Thoughts on A Thursday2020-08-18T13:58:33-04:00

Pastor Ken’s Thoughts on a Thursday

Silent Night

Hi, this is Pastor Ken. Generally, on Thursdays I bring you my thoughts about some currently notable subject or personal story from my life and connect it to a scriptural truth. However, for the past three years on the Thursday before Christmas I have shared with you a Christ-centered Christmas poem or Christmas story by another author that I found valuable. This year I decided to bring the words of a well-known Christmas Carol and the back-story behind its writing. So here are my Christmas thoughts on this Thursday, December 21st, 2023…Silent night.

Allow me to begin by reading the words from the now famous song. I find that we often sing songs that are well known almost automatically giving voice to the lyrics. This auto-response to the melody sometimes conceals the depth of each stanza’s true meaning. So I thought…its Christmas…let’s open the gift of the originally intended meaning and expose each verse free of its melodious wrapping.

Silent night, Holy night. All is calm, all is bright. Round yon virgin, mother and child. Holy infant so tender and mild. Sleep in heavenly peace; sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night, Holy night. Shepherds quake at the sight. Glories stream from heaven afar. Heavenly host sing al-le-lu-ia. Christ the savior is born; Christ the savior is born.

Silent night, Holy night. Wondrous star, lend thy light. With the angels let us sing, Al-le-lu-ia to our King. Christ the Savior is born; Christ the savior is born.

Silent night, Holy night. Son of God, love’s pure light. Radiant beams from thy holy face, with the dawn of redeeming grace. Jesus, Lord at thy birth; Jesus, Lord at thy birth.

In the New Living Translation Isaiah 7:14 says, The Lord Himself will give you a sign, Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and call Him Emanuel (which means) God is with us. Just two chapters later we read in Isaiah 9:6-7; For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on His shoulders. And He will be called; Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of His ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s armies will make this happen!

There can be no argument that the evening that the virgin Mary gave birth to the Lord was indeed a Holy night. That night the glory of God was revealed in human form! The word of God recorded for us in Isaiah 7:14 was fulfilled on that Holiest of nights. Was it a silent night? That I am not so sure of. A baby was born, in a stable…in the small city of Bethlehem. Luke 2:1-7 tells us about it. At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child. And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

We do know that it was not a silent night out in the pastureland where the shepherds were. Luke 2:8-20 tells us about all the noise in the normally quiet fields outside the city. That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them. It was a Holy night to be sure…Silent? Not so much…at least not as far as the angels and shepherds were concerned. Their excitement and jubilation was however the only reasonable response to finding out that the Messiah had finally come to set His people free, once and for all time!

So what is the back story for this well-known Christmas Carol? Allow me to set the stage. It was Christmas eve in the Alps. A new church had just been built in a small village near Salzburg Austria. In the new church Father Joseph Mohr prepared for the midnight service. He was upset because the new church organ was not working properly yet which he felt would ruin the musical part of the Christmas Eve service. Father Joseph was about to discover that our problems are often the hand of God working in ways we do not yet understand.

It came to Father Joseph that he should write a new song, one that could be easily sung without the organ. He hastily wrote down the words, “Silent night, Holy night all is calm, all is bright”. Taking those and the words that followed to his organist, Franz Gruber, Father Joseph explained the need and asked Franz to compose a simple tune for the new song.

That night, December 24th, 1818 “Silent Night” was sung for the first time as a duet, accompanied by a guitar at the aptly named Church of St. Nicholas in Oberndorf.

A short time later a craftsman named Karl Mauracher came to repair the organ. There he heard the story of the new song that the broken organ had made necessary. He acquired a copy of the lyrics and melody and spread it throughout the Austrian Alpine region. He called the song, “Tiroler Volkslied”

The song came to the attention of the Strasser family who had four children who sang the song at many fairs and festivals. They were once even invited to perform it for the king and queen of Austria which ensured the growing fame of the song. As a result of their regular performances of the tune, they became famous folk singers in the region much like the Von Trapp children a century later.

“Silent night was first published in a German church hymnal in 1838. It was used in German churches in America and first appeared in English published in a book of Sunday School songs in 1863. If it had not been for a broken organ in a newly built church 45 years earlier…there would have been no “Silent Night”.

