November 27, 2023
Our Word of God comes from Ephesians 2:8-9, and is titled, "Our Gift"...
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast.
What a life we live. We seek approval and/or recognition at every turn. We seek it in our workplace, we seek it in our spouse and our children, we even seek it from our friends. And if it is not received, we will provide the justification as to why our actions should be approved or recognized in awe. After all, we are awesome people. Far more so to ourselves in more cases than we are to others. And even if our approval or recognition is warranted, it is no gain in our lives. It is only a gain to our ego. But being saved through faith is a tremendous gain to our lives, not to mention to our lives after we pass from this world into the Father's arms.
I have been a lost sinner and I have been a saved sinner, and let me tell you, it is such a better life living on the saved side. But as our scripture tells us, it is not something we can boast about. It was not because of our works. It was not because of our deeds. It was not because we were a good dad or a good husband, a good wife or mother. It was a gift of God. We certainly didn't earn it. We certainly didn't deserve it. It was our gift by the grace of God, and the only boasting we can do is boast about how amazing God is for forgiving one such as I who was unworthy of being forgiven. My salvation was not something I in any way earned, it was a gift for which I will be indebted to God for all eternity. I cherish my position as a Servant of the Most High God.
Now you as Christians understand my statement. We know the value of the gift we have received, but others do not understand at all. Those who have yet to find their way to the Lord believe they own nobody for the gifts they have been given. The Christian quickly comes to understand that every good thing in their entire life was a gift from God. Our skills, our abilities, our personalities, our work ethic, everything we ever received was given to us by God for the purpose He has for us. But if we tell that to the non-Christian, they would think we were lying. If we told them that we cherish the fact that we owe everything to God and give praise for being a Servant of the Lord, they would know we were lying. Who in their earthly mind would ever give praise for being a Servant. Nobody! But then again, we no longer have earthly minds. Our minds are focused on our gift. A gift we could not earn. A gift we could not purchase with all the gold and silver in the world. A gift given to us through God's grace. We have left the gifts of the world in the rear view mirror and they are so far behind us that we can't even see them anymore. We only receive gifts from God now and our lives are so much richer for it. So give all thanks and praise to God for what we have received that resulted in us being called a child of God, and if we must boast, let us boast about the grace of God...
Let us pray... Father, we give thanks for the gifts you have given us. It started long ago when you gave the gift of your Son, Jesus Christ, to the world. The world we live in. The world that did not accept Him. The world that crucified Him. The blind will never find their way to Christ without accepting the fact that He is their gift, and without that gift they cannot receive your forgiveness nor enter the kingdom of heaven. Nor will they ever understand that all they have was given to them, by you. We thank you, Father, and we lift our prayers for all those who do not know you, that they will have their hearts, their eyes and their minds opened that they may find their way home to you. In Jesus' name we pray... Amen...
November 26, 2023
Our Word of God comes from Psalms 75:1 and is titled, "People Everywhere"...
We thank you, Oh God! We give thanks because you are near. People everywhere tell of your wonderful deeds.
There are only two sentences in this scripture reading, but the entire reading is full of wonder. It begins by giving thanks to our Father which we spoke of in our last message. It identifies that He is near to us. You can't get any nearer than living inside of us. And, it tells us that people everywhere are sharing the good news of the Gospel and the amazing works of our Father, God. And of all these, the one you have heard me preach the most on is the part about people everywhere telling of God's wonderful deeds. There is a reason for that. The first two speak of our personal blessings. We give thanks to God. The only reason we desire to give thanks to God is because of what God has done for us while He has been in our lives. Be that a short amount of time, like when He first forgave us and bestowed upon us the salvation that saved our souls from hell, or because we feel His presence in our hearts as His Holy Spirit lives within us every minute of every day. We are truly blessed to have God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit in our lives, and though we and grateful and give thanks, that does nothing for anyone else.
