Getting my attention


So I discovered a prayer journal on my shelf that has never been read. It is a daily devotional titled ‘The Best of Andrew Murray on Prayer’. It seemed like a worthwhile task to start reading it January 1 and today is day 3 and I haven’t missed a reading yet. Not bad for a person with the attention span of caffeinated squirrel.

Anyways today’s verse was John 15:9 I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. Maybe you just read that verse the same way I did this morning, that is without any enthusiasm for the message. Let me give you this excerpt;

  People believe that at conversion their sins are forgiven, that God accepts them so that they may go to heaven, and they should try to do God’s will. But they do not realize that, even as a father and his child on earth enjoy being together, so they have this intimate fellowship with God each day.

God is getting my attention! I write about God. Preach and teach about His mercy and goodness. But truth is I really do not spend much energy seeking the Holy Spirit on a daily basis to lead me into the deep love of Christ. I don’t have it all figured out but somehow my relationship with Christ is becoming more real and urgent. There’s plenty of Jesus for the all of us. Want to join in on seeking a deeper relationship?

Rev. Burt Schwab

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Is it worth it?


As a general rule I believe life should be viewed from a lighter side. Don’t take yourself too serious because nobody else does. It is my observation that too many people make drama a part of their daily routine. Obviously there are many situations that are not laughable but most things just aren’t that serious.

One grand drama that played out in 2016 was the Presidential election. The media lost it’s collective mind when Trump was elected President and has been steadily shouting “the sky is falling” ever since. In the days surrounding the election the stock market did what it so frequently does and that is unpredictable swings. First it went up and the news media claimed it was in response to Clinton being the predicted winner. Then it went down and the claim was because Trump was winning. After the election the market steadily went up and the new Prez is the only one trying to claim it was because he won. My guess is there are people way smarter than me that found a way to make a lot of money at a critical time. Let’s face it folks most of us wish in retrospect that we had investment money right after a market swing.

To really show what a bunch of sniveling pansies the American public has become there were protests about the election outcome. Even now the people that oppose not getting their own way are trying to blame anything but reality on the election. Even the Russians are being blamed for the election outcome. Honestly I quit worrying about the Russians destroying America just a few years after learning the truth of Santa Claus. Actually I’m still holding out hope for Santa being real…

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To be sure this is nothing new about humans. If you took the time to read the story of Moses leading the exodus from Egypt you would see drama played out by the woe-is-me folks of the time. Even after being rescued from the oppression of a truly wicked Pharaoh the people frequently cried out “we’re going to die, we’re going to die” every time things didn’t go their way.

Here’s where I am going with all this. The only hope we will ever have of being truly free does not lie in a political entity. The only hope for freedom is found in an absolute truth that many people have abandoned. Is it worth it? Is it worth giving up your so-called personal rights and surrender your life to an almighty God? Is it worth it to live by a standard of morality not accepted in modern culture? The answer is an absolute yes! But it isn’t easy and it is not popular.

I will no longer be writing this blog from a teacher perspective. The time has come for me to state my views about the world we live in with hard hitting truth. I am no longer concerned about being offensive to the over sensitive population that has to find someone to blame whenever reality sets in. You are welcome to comment in opposition to my views I just ask that you leave the drama out.

Rev. Burt Schwab

 

 

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IS MY WORSHIP WORTHY TO GOD?


It can be said that I am a inspirational singer. That is when I sing in church others are inspired to sing louder. It is not likely that my next career move will be as a worship leader. Fortunately worship is not only about singing or other musical abilities.

Christian worship is referring to the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for God. Worship is supposed to be a celebration of being in covenant fellowship with the living God. It is a time for us as believers to demonstrate faith with praise and thanksgiving. When we sing and raise our hands it is giving back a token to God. Corporate worship is a time to join others to rejoice and celebrate the blessings we have received. Our talents should be showcased, not to bring glory to ourselves but to honor our heavenly Father. Worship is not exclusive to singing or using our talents but also includes giving back to God as He has provided for us.