I have become accustom to closing out my podcasts by telling you to “Go Be Awesome” But this week I think I will simply wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year filled with Hope. However, I do think it fitting just this once to borrow a different sign off line, one much more famous than mine. As the late Paul Harvey would have said at the end of a recording such as this one about “Silent Night”…”So now you know the rest of the story…Good Day!”

Under Construction

Hi, this is Pastor Ken, I want to welcome you to my Thoughts on a Thursday Podcast where I take some regular occurrence or personal story from my life and connect it to a scriptural truth. So here are my thoughts on this Thursday, November 30thth 2023…Under Construction

About 20 years ago I fulfilled a lifelong desire. I built a house. When I say that, I don’t mean that I sat down with an architect and planned the size and shape of the house. I also don’t mean I paid someone to construct a home for me. I mean that I actually drew up the plans, submitted them to the governing authorities for approval and then personally put hammer in hand and built the house. From the footers to the ridge cap including everything in between, if it was a part of that house, I was the one who constructed it.

It was important to get each part of the build done right, but thankfully at each stage there are almost always allowable tolerances. Some level of variation is expected both in materials and workmanship. As long as the building is constructed within reasonable parameters, all goes well. Early on in the process however there was one task that was critical to everything that would follow. It was crucial for that particular job to be accomplished with incredible precision. There the allowable tolerances are as my grandfather (who was also a carpenter) used to say “next to nil”.

When it came to laying the foundation, the footers could be a little out of square or even less than perfectly level. They are poured wide enough that the block foundation can vary slightly from the centerline of the footer if need be to remain straight and true. The cement blocks can even be shaved if necessary to provide a perfectly level wall once it is completed. What has nearly no room for error is the placement of the initial corner block. If that one singular block is not perfectly positioned exactly 90 degrees to the corners perpendicular to it, nothing…and I mean nothing constructed on top of it will come out right. That one block determines the success of the rest of the project. In this day and age, it is the placement of that initial corner block that garners all the attention. In days gone by, however before the advent of cement blocks, the perfect stone also had to be found. A corner stone had to be one that had all of the necessary qualities to position it correctly and to build upon.

Furthermore, a good cornerstone is a promise of a successful building project. When you possess a good true cornerstone, you can build with total confidence that the entire structure will be strait, level and true because the corner stone is all of those things and it defines the foundation’s characteristics as a stable building surface. Certainly the integrity of the other building materials matter, but without the best possible foundation, beginning with the cornerstone, all you will ever have is problematic structure and a pending pile of rubble.

Ephesians 2:19-22 speaks of a spiritual building project. It says, Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

These days I am busy with a new construction project. This time I am not the architect, the general contractor or the builder. I am counted among the building materials. In a way this verse says that I am listed among the acceptable list of materials that are being used to build a holy temple. Essentially through the work of Jesus on the cross I have been invited to be incorporated into a house that is being constructed in His honor…for Him to live in. That house is being framed up and completed by my life and the many lives of others given to Him to use in His construction project. Our lives have been turned over to Him to use as He sees fit. The walls, and roof (our lives) are built upon the foundation that is made up of the apostles and prophets. In other words, those who were willing to follow God before we came along, and who were willing to express loudly the need for a temple like the one currently being fashioned.

This scripture also says that the foundation was laid with Jesus Christ as the chief cornerstone. Remember the importance of the cornerstone? It is the promise that a correctly constructed temple will be the result. Jesus set the direction so that the lives of the prophets and apostles could line up strait, true and level alongside Him. Without Him none of that would be possible. If it were not for Jesus, the Son of God, the temple would be constructed solely on a human foundation. The building process would have been flawed from its beginning and would eventually have become nothing more than empty ruins. Someday that house I built will degrade and fall down if it is not deemed in the way of bigger and better things, and bulldozed first. Either way, it was constructed by human hands…my human hands and will someday be on the ground again. Only those things built by the eternal God are eternal. That is why it is vital that Jesus be the cornerstone of His house, the church.

It is only as the entire building is constructed together based on the integrity of the Cornerstone that the project can be an eternal success. We are being fitted in. As you and I dedicate our lives to Him, He helps us discover our value as building materials in His church. I can only fulfill my purpose, and you yours in His building project to the extent that we align ourselves with Him. It is only because of His integrity that we can become straight and true. 1 Peter 2:6 says Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion A chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.” As we trust in Christ, and follow His lead we will never be put to shame, meaning, we will be the best we can be as we allow Jesus to be our guide.

