  We can figure out something about things that please and displease God by reading about his instructions to the Jews.  We don’t have to follow “The Law” in order to be saved, but we should want to follow God’s standards for us because we are saved.  We can also figure out what’s important to God by learning about the teachings of Jesus and the life of Jesus.  We can learn about how to live as we read the letters of the New Testament telling various churches how to live.    

                You don’t figure out how to please God by studying Scripture in an attempt to justify the behavior you want to practice.

    Paul’s second instruction is also rather simple:

    2. God’s will is for you to be holy.
             I once heard a preacher who said, “ If you are ‘righteousness conscious,’ you will produce righteousness.”
                What was he saying?
                I believe he was saying that when your mind is on being righteous, your life will result in acts of righteousness.
                When a student whole heartedly wants to learn how to play the piano or the violin or the guitar, for example, he will find that his mind is on the things he is learning.  And this TV preacher would have said, “When your mind is on learning the piano or the violin, etc., it will strive to produce sounds of music.  The insincere student is nonchalant about whether or not the right notes come out, but for the serious student, the right notes are the goal and the aim.  Eventually, the right notes will come.  It may be slow and hesitant, at first, but with diligent application, beautiful music will result.
                Are you diligent about righteousness?  Are you diligent about being holy?  Are you diligent about pleasing God?  Is your mind “righteousness conscious?” 

    Let’s listen to Paul’s words in this same vein from a different chapter:
                            II Thessalonians. 2:13-17
                             13 But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as first fruits (Living Bible Trans:) “to be the among the first to receive salvation)  to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit (LBTL): “a salvation that came through the Spirit who makes you holy) and through belief in the truth. 14 He called you to this (LBT: ”He called you to salvation . . .) through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.
    16 May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, 17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.

                            I Corinthians 1:2 (LBT) “I am writing to God’s church in Corinth, to you who have called by God to be His own holy people.  He made you holy by means of Christ Jesus, just as He did for all people everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.”

                “He made you holy by means of Jesus Christ, just as He did for all people everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. . . . .

    There are two parts of being holy – positional and practical.     
                Our position before God is that our sins have been forgiven.  We stand holy before God.  That’s our position before God.  One word for that position is justification, and someone has defined “Justification” as “Just as if I never sinned.”

                We also, however, have an obligation to live holy lives.  We have an obligation to “Be ye holy, as God is holy”  This is the practical side of holiness; it’s the practice of living holy lives. 

    3. Love one another

    9 But we don’t need to write to you about the importance of loving each other,[d] for God himself has taught you to love one another. 10 Indeed, you already show your love for all the believers[e] throughout Macedonia. Even so, dear brothers and sisters, we urge you to love them even more.

    So the progress through this Scripture has been:
     -Live to please God
                -Be holy        -and, now,
                            -Love one another

    Is this order significant?  Live to please God, Be holy, Love One Another.

                What a difference it can mean if our way of life is pleasing to God, if the conduct of our life is pure and holy, and, then from the well-spring of God’s way and God’s holiness, we reach out and love others.
                The world often responds to the Christian message and attempts to live and show love to others, and that’s wonderful, but there is no comparison to the person who is intentionally living to please God and who is living a holy life, and then, from the depths of God’s love within us, we respond to those around us with a love that is unconditional, impartial, and God-given.
                Even in the world of Christianity that kind of love is sometimes all too rare and hard to find.  May God give us that kind of love that we may extend it to others and thus show what God’s love is really like. 

    Paul says, in these verses, that he recognizes the love of the Thessalonians, already.  He  even says that they are already doing that – loving others.  – and then he adds an important instruction:  “I urge you to love them even more.

    In II Thessalonians 3:5 (NIV), a second letter to this same church, Paul says,
                            5 May the Lord direct your hearts(I) into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.
                            (NLT:  5. May the Lord lead your hearts into a full understanding and expression of the love of God and the patient endurance that comes from Christ.)

    “A full understanding and expression of the love of God “
     May we have a full understanding, and, especially, a full expression of the love of God in our lives – our holy lives, and our “pleasing-to-God” lives

    4.  Live a quiet life, minding your own business
    11 “Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. 12 Then people who are not believers will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others.”

     Let’s get this straight:  You’re going to live a Godly, God-pleasing life, and a life that is holy, and you’re to love others as you love yourself, and you’re going to be quiet about it?

    With all the Twentieth/Twenty-first Century emphasis on “Bravado”, Self promotion, and “Lookin’ out for Number One”, this emphasis on simplicity, quietness, and “minding your own business” seems out of place, and his emphasis on “working with your own hands” puts us in mind of that much-dreaded term:  “manual labor.”  But manual labor was just about the only thing going in Paul’s day, and his instruction may be seen as telling people to do an honest- days work  in humility, and not to be ashamed of any kind of work or labor
     
    Notice, also, that the goal  — or the result – will be that non-Christians will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others.

    If you think this verse sentences the Christian to a mundane, boring life, I think you would be wrong.  There is nothing mundane about trying to please God with our life.  It may be one of the most active life-styles you will ever find, and there’s nothing mundane about being holy and loving others.  It’s a challenge that very few people can even face, let alone tackle, and, furthermore, who can succeed?  Yet, Paul says we should “tackle” this love business “even more.”

    Let me tell you sincerely, this Christianity business is not for the faint of heart, although you can be sure that God will give you the grace and strength to meet the challenge.

    God doesn’t want us to be lazy, and Paul gives specific instructions about not allowing for idleness.  The fact is that in order to conscientiously live the Christian life as this passage tells us to requires hard word, compassion in motion, diligence, discipline, and hard work.

    Are we ready for that?  Are you ready for that?  Am I ready for that?  Is this church ready for that?  Are we prepared to be a congregation full of loving people?

    What do you have to do to fulfill you part?

    What do you have to do to live so as to please God?  What do you have to do to live a holy life?  What do you have to do to love people even more”,  and to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working diligently and honorably?

    Let’s review:

    1. Live in such a way that pleases God

    2. God’s will is for you to be holy.
                            TV Preacher: If you are “righteousness conscious,
                                        you will produce righteousness.

    3. Love one another

    4.  Live a quiet life, minding your own business

    A suggestion: Read the Scripture one more time.

  77. Prepare to Meet Thy God                                         November 7, 2021

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, and welcome – from Concord Community Church and from Pastor Steve Ward.  Please join us in person, if you can, at 7578 Concord Road, Patriot, Indiana.  We’re “The little white church down the lane,”
    half-way between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.

    Scripture Reading:  :  Luke 8:4-15 (NKJV)
    The Parable of the Sower
    4 And when a great multitude had gathered, and they had come to Him from every city, He spoke by a parable:
    5 “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it. 6 Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture. 7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. 8 But others fell
    on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold.” When He had said these things He cried, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
    The Parable of the Sower Explained
    11 “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then
    the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. 13 But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe
    for a while and in time of temptation fall away. 14 Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. 15 But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.”

    By the time Bobby arrived, the football game had already started. “Why are you so late?” asked his friend. “I couldn’t decide between going to church and going to the football game. So I tossed a coin,” said Bobby. “But that shouldn’t have taken too long.” said the friend. “Well, I had to toss it 35 times.”

    The $100 and $1
    Two well-worn bills arrived at the Federal Reserve Bank to be retired – a $100 and a $1. As they traveled down the conveyor belt, they struck up a conversation. The hundred reminisced about the interesting life he had, traveling all over
    the country. “I’ve been to the finest restaurants, Broadway shows, Las Vegas, and amusement parks,” he said. “I even
    want on a Caribbean cruise once. Where have you been?” “Oh,” said the one dollar bill, “I’ve been to a Methodist church,
    an Episcopal church, a Baptist church, and a Lutheran church.” “What’s a church?” asked the hundred.

    If someone were to ask you why you go to church, your answer might be one of several.  You might say,
            -It’s the right thing to do.
            -You’ve always gone to church.
            -Your parents taught you to go to church.
            -The Bible says, “Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together”
            -You realize that the church needs you.
            -You realize that you need the church.

    When you do go to church, how do you prepare?  How do you get ready?

    Consider  this question:
    What preparation did you make for the last time you went to the doctor?

    You know, they tell you to make a list of your ailments, take a list of your 
    medications you are taking and perhaps a list of symptoms &/or circumstances that might be related to your situation.
    Now, of course, as we all know, we sometimes go to the doctor for a routine check-up, and sometimes we go to the doctor with a specific problem or complaint.

    When was the last time, however, that you went to the doctor and just told him or her that you didn’t have anything wrong with you, that you didn’t have any pain anywhere, or that you didn’t have any complaints or reason for coming?
    — but that you just wondered if they could make you feel better, anyway.  Most doctors would probably look at us funny
    and wonder why we were taking up their time. 

    Doctors, nurses, and other professionals expect us to have a reason for coming to see them. 
    If you make an appointment to see your landlord, for example, they may already be on the alert that you are going to ask
    for a little more time to pay your rent.

    If you ask for an appointment to see the loan officer at the bank, then it’s most likely that you want to discuss the possibility of borrowing some money.

    Now, if we set up a time to meet with God, is it possible that we sometimes come to Him without a definite reason for being there and without any specific reason for being in His house?  Do we sometimes just walk in and say, in effect, “Alright, God, what do you have for me, today?  What kind of entertainment do you have lined up for me, today, God?  I hope you have some really good music and some extra good jokes for me to listen to.

    Why do we think we have to have a REALLY GOOD REASON FOR VISITING THE DOCTOR and then think that visiting God – in His own house – requires no forethought, no anticipation, and no planning except to be there on time in the proper attire?
    There are times when we bring our problems to church; we tell each other about them, and we tell God about them, and we ask Him for His help.

    At least when we show up at the Doctor’s office we come with a list of ailments, aches and pains,
    usually a bit of history, and some idea of our needs. 
    What do we bring with us when we come to church?
    Do we come to church with a keen desire to speak with God? 
    Do we come with the idea that we need God to work in our lives? 
    Do we come anticipating that God can heal our hurts and comfort our loneliness? 
    When we come to church, do we know what we need from God? 
    Do we know our problems, our needs, and our failings? 

       Are there some practical needs we ought to attend to?
            -Take time to pray in preparation for church.
            -Take time to reflect.
            -Take time to consider what spiritual and physical needs you have that need to be met.
            -Take time to reflect on what spiritual and physical needs others have that need to be met or prayed for.
            -Take your time.  Try not to be in a rush.

    If you would, please look at our Scripture passage, again.  Starting in verse 11, Jesus explains the parable to His disciples.  Notice, as you will remember, that the seed that is being sown is the Word of God.  Now, where are you when you hear the Word of God being read?  Where are you when the Word of God is being sown?

    One of the places you are, of course, when the Word of God is being sown, is right here, in this church, and it’s right here,
    in this church where the Word of God can be snatched away or it can be choked out because we’re still thinking about the cares of this life, because we haven’t prepared our hearts to receive what God has for us.  The ground we bring to be sown may not have been properly prepared, it is not receptive, open, and ready.  It may be full of the thorns and worries about everything else.

    By the way, who is it that snatches it away?  Take a look.  In verse 12, it says, “Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.”

    You didn’t think for a minute that he was your friend, did you?  You don’t think he’s on good behavior when he’s inside God’s house, did you?  Do you think he gives you a pass on Sunday? . . . that he says, “Go ahead, study God’s Word. Learn about what God wants you to do.  Go ahead, it’s alright, I leave Christians and church-goers alone on Sunday.  It’s only fair. 

    Why do you think he tries, at every opportunity, to make sure you don’t listen, that you don’t concentrate or can’t concentrate and that the Word of God doesn’t have a chance to take root or to get established in your heart?

    It’s because he wants to destroy you!  It’s because he doesn’t want anyone to hear and believe and be saved.  It’s because he’s your enemy.  “Your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” 
    He’s looking for anyone whom he may destroy.
    My challenge to you is that as we come to church to worship,
    let’s come having our hearts and minds thoughtfully reflecting on our needs before God. 
    Let’s be ready for spiritual warfare. 
    If you think about it, if this is not a spiritual battle ground, then we’re not doing something right. 
    Let’s be ready for both self-examination and for divine examination so that we can discover
    areas in our lives, in our attitude, and in our point of view that need change and attention.
    Let’s consider what we need to do to be ready to meet with God and to have Him speak to us.

  78. Get to Work, For I Am with You                                                                         November 11, 2021

    Scripture and Thoughts –

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, and welcome – from Concord Community Church and from Pastor Steve Ward.  Please join us in person, if you can, at 7578 Concord Road, Patriot, Indiana.  We’re “The little white church down the lane,” half-way between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.

    Scripture Reading:  :  Haggai 2:4-9
    2 In the seventh month, on the twenty-first of the month, the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet, saying: 2 “Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people, saying: 3 ‘Who is left among you who saw this temple[a] in its former glory? And how do you see it now? In comparison with it, is this not in your eyes as nothing?
     4 Yet now be strong, Zerubbabel,’ says the LORD; ‘and be strong, Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest; and be strong, all you people of the land,’ says the LORD, ‘and work; for I am with you,’ says the LORD of hosts. 5 ‘According to the word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, so My Spirit remains among you; do not fear!’
    6 “For thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; 7 and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations,[b] and I will fill this temple with glory,’ says the LORD of hosts. 8 ‘The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,’ says the LORD of hosts. 9 ‘The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,’ says the LORD of hosts. ‘And in this place I will give peace,’ says the LORD of hosts.”

    When we talk about things like spending time with God, prayer, Bible study, and worship, we are discussing activities we know will help us in our Christian walk.

    Like the Israelites in our Scripture passage, this morning, we are building the temple; we are laying the foundation, and we are actually preparing a sanctuary, our own bodies, for the presence of God.  Remember the words of the apostle Paul, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you, which ye have from God, and ye are not your own?” (I Corinthians 6:19)

    As we listen to our Scripture passage, this morning, we find that a group of Israelites have returned from captivity.  They had been defeated by the Babylonian army and many had been taken to Babylon.  Now Babylon had been defeated by the Persians, and the Jews were being allowed to return to their own land.

    When they returned, one of the first and major tasks was to rebuild the temple.  This had been begun.  When they laid the foundation there was both celebration and sorrow – celebration for the accomplishment, but sorrow – especially on the part of those who remembered the old temple built by Solomon – much more splendid and glorious, replete with gold-plated doors and solid gold utensils, silver and gold everywhere, massive pillars, a huge bronze basin capable of holding enough water to swim in,etc., etc.  (and the basin was held up by four full-size statutes of gold (bronze) bulls.  There were solid gold carvings of angels, seraphim, and pomegranates everywhere, and it seemed as if the opulence and display of lavish wealth was un-ending.  – but that was the former temple.  Now they were looking at a greatly diminished size and much-diminished proportions, and everyone knew that this new temple would fall far short of meeting the magnificence of Solomon’s temple – which more properly might have been called David and Solomon’s Temple, because guess who saved and stock-piled all that gold and all that silver and the precious gems, and the bronze and even some of the cedar, and guess who planned the entire project and even had the plans drawn up and ready for Solomon to follow. 

    Even then, David just did the preparation; David just laid the ground work.  David merely set the stage. –   In this way, David was “laying the foundation. He was doing the homework; He was laying the foundation.
    And Solomon did the building.)

    Now, please tell me something –  this is especially for kids who are still in school:  Does your teacher pay you for doing your homework?  Does your family – you and your Mom and Dad, and your family – do you get to buy better groceries and more groceries when you do your homework?  Is your house warmer or are your clothes nicer when you do your homework?  Then why do it?   (You probably say, “That’s what I want to know: Why do homework?”)

    You know the answer, I bet.  You do the homework because you’re laying the foundation.  You do the homework because this is stuff you will need.
    You know, Solomon could have decided not to build the temple.  He could have used all that gold and silver to make his life even more luxurious, more filled with delicacies and refinements and opulence and pleasures and late-night parties. 
     He could have hired the New York Philharmonic Orchestra or Taylor Swift to perform at his after-dinner tea and cookie times.

    I don’t suppose Solomon would have had to build the temple.

            I don’t suppose Jeshua and Zerrubabel would have had to build a temple to replace the former one.

    Even if they did build it, did that require that anyone had to come and worship?

    All this building, all this preparation, all this homework, all this storing up of gold and silver, . . . why is it necessary?  Why not just cash it in and spend it?  Why not just live my life on welfare and food stamps and hand-outs?

    Perhaps it’s because God has a job for us to do; perhaps it’s because the world needs our efforts and our input, our intelligence, our innovation, and our creativity.  Don’t kid yourself a bit by thinking that the world does not need your talents.  Don’t kid yourself a bit by thinking that the Lord doesn’t need your talents and abilities and your own unique set of gifts.
    But let’s get something straight about homework, and preparation, and training and learning and storing up.

    It’s not any good unless you put it to work!!!

    (This is one time when I wish I were one of those pound-the-pulpit, fast-talking, in your face, loud-yelling preachers.  IT’S NOT ANY GOOD UNLESS YOU PUT IT TO WORK!)

    Let me tell you a story about Terry.  That may have been his name; maybe it wasn’t his name.  He was a student at IU School of Music, one of the most difficult Music Schools in the world to get into and to stay in and not to flunk out of.  When you pass an IU School of Music student in the Hall, you’re totally justified to wonder if they will be the next star at the Metropolitan Opera or the next conductor of a world-renowned orchestra.  And then there was Terry – or whatever his name was.  Terry was at every concert and recital he could possibly attend.  He seemed to be scheduled for a full slate of graduate classes.  He was always there.  I was there for six consecutive summers and another entire year.  Terry was there when I started, and he was still there when I finished, and he was still there when I continued some advanced classes.  I don’t know if he ever practiced anything, but he probably did.  But he was always there.  He was always on the scene.  He was always enjoying the atmosphere and the scene and the world of music as represented at the IU School of Music.  Maybe he’s still there, because he wasn’t going anywhere; he wasn’t training for any job description that anyone knew about, but he was certainly enjoying his stay.

    He was the best example I’ve ever known of someone who was truly a “professional student.”

    He was right there, right where he could enjoy some of the best music the world has to offer, and that’s all he was doing.
    As far as I know, Terry, or whatever his name was, never went to work, never had an interview for a job, and never contributed his musical talents and vast knowledge to any cause or purpose.  He probably had a wonderful time listening to music and learned professors and guest lecturers and clinicians, but, as far as I know, he never contributed any part of his life to the art and or advancement of music.  I tell you this story to make the following point:

    How many of us are too stuck in the preparation for the Christian life to ever get anywhere in the line of actually doing something for God?  How many of us are still stuck doing the homework and the preparation and haven’t even set our sights on what God wants us to do with our lives?  How many of us do little more for God than to hang around church all the time?  How many of us are too content to listen to the music and to sit within listening range of teachers and advisers and other practitioners, and then we’re content to merely enjoy the atmosphere and revel in the beauty we see and feel and hear all around us?

    Haggai, the prophet said, “Be strong; Now get to work, for I am with you, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.  My Spirit remains among you, just as I promised when you came out of Egypt.  So do not be afraid.”

    The professional student doesn’t need to be afraid, because he’s not trying to accomplish anything, and he doesn’t have to stick his neck out and take on a challenge.

    I suppose there are people who could, by the same token, be called “professional Christians.”  They never look for a job to do; they seldom try to accomplish anything; they just enjoy the ambiance of the Worship service and the fellowship and the feel-good atmosphere, and they just never feel any need or even inclination to see what they might be able to do with their life if it were truly dedicated to God. 

    There was a time when, in getting signed up for classes at a major university or college, the student had to come to a designated place on a designated day at a designated time, and he/she had to stand in a line for half a day, fill out all the paper-work, sign all the forms, agree to all the conditions, and gather all the cards required to be registered for all the desired classes, and then pay all the money required to be enrolled in the classes you just spent a good portion of your life signing up for – and you haven’t even learned anything, yet.  So far, all you’ve done is pay your dues; you’ve set the stage;

    When you finally begin your classes you begin to lay the foundation; you begin to prepare the way, but the work is still far in the future.
    Some of us, as Christians, may be still standing in line; we may be still signing up for the courses – and, sometimes we go Sunday to Sunday still trying to decide whether or not to enroll.  Some of us may still be trying to decide whether or not to sign up.

    But what I’m trying to tell you is that so many of these things that we do – Bible study, prayer, Sunday School Lessons, come to church == maybe even get challenged or inspired – this is the homework; this is the preparation; This is laying the foundation.

    What I’m also saying is that we too often pat ourselves on the back because we went to church, and aren’t we good Christians, because, after all, we went to church?/ came to church? Right?

    The truth is that the work is still ahead of us

    Don’t get me wrong; what we do here is ultra important.  Prayer, worship, Bible study, fellowship, and learning about God are absolutely necessary and there’s even a point to which they are an end in themselves – but they are also prerequisite to making our God-walk into a daily, hour-by-hour and moment-by-moment adventure – and service – the job of taking the gospel to people around us.

    THE NOTES FOR THE Life Application Study Bible put it this way:  “We must be people of prayer,
    Bible study, and worship, but eventually we must get out and do the work God has prepared for us.  He wants to change the world through us, His ambassadors.  God has given you a job to do at your church, at your place of employment, and at home.  The time has come to take courage and get going because God is with you!”

  79. The second sermon posted on November 14, 2021 had the incorrect date.
    The SERMON: Get to Work, For I Am with You was given on
    Sunday, November 14th, 2021 NOT THE 11th which was Thursday, Veteran’s Day< SORRY:-)

  80. From Concord Community Church and Pastor, Steve Ward, we extend our warmest greetings.  May His grace and peace be yours at all times.  At Concord, we continue to meet for in-person worship at 10:00 AM each Sunday morning.  We are at 7578 Concord Road, Patriot, Indiana, halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.  Please come and join us

    Scripture and Thoughts:   The Simplest of Gifts                         December 5, 2021

    Luke 2:1-20
    1.  And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.
    4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. 6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
    Glory in the Highest
    8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
    13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
    14 “Glory to God in the highest,
    And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
    15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.

    Let me tell you of a small gift, given for a small, but serious need, given in simplicity but in deepest sincerity, which resulted in lasting and memorable effects.

    A student at a small Bible college was sitting in his seat, after class, when his professor came by, and as the professor dug into the pocket of his suit coat, he told the student to hold out his hands.  The professor dug out from his suit coat pocket a huge hand-full of change, and then another hand-full, and he said, “This is just a small collection I took up from the faculty in the faculty lounge.”  Then, with a wink, he said, “Use it to do something about those shoes.” 
    The student looked at his shoes which had at least one sole flopping and the other one well on it’s way to breaking free, and could barely eke out a very meager, “Thank you,” because of his surprise and amazement. 

    It was a simple gift. It was not seen or noticed or known about by other students or staff.  It simply met a need and salvaged the pride of a slightly embarrassed student without adequate foot wear.

    Children seem the best at giving simple gifts, whether it be a lovely dandelion or a wonderful crayon drawing of Mommy and Daddy, it seems that their gifts are often useless and priceless at the same time.

