•  — Edited

    Little Town of Bethlehem

    What a blessing this morning to read in my devotions this verse: 


    Micah 5:2 "But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be

    little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me

    that is to be ruler in Israel; who goings forth have been from old, from

    everlasting."


    This small town about six miles southwest of Jerusalem is today a

    very small city of 25,000 (Hamilton Township is bigger than that) and at the

    time of Christ it is estimated to have had a population of only about 300. Yet that very small town of old is one of the most famous cities of all time, known by the world, musical scores written and sung with it as the subject, and prophesied in God's Word as the Messiah's birthplace, and indeed, the place that our Savior, Jesus Christ, was born.


    Outside of Rachel, Jacob's wife being buried there; Ibzan, one of the Judges of Israel being from there, the story of Boaz and Ruth, and Herod’s atrocities in slaying the infants there, it has no other mention in the Bible. But oh, the importance of it. Bethlehem means "house of bread" and Ephratah means "fruitful." Certainly, God knew what this town would mean to Israel and to the world. For it is the birthplace of king David and more importantly – it is the birthplace of the King of kings, and Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ. Outside of that, there is nothing else of noteworthy significance - but what else does it need to be dear to our hearts. That place of Christ's nativity! It is the place where “the Word became flesh” and yet He and his family had to flee as quickly as they arrived - but would forever be known as the Lord’s birthplace.


    Is there application for us outside of that?  I believe in God’s Word there is always application!  God says in Romans 15:4 that through His Scriptures we would have hope.  I think for us, the subject of Bethlehem, that God can’t take an insignificant place, a poor family, even a time of hardship (the fleeing to Egypt and the slaying of the children of Bethlehem) and still make something wonderful out of it and to provide so much to the world shows us something.  We mentioned this verse in a recent message - Ecclesiastes 7:8: “Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof:..” In our lives, we may have insignificant start; a less than stellar beginning; even plagued with failures – but it doesn’t matter how you started, what matters is how you finish.  Today, with God’s help, He can make something wonderful with your life when it is submitted completely to His will.  Put Him first, let God have the preeminence He is due.  


    I may not have anything memorable about me personally, but when God saves me, is with me, and uses me – my name shall be forever written down, because I have become part of His plan.  What as wondrous thought and lesson even from this “Little town of Bethlehem!”


    • Pastor Mark Sage
    1. Pastor, I have no words to express the Blessing I got from reading this. I will never look at the Lord's Birth place the same way again. I just never thought about it like that. Not to that degree... Thank You, for sharing that this Morning
    2. What a blessing this is this morning
  •  — Edited

    The Most Unusual Thanksgiving

    Have you ever been in a tight spot; an uncomfortable situation; a trial or a strange place during Thanksgiving?  One thanksgiving I went to in our first year of marriage was with some relatives of Stephanie.  It was in a nice part of California in a beautiful home.  I was 22, Stephanie was 21 and pregnant with our first daughter, Hannah. It was a delicious meal and nice people.  We finished our first helping and I watched to see who was going to get a second helping (no way was I going to be first).  Finally, another young man got up to go get “seconds”, so Stephanie and I followed and got ours.  It turns out, he only got a glass of water and Stephanie and I returned to the table – and no one else at the entire dinner got another bite to eat – so we sat there and ate while they all watched (at least Stephanie was eating for two, I did not have a good excuse).


    While that is a funny story – there are many who go through difficult times during Thanksgiving or other holidays.  I remember in 1983, riding in our 1973 wood paneled Ford Station wagon in the rear facing bench seat heading out to a hopeful Thanksgiving with my siblings, mom, and stepdad, then arriving back home five or so days later, no longer having our stepdad since he passed away on our trip.  It was tough and heartbreaking.  In most of our lifetimes, there will be Thanksgivings like that.  We may feel depressed or lonely because of some loss, stress, or some difficulty.  Can I remind you: IF YOU ARE SAVED AND CHRIST DWELLS WITHIN YOU, YOU HAVE THE MOST PRECIOUS GIFT ANYONE CAN EVER RECEIVE?   You have someone who is dwelling within you that has called you His friend in John 15:15. Jesus Christ has promised you: “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5). Don’t forget that this Thanksgiving, you are not alone.  The Lord is there even in the most difficult circumstances.