Worship is an act of faith and obedience. To use your talents to worship costs time and energy and is proper obedience to God. To give back from the first fruit of your labor is an act of faith in knowing that the ultimate provider will continue to provide when we are faithful. If it truly cost nothing, it would not be true worship!

Prior to Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice on the cross, worship included times of sacrificing animals. A few times a year entire families would bring an offering to be burned on the altar. These were natural times of celebration such as after a harvest. Anyone who has farmed knows the hard work involved in harvesting a crop. When a crop is bountiful it is certainly a time to rejoice.

The burnt offerings were to be one year old, first born males, without blemish or defect. The acceptable burnt offering animals were a bull, a lamb or goat, or for the poor two pigeons or turtle doves.

  • A bull (ox) was the most valuable animal person could own. With it fields could be plowed and carts could be pulled. In fact to own an ox provided the means for greater gain.
  • Sheep and goats were of great significance to Old Testament families. These animals provided clothing, milk, and meat.
  • Although doves provided no value to the owner they are symbolic of peace, honesty, and love. (A couple of interesting facts about turtle doves is they mate for life. The mated birds build nests together as well as raise their young together.)

It does not matter what your financial status in life is, God has provided a way for all to worship Him.

God doesn’t ask for everything, just the first and best we have to offer. It does not matter if your best is the equivalent of a prize winning Bull or two turtle doves, it is an offense to God to offer less than our best to Him.

Malachi 1:6-14 The Lord of Heaven’s Armies says to the priests: “A son honors his father, and a servant respects his master. If I am your father and master, where are the honor and respect I deserve? You have shown contempt for my name!

“But you ask, ‘How have we ever shown contempt for your name?’

“You have shown contempt by offering defiled sacrifices on my altar.

“Then you ask, ‘How have we defiled the sacrifices?

“You defile them by saying the altar of the Lord deserves no respect. When you give blind animals as sacrifices, isn’t that wrong? And isn’t it wrong to offer animals that are crippled and diseased? Try giving gifts like that to your governor, and see how pleased he is!” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

“Go ahead, beg God to be merciful to you! But when you bring that kind of offering, why should he show you any favor at all?” asks the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

10 “How I wish one of you would shut the Temple doors so that these worthless sacrifices could not be offered! I am not pleased with you,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “and I will not accept your offerings. 11 But my name is honored by people of other nations from morning till night. All around the world they offer sweet incense and pure offerings in honor of my name. For my name is great among the nations,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

12 “But you dishonor my name with your actions. By bringing contemptible food, you are saying it’s all right to defile the Lord’s table. 13 You say, ‘It’s too hard to serve the Lord,’ and you turn up your noses at my commands,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “Think of it! Animals that are stolen and crippled and sick are being presented as offerings! Should I accept from you such offerings as these?” asks the Lord.

14 “Cursed is the cheat who promises to give a fine ram from his flock but then sacrifices a defective one to the Lord. For I am a great king,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “and my name is feared among the nations!

Man that’s a tough message! Someone might think this a real downer after a time of holiday celebration. Yet this last message given to Israel 400 years before Christ was born has lasting value for us today.

This was a tough message the prophet Malachi had to deliver to the Israelite Priests. As both children and servants of the Lord it should have been natural for them to show respect to Him. For whatever reason their responsibilities became so mundane to them that they had allowed proper worship of God to deteriorate into a way for people to dispose of their unwanted animals.

It is easy to conjure up reasons this happened. Maybe the Priests were afraid if they didn’t accept whatever was being offered the people would stop offering anything. Perhaps over the course of time worshippers became careless and reasoned that whatever was offered was just burned up so why offer anything good.

There was a time some people were trying to help a family that had literally no furnishings in their apartment. I volunteered to bring donations to the family. One donation item was a chair that was in such bad shape I was afraid to strap it to my trailer for fear it would fall to pieces. It was an embarrassment to take that thing to the family in need. The donator really believed he was doing something good to help a family in need. I tell you it’s a shame that I actually delivered that thing! It should have been left on the curb for the garbage truck.