    Have you ever felt a little low or discouraged and had a little child come to sit beside you and try to put their little arm around you to try to comfort and encourage you?  It is truly one of the most precious of moments.

    There are people who give themselves in a nearly constant way – to other people, to various parts of the ministry of the church and/or to other ministries.  These often go unnoticed or barely noticed. They are often unseen and frequently unsung.  They are simple gifts.  Yet, in their value, they are cherished and held dearly.  Sometimes the gift could be given a monetary value, but the generosity they represent is much more personal and even more valuable than anything that could be measured.

    Please let me tell you about another simple gift.  First of all, close your eyes and think of a direction.  It should be left or right or forward or backward.  Now, open your eyes and look in your chosen direction.  If there’s a person there, that will be your person for this little exercise.  If there’s not a person there, find the person closest to that direction.  If all else fails, just find a person.  Here’s a question: Could you, personally, actually be a gift to that person?  Could you represent the gift of prayer or the gift of concern or the gift of encouragement to that person?  Are there any areas in that person’s life in which he or she could use some help or assistance?  Could you be a gift of assistance or help?  It may seem odd to consider yourself to be a gift to someone, but isn’t there a sense in which we really should be giving ourselves to and for other people?

    The book, God Calling, goes so far as to say, “Give to all you meet, or whose lives touch yours . . .”  It says to “give of your prayers, your time, yourselves, your love, your thought.”  It says “You must practice this giving first”

    The book goes on, “Then give of this world’s goods and money, as you have them given to you.  To give money and material things, without first having made the habit daily, hourly, ever increasingly, of giving on the higher plane, is wrong.”

    What if we could be great givers?  What if we could be great givers of ourselves?

    Would we not, also, be great imitators of Jesus Christ?  Would we not become a light set upon a hill?  Would we not become individual magnets drawing people to Jesus Christ?

    What simple and priceless gifts we could give.   

  81. For this Cause I Have Raised You Up

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, and welcome – from Concord Community Church and from Pastor Steve Ward.  Please join us in person, if you can, at 7875 Concord Road. Patriot, Indiana.  We’re “the little white church down the lane,” half-way between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.

    Scripture and Thoughts                                          December 12, 2021

    We’re reading from two Scripture passages, today, and they seem miles apart.  There two im-mense differences to note:  the reaction of Mary versus the reaction of Pharaoh to God and His Word.  There is also a common denominator between the two.  See if you can find it.
    Scripture Reading: Luke 1:26-38
    26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
    29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
    34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
    35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her..

    Scripture Reading: Exodus 9:13-18 NKJV
    13 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Rise early in the morning and stand before Pharaoh, and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD God of the Hebrews: “Let My people go, that they may serve Me, 14 for at this time I will send all My plagues to your very heart, and on your servants and on your people, that you may know that there is none like Me in all the earth. 15 Now if I had stretched out My hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, then you would have been cut off from the earth. 16 But indeed for this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth. 17 As yet you exalt yourself against My people in that you will not let them go. 18 Behold, tomorrow about this time I will cause very heavy hail to rain down, such as has not been in Egypt since its founding until now.
    .

    This second passage of Scripture, especially at first glance, seems to be a rather scary passage – especially if you were Pharaoh

    Think of being Pharaoh, looking at verse 15, when God says:
    15 Now if I had stretched out My hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, then you would have been cut off from the earth.

    In other words, “I could have wiped you off the face of the earth.  I’ve already sent the frogs and the flies,  the boils, and the river turned to blood.  I’ve sent a plague upon your livestock, I sent the gnats, the lice, and soon I’ll send the hail mingled with fire,  After that would come the locusts and then the pitch darkness;  – And then He was going to get serious.

    The next verse is our text for today:

    16 “But indeed for this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth. 17 As yet you exalt yourself against My people in that you will not let them go.”

    Pharaoh was not the first to puff himself up against God, nor would he be the last.  If you and I do the same thing, we would be in company with a multitude of others who, throughout history, have put themselves on a pedestal – even to the point of going against God, of exalting themselves to such a level that they seemed to think of themselves as being on a higher plane than God, Himself. Poets, politicians, statesmen,

    By the same token, then, it’s altogether possible to imagine God addressing such a person in the same way in which He addressed Pharaoh:

    “I could have wiped you off the face of the earth at a moment’s notice.”

            But don’t we also sense a touch of mercy in God’s next statement? –  A statement that He might also be making to you and to me?

    16 “But indeed for this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.”

    This, by the way, is common denominator between the two passages of Scripture in our reading, today.  Pharaoh would be used by God – rather unwittingly, of course, to show God’s power and to make His name to be exalted throughout the earth.  Mary, on the other hand, willing submitted herself to the will of God, by which God’s power would be shown in her and because of her, and, by her submission, she would be providing the way by which His name has been and still is being exalted in all the earth.

    Could God have brought you to this point in your life for the very same reason?  ,“that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.”

    Pharoah was actually being offerred a scenario in which he was given the role of being an instrument of God!  His role was not a very noble one. He would not turn out to be the winner, here, but there is something stirring in that statement:  “for this purpose I have raised you up . . .”

    For Pharaoh, it sounds  more ominous, more forboding, but what if God were speaking to you, instead?  Couldn’t there be a real ring and promise in such a statement:  “. . .for this purposed I have raised you up, that I may show my power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” ?

    But, for Pharaoh there’s a dark cloud over him as he hears these words about God’s purpose.  There’s one thing, here, on which we could all agree:  you don’t want to be on the wrong side when God decides to use you to demonstrate His power and might.  The fact is that Pharaoh was way over on the wrong side.  Here’s Pharaoh, “In this corner, we have Pharaoh, King of Egypt, with his magicians and his personal priests, and, in the other corner, God the Father, Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth , . .”  What was Pharaoh thinking?  Well, believe it or not, Pharaoh was thinking pretty highly of himself; He had a very high opinion of himself.  He was quite overcome by the overblown myth of his own importance.  God was going to show him, to use today’s vernacular, “You ain’t all that much.”  You’re not such a big shot.  You’re not so grand.  It’s time to get off your high horse. 

    We need that message, today, don’t we?  We need it in many of our institutions and organizations;  We need it in every level of our government.  We need it in all parts of our society – whether they be newscasters or sports figures or hollywood producers.  There are many people, who, as my father used to say, “need to be taken down a notch or two.”

    But God doesn’t need just a proud man or woman to use as His instrument.  He doesn’t need a powerful person who gets humbled or an important person who needs a new perspective on himself or herself. God is looking for people who know they are not perfect, people who understand that they have a weakness, that they are not without faults and failures.

    When the Apostle, Paul, discussed his own affliction and weakness with God, he asked God to remove his affliction, his physical ailments, and he reports this part of God’s answer:
    (II Corinthians 12:9) “And he said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’ ”  God was telling Paul that He – God – shows Himself strong when we – His people – are weak.  Then, he, Paul, says, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

    God’s grace is sufficient – even if we are weak – or, even when we find that we have a weakness.  Maybe God would say, “My grace is sufficient for you, especially when you are weak.”  “For my strength is made perfect is weakness.”

    I Corinthians 1:25  says “ . . .Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

    I believe I can assure you of one thing:  Just like Pharaoh, God has brought you to this point in your life, with the goal in mind ”that I may show my power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” ?  AND HE NEEDS YOU TO SEE THAT, pardon the expression, “YOU AIN’T ALL THAT MUCH” either.  You’re not perfect;  God doesn’t need you to be perfect;  You’re not strong and mighty.  God doesn’t need strong and mighty.  You may be small;  you may be weak.  God is looking for small;  He’s looking for the weak, because His Strength IS MADE PERFECT IN WEAKNESS.

    God would like nothing better than to show His power in you, and in you to make His name known.  How about it?

    Think about the song, “Just a closer walk with Thee. Grant it, Jesus, is my plea.”

    The first words of that song are, “I am weak, but Thou art strong.”

  82. Scripture and Thoughts – January 2, 2022
    From Concord Community Church and Pastor, Steve Ward, we extend to you our warmest greetings.  May His grace and peace be yours at all times and, especially, during these times of trial, testing, and uncertainty.  At Concord, we continue to meet for in-person worship at 10:00 AM each Sunday morning.  We are at 7578 Concord Road, Patriot, Indiana, halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.  Please come and join us.

    Forgiveness

    Listen to this verse from the book of Proverbs:
    “A pure heart gives live to the body” Prov. 14:13
    or:  30 A tranquil heart is life to the body, (NASV)
    or:   30 A heart at peace gives life to the body, (NIV) 
    or:    30 A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body; (NLT)

    Scripture Reading: Philippians 2:1-15 (KJV)
    1. If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies,
    2 Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
    3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
    4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
    5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
    6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
    7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
    8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
    9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:
    10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
    11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
    12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
    14 Do all things without murmurings and disputings:
    15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;

    Matt. 5:21, 23, 24
    21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. . . .
    23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

    Matthew 18:21, 22
    21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me?(T) Up to seven times?”(U)
    22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times

    Luke 17:4 “If your brother or sister[a] sins against you, rebuke them;(E) and if they repent, forgive them. 4 Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”)
    We need to forgive, and we need to ask for forgiveness.  This forgiveness that we give must be unreserved and unconditional.  It can’t have any “if this” and “if that” – as in “I’ll forgive you as long as you don’t do it again,” or “as long as you prove you are sincere or as long as you stay on your side of the fence or your side of the church or your side of the state line, or as long as you stay away from my family or as long as you stay away from my friends.

    Also, this is not just one thing out of a dozen or so that you do to, let’s say, improve your life.  – like those lists on the internet: seven things successful people do every day,” or “six ways to be a happier person.”

    . . . .and this is not something you try on to see if you like it or if it suits you; you must commit to forgive and you must stay committed to forgiveness.  In forgiving we are submitting ourselves to the Spirit of Jesus Christ; we are submitting ourselves to the will of Jesus Christ, and we are submitting ourselves to the way of Jesus Christ.  That submission is a choice, but we are commanded to do it.

    The fact is, we cannot follow Christ without forgiving and without maintaining a spirit and a habit and a lifestyle of forgiveness.

    There is an upside; in fact, there is a tremendous upside, because without forgiveness, you are never free; you are always trapped and ensnared by your residual, lingering feelings of resentment, bitterness, and anger.  Once you are able to forgive, then you are free from that entrapment and the overwhelming crush of those feelings – anger, bitterness, and resentment.

    If you still have people you need to forgive, then every time a memory comes up about that person, then you are subject to the recurrence of those feelings of anger, bitterness, and resentment, and you have enough resentment, bitterness, and anger.  You, like the rest of us, can’t deal with such an overdose of negative, unresolved feelings; they can drive us right over the edge and into an abyss of remorse, depression, helplessness, and/or the feeling of drowning in a sea of hurt, rejection, and lostness.

    Anger
    Resentment
    Bitterness

    . . . and when we talk about Anger, Resentment, and Bitterness, we are talking about three things that can steal and destroy your attempts to forgive.  It can be a vicious circle.   Anger, bitterness, and resentment can steal your joy, your acceptance and appreciation of yourself, and the joy of your relationships.

    Who do you need to forgive?

    -People in your family: your spouse, your parents, your children, your brothers and sisters, grandparents, grandchildren . . . .

    -people here in this church.
          As I talk to people, it’s surprising what hurts and memories of hurts we carry around with us     
                -things said
                  -things people have done
                  -things not done

    -friends, acquaintances, neighbors.   And, by the way, these lists can go way back – way, way back.

    Take the time to stop and pray for your attitude, right now.  Pray for the person you need to forgive.  Pray for the Spirit of God’s forgiveness.  Utter your words of forgiveness.  Tell God about it. Tell the person you just forgave, if at all possible.

  83. Scripture and Thoughts                                                                                         – January 9, 2022

    From Concord Community Church and Pastor, Steve Ward, we extend to you our warmest greetings.  May His grace and peace be yours at all times and, especially, during these times of trial, testing, and uncertainty.  At Concord, we continue to meet for in-person worship at 10:00 AM each Sunday morning.  We are at 7578 Concord Road, Patriot, Indiana, halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.  Please come and join us. 

    A Blessing to the Nations                                                                                          January 9, 2022

    Scripture Reading: Genesis 12:1-3
    1. “Now the LORD had said to Abram: ‘Get you out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land I will show you.  
    2. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing.                                                    
    3 I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you:
    And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ ”

    Did you ever feel that you had something to contribute that would make a hugely significant difference, but no one knew or no one seemed to care?

    Did you ever feel that you had the exact advice that someone needed, but that they just didn’t care to listen to it?

    If you’ve ever been a teacher, if you are or have been a parent, if you’ve ever tried to counsel someone or even to be friend to someone, you may well have thought you knew just what a person needed to hear, but the person in need of your counsel or advice was simply not interested and maybe even not open to listening.  How frustrating to have something vitally important to say and to have no one who wants to listen.

    On top of that, what if God came to you and told you that He had decided to use you as His mouthpiece and example to tell the whole world about Himself?

    God’s call to Abraham was to “Get thee up  .. to the land I will show you. “ (Gen. 12:1), and even then, He made a promise to Abram:
     12:1 Now the LORD had said to Abram:                                                                                  
      “Get out of your country,
    From your family
    And from your father’s house,
    To a land that I will show you.
    2 I will make you a great nation;
    I will bless you
    And make your name great;
    And you shall be a blessing.
    3 I will bless those who bless you,
    And I will curse him who curses you;
    And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
    This is quite a promise!  What if God made that promise to you or to me?  What if God promised to make you or me into a great nation?    What if God promised to bless you and to make your name great? – sounds better and better, doesn’t it?  He even promised to make Abram a blessing.  Then, listen to this part of the promise:  3“I will bless those who bless you,
    And I will curse him who curses you;”  

     How would you feel, going to work or to school or to a contentious meeting with that kind of a promise in your pocket?  “Go ahead.  Say what you want.  You can even call me names – just you wait and see what YOU get!”
    1. God promised to make him into a great nation
    2. God promised to bless him and make his name great and to make him a blessing.
    3. God promised to bless those who blessed him and to curse those who cursed him.
    4. And, finally, God tells him that through him – Abram – all families of the earth would be blessed.

    In what ways might God make Abram a blessing?

      Let me suggest a few possibilities:

    Abram knew how to speak to God; he knew how to listen to God, and, in at least an elementary way, he knew how to approach God and how to worship God.  Abraham knew God’s requirements for worship.

    These may seem minor from our standpoint, but from the standpoint of the ancient world, they were fundamental essentials, and it seems that almost nobody knew these things.  When you look at the ancient religions and their attempts to approach God and their attempts to please God .. . . . their attempts to create images of God and then to worship them.  They had no idea . . .

    And to the Jews were the laws, the statutes, the morality guidelines, the rules and regulations, the rituals & requirements for living and for worship given.  What a blessing that would have been to the rest of the world, but it seems as though no one else received much benefit from them.  What a blessing it would have been for Israel to give to the world – but it didn’t happen.

    And the rest of the world seems to have wallowed around in ignorance and uninformed hopelessness as far as knowing anything about the one true God.  Why was this?  Let’s look at the record.  After all, their history went back to Cain and Abel, too, a time when one brother brought an offering accepted by God, and one brought an offering rejected by God.  There was a history by which they should have had access to the way to approach God, and yet, somehow, it had been lost  — or neglected.

    That same history narrows the human race down to the flood, and the emergence of Noah’s family, and, at least for a time, Noah’s entire family, and, consequentially the entire existing human race, knew about approaching God and building an altar and bringing Him a sacrifice – so what happened to that solid foundation of mutual knowledge about worshipping God?

    We don’t really know, except that we know that the connection to the true God was somehow lost.

    However, as we travel the history of the Bible, we find individuals who seem to appear out of nowhere who are worshiping God in a way that pleases Him.  – Malchezedeck, for one.  Where did he learn to worship God?  Jethro – who would become the father-in-law of Moses – Jethro was “the priest of Midian.”  Where did that come from?  Perhaps he came from a family that never lost hold of their relationship and worship of Jehovah.

    But much of the world had discarded the old ways and had embraced the new ways – ways that man devised, ways that elevated some human leaders, ways that mixed man’s inventions with worship.

    But to the nation of Israel God entrusted two very sacred trusts:  He gave them a way to live:  the Ten Commandments and its accompanying laws and statutes.  No one else had this, and no one else but a very few knew how God wanted mankind to live.  The second thing God gave the Israelites was a way to worship.  God set up their religious order, organization, ritual, requirements, personnel, and so on.

    No one else in the world had this system.
     
    The nation of Israel now had the knowledge, the system, the organization, 
    everything it needed – to worship, and to teach the world how to live and how to worship.  – but it never happened.

    Their opportunity came, especially, when they entered the land of Canaan.  They were coming head to head with pagan, idol-worshiping cultures, and their clear, plain opportunity and duty was to introduce these cultures to the true God of the universe, the one, supposedly, that they were all seeking, and to show them God’s way – God’s way of life and God’s way of worship.

    This was how Abram’s family and nation could have and should have “blessed” the nations .

    I truly believe they could have and should have shown these nations how to live and how to worship, and they could have shared the other gems of God’s plan with them also, especially the one about loving the Lord they God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and your neighbor as yourself.

    What would the world have been like if Israel had spread the word to worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.?  What would the world have been like if the entire world had had the opportunity to follow God’s moral and civil expectations.

    What, especially, would the world have been like if the greatest commandment – the one to love thy God and to love thy neighbor as thyself had been proclaimed around the world?

    There was yet another blessing with which the Jews could and would bless the world – every nation and every citizen everywhere.   The Jews would be the channel through which the Messiah, the Savior of the World would come.
    They did not disappoint us; Mary didn’t fail us; Joseph didn’t fail us.  Jesus didn’t fail us;  

    But when you are given the supreme blessing for the entire needy world to be carried to them and presented to them as the gift from God – when you bear that blessing from God to the world, and when that blessing includes the way to worship and the way to live – and when you take that blessing – in the form of the Son of God – and you hang Him on a Cross, and you say, “We don’t want anything to do with Him, then you have rejected God; you have rejected His gift; you have rejected not only His blessing, but His offer of providing the blessing through you.

    What a tragedy.

    Where do you and I fit in this picture?   Do we just get to point fingers?

    Do we, like the Jews, have a blessing to share with the nations, with our neighbors, with our friends, and with our relatives and other acquaintances?  Haven’t we been given the same opportunity and possibilities – don’t we have the same promise?

    God has given us the opportunity to be a blessing to the nations of the world.  We have the opportunity to be a blessing to the people we meet.

    Do we sometimes do as Israel did and decide we’d rather be like our neighbors than to let them know about Jesus Christ?

    Don’t we, instead of carrying the message of Jesus to the world, don’t we often reject Him and turn against Him?  Don’t we, sometimes, when being a Christian isn’t popular and when the crowd around us is not sympathetic to Christianity . . .  aren’t there times when our actions say that we want nothing to do with Him? 

    God help us when and if that ever happens, but you and I have seen it happen around us; we have seen it happen in the workplace and in social circles.  We’ve seen it play out in our neighborhoods; we’ve seen it play out in sports – on the ball field and in the living room.  It happens in board rooms and in committee meetings and in community meetings, and it happens because Christians would rather be like the people around them than to be the people of God.

      There is a sense in which God is calling you and me in the same way He called Abraham.
      -He told Abraham to “come away” to a new country.
            -He tells you and He tells me to “Come away” and to follow Him.
      -He told Abraham he would be a blessing to all nations.
      -He tells us to “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel.”

    We are still being called to be His voice and to be His people.

  84. Scripture and Thoughts                                                                                   January 16, 2022

    From Concord Community Church and Pastor, Steve Ward, we extend to you our warmest greetings.  May His grace and peace be yours at all times and, especially, during these times of trial, testing, and uncertainty.  At Concord, we continue to meet for in-person worship at 10:00 AM each Sunday morning.  We are at 7578 Concord Road, Patriot, Indiana, halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.  Please come and join us.
     

    Where You Are                                                                                                    January 16, 2022

    Luke 19, King James Version (KJV)
    1. And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.
    2 And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich.
    3 And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature.
    4 And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way.
    5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for today I must abide at thy house.
    6 And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.
    7 And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.
    8 And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord: Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.
    9 And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.
    10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

    When God met with Adam and Eve in the cool of the evening in the Garden of Eden, He just “met them.”   He didn’t make it difficult for them to find Him.  He didn’t play a game of “Hide and Seek,” and He didn’t play guessing games to get Adam and Eve to try to figure out some complicated pattern or formula by which they could locate God.  He just met them. 

    I always get a little nervous when someone tells people what to pray for, and then gives specific, sometimes complicated instructions about how to say it, what phrases to use, or even who should say it.
     
    Even when Cain killed his brother, Able, God didn’t hide behind a rock or under a ledge somewhere, waiting to catch Cain by surprise, or waiting for Cain to come looking for Him.  God actually came to where Cain was and asked him where his brother, Able, was.  It seems that Cain wasn’t even trying to find God, but God found Cain.

    Who was Abraham, and where was he, when God found him?  He wasn’t in Israel.  Abraham was in the land of Ur, the land of his forefathers, but God spoke to him, there, and called him out to become the father of a people whom God would call His very own.

    David was the son of a man named Jesse, — one of eight sons — but when Samuel, the priest was sent to Jesse’s family to find and to anoint the future king of Israel, no one thought it out of place that David, who was out tending sheep, wasn’t even there.  — but he was found, and God pointed him out as the next ruler of the nation of Israel.  God knew who he was, and God knew what He wanted David to do.

              Sometimes God has a job for us — a job that only one person can fulfill, and He calls us to do it.  We might be at church; we might be at home.  He’s probably not going to come to Concord on a Sunday morning just to wait around to see if we show up.  He’s going to find us — where we are.
     
    When Jesus called up to Zacchaeus, he found him sitting in a tree, but Jesus had plans for Zacchaeus that would turn his life around and set him on a new path.  Zacchaeus was only hoping for a look at Jesus, but Jesus was looking for a transformation for Zacchaeus

    Peter wasn’t looking for Jesus when Jesus found him, but Jesus found in Peter the raw material to become a great disciple and a great evangelist.

    There was once a young man who left home to make his way in the world, and he was one of those people who knew just how he was going to do it, and he was convinced that he could do so far better than anyone else.  He rejected a position in his father’s company, because he had figured out for himself exactly what enterprises to go into, and he had figured out for himself exactly how to deal with other people and how to set up agreements and deals that would benefit his interests and profit margins to his own best advantage.

    Yes, sir, he was going to set the world back on it’s heels.

    But, of course, there were things that he hadn’t counted on — market set-backs and wheeler-dealers who were even slicker than he was.  He hadn’t counted on needing costly advice — costly advice that didn’t pan out, and costly associations and partners whose help was, indeed, costly, but not helpful.

    Before he could even count his losses, he was at the bottom of the barrel and in dreadful debt to some not-so-very-nice people.