The real meat of this scripture reading is the part where it speaks of people everywhere telling of His wonderful deeds. Yes, it is amazing to share those wonderful deeds with our brother and sister Christians, neither does that do anything for anyone else. There are so many people out there who do not know our Lord, who do not know our Father, who do not know that He lives within us and is with us all the time. And many who have heard the words do not understand how that is possible or they didn't even pay attention because they don't believe in God and don't want to hear about God. But they must hear! They must be told! Otherwise their souls are lost from God for all eternity, and that should never be acceptable to anyone who was saved from that loss. God doesn't need us to drive it down their throat. He doesn't need us to keep beating it into them until they finally give in and falsely go before the alter just to get us to shut up. God needs us to plant seeds in the heart of the lost sinner. And we have some amazing seed. We know that we too are sinners. We have made the confession of our sins and asked forgiveness. And though we did not deserve it, we know that God did openly and completely forgave us of our sins and continues to forgive us where we fail. We don't have to point out to the non-believer that he or she is a sinner. We don't have to point out every sin they are guilty of committing. We need to plant the seed of God's mercy in their hearts so that when God is ready, He will speak to them and call to them.
God needs us to simply plant the seeds. He will make the determination of when and where He will cultivate that seed. I had heard the words for many years from many people, but the seed of mercy was not planted in my heart until I was 40 years old. I immediately had the desire to get to know this God I had just been told about. From that day, I began to seek the Lord in my sinful mind. It was not until I received the Lord that I realized that that was the day He began calling out to me. A soft voice from a very distant location, but I knew He was for real. It took 4 years of watering, nurturing and caring for that seed, before God finally cracked its shell and I heard His voice calling me to salvation. And boy what a seed it was that had been planted in me. A seed that has grown from salvation to preaching. I pray God's greatest blessing on the young man who planted that seed. And I will tell you right here and now, that that young man never once talked to me about my sins. He only spoke of his God. Pastors and members of churches had been pointing out my sins for years, but that young man told me about his God. And when he spoke, I could tell that He knew God. Though I should have been stoned for the sins I have committed against God, not a single stone was cast my way by either him nor God. Only I cast the stones and still do to this day. But when I speak to others, I speak about my God. Something I would pray that people everywhere would talk about...
Let us pray... Father, though you had every right to destroy us for our sins, you did not rub them in our face when we came seeking forgiveness. Though you had every right to deny us forgiveness and salvation, you gave them freely. Father, let us learn from the Master and tell our brothers and sisters who remain lost, about the peace, love, hope, and joy we found when we turned to you rather than away from you. In Jesus' name we pray... Amen...
November 23, 2023
Our Word of God comes from Psalm 100:4, and is titled "Thanksgiving and Praise"...
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
I feel it only natural with tomorrow being the holiday we have set aside for Thanksgiving, that we should consider a message about giving thanks. I also feel we would be remiss without adding some praise in to go along with the thanksgiving, since the scripture I selected has both.
But there is another reason why I wanted to talk on these topics. I like the fact that on a regular basis we give thanks and praise to our Father for the many prayers He has heard and answered over the 18 years of this ministry. I seriously doubt there is another church or group who has seen so many prayers answered in the 19 years. Enough that our Prayer Minister is on his second binder of prayers and updates. God has blessed not just this ministry, or its Pastor, but every single member who has participated in lifting prayers to God for those in need. When you ask God for something, especially something difficult for what even doctors would believe was unlikely, and it is received, it becomes very easy to believe that God is listening. Not only listening, but our prayerful requests pull on His heart strings and if it is within His will, He answers, "yes".
Therefore, it is only right that we give thanks and praise in Jesus' name for what God has done for us and others. But if there was one thing I could change, and know it would change, it would be that we do a lot more giving thanks and praise. You know I love each of you as if you were my blood family, but from the time this ministry began in November 2004, (and yes that is 19 years and not the 18 years I've been thinking it was) we have done an exceptional job of asking for God's help. The only problem is we have not done a very good job of replying back to Him in thanksgiving and praise. On average, I would say that only about 33% of our prayer requests ever get updated. Now I'm sure God is very appreciative of the wonderful feedback we do provide, but I am certain that He is deserving of much more. So as we enter into our day of Thanksgiving, let us not forget who is the One, and only One, we are to be thanking. We call Him, Father, and we give Him our thanks and praise through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. And let us put a little more emphasis on making sure He gets thanked for services rendered.
Let us pray... Father, we could give you thanks and praise everyday and it still wouldn't be enough. For every day you bless your children in ways we never consider. From the first conscious breath we take in the morning to the last conscious breath we take at not. Not to mention all the breaths we take while we are asleep. And with every breath, you have a purpose for us. Help us to seek, find and fulfill that purpose, and let us never forget to give you thanks and praise, in Jesus' name... Amen...