Occasionally when I have to go into the city where I built that house, I drive by it just to see it standing there. It is not a beautiful house; in fact, it is quite plain as houses go. But I like to drive by none the less to see the house that Ken built, it was after all, a dream I have had since I was a boy. When I am there I am reminded of many of the days during its construction when I would stop after a day’s work and step back and just look at what I had accomplished. I am convinced there isn’t anything wrong with doing that, but if you want to see something really spectacular, step back and look at the house that is being built of you. You can’t take pride in it because you aren’t the builder. Nor can you necessarily point to what your contribution has added to it, because without Jesus as the chief cornerstone, our contribution wouldn’t matter. What you can do is step back and be amazed at what God is building and the fact that He can make something so beautiful from such flawed materials!

So now, thanking Him for wanting to make you a part of His construction project, and being grateful for a perfect cornerstone to set the course of your life straight…go be awesome!

Near Sighted Vs Far Sighted

Hi, this is Pastor Ken, I want to welcome you to my Thoughts on a Thursday Podcast where I take some regular occurrence or personal story from my life and connect it to a scriptural truth. So here are my thoughts on this Thursday, November 9thth 2023…Near Sighted Vs Far Sighted

I have worn glasses since I was in the 9th grade. I have not forgotten in over 40 years so I am going to assume I will never forget what that first day with my new corrective lenses was like. My dad drove me to the optometrist to pick up the glasses we had been waiting about two weeks to arrive. They put them on me, fitted them, and then repeated the eye exam to make sure my new glasses were correctly improving my vision. It wasn’t until we left the building to head home that I was struck by the vast improvement. I’m sure looking back the ride home was a spectacle to behold. I couldn’t stop telling my dad about the leaves on the trees, the rivets in the steel decked bridge we crossed over. The individual blades of grass in the lawns we passed by. I was amazed that one could perceive those things without being close up to them. Certainly I had seen leaves, rivets, and grass before, but only clearly when looking at them at close proximity. My father must have thought I had regained my eyesight…but lost my mind. I don’t remember because I was too busy looking at everything outside the car, but dad must have had a very amused grin on his face.

One of the reasons I waited so long to get the glasses I needed was because I was near-sighted. I could see things close-up just fine. I had no trouble reading, writing, or doing homework…when I actually did homework. I could see the things that were close to me with no trouble at all. It was only when my far-sightedness progressed to the point of me having difficulty seeing what my teachers were writing on the blackboards, that I even noticed it was a problem. Even then that could be remedied by sitting closer to the board, so that’s what I did. My long range vision had diminished so slowly, that I wasn’t aware the degree of clarity that had vanished along with it. It was only when I could suddenly see so clearly that the difference became distinct. I cannot sufficiently explain, even all these decades later, the amazement I experienced at the prospect of now enjoying all that I had unwittingly been missing out on.

These days my vision has dimmed further. Without glasses correcting my vision I cannot see even a fraction of what I could all those years ago. Along with my inability to see distances without glasses, my ability to see things close up is also a thing of the past. Now I must wear progressive lenses to be able to see both far and near. Even with glasses, nothing seems as clear as I would like it to be…nothing compares to that first ride home from the optometrist.

We can have this problem spiritually as well. We can exhibit symptoms of being spiritually near-sighted and it can cause us some real difficulties. If we don’t correct this problem, we will begin to look only at what can be seen clearly. We will avoid looking too far into the distance because the lack of clarity frustrates us, and so our focus is placed only on what can be seen satisfactorily enough to keep us comfortable. We live in a temporal world. However, that temporal world is not the totality of it. This world exists in a spiritual realm that is eternal. When we consider our lives only in the context of what we can see clearly, we are being incredibly near-sighted and unfortunately that is very…short sighted of us as well.