    He was desperate, but he still had a few friends, although none of them could help him, even after he had finally stooped to beg for any assistance anyone could give him.  Finally, on an especially desperate night, he heard from one of his friends of an individual who might be interested in lending a hand — for a price, of course, — but what did he have to lose?  No one could have sunk lower, and no one could have been in more serious trouble.

    Arrangements were made to meet this “possibly helpful” person in a dark warehouse nearby on the next night, and he made sure he was there, at the right place, at the right time, ready to plead for help.

    Although he didn’t actually see a person, at first, he was spoken to from behind an open door to a darkened room or office, and a voice called out asking him just how much money he owed and exactly what kind of trouble he was in.  He told him, and the picture he painted was not very bright.  Still, the stranger said he could help, but only under certain conditions.  The conditions were that the young man would go to work for this stranger and work as long and as hard and at whatever menial tasks as he was given.

    He accepted the terms, and agreed to the offer, ready for the worst conditions and the most despicable of job descriptions.

    Instead, out from the shadows of that darkened room stepped his own father, with open arms, accepting his son back to his own protection and help. He had found out the where-abouts of his son, had heard of his plight, and had devised a plan to rescue him from ruining himself.  He took him back to his company, started him at the bottom, and treated him like the son he thought he had lost.

    That’s just like God, isn’t it?  He finds us where we are; He comes to us, no matter what our problems or our plight; He has a rescue plan already in place, and even though we may have rejected Him and turned away from His offer of love and forgiveness, He still comes to us to extend it to us, again.  He offers to treat us like His own lost son or daughter whom He had lost, but is now found, again.

    If you are without God in your life, or if you face trouble and/or discouragement, please know that He knows you, and He knows where you are — not just physically, but He knows where you are in you projects, in your plans, in your love life, in your disappointments, and in your hurts.

     . . . and He wants you to be under His protection and care.  He has a rescue plan for you, no matter what your problems or worries or set-backs.

    If you don’t know Him, talk to Him, now.  Tell Him you’re sorry for the wrongs you have done.  Most of all you need to believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior, and you should tell Him that.  That’s His primary rescue plan. Be willing to accept it.  It’s good to tell someone else, too. 

    If you already know Him, then tell Him you’re ready to accept His rescue plan.  Tell Him you’re ready to accept His way, His will, His direction.

    Can we take a moment of quietness to talk to Him?

  85. Scripture and Thoughts                                                                             January 23, 2022 
    From Concord Community Church and Pastor, Steve Ward, we extend to you our warmest greetings.  May His grace and peace be yours at all times and, especially, during these times of trial, testing, and uncertainty.  At Concord, we continue to meet for in-person worship at 10:00 AM each Sunday morning.  We are at 7578 Concord Road, Patriot, Indiana, halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.  Please come and join us.
    Scripture Reading:  Romans 8:1-11 (NKJV)
    1” There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh             cannot please God.
    9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. 10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”
    There was once a man who couldn’t remember who he was.  For his own protection, we’ll call him Mr. Smith, but, on the other hand, it might not hurt his feelings one way or the other, since he might not even remember his real identity – at least, sometimes. 
    When he was a child, it would drive his parents crazy when he would wander away from them and then yell, “Mommy!  Daddy!”  But when they would find him they would say, “Charlie”  (that was his first name), and Charlie would look right at them, turn the other way and yell, “Mommy!  Daddy!” not even recognizing who his parents were.

    Wouldn’t that be frustrating – to have a child who didn’t even remember to whom he belonged?
    When he grew up, Mr. Smith – Charlie –  wasn’t much better as an adult.

    And it wasn’t as though he was from a terrible family or that he had a reason that made him want to forget who he was.  Actually, Mr. Smith was from a very nice family; his father owned lots of real estate, including farms and ranches, factories and office buildings.  He even owned gold mines and oil wells, and he owned houses in nearly every part of the city and outside the city.  Mr. Smith Sr. owned real estate in every part of the country, and, in fact, in every part of the world, and our Mr. Smith, — Charlie – had his name on every piece of property that his father owned, so he was co-owner.  – but, usually, he forgot.
    The fact is, Mr. Smith Sr. was a very wealthy man.  It could accurately be said that “he owned the cattle on a thousand hills. 

    Do you know that song, or have ever heard it?  The words go like this:
                  He owns the cattle on a thousand hills,
                  The wealth in every mine.
                     He owns the rivers and the rocks and rill,
                     The sun and stars that shine.
                  Wonderful riches, more than tongue can tell.
                  He is my Father, so they’re mine, as well.
                     He owns the cattle on a thousand hills;
                  I know that He will care for me.

    Of course, that song is about God owning the cattle on a thousand hills, etc., but that’s an awfully lot like Mr. Smith, Sr.  He owned all kinds of things everywhere.  But our Mr. Smith – Charlie – often forgot.
    Now every Sunday afternoon they would have a family get-together.  What a wonderful time.  Aunts and uncles and cousins and brothers and sisters and children were everywhere, and, when he was at a family get-together, Charlie never forgot who he was.  He was quite popular, then, and he immensely enjoyed being surrounded by his family – all the people that he knew and loved – and all the people who knew and loved him.
    But the next day – Monday – Charlie forgot.

    For example, one Monday Charlie marched into a barbershop, got a haircut, paid for it, and went back outside, right across the street from a barbershop his father and he owned, where he could have gotten a much nicer haircut for free – but Charlie forgot.

    That evening, Charlie felt like eating out, so he went to a restaurant, and, because Charlie forgot who he was, he went to a restaurant that was a competitor to the one he and his father owned.  He ordered his favorite meal, had a wonderful time chatting and joking with the owner – actually an enemy of his father, paid for the meal, left a big tip, and went home.  He could have had a much nicer meal for free in his father’s restaurant.  All he had to do was to tell them who he was. —  but it seems that Charlie forgot.
    You would almost think that maybe Charlie didn’t enjoy being part of the Smith family – except on Sunday, and it certainly did seem that he enjoyed thinking he was not  part of the Smith family on every other day of the week.  It often seemed as though Charlie would rather be with people who were not part of his family and being in places that didn’t much like the Smith family – except, of course, on Sunday, because he certainly enjoyed those family get-togethers.
    We could talk a lot about other examples of how Charlie forgot, like the time he joined in with a stock buy-out scheme in which he was part of a group of buyers who were trying to take over a certain company, but since he didn’t remember who he was, he didn’t realize that he was trying to buy out his own company – one that belonged to him and his Dad.
    But here’s a question for all of us:
    Do you and I sometimes forget who we are?  
    Do we sometimes forget that we’re a part of the family of God?  
    Do we so much enjoy being a part of the rest of the world that we rarely think of who we really are except on Sundays, when our spiritual family gets together?
    Do we sometimes have such a good time in the company of the enemies of God that we forget who we are, and, in fact, maybe we start acting and talking just like them?

    How many times a day does it go through your head that you are a Christian?  
    Is it ever a constant frame of mind?  Shouldn’t it be?  
    Shouldn’t we be so conscious of who we are that there’s never a moment when there’s the slightest bit of amnesia or absent-mindedness about our identity with Jesus Christ?  
    Or do we sometimes forget?  — or at least act as though we don’t remember?
    What about those times when you’re agitated or disturbed over something someone
    said or did, and you can’t get over it — maybe you refuse to get over it ‘cause you’d rather be mad …  ?

    But I also think that sometimes we take our Christian identity, wrap it up all neat and tidy and put it in a box where we can get to it if we have to or if we really want to.  Otherwise, it’s just more convenient to forget it. – like Charlie did.

    If we were to slice up the moments of the day into the times you are really conscious of belonging to God as opposed to those times when you don’t think about it, one way or the other, how would things stack up?  How should they stack up?  Are we more mindful of belonging to God, or are we too “forgetful” to allow that part of our identity to have much of a bearing on our lives?
    You see, I have this sneaky suspicion that God kind of wants us to always be mindful of who we are.

    The Bible says, “For to be carnally-minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”
    What does it mean to be spiritually minded?  Isn’t that like knowing who you are?  Maybe that’s a little over simplified, but, then, again, maybe it isn’t.
    What does it mean to be carnally minded?  Isn’t that like forgetting who you are?  –

    Because our natural state – without God – is in the carnally-minded state of thinking. – like Charlie.  Forgetting who he was seemed to constantly put him at odds with his family interests –with his real identity.  Forgetting who we are puts us in constant conflict with the interests of the family of God – our family.

    Sometimes I wonder if part of the reason we like to sing, “I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God” is because we’re so glad to be reminded of who we are.
    You are part of God’s family.  – AND DON”T YOU EVER FORGET IT!

    Remember: To be spiritually minded is life and peace! 

  86. Scripture and Thoughts                                                  January 30, 2022

    From Concord Community Church and Pastor, Steve Ward, we extend to you our warmest greetings.  May His grace and peace be yours at all times and, especially, during these times of trial, testing, and uncertainty.  At Concord, we continue to meet for in-person worship at 10:00 AM each Sunday morning.  We are at 7578 Concord Road, Patriot, Indiana, halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.  Please come and join us.

    Come to Give                                                                                   January 30, 2022                                                                                        
     
    Romans 12:1,2; 4-8
    12 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

    4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

    Come to give — sounds like a message about giving to the collection plate, doesn’t it?

    In fact, I have been in churches where the “collection plate plea” — the plea to give generously to the offering – took longer than the sermon, and where the urging and begging for the offering were more intense than the altar call.

    But that’s not what we talking about, this morning. 

    Haven’t you ever heard someone complain, “Oh, I just didn’t get anything out of church, this morning.”?

    How about the opposite complaint?  Have you ever heard anyone distressed because they “just didn’t contribute enough to the church service, this morning.”?  The truth is that this may the story for many of us; we don’t give enough when we come to church; we don’t contribute enough – and, again, we’re not talking about monetary or material contributions.  Of course, if we do have such a complaint, we’re not upset about it, not like the way we’re upset when we “don’t get enough out of church, anymore.” or “I didn’t get anything out of church this Sunday.”

    But what we’re saying is that church is at least as much or more about giving as it is about receiving.  Not just “What did you get out of church, this morning, but “What did you take to church, this morning, to give to others?

    What you brought, and what we brought, collectively, was a whole lot more than you’ll ever find in any offering plate, and it was enough to give a hand to and a help to every person who came to church, this morning.

    By the way, what was it that you brought to church, this morning, to give to others? 

    I Corinthians 14:26
    “How is it, then brethren?  Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation.  Let all things be done for edification. (NKJ)

    What if we all did look for what we could bring to church to give?  What if we sat down and thought about what each person needs?  What if we tried to think about how we could meet those needs.

    Rescue Dog:
    I read a short story just the other day.  It was about a man who took his dog for a walk and they came to a man who was seemingly sleeping on a park bench, but the dog seemed to nearly go crazy with barking and pulling on his chain and acting up – almost as if he were trying to get to this man.  The owner, out of concern and alarm, went to wake up the sleeping man, but found him unresponsive.  His was in a diabetic coma.  An ambulance was called, the man was revived and cared for.

    A bystander asked, “Does your dog go around saving people?
    “No.”
    “Well, he did, today.”
    What did he do?  He was faithful to creation God made him to be.  He was a dog;  he had a dog’s sense of smell, — like a gift – and he refused to leave the scene without helping a person in distress

    Romans 12:4-8
    4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

    What is it that you can do?  There may be something that only you can contribute.  There may be someone who needs your unique gift or talent or ability. 

    One of the biggest things you can give is your smile.  May I say that if you can’t give your smile, you may need a “God Attitude Adjustment.”

              Last week we sang “The Joy of the Lord is my strength.”  Where is your joy?  Where is your strength?  Does God want you to have it?  Does He want you to give that to others, this morning?
              How about a handshake – or an elbow bump – or an “air hug?”  Let’s share some kind of sincere greeting.
              Hugs are alright, and, of course, in the pandemic, and it’s OK not to give hugs, but let’s make up for them in other ways.
              Can you give someone else your acceptance?  People need that, don’t they?  Can you give it to them?  People need our acknowledge, and they need our approval.  It would indeed be sad if anyone ever came to and left this place without receiving smiles, handshakes or greeting, and an acknowledgement / approval.

    In the unique gifts and talents and abilities that each once one of has, there is, no doubt, an opportunity for ministry.  There is a need — or multiple needs, and you may hold the key to helping or even rescuing another person.

    Come to church to give of your personal ministry — your gifts, your talents, and your own unique abilities.  Please be sure to know that there’s someone here who needs them.

    Come to give;
          Come to minister;
                   Come to lift someone up.
                             And we can also emphasize abilities that don’t necessarily fall under the category of spiritual gifts.

              Some of us are very gifted in the art of conversation and in being a host or hostess.  For those of you who are so gifted, it might be difficult for you to realize that the rest of us may not be as fluent, conversant, or at ease in speaking with others or in making visitors feel at home.  Bring your gift with you as you come to church, but, bring it in order to give.  How blest it would be if each of us would come to church with an active determination to give to others from the gifts with which we have been blessed.
             
    Some of us may be gifted in the art of encouragement; you may be the person who lifts a person out of their disappointment or discouragement.  You may be the one who gives another person a reason to smile or to start looking up, again, instead of being downcast.  . . . And, again, bring your gift with you — not in your back pocket, being held in reserve, but in your open hand, being ready to be distributed to others with every handshake, every greeting, and every encounter. 

    There is a phrase that has been applied to the church and to us as individuals, and it challenges us to understand ourselves as a “community of missionary disciples”
    who are permanently “in a state of mission.”

    The need to give to others coincides with the need to reach others.

    The truth is, to paraphrase, that this mission, while demanding great giving on our part and great generosity in giving of ourselves, is, nevertheless, not our work, but the Lord’s work.  In every activity of reaching out to others, the initiative and the power comes from God.  “He has loved us first,” and He alone “gives the growth” that accompanies our ministry.

    In all, this kind of giving becomes “a task so demanding and so challenging that it engages our entire life.  God asks everything of us, yet at the same time He offers everything to us.”

  87. Greetings and peace from Concord Community Church and pastor Steve Ward.  May His grace and peace rest upon you and be a part of each part of your day.  Please join us, if you can, (10:00 AM) at 7578 Concord Rd., halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.

    AM I AITHFUL?                                                     February 6, 2022

    I Timothy 1:12-17 17                                                                                                                                                    
    12 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry;                                                                                                              13 Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.                                      
    14 And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.                        
    15 This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.                                  
    16 Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.        
    17 Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory forever and ever. Amen.      
    I Timothy 6:12
    “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, unto which thou art also called and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.”
    II Timothy 4:7-8
    7. “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith;
    8. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also who love His appearing.”

    What does it mean to be faithful?

    One person was looking at “faithfulness” as the equivalent to being “good,” and they said this: 
    We often think of faithfulness as a need or as an obligation – “I need to be faithful,”

    Let’s also think of faithfulness in another way.  Let me illustrate it as a question: Have you ever been sitting in your house and had your dog just come and plop himself down near you, or at your feet, or even in a way so that he’s actually covering your feet?  And then, when he gets up and moves, there is this feeling of missing something, or of having a void.  You miss him or her because he/she is gone, but you also miss them because it was nice to have that expression of loyalty and faithfulness.
    Perhaps we should look for those expressions of loyalty and faithfulness in our own lives.  – As though we were extending those “warm, fuzzy feelings – loving feelings” toward God – like plopping ourselves down at His feet so that He actually feels the warmth of our closeness – and our wish to be as close to Him as possible.
    Do you remember the story of Mary and Martha, when Martha was all flustered and worried about preparation and serving?  Mary sat down at the feet of Jesus, forgetting all thoughts of housework and food preparation, because she wanted to be close to the Master.
    A recurring theme in the Old Testament is linked to the simple question, “Was he faithful or not?”  It was a question about the first people on earth, Adam and Eve.  They were faithful for a while, but then Eve was deceived, and Adam was persuaded, and they were disobedient – they became unfaithful to the very God who created them out of the dust of the earth.  They were leaving a very idyllic situation in which they actually met daily with God and talked with God, walked with God, and communed with God.  In my picture of what God wants from our relationship with Him, I believe He not only died for our sins, but that He also died to restore mankind’s fellowship and communion and closeness with Him.
    Noah was a faithful follower of God, and he and his family stood in stark contrast to the world around them.  Their faithfulness led to their rescue through the building of the Ark.  Hebrews 11:7 says, “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house, by which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness that is by faith.”
    Abraham and Lot were faithful, and Lot was rescued from the destruction of Sodom and Gamora by the intervention of an angel.
    Abraham was faithful and he obeyed God.  He became Father of the Hebrew nation.
    Moses was faithful, but he led a new nation of Israel that became increasingly unfaithful and actually became rebellious.
    Our record of the Kings of Israel – and, later, the kings of Israel and Judah – are punctuated with descriptions of them as being a “good king” – following God, or being a “bad king” or even an “evil king” who did not follow the Lord, and, many times, encouraged rebellion against God and the worship of false gods – unfaithful.
    During the reign of the kings we hear of prophets – men and women who were faithful to God, but it turns out that there were also many prophets – so called, at least,– who were not faithful to God, and it may be that there were many more false prophets than there were true prophets.
    In recent history, at least in comparison to the whole of history, America has been one of the hold-outs when it came to nations which were faithful to God.  America, it seemed, remained faithful for much of her history.
           -Can we call America faithful, today?   Can we even say that America is “Christian?”
               -For example, of the past 10 presidents in this country, can we point to the ones who obeyed God, who were faithful to God, who loved Him and wanted to be close to Him?
                       -Of the great leaders in America over the last 50 to 100 years, can we point to the ones who obeyed God?
    What if I held up my phone and said, “OK, Google, name the last five Presidents who followed God?”  Does Google or anybody even track this?  Will there ever be a “I Kings and II Kings” of the United States? – with a listing of whether or not they were faithful to God?
    The answer, of course, is that we don’t hold our leaders accountable in that way.  We don’t measure our presidents that way.  We have different standards, and those standards, regrettably, have nothing to do with following God or about being true to Him.
    Listen to this quote: “No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible who shall not have attained to the age of thirty five years, and been fourteen years a Resident within the United States.”
    There is no requirement or stated expectation to be faithful to God or even to be a follower of God.
    I’m deeply concerned, considering where our country is, today, whether a person who is truly faithful to God could ever again be elected to be the President of the United States.
    But the question comes back to us, today, as it did for the prophets, kings, and leaders of Israel, “Am I Faithful?”
    Do I love the God I claim to serve?
     -Do I know His standards, and do I strive to meet them?
        -Do I esteem Him in such a way as to make my loyalty obvious?
           -Do I live my life in such a way that He is pleased to call me
            His child?
               Is my real desire to sit at His feet and to be close to Him?
    If history recorded my life, would it describe me as being loyal, faithful, and an honest follower of God?  Would I be called a “Good Soldier” for Jesus Christ?

    Here is a question:  
    Considering our discussion, so far, should we be feeling guilty in terms of our faithfulness in following Christ?  
    . . . or should we be looking for ways to prompt ourselves toward wanting to be close to Him?
    Jesus didn’t preach to Martha and try to make her feel guilty.  He just said, “Martha, Martha, you are so worried about serving, but don’t fret about Mary; Mary has chosen the best part — here she was, sitting at the feet of Jesus.  The implication is that Martha could do so, too, and so can you and I.

  88. Greetings and peace from Concord Community Church and pastor Steve Ward.  May His grace and peace rest upon you and be a part of each part of your day.  Please join us, if you can, (10:00 AM) at 7578 Concord Rd., halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.

    New Beginnings                                          February 13, 2022

    In Luke, the 4th chapter, we have the story of Jesus returning to His hometown, Nazareth, and going to the synagogue.

    There in the synagogue, Jesus stood up to read, it says, and He read from the book of Isaiah.  He was actually handed the scroll that contained the words of Isaiah – what we now refer to as “the book of Isaiah,” and He unrolled the scroll until He found the passage that is found in the 61st chapter.

    Luke 4:14-22
    Jesus Begins His Galilean Ministry
    14 Then Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news of Him went out through all the surrounding region. 15 And He taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.
    16 So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. 17 And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:
    18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
    Because He has anointed Me
    To preach the gospel to the poor;
    He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
    To proclaim liberty to the captives
    And recovery of sight to the blind,
    To set at liberty those who are 
    oppressed;
    19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
    20 Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21 And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”  22 So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said,  “Is this not Joseph’s son?”
    Every once in a while, various ones of us return home – to the place, perhaps, where we grew up, and, while there, we might attend the church we refer to as our home church.  Imagine doing that and being graciously greeted and recognized, and some of the old-timers might nod to you or wave to you, and, especially, if you are in the ministry or in missionary work, you might be asked to say a few words to the congregation. 

    Now, what would happen, in that situation, if you carried your Bible to the pulpit, and there, you leafed through your Bible until you found a particular Scripture that was a quote that was known to refer to the Messiah.

    Perhaps your Scripture reading started out in this way:

    “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.”

                That would be an attention-grabber, wouldn’t it?

    And then you went on to read,

       “Because He has anointed Me
    To preach the gospel to the poor;
    He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
    To proclaim liberty to the captives
    And recovery of sight to the blind,
    To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
    19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”

    Then, when you had read that, you returned to your seat, but when the person leading the service came back to the pulpit, everyone was still staring at you, and you stood up, again, and you said, “Today, this prophesy is fulfilled – in your very hearing.”

    You are familiar, of course, with times when we have had special moments, and what we have heard has silenced us all into thinking and reflection, and we have felt that what we just listened to is so apropos that nothing more needs to be said.

    According to my Bible notes, the last phrase, “To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” has a particular application which we, in our contemporary setting, usually miss.

    “To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,” is an allusion to the “Year of Jubilee,” which, in Israel, was to happen every 50 years, and, during the “Year of Jubilee,” all debt was forgiven, all slaves were set free, and ancestral lands were returned to their original owners.

    The “Year of Jubilee” was a year of new beginnings.  Debt was canceled.  If you could convince a car dealer to sell you a new can on credit in year 49, then, in the next year the car would be yours.  Your loan would be canceled! 

    Jesus was proclaiming a time of new beginnings. How did He do that?  “Jesus offers a total cancellation of Spiritual debt and a new beginning to those who respond to His message.” (Nelson’s NKJV Study Bible, p. 1696)  He offers forgiveness of sins to those trust in Him as their Savior and Lord.

    He offers you a new beginning and He offers me a new beginning.  If you have never accepted Jesus to be the Savior; if you have never accepted Him to be your Savior, you can do so, right now.