Think about the sacrifices the people were bringing to the altar as being like that chair. The animals being offered had no value in the market or for food. Most likely they would have died on their own shortly.

How is your worship time with God? Besides the joyful noise time at church, do you show honor and respect to God the way He intended?

I’m serious about these questions. This isn’t a beat down sermon aimed at pointing out church problems.

It is a rebellious attitude to God to offer blind, sick, lame, or torn offerings.

  • If we worship God ignorantly and without understanding we bring the blind for sacrifices.
  • If we worship carelessly, and without consideration being cold, and dull, and dead in it, we bring the sick.
  • If we place our trust in the outward display and not make it a heartfelt expression we bring the lame.
  • When we allow empty thinking and distractions to become our focus, we bring the torn.
  • If we offer what cost us nothing in terms of time, talent, or money we offer the stolen.

God has made it clear to us through His word and even within our own nature that it is not acceptable to worship with less than our best.

Rev. Burt Schwab

 

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HOPE, JOY, AND PEACE WHEN GOOD NEWS IS DELAYED


These are the notes I used to preach at Hilltop Chapel in What Cheer, Ia. on December 25, 2016. Feel free to use them anyway that seems fitting. 

Introduction

This is the last Sunday in 2016 and I can’t think of a better place to be than church.

What a year this has been…

  • Strange political climate.
  • A roller coaster of a year in news events.
  • The Cubs won the World Series. (That ruined some of my favorite sports jokes)

And today is Christmas! In our house Christmas time is a BIG deal. Every horizontal surface is adorned with festive décor. If you sit still during decorating time there is a good chance you will become a part of the holiday scenery. With much anticipation we excitedly look forward to days of celebrating with family and friends. For our household Christmas is a season of celebration that lasts for weeks.

This is a season of hope, joy, and peace.

  • Hope is the fruit of faith.
  • We can have joy despite our circumstances.
  • Peace is the calm in your heart knowing God is in control.

This is the time we set aside to celebrate the birth of Jesus who is the only hope for a lost world, the Prince of peace, and the provider of joy.

What about the times when we struggle to keep hope alive and our joy is not complete? Let’s take a look at a couple we don’t normally think about at Christmas. Their story begins in Luke 1:5-25

Pray

Luke 1:5-ff (NKJV) There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.

8 So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. 10 And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense.

(Teachers hat time)

Before the universal acceptance of calendar years, time was recorded by events. In the Bible there are events that are recorded to specific dates such as in Ezra 6:15 Now the temple was finished on the third day of the month of Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius. However, in this passage we only have a general time period recorded as the days of Herod, the king of Judea. In modern context it is comparing a specific date such as July 4, 1776 with a general time frame such as during the Reagan Administration.

History records that this king Herod had three of his own sons and one of his ten wives killed out of jealousy. This is the same Herod that ordered all baby boys near Bethlehem to be killed when he heard of the birth of Christ. There was a saying about this king that it was better to be a pig in his stall than to be a son of Herod. In other words you had a better chance of living to an old age as a pig in the king’s barn than you did if you were his son. This was the political climate in the days this passage was written.

 Setting of the story; 

There were 24 divisions of Priests and each division served in the temple twice a year. Two times a day a priest would offer up incense at the hour of prayer. Only one priest would enter in while the others stood outside and prayed. Lots were cast to determine who the Lord chose to enter the Holy place. There were hundreds of Priests in each division so the chances of being chosen to offer incense was low. Most Priests would spend their entire life without being chosen.

This would have been a great day at work for Zacharias. The kind of day you can’t wait to tell the wife about. He got to offer the incense that represented all the prayers of the people. That would have been quite an honor.

Sometimes the Lord orchestrates our day. Have you ever been at the right place at the right time to be used by God?

The day was already going great but then look what happened next.

11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.

13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.

15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

It seems this day couldn’t get any better. Zacharias had just been told his prayer had been heard. It is easy to assume this was referencing the often repeated prayer for a child. Most likely he had quit praying for a child years earlier. It could be that he even rationalized his situation.

But then 18 Zacharias said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.”