1 John 2:15-17 in the New Living Translation says, 15 Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. 16 For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. 17 And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever. If we choose to focus only on the world we can easily see, we will quite naturally choose those things that please us. We will take the path of least resistance. We will not only selfishly choose the things that bring is physical pleasure but we will also succumb to our prideful nature and attempt to take credit for all of our accomplishments. The Apostle John rightly points out that we cannot serve ourselves and serve God. God is a loving master…but He insists on our complete devotion to Him. In other words, if we are going to accept Him as our Savior, we must also acknowledge Him as our Lord, and serve Him and Him alone. That won’t be possible for us if we are relying on our nearsightedness and ignoring our lack of farsightedness. Jesus once posed the question, “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed”? (Luke 9:25). So what can we do to correct our failing far-sightedness? How can we begin to see things as we ought to?

Hebrews 12:1-2 says, Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Keeping our eyes on Jesus, our eternal Lord helps us correct our vision and see life through a corrected eternal lens. Jesus having come and died in our place so that our sin problem would finally have a permanent remedy, was raised again to life by God the Father and was seated on His right hand. The Bible tells us that when we accept that Jesus has indeed died in our place and has been raised up eternally, we are raised up with Him. Our faith in His resurrection allows for our resurrection and gives us an eternal vision. Paul wrote in Colossians 3:1-2 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. So how will we know if we have truly had our spiritual far-sightedness corrected?

Our approach to this life in this temporal world will change. We will begin to see and treat it as if it is in fact temporary. In John 6:27 it is recorded that Jesus said, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval”. When we get our eternal vision corrected we begin to put the correct emphasis on what really matters. We begin to see that the things of this world are going to someday pass away. The bible tells us that we entered this world naked and we will leave it the same way…meaning, nothing we do here is going to be transferrable into eternity unless it is something we did in service to the Kingdom of God. Those actions, the ones God asks us to take for Him, are the only things that will sustain us and have a lasting effect.

Additionally, our willingness to do what Jesus asks of us makes clear which aspect of our vision is more highly valued. In Luke 12:32-34 Jesus said, Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Our vision gives us away. If we prefer to focus on what is here and now, close to our hands, we are being near-sighted and everything we do will be to increase our position in this world. If we are far-sighted, eternally minded as we should be, then our focus will be on serving Christ and living in and for His kingdom. Corrected spiritual far-sightedness is an even more wonderful thing than my first experience with corrected physical farsightedness was. It is what enables us to walk by faith and not by sight and see the intricate details that really matter.

So…if you want to keep your spiritual vision dialed in, then you have to follow the instructions given to us by the eternal God for maintaining healthy eternal eyesight. The most important exercise for maintaining the correct vision is to keep our undivided focus directly on Jesus. He said it, if we are going to focus on, and follow after Him, we have to deny ourselves, meaning we don’t focus on what we would want, take up our cross every day, meaning we understand that it isn’t about us…and follow Him, meaning do what He would do and what He is asking us to do.

Colossians 3:23-24 says, 23 Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. 24 Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.

So now, with your eternal glasses on, viewing this life with a corrected far-sighted…yes even an eternal view, follow Jesus and…Go Be Awesome!

Planning the Route

Hi, this is Pastor Ken, I want to welcome you to my Thoughts on a Thursday Podcast where I take some regular occurrence or personal story from my life and connect it to a scriptural truth. So here are my thoughts on this Thursday, October 19th 2023…Planning the Route

Planning a route for a trip has changed considerably in my lifetime. When I was a kid it meant spreading state maps out across the kitchen table and switching from one to another as needed to plan a journey into unfamiliar territory. Some people had trouble reading those maps, I’ve even known some who seemingly didn’t know which side was the top of the map. Regardless of your ability to read those free maps provided by the local gas station, everyone had problems refolding them back to their original size and shape.

As I got just a little older Rand McNally began printing automobile atlas books that included each of the 50 United States and some incorporated all of North America. That book made the phone book look small, but I remember happily perusing through my parent’s Atlas in the back seat trying to identify all of the places on the various pages we had visited. Even as a young boy I thought those books were a vast improvement over the old “gas station” state maps. It was like possessing all of them without having to travel to each state to collect them and…you didn’t have to fold it up correctly when you were finished with it. That fact alone made it a vast improvement!

In my early twenties, AAA came out with “Trip-tics”. If you were a member, and you made your local AAA agent aware of where you were going, they would print out 4×8 inch pages cropped from a full size map with a highlighted line that followed the best route from point A to point B. All you had to do once you had traversed the road depicted on the current page of the trip-tic was flip it over to the next page and begin recording your progress there.