    I mentioned, last week, a letter I had written to a young man who had given up on the possibility of ever being right with God, and, since I knew he was in such poor health that he would have to have the letter read to him, I suggested that he pray a prayer, and I made it as simple as possible.  I told him that just praying a prayer would not mean anything unless it was from his heart.  Here’s what I said:
      
    “There’s a prayer that you can pray about this.  Please understand that it’s not the prayer that saves you, but sometimes it helps when we put it into words.  Here’s a prayer you can pray:

    “Dear Jesus, I know I have sinned, and I’m deeply sorry.  Please forgive me.   I believe you died for my sins in order for me
    to go to Heaven.  I accept that, and I believe that.  I trust in You as my Savior, and I believe in You to take me to Heaven
    when I die.   In Jesus Name, Amen.”

    I went on to say, 

    “It’s kind of plain and simple, but that’s also the great thing about it.  The simple fact is that God loves you and He loves me, and He very much wants you to have eternal life in Heaven.  I truly hope you will believe and accept that.”
    Please accept His invitation to be His child.  Accept His invitation to belong to Him and to be one of His family.

    If you are a Christian and you’re not living the way you ought to live, Jesus offers you a new beginning, too.
     In I John 1, it says, 9“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
    10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
    2:1. My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.
    3 Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected  in him. By this we know that we are in Him. 6 He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.”

    “He who says He abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.”
    Are you walking just as He walked?  Are you doing the things He has said to do?

    It may be time to bring your sins to Him, also, and set yourself right with God.  Using the prayer we prayed earlier, here’s a way to start:

    “Dear Jesus, I know I have sinned, and I’m deeply sorry.  Please forgive me. I want to be restored to fellowship with you and to walk with you in harmony. I want your love to be perfected in me so that I can truly abide in you and live my life the way you would want me to live.  In Jesus name, Amen.”

    I hope you will do that.  I hope you will grasp at the chance for a new beginning.  I hope we will all continually seek to have, as John put it, “The love of God perfected in us.”

  89. Greetings and peace from Concord Community Church and pastor Steve Ward.  May His grace and peace rest upon you and be in abundance for each part of your day.  Please join us, if you can, (10:00 AM) at 7578 Concord Rd., halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.

    Abide in Me                                                                                                      2/20/2022

    John 15:4-17
    4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
    5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
    6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
    7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
    8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
    9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: (continue ye in my love.)
    10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.
    11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
    12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
    13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
    14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
    15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.
    16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
    17 These things I command you, that ye love one another.

    The Greek word for “abide,” is “meno,” (pronounced, “men’-o,”) meaning “to stay (in a given place, state, relation or expectancy): abide, continue, dwell, endure, be present, remain, stand, tarry.”

    We’re going to be reading and referring to a good number of Bible verses, today, trying to get a feel for this word and it’s meaning and implications.

    Jesus used the word in Luke 19:5. “And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for today I must abide at thy house.”
    Again, in John 12:46, Jesus says, “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.”

    In John14:16, He says “ And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever;”

    And, of course, we see it used extensively in our text, in John 15:4-10, above.  

    In I John 2:28  “And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.”

    We find the word, abide in a number of places in the Old Testament:

    I Samuel 1:22 “But Hannah went not up; for she said unto her husband, I will not go up until the child be weaned, and then I will bring him, that he may appear before the Lord, and there abide for ever.”
    Psalm 61:4 “I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the covert of thy wings. Selah.”

    Rather a favorite for me is found in Psalm 91:1. “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”

    That idea of “abiding” and the safety and security of “abide under the shadow of the Almighty is expanded in the verses that follow:
    Psalm 91:2-7
    2  “I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.
    3  Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.
    4  He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.
    5  Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;
    6  Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.
    7  A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.”

    Thus, in our text, Jesus is saying to the disciples, “stay with me,” “Lodge with me,” “Dwell with me,” and He is also saying, “I will stay with you.” “I will lodge with you.”  “I will dwell with you.”

    “Be my house guest forever,” He says, “and I, in turn, will be your house guest forever.”

    John 15:10,11: “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.”

    Let’s stop and look a little closer.  First, however, let’s remember that last week, we spoke about having the love of God perfected in our hearts. 
      “But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him.”  (1 John 2:5)
    Now, in these verses, (John 15:10, 11), we’re hearing about keeping His commandments and abiding in His love. Then we hear Jesus say that these things are being said so that HIS JOY would remain in us and so that OUR JOY MIGHT BE FULL.

    Keeping His commandments, abiding in Him, abiding in His love, perfecting His love in us, and having fullness of joy.  That’s a combination I could live with and live with some more.  That’s a recipe I could take all day.  It’s a concoction that promises the ultimate joy and the ultimate satisfaction.
     
    Do you remember when Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”? (John 14:27)

    I would like to suggest that this peace comes, especially, from abiding in Him.  Actually, there’s no other way!

    Are we delighting in that peace?  Are we delighting in that joy?  Are we delighting in His presence?  Are we delighted to be abiding in Him?

    Listen to the words of this song, and let it speak to you of the peace and calm and security of resting —
    abiding in Him

    “The Haven of Rest” – Harry S. Gilmore
    1. My soul in sad exile was out on life’s sea,
    So burdened with sin and distressed,
    Till I heard a sweet voice, saying, “Make Me your choice”;
    And I entered the “Haven of Rest”!
    •          Refrain:
    I’ve anchored my soul in the “Haven of Rest,”
    I’ll sail the wide seas no more;
    The tempest may sweep over the wild, stormy, deep,
    In Jesus I’m safe evermore.
    2.    I yielded myself to His tender embrace,
    In faith taking hold of the Word,
    My fetters fell off, and I anchored my soul;
    The “Haven of Rest” is my Lord. (Refrain)
    3.    The song of my soul, since the Lord made me whole,
    Has been the old story so blest,
    Of Jesus, who’ll save whosoever will have
    A home in the “Haven of Rest.” (Refrain)

    4.    How precious the thought that we all may recline,
    Like John, the beloved so blest,
    On Jesus’ strong arm, where no tempest can harm,
    Secure in the “Haven of Rest.” (Refrain)
    5.    Oh, come to the Savior, He patiently waits
    To save by His power divine;
    Come, anchor your soul in the “Haven of Rest,”
    And say, “My Beloved is mine.” (Refrain)

    Hillary Scott wrote a song that uses the phrase, “sheltered in the arms of God.”

    “Sheltered In The Arms Of God”  – Hillary Scott
    I feel the touch of hands so kind and tender          
    They’re leading me in paths that I must trod
    I’ll have no fear for Jesus walks beside me
    For I’m sheltered in the arms of God

    So let the storms rage high
    The dark clouds rise
    They don’t worry me
    For I’m sheltered safe within the arms of God

    He walks with me
    And naught of earth shall harm me
    For I’m sheltered in the arms of God

    Soon I shall hear the call from Heaven’s portals
    “Come home, My child, it’s the last mile you must trod.”
    I’ll fall asleep and wake up in God’s new heaven
    For I’m sheltered in the arms of God

    So let the storms rage high
    The dark clouds rise
    They don’t worry me
    For I’m sheltered safe within the arms of God

    He walks with me
    And naught of earth shall harm me
    For I’m sheltered in the arms of God
    Sheltered safe within the arms of God

    I believe that God wants for each of us to not only “abide” in Him,
    but to treasure His presence and company,
    to delight in His companionship and nearness.

  90. Greetings and peace from Concord Community Church and pastor Steve Ward.  May His grace and peace rest upon you and be in abundance for each part of your day.  Please join us, if you can, (10:00 AM) at 7578 Concord Rd., halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.

    Extreme Love, Prayer and Discipleship                                            2/27/2022

    Scripture Reading: John 13:34,35; John 14:23-27
    34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
    John 14:23-27 (NIV)
     23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
    25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
    The church, today, needs a good dose of extra-ordinary love, extra-ordinary discipleship and extra-ordinary prayer.

    Today, we’re going to talk about the need for extra-ordinary love.  In the coming weeks, we hope to talk about extra-ordinary prayer and extra-ordinary discipleship.

    What is “extra-ordinary love?

    By way of explanation, let me say that what we are looking for, here, really should not be “extra-ordinary.”  For the Christian, it should be quite common.  For the Christian, it should be a very usual, daily kind of love.  It should be extra-ordinary, however, compared with those around us.  It should be so extra-ordinary that it’s something that people notice and that they talk about.  It should be so extra-ordinary that it draws people – it should attract people; it should be a force within us that people marvel at, wonder at, and can’t quite believe.  They should say, “If that’s what it means to be a Christian, then the whole world should be Christian.”

    The early church had such a love – so outstanding that people marveled at it.  People were drawn to it, and they were drawn to Christ because of the love found in His followers.

    We’re talking about a love that would transform the world – a love which, if carried to its ultimate end, would bring about that for which we are often pray: world peace.

    The sad truth is that we don’t often see examples of this kind of love.  Other than Jesus, Himself, we don’t see very many instances of the kind of love that should characterize every Christian.

    Perhaps the best example we can think of from modern times is the example of Mother Theresa, because if it was love that drove her to care for the diseased and homeless, the forsaken, forgotten, and the neglected, then that’s the kind of love that should be part of the walk of every Christian.

    And that’s the kind of love that, though extra-ordinary to the rest of the world, should be ordinary and normal for the Christian.

         Is it?

    A teacher asked a boy this question: “Suppose your mother baked a pie and there were seven of you—your parents and five children. What part of the pie would you get?”
    “A sixth,” replied the boy.
    “I’m afraid you don’t know your fractions,” said the teacher. “Remember, there are seven of you.”
    “Yes, teacher,” said the boy, “but you don’t know my mother. Mother would say she didn’t want any pie.”

    On August 16, 1987, Northwest Airlines flight 225 crashed just after taking off from the Detroit airport, killing 155 people. One survived: a four-year-old from Tempe, Arizona, named Cecelia. When rescuers found Cecelia they did not believe she had been on the plane. Investigators first assumed Cecelia had been a passenger in one of the cars on the highway onto which the airliner crashed. But when the passenger register for the flight was checked, there was Cecelia’s name.
    Cecelia survived because, even as the plane was falling, Cecelia’s mother, Paula Cichan, unbuckled her own seat belt, got down on her knees in front of her daughter, wrapped her arms and body around Cecelia, and then would not let her go.

    Nothing could separate that child from her parent’s love—neither tragedy nor disaster, neither the fall nor the flames that followed, neither height nor depth, neither life nor death.

    That’s the love of a mother for her child; It’s also the love of our God for us, wrapping His arms around us and not letting us go, even through the agony of crucifixion.  Is it possible that we, too, could have such a Godly love for others that we could take them in our arms and into our hearts and into our care – even in the face of adversity or peril?  That would be an extreme love, an extra-ordinary love – the kind of love for which the world is looking.

    Closing Hymn: #604, “I Then Shall Live”
    I Then Shall Live
    Gaither Vocal Band
    I then shall live as one who’s been forgiven.
    I’ll walk with joy to know my debts are paid.
    I know my name is clear before my Father;
    I am His child and I am not afraid.
    So, greatly pardoned, I’ll forgive my brother;
    The law of love I gladly will obey.
    I then shall live as one who’s learned compassion.
    I’ve been so loved, that I’ll risk loving too.
    I know how fear builds walls instead of bridges;
    I’ll dare to see another’s point of view.
    And when relationships demand commitment,
    Then I’ll be there to care and follow through.

    Your Kingdom come around and through and in me;
    Your power and glory, let them shine through me.
    Your Hallowed Name, O may I bear with honor,
    And may Your living Kingdom come in me.
    The Bread of Life, O may I share with honor,
    And may You feed a hungry world through me.

  91. Greetings and peace from Concord Community Church and pastor Steve Ward.  May His grace and peace rest upon you and be in abundance for each part of your day.  Please join us, if you can, (10:00 AM) at 7578 Concord Rd., halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.

    Extreme Discipleship                                                      3/6/2022

    Scripture Reading: Acts 4:8-22
    8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: 9 If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, 10 let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. 11 This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ [a] 12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
    The Name of Jesus Forbidden
    13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. 14 And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. 15 But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, 16 saying, “What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name.”
    18 So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. 20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” 21 So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way of punishing them, because of the people, since they all glorified God for what had been done. 22 For the man was over forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed.

    Prayer for Boldness (Not in Bulletin)
    23 And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. 24 So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, 25 who by the mouth of Your servant David[b] have said:
    ‘Why did the nations rage,
    And the people plot vain things?
    26 The kings of the earth took their stand,
    And the rulers were gathered together
    Against the LORD and against His Christ.’[c]
    27 “For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done. 29 Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, 30 by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.”
    31 And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.

    -I challenge you, today, to be a radical, extreme, convinced disciple of Jesus Christ.
    -I challenge you, today, to be as sure of Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection as   was Peter, as was John and as were all the other disciples.

    How long have you known Jesus? – some of us 10, 20, 30, 40 or even more years.  How long had the disciples known Jesus?  Three years?

    You might say, “But they were with Him every day, every hour, every minute.”

    You already know what I’m going to say.  . . .  We, too, have lived with Him – every day every hour, every minute.”

    But there is a huge difference.  In the time the disciples were with Jesus, they didn’t really know; they had not made a decision, at least they weren’t convinced for a long time, and even that seems to have been quite tenuous.  For the most part, I don’t think they were really convinced until after the resurrection.  I doubt that Thomas was the only one who had doubts,

    Most important, they didn’t have all the advantages of having the Holy Spirit in their hearts all that time.  How long have you had the Holy Spirit as your teacher, counsellor, and guide?  How long ago was it that you came to believe that Jesus is the Lord, the Messiah, and the King of Kings?  How much of the Scripture has been available to you to read and to study and to compare and to consider?  They had the Old Testament!!!  THAT’S IT!!

    We have four stories of the life of Jesus, we have a very complete accounting of the things the apostles did and said, where they went, who they talked to, what miracles were performed, what amazing things happened . . . 

    We have letters back and forth to churches as well as to individuals, and we have two complete treatises – Romans and Hebrews – on the doctrine and beliefs resulting from Jesus’ life and from His teaching.  They had none of that.

    I know it seems a good bit more dramatic for them to have been there and to be eye witnesses.  But we have an entire accumulation of eye-witnesses, investigators, and scholarly thinkers speaking to us from the pages of the Bible.  We have scholarly writers and thinkers from the annuls of history, and the testimony of the saints of God through the course of 2,000 years!  

    Actually, we have more evidence at our disposal than any of them did.

    Are we still not convinced?  Then how can we call ourselves believers?
           But we certainly claim to be.  What’s that song we sing with such enthusiasm?
    “I serve a risen Savior
      He’s in the world today.
    I know that He is living,
      Whatever men may say.

    I see His hand of mercy;
      I hear His voice of cheer;
    And just the time I need Him
      He’s always near. He lives, 

    He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!
    He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.
    He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!
    You ask me how I know He lives?
        He lives within my heart.
    2, In all the world around me
      I see His loving care,
    And though my heart grows weary,
      I never will despair;
    I know that He is leading,
      Through all the stormy blast;
    The day of His appearing
      Will come at last.”

    ((3. Rejoice, rejoice, O Christian,
      Lift up your voice and sing
    Eternal hallelujahs
      To Jesus Christ the King!
    The Hope of all who seek Him,
      The Help of all who find,
    None other is so loving,
      So good and kind.))

    Again,
    I challenge you, today, to be a radical, extreme, convinced disciple of Jesus Christ.

    I challenge you, today, to be as sure of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection as was Peter and John and all the other disciples.

    And, most importantly, I challenge you, today, to ask God – even to beg God – to fill you – FILL YOU, FILL YOU – with the Holy Spirit. – and to pray the prayer that the disciples prayed when the Jewish leaders released them with threats:  “Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your Word, by stretching out your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of your holy Servant Jesus . . .  and the house where they were assembled was shaken.”

    I’m not challenging you to approach every person you meet with a death grip on the shirt collar and an insistence that they hear the proclamation of your testimony.  If there’s a “death grip,” it’s the one the Holy Spirit should have on you and on each one of us.  The challenge is to live a life of conviction, and Holy Spirit guidance and unction, and of determined adherence to the truth you already know and believe – that’s what the church, today, needs so desperately.

    It’s what our church needs – and it’s what every church across the world – needs.  

    Last week I challenged you to love with an extra-ordinary love – a radical, extreme love.

    Today I ask you to practice an extreme discipleship.  I ask you to live in such a way that your friend’s eternal life depended upon it.

    My Friend (“I Thought You Were My Friend”)
    “My friend, I stand in judgment now,
    And feel that you’re to blame somehow.
    On earth I walked with you day by day,
    And never did you point the way.

    You knew the Lord in truth and glory.
    But never did you tell the story.
    My knowledge then was very dim;
    You could have led me safe to Him.

    Though we lived together here on earth, 
    You never told me of the second birth. 
    And now I stand this day condemned,
    Because you failed to mention Him.

    You taught me many things, that’s true;
    I called you “friend,” and trusted you.
    But I learn now that it’s too late;
    And you could have kept me from this fate.

    We walked by day and talked by night,
    And yet you showed me not the light.
    You let me live, and love, and die,
    You knew I’d never live on high.

    Yes, I called you “friend” in life,
    And trusted you through joy and strife.
    And yet, on coming to this dreadful end
    I cannot, now, call you “My Friend.”

  92. Extreme Discipleship:  Scripture and Thoughts for March 13, 2022                                             

    Greetings and peace from Concord Community Church and pastor Steve Ward.  May His grace and peace rest upon you and be in abundance for each part of your day.  Please join us, if you can, (10:00 AM) at 7578 Concord Rd., halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.

    Extreme Discipleship                                                                                        

    Scripture Reading: Acts 4:8-22
    8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: 9 If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, 10 let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. 11 This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’[a] 12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
    The Name of Jesus Forbidden
    13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. 14 And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. 15 But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, 16 saying, “What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name.”
    18 So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. 20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” 21 So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way of punishing them, because of the people, since they all glorified God for what had been done. 22 For the man was over forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed.

    (Not in Bulletin)Prayer for Boldness
    23 And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. 24 So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, 25 who by the mouth of Your servant David[b] have said:
    ‘Why did the nations rage,
    And the people plot vain things?
    26 The kings of the earth took their stand,
    And the rulers were gathered together
    Against the Lord and against His Christ.’[c]
    27 “For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done. 29 Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, 30 by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.”
    31 And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.

    As we did, last week,-I challenge you, today, to be a radical, extreme, convinced disciple of Jesus Christ.
    -I challenge you, today, to be as sure of Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection as
      was Peter, as was John and as were all the other disciples.

    It boils down to this:
          Know what you know.  You believe it; make it a living part of your life.
          Be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Lead a God-filled life!
          “Be ye steadfast, unmovable, . . . Don’t be distracted.

    Again, it’s what our church needs – and it’s what every church across the world – needs. 

    Our dog, Charlie, used to live a much more independent life than he does, now.  In a way, he’s a little bit of a rescue dog in the sense that he “kinda” had a home, and he “kinda” didn’t.  In our home, he’s very loving, very cuddly, and very sweet and loyal.  Once outside, however, he’s in an element that’s more like his old life, and he readily chases the first squirrel that appears, the first leaf that blows, the first blue jay that dares land on the ground anywhere near “chasing distance.”

    Charlie is easily distracted.  It’s part of his old life.  He might actually love it!  He also loves his new home, and he loves us, but, when he’s outside, we have to call him back, and sometimes he’d rather be distracted.  Sometimes we have to step out on the porch several times before he appears, tail wagging in eagerness, eyes bright with expectation, ready to be loved and cuddled and cared for.

    Sometimes we’re like that in our Christian lives, aren’t we?  Too often we need to be called back.  We even depend on being called back.  Sometimes, if we didn’t go to church, we wouldn’t be being called back.  Perhaps we’d be in continually distracted mode.

    How often do we need to be called back?  Once a week?  Once a day? Once an hour?
    I challenge you to call yourself back constantly, extensively, endlessly, unceasingly, uninterruptedly – undistractedly!  Yes, call yourself back so often that you’re not “away” when you call.

    Be ever vigilant against distractions.  Isn’t there a reference or a Bible verse, somewhere, that says, “Be thou not distracted?

    There’s a song that says, “Stayed upon Jehovah”

    There’s a book, called The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence, and that’s exactly what we need: to practice the presence of God – to live as though God were right there beside you, all the time – because He is, and, although it may seem a little extreme, sometimes, it’s what God wants from us. 

    Sometimes we might even say, “Well, He wants an awfully lot from us, doesn’t He?  The answer is, “Yes, and rightfully so!”  We might consider that John 3:16 could very well have said, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believeth in Him should have the presence of God with them from then on – and on and on – eternally.” 

    What do you think Heaven will be like?  Do we not expect to be in the presence of God?  Could there be anything better?  Is there anything, here on earth that could be better than to be in the presence of God? 

    What was the Garden of Eden all about?  Well, for one thing, it was about God communing with man and man communing with God.  That’s what we lost, right?  Does it not bless your heart to think that God wants that back?

    Guess what!  We all have access, right now, to that part of Heaven!  We have, do we not, access to a spiritual garden of Eden? 

    Don’t forget Brother Lawrence.  Practice His presence.  Don’t just pray to Him.  Talk with Him! 
       “Lord, help me! 
         . . . but, also, “My Lord, what a morning!” 
       “O, God, thank you!”

    And it doesn’t always have to be desperate, and it doesn’t have to be formal:
    “O, Lord, what did I do with my wallet.  “Please help me find my gloves.”
    “Please be with Jerry, this morning.”  

    Isaiah 26:3, says, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee.”
     
    Last week I challenged you to love with an extra-ordinary love – a radical, extreme love.

    Today I ask you to practice an extreme discipleship.  I ask you to live in an extreme consciousness of God’s presence, to live with, with, WITH God in such a way as you would live in the presence of your best friend.  – and live as though your friend’s eternal life depended upon it.

  93. Greetings and peace from Concord Community Church and pastor Steve Ward.  May His grace and peace rest upon you and be in abundance for each part of your day.  Please join us, if you can, (10:00 AM) at 7578 Concord Rd., halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.

    Extreme Prayer; Radical Prayer, Extra-ordinary Prayer              2/20/2022

    Scripture Reading:

    Jeremiah 33:3
    “Call unto me and I will answer thee and show thee great and mighty things that thou knowest not.”
    Matthew 14:23
    “After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. . “.
    Luke 18:1
    “And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;”
    Acts 1:14
    “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.”
    Acts 2:42
    “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
    James 5:16
    “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

    When Esther prayed for her people, she asked the entire nation to pray and to fast for three days and three nights.

    When Daniel heard the decree that no one was to pray to any God except to the king, he went to his open window and continued his habit of praying three times a day.

    When the disciples defied the rulers and prayed for the hand of God to continue to show signs and wonders as evidence of his power and of the truth of the Gospel message, their prayer shook the house in which they were praying.

    Prayer was the vital component of George Mueller’s 19th-century ministry to England’s orphans.

    In “Answers to Prayer,” Mueller reveals how powerful and spiritually rewarding prayer can be.

     Mueller lived a life of total dependence on God. One of Mueller’s chief rules was to never tell others the needs of the orphanages, but only to ask God for help.

