Pastor John E. Russell
Senior Pastor
Downriver Christian Community Church
Melvindale, Michigan

Saturday, June 25, 2011


A fellow believer and I were talking the other day about all the great things God had done in our lives over the years. It is truly amazing to look back at your past and realize how far God has brought you from where you once were.

At one point in our conversation, we stopped to pray for some old friends who are no longer serving the Lord. It’s such a sad thing to see someone who has begun to serve God turn around and walk away from their Savior, especially after seeing Him move so powerfully and pour out His blessings in their lives! It’s so easy to be deceived by the devil and be satisfied with the blessings and forget about the Blesser.

It makes me mad when I think of all the good people who have fallen away over the years, even more so when I know our enemy the devil is the one to blame. Of course, this is no surprise to God. He knows that it's not easy to stand firm until the end. In fact, he has given us numerous scriptures concerning this very subject: some to warn us of the dangers ahead and others to encourage us to remain strong, stand firm, and stand our ground until the end.
Ecclesiastes 7:8 tells us that:
The end of a matter is better than its beginning. 
1 Corinthians 15:58
Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

In Ephesians 6:10-15, God’s Word warns us that there is a battle going on. Those who have fallen haven’t disappeared by accident, it was by design. It was a plot, a plan, or scheme devised by our enemy to steal our brothers and sisters away.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. - Ephesians 6:10-15

I like the idea of standing our ground. In many states in our country, the law states that if someone comes to attack you or threaten you with harm, you have the right to use whatever means necessary to defend yourself.

Clauses that state this fact are called "Stand Your Ground” clauses, and they state exactly that the defender has no duty or other requirement to abandon a place in which they have a right to be or to give up ground to an assailant.

We have every right to belong to and be with the family of God. The devil has no right and no authority over us. In fact, we have been given the authority to take back from him what he has stolen. We don’t have to give up any ground to him. God himself has given us our own “Stand Your Ground” law.

And so we need to be strong and vigilant!
Corinthians 16:13
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.
1 Peter 5:8-9
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

Everybody goes through things. Jesus told us that in this world we would have problems. Life is filled with struggles. But, life is also full of opportunities, full of victories, and full of blessing, especially for those who are in the family of believers.
1 Peter 5:10
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

One last warning!

It’s easy to think this could never happen to us, we could never fall. Just remember what Peter said to Jesus in Mark 14:29: “Even if all fall away, I will not.” Well, we know what happened to Peter!

1 Corinthians 10:12
So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!

God put us in a body of believers for a reason. We do have to be on guard, not only for ourselves, but also for those around us. We are in this together. We are stronger when we are united with one another. We need to encourage one another, pray for one another and be there for one another.

Saints, God has given us all we need. We can do all things through Christ Jesus who gives us strength, and this includes standing firm till the end. God will never leave us or forsake us. He’ll be there to help us until the end.
2 Corinthians 1:21
Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ.

And of course those who remain will inherit the kingdom and gain life everlasting with our Lord and Savior!
Luke 21:19
By standing firm you will gain life.

Standing with you in Christ,
Pastor John

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


  In John 16, Jesus had been telling his disciples that he was soon going to be leaving this world and going back to the Father. He told them that when this happened they would be scattered, each to his own home. He also told them not to be surprised when they faced trouble in this world. But, they didn’t have to worry because he had overcome the world and in him, they - and we too - could also overcome this world and experience the peace that can only come from being one with Christ.

Soon after that, Jesus was going to be arrested and led away to his death, but before this happened he took the time in John 17 to pray.

First, he prays for his situation, and then for his disciples. Then, the last thing he prays for, before being arrested, is for the unity of all the future believers who would believe in him…that's us!

John 17:20-23:
My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

A very common theme from the messages this past weekend was that all of us will be going through many problems throughout our lives, just as Jesus said we would. But, we should not worry when we find ourselves going through those difficulties. God knows they are coming, He’ll be there with us, He’ll help us get through them, and these are the very things that will help make us into the people we were destined to be. As I’ve often said in the past “the struggle is good.”

Here’s what God has shown me that we have to look out for when we are going through these struggles. God doesn’t want us to be hiding out or cutting ourselves off from His body. He doesn’t want us to be scattered, each to our own homes. God wants us to work together as one, even when,especially when, we are facing problems. This isn’t the time to run and hide from those God has put in our lives. This is where the devil has a field day - when he finds us cut off from others in our moment of weakness and attacks us just as the lion does to the wounded animal.

God has designed us to need one another - He knows there is strength and protection in unity!

Ecclesiastes 4:10
If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.

1 Corinthians 12:21-26
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

It’s easy to tear a single page in two. Try tearing a phone book in two.

God knows our lives will be full of challenges. That’s why He wants us to be united with other believers. He knows we can accomplish so much more when we are working in unity.
Genesis 11:6
The LORD said, If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.