  1. Delayed answers to prayers can cause personal hope to diminish.

In all fairness he was looking at the reality of his situation. Old age had set in and made it physically impossible to have a child. Young people have children, not old people.

Studying this passage caused me to think Zacharias’ response seems kind of a strange. As a priest he certainly knew the scriptures. He would have known of Abraham at age 100 and Sarah at age 90 having a baby. He would have known of the great miracles God performed in times past. He would have known the prophecies of “one calling in the wilderness”.

In addition to that, there had not been a direct message from God in 400 years. Not a single prophet had been raised up in four centuries and now he was receiving a direct message from the Lord. It seems to me his response should have been like somebody just winning the lottery. I would have expected him to be dancing and rejoicing.

 

People have said to me many times that they thought God would help them more if they had more knowledge, or knew how to pray better, or helped the church more.

God doesn’t show favor because of knowledge or how much you serve at church. It is through faith that our prayers are answered. Zacharias had all the head knowledge a priest was expected to have. He was considered righteous before the Lord. He was even faithful in his responsibilities at the Temple.

 

Hope is not dependent on what we know or how religious a person may be. Even when we have been in the presence of God and our prayers have been proper and often, God does not always answer when and how we might want.

  • A mature believer accepts no as a reasonable answer from God.
  • Doubt is a result of losing hope in a given situation.
  • Facing the demands of reality is not the same as doubting.

      2.   Lost hope prevents us from expressing joy to the Lord.

19 And the angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. 20 But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.” 21 And the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled that he lingered so long in the temple. 22 But when he came out, he could not speak to them; and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple, for he beckoned to them and remained speechless.

Instead of asking for clarification Zacharias stated the message was impossible. In other words he doubted God’s ability to do the impossible. Somewhere along the way Zacharias lost hope in ever having a son. When a person has lost hope they lose the ability to have the joy of knowing God can do the impossible.

Doubt is caused by lost hope. Here are three indisputable symptoms of doubt in your life.

  1. If you can’t express the joy you have for what God has done, there is doubt in your life.
  2. If you did not share the Gospel with anyone this year the root cause is doubt.
  3. If others cannot hear from your words the great things Christ has brought into your life doubt is the cause.

 

There are times we all struggle with doubt. The proper response is to ask how this can happen, or help me with my doubt. The wrong attitude is to make the statement that God cannot do something especially after He said he will!

Zacharias was disciplined for a season because of how he expressed his doubt. Discipline in this life is intended to bring about positive change to our lives. We read later in Luke 1 that when Zacharias’ son was born and he named him John that he regained his voice and praised God. He must have praised Him loudly because two thousand years later we are still talking about it! Our lives speak loudly of what we believe.

Losing hope does not cancel God’s plan.

 

       3.  Answered prayers bring us peace.

23 So it was, as soon as the days of his service were completed, that he departed to his own house. 24 Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived; and she hid herself five months, saying, 25 “Thus the Lord has dealt with me, in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”

Some of us know the pain and disappointment of not being able to have children. To be sure it is a difficult path to walk. However, in the times the Bible was written, people often thought it was a curse from God to not have children. Sometimes it was a curse from God. Even when it wasn’t a punishment, to be childless was the cause of much bitterness and sorrow. At the point in time this story took place they were “well advanced in years” meaning they were beyond child bearing age.

Zacharias and Elizabeth were faithful believers and yet they had no children because Elizabeth was barren. Elizabeth struggled finding peace of mind and heart because she was childless. To receive the good news that she would have a baby in her old age caused Elizabeth to rejoice. Finally, after all those years she could have peace of mind knowing God did not forget about her.

Sometimes we spend years praying for something or someone without a definitive answer. When we are given an answer to prayers there is a peace that settles in our mind. Even when we are in a season of waiting we can have peace knowing God is listening to our prayers.

 

Conclusion

Let me share some good news with you today;

  • Your prayers have been heard.
  • God has a plan for your life.
  • Because a child was born unto us to take away our sins we can have hope, joy, and peace. It begins with faith in believing in Jesus as your Lord and savior.