In my thirties Garmin and Tom-Tom were released. This was cutting edge technology for sure. Inputting your destination and simply following the directions of the insistent and sometimes downright rude voice that emanated from the device’s speaker made traveling much easier. Anyone could successfully navigate with one of those devises. You didn’t need to be able to read a map at all, and no preplanning was necessary…except being ready to mute the indignant gizmo when you wanted to stop for something to eat, gas up or simply use a rest-room. This was necessary to avoid it incessantly shouting, “Recalculating!. Recalculating!!” as if you would not have the good sense to know how to get back to the prescribed route again.

Then Cell Phones grew a brain and became “Smart Phones”. With one of those, Google offers all of us its Maps app, and you can get the turn-by-turn instructions without all of the preprogramed hype if a recalculation of the route becomes necessary. The Maps app can calculate the time to destination including heavy traffic slowdowns, weather conditions, and will offer detours around accidents miles before you inadvertently find yourself sitting in a traffic jam. Other Apps like Waze will do all that and tell you where the police are staked out behind that road sign trying to catch those ignoring the speed limit.

Last week I used an App on my phone that let me do something we haven’t done much of since folding “gas station maps” and Atlas books. I planned my own trip. That app allowed me to choose each and every road and turn. It kept track of the distance and calculated the time it would take, but I got to choose the route. When I took that trip, it guided me turn-by-turn, but it did so in accordance with my wishes. Planning a journey sure has changed a lot over the years.

Whether I made the plan or it was made for me, the success of the journey has everything to do with my ability to obey the instructions given and keep the course. My walk with the Lord is a lot like that. My success has much to do with my response to God. His word says that He is always there to guide me, but whether I conform to His will or not…therein lies my success or lack of success navigating life. Psalm 16:4 says; You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. I don’t take this to mean that there are no difficulties that will cross my path if I let God decide the route. What I do understand, is that God has rightly decided that it is His place to set the path for me, it is my position to follow as He makes that path evident, and He says He will do just that. It also means that in His presence, in other words walking that path with Him by my side I can have joy regardless of the perils, and the peace that comes from His company, provision and protection along the way.

So what about those times when it seems that the path is full of obstacles and trouble? Sometimes it indeed appears that life is out of control. From our limited ability to see what is ahead that may seem like a fair and correct assessment. However, we have to recognize that if we are letting the Lord lead and guide, we are submitting to an authority that has never failed. As the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, King of all kings and Lord of all lords, He is the ultimate authority on what direction is best for our lives. Isaiah 58:11 says; And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. God desires us to let Him always be the One we lean on for direction. So much so that He has a plan to provide exactly what we need, exactly when we need it, no matter what the world around us might suggest. Just a handful of pages before in Isaiah 48:17 it says; Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go. Here God is saying that He teaches us how to increase in our ability to reflect Him in any situation, That God goes ahead of us and leads the way. My father often says that Where God’s finger points…His hand always provides. No matter where His finger may point, no matter what difficulties, trials and tribulations may be ahead on the path He has chosen, because He goes ahead, we can trust that He sees those things, and has already decided that leading us over, under, or strait through them will be good for us in the final analysis. Romans 8:28 tells us, And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

So how can we know what to do? How do we know whether it is time to turn right, left, turn around or keep going strait? In Psalm 32:8 God tells us we can count on Him for that help. There He says, I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Isn’t it a comfort to know that God offers us His direction, with His eye upon us. That means that His counsel to us is specific to us. It is given to us with us in mind. One way that He offers it is in the same form as the maps, atlases, and trip-tics of the past…it’s all written down for us. Psalm 119:105 tells us, Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. And in Joshua 1:7-9 God says; 7 “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

We can rely upon God’s written word to be our guide, but that is not the only source of counsel we can expect from One who has His eye upon us. We also have the gift of the Holy Spirit indwelling us and offering us the much needed momentary, turn by turn instructions. John 16:13 tells us, When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. God keeps His eye on us and tells His Holy Spirit what direction to give us. If we are receptive to the Holy Spirit, meaning that we are listening to Him to guide us Isaiah 30:21 tells us we will hear Him. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.