The reason God stopped the people from building the tower of Babel was that they were working apart from Him and trying to make a name for themselves. If they had been working together to bring glory to God, He would have blessed them.

God does want to bless us - abundantly. The vehicle He has given us to work in together - in unity - is the church, His body.

Together, in Christ, we can overcome this world and experience the peace, the power, and the victory that can only come from being united with Christ and with one another.

Ephesians 4:3
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

God Bless,
Pastor John

Friday, April 29, 2011

Looking Forward to Our Reward

Just a few days ago, I was talking with a longtime, good friend of mine. In the course of our conversation, the untimely death of the "love of his life" came up. We reminisced for a few minutes about her and some of the wonderful things she had done and then God spoke to me that she was enjoying her reward. She had been a faithful wife, mother, sister, and daughter, but even more importantly she had been a faithful Christian. We talked a little more about how we were getting older ourselves and how we're glad we don't have to fear death. In fact, both of us are, without shame, "looking forward to our reward."

Believe me, it's not that I am in any great rush to leave here. I have much to live for, especially my family and church. I also know that I still have a lot of unfinished work to do. But, I'm confident that when my time comes, I will be able to embrace it without fear, knowing that my Father, who cannot lie, has promised me a great reward!

Hebrews 10:35-36: So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.

Revelation 22:12: Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.

Matthew 16:27: For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.

Let me be clear, I am not talking about salvation here. Our salvation is not based on works, but on our faith in Jesus Christ. What I am talking about is how we are how we live and what we do with our lives. Are we building God's kingdom or are we building our own little personal kingdoms? Are we building for eternity or for our immediate gratification?

The Apostle Paul left us some helpful instructions on this very subject in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15.
...But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

The only way we can build something that is truly worthwhile and lasting is if we build as we are led by God's Holy Spirit. This is the kind of work that will please our Father in heaven: Spirit led, God-honoring, kingdom-building work done in love. This is the kind of work that will bring us a great reward!

What really amazes me is that so many people are more concerned about the reward points on their credit cards than they are with the reward stored up for them in heaven.

How can we even compare anything on this earth with what awaits us in Heaven? We couldn't even begin to imagine what God has in store for us, but I do know this: God knows us intimately, and He knows the desires of our hearts. Considering what a loving, all-knowing Father He is, our reward will surpass even our wildest dreams. And that is something I can definitely look forward to. Another thing we can count on is that the rewards that come from God have no blackout dates. They don't expire, and there is no annual fee. The price has been paid, once and for all time.

When I start to think about our reward and how great it will be, it reminds me of an old song from Phil Keaggy called "What A Day." Here are a video and the words.

When I get Home I will see all
The holy men I read about.
Peter and John, James, Luke, and Paul
And brother Tom without a doubt.
And I do believe there will be
King David at the harp
A song of praise with every chord.
What a sight to see, the redeemed and
The angels gathered round worshiping the Lord.
What a day that will be
Oh what a day that will be!

When we get Home, our Eternal Home
There'll be no more sick and dying.
No one is sad, no one is alone
And there will be no more crying.
He will wipe away every tear
From His children's eyes
And put a smile upon their faces.
What a happy day when we see
Our Lord in Paradise
Crowned as King of Kings.
What a day that will be
Oh what a day that will be!

What a day, what a day,
What a day that will be.....

Galatians 6:9: Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Fight the good fight of faith and keep looking forward to your reward. God has great things in store for you both here and for all eternity!

God Bless,
Pastor John

Friday, April 15, 2011

What's Your View?

Every one of us sees things differently. Some see the glass as half full, and some see it as half empty. It all depends on our attitudes, our perspectives, or our way of understanding things. Let's take a moment and ask ourselves how we view our world. Is it half empty or half full? Is it good or bad? Getting better or getting worse? Can we make a difference or not? Should life be enjoyed or endured? Is there a purpose to life or not? I could go on and on comparing the opposite ends of the spectrum, and I'm sure there are many people who would find themselves on one end or the other - or somewhere in between. A lot will depend on our worldview - whether we believe that God is real, in control, and ordering events or whether life is purely controlled by chance and we are just accidents of nature, wandering about with no purpose and no destination.

What's your view?

The culture we live in is shouting out loud and clear that God is either not real or not involved. We are told that right and wrong are whatever we say they are. We are told that we came from nothing and are going nowhere, that no one way of life is better than any other, that animals and even plants are just as important as people are, and that the government is our provider and protector. And the list goes on and on! These are the times we live in.

Do we see how contrary today's views are from God's Word? We, as a society, are so far removed from God's standards and God's truths that if someone were to study the popular culture of today, he might not even recognize that God ever existed.

What's our view? Where do we get our viewpoint from? The only place that is safe and that won't lead to disaster is God's Word.