    I’m reminded of the most unusual Thanksgiving in the Bible.  It is found in Jonah 2:9 where Jonah says: “But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.”  Now likely this did not happen on the 4th Thursday of November – but it was from belly of whale, and it was with every bit of sincerity.  Jonah was alone and at the end of his rope, but he came to his senses and realized that though he was in the belly of whale and though he had disobeyed God - his God still deserved thanksgiving.   Today, may you and I be sincere and thank God for what He has done and will continue to do in our lives.  He will be faithful to us and save us.  He will be with us through the good times and even more so in the tough times.  He is always there to comfort, guide, and fellowship with us.  Even in the midst of a difficult time, He is there for you right now.


    So, be reminded, that it the midst of your holiday, thought it may be normal or possibly unusual - give God the THANKS He deserves, make it public, unashamed, and sincere that the reason for your Thanksgiving and every Thanksgiving is because of WHAT HE HAS GIVEN TO YOU – SALVATION AND AN ABUDNANT LIFE IN HIM!  Let all know that Christ with you is all that you need and that you can be content with Him.  What a great opportunity we all have to able share that great truth and testify of His goodness today.  I’m not saying you must preach the Gospel today – but let the emphasis be that God is good, He is still on the throne, and your Thanksgiving is for His love and mercy in your life.


    Happy Thanksgiving!


    Pastor Mark Sage

    1. Paul's Loneliness

      I’m encouraged by Paul and his example to us because he went through such harrowing situations.  2 Corinthians 11:22-28 is one of the passages that remind us how often he was shipwrecked, beaten, stoned, and even left for dead for the Gospel’s sake.  While some Christians will go through one of those situations in their lifetime, most of us don’t go through what he endured.  He is a great hero of the faith.  


      But there is an area where he suffered just like we do that we often forget.  Though he was a great servant of God – Paul’s ministry and service to God often brought about loneliness as well.  Paul was enduring discouragement because he served God and His church he often experienced the loss of his friends and companions.  There were many reasons for this but the two main catalysts were geographical separation and people simply quitting on the ministry or church in general.


      Can I remind you that while Paul ministered to people everywhere he went –his focus was the churches of God in various cities.  He knew that the church of God was the “pillar and ground of the truth,” (1 Tim 3:15). He was not making a ministry for himself, rather, he was working for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ through the local church that Christ gave Himself for.  


      As Paul is writing 2 Timothy chapter 4, it is from a dark, damp, miserable prison cell.  He goes on to list his present discouragements.  It is interesting that his discouragements did not include what might think.  He did not list the limited substandard food he received or the crowded conditions.  No complaint over the limited or lack of movement, the terrible sanitary situation, or the lack of relief from the cold.  The one thing that was on the heart of Paul was the loss of friends and companions in the Lord.  When left alone to think in weariness and in the midst of a trial, we often do the same.


      Notice his words in 2 Timothy 4:9-21.

      • “Do thy diligence to come unto me” – Paul wanted to see Timothy – his son in the faith, to encourage him in his time of trial.
      •  He lists those that had departed (geographically separated), which were faithful servants of God whom he had developed close friendships with, but may never see again.  Those listed were – Crescens, Titus, and Tychicus.
      • Then he mentions those that had departed the faith – Demas, who loved this world more than God; and Alexander the Coppersmith who had done much damage – likely a rebellious person who acted spiritual but was self-centered and took away people from the church.
      • Then there were those he was hopeful for.  He had Luke with him and even looked forward to Mark being used of God again.
      • In the last verse he greets several who had blessed him in the past.


      These were highs and lows – good memories and bad.  But then Paul goes on and displays two great attitudes that that kept him on track and should help us today.  


      The first was that he held no bitterness or resentment toward any of them.  He even asked God to not lay it to their charge in verse 16.  Oh, that we could have the same spiritual perception that Paul did.  That even though people hurt him and departed from him, he neither held bitterness in his heart, nor did he hold a grudge against them or against the Lord.  He knew that would destroy him.  


      The other great example in his attitude that Paul left for us is found in verses 17-18: “Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me… And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”  Paul knew and had experienced in his own life, that though he might be at his lowest point at times, he had the greatest friend in the universe – the one that would always stand by him and always preserve him.   It was the Lord Jesus Christ!  That truth reigned in his life and kept him living for and serving the almighty God of heaven through all his pain, every trial, every setback, every loss, every hurt, all the lonely times and through every sorrow.  