Hope is the fruit of faith. Are you struggling with doubt? Have you been praying for years and it seems God isn’t answering?

We can have joy despite our circumstances. Don’t allow Satan the opportunity to steal your joy by making you think things will never change. God can do the impossible! Put your faith in Him and believe he will! He will help you overcome the doubt and restore your joy and bring you peace I’m talking about Godly peace. Peace that passes all understanding…the kind of peace that brings a calm to your heart, knowing God is in control even when…

  • Ungodly people are in control of the political world.
  • Your best efforts don’t yield the results you want.
  • The plan for your life is not yet been revealed.
  • It seems too much time has passed.

 

CLOSING

This morning the God of hope, joy and peace is here. If you do not know him, don’t walk with him, or don’t trust him in the way we’ve talked about this morning, all of that can change today. Please bow your heads and I want to ask you to consider a few questions. Look within yourself, examine your own heart, to determine where you stand. With all eyes closed and no one looking around, I’m going to ask you to raise your hand in response to each of these questions if you know you need change in your life. Be honest before God and be honest to yourself. Raise your hand in faith – God is here and wants to help bring about change in your heart and life. I won’t embarrass you or ask you to do anything more than privately raise your hand in a quiet moment before God, as a sign that you are serious about needing His help and need more of him in your life. Here we go.

 

Have you lost hope waiting for an answer to a prayer? If you have grown weary in praying because God doesn’t seem to be answering your prayers and doubt has creeped in, or if you have stopped praying because it seems like God isn’t listening, raise your hand. Be honest with him – have you lost hope while waiting for your prayer to be answered? Raise your hand.

Are you struggling to express joy for the promises of the Lord? If it is difficult for you to be joyful and recognize the daily blessings in your life, or if you feel like God has walked away from his promises, I want you to raise your hand.

What about peace? Do you need peace about a decision or situation in your life? If you are facing a proverbial “giant” in your life and need direction, or if you are unsettled and anxious, lift your hand.

Still with eyes closed, if you have raised your hand in response to any of these, I’m going to ask you to lift them again, as I pray. Your arms don’t have to be lifted high, but I encourage you to open your hands as a symbol to God that you are letting go of the doubt, the pain, the discouragement, or anything that has become a barrier, and putting your trust in Him to bring new faith, hope, joy and peace in your life today. Show him you are serious with this physical sign of lifting your arms and opening your hands. (PRAY)

 

As you go today grab hold of faith and don’t let go! That faith will produce hope that will lead to joy and peace!

Rev. Burt Schwab

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Focusing on worship


Too often we approach worship without anymore thought than is necessary. Sometimes I attend church with a “gotta be here” attitude. Looking around the sanctuary it is easy to see others with the same attitude. It’s like being on a train heading for a destination. The passengers neither drive or navigate so they find things to do to occupy time. Some are looking at their phones or reading while others simply stare out the window or nap. At the end of the trip everyone gets off the train and go about their lives. If it was a safe trip, nothing about the travel changes the passengers life. The same happens after Sunday service.

I encountered this passage while skimming through the Bible and it caused me to stop and take notice. These words written by Solomon could easily apply to many of us today.

Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 As you enter the house of God, keep your ears open and your mouth shut. It is evil to make mindless offerings to God. Don’t make rash promises, and don’t be hasty in bringing matters before God. After all, God is in heaven, and you are here on earth. So let your words be few.

Too much activity gives you restless dreams; too many words make you a fool.

When you make a promise to God, don’t delay in following through, for God takes no pleasure in fools. Keep all the promises you make to him. It is better to say nothing than to make a promise and not keep it. Don’t let your mouth make you sin. And don’t defend yourself by telling the Temple messenger that the promise you made was a mistake. That would make God angry, and he might wipe out everything you have achieved.

Talk is cheap, like daydreams and other useless activities. Fear God instead.

The straight talk is to approach God with reverence. Entering into the house of God is to enter His presence. This should be done with great respect. It is easy to make church service about something to check off a to do list. What would church look like if we entered expecting to encounter God?