     God did indeed answer Mr. Mueller’s prayers by providing for thousands of orphans often on a meal to meal basis for over 40 years. The powerful ways that God did provide are truly touching, with power to encourage other Christians and challenge the skeptical.
    His life shows how every believer can appropriate the promises of God for themselves.

    Through all this, Müller never made requests for financial support, nor did he go into debt, even though the five homes he ran cost over £100,000 to build. Many times, he received unsolicited food donations only hours before they were needed to feed the children, further strengthening his faith in God.

    For example, on one well-documented occasion, they gave thanks for breakfast when all the children were sitting at the table, even though there was nothing to eat in the house. As they finished praying, the baker knocked on the door with sufficient fresh bread to feed everyone, and the milkman gave them plenty of fresh milk because his cart broke down in front of the orphanage
    A life of prayer –Crossing the AtlanticOnce, while crossing the Atlantic on the SS Sardinian in August 1877, his ship ran into thick fog. He explained to the captain that he needed to be in Quebec by the following afternoon, but Captain Joseph E. Dutton (later known as “Holy Joe”) said that he was slowing the ship down for safety and Müller’s appointment would have to be missed. Müller asked to use the chartroom to pray for the lifting of the fog. The captain followed him down, claiming it would be a waste of time. After Müller prayed a very simple prayer, the captain started to pray, but Müller stopped him; partly because of the captain’s unbelief, but mainly because he believed the prayer had already been answered. Müller said, “Captain, I have known my Lord for more than fifty years and there is not one instance that I have failed to have an audience with the King. Get up, Captain, for you will find that the fog has gone.” When the two men went back to the bridge, they found the fog had lifted, and Müller was able to keep his appointment.  It’s almost needless to say that the captain became a Christian shortly afterwards.
    From Dr. James Dobson – from his Call-in Radio Program

    Sick Father-in Law
       Beth, from North Augusta, SC: This past January, my family received a call that my father-in-law was very sick and not expected to live through the week. So my husband packed up our car and our two small boys and we hit the road for the sixteen hour trip up north. Before we left, we called several of our friends who set the prayer chains in motion praying not only for my father-in-law but for our safety as well. When we were three hours from our destination, our car hit a patch of ice and we rolled three and a half times into the median completely destroying our car. My husband and our boys all walked out of that accident with barely a scratch. We later found out that the very hour we were crashing was the very hour that every Sunday school class in our church was praying for us. In response to these prayers the Lord not only sparred our lives but that of my father-in-law as well.

    Sandbox
    From Benton, Maryland: One of my most special memories of answered prayer occurred five years ago when our first child was just a year and a half old. The Lord has graciously allowed me to stay at home and be with our children, but at the time our budget was rather tight. Because our yard was very small we wanted to have a sandbox for our little girl to play in, but I knew that there was no way we could afford one. So one morning me and my little girl prayed that Jesus would send her a sandbox. Well three days later my husband came home from work and said, “Sweetie, you’ll never guess what’s in the back of my truck. Of course, it was a sandbox. It turned out that his bosses little girl had two sandboxes and he’d offered the extra one to us. But we knew where that sandbox really came from. Jesus had sent it. We now have three children and every time we take them out to play in the sandbox, I’m reminded of the fact that we saw Jesus at work – even in a sandbox.

    Brain Tumor
    Sandy Tivits, from Worster, Ohio: In the fall of 1994, I was reading Dr. Dobson’s book, “When God doesn’t Make Sense” when I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I was a single parent with two teenage sons and worked as a registered nurse at a job with no paid sick leave. Christians from many denominations started prayer chains and rallied around us. The surgery lasted 14-1/2 hours with my neuro-surgeon having no partner to assist him. My family was shocked with the news that I might not make it through the night and my dear friend Dianne gathered my small family in her arms in that waiting room and said “We’re going to pray right now.” God knew all along that I was to be used as His vessel as He cradled me in His loving arms. He did answer those prayers. I was out of the hospital in eleven days and back to work in three months. He also saw fit to meet all of our financial needs during my recovery. My doctor tells me I’m a miracle; that I’ve been given a second chance in life.

    Missionaries to the Philippines
    ,Chuck from Marshville, Wisconsin: For the past five years my wife and I have been missionaries in the mountains of the Philippines along with our four children. In July of 1993 a situation developed where we did not receive the funds that we were expecting to receive from the states and we soon ran out of money. Shortly after that, we began to run out of food. And on a Monday morning in July, the situation was obviously critical and we began to pray and by Tuesday, all we had left was rice and soy sauce which is what we had for lunch and for breakfast and for dinner. By Wednesday we had the same, just rice and soy sauce, except on Wednesday noon we ate the last of food. And about two o’clock that afternoon there came a knock at the door and a young lady from down the road about a quarter mile away came with a large bag filled with food. She was so embarrassed, she thought surely she was making a mistake. She said, “You wouldn’t, by any chance be needing any groceries would you?”
    Car wouldn’t start
    “Hi, my name is Cathy and I’m calling from Green Bay, Wisconsin.  Once while traveling with my two boys we stopped to stretch our legs and when we came back to our car it wouldn’t start. We were three hours from home and two hours from our destination and we didn’t know a soul where we were. After trying to start the car several more times, I looked over at my oldest son Tim who was five at the time and I said, “We need to pray and ask God to make our car start.” After we prayed, I looked at Tim and I said “Well here we go.” Would you believe the car started on the very first try. I wish you could have seen the look of surprise and wonder in my sons’ face. Because of that object lesson from heaven, he will never forget that God really does hear and answer our prayers. Whether for something very important or as simple as making a car start.

    Our son, Adam and I were in the Bronco, a four-wheel drive with aggressive, winter-tread tires.  Adam was old enough to campaign for buying a Bronco, but not yet old enough to drive one.  It had recently snowed, and the driveway was a bit piled up and covered with the stuff.  Even with the four-wheel-drive, it would a challenge to make it up the hill.  There’s a short “straight” stretch followed by a significant curve, another straight stretch and then final curve and short, steeper cresting of the hill.  Under those conditions, there’s only one way to approach the curves: maximum “safe” speed.  Nevertheless, as we were just barely into the first curve, it was easy to tell that we (I) had mis-judged both the slipperiness of the snow and the holding power of those aggressively-treaded tires.  We were in a slide, and, even though, being a Michigan driver, I can often pull out of a skid or slide, this one was too much.  In that flash of a split mili-second, and faster than that bronco could have traveled even an inch over that super slippery ice and snow – in that super-fast time frame, my mind made these super-quick statements:  “I’m from Michigan; I know snow; I know tires, and I know “slippery. . . . We’re gonna hit that tree.  There was not a doubt, and there was not a chance in this natural world that anything else would happen without a badly crinkled bronco and a seriously injured tree, and I yelled, “Lord, help! . . . and Adam and I both braced for impact – because it was certain, —   and the bronco stopped six inches in front of the tree.  The Lord stopped that car!  This was not going to be a gentle crash.  The tree had no chance!  There was nowhere else to go, and there was no traction, no dry or bare road to be found, and yet we came to an abrupt halt.  We didn’t hit a snow bank. We didn’t hit an uncommonly large rock, and we didn’t hit a stump.  We just stopped!  Adam and I just looked at each other – in wide-eyed amazement –  and I actually thought: “No matter how long I am a step-father to this boy, and no matter how hard I try to teach him about the ways of God, there’s nothing that will ever teach him about the providence and saving power of God than what he has just seen in these few, un-explainable seconds of experiencing the rescue by the Master’s hand.

    We did home-schooling for a while, and I remember a conclusion that was held up as an absolute truism:
     
    If you’re going to pray; if you’re going to ask God for something, then don’t get caught not expecting God to answer.  Expect God to hear you, and then “Stand Back and be amazed”
     
    Philippians 4:6 (NKJV)
    “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;”

    If we want to be an “alive” church, we need to be a praying church.
    If we want to be vigorous and active and relevant, we need to be a praying church.  
    We need to be, not just a praying church, but we need to be a praying people. 

    Our final song, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” is really a song that’s more about prayer than anything else.
    1. What a Friend We Have in Jesus
    What a friend we have in Jesus
    All our sins and griefs to bear
    What a privilege to carry
    Everything to God in prayer        Why, by the way, do we have access to God?
                                                             How can we even enter into His presence?
                                                                      It’s because the sacrifice of  Jesus Christ
                                                            gave us entrance.
    Oh, what peace we often forfeit
    Oh, what needless pain we bear
    All because we do not carry
    Everything to God in prayer

    Have we trials and temptations?
    Is there trouble anywhere?
    We should never be discouraged
    Take it to the Lord in prayer

    Can we find a friend so faithful
    Who will all our sorrows share?
    Jesus knows our every weakness
    Take it to the Lord in prayer
                    Songwriters: Charles C. Converse, Joyce Eilers Bacak, Joseph M. Scrivener

  94. Extreme Prayer: Answers to Prayer            March 27, 2022

    Greetings and peace from Concord Community Church and pastor Steve Ward.  I trust that
    these Scriptures will touch you heart and that your meditation on them will be both a challenge
    and a blessing to you.  Please join us in person, if you can, (10:00 AM) at 7578 Concord Road,
    halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana. 
    We’re the little white church in the middle a cornfield – “the “Church down the lane.” 
    “Come share God’s love with us.”

    Scripture Reading: (Please read all of it!)
    Jeremiah 33:3
    Call unto me and I will answer thee and show thee great and mighty things that thou knowest not.”
    I Thessalonians 5:16
    . . . Pray without ceasing . . .
    James 5:16
    . . .  The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

    Jeremiah 33:3
    Call unto me and I will answer thee and show thee great and mighty things that thou knowest not.”
    I Thessalonians 5:16
    . . . Pray without ceasing . . .
    James 5:16
    . . .  The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

    Jeremiah 33:3
    Call unto me and I will answer thee and show thee great and mighty things that thou knowest not.”
    I Thessalonians 5:16
    . . . Pray without ceasing . . .
    James 5:16
    . . .  The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

    I invite you to think and meditate on these two stories about answers to prayer.

    Guideposts Classics:
    Clint Walker on Praying for Help
    In this story from November 1971, the star of the popular western TV series Cheyenne tells how his life was changed by the accident that almost killed him. By Clint Walker
    I was skiing last May 24, up at Mammoth Mountain, near Bishop, California. I am pretty proficient at most sports, from shark hunting to motorcycling, but skiing is one that I have only recently tackled, which was why I was measuring the steep run before me with such a wary eye.
    Finally I shoved off down the slope, gathering speed as I followed the contours of the twisting, irregular terrain. I still don’t know how it happened, but all at once I was tumbling out of control, and then—an abrupt, violent stop.
    As I fell, one of my ski poles up-ended in the hard-packed snow. The momentum and my weight as I fell on it drove the pointed tip about five inches into my chest, through the breastbone and into my heart. I rolled over in the snow. The wind had been knocked out of me, and I was in terrible pain.
    About 400 feet below, my instructor was looking up at me. I called as loud as I could, “I’m hurt bad—get help!” Then I fell back.
    I remember a sensation as of rings of light radiating from my body, as ripples radiate from a pebble tossed into water. At the same time I had a feeling of being propelled through space; and although the pain was still there, I became less sensitive to it.
    I suddenly knew that I was dying. With the knowledge came a sense of sharpened awareness. I did not think of a particular person or event; certainly my life didn’t flash before me. But I knew, with an overwhelming conviction, that the Power that had given me life could sustain it—against any odds.
    My concept of time underwent a change as I lay there; my existence seemed no more than an instant in eternity, and with a clarity I had never known before, I saw life in a new perspective. Things which had seemed so important simply were not. I had recently gone through a difficult emotional experience, and I recalled it now with a tranquility that would not have been possible previously.
    Although I felt I was slipping away from this earthly experience, I also felt a sense of going on. With it came a sadness that I had not done more with my life, and immediately I had a strong desire to stay, as though there were some unfinished business to take care of.
    I said, “God, I’m really in trouble! I can’t help myself. I’m not going to make it, unless You will see me through— and I would like to stay around for a while.” With that, I seemed content to let go.
    The next thing I remember is being taken down the hill on a sled-type stretcher used for rescue operations. I suppose I was literally jolted back to consciousness because of the roughness of the terrain. The pain was almost unbearable.
    When the doctor examined me in Mammoth, he recognized the necessity of getting me to the hospital in Bishop, some 45 miles away, as quickly as possible.
    All in all, close to three hours elapsed from the time I was injured until I went into surgery at Northern Inyo Hospital at Bishop, where the doctors performed open-heart surgery. By then, according to the medical records, I was cyanosed (blue from lack of oxygen) and there was no recordable pulse or blood pressure.
    The surgery was on Monday, May 24, and I left the hospital walking, eight days later. I spent three days at the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles and then went home. The end, you might say, of a remarkable experience.
    But actually, it was merely the beginning.
    News of the accident had been carried by the wire services, and I had been interviewed by television newsmen. In the course of the interviews I made a statement which was to change my life. I said that I had asked God for help on the mountain, and that I was satisfied that I would not be here now, if it were not for that prayer.
    Then the letters began to pour in. Sacks of them arrived at the hospital, and were forwarded to me at home—from Australia, England, New Zealand, Canada, and all over the U.S.
    I expected the usual get-well messages, and of course there were those, too. But the majority have one theme: “Thank you, Clint, for saying what you did. When a big outdoor guy like you will tell the world that he prayed for help, and got it, it strengthens my own faith.”
    “I’m not a member of any church,” a Wyoming man wrote, “but what you said up there on the mountain did me more good than all the sermons in the world.”
    I have prayed at times in my life before, but it took this experience to help me put things in their proper perspective. I was always a loner; even as a kid, I was shy, an introvert. I really didn’t know how to get along with people. And worry—I was the world’s champion worrier!
    But up there on the mountain, I found a new appreciation of life. I realize now that if we are going to accept God’s help, we must accept it in His time and in His way. I have found that many of the problems I thought had to be solved at once can wait. And very often, it is in that time of waiting that the Creator speaks most clearly to us.
    The waiting is not always easy, but I understand more fully now the verse from Psalm 62 which has always been a favorite of mine: “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him.”—Psalms 62:5
    Having made a few records and sung in several pictures, I know the technical value of the little mark which indicates a pause, or rest, in music. But now it has taken on new meaning. John Ruskin made this point in a letter to his young niece, when he wrote: “There’s no music in a ‘rest,’ Katie, that I know of, but there’s the making of music in it. And people are always missing that part of the life melody.”
    I don’t intend to miss it anymore!

    Prayer of an Old Woman

    A Well-known doctor, Dr. Stephen, was heading to a conference where he was to receive an award for research he had recently done.  He was looking forward to the conference and to receiving the well-deserved reward for his ground-breaking work.  Not only would it be encouraging to get the reward for himself, but, also, his research facility would receive some well-deserved credit for their help and support.

    He had just boarded a flight that would get him to the city where the conference would be held.  They were a little way into the flight when the pilot’s voice came over the speaker system, advising the passengers not to worry, but that they were making an emergency landing at the nearest airport because there was a slight problem with the plane.  Dr. Stephen wasn’t so worried about the plane as he was about the possibility of not getting to the medical conference in time.

    When they reached the airport, he went to the help desk to ask about the next flight to his destination, but he was told that there was no flight out for the next ten hours.  However, it was suggested that he might rent a car and drive to the city since it was only three hours away.

    Having no other choice, he rented a car and started on his journey.  However, as he left in the car, the weather suddenly changed, and a heavy storm began.  Driving in the rain made it difficult to even see, and he missed a turn he should have taken.

    After two hours of driving, he knew he was lost.  He was tired and hungry.  Frantically, he began to look for any signs of civilization.  After some time, he came across a tattered house.

    Desperate, he got out of his car and knocked on the door.  An old woman opened the door, and the doctor explained his situation to her and asked her if he could please use her telephone to make a call.

    The woman told him that there was no electricity, nor did she have a phone, but she welcomed him into the house to have some food and some warm drink.  Hungry and exhausted, the doctor accepted her offer and walked in.

    The kind woman gave him some food and hot tea and then excused herself to finish her prayer.

    Sitting at the table, sipping his tea, the doctor watched the woman’s ardent, fervent prayer through the dim light of candles as she knelt next to what appeared to be a small baby crib.  The doctor wondered if there might be something he could do to help, and he seized the opportunity when she seemed to pause.

    When he asked whether there might be something he could do, the woman smiled and said that God had always answered all her prayers except one.  She said that she didn’t know why God hadn’t answered this specific prayer, but perhaps it was because of her weak faith.

    The doctor asked her, “If you don’t mind telling me, what are you praying for?”

    The woman replied, “The child in the crib is my grandson. He has a very rare type of cancer, and all the doctors who have seen him have been unable to treat him.  I have been told that there is a doctor who specializes in this type of cancer, but there is no way for me to get to this doctor, because he lives very far away.”

    She told him that since there was no way, in her present circumstances, that she could get to the doctor, that she’d been praying day and night that God would help her find a way to somehow travel to him, a Dr. Stephen, she said, who could treat her grandson.

    Upon hearing her words, tears began to flow down the doctor’s cheeks, and he said, “Surely, this is the work of God.  There was a malfunction in the plane, then there was a thunderstorm, and I lost my way, and I needed a telephone, and now I can see that all this happened because God didn’t just answer your prayer, He brought me right to your house.  I am Dr. Stephen.  Tears were streaming down her cheeks as he said, “Let’s take a look at your grandson.”

    God answers prayer.  How can you doubt it?

  95. Greetings and peace from Concord Community Church and pastor Steve Ward.  May His grace and peace rest upon you and be in abundance on this Palm Sunday.  Please join us, if you can, (10:00 AM) at 7578 Concord Road, halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.

    Seeing Jesus                                                                                                        April 10, 2022

    Scripture Reading:

    John 12:12-19
    12 The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out: “Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’[d] The King of Israel!”
    14 Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written:
    15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion;
    Behold, your King is coming,
    Sitting on a donkey’s colt.”[e]
    16 His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that they had done these things to Him.
    17 Therefore the people, who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of his tomb and raised him from the dead, bore witness. 18 For this reason the people also met Him, because they heard that He had done this sign. 19 The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, “You see that you are accomplishing nothing. Look, the world has gone after Him!”

    Our Scripture, this morning, tells about the Triumphal Entry – when Jesus came into Jerusalem and was hailed as king by many disciples and by bystanders.

    As we read in the later part of this same chapter, we have the telling of several Greeks who approached the disciples and asked to see Jesus.  It’s where we get the phrase, “Sir, we would see Jesus.”

    Jesus’ reply to that request seems very strange.  In verse 20, we read,
    “Now there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast. 21 Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”
    22 Philip came and told Andrew, and, in turn, Andrew and Philip told Jesus.
    23 But Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. 24 Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. 25 He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.”

    It’s almost as though Jesus didn’t hear the request.  – or it almost seems that He ignored it.

    His answer, however, is about a seed falling to ground in order for it to bear fruit.

    It’s easy to see that Jesus was saying that unless He died, there would not be fruit;  He had to die in order that we might live.

    These men wanted to see Him – perhaps to satisfy their curiosity; perhaps to answer some of their questions.

    It sounds as though Jesus simply replied:  You want to see me?   Right.  But do you want to follow me?  Because that’s what it’s all about.

    When Jesus came into Jerusalem on a donkey as Redeemer –  with palm branches waving, coats being spread on the path before Him, people cheering, and calling Him king, those people had chosen a way of seeing Jesus – as King; as the answer to the Romans.

    — as an answer to their problems.  You can hardly blame them.

    At the same time, however, another group was watching and listening; they weren’t so enthusiastic.  They weren’t joiners; they weren’t followers. 

    In Luke the 19th chapter:
    39 And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.”
    40 But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”
    The Pharisees didn’t see Jesus as a King.  They didn’t even see Him as a proper teacher.
    The Pharisees were doubters and skeptics;  they saw Jesus as an imposter.  They failed to see Him for who He was.  The Pharisees wanted Jesus to tell His followers to stop praising Him, to stop honoring Him, to stop calling Him their king.
    It’s happening to Christians all around the world.  “Stop telling people that Jesus is the Son of God.  Stop telling people that He died for their sins.  Stop telling people that He is the Way the Truth and the Life.”

    “You can be a Christian if you keep quiet about it.”

    How do people see Jesus? 
    Do they recognize Him as the Lord, as the Christ, as the King of kings?

    This is Holy Week.  We celebrate the final days of Jesus before His crucifixion and then His death, His burial, and His resurrection.

    How did people see Jesus as He came nearer and nearer to the cross?

    Of course, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the religious rulers saw Jesus as wrong.  They saw Jesus as a heretic, claiming to be God, when, in their opinion, He wasn’t.  They saw Him as a threat to their way of life.  There are many people like that, today.  Sometimes they claim to have high-sounding, intellectual arguments about God and religion, but if you look carefully, Christianity gets in the way of the way they want to live their lives.  Christianity is a threat to their chosen way of life, to their choice of morality, to their choice of friends and entertainment, and to their definition of “fun.”
     
    The disciples saw Jesus as the Son of God.  They saw His miracles; they heard His teaching. They saw His manner of life.  As one of them said, “He went about doing good.”  But when it came to crunch time, when it came to bodily harm time, they didn’t stick around.  They hadn’t yet realized what the cost might be. When they began to see that they might lose their life, their liberty, or their chance at the pursuit of happiness, they began to have second thoughts.

    There are people around like that, today.  There are many people who see Jesus as a nice enough guy to have around when His acquaintance comes with easy sailing.  There are many people who see Jesus as a nice side-kick, a good co-pilot or as a handy best friend who can get them out of trouble.  But is He still your Savior when trouble comes for the precise reason that you ARE a Christian?

    I worry a lot about those of us who see Jesus as a good “tag-along friend” who — we think — gives our life little more than a good mix of the Spiritual side of life along with the sophisticated, worldly side of life.

    “Jesus?”   “Oh, yeah; I have one of those crosses around here, somewhere.  I might even have a “What Would  Jesus Do” bracelet.  Or a “Footsteps in the Sand” plaque. But some of these people see Jesus as little more than a mascot or a good luck charm.
     
    Then there are the people who see Jesus for who He really is.  Like the centurion who watched Him die, who heard Him say, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  He felt the earthquake.  He saw the darkness in the middle of the day, and He saw a compassionate God dying for an undeserving mankind in a way that he had never seen a man die before.  This was the centurion who said, “Surely this was the Son of God.”

    The thief on the cross came to believe in Jesus as the Son of God.  He said, “Master, remember me when you come into thy kingdom.”  Jesus replied in a way that showed that the thief truly believed:  Jesus said, “This day shalt thou be with me in Paradise.”

    Finally, there was Mary, fully convinced, I believe, that this was God in the flesh, conceived by the Holy Spirit, God incarnate – God in the flesh.  She had raised Him and brought Him into manhood.  At the very least, she knew something of His power.  In all likelihood, she had seen it fully demonstrated, and she may have been fully aware of the awesomeness of His abilities.