      Friend, if you are trusting in Christ alone as your Lord and Savior, you too have the same friend and companion that Paul had.  What a blessing it is to know that no matter what I go through in life, God is there with me, protecting and preserving, and does not allow anything to come my way without his knowledge and allowance.  Oh, spend time with your Lord today, He is there for you.  He wants to comfort you and meet your needs.  


      In my darkest times, in my times alone, in times in the wilderness, and even when I have been backslidden, God has always been there for me.  There were times I did not see it, but that was because of my sin – that’s because sin oppresses us.  It strains our relationship with God.  But when I confessed my sin, got back on track, God would always clear my spiritual vision and see that He is with me and still loves me. 


      “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bare; what privilege to carry everything to God ins Prayer.  Oh what peace we often forfeit, oh, what needless pain we bare.  All because we do not carry – everything to our God in prayer.”


      Psalm 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 

      1. Be in prayer for my eye surgery today at 12:30. Thank you
      2. Sure will brother Craig, Get yourself taken care of let us know if there’s anything you need.
    2. YOU DO YOU?

      There is a common expression of this generation, have you heard it? It is: “YOU DO YOU!” Basically it means this – you do what you want to, what is convenient, what is your taste and don’t worry or care about what anyone else thinks as long as you are comfortable. It is a way of justifying someone for their actions that are often wrong or of low or questionable character.


      We like to use other phrases that justify who we are such as: “This is just how I am,”or “I don’t have to change for anyone,” or even “Well, this is the way God made me.” Well you may be a sinner, but God did not create you to be in sin and continue therein.


      We use phrases like those mentioned about to justify sinful behaviors that have a hold on our lives. It is what people use to justify their overeating or their indulgences in various forms of entertainment whether it be good or bad. It is what causes people to pursue vain and worthless lifestyles and existences that neither provide them any substance in life, income to show, or worthy product or result for their time or effort. It wastes countless hours on video games, television, and social media just because "We Like It!" So, we often will say this to others so we can justify ourselves in our pursuits, "YOU DO YOU!"


      My wife and I tease each other sometimes with that statement when she wants to go shopping or I want to go shooting. Now, most things we all do in moderation are fine. If my wife spends a few hours shopping on Saturday or I go shooting at the range once a month, it is not a problem. But if Pastor Sage went shooting for six hours a day, everyday, for five or six days a week, leaving my work undone, my family neglected, and our financial outlook destroyed - and I say to be people, "YOU DO YOU and I'LL DO ME" then that would be a problem.


      More important than my own preferences is that it is not just about me. Because I belong to Christ and I have placed my faith in Him as my Lord and Saviour, then everything I do reflects upon Him. I want to challenge you that this attitude of "YOU DO YOU" should never be an attitude a Believer in Christ should ever take. You belong to Christ. You are His. He has a calling for your life and therefore He wants to use you. But when we do for ourselves or what we want, it almost never lines up with what He wants for our lives.


      So rather than "YOU DO YOU" how about you practice some better Biblical phrases and live by them:

      1. YOU LIVE FOR GOD - Romans 12:1-2
      2. YOU DIE TO SELF - Matthew 16:24; 1 Corinthians 15:21
      3. YOU CARE FOR OTHERS - Galatians 6:2; Matthew 25:34-37

      These are much better mottos for the Christian to live by.


      Give everything to and your all for your God, don't follow the world's self-promotion and self-centered attitudes - Give God your very Best and don't settle for your old sinful ways any longer.


      - Pastor Mark Sage


      1. Ten Problems with Being Woke (Worldly Perspective)

        I put this in our digital bulletin yesterday, in case you missed it I have shared it here:



        ARTICLE ON BEING WOKE by Mark Powell

        TEN PROBLEMS WITH BEING WOKE

        2020 has been an incredibly difficult year. But of deeper concern, than even COVID-19, is the growing threat that Critical Race Theory—popularly expressed as being ‘woke’—has had upon much of Western society.


        2020 has been an incredibly difficult year. But of deeper concern, than even COVID-19, is the growing threat that Critical Race Theory—popularly expressed as being ‘woke’—has had upon much of Western society. Leftist thinking that was once quarantined within the ivory-towered walls of the universities, has suddenly escaped into the wet-markets of everyday life.