And what about those times when we decide to stray from the path and risk becoming lost? Our Heavenly Father’s GPS (godly positioning service aka the Holy Spirit) will help you recalculate. The Bible tells us that no matter what caught our eye and encouraged us to get off track, He wants to help us re-establish the way. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. Hopefully we will choose to allow Him to help us recalculate and resume safely following His direction. If we persist in following our own desired path, our spiritual enemy will try to convince us that God is finished with us and will no longer be willing to give instruction to someone too hard-hearted to listen. Thankfully God says otherwise, He says, “If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sin and to cleanse us of all [of our] unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9) Unlike our old Tom-Tom or Garmin, we should never try to mute the Holy Spirit as He tries us to warn us of the dangers of veering off of His prescribed route for our lives. Instead, we need to ask Him to fill us anew each day so that we can hear Him loud and clear.

The Bible tells us that we make our plans but the Lord orders our steps. God does give us the ability to plan and set out in the way that we think we should go. God also has the ability to order our steps, in other words, He controls many things we do not. So, the next time you have made plans and something outside of your control causes you to have to take a different path…don’t be discouraged. Thank God for the direction and the fact that He loves you so much that He has His eyes fixed on you and is working in ways you cannot, to make sure that your feet don’t slip.

So now, in gratitude for a God that watches that closely and cares that much, follow His lead, let him blaze the trail…and go be awesome!

Dragon Slayers

Hi, this is Pastor Ken, I want to welcome you to my Thoughts on a Thursday Podcast where I take some regular occurrence or personal story from my life and connect it to a scriptural truth. So here are my thoughts on this Thursday, September 14th 2023…Dragon Slayers

This past week my wife Lynn and I slayed a dragon. Let me explain. Most of you know that I love to ride motorcycles. I have been riding them for about 45 years now and I hope my years of riding will continue to accumulate until I leave this old world behind at a ripe old age. I love riding motorcycles. In fact, the only driving experience better than riding a motorcycle is riding a motorcycle in the mountains. Just a few weeks before we married, I took Lynn on her first motorcycle ride in the mountains near Roanoke, Virginia. That first ride for her was the ride to end all rides…at least it might have been. We drove up a winding mountain road with sheer drop-off cliffs on one side and bare rock faces that rose directly upward on the other. We may or may not have come close to running off of the side of the road that highlighted the drop off view. We rode that day in the high mountains of the famed Blue Ridge Parkway, were she came to understands that though it may have been plenty warm when you left, you might need a jacket just 20 minutes later up in the higher elevations. We got caught in a scattered thunderstorm and spent some time wringing out our clothes under an overpass, and we concluded the ride back to my aunt and uncle’s house drying out on a busy interstate at highway speeds. I honestly thought that she would never ride again after that first outing, but she has been happily accompanying me on some great motorcycle rides for the past 23 years. She is far tougher than her beautiful looks and sweet demeanor elude to.

This sweet girl joined me yet again last week to spend multiple days riding in the southwestern Virginia mountains. Last Tuesday we decided to cross a particular road off from my bucket list of mountain rides. Route 16 is a winding two-lane road that runs kind of north and south from Wilkesboro, N.C. to Sophia, W.V. The 32 mile section between Marion and Tazewell, Virginia is known as “The Back of The Dragon”. On that short stretch of road, a driver will turn in excess of 400 times, rise and fall a total of 3,500 feet in elevation all while climbing and descending three successive mountains. Those crests make up the three mythological humps of the back of the dragon. Many of the 438 curves leave no time for the motorcycle to return to its upright position before requiring the riders to lean deeply into the next one. There are times when the length of road visible ahead may be significantly less than 100 feet. It is an awesome ride, but definitely not for the novice, or the faint-of-heart. We managed to cover the distance in just over an hour which is not anywhere near a record, but respectable none-the-less.