Have a Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving...
November 21, 2023
Our Word of God comes from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, and is titled, "Rejoice and Pray"
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
After 18 years of doing this, God has never ceased to amaze me. He amazes me because we put together a prayer list of people experiencing a myriad of problems, tough problems, and God sends us a solution. Granted, two of the last things we feel like doing, when we are experiencing troubles, is to rejoice and give thanks. And to be honest with you, there are many things we should be praying to God about now, that we don't do now, so even though prayer may be a part of our lives, the idea of praying continually is likely not something that would even cross our minds. But being part of a group such as ours can help us to begin to understand.
As the Pastor of this group, it is my responsibility to communicate things to you about God's word in a manner that will help you to understand now and perhaps lean on later. After all, that is God's purpose for those He places in these positions. He knows you don't have all the answers, and believe me, we don't have all the answers either. But we trust God will provide us the answers so we can provide them to you and perhaps make your life a little easier or help you to make another's life easier. So, in this message, I'm going to communicate to you some things you already know but have possibly forgotten. Tonight, we have a lady who has lost the love of her life. A person she had spent many decades with. They had been through everything together. The good times and the bad, and they emerged victoriously in every situation because they were two, united as one, against the world and it made the world a better place to live in. But now, half of that union has left her alone. Jerry was called home by the Lord. A sad day for all who knew and loved him, but a devastating day for Carol. But Carol is not the first and she will not be the last, but she is focusing on Jerry's death rather than Jerry's life and his life with Christ. Christ was a major part of both their lives as Christians, and the reward for being a Christian is life eternal. Because of Jesus, death has no hold on those who believe on Him, so even though Jerry's earthly body gave out, we can, and we should rejoice that his celestial body is with Christ Jesus. Easy for you and I to do, not so easy for Carol. She wants to be with Jerry, and she can't see her life without him. But because of Christ Jesus, Jerry's eternal soul was saved from death. And because of Christ Jesus, Carol's eternal soul was saved from death. She has not lost him, they are but separated, temporarily. If Carol can see that, if Carol can see that in the mere blink of an eye, eternally speaking, she will once again be with Jerry for all eternity, then she too can rejoice and pray continually to God, giving thanks that Christ made it possible for them to be together, forever.
Now as for Jacque's problem, perhaps rejoicing is not something she feels like doing right now when words slip out of her mouth that she was determined to never speak again. Perhaps in her case praying continuously would be the better place to start. I have known Jacque for many years, and I know the Christian she is. She knows she is not perfect, but she has fought the good fight for many years with a brain she had control of. Now, because of medical issues and treatments, that control is slipping, and she is trying desperately to regain it. Not for her glorification, but for the glory of the Lord she serves. She wants to remain the best servant of the Lord she can possibly be, but now she needs some help, so she reaches out to her brothers and sisters, and we happily lift our voices to God on her behalf. And I know that Jacque is praying to, but probably not continuously, and probably more so when a word or two slips out of her mouth that she feels shame for. But our brains learn from the information we feed into them, so perhaps if Jacque feeds her brain a continuous diet of the good words of prayer, it will drive the bad words to the back of the file room, thereby taking much more time for those words to be located and sent into distribution. And if she achieves that through praying continuously, Jacque will be able to rejoice that she allowed God to take control of her circumstance instead of her trying to come up with a solution.
God's will for us in and through Christ Jesus is that we have the tools at our disposal to be successful to overcome any circumstance that impacts our joy. And the two primary tools He gave us as Christians, is the ability to rejoice knowing that no matter what happens we know our soul is Heaven bound to live with Him for eternity, and the ability to be quiet and spend that quiet time in prayer. If we can convince ourselves that rejoicing and continuous prayer will help us maintain the joy we have come to expect as servants of the Lord, then we may find we have more reasons to rejoice and pray continually than we have reasons to fret when life throws us a hard curve. Life is going to be tough. We are Christians living on Satan's planet, trying to develop a close personal relationship with our Father in Heaven as Satan tries to drive a wedge between us. But if we learn to be quiet and know that our Father is God, we can be successful with our prayers and our rejoicing.