        If you don’t know what I’m referring too then take a look at the excellent five-part series by Dr. Owen Strachan titled, Christianity & Wokeness. For a shorter—and far more shocking—example then see the following lecture by Ashleigh Shackleford:


        Shackleford describes herself as a queer, non-binary Black fat femme writer, cultural producer, and artist. But note that according to Shackleford all white people are racists, non-humans and even demons! All this simply because of the colour of their skin. While this is obviously an extreme example, the arguments of critical race theory (CRT) are making significant inroads into the evangelical church. For instance, Eternity published an opinion piece earlier this year with the provocative title, ‘I’m a Presbyterian Minister, my wife is Asian, and I’m thinking about white privilege’.


        But according to Dr. Strachan—the Associate Professor of Christian Theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri—the intellectual under pinning’s of this anti-Christian movement are of grave concern. Indeed, Dr Strachan argues in an article for Patheos that for those who are convinced and committed to being pro-woke, then church discipline should be applied!

        What follows is a summary of what Dr Strachan outlines in his lecture Christianity and Wokeness as being the reason for such a strong response:


        First, because wokeness perverts the imago Dei. Rather than viewing all of humanity as being inherently equal, wokeness divides everyone into different races. Hence, rather than promoting peace and unity, it instead results in conflict and division. Note that in Genesis 1, while the LORD God made animals and plants “according to their kinds”, He made man and woman alone to be in His image. What’s more, because we are all descendants of Adam and Eve (Acts 17:26Romans 5:12), people from every nation under heaven are fundamentally the same in dignity and value (James 3:9).


        Second, because wokeness has a different view of sin. Race, and especially being white, is itself viewed as being wicked rather than our own moral rebellion against a holy and loving God. What’s more, authority systems and structures of any kind are viewed as being wrong while—ironically—establishing new hierarchies which show favouritism to one ethnic group over another.

        Third, because wokeness denies the reality of creation order and the goodness of God’s design. According to Strachan, Wokeness is profoundly anti-binary, denying the different roles between men and women (1 Cor. 11:31 Tim. 2:11-15). This affects both domestic and church order.


        Fourth, because wokeness foments the sin it seeks to resist and in so doing itself becomes racist. Tragically, being ‘woke’ turns one into the very thing that they set out to oppose. What’s more, wokeness greatly complicates all inter-racial relationships. Just note, for example, the accusations of being a ‘white coloniser’ against Amy-Coney Barrett for adopting children from Haiti:

        Ibram X. Kendi, an American author who became the new director of the Centre for Antiracist Research at Boston University in July, railed against Barrett on Twitter for adopting two Black children from Haiti, equating her and her husband to “White colonizers.” 

        “Some White colonizers ‘adopted’ Black children. They ‘civilized’ these ‘savage’ children in the ‘superior’ ways of White people, while using them as props in their lifelong pictures of denial, while cutting the biological parents of these children out of the picture of humanity,” 


        Fifth, because wokeness reverses the order of Christianity showing compassion only to some. Once again, according to Strachan, Critical Race Theory cannot create a system of virtue and justice and instead, tried to take Christianity captive. This is because wokeness makes individuals the sum of their different groups. We lose the individual and their value as having been made in God’s image. To paraphrase George Orwell’s Animal Farm, some people are seen as being more human than others.


        Sixth, because wokeness redefines what Scriptures views as being good and evil (see Isaiah 5:20). This was especially evident in the Black Lives Matter™ movement. As has become clear, it is profoundly anti-Christian. Not only do their founders proudly acknowledge that they are “trained Marxists”, but their own website states that their goals are to: disrupt the natural nuclear family, promotes transgenderism and queerness while being opposed to every form of heternormativity.


        Seventh, because wokeness reads cultural events in terms of its dominant narrative, omitting many of the nuances and many counter truths. Just because there are differences between various cultural groups doesn’t prove that it is due to racism. As one quickly learns when doing any form of research, correlation doesn’t equal causation. Thus, we must always beware of simplistic answers that ascribe mono-causality, and in particular, we need to be careful about reading cultural events to reinforce the narrative we have already constructed.


        Eighth, because wokeness destabilises the free market and attacks limited government. Strachan refers to the 1619 project by The New York Times, a revolutionary economic approach which depends on a historical revisionist camp called, The New History of Capitalism. This is a recent scholarly movement that seeks to discredit capitalism as being inherently racist. They argue that half of the economic activity that came into the United States in 1836 was based upon the cotton industry and therefore the slave trade. Hence, slavery drives the free market.

        However, Phillip Magness from the American Institute for Economic Research argues that the American economy would have grown a much bigger and better free market without slavery. This is because slavery spreads poverty more than prosperity. In short, Strachan says, “Had chattel slavery never taken hold in the United States we would have been richer than we are today! To be pro-free market…doesn’t mean that you are pro-slavery.”


