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June 3, 2020

The Importance of Getting Together

 

Family reunions were always a fun thing when I was a child. Our reunions were usually at the Noccalula Falls Park. My grandmother knew everyone in our family, relatives both close and distant. She would take me around to meet all the “Hodges” in our family. She knew the names of people I had never met! It was fun and provided a young child, me, a sense of identity with a larger family.

In a way, the Church gathering for worship is like a family reunion. Christians are one in Christ all with the same Heavenly Father. Corporate Worship provides us a sense of identity with our larger family.

 

Deuteronomy 16:13-15 (CSB) “You are to celebrate the Festival of Shelters for seven days when you have gathered in everything from your threshing floor and winepress. 14Rejoice during your festival—you, your son and daughter, your male and female slave, as well as the Levite, the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow within your city gates. 15You are to hold a seven-day festival for the Lord your God in the place He chooses, because the Lord your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, and you will have abundant joy.”

 

God told Israel to celebrate together and remember how God blessed them during their wilderness wandering. It was a sense of identity and God’s blessings.

 

Hebrews 10:24-25 (NLT) “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near.”

 

Christians meeting together on Sunday for worship provides us a sense of identity. We have been forgiven of our sins and we are blessed immensely!

Sunday, June 7, we resume meeting together. Please see the listed schedule for all the new service times and locations. We look forward to seeing you there!

Tassie and I love you and are looking forward to seeing you Sunday!

Pastor Tom


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May 20, 2020

Reigniting My Joy

 

The extreme difficulties people are experiencing with the corona virus lock-down has taken a toll on the joy of living. There is a reluctance in being humorous for fear of coming across as silly and offending someone who is in pain. So, behind our masks, we effectively veil our expressions and mark off another day of getting by.

There is a difference between joyful and silly. Silliness is defined as engaging in “a ludicrous folly”, showing a “lack of good sense or judgment”, or “the condition of being frivolous, trivial, or superficial”. Silly can be making light of a precarious situation, a joke at someone else’s expense. Christians amid the corona virus lock-down can have joy without the “silly”!

שִׂמְחָה is the Hebrew word for rejoice. Ancient Hebrew letters were originally a “picture” of something. Reading from right to left; ש teeth (consume, destroy), מ water (chaos, power), ח room (secret place), ה look at. The Hebrew word for rejoice is, “destroy the chaos inside and see what happens”. Chaos inside can be fear, anxiety, or foreboding. We are the only ones who can destroy the chaos inside. The enemy wants you to focus on all the uncertainties and problems in life. He wants you to be anxious, fearful, sad, and depressed. But God said,

“…Do not grieve, because the joy of the Lord is your strength.”  Nehemiah 8:10b (CSB)

The strength of a Christian is in the Joy of the Lord! I may not like the situation, but I know God is in control. The situation around me may not be a happy one, but situations will not steal my joy! The smile of a Christian is not a silly disconnect from reality but an absolute assurance that God controls the future and God firmly holds the Christian!

“You, Lord, are all I have, and you give me all I need; my future is in your hands.”   Psalm 16:5 (GNT)

Tassie and I love you and we are praying for you.

Pastor Tom


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May 19, 2020

Everyone Seems Ready to Escape

 

We have been stuck in the corona-virus lock down and we are exhausted from non-activity. It is great to see the country reopening. Although some are advocating a continuation of the shutdown, many are feeling, “I am done with this quarantine!” We will live cautiously, not fearfully!

This reminds me of several Bible verses in the King James Version that describes this “time to get on with life” situation.

And it came to pass in the six hundredth and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from off the earth: and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and, behold, the face of the ground was dry.” Genesis 8:13 (KJV)

Noah was quarantined in the Ark for a long time!

“And it came to pass” was a phrase that meant the passage of time. But let us look at this verse from a deeper perspective. Whatever pandemic situation we are in, will pass. And “it” came to pass. Supply your own circumstance for the “it.” And it, the corona virus, came and it will pass. The financial difficulty I am in came and it will pass. The struggle I am having with homeschooling my children came and it will pass. My illness came and it will pass.

God knew we would go through difficult times. The Bible captured this in Psalm 23:4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me….” I walk “through” the valley of the shadow of death. I am not stuck in this valley. I am not afraid because God is with me, even in the darkest of times!