Let us pray... Father, we were not promised a perfect life from cradle to grave on the day we were born into this world. In fact, we were given no promises at all. That is until we read the amazing book you left for us. A book filled with promises, that if we accepted those promises as truth, they would be true. We thank you that you have never lied to us as Satan has. We thank you that you have given us the tools to reclaim our joy when Satan tries to steal it away. And we thank you for Christ Jesus, in whose name we pray, that He came to make promises, reality... Amen...
November 20, 2023
Our Word of God comes from 1 Timothy 6:8 in the New Living Translation, and is titled, "If We Have Enough"...
So, if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.
Once again, I will tell you that God has blessed me beyond belief. Beyond what I ever thought I would have acquired or accomplished. And as I looked at the verse that was sent to me from K-LOVE, it quickly became apparent to me that this was to be our Word of God message as we go into this season of Thanksgiving and the celebration of the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Our scripture reading tells us that if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. I would be amazed that many would be, except those who feel or have felt blessed because they have any food and/or adequate clothing. I have shared with you the life I lived as a youth. The violence in our home. The way God protected us by removing my father from our lives for several years. The way God provided for us for many years to follow, when we barely, or rarely had enough food, and were grateful for the hand me down clothes on our backs. I remember many times when my mother and I would share a can of chicken noodle soup for a meal. She would give me the noodles and she would take the broth. But I liked the noodles, so it was a great meal to me. And though my mother liked the broth, I know she would have preferred to provide me with a better meal. But at least we had that. Thank God I grew up in a time when a quarter could purchase you enough food to make a meal. Not a banquet, but a meal. Today, I can eat almost anything I want, but still enjoy some of those cheap meals of years past.
I do not share this with you so you can feel sorry for the way I grew up, for I was and am fine. I do not share this with you to brag about where I find myself today, for what I am and have today is a gift from God. I could very well still be in that same position if certain opportunities were not provided to me and my mother. I share this with you because there are things that are so much more important than our being content, which so many people with so much, are not. But for those who are content and grateful to have enough food and clothing, contentment should not be our only desire.
At no time in this ministry have I or any member of the Master's Harbor Staff ever asked for a penny. But at this time of year, I have many times asked you to reach out to others in need and provide for them if you can. At this time of year, and truthfully, at all times of the year, there are those who like me and my mother so long ago, barely or do not have enough food or clothing. Many not of their own making. Finding themselves in these positions for any number of reasons. Lost a job. Escaped a violent homelife. Were discarded like an old rag. None of them are any less than I was in my own youth, and my mother and I did receive support through the state and through people in our community. Helping others whenever possible has always struck a chord with me. Food banks, missions, some churches are in the business of helping those who are down on their luck. Harvesters can provide 10 meals worth of food with a $10 donation. Missions can feed people a Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings for $2.50 per person. Churches who provide holiday meals can use any gift of money, time or goods. Likewise, at this time of year, not having enough clothes can place people in a terrible and possible life-threatening position. Last year, with the help of one of our fellow Servants and a personal donation, we were able to turn $400 into numerous pairs of gloves, wool socks and wool caps for a homeless shelter. Another fellow Servant runs a donation warehouse here in our hometown, where people come from all over the state of Missouri to get numerous available items, they cannot afford to purchase themselves. Many organizations, radio stations, banks and other businesses get together to collect coats and clothing for kids and families. And don't forget the Salvation Army.
If you can't afford to give, help. If you can afford to give, please do so. There are many ways to go above and beyond being content, and you don't have to foot the bill for the whole thing. Be the idea person that gets it kicked off in your community, your office, your business, your church, your service organization. You want to talk about what's better than content, I'll tell you! You will never feel so blessed as when you reach out to help someone in need, and even though they may never know you gave, they will never forget it. I know I haven't...
Let us pray... Father, you have used your servants from all over the world to reach out and help those who do not have enough food or clothing. Father, as we have served you, let us not forget that serving those in need is also serving you. I pray you will bless tenfold any effort your servants make to help your children in need, and I pray this in Jesus' name... Amen...
November 19, 2023
Our Word of God comes from Nahum 1:7 and is titled, "Times of Trouble"...
The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.