    What would it take for us to see Jesus that way?  What would it take for us to declare with the conviction of the centurion, “Surely this was/is the Son of God?”

    You have the skeptics;
              You have the doubters and the “not-so-sure” except when it is convenient,
                       And, you have those who believe because they know; they believe because they know He is who He says He is.

    The world will try to tell you that “religion is the easy way out, “The opiate of the masses . . .”

    Don’t let them tell you that being a Skeptic is the difficult route.  It is not.
              Don’t let them tell you that being an atheist is the hard way.  That’s the easy way out, too.  Being an agnostic is also an easy way out.

    You may have heard about the man who went into a restaurant and was ignored and delayed and treated as an unwanted customer – probably because of his race.  The next day he came back, but this time he was in uniform, and when the employees of the restaurant saw him, they recognized him for who he was.  Actually, of course, he was the same person as he was the previous day, but now they gave him his proper respect.  He was the chief of police in that city.

    They saw him for who he really was.

    Being a true believer, 
    seeing Jesus in your heart and mind and soul as the Christ,
    the Son of God and the one who died for your sins . . .
    that’s the only reasonable conclusion. 
    It is truly the only honest way to see Jesus.

  96. Greetings and peace from Concord Community Church and pastor Steve Ward.  May His grace and peace rest upon you and be in abundance for each part of your day, this Easter.  Please join us, if you can, (10:00 AM) at 7578 Concord Road, halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.

    The Power of Easter                           April 17, 2022

    On the afternoon of Good Friday, the heavens and the earth literally shook with a mighty display of the power of God as an earthquake hit Jerusalem, as an unnatural darkness struck the skies, as an unknown and unsee-able force ripped through a six-inch thick curtain of super tough goat skins and thick cloth, and as the revelation struck the Roman Officer-in-charge that “This truly was the Son of God” 

    May the revelation strike each one of us, here, today, that not only is it true that “this WAS the Son of God,” but that this truly IS the Son of God.”

    And may the demonstration of God’s power during that first Easter Season tear into our own hearts and lives and shake us with such a reality that our lives feel an earthquake of God’s presence and love.

    We know about the power of God that moved the huge stone away from the entrance to the tomb; we know about it, but we don’t pretend to understand it or to know how it happened; we know about, but completely DON’T understand the power of God that brought Him back to life, again, that brought the angels to speak to the women visiting the tomb, the power that brought Jesus to appear, seemingly out of nowhere, on the road to Emmaus and to then to be, just as quickly, out of sight.  It was the same power that allowed Jesus to enter a house with locked doors and shuttered windows and to appear, suddenly, to a room full of disciples.

    These things, along with the earthquake, the un-natural darkness, and the supernatural ripping of the sanctuary curtain – those were mighty physical displays of God power, but have you ever considered, also, the spiritual battle that was fought and won during those same awesome days?
    There was a man, not a Christian, not a believer, who, out of curiosity, began to read the New Testament. When he got to Matthew, the 26th chapter, he was struck by the words of Jesus when He responded to the slashing of the sword that resulted in the severing of the servant’s ear.  Listen to what happens in Matthew 26.
    Betrayal and Arrest in Gethsemane
    47 And while He (Jesus) was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and elders of the people.
    48 Now His betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him.” 49 Immediately he went up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed Him.
    50 But Jesus said to him, “Friend, why have you come?”
    Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and took Him. 51 And suddenly, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword, (and) struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear. 52 But Jesus said to him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? 54 How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?”
    (A legion is 3,000 to 6,000 men. 12 legions would be from 36,000 to 72,000 angels.)

    The man began to write a song, and it was very successful in the Christian world, and when a particular church heard that this songwriter was going to be in the area, they invited him to come and sing his song. (His name was Roy Overholt)

    That day the sermon text was Matt. 26:53. The song the man had written and which he sang on that day was “He Could Have Called Ten Thousand Angels,” and that song writer became a Christian that day. 
    Ten Thousand Angels
           (1) They bound the hands of Jesus in the garden where He prayed;
    They led Him thro’ the streets in shame.
                They spat upon the Saviour so pure and free from sin;
    They said, “Crucify Him; He’s to blame.”
           CHORUS:
    He could have called ten thousand angels
         To destroy the world and set Him free.
    He could have called ten thousand angels,
         But He died alone for you and me.
    (2) Upon His precious head they placed a crown of thorns;
            They laughed and said, “Behold the king.”
    They struck Him and they cursed Him and mocked His holy name.
         All alone He suffered ev’rything.
    Chorus

    (3) To the howling mob He yielded; He did not for mercy cry.
          The Cross of shame He took alone.
    And when He cried, “It’s finished,” He gave himself to die;
          Salvation’s wondrous plan was done.
    Chorus

    So, what do you think?  Doesn’t this Scripture suggest that Jesus had the option, even then, of calling on thousands and thousands of angels to rescue Him? – as if He needed any help – – -.  How many mighty angels do you suppose it would have taken to send that rabble-rousing crowd hightailing it back to their cowardly religious leaders? Let’s imagine Michael and Gabriel in the lead, they swoop in from the sky – maybe above and behind the crowd – and Judas – The disciples of Jesus see them first, and Judas and his bunch realize that Peter and the disciples are looking at something – even starting to point – and Judas and the crowd turn to look, just as Michael and Gabriel raise their swords and a mighty, earth-shaking shout – do you think there would be anyone left to fight?  “That’s what I’m talkin’ about!”

    So, if you want to talk about the power displayed during the days of Easter, then please tell me what kind of power it took to hold the angels back when they came to arrest Jesus and to lead Him away to trial.  What kind of power did it take to hold back the forces of Heaven when they slammed the crown of thorns on His head and when they drove the nails through His hands and His feet.  I wonder if Michael and Gabriel were clamoring and shoving against the gate and yelling, “Let me at ’em; let me at ’em”

    Can you imagine what might have happened on this earth if God had just unleashed a small band of vigilante angels? – with the power to administer their own justice? 
    What kind of power was there, seething at the gates of Heaven, clamoring to be sent to the rescue?
     And what kind of power did it take for Jesus to relinquish the authority He had over those forces and to say, “Not my will, but Thine be done.”

    I’ll tell you what kind of power it was.

    It was the power of His love for us – for you and for me – the power of His determination to carry out the will of the Father, because “God so loved the world . . .”  That’s the kind of power to believe in.

    In the end, the power and sacrifice of Jesus triumphed mightily over the two greatest powers on this earth known to man.  Jesus triumphed over sin, and He triumphed over death.  What kind of power did that take?  Neither had ever been defeated before, and without the death, burial, and Resurrection of Jesus, they would both – sin and death – still be in charge of the human destiny, today.  Instead, we rest in the safe-keeping arms of Jesus, who still says, “Come unto me, all ye who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”

    I invite you to rest in the power of EASTER, this day; allow yourself to trust Him and to be safe in the security of His love, His salvation, and His power.  It will never fail.

  97. Give Me God’s Heart 5/1/2022

    Greetings and peace from Concord Community Church and pastor Steve Ward. May His grace and peace rest upon you and be in abundance for each part of your day, especially in these days of the Easter season. Please join us, if you can, (10:00 AM) at 7578 Concord Rd., halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.

    Scripture and Thoughts 5/1/2022

    Scripture Reading:
    John 10:10
    The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy:
    I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

    James 1:17
    17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and
    cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variable-
    ness, neither shadow of turning.

    II Corinthians 13:11-13
    11 Finally, brothers, rejoice. Mend your ways, encourage one
    another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love
    and peace will be with you. 12 Greet one another with a holy kiss.
    All the holy ones greet you.
    13 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the
    fellowship of the holy Spirit be with all of you.

    On Friday evening of this week, I was invited to a Mens’ Prayer Breakfast at 8:30, Saturday morning. I really had too many things to do. I had a sermon to finish up, I wanted to do this, and I wanted to do that, and I just wasn’t sure I wanted to go.

    Also, I knew that if went to the Mens’ breakfast, I would miss out on the Amish doughnuts and doughnut holes at the Amish store in Center Square.

    I decided, early Saturday morning, that if the person who had invited me called me on Saturday morning, I would go. If he didn’t call, I wouldn’t go.

    He called; I went.

    The rest is a long story, but the short version of it is that the guest speaker – who was also a musician, told his life story, and in it, he told about going to India on a short-term mission trip. As he was traveling to his destination, he began to see people – people who were poor – in a poorness he’d never seen before, never imagined before, and the depths of which he’d never heard, before.

    He described how he began to feel sorry for the people, but he also told about his anger that began to roil up against the governments and the institutions which were allowing this to happen and to go on. He was indignant and very, very agitated, to the point that he was about to ask God to even bring down judgment upon these people in power who could live in relative ease and even in luxury while others were living in such squalid and degrading situations and conditions.

    Just then, even as his thoughts were racing about humanitarian efforts and human failures and about justice and social fairness, God spoke to him, and God said, “These people (both the ill-treated and those causing the injustices) are the ones I weep for.”

    As you can well imagine, and as the saying goes, God stopped him cold! He was stunned, (and so was I).

    From that moment on, even though he had an ample supply of well-polished and well-developed sermons, he spoke on the verse that says, “Jesus wept,” which is what Jesus did, both at the house of Lazarus and outside of Jerusalem, before the “Triumphal Entry.”

    Jesus wasn’t weeping for Lazarus, and He wasn’t weeping for sentimental thoughts about the city of Jerusalem.

    Jesus was weeping because of the failure of the people to see and to believe in Him. He was weeping because people couldn’t/wouldn’t see past the immediate needs and circumstances – the loss of Lazarus and the over-bearing rule of the Romans – and see into the heart of God and into the love of God.

    How can we look at people with anger and consternation – even in their stubborn waywardness and desperate wickedness – when God is looking at them in grief and in the sadness of His loving heart?

    But I can do it! Perhaps you can do it! Let the car beside you car just swerve and cut you off, and see if you weep for his heart and for his soul – but God does.

    That cantankerous neighbor of yours – if you have one – or, perhaps it’s a co-worker or a boss – are you in touch with the heart of God when he swears at you or yells at you? Are we aware of God’s grief for the person beside you who has never accepted or acknowledged Jesus as Savior?

    When we look at the world around us, with all it’s selfishness and greed and callousness and inconsiderate self-gratification, do we see those people from the perspective of the heart of God and the love of God?

    Could we pray, simply but earnestly, that God would show us His heart, give us His perspective, and touch us with the love in His own heart for the people around us? – even the difficult ones, and even the mean ones, and even the aloof ones and the self-serving ones?

    Lord, let me see and feel your own heart.

  98. The Heart of God/ the Heart of a Godly Mother                                 May 8, 2022
    Greetings and peace from Concord Community Church and pastor Steve Ward.  May His grace and peace rest upon you and be in abundance for each part of your day, this Easter.  Please join us, if you can, (10:00 AM) at 7578 Concord Rd., halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.

    Scripture and Thoughts

    For those who are unable to join us, I am sorry you will miss participating in this morning’s service as we share in memories and tributes to our Mothers. Specifically, we will be singing hymns which we remember as being treasured by our Mothers and/or Grandmothers.

    Scripture Reading:  Proverbs 31:10-31
     10. Who can find a virtuous wife?  For her worth is far above rubies.
    11. The heart of her husband safely trusts her; So he will have no lack of gain.
    12. She does him good and not evil All the days of her life.
    13. She seeks wool and flax, And willingly works with her hands.
    14. She is like the merchant ships,  She brings her food from afar.
    15. She also rises while it is yet night, And provides food for her household,
    And a portion for her maidservants.
    16. She considers a field and buys it; From her profits she plants a vineyard.
    17. She girds herself with strength, And strengthens her arms.
    18. She perceives that her merchandise is good, And her lamp does not go out by night.
    19. She stretches out her hands to the distaff, And her hand holds the spindle.
    20. She extends her hand to the poor, Yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy.
    21. She is not afraid of snow for her household, For all her household is clothed with scarlet.
    22. She makes tapestry for herself; Her clothing is fine linen and purple.
    23. Her husband is known in the gates, When he sits among the elders of the land.
    24. She makes linen garments and sells them, And supplies sashes for the merchants.
    25. Strength and honor are her clothing; She shall rejoice in time to come.
    26. She opens her mouth with wisdom, And on her tongue is the law of kindness.
    27. She watches over the ways of her household, And does not eat the bread of idleness.
    28. Her children rise up and call her blessed; Her husband also, and he praises her:
    29. “Many daughters have done well, But you excel them all.”
    30. Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.
    31. Give her of the fruit of her hands, And let her own works praise her in the gates.

    Last week we talked about getting to know the heart of God – especially in relation to our association with the people around us, and we considered the grief and the hurt which God feels towards those who are not following or even paying attention to God’s ways.

    However, if you were blessed in your upbringing with a Godly Mother who sought to bring you up “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord,” then you have already had a preview of the heart of God.  If you’ve ever been near a Mother as she grieves for a son or daughter who has gone astray and is not following his or her God, then, too, you have already had a glimpse into God’s heart, His grief, and His compassion.

    You may have had the privilege of watching and following a Mother, who – almost alongside of God, Himself – was “compassionate and full of mercy, tenderhearted, not willing that any should perish . . .”

    A godly Mother’s eyes and attention follow a child through life, observant of the paths and the closeness to or the distance from their God, and the grief of that godly Mother and her hurt and pain are often on a parallel plane with the grief and hurt of the heart of God.

    This is why, of course, a Mother’s prayers are so noteworthy, because, as we sense her urgency and her extreme compassion and love, we get a sense of a love that goes beyond our childish understanding and comprehension, and, if we could possibly come close to understanding her heart toward her children, then we would be one step closer to understanding the depth of the love of God.

    Paul prays “that we would know the love of Christ . . .”
    Ephesians 3:14-19
    14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

  99. Why Am I Strong                                       May 15, 2022

    Greetings and welcome from Concord Community Church and from Pastor Steve Ward.  Please join us, if you can, at 7578 Concord Road, halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.  Our morning worship service begins at 10:00 AM.

    Scripture and Thoughts

    Scripture Reading: Exodus 14:10-14

    10 And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the Lord. 11 Then they said to Moses, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt? 12 Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, ‘Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness.”
    13 And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. 14 The Lord will fight for you, and you shall be silent (NKJV) hold your peace.” (NIV)

    “Why am I strong?”  I woke up with this question, one morning, and immediately wondered why it was on my mind or even in my consciousness.  My answer, automatically, was, “I’m not strong.  I don’t claim to be strong. I don’t remember claiming to be strong; why should anyone ever ask me that question: ”Why am I strong,” or “Why are you strong?”

    I also knew. Of course, that we, as Christians, are only strong in the Lord.  “Be strong and of good courage, be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed,: for the Lord, thy God is with thee, whithersoever thou goest.”

    “Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord.” (Psalms 31:24)

    So, I suppose, the answer to the question, “Why am I strong?” only comes in the realization that I (you) am only strong in the Lord.

    At the same time the first question was on my mind (“Why am I strong?”), a second question came whirling by – almost simultaneously, but not quite.  The second question was, “What am I preparing for?”  “What are you preparing for?”  For what are we preparing?

    You might think of your day – for what am I preparing? . . . or you might think of your week, or your job, or some other task which is before you, but ultimately, you are preparing, hopefully, for God’s work in your life. 

    “Why am I strong,” you might ask yourself, and the next question might be considered to be a sort of on-going self-evaluation and routine.  I need to frequently ask myself this same question. “What am I preparing for?” 

    There’s a song we used to hear every once in a while, called “What Kind of Fool am I?”
    The words go like this:

    “What kind of fool am I
    Who never fell in love
    It seems that I’m the only one
    That I have been thinking of

    What kind of man is this
    An empty shell
    A lonely cell in which
    An empty heart must dwell

    The last verse of the song goes:

    Why can’t I fall in love
    Like any other man
    And maybe then I’ll know
    What kind of fool I am

    In other words, for the writer of the song, his inability to fall in love – or, perhaps, his unwillingness – is the reason he doesn’t know what kind of fool he is or could be.  He seems to admit that if he would only allow himself to fall in love, then he could discover how “foolishly in love” he could be.

    There’s a sense in which we need to be “foolishly in love” with our Savior.  Isn’t there a need for us to be in love with our God, “in abandonment?”  Am I ready to give over not only my life and my future, but the fulness of my love?  Am I willing to be “foolishly in love” with my God?

    “What kind of fool am I?”

    We are often fool enough to love and trust a sweetheart.
    We are often fool enough to fall foolishly in love a new car on a show-room floor, a new dress in the window, or a new house in the suburbs or the lot in the country, and we love and trust that new purchase enough, sometimes, to risk our life earnings on it, trusting it’s going to last and not break down, trusting that it’ll go up in value and not down, trusting that it will impress all our friends . . .

    But are we willing and trusting enough
    to fall “foolishly in love” with our God and Savior
    and stake our future, our eternal security and our commitment on Him?

    If I’m going to be a fool, I’d rather be a “fool for Christ.”

  100. Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord                                                                   5/22/2022

    Greetings and peace and God’s Blessings. Concord Community Church welcomes you; Pastor Steve Ward welcomes you; all the people welcome you, and may you feel the welcome and love of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Please come and join us in person at 7578 Concord Road, half-way between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.  Our Morning Worship Service is at 10:00 AM. We’re the “Little White Church down the lane.”

    Scripture Reading: Isaiah 40:1-5; 21-31
    1Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
    2 Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned:
    for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.
    3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway
    for our God.
    4 Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight,
    and the rough places plain:
    5 And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.

    21 Have ye not known? have ye not heard? hath it not been told you from the beginning? have ye not understood from
    the foundations of the earth?
    22 It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out
    the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in:
    23 That bringeth the princes to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity.
    24 Yea, they shall not be planted; yea, they shall not be sown: yea, their stock shall not take root in the earth: and he
    shall also blow upon them, and they shall wither, and the whirlwind shall take them away as stubble.
    25 To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One.
    26 Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he
    calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth.
    27 Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over
    from my God?
    28 Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth
    not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.
    29 He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.
    30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:
    31 But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

    This is the time of year, of course, when we make preparations for our gardens, our flowers, and our landscaping.

    Perhaps you began preparing the soil weeks ago, digging things up, loosening the soil, adding just the
    right fertilizer.  You were making a way.  You were making arrangements.  You were setting in place
    the proper conditions for the success of your plants and of your crop.   

    Hopefully, all of that work will come to fruition.

    In our Scripture reading, Isaiah speaks of making preparations, also – preparing the way for the Messiah.  As you know, in this famous passage he speaks of making the highway straight and of
    flattening the hills and the valleys.

    We, too, have a part in preparing the way of the Lord, of making the pathway straight and easy to follow, of minimizing the bumps in the road and of eliminating the stumbling blocks and even the pitfalls that
    may crop up along the way.

    Isaiah even speaks of Israel’s sin and shameful worship of other Gods,  How could Israel ever possibly prepare the way for the Messiah when they were, instead, making room for other Gods in their lives?

    Do we face a similar problem?  Do we create a similar dilemma in our lives?  Have we made so much
    room for the other things in our lives that we have left no room for the One we call Savior and Lord?  
    Is it possible to actually crowd out Jesus, Himself, because we’ve filled our lives and our minds with so
    many other things that have become important and necessary – so we think – and such a part of our
    lives that we’ve failed to find a way for Jesus?

    “Prepare ye the way of the Lord” isn’t merely a question of making some superficial adjustments to our schedule or even to our habits.  “Prepare ye the way of the Lord” is about making His way the only way! 
     If we are truly going to “Prepare ye the way of the Lord,” then we are going to have to get ourselves
    OUT OF THE WAY, AND TO ALLOW JESUS TO BE THE ONLY WAY.

    Too often, we haven’t done that! 

    Too often, it turns out, we have insisted that “my way” is the only way for Jesus, and “My Way” must be
    “the way of the Lord.”  In “My Way,” we can still find room for all the things we like, even if those things
    we like do seem to be a bit like idols and personal favorites.  Too often, it seems “MY WAY” is a very
    cozy, familiar way, and, too often, I can convince myself that Jesus would be comfortable with
    “My Way,” too.

    We also seem to think that others ought to be comfortable with “My Way,” as the only way to have Jesus
    in their lives, too. 

    If you’ve ever seen a tree that has a twisted limb or a misshapen trunk, you may have been witness to
    what happens to a tree when another tree gets to say, “It’s My Way or No Way.”  Actually, as you may
    well know, the nature of trees is to compete for the sunlight, and it is frequently necessary for a tree to
    grow in an unusual or even misshapen manner merely to survive.

    The call to “Prepare ye the way of the Lord,” is a call for Christians to tend to the needs of others around
    us who need the nourishing touch of His sunshine in their lives. 

    How much do we block the sunlight of God’s love from others who so desperately need its life-giving light?    

    May we truly see the need to prepare the way of the Lord before us, and, for the sake of dying souls
    around us, to prepare the way of the Lord for others, too.

    “Lord, lay some soul upon my heart, and love that soul through me,
    And may I ever do my part to win that soul for Thee.” 

  101. The Words of a Prophet 6/12/2022

    Greetings and peace from Concord Community Church and pastor Steve Ward. May His grace and peace rest upon you and be in abundance for each part of your day. Please join us, if you can, at our regular Sunday Morning Worship Service (10:00 AM) at 7578 Concord Rd., halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.

    Scripture and Thoughts

    Scripture Reading: John 1:6-9; 15,19-20; 27, 29,,30; 32-37
    6. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
    7 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.
    8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
    9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
    15 John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me.
    19 And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?
    20 And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.
    27 He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.
    29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.
    30 This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me.
    32 And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him.
    33 And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.
    34 And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.
    35 Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples;
    36 And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!
    37 And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.

    One of the first things we see, here, is that Jesus and John are identified. John (John the Baptist) is a man sent from God. Jesus, though not identified, at first, is “the Light.”

    Next, we see that John the Baptist identifies Jesus as the one who is
    “preferred before me.”
    “whose shoe latchet I am unworthy to unloose.”
    “the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.”
    the one upon whom “I saw the Spirit descending like a dove” and abiding on Him.
    “He which Baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.”
    “The Son of God”
    “The Lamb of God.”

    In the meantime, John the Baptist is identified as
    “a witness”
    “not that light”
    “sent to bear witness of that light”
    “not the Christ”

    We later hear John’s declaration: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)

    One of the clear proofs of a prophet is the proof of telling about what is going to happen before it actually happens. (Jesus did it, several times) By many common uses of the word, “prophet,” in fact, that is the primary definition, and to many, it is the only definition.

    In fact, if we were to put an ad in the Vevay and/or Rising Sun Newspaper, and, if we said: a prophet will be visiting Concord Community Church and will speak the words of God, then people who came to hear that prophet would typically expect and hope for the man – or woman – to tell us things about the future.