But the question is are you walking with God or are you in this dark valley by yourself? Have you surrendered your life to Jesus by receiving Jesus as your Savior and placing Him as Lord of your life? If not, you are one commitment away. Open your heart and receive Jesus as your Lord.

“But to all who did receive Him [Jesus], He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name, 13who were born, not of natural descent, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:12-13.

The choice is simple, but the decision is difficult. You must surrender your will to His will. Acknowledge your sin. Trust Christ. Walk with Jesus until, “it” passes!

Tassie and I love you and we are praying for you!

Pastor Tom

 


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May 17, 2020

I Cannot Believe What They Did; Part 2

 

The most common phrase throughout ancient Israel’s history was, “The Israelites did what was evil in the Lord’s sight; they forgot the Lord their God and worshiped false gods.”

But listen to what God had done for the Israelites, God’s chosen people.

“For the people of Israel belong to the Lord; Jacob (Israel) is His special possession. … He surrounded them and watched over them; He guarded them as He would guard His own eyes. Deuteronomy 32:9b-10 (NLT)

Israel is God’s special possession above all other nations on earth! And Israel abandoned God.

We learned yesterday that Israel had “lost” God’s Word. They had so neglected reading God’s Word that the Scriptures had been stored away is some forgotten closet in the Temple. They neglected to read God’s Word, had forgotten what God said, and began to worship other gods. Israel lost their blessings by neglecting the source of their blessings – God!

Mistake number 2: Israel stopped worship ping God together.
 
“You may not sacrifice the Passover in just any of the towns that the Lord your God is giving you. 6You must offer it only at the designated place of worship—the place the Lord your God chooses for His Name to be honored. Sacrifice it there in the evening as the sun goes down on the anniversary of your exodus from Egypt.  Deuteronomy 16:5-6 (NLT)
 
God said worship together in the place God said to worship at the time God said to worship, on the anniversary of your release from slavery in Egypt! But Israel had stopped celebrating their deliverance!
 
No such Passover had ever been observed from the time of the judges who judged Israel through the entire time of the kings of Israel and Judah.” 2 Kings 23:22 (CSB)

 

No Passover during David’s reign. No Passover during Solomon’s reign. I cannot believe what they did or rather what they did not do. They did not observe the Passover! They did not come together as a family to worship!

Mistake number 1: the Israelites stopped reading God’s Word.

Mistake number 2: the Israelites stopped worshiping together as a family.

As a result, “The Israelites did what was evil in the Lord’s sight; they forgot the Lord their God and worshiped false gods”. Therefore, God withdrew His blessings and allowed His people to suffer the consequences of their rebellion. They returned to becoming slaves.

This is a great lesson for all of us. When we stop reading God’s Word and we stop worshiping together, we set ourselves up to forget God and neglect the Source of our blessings. Let us not repeat Israel’s mistake and suffer Israel’s history! Set a definite time every day to read God’s Word. When we can return to worshiping at church, do not miss!

Tassie and I love you, miss you, and we are praying for you!

Pastor Tom


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May 16, 2020

I Cannot Believe What They Did

 

It is incredibly tragic to see people with great talent waste their gift, or others with wonderful promise, simply fade into mediocrity.

The Israelites were God’s chosen people, given a beautiful land with homes, wealth, and provisions they never built, earned, or planted. God asked one thing in return; serve Him and not other man-made gods. It was simple. Honor God. Honor His Word. Worship as He commanded. Nothing hard about that! But the Israelites disobeyed God and wasted their blessings. The most common phrase throughout ancient Israel’s history was, “The Israelites did what was evil in the Lord’s sight; they forgot the Lord their God and worshiped false gods.”

How could God’s chosen people do what was evil? The Bible gives us the answer.

We read in 2 Kings 22:8,

I have found the Book of the Law in the Lord’s Temple!” 

Incredible that during a renovation of the Temple someone “finds”God’s Word. If they were reading God’s Word, His Word would not have been lost! Mistake number 1: the Israelites were not reading God’s Word.

The Israelites did what was evil because they stopped reading what was excellent!

“I have treasured Your Word in my heart so that I may not sin against You.” Psalm 119:11 (CSB)

Israel stopped treasuring God’s Word and they started sinning!