        Ninth, because wokeness destabilises truth making it ‘narratival’ rather than absolute. As what has recently been decided with the Academy Awards, minorities must be elevated. Their stories should gain greater prominence and have their ‘truth’ heard. However, God’s truth is true for everyone in all times and in all places. What Francis Schaeffer referred to as ‘True Truth’. Strachan rightly argues that while we want a diverse church we don’t do it thinking that different groups have a greater grip on the truth as others (see John 17:17-19).


        Tenth, because wokeness promotes a new system of righteousness and unrighteousness. Ultimately, ‘wokeness’ preaches a different Gospel. It is not just a gospel of good works, but even worse than that, a system of salvation founded upon an ongoing system of penance. Reconciliation can never be achieved for sin can never be atoned. Hence, rather than leading to peace, wokeness only leads to division.

        In 2 Corinthians 10 the apostle Paul exhorts believers to “…demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Likewise, in Colossians 2:8 Paul warns, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” Thus, Strachan says: ‘Do not sit quietly by as wokeness takes over institutions, universities, groups, friendship networks, and families. This is not a drill. This is not miles away. This is not a vague and distance threat. This is zero hour. By God’s grace, don’t be taken captive.’


        That is the challenge that is before us with the temptation of being ‘woke’. Make no mistake, Critical Race Theory is a profoundly anti-Christian philosophy that should be soundly rejected. It undermines or replaces every major doctrinal tenant of Christianity.


        Followers of Jesus, however, have been given something far richer, and that is the gracious gift of new birth. We are not merely ‘awake’, but born-again by God’s Spirit. And as such, through His divine power, we have everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him (2 Peter 1:3).


        https://caldronpool.com/ten-problems-with-being-woke/

        1.  — Edited

          Soberness with Joy

          There are many ways that Christ is depicted in our day because of the various means of media.  It seems that whatever the prevailing attitudes in society are translate into that generation’s depiction of Christ.  Certainly, we can see this throughout the latter part of the 20th Century to today.  In the late 60’s and 70’s we saw a “hippy” Christ, in the 2000’s it was the “hipster” Christ and today where He is depicted almost as “hedonistic” at times.  To get a true depiction of Christ one need not go further than the only authoritative source about Him, the Word of God.  


          When I read about Christ and what His life on earth was like considering what His personality and life might have been like – I think of two things that almost seem opposed yet defined His time on earth and portray an example to us today.  The two things that I would describe Christ’s walk while in human form were Soberness with Joy.  


          When I read about Christ – it seems that either He was moved with compassion, disappointed, deeply saddened and at times weeping, under a heavy burdened, or foreboding of what was coming in the future.  On the other hand – I also see His joy in His bursts of astonishment, amazement at the faith of man, zeal in teaching and preaching, and conveying the truths of salvation and the coming joys for His children.  


          Truly, Christ was a man who was sober yet enjoyed His ministry, His children, and His relationship with God. We too need to follow this example.  We need to realize that while earth we are just pilgrims passing through looking forward to our real home in heaven (Hebrews 11:13-14; 1 Peter 1:7).  We are to walk soberly on this earth realizing that all that we see will are temporal and will be destroyed – and that the only eternal things are up above with Christ (Colossians 3:1-4).  While we walk on this earth, we certainly can have great joy.  The Lord said in John 10:10b “…I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”  Our joy should be derived, not from the things of the world, but the enjoyment of things that are of God. 


          Here some wonderful things we can get true joy from:

          • His creation (Romans 1:20)
          • Walking with Him in prayer (Psalm 46:10; Philippians 1:4)
          • Studying His Word (Psalm 119:105; Proverbs 6:23)
          • Meditating (pondering prayerfully) on His Word, truths and promises (Colossians 3:1-2; 2 Peter 1:4)
          • Obeying Him and His Commandments (3 John 4; Gal 5:22)
          • Seeking and seeing souls saved and lives changed (Proverbs 23:24; 1 Corinthians 4:15; 3 John 4)


          This life is not always going to be easy, Christ said as much and Paul even said to be like Christ we too would suffer.  Yet, as we walk soberly with Christ we are going to enjoy a life most of this world will never see let alone understand.  Notice what Pauls states here:


          Philippians 3:10-14 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; 11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. 12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. 