Verse 2 reminds us that God is in heaven and we are on earth. It is exciting to realize that by approaching God in a proper way we have the opportunity to see things from His perspective. Think about that! By entering God’s presence we can see our “giant” problems as the insignificant issues they really are. In addition to that we have the ability to view others from a place of love. From such a profound vantage point our lives would have to change!

It is a common human issue to fill our lives with business. All our daily fret and worry only interrupts our sleep at night and causes dreams that rob us of rest. That could be the reason some can’t stay awake through a sermon.

Have you ever made a promise to God without following through? Many have promised to go to church or start tithing or read their Bible if God would only help them. It is much better to not make a promise to God than to break a promise made. Verse 7 states plainly ‘Talk is cheap, like daydreams and other useless activities. Fear God instead.’ Fearing God is not about hiding and cowering from Him rather it is about having extreme respect and reverence for the Lord.

A practical tip is to pray before you head to church and prepare your mind for worship. By doing that we are not prone to make rash requests or emotionally based promises to our Lord. Best of all we can truly enter the presence of God.

Rev. Burt Schwab

 

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Church


 

Just the word “church” can invoke an emotional response. Perhaps an image of a particular building comes to mind or memories of a certain group of people. Some have hostile feelings toward church and go as far as to blame all social ills on the Christian community.

The church I attend and serve at is a larger congregation. We have over fifty-five nations represented in our regular services. Through our food pantry hundreds of people are served every month. Prayer is an integral part of our worship and the Bible is taught and embraced fully. In saying these things I don’t want to minimize the impact small congregations have. Whenever I visit smaller churches it is clear the vital role they are playing in communities.

I can testify to things happening in the church today. The church as an organization is the largest entity in the world that feeds the poor. On a daily basis volunteers across the country visit others in hospitals and nursing homes. The list of behind the scenes actions of the church include grief counseling, mentoring, prison visits, parenting classes, child care, assisting single parents, and a host of other things. Media has no reason to report the ongoing good things church congregations do because it is commonplace. As people we remember the unusual or disastrous rather than the normal.

With all the good churches do there are still problems. In the past many churches were legalistic in their views and teaching. Legalism doesn’t work so in an attempt to be relevant the church community chose to favor a more “seeker friendly” environment. Unfortunately the pendulum swung too far to the point the church is being ignored into irrelevance. Even worse some church congregations embrace any lifestyle that will fill the empty seats. If Jesus should tarry on his return there will be a future generation that looks back on this time of history with confusion, the same as we do looking at the roles of the Church in past ages.

The Bible makes it clear that the Church exists as the Body of Christ, the habitation of God through the Spirit. Ephesians 1:22-23 God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. 23 And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.

As such the purpose of the Church is to  fulfill the great commission of reaching the lost and teaching the found. Matthew 28:18-20  Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

We will never experience a perfect church this side of eternity because fallible humans are in every congregation. Even so, the Church will continue until Christ receives her as his bride. If you attend a church that preaches and teaches the word of God then you most likely have a place to fulfill your calling as a follower of Christ.

Rev. Burt Schwab

 

 

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The elusive quiet place


As a teenager I would sometimes go to a small lake on a neighboring property to fish. There was a favorite spot that produced lots of Crappie and Bluegill. I didn’t really pick that spot for the fishing rather because it was quiet. With six kids in the house, including a baby, finding peace and quiet was not possible. Compound that with the daily chores of a small farm and it is easy to understand the need to have a place of solitude.

I can vividly remember the fishing hole. This was a lake made by the Army Corps of Engineers for flood control and was fed by a creek at one end and contained by an earthen dam at the other. Pecan, black walnut, and oak trees dominated the borders of the backwaters. There were a scattering of cedars that mostly existed in the fence lines that separated the properties owned by local farmers. On one side of the lake were a few small farms and the other side had no houses in sight. It was my quiet place.

At the time I didn’t understand that this is where I went to seek God. What usually started out as trying to catch fish ended with me thinking through the issues a teenager considers big problems. It almost always happened that at some point I felt a reassuring presence join me. It was as if a friend sat down beside me, not an imaginary friend but that feeling you get around a long time true friend. I miss those moments with God.