No matter what a blessed life we may lead, times of trouble will find their way into our lives. Though Brittney does not know me and may not even be aware that I and so many others are praying for her and for her husband, Jacob, I have known Brittney since she was a teenager. I first met her at a conference in Branson, Missouri, whereas a young teenager she came and sang for the East and West Missouri Optimist Districts during my year as Governor. It was there that I first met fellow Servants David and Charley Wischmann. Brittney was an amazing young lady with a voice to make the angels weep. She sang our National Anthem, God Bless America, and a few gospel songs. She even cut a CD a few years later. She was a child raised in the word of God through the help of David and Charley who were like grandparents to her. One would think that she was blessed and would have nothing but an amazing life ahead of her. Not so. Before she met and married Jacob, Brittney had a fiancé with who she was planning her life. Life looked amazing, until trouble stepped in and took the life of her fiancé very suddenly. Broken hearted, David shared with me that she went through some trials in her life, but finally came out on the other side and later met Jacob, who rekindled the fire within her. They married and began building their life together. A good life, but once again, trouble stepped in to shake up their world. Once again, the man she loved, Jacob, was nearly burned to death. But this time, Brittney was stronger. Unlike previously when she was without hope, this time there was hope and it sprang abound in the Lord. And though this has been a very rough road for both of them, Brittney and Jacob have placed their trust in the Lord and are rebuilding their life together. Their relationship made stronger because they know God is with them. It was a blessing to me to read the hope in her update on Jacob, and I praise God for holding their hands through these troubled times.
Day in and day out, we are praying for people who times of trouble have come to visit. And though it is easy for us to pray and believe that God will hear our prayers and answer according to His will, troubles can be earth shattering to those going through them, even the Christians. Face it, we don't like not knowing what is going to happen. It feels like our entire world is hanging by a thread. Every apple we have placed in our apple cart of life is in danger of being overturned and destroyed as we grasp at threads to find answers to all the "What If" questions that run through our minds. Now I want you to consider something. What would it be like for you if you didn't have God in your life? We are so blessed to have God in our lives. We talk about it. We give our testimonies. We give thanks. It's just an amazing feeling to know that God exists and is present in our lives. Our lives are great because God is in them. We feel His presence with us. But when times of trouble knock or break down our doors, it is the most difficult test of our faith in, our relationship with, God. Even for the strongest of Christians.
Times of trouble can place an amazing stress on our relationship with God. I recall two special moments in my life that I witnessed both ends of that relationship. One was in 2018 when my mother-in-law passed away. I was talking with my father-in-law about mom being in a better place, and he made the comment about not knowing if God really exists. It was not because my father-in-law as not a man of God, but he had prayed for her so much, so hard, and his prayers were not answered the way he wanted them answered. His world was destroyed in a very short period of time, and though he believed in God, after 66 years of marriage it was hard for him to get over losing the love of his life. During his time of trouble, he was angry with God and was lashing out. Very natural. God is a big boy, and He can take it. Just don't hold onto that anger. Release it to Him and witness His presence in your life again. The other I witnessed a few years before when I came home having a heart attack. After putting away my boat, taking a shower and allowing my wife to finish her lunch, I let her know I needed her to take me to the emergency room because I was having a heart attack. She very calmly let me know she needed to change clothes first and I called my boss to let her know I wouldn't be coming in for a while and what she needed to do to cover my area of responsibility while I was gone. After it was all over and I had died 3 times, we talked about the situation and shared what we were feeling at the time. I was calm and never worried, giving her instructions on how to get to the hospital, and excited about getting to fly in a helicopter again. Then she shared with me her feelings. She shared that she felt, God has this, so she too was calm and never worried. Times of trouble certainly showed up in our world, but God, not worry, was where we turned to.
Each of us needs God in our lives, but never more so than when times of trouble come to visit. And it is at those times when we should be most grateful and give the most thanks. Because not everybody has God in their lives. For them the storms of life can destroy all they have, but for us, we have an immovable rock on which to stand, and that rock is Jesus Christ our Lord.
Let us pray... Father, what words can we use to thank you enough for calling us into your life. Is a simple, "thank you", enough or should we sing praises to you every second of every day? We owe you everything. Our lives, our hearts, our souls are all yours and in your hands. And regardless the times of trouble that enter our lives, let us always remember two things when we need your peace. You got this, and you are with us always until the end of time. In Jesus' name we give our praise... Amen...