          Let’s love and serve God with all of our hearts, souls and minds and love our neighbor as ourselves as Christ instructs us.  In so doing it will draw us ever closer to Him, cleanse us, mold us and change us into His likeness.  Then we too will walk “SOBERLY WITH JOY” as we sojourn on this earth until He takes us home again.  


          – Pastor Mark Sage

          1. Redeeming the Time

            Ephesians 5:16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 


            This Scripture has only eight words in it but still has great depth and meaning. While I was studying it, there are some things that popped out to me that remind me how important my time on this earth is. 


            Sometimes, we think: “Well, my time isn’t that important; I’m not the president or governor; I’m not a missionary, I’m not the CEO of a major company where millions of dollars are riding on my decisions.” 


            I’m not saying every moment of your day or mine is important – I am saying that we can and should make our time important again. 


            There are times in life where we do not have much spare time – where we are extremely busy working and laboring just to make it. There other times when we will have more time on our hands. But whatever time we have let’s redeem it for God. 


            Why, because the days are evil! There is no doubt. If we will take a moment to look at our world, our nation, and even at times those closest to us - we will see that this old world is failing fast. Yet, as Believers, each of us have a calling inside that is greater than all this old evil world can throw at us.


            We must, therefore, redeem the time. Every moment possible should be given, lived and used to do what we can for God and for good. Time left to itself, without purpose is wasted and becomes vain, but time given to God even when resting or relaxing, when given to God for the purpose of health and long-term growth, is blessed of Him and redeemed for God's service in the long run.


            So if you are feeling down, depressed, off your game, in a funk or whatever it is, get back on track and start redeeming the time for God once again. The ways we can redeem the time are clear:

            • Bible reading
            • Meditating on what you have studied in the Bible
            • Memorizing Scripture
            • Prayer, all types for all people and all things
            • Teaching, training our children or others for service
            • Serving at church or blessing others
            • Reaching out to those in need and being an encouragement
            • Telling others about Christ
            • Witnessing to others
            • Attending church services and activities
            • Being productive at our job and in our homes as unto the Lord to provide for them
            • And many more things...


            It so important that we stay busy; but not busy for self, or busy for money, but always busy for our Lord God of heaven. Then our time is redeemed and used for our God. - Pastor Mark Sage

            1.  — Edited

              God, Help Me to Be Faithful for My Generation!

              When I was a boy, I marveled at the faithfulness and work ethic of the older people in my town and in my church.  Never did they miss work often working long hours; never did they miss a service at church even when the weather was bad; and never did I hear them complain.  They weathered the storms of life as if they were wiping off snow from their coat.  They would then have the time and energy to help people in need with meals or labor without the aid of any trending social media post – because they knew their neighbors.  This they did with all stores closing by 9pm and usually closed on Sundays; no internet; no mobile phones; and no worry over the latest media induced panic.  


              Sure, they had problems, setbacks and losses.  But there was no excuse making; no reliance on the government to take care of them; no blaming anyone or anything for their hardships – at least not in my church, not in that small town that I grew up in.  No, these people worked hard while looking to God and trusting Him to supply their needs.   Even the people who didn’t go to church loved their country, loved their freedom, and knew the importance of self-reliance.


              You see, most of them either were kids in the depression and fought in World War II or supported the war from home.  Many others grew up in those years and saw the harm that true fascism, socialism, and communism had caused in hundreds of countries around the world.  They understood that the things they had could be easily taken away and therefore valued every blessing.   


              Now, maybe I am naïve.  Perhaps I had rose colored glasses on at the time and did not or could not see all the troubles that they actually had or the stress they were truly under.  PERHAPS THAT IS RIGHT, PERHAPS NOT.  Either way, they were the example that they were supposed to be for me and for my generation of the character I should strive for. 


              Today, I desire to be like those people I watched as a boy.  I want to be that example to the next generation.   I want to support my church because it is “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15).  I want to continue to love my country, supporting the government when it does well, calling it out when does poorly; and loving my countrymen.  I want to be that person that bears my burdens well so that I can be able to help bear the burdens of others.   I want to be an example of hard work, determination, sacrifice, and service to the next generation as those folks I grew up around were to me.  I want to show the importance of having a consistent walk with God; faithfulness to my church; and be a good citizen in my country.  I want to stand for God, stand for right, and stand for freedom.  


              O God, help me to stand up and be faithful for my generation and be an example for the next!


              - Pastor Mark Sage

              1.  — Edited

                ALL IN?