There is nothing strait about that road. At times, the ability to traverse it while “Keeping the rubber down and the shiny side up” is nothing less than instinctual. When riding it you really do rely on what is hopefully years of experience to guide each move. If you ride it from south to north as we did, as you near the end of the journey you round the easiest and gentlest of the curves on the entire route as they bring you 180 degrees twice through an enjoyable “S” curve called Kudzu Corner, named for all of the trees and shrubs entangled and overtaken by the Kudzu vines. It is truly majestic. As we rode through those easiest of all of the turns, I was able to ride without the formerly required incredible levels of concentration. In the midst of my mental rest as we exited Kudzu Curve, a well-known scripture came to mind. Proverbs 3:5-6 in the New American Standard Bible says; Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

I had just finished driving 32 miles where nothing about my path had been strait. As a result, in that moment I was well aware of the high stress level I had been under for the duration. My hands were numb and tingling, and my knuckles unnaturally white from gripping the handlebars so tightly. My shoulder muscles were twisted tighter than rope from holding the motorcycle down in the turns and then pulling the handlebars up, only to force them downward immediately in the opposite direction. Don’t get me wrong…it was fun, but in that moment what I felt knowing I had completed the ride safe and sound and had not caused any injury to my sweet, sweet bride was nothing short of total relief.

Our lives can be like old Virginia route 16 sometimes. Some days it seems like life throws one curve after another at us, and it’s hard to know if you are coming or going, rising or falling, as you try to navigate with seemingly no time to anticipate what is ahead. While motorcyclists can and do rely on instinct much of the time in curvy road situations, it can get them in trouble on occasion. In life’s twists and turns if we rely on our own understanding an error causing difficulty beyond easy recovery is likely to be just around the corner.

This scripture says that trusting in the Lord is far better than relying on our instincts. The Lord knows what is ahead for us, not only just around the bend, but into the perpetuity of eternity. Jesus said He is the beginning and the end. (Revelation 22:13) It would be incorrect of us though, to interpret that to mean that Jesus was at the beginning and will be at the end, that would mean that Jesus is encompassed by time. Jesus is greater than time…Jesus created time…Jesus is the beginning and is the end because Jesus encompasses even time. With such an omniscient Lord, we can trust Him to guide us forward far more than we can trust ourselves to know what lies ahead where we cannot yet see. If we will learn to do this, we learn what it means to walk by faith and not by sight as referenced by the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:7.

What does it mean exactly to heed the instruction found in Provers 5:6? In all your ways acknowledge Him… It means we have to recognize who He is; Lord of lords, King of kings, Master, Friend, sweet, sweet Savior. It means we have to be cognizant of what He is; Loving, Merciful, Gracious, Holy, altogether Righteous, All-Powerful, All-Knowing, Unchangeable, Ever-present God. It means we have to; interact with Him, follow Him, love Him, respect Him, and give Him the credit and glory He rightly deserves. The conclusion of that verse says that if you will do all of that in regards to Christ, He will make your paths strait. Does that mean that there won’t be any more unexpected twists and turns? Does that mean you will always know what is coming before you get to it? Not at all! Jesus said “In this world you will have trouble”. (John 16:33) There will always be the need to look out for falling rock around the bend, just like the ones I had to swerve to avoid on our motorcycle ride last week. But if we Acknowledge Him and allow Him to make our paths strait, it does mean that we can trust Him to lead us directly to and through His planned path for our life. That reminds me of another passage found in Isaiah 46:10; Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My plan will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure.

The bible says that God has a plan for each of our lives, one that includes our very best. He wants to see us develop fully into the person He was thinking about when He so fearfully and wonderfully created each of us in our mother’s womb. But He won’t ever force His plan onto your life. You have to be willing to Acknowledge that He is God, He is Lord of your life and then just as He promised He will direct your paths strait into all that He has for you!

So now, Acknowledge Him for who and what He is to you and let Him make your paths strait and…Go Be Awesome!

Happy Anniversary – August 17th, 2023

Hi, this is Pastor Ken, I want to welcome you to my Thoughts on a Thursday Podcast where I take some regular occurrence or personal story from my life and connect it to a scriptural truth. So here are my thoughts on this Thursday, August 17th 2023…Happy Anniversary

On Saturday, my wife Lynn and I will celebrate our 23rd wedding anniversary. As our associate pastor says, “That’s not a world record, but these days, it is a pretty good average.” I seem to have an especially good memory for details of days gone by. I am able to remember events with a good deal of clarity far back into my early childhood. The details of our wedding day just 23 years ago are incredibly vivid for me. I won’t bore you with all of them, but I could go on for hours recalling the events of that incredibly special day. There are far too many to convey in this format, but allow me to share just a few.