With great consistency I teach about the value of finding a quiet place to spend with God. It seems most people struggle to find the elusive quiet place. I try to use my office but unread books, papers not filed, social media posts, and a host of other voices scream for my attention. I try to use my lunchtime but the clock is never on my side.

Jesus even had times that it was difficult to find a place of privacy. Mark 6:31-34 The apostles returned to Jesus from their ministry tour and told him all they had done and taught. 31 Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat.

32 So they left by boat for a quiet place, where they could be alone. 33 But many people recognized them and saw them leaving, and people from many towns ran ahead along the shore and got there ahead of them. 34 Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the excitement of ministry we don’t take time to feed ourselves spiritually. Jesus is concerned about all his followers and invites us to join him for some quality companionship. It may be in a garden, office, or even right in the comfort of your own room. In my youth it was an alcove at a lake. My old fishing hole has long been changed by progress. It really wasn’t a magical place anyway, just a safe haven for a much younger me.

More often than not the distractions that keep me from finding a quiet place is caused by selfish ambition. It would be wise to learn what is valuable ministry needing immediate attention and what is just unfinished work that can wait. It would also be wise for me to shut off the electronics and spend a little more time asking God to join me for some conversation.

 

Rev. Burt Schwab

 

 

 

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FEAR


Ever notice that people are addicted to fear? Spiders, rats, snakes, bugs, zombies, politicians, killer viruses, falling, terrorists, and the list is long and varied. An entire industry exists in t…

Source: FEAR

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An exclusive dinner


For our wedding anniversary earlier this year my wife and I were treated to an exclusive dinner. Our young niece and nephew spent the week with us and they decided to turn our basement into a restaurant for one night. They worked hard and decorated with readily available materials. There were candles and music playing softly. We were even given menus with very limited options. The kids had us dress up and they did all the cooking and serving. Understandably the cuisine was not on par with a four star restaurant. However, the ambience was nothing short of magical.

It had been some time since my wife and I could enjoy an actual date. Proverbs 15:17 came to mind as we ate dinner; A bowl of vegetables with someone you love is better than steak with someone you hate.  Somehow the food tasted better that evening than many other previous meals. That exclusive dinner will be a lasting fond memory.

Take time to enjoy a meal with a friend, spouse, or loved one. Focus on the other person and enjoy time together. Everybody eats so why not make a memory while enjoying some food and fellowship.

Rev. Burt Schwab

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Scholastic sticker shock!


Just to prove I have graduated State the Obvious, COLLEGE IS EXPENSIVE! I have reached a season in life that allows for me to return to school using a distance learning program. Today reality hit me about how much this program will cost in dollars. Education is definitely going to cut into my vacation funds. Now is not a good time for me to plan a mid-life crisis. Last time I was enrolled in college it was a local community college at $35 a credit hour. To sound older than dirt… that was a lot of money for me to come up with. Honestly I don’t know how young people are able to pay for the education that’s required to have a foothold in the working world. My hat’s off to those who are able to escape a Ramen noodle diet after paying for school.

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If you are thinking about college consider these wise words; “the most expensive degree is a pedigree.” I don’t know who coined that term but it is true. Get the best education you can truly afford. If you are living a life honoring to God it won’t matter if that education is an Ivy League college or a series of classes at church.

Is a higher education really necessary? That question has been debated since the invention of school. In short college is not a necessity but it is a vehicle to advancement. My opinion and experience is that continuing to advance in learning is vital to personal growth. In some cases it can be a matter of survival. There is value in reading articles and books on a regular basis that pertains to whatever hobbies, career choices, or personal interests you may have. Seminars and classes are a couple of ways to expand knowledge along with having some social interaction with like-minded people.

It is easier to learn new insights and skills when you have a purpose and goal. One reason to seek additional Bible knowledge is found in 2 Timothy 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Seeking truth through scripture is a great way for anyone to improve their life. The best part is you can study the entire Bible without having to pay any tuition.

 

Rev. Burt Schwab

 

 

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