                IS GOD ALL IN FOR US VS. ARE WE ALL IN FOR GOD.

                It is an interesting comparison that we should consider in our lives.  One of those statements we have asked ourselves many times while the other we rarely truly consider.  The comparison is also seen in the following: Not known for his fundamental faith in our Savior, Abraham Lincoln would often have one-line statements that gave indication that perhaps he was.  One such was when asked whether or not God was on the side of the North, the wise President responded by saying: “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”  


                Are we on God’s side?  Are we fully trusting, fully committed, fully loving Him as we should?  Are we “ALL IN?”  We tend to always wonder why He is not with us like we expect Him to be.  In our busy lives; in dealing with our problems; while dealing with monotonous daily tasks as well as dealing with possibly life changing events – we often ask ourselves: “Does God even care about me?” or “Does God not see what I’m going through?”  In our desperation we question His faithfulness.  I suppose we have all done this at times.


                The real problem is not God at all. In our problems and anxiety we deal with each day we shout at and beg God for His attention as if He doesn’t care – yet He does already! He has proven it time and again.  He created you, He sustains you, He sent His Son, Jesus Christ to die for you.  Our God is all in for us, He has already proved that in a multitude of ways.  Rather, we need to make sure that we are “ALL IN” concerning living for Him!  The reason we struggle so much is because we are often "Partly in" or "Half in." We reserve a portion of our life, or justify our disobedience in some way. Yet, God has always loved us and given us His all and His best. God’s love does not change, He cannot lie nor can He go against His Word.  He certainly is not the problem.  Notice just a few of His precious promises:

                ·      He promises never to leave us or forsake us – Hebrews 13:5

                ·      He promises to bear our burdens – Matthew 11:28-30

                ·      He promises to give us the strength to live of Him – 2 Corinthians 9:8

                ·      He promises to help us through the problems we face – 2 Cor 12:7-10


                Since these things are true and God cannot be the problem, then why do we constantly question Him?  We should be looking at ourselves.  Hebrews 3:12 says: “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.”  We are so easily distracted from our purpose in Christ.  We need to look at our lives (Take Heed) and prayerfully search and consider where we have been distracted, where we have been sinful, where we have allowed the world to influence us more than God and where our anxiety, worry, stress, or doubt come from.  We need to see where we are not fully committed to God.  Then, when we see its source, let’s get rid of that thing that is discouraging us from being what God wants or add that missing component where we have not been “ALL IN!”  


                The Lord Jesus Christ sums up how to be all in Mark 12:30-31 when He says: “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.  And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.”


                Are you “ALL IN” for God?  God is not looking for half-way – we talked about that a week ago in the sermon on being a lukewarm Christian  https://faithlife.com/posts/3589313 .  God wants us all the way in, trusting fully in His care and provision for our lives.  We have hopefully trusted Him for our eternal souls, but let us also trust Him for what we need to live right now.  Let’s fully trust Him in our lives and LET’S BE ALL IN!  

                1. Diligence Leads to Growth

                  Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and thathe is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.


                  Diligently here means: to search out, to investigate, crave, demand; in other places it is translated as something required – Not only am I to seek the Lord, but I’m going to put it upon myself, demand it of myself, require it of myself to seek after Him and to know Him. 


                  Something will happen to a person that pours their life into knowing God.  There is a process that starts to take place.   You will start studying God’s Word, you will start to know God’s people, and join a Bible believing church.  You will start to grow and learn the Principles of God’s Word.


                  As a result of those PRINCIPLES, you will start to develop CONVICTION.  What is this conviction – it is being convince of something.  Of what? That this book belongs to God and that you need to live by it.  So, we decide to learn seek God, we learn from His (God’s) Word, His church, and other believers and we become convinced that this is His Book and His will.  Then, we have to decide what we are going to do about it.  We are going to have develop what we call our STANDARDS – or guidelines that we develop because of the conviction we have from the Principles we have learned from His Word.  


                  A standard for us is “that which is established as a rule or model.”  The interesting thing is the root word of standard “STAND.” Basically it is a place where I choose to stand.  It is deciding to stand for what is right and balance our lives in the responsibilities God has given us.  To draw a line of what is important, and balancing the priorities we talked about last Sunday afternoon.   There is not room here to say too much, but it starts with learning the PRINCIPLES of God’s Word, being CONVINCED of the truths therein, and setting up STANDARDS and rules for my life and my family to keep the things written in God’s Word.