It was an incredibly beautiful day to have an outdoors wedding. The sky was bluer than it usually is. The leaves on the trees in the park where we were wed were greener than I had ever seen them before or have ever seen them since. The grass was softer than usual, and the sun though as bright as ever, was not too hot as it often is in August. Though it had not rained the air was crisp and had that amazing smell that is usually reserved for just after a summer afternoon shower. Lynn was stunning as she walked down the makeshift isle between the rows of white folding chairs. Her hair was beautiful, her face radiant, and her smile…it was as sweet as usual and seemingly permanent. I had chosen the perfect girl to ask to be my bride and together we had chosen to marry on the best day of the year.

Those are but a small handful of the memories I have from that day. Though I enjoy occasionally perusing the many pictures people took at our wedding, I don’t need them to remind me of a single detail of the day. Those memoirs are forever stored in the archives of my mind, ready to be recalled for a joyful review at a moment’s notice. Why do I have such extraordinary recollection of the events of that day over others? Obviously it is because of its extreme importance in comparison to of any of the other days in my life. That is the day that God joined Lynn and I and made us one. That is the day that the woman of my dreams became my bride. That is the day that has forever changed every day since then for the better.

So what, you might ask is the scriptural connection for this personal story? I could connect it to any number of passages that are about marriage as it pertains to how a husband and wife are to correctly interact with one another. If you want that kind of biblical encouragement, I would urge you to listen to my Monday Marriage Message podcasts. There I cover that subject in great detail. Instead I want to connect this story from my life to a different scripture.

If you are, or have been married, then perhaps like me, you remember many of the details from your wedding day. It is easy to remember the facts surrounding the day you were joined with the person you were so in love with. Even if the relationship has changed somewhat over the years, the connection you felt on your wedding day likely keeps the memories sharp in your mind. Did you know that God can’t keep His eyes off of you and feels the same way about the day you allowed Him to come live in you through His Holy Spirit?

In Psalm 139:1-18 it says this about the fact that God loves us so much that He can’t keep His eyes off of us. O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand! I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me. I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you. You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up [each day], you are still with me

Not only are you the apple of His eye, God loves you so much that He was willing to do whatever it took to restore a wonderful relationship with you. Romans 5:8 tells us, But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. While praying the night before His crucifixion according to John chapter 17, Jesus prayed that He would have the strength to go through the terrible day ahead. Jesus also prayed that His disciples would be emboldened to continue to share the good news of the gospel after He went back to heaven following His resurrection. Finally, He prayed that you and I would hear the message and accept the truth about Him so that we could be with Him in heaven for eternity. The Bible tells us in Hebrews 12:2 that because of the joy set before Him (the ability to share heaven with us forever) Jesus endured the shame of the cross.

Christ’s love for us shouldn’t ever be in question, He did everything He could do to prove His love for us. In light of all He did, what more could we…or would we ask Him to do? In the Gospel of Luke, it is recorded that Jesus told a well-known parable about a lost sheep. He said that even if a shepherd had 100 sheep, if one got lost, The Good Shepherd would go in search of the lost sheep and bring it back with great joy when he found it. Then it is recorded in Luke 15:4 that as Jesus finished telling that story, He said “In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away”! We are the apple of God’s eye, He can’t keep His eyes off of us. He loves us too much for mere words, and when even one person accepts Jesus as Lord and Savior, they throw an amazing party in heaven.

It’s true that God loves us that much! He created us and knows every detail about our lives…we are that special to Him. Is He that special to us? Do we think about Him all the time? Do we remember everything about the day we realized just how much we needed and wanted Him to be right beside us for the rest of our lives? Is the day we came to Jesus emblazoned on our memories as deeply as the other not-so-important events we remember so well?

If you aren’t as excited about it as you once were, this isn’t designed to bring you shame, allow it to help change you and stir your heart to once again experience the awe of loving Jesus and reveling in His unforgettable love for you. The book of Revelation has the answer to finding that your memories of the day you accepted Jesus’ love for you have dimmed with time. Return to your first love. In other words, fall head-over-heels in love with Jesus again, and have the happiest of anniversaries! His love for you is the greatest you will ever know.

So now, falling completely in love with Jesus all over again, because He first loved you…Go be awesome!

So now, …Go be Awesome!

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