Are you treasuring God’s Word in your heart? You treasure God’s Word by reading it daily and doing what God says! You cannot do what God says unless you listen to what He has said. You cannot do what is excellent if you are absent from His Word! Treasure the time you spend reading God’s love letter to you, the Bible! Please do not waste your gift, fall or fade into mediocrity.

Tassie and I love you and we are praying for you!

Pastor Tom


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May 6, 2020

Kissing Through A Screen Door

 

Separation from family and friends produces stress and anxiety that only a re-connection can cure. Sure, we can socially connect through some form of virtual reality, but nothing works like a face to face embrace. A simulated connection is like kissing your spouse through a screen door. It is not the same!

How can you feel an air hug? Impossible! How can you feel the emotion of reconnecting with your children or a close friend through a face-time call? Impossible! As good as Facebook Live can be, nothing can replace the experience of a person to person connection. Physical separation is painful!

What about feeling separated from God? Have the events of the past month caused you to feel separated from God? Prayerfully not! The connection of a Believer to God is founded on facts and not feelings. When you are certain of the facts the feelings of assurance are overwhelmingly enjoyable!

 

“Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? … 37No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. 38And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”        Romans 8:35-39 (NLT)

 

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? No, nothing! When you know as a fact that Jesus Christ is your Savior and Lord, the feeling of being embraced by Him is real. Nothing can separate us!

Tassie and I love you and are praying for you!

Pastor Tom


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May 4, 2020

How Do You Know Others Are Safe?

 

Now that the nation and the world are initiating a return to a new, undefined normal, we still struggle with whom and what is safe. How do you know for certain that the person speaking to you is COVID-19 free? How do you know that the person who handed you the meal at the drive-through restaurant has not coughed unmasked onto their plastic glove? How do you know that the face mask prevents the corona-virus from spreading? It is all very perplexing!
 
We need to be sure! We need safe! We need to know for certain that the person with whom we have face-to-face contact, the person we can truly talk to, will not cause us harm. They need to be assured we will not infect them. But, how can you know?
 

The Bible is very certain that we have a Person to whom we can talk at any time, in any situation, about any subject, and without fear. That Person is God Himself.

 

“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”                                                                                                       Hebrews 4:16 (NLT)

 

God wants you to call out to Him. God is there to help. But there is a stipulation in getting through to God. The only way you can get to God is by being ‘clean.’ And the only way to be ‘clean’ is through Jesus.
 

John 14:6 (NLT) Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”

 

“If we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”     1 John 1:7 (CSB)

 

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”       1 John 1:9 (CSB)

 

Getting clean is ultimately important to God and should be vitally important to you as well! You cannot come into God’s presence with the grime of sin in your life. Only Jesus can make you clean.
 

It is time to take off the mask and walk into the loving arms of God the Father.

 

“Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.”    James 4:8 (NLT)

 

Tassie and I love you and we are praying for you especially at 7:00 A.M. and 7:00 P.M.

Pastor Tom


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May 1, 2020

Catching What Is Close To Me

 

Events can redefine words. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing is what we thought rude people were doing. People who stayed away from you intentionally were either smug, arrogant, or egotistical. Now, the opposite is true. Only smug, arrogant, or conceited people will violate your six-foot stay safe zone! People approach and now we say, ‘social distancing, keep back’!
 
Did you practice social distancing from God? Before the pandemic, people may not directly tell God to keep away. They were more subtle than that. God, I need a break on Sunday. We are going to the beach. Later God, right now I do not have enough time to read my Bible and pray.
 
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.”           2 Chronicles 7:14 (NKJV)
 
God never wants to socially distance Himself from you. He loves you with a love that cannot be explained. We walk away, turn away, look away, and ignore the One who loves us unconditionally. His patience is indescribable.
 

“Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?”         Romans 2:4 (NLT)

 

“It is time to take off the mask and walk into the loving arms of God the Father. “Draw close to God and God will come close to you!”        James 4:8a
 

Tassie and I love you and we are praying for you!

Pastor Tom


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National Day of Prayer | May 7, 2020

For more than 20 years the National Day of Prayer Service has been observed in the city Venice; in recent years at Centennial Park. Due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, this year’s service will be a virtual experience. Let’s join together as we pray for and pray with America.

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