    There is, however, a better definition of the word, “prophet.” That definition would say that a prophet is one who speaks the words that God tells him to speak. A prophet, then, can be a “fore-teller,” or a “forth-teller.” A fore-teller is one who tell things that are going to happen. He predicts things. A forth-teller is one who tells forth the things that God wants Him to speak. A prophet can also be both a fore-teller and a fortth-teller. One who can and does do both.

    Either one of these would still fall under the definition of “prophet” under the one condition: that they tell and speak the things God wants him to speak.

    Now, if you would, please, consider the following questions:

    How coincidental was it that John, the Baptist, was born??

    How coincidental was it he was born when he was born?

    How coincidental was it that Samuel, in the Old Testament, was born?

    Was he intended to have been born in time to rebuke Eli, the priest, and his sons? Was it intended that he was born just in time to rescue Israel at the critically important moment in history to bring the nation to repentance and to lead her toward God?

    Was it coincidental that God answered the prayer of Hannah and give her a son (Samuel) to be born at just the right time?

    Was it a coincidence that Moses was born at a time when conditions were just right for God to work against the hard heart of Pharoah and simultaneously in the hearts of the Hebrews in order to implement the most dramatic large-scale rescue/escape plan of an entire slave population in all of history?

    How about David? Did David just happen upon the scene of the battlefield where Goliath was defying the God of Israel and insulting their entire army? Did David just happen to pick out the right stone, and did David just happen to get lucky and hit that giant in just the right spot with just the right force?

    Did Daniel just happen to get thrown into a den of lions who just happened to not be interested in having another human being for a meal?

    How about Noah? Was it circumstantial that he was born just in time to build an arc? – in time to get away from the great flood?

    You see, the point is that we can often see the hand of God in the lives of the heroes and in the history-making figures of the past. We can see that these were not coincidences, but can we see that He is working in our own lives and in the events around us? Can we recognize His hand in our triumphs and in our victories? Do we see Him at work to see us through our difficulties? Do we recognize His hand in our daily activities?

    The Psalmist speaks of God holding him up from before his birth, and he speaks of His protection at birth and there-after:

    Psalm 71:6

    “By thee have I been holden up from the womb: thou art he that took me out of my mother’s bowels: my praise shall be continually of thee.”

    Jeremiah speaks of God knowing him even before his birth. We find that God actually ordained him as a prophet before his birth, and that God set him apart – sanctified him – before he was born.

    Jeremiah 1:5

    “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

    This God whom we serve is bigger than our imagination can stretch. How often do we see “circumstances” unfold around us with situations and events fitting so obviously in place that we know of a certainty that God had His hand in it and was directing all the pieces so that they fit exactly in place?

    How often have we seen one person’s special moments fit someone else’s thoughts or comments and then realize that the Sunday School lesson seems to have been written precisely for those same thoughts and ideas, and then we realize that the sermon is on the same subject or train of thought?

    We see these things happening, but don’t we often fail to see that God is behind the other events and scenes, making even the worst of events turn out, eventually, for the very best?

    God is at work in the Heavens, as the Psalmist says, and surely He is at work in our lives.

    Psalm 19King James Version (KJV)
    1 The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.
    2 Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.
    3 There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.
    14 Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.

    Are we ready to realize His hand upon us?

    Are we willing to “admit” to God’s work in our lives, to recognize God’s work in our lives, and to claim God’s work in our lives?

    Sometimes we testify to God’s work in our lives; we tell about things that have happened, and those things make it sure and obvious that God is at work and active in our lives.!”

    Perhaps we need to take our witness a step further. Perhaps we need to shout to one another and say, “GOD IS AT WORK IN YOUR LIFE!”

    “GOD IS AT WORK IN YOUR LIFE!”

    “God is at work in your life!”

    He wants your fingers as you text that friend and your smile as your meet him or her in person.

    Don’t you even dare to take a step without Him, because, as sure as sure can be, God wants to work in your life.

  102. The Practice of the Presence of God 6/19/2022

    Greetings and peace from Concord Community Church and pastor Steve Ward. May His grace and peace rest upon you and be in abundance for each part of your day. Please join us, if you can, at our regular Sunday Morning Worship Service (10:00 AM) at 7578 Concord Rd., halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.

    Scripture and Thoughts

    Scripture Reading
    Psalm 16:11
    11 Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.
    Exodus 33:14
    14 And he said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.
    Psalm 27:8
    8 When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek.
    Jeremiah 29:13
    13 And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.
    Matthew 5:8
    8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
    Hebrews 13:5
    5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
    Hebrews 4:16
    16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
    Psalm 25:4-5
    4 Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths. 5 Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.
    Isaiah 60:1
    1 Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee.
    Zephaniah 3:17
    17 The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.
    Acts 17:27
    27 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:
    Revelation 3:20
    20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
    Psalm 27:4
    4 One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple.
    Isaiah 55:6
    6 Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:

    I wanted very much, this morning, to be able to give to all of the men, in honor of Father’s Day, a copy of the booklet, The Practice of the Presence of God. The author is listed as Bother Lawrence, but Brother Lawrence didn’t really ever write a book. However, he did write letters and held conversations, and these letters and conversations have become the basis for a book.

    As I started to say, I wanted to give a copy of this book to every man at church, this morning, and to see that each family had at least one copy of it.

    When the order developed several complications, however, and when we realized the books were not only not going to get here in time, but that they might not get here at all, I also began to realize that the physical presence of the books was not the center of why we wanted everyone to have a book. The important thing is that every one of us needs what the book has to say and teach.

    Each one of us may be desperately in need of the daily and constant exercise of making God’s presence an on-going consciousness. In fact, if there were one gift that I could give you – men, women, young people, and anyone else in between – the most important gift and the most valuable gift possible would be the gift of being able to daily and constantly and uninterruptedly experience and even activate – in an on-going way – His presence.

    You may say, “Well, I know He is always with me, so I’m already doing it, right?”

    . . . and you know I’m going to say, “No! WRONG! NOT RIGHT.”

    Being aware of His presence is no more active than knowing that you have a nickel in your pocket. If you have a nickel in your pocket and you have an opportunity to receive a brand-new car for a nickel, and you don’t use your nickel to buy that new car, then having the nickel does you no good!

    Even if you think that new car might have been wonderful, it is nowhere near as valuable as what I’m offering you, this morning. I’m offering you the most precious and priceless “item” you could ever hope to have, and that is to be in the very presence of God.

    My wish is that you could and would experience His presence and know and feel the joy of being there.

    Let me deviate for a moment to talk about the word “practice.” We’re not talking about practicing the piano or the violin or your spelling or your handwriting. Instead, we’re using the word in the same sense as when you say, “My cousin practices medicine; he’s a doctor.” Or “My friend’s father is a lawyer; he practices law.” “ ‘So-&-so’ has a law practice.” My neighbor practices horticulture.” “The practice of the presence of God” is also something you do in much the same way as practicing law or medicine or practicing a certain profession or occupation or hobby.

    Brother Lawrence’s “practice of the presence of God was really quite simple, although that doesn’t necessarily guarantee that it’s easy.

    Brother Lawrence related, and I quote, “. . . that we should establish ourselves in a sense of God’s Presence by continually conversing with Him. It was a shameful thing to quit His conversation (with God) to think of trifles and fooleries. He said that “We should feed and nourish our souls with high notions of God which would yield us great joy in being devoted to Him.”

    “He said we ought to quicken and enliven our faith. It was lamentable we had so little.”

    “We ought to give ourselves up to God with regard both to things temporal and spiritual and seek our satisfaction only in the fulfilling of His will.”

    Brother Lawrence said that the worst that could happen to him was to lose that sense of God which he had enjoyed so long.”

    Yet, he said that, knowing the goodness of God, he was assured that God would not forsake him and that He would give him strength to bear whatever evil was permitted to happen to him.

    He made the point that there are many books that suggest different methods of going to God and offer a multitude of ideas for practicing the spiritual life, He says, “I thought this would serve rather to puzzle me than facilitate what I sought after, which was nothing but how to become wholly God’s.”

    He resolved, therefore to “give the all for the All.” He goes on to say that, “After having given myself wholly to God,” . . . “I renounced, for the love of Him, everything that was not He, and I began to live as if there was none but He and I in the world.” He made a simple point that every thing he did, he did for the love of God – even if he picked up a straw off the floor he did it for the love of God – not as a duty or an obligation, but for love; he says that our only business was to love God and to delight ourselves in Him.

    He says, “I worshipped Him the oftenest I could, keeping my mind in His holy presence and recalling it as often as I found it wandered from Him. I made this my business, not only at the appointed times of prayer but all the time; every hour, every minute, even in the height of my work, I drove from my mind everything that interrupted my thoughts of God.”

    Brother Lawrence was a humble cook. He considered himself clumsy and inept, and if he made a mistake, he told God about it; If he considered himself to have sinned, whether by word or deed or thought, he immediately confessed it to God, and allowed it not to bother him further. He later took up the craft of sandal repair, but he developed the unique gift of being able to pray incessantly with God throughout the entire day and regardless of whatever else he was doing. This unique gift produced such a spiritual change in Brother Lawrence that many people sought him out to learn how to practice the presence of God themselves.

    Brother Lawrence, it seems, didn’t just pray to God. He talked to God and with God continually. His practice was to be in constant conversation with Him. If he made a mistake, He told God he had made a mistake. If he did something well, he thanked God for helping with that accomplishment. If he had a problem, he told God about it, but his joy came, not from solving the problem but in being with God and in His presence – whether the problem ever got solved or not.

  103. Abide in Me 6/24/2018, 6/26/2022, 7/10/2022

    Greetings and peace from Concord Community Church and Pastor Steve Ward. May you know and feel His grace in abundance. We invite you to please join us, if you can, at our regular Sunday Morning Worship Service (10:00 AM) at 7578 Concord Rd., halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.

    Scripture and Thoughts for 7/10/2022

    Scripture Reading: John 15:4-17
    4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.

    5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

    6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.

    7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

    8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

    9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you; continue ye in my love.

    10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.

    11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.

    12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.

    13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

    14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.

    15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.

    16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

    17 These things I command you, that ye love one another.

    Perhaps one of the most endearing concepts that we, as Christians, have is the idea of abiding in Christ and abiding in God. In Psalms 61:4, it says, “I will abide in thy tabernacle forever; I will trust in the covert of Thy wings. Selah”

    The word “covert” refers to the feathers of a bird’s wings, — not the muscular part, and not the bony part, but the feathers, those miraculous creations of God that are so strong that the mighty flap of the wing of an eagle is easily born and transferred to winged flight, yet they are so soft that they become the makings of pillows and mattresses and cushions.

    We can easily picture that the Psalmist seems to be saying, “Let me take shelter in the soft, warm, comforting shelter of Thy mighty wings.”

    Again, looking for examples of the word, “abide,” we find, in Psalm 91:1-7, these words: “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”

    Listen, also, to the verses that follow in the same chapter:

    2. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.

    3 Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.

    4 He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.

    5 Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;

    6 Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.

    7 A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.”

    Please notice, especially, the two great privileges and protections offered to us and available to us in these two passages of Scripture.

    In Psalm 71, we find the privilege and honor of resting in His mighty and protecting wings – of knowing his care and comfort and of being assured of safety and security they provide. Surely, “His rod and His staff, they comfort me,” even “in the presence of my enemies,” and even when I may be in the “valley of the shadow of death.”

    We have, also, and most importantly, the privilege of “abiding in Him” through the awesome means of trusting Him as our Savior, of belonging to Him and of becoming part of His family, as Jesus talks about in John 15. 4 “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.”

    May we all be partakers, both of abiding under the security and comfort of His protection and His care and of resting in the security of His salvation.

  104. Something for Everybody July 17, 2022

    Greetings, peace, and joy from Concord Community Church and Pastor Steve Ward. May you know and feel His grace in abundance. We invite you to please join us, if you can, at our regular Sunday Morning Worship Service (10:00 AM) at 7578 Concord Rd., halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.

    Scripture and Thoughts for 7/17/2022

    John 10:10
    The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

    James 1:17

    17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

    I Corinthians 13:11-13
    11 Finally, brothers, rejoice. Mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the holy ones greet you.
    13 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the holy Spirit be with all of you.
    I’m pretty convinced that we could just keep the Yard Sale going and that we would continue to sell things every day.

    Perhaps that’s why it’s so interesting to go to yard sales and to second-hand stores and to pawn shops. You can almost always find something you want or need or both.

    I suppose that if we had put all of the yard sale “stuff” into a second-hand store, we could have had a pretty well-supplied store.

    The thing about the Yard Sale is that there is something for everybody. If you come each day, especially, you are bound to find something that you really need – or at least, something you thought you really needed.

    You know, believe it or not, there’s quite a similarity between going to a yard sale and going to church. There’s almost always something there that you really need. Sometimes, perhaps, we don’t come to church looking for something we need, as we might do when we go to a yard sale, but I think you’ll agree that we each need much of what we find here, at church. . . . but there’s something about our yard sale that I would ask you to really think about. If you came to our church Yard Sale and you had something in mind that you really needed, the ladies on the job would and could help you find it. They know what is here, and they could direct you right to it. They might even find items that people need even if that person doesn’t come to the yard sale.

    So, when a person comes to our church, and he or she needs something the church has to offer, are we anxious and interested in helping them find it? Do we even think about the possibility that we may have something of what they need? I invite you, again, to take what you need and what you want. . . . and realize that our shelves and our tables and our storehouses of God’s supply never run short and never run out. God never tells us to ration or to partake of His gifts and graces sparingly or conservatively.

    . . . and I am also asking you to be on the look-out for what a visitor – or any fellow-worshiper – might need or what they might be looking for.

    Whatever we’re looking for, God has help for us.

    Listen to what the Bible says about what God has to offer:

    Speaking of wisdom, the book of James says of God, “who giveth to all men liberally . . .”

    Of the water of life, Jesus said, “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” John 4:14

    In Luke 6:38, Jesus says,
    “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over,”

    Romans 8:9,10
    “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thy heart that God has raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved, for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

    Through the Prophet, Jeremiah, in chapter 33, verse 3, he says, “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not.”

    I believe it was in this context that Jesus said, in Matthew 7:7, “Ask, and it shall be given you, seek, and ye shall find; knock, and the door shall be opened unto you.

    So, come to His table; come to His storehouse, and, also, be a worker at God’s “Yard Sale.” Inform yourself and remind yourself of what God has for each one of us and what God has for every person who comes here. We are advocates; we are ambassadors; in the best sense of the word we are clerks and workers for God, looking out for the needs of others, and trying to show them what God has for them.

  105. Misaligned Christian 7/31/2022

    Greetings and peace from Concord Community Church and Pastor Steve Ward. May you know and feel His grace in abundance. We invite you to please join us, if you can, at our regular Sunday Morning Worship Service (10:00 AM) at 7578 Concord Rd., halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.

    Scripture and Thoughts for 7/10/2022

    Scripture Reading:

    Genesis 1:27
    So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
    Romans 8:29
    For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
    2 Corinthians 3:18
    18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
    Colossians 3:10
    “And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:”

    Colossians 3:8-17
    8. “But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.
    9. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;
    10. And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:
    11. Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.
    12. Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;
    13. Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
    14. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.
    15. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.
    16. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
    17. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.”

    I hope it’s obvious, as you read the Scripture, this morning, that we will be talking about images. Mankind was originally made “in the image of God.” Now, we find ourselves being urged to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.

    Sometimes, when printing the bulletin, I have made the mistake of sending a printed page through the printer the second time. It’s very interesting that sometimes the paper comes through with the second printing so perfectly aligned over the top of the first, that you can hardly tell the difference. Other times, however, the second printing is so out of alignment, that the total image is blurred or jumbled, and it makes you almost dizzy trying to read it. In such a case, the image is out of alignment.

    There is a method of printing that relies entirely upon perfectly aligning one image on top of the other in order to obtain the perfect result. It’s called four-color process printing, and, in order to achieve the perfect result, each piece of paper is sent through the printing press a total of four times, each time in perfect alignment with all the others, each time overlaying a new color on top of the other until all three basic colors, plus black, are printed on each page.

    When that happens, a thing of beauty is created, because a beautiful, full-color picture has been created on each of those pages. If, however, one of those sheets of paper somehow gets out of alignment during only one of those times through the press, then it is ruined; it’s no good. It’s blurry and smudgy in appearance, and the reproduction that has come through the press is ruined and useless.

    We claim to be Christians — followers of Christ — and our Scripture verses spoke of conforming to His likeness, to His image. Sometimes we manage to be like Him — to actually conform to the image of who He is; often, of course, we fall far short of any likeness to Him, at all. Our failures are not always all that disastrous, but it’s likely that most of us, if we did a thorough self-examination, would find our attempts to look like Christ a pretty big failure. The difficult thing, and the sorry part of it, is that the image we present is often blurred and smudgy and difficult to discern or recognize.

    Someone might even say, “Well, he/she bears some resemblance to the Savior, but it’s a far cry from the original.” As you might speak of a child, “Well, he is definitely a chip off the old block, but there are some sizeable pieces missing.”

    Sadly, too, we sometimes pattern ourselves after someone else whom we think must be like Jesus, because they seem so nice and good and sincere, but then, when we discover their failures and shortcomings, we think that we are disappointed in the Savior, rather than realizing that the failure is human frailties and weaknesses.

    The question that we must ask ourselves, then, is this: “Do we truly show in our lives the image of Christ — in what we do, in what we say, and, most especially, in who we are — that deep down real person that’s inside of us?” Do we really conform to His image, or do we present a blurry, smudged-up attempt to look as though we do?

    How close are we to resembling the Savior?

    How far are we from being aligned with His likeness?

  106. Adversity                                                            
    Greetings and peace from Concord Community Church and Pastor Steve Ward.  May you know and feel His grace in abundance.  We invite you to please join us, if you can, at our regular Sunday Morning Worship Service (10:00 AM) at 7578 Concord Rd., halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.

    Scripture and Thoughts for 8/14/2022
    Scripture Reading: Hebrews 12:1-13 (NKJV)
    The Race of Faith
    12:1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
    The Discipline of God
    3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. 4 You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. 5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:
          “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,
          Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;
             6 For whom the Lord loves He chastens,
          And scourges every son whom He receives.”
    7 If[ you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. 11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
    Renew Your Spiritual Vitality
    12 Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.”

    What happens when the Christian runs into adversity?  Why does the Christian run into adversity?  Is God involved when we run into adversity?  Does God care?  We often ask, “Why doesn’t He do anything about it?  Where is God in all this trouble and difficulty?

    There are many reasons for adversity; Here are a few very important reasons we may run into difficult times – adversity:

    In the first place, we must remember that we are living in a fallen world.  – a fallen world full of fallen people, and if, as an example, a person or a group of people decide that promoting tobacco and/or other products is a very good way of making a lot of money, despite the fact that harm might come to people in the form of cancer or emphysema or other harmful ailments, then those people have made a choice or choices based on greed and potential profits, a choice or choices that disrespects the health and lifestyle and potential longevity of millions of people.

    What seems sad and even disastrous is that God allows those individuals to make those choices.  It’s called “free-will,” and everyone of us has it.  We are free to choose, and we often choose between right and wrong.  Those choices, however, often affect other people, and we have a responsibility, not only to ourselves, but to the many other people who are affected by our decisions. In all probability, you have made bad choices; I have made bad choices.  But if God took away our free will, we wouldn’t have a choice.  We would do things out of automation or fate or according to preplanning by someone else.  We would no longer be individuals; we would no longer have choices.

    As it is, however, my choices may affect other people, even including people who are not even born, yet.  By the same token, your experiences in your life may be influenced by decisions and choices made by other people who have gone before you. 

    We live in a fallen world populated by fallen people, and we often incur adversity because of decisions and choices made by other people.   We often incur adversity because it’s a part of life.

    We also may experience adversity because we are being tested.  Job is an example of an individual who was tested.  Job stayed true to His God, His faith in God, and to his own determination to be true to God.  His wife told Him to curse God and die.  Instead, Job said, “The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”  Can we learn to face adversity with that attitude and conviction?

    Sometimes we find ourselves in difficult times because God wants to shape us, to mold us, and to refine us; He wants to purge out the dross and the impurities, and He wants to purify us in character, in thought, and in deed.

     Peter went through trial and through purging and refining.

    Jesus told Peter: Luke 22:31-34 New International Version (NIV). 31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

    Elijah experienced a great victory over the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel, but his adversity came when Jezabel said she was coming after him. – He ran away and went into hiding and told God, “It is enough. Now let me die.”  It was in the midst of this adversity that God revealed Himself – not in the wind or in the fire, but in the still, small voice.  It was in adversity that Elijah met with God “up close and personal, and it’s in adversity that we can draw near to God in a very “close and personal way, too.

    Daniel went through adversity.  His fellow officials devised a conniving plan to have him thrown to the lions.  Nevertheless, God protected him.  What do you think it would have been like to be protected by a Mighty Angel of God for a whole night?  Do you think Daniel had sweet communion with his God, that night?  The night before, he had been praying in front of his open window.  Now he was praying in front of the shut mouths of the lions and in the very presence of God’s angel.

    Our Scripture passage talks about “chastening,” and the writer speaks of chastening as coming from God. God’s chastening is very often much like the discipline of a loving, earthly Father.
     
    William McDonald, in The Believer’s Commentary, says, “By remaining submissive to the chastening of God, we permit His discipline to mold us into His image.”                                                                            
    He goes on to say,
     “But God’s discipline is always perfect.  His love is infinite, and His wisdom is infallible.  His chastenings are never the result of whim, but always for our profit.   His objective is that we may be partakers of His Holiness.”                      

    Another writer, Benjamin Jowett, says: “The purpose of God’s chastening is not punitive but creative.  He chastens “that we may share His holiness.”    

    Remember the verse in our Scripture passage: “At the time, all discipline seems painful.  But it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11)

    Leslie Weatherhead said this:  “Like all men, I love and prefer the sunny uplands of experience, where health, happiness, and success abound, but I have learned far more about God and life and myself in the darkness of fear and failure than I have ever learned in the sunshine.  There are such things as the treasures of darkness.  The darkness, thank God, passes.  But what one learns in the darkness one possesses forever.” 

    ‘The trying things, says Bishop Fenelon, ‘which you fancy comes between God and you, will prove means of unity with Him, if you bear them humbly.  Those things that overwhelm us and upset our pride, do more good than all that which excites and inspires us.’ ”

    Charles H. Spurgeon:  “I am afraid that all the grace I have got out of my comfortable and easy times and happy hours might almost lie on a penny.  But the good that I have received from my sorrows and pains and griefs is altogether incalculable.  What do I not owe to the hammer and the anvil, the fire and the file? Affliction is the best bit of furniture in my house.”  
    Jesus told us, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” He is saying, “There is nothing for you to fear.”

    The reality of the presence of adversity in life is a given.
    Someone has said, “The question that begs to be asked at this point is: Which is a greater reality, the intensity of a trial or the presence of the Lord with us in that trial? This question sometimes cannot be answered until we have stood in the midst of the rising waters and experienced Him with us. It is then that the knowing moves from head to heart and the impact of the adversity lessens in the magnitude of God’s presence.”

    Larry King hosted Joni Erickson Tada, who, perhaps more than any of us has experienced adversity in her life. Larry asked her where was God in the events of September 11. Here’s her response:
    “Where was God? That’s a question I can identify with. Like I told my friend Steve at the time of my diving accident when I broke my neck, I felt that God had turned his back on me. I was only 17 years old and I imagined that God had become distracted by the prayers of people with cancer, diabetes or divorce. Where in the world was He? After 35 years living as a quadriplegic, I learned that God permits what he hates in order to accomplish those things that he loves. If evil men perpetuate evil crimes, God admits this under restraint and channels it in such a way as to promote his good and his gospel. Lamentations 3: 21-23 expresses this well:
    “This I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
    Through the Lord’s mercies, we are not consumed
    Because his compassions fail not. They are new every
    Morning. Great is his faithfulness.”
    Sometimes the reasons for what he allows are hidden from our sight, but what we do know is that he loves to redeem and reclaim and rescue and save those who turn to him in need. You see, I need him now more than I did the day of my accident, and maybe that’s not such a bad thing.”
    Don’t short-cut God when you experience adversity. Ask him, “Lord, what do you want to teach me?” Use it as an opportunity to grow.

    There was a man, Charles Darrow, and his wife who suffered tremendous adversity. They accepted adversity as part of life and refused to allow it to steal their joy. They worked through it, and God helped them. They learned through this situation, and they kept laughing.
    Back in 1932 Charles was out of a job and broke, and his wife was expecting a baby. Although he was a heating engineer, there were no jobs available, and Darrow and his wife were just barely subsisting on the few odd jobs he could get as a handyman. Things were bleak. Fate didn’t reckon with the courage of this man and his wife, however. They laughed at it, literally. In the evenings, to take their minds off their troubles, they made up a little game in which they could pretend they were millionaires, recalling pleasant vacations in nearby Atlantic City. In their game they reconstructed the area adjoining the boardwalk. Darrow carved hotels and houses out of small pieces of wood, and they called the game Monopoly. Three years later, in 1935 the game was marketed by Parker Brothers, and Darrow and his wife became millionaires because they allowed adversity to make them instead of break them.

    There was a child was born in Port Huron, MI, and was estimated, by the experts, to have an IQ of 81. He had withdrawn from school after three months and was considered backward by school officials. The child enrolled two years late due to scarlet fever and respiratory infections, and he was going deaf. His emotional health was poor. He was stubborn and aloof, showing very little emotion. He liked mechanics, and he liked to play with fire, burning down his father’s barn. He showed some manual dexterity but used very poor grammar. However, he did want to be a scientist and a railroad mechanic.

    His name was Thomas Edison, reputedly the greatest inventor of modern times.
    A child in Germany, lost both of his parents by the time he reached age of 10. He was raised, reluctantly, by an older brother who resented another mouth to feed. His wife died after 13 years of marriage. He married again, but of the 20 children from two marriages, ten of them passed away while still infants. One died in his 20’s, and one was mentally deranged. Eventually, however, this man became known as an outstanding musician, but he went blind and was paralyzed with a stroke. Did this man forsake faith in God? No. On every one of his compositions he wrote, “To the glory of God.”
    His name was Johann Sebastian Bach, perhaps the greatest composer, ever, of religious music.

    In the waning days of the Roman empire, when the gladiators were still a very popular form of public entertainment, A young man visited the games and was appalled by wanton killing and bloodshed.  He got out of his seat, went to the center of the Colesseum and begged the participants, In the name of God, please stop. Please stop.”

    But the onlookers were annoyed by the interruption, and a low hiss from the crown grew louder and louder – even while the intruder continued to beg and plea.  Suddenly a rock was thrown and then another and another until he was stoned to death.

    Then a strange thing happened. The gladiators stood there looking at the tiny Christian lying there dead. A hush fell over the Colosseum. Way up in the upper rows, a man stood and made his way to the exit. Others followed. In dead silence, one by one, everyone left the Colosseum. The year was 404; and that day saw the last battle to the death between gladiators in the Roman Colosseum. The martyr’s name was Telemachus, and his heroism initiated an historic ban on gladiator fights by the Roman Emperor Honorius. Never again in the great stadium did men kill each other for the entertainment of the crowd. One tiny man’s bold voice — one voice — reshaped Roman history, and saved thousands of lives, by fearlessly proclaiming the truth in God’s name!

    Adversity.  It will come.  May it come to bring us closer to God.     .
    May we bear it in the name of Jesus and for his sake. 

  107. My Sheep Hear My Voice 4/17/2016 and 9/4/2022

    Greetings and peace from Concord Community Church and Pastor Steve Ward. May you know and feel His grace in abundance. We invite you to please join us, if you can, at our regular Sunday Morning Worship Service (10:00 AM) at 7578 Concord Rd., halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.

    Scripture and Thoughts for 9/4/2022

    John 10:11-29 (KJV)
    11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
    12 But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.
    13 The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.
    14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.
    15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.
    16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
    17 Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.
    18 No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.
    24 Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.
    25 Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me.
    26 But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.
    27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
    28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
    29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.
    30 I and my Father are one.

    As I looked at the 8 ½ print of the painting of our church by Herb Herrick, I wondered how it would look with everything else cropped away except a slim strip that would just include the church – without everything on either side.
    Of course, it wouldn’t be true to the painting or to the vision of the artist, but I did wonder whether we could capture a lot of his vision with just the foreground, the sky, and the parts of trees that would show.

    What took shape, then, was a narrow vertical strip of the painting, although I had been thinking of cropping both the top and the bottom, so we would have just a picture of the church – perhaps one that could be placed on a letterhead or on other printed material.

    My first cropping, however, would have been a narrow vertical strip that would include the church, the sky, and the foreground.

    As I looked at that, in that shape, it began to look like a bookmark, which might be fun to have, — a bookmark with the church on it – and maybe you could have an inspiring quotation on it, or even a Bible verse, but I didn’t have a way, yet, to do that without wasting a lot of paper and a lot of ink.

    I put the idea aside, because there were lots of other things pressing for time. But then, just recently, Sharon was showing me some bookmarks that she had in the Sunday School classroom that she thought I might like. The bookmark has a picture of sheep and the simple statement, “My sheep hear my voice.” It occurred to me that this would be the perfect verse to put on a bookmark with a picture of the church on it. However, as I thought more about it, and as I began to visualize the end result, I was suddenly startled by the idea of what we would have. The whole idea gave a me quite a start. What does it look like – the picture of our church, identifying who we are, and the quote, “My sheep hear my voice?” All of a sudden it sounds like a claim. Here’s our church, and then here’s the verse: “My sheep hear my voice.” Does that say, “We are part of this church, we are the sheep, and “My sheep hear My voice.” Does that sound like a claim to you? Is it really something we can own up to?

    Can we put our church on a poster and say, “We are His sheep, and we hear His voice.”

    Because the question is: Do we? Do we hear His voice? Each one of us should ask, “Do I hear His voice?

    Let me tell you a story:
    There was a blazing, roaring house fire in a home that included a family of 8, and they had not all gotten out, and the father was calling and yelling and frantically trying to locate everyone in the family. He had already braved the flames and the burning heat twice in attempts to rescue different family members, and he was on the verge of collapse, but he wouldn’t stop, despite the pleas of the fire-fighters. The fact was that little Emily was still missing, and the father was frantic to find her. He knew where her bedroom was, and he was determined to risk everything if only he could get to his little girl. He started toward the blazing house, and he yelled her name one final time in a desperate, despairing attempt to locate her. For some reason, just then there was a lull in the frenzy of commotion and voices and workers, and in that quick, momentary stillness, there came a soft voice from the middle of crowded bodies and excited talk and clamor: “Daddy?” The search was over; the danger was past, and it was all because a little girl recognized her Daddy’s voice, and because a Daddy was searching for his lost child. If you are one of His children, you will hear His voice; you will be listening for His voice, and He will be calling to you.

    If we really, truly hear His voice, should things be different in our lives?

    If we really, truly hear His voice, should things be different in our homes?

    If we really, truly hear His voice, are there things that should be different in our church?

    Now, I don’t really want to dwell on things we would change or not change, because,
    in the overall scheme of things, that’s not really what hearing His voice is all about.

    In the parable which Jesus gave us, He was distinguishing Himself as the Good Shepherd, and He was referring to Sheep, of course, as those people who belong to Him, and He was saying that, like the real sheep who follow and belong to a real shepherd, the sheep – the people – who belong to Him – Jesus – follow Him. He is saying that we know Him so well that we recognize His voice – just like real sheep are said to recognize the voice of their shepherd. We identify His voice in contrast to someone else who would call to us.

    Here, of course, we get back to the problem.

    Let’s be very plain about one thing: Jesus is calling to you, and Jesus is calling to me, and He’s calling to every person you know . . . . . . . . . and to those you don’t know.

    Many of us have found ourselves wondering whether we would know if Jesus were speaking to us. I think we often look at a problem, for example, and we often wonder what God would want us to do.

    But I think Jesus is speaking about something much more basic and fundamental when it comes to knowing Him and following Him.

    Let me share some verses with you.

    The Bible makes this promise: “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you,” (James 4:8)

    Jesus, Himself, said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” (Matt. 7:7-8)

    When Paul went to the city of Athens and told them about the gospel, about Jesus Christ, and about the God of the Bible, he told them that God would call to “every nation of mankind . . . that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him. Yet He is actually not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:26-27).

    There’s a curious thing in Scripture that God tells us to seek Him, but it doesn’t tell us how. When I first noticed it some years ago, I was sure that I would find a place – a verse or a chapter – where I would find that answer.

    When you have a scavenger hunt, you have clues, at least, that give you a hint to finding the next item.

    When you use google or other navigational devices, you’re told, mile by mile and turn by turn, how to get to your intended destination.

    A good diet plan will tell you what you need to do to follow the plan to lose weight. Many good diet plans also have an easy way for you to fail so that the fault for failure is your own, and you can’t blame the diet plan.

    But when you look at God’s plan, it’s noticeably short on instructions. I don’t think there’s a single place in Scripture where we’re given a simple, straight-forward three-step plan for finding God – not even a five-step plan or a seven-step plan.

    God’s plan is so simple that it seems befuddling. God says, simply, “If you seek me, you will find me.”

    and again, He says, “If you seek me with all your heart, you will find me.”

    I don’t think I’ve ever visited a friend’s house or the house of a former acquaintance when they said to me, just come and look for me, and you’re sure to find me. Just come to Indianapolis or to Albuquerque and start looking; you’re sure to find me.

    I know that when Sharon and I went to Pheonix to see her cousin, Marjorie and her son, Jonathan and his family, we had to have much better directions than “Come and find me.”

    But God tells us that if we seek Him we will find Him. I wonder if that’s true, in part, because If we seek Him, He will find us.

    A favorite verse for many people is found in 2 Chronicles 7:14,

    “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my Face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

    Proverbs 8:17, “I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.”

    Dueteronomy 4:29 “”But from there you will seek the Lord God, and you will find Him, if you search for Him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

    Jeremiah 29:10, 13, “For thus says the Lord . . . You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”

    From the book “Jesus on Trial,” this quote: “The message is clear and consistent. Come to God with a contrite, open, and humble heart. Seek Him in earnest and you will find Him. As Raymond Ortlund of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School declares ‘I you seek God through His Word, with an open, receptive heart, you cannot miss Him. He will not let you miss Him. He will meet you and touch you. He will rekindle your spiritual fire through the power of the gospel.”

    — and, I might add, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

    Do you hear His voice? Do you listen for it? Don’t be discouraged or feel less than adequate if you do not. Only be diligent. Only be desirous of Him – to walk with Him, yes, to Hear His voice. It sounds, very clearly, that our first need is to seek Him. After that, we need to get to know Him. Talk to Him. Read His Word. Be a part of God’s people in a church or fellowship such as this – and make God a part of the conversation. Seek to know more about Him, but above all, seek Him, find Him, and treasure Him. In so doing, I believe you will hear Him – in your own way, and you will enjoy His companionship.

  108. Be Ye Transformed 9/11/2022

    Greetings and peace from Concord Community Church and Pastor Steve Ward. Please know and feel His grace in abundance. We invite you to please join us, if you can, at our regular Sunday Morning Worship Service (10:00 AM) at 7578 Concord Rd., halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.

    Scripture and Thoughts for 9/11/2022 – Be Ye Transformed

    Here, in the 12th chapter of Romans, we have a call for such a radical dedication that we find the apostle, Paul, begging us to undertake the change. “by the mercies of God.” He even says to make a sacrifice of our bodies, but then he tells us “It’s only reasonable.” It’s your reasonable service. These two verses, by the way are probably on nearly every Christian leader’s “most needed to be memorized list.” They are certainly on the list of “most often used for Christian devotions,” and you will also find the on the “most handy list for impromptu devotions.”

    However, even though they’re so frequently referred to, they could also be on the “most commonly taken out of context” list.

    The two verses do make a handy package, and they seem, on the surface, at least, to be complete in themselves. Let’s read them, again.

    Romans 12:1-21(KJV) 1. I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
    2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove ( — as at a proving grounds, where you put it to the test and confirm it to be good, to live up to it’s claims and it’s expectations –) that ye prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
    Sounds plain enough, doesn’t it? But Paul goes on:
    3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
    4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:
    5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
    6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;
    7 Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching;
    8 Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.

    Paul mentions not thinking of oneself “more highly than he ought to think,” and he mentions spiritual gifts. It’s all part of the transformation.

    As part of the transformation, we’re warned against conforming to the world, and He tells us to be transformed “by the renewing of your mind.”

    But why the renewing of your minds? I thought we were automatically changed – as we have said previously. “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature” – (“a new creation” in some translations). “Old things have passed away; behold, all things are become new.” But, remember, we still have the Old Nature – sometimes called the “Old Man.” And we still have our old friends, and we still have our old habits and appetites, and if Paul is begging us to be conformed, isn’t it quite clear that it’s a matter of choice for us?

    However, even though we have the struggle with our old nature, old friends, old habits and appetites, and old haunts, we do have a few things on our side.

    After all, we have the “New Nature.” We’ve been given a new heart. In our salvation we’ve been given a glimpse, at the very least, of the grace and mercies of God, and, perhaps most powerful of all, we’ve been given the gift of the Holy Spirit who actually comes and takes up residence in our hearts.

    You also have, at your disposal, the entire armor of God: The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, the Breastplate of Righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the loins girded about with truth, and having your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.

    Even then, it’s still a choice. Each uphill step of the way is still a decision.
    These next verses are excellent admonitions for the Christian life, but are they also part of the transformation?
    9 Let love be without dissimulation. – without pretense, without deception or dishonesty. — Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.
    10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;
    11 Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;
    12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;
    13 Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.
    14 Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.
    15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
    16 Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.
    17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.
    18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.
    19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
    20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
    21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

    Chapter 13, 14, and 15 continue the transformation. We’re going to continue with the New International Version.

    Chapter 13, v. 1: “Let everyone be subject to the to the governing authorities. And v. 7 sums up the first point: “Give to everyone what you owe them. The King James says, “Render therefore to all their due.”

    The second point of chapter 13 is in verse 8, and it’s pretty much a summation of the Christian life. “8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.”

    The third point is in verse 14, but let’s read from verse 11:

    11 And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.
    — Isn’t that a huge part of the transformation, to clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ?

    Chapter 14 has two main points:

    Verse 10 and 12. He’s been talking about the problem of eating this or eating that – meat offered to idols, etc.
    Point One:
    10 You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 11 It is written:

    “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
    ‘every knee will bow before me;
    every tongue will acknowledge God.”

    12 So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.

    13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.

    The second main point is an extension of the first. Let’s start reading in verse 14:

    14 “I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. 15 If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died. 16 Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.”

    19 “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. 20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.”

    Chapter 15 is the longest of these chapters on Christian Living – making the transformation.

    Let’s notice three points and then another important sentence.

    Point # 1: Verse 2:” 2 “Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.”

    Point # 2: Verse 5 & 6: 5 “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, 6 so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

    And then, point # 3: verse 7: 7 “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”

    And now, finally, please notice verse 13: 13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

    This, I believe, may actually be the end result of your transformation: being filled with all joy and peace and overflowing with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

    Almost every TV add, every bill board, every magazine add, every internet add, has as it’s ultimate goal and promise, the supposed fulfillment of that most desired of human wishes – the desire to be happy, the wish for joy and fulfillment. Guess what? It’s right here and it’s called the Christian Life. It’s not, unfortunately, the average Christian Life. It’s not the nominal Christian Life. It’s not even always the one you see behind the pulpit or in the choir loft or filling the offices of the Church, but it’s the life God wants you to have, and it’s the one He wants me to have, and it’s the one for which He drew the blueprint right here in these four chapters, and it starts with presenting yourself to God as a living sacrifice, and then it continues as we allow our minds to be transformed. Let me ask you this: Is there a grand summary of how we can make that transformation? Is there an overall principle that can guide us in every situation? I’d like to suggest two general principals, but we can’t forget the details. We must not forget the fine print contained in these 4 chapters. The first principle is love. And that can satisfy the requirement of everyone of these points. The second principle is being a servant, having the heart of a servant, taking on the humility, meekness, and serving attitude of a good servant.

    Most of us will take an honest look at our lives – if we would – and find that we fail on both counts. In a way, that’s why these instructions are there, — to lead us to actions of love and the attitude and actions of a servant, but in another way, these instructions, could be the natural result of taking upon ourselves the very love of Christ and the very servant attitude of Christ

    5 “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

    6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:

    7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

    8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

    9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:

    10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;

    11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

    What is the direction you’re taking your heart, today? Are you steering your heart toward being a servant’s heart? Are you charting your course and molding you way into a person of love, a person driven and guided of love and the heart of a servant?

  109. As For Me                                                     September 18, 2022

    Greetings and peace from Concord Community Church and Pastor Steve Ward.  Please know and feel His grace in abundance.  We invite you to please join us, if you can, at our regular Sunday Morning Worship Service (10:00 AM) at 7578 Concord Rd., halfway between Patriot and Florence, Indiana.
    Scripture and Thoughts for 9/18/2022 – As for Me

                            Joshua 24:15: “But as for me and for my house, we will serve the Lord”
    14 “Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of [d]the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord! 15 And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

    II Samuel 7:5 (God, speaking to Nathan, the prophet) “Go, and tell my servant, David, ‘Thus saith the Lord, “Shalt thou build me an house to dwell in?” ’ ”
    v. 11.      . . . . “ ’Also the Lord telleth thee that he will build thee an house.”
    v,16 “  ‘And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established forever before thee; thy throne shall be established forever.’”
    v.18  “Then went King David in, and sat before the Lord, and he said, “Who am I, O Lord God?  And what is my house, that thou hast brought me thus far?”
    v.25-29  “25 And now, O Lord God, the word that thou hast spoken concerning thy servant, and concerning his house, establish it for ever, and do as thou hast said.
    26 And let thy name be magnified for ever, saying, The Lord of hosts is the God over Israel: and let the house of thy servant David be established before thee.
    27 For thou, O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, hast revealed to thy servant, saying, I will build thee an house: therefore hath thy servant found in his heart to pray this prayer unto thee.
    28 And now, O Lord God, thou art that God, and thy words be true, and thou hast promised this goodness unto thy servant:
    29 Therefore now let it please thee to bless the house of thy servant, that it may continue for ever before thee: for thou, O Lord God, hast spoken it: and with thy blessing let the house of thy servant be blessed for ever.”
     
    In the book of Acts, we have the story of the Philippian jailor.  Paul and Silas, on their 2nd missionary journey, had come to Philippi, and there they had cast out the demon of a slave girl whose fortune-telling abilities – apparently through the demon – had brought her owners much gain. Now they had been beaten and thrown into prison.  When there was an earthquake, however, they had the opportunity to escape.  They didn’t, but the jailor was about to kill himself, thinking they had escaped.  Instead, Paul and Silas stopped him and told him they were all there.

    Acts 16:30,31                                                                                                                                  
    30. “And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?                                              
    31 And they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.’ ”

    We, too, are faced with the challenge that Joshua presented to the people of Israel.  Are we going to serve the gods of the cultures around us, or are we going to serve the Lord?  For Joshua, the challenge came as the people of Israel were about to enter the Land of Canaan, the “Promised Land.”

    Joshua was the new leader of the people of Israel.  Moses had died, when the Lord took him up the mountain to view the promised land, although he would never set foot on the land.

    Joshua had been Moses’s assistant and somewhat of a “right-hand-man,” since the early days of the Hebrew journey.  He had seen the rebellions, the dabblings into the idolatry of nearby nations, the temptations, and the time-to-time wanderings of the people.  He had heard their complaints, too, as he had stood, all day long, at Moses’s side, listening to the problems and the difficulties and the differences between individuals, so he knew their inclinations and their tendencies and their weaknesses.  He wasn’t just making some wild stab in the dark when he mentioned the gods of the Amorites and the gods back in Egypt.

    Joshua not only throws down the gauntlet, so to speak, but he also chooses sides, himself, and his stated decision comes down forcefully on the side of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  “We will serve the Lord, Jehovah.”

    Joshua’s declaration was so decisive that he included his whole house – not just the present, but also his lineage – his future descendants.
          Joshua was saying, starting here and now, there’s only one God allowed in this house.
    When God spoke to David, He was saying that he, David, would not be the one to build a house for God, but, instead, that He – God – would establish David’s house, from which would come the Messiah, the Savior, Jesus Christ, the Lord.

    David’s house was an established lineage, an established heritage, and established future descendants and families.  His house wasn’t just a building or a group of people who lived there.  His house was a recognizable group of people and families and traditions.  When David’s father, Jesse, and his father before him, decided to follow the Lord, God, Jehovah, they did make a personal decision, to be sure, but they were also making decisions for their immediate family and their grandchildren and for their descendants, because you can’t just decide to serve the Lord and not have it affect your family.

    When Joshua said, “As for me and for my house, we will serve the Lord,” he used the plural personal pronoun, “we.”  It is rather pointed that he didn’t say, “I will serve the Lord,” but that he said, “we will serve the Lord.”  He made no apology for making the decision for his whole family, because his decision was so emphatic that there could be no other way to go.  He didn’t even say, “Well, my son and his wife may feel differently,” or “I don’t know what my wife thinks, but this is the way I feel about the matter.”  I have a serious suspicion that his wife was right behind him, 100%.
    This is the house we are invited to join.  This is the house to which we belong if we believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior.  God has been building His “house,” as He has been drawing men and women to Himself.
    You are invited to join the “Household of faith,” by accepting Him as your Savior – by believing in Him – by acknowledging Him for who He is:  Jesus Christ, Son of God, Messiah, Savior and Lord.
    And then  .. . . remember what Joshua said, & I urge you to say it and to implement it to the fullest extent to which you are able, “As for me and for my house, we will serve the Lord.”

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