When we start to to take God's Word seriously, it may seem like we just came from another planet, at least compared to our popular culture. Sometimes we may feel alone, but let me let you in on a little secret - we are not alone! Not only is God with us and not only has He filled us with His Holy Spirit, but there are also other believers everywhere around us. God has strategically planted His people everywhere, and each one of us are one of those strategic plants, created to be used at just the right time to do God's work.

Ephesians 2:10
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Others may not understand the times we live in, but we must. God's Word - His truth - is desperately needed.When we step up to the plate and interject God's truth and His love into certain situations, we can change the course of history in ways that may be farther reaching than we could ever have imagined! Don't think, "Oh it's only me, what can I do?" It's not only you - it's God in you - and we can do all things through Christ Jesus who gives us strength. Don't sell yourself short, and don't sell God short!

Let me ask you another question. How much difference can one person make?
Think of:
and so many more.

What's your view of yourself? Can you do this? Is it in you to make a difference? Do you have what it takes?

What it takes is God in you! Christ in you, the hope of glory!

I'm sure you can see that this world is in desperate need of help. Guess what....You're it!   You are the help it's been waiting for!

Go change the world!
Pastor John

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Times They Are a-Changin'

The line it is drawn the curse it is cast
The slow one now will later be fast
As the present now will later be past
The order is rapidly fadin'
And the first one now will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'

The above is an old folk song called the "The Times They Are a-Changin'." It was written by Bob Dylan in 1964.

Old Bob, he understood the times he was livin' in. That song is one of Dylan's most famous. Many felt it captured the spirit of social and political upheaval that characterized the 1960s. It also made Dylan famous.

The point I'm making is this singer and songwriter saw what was happening in our country and made a living writing about it. He understood the times he was living in.

1 Chronicles 12 lists the tribes that were committed to following David. 1 Chronicles 12:32 lists the “men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do...”

These men saw the changes happening around them and realized the call to respond! God thinks it important enough to comment on a people who understood the times and knew what to do about it.

A very famous opening line in The Tale of Two Cities begins "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." You could certainly say that of today. So many advances in so many areas, but so many declines in other areas of our materialistic culture, especially morals and Godliness. And yet, this is an absolutely wonderful time to share the Gospel, precisely because of the emptiness of materialism.

People are hungry for meaning - for something of real value - and nothing is more meaningful or more valuable than a relationship with Christ. If we understand the times we are going through and if we make the most of these things, God will work them out to our good.

Our world is filled with people who don’t have a clue what life is all about. They can’t see what’s going on around them. They can’t see the battle that is raging between good and evil. They don’t know that their eternal lives hang in the balance. They certainly don’t understand there is spiritual warfare being waged.

It seems like our whole world is in an uproar right now and this gives us a tremendous opportunity to talk to people about hope, peace, the future, certainty, any number of topics that can end up leading to talking about the Lord. We need to understand the times that those close to us are going through and look for the right moment to be that light for Christ - to be lighthouses shining bright and leading people home.

The times certainly are a-changin', and it can be scary if you don't have something solid to hang on to. There isn't anything more solid than the Rock of Ages we know as Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Pastor John

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Our Comfort Zone

Do you remember the first time you did something that was very important to you? You wanted to make a good impression, but the whole time you felt like you just weren't doing it as well as you knew you could. You probably had sweaty armpits, maybe a dry mouth, and probably gave a few wrong answers, at least it sure seemed like you did. You couldn't wait until this trial by fire was over even though it's likely no one else perceived it quite as badly as you did. You just stepped out of your "Comfort Zone."

Here is an interesting definition of Comfort Zone:
The comfort zone is a behavioral state within which a person operates in an anxiety-neutral condition, using a limited set of behaviors to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk. A comfort zone is a type of mental conditioning that causes a person to create and operate within mental boundaries. Such boundaries create an unfounded sense of security. Like inertia, a person who has established a comfort zone in a particular axis of his or her life, will tend to stay within that zone without stepping outside of it.

Take a look at the built-in barriers found in this definition of a comfort zone:
  • Limited set of behaviors
  • Steady level
  • No sense of risk
  • Mental boundaries
  • False sense of security
  • Inertia
  • No stepping out of the box

I don't know about you, but this doesn't strike me as a very adventurous or exciting life. I like to experience what life has to offer, don't you?

The definition goes on to say:
To step outside of a comfort zone, the person must experiment with new and different behaviors, and then experience the new and different responses that then occur within the environment.
Now that sounds like living!

What can help us step out of our comfort zone? At one time or another or in one situation or another, I know we all will probably find ourselves trapped in this comfort-zone prison.

The answer, of course, is God! God didn't create us to be boxed in by fear, doubt, discouragement, shyness, or whatever. He came to set us free. His Word has given us a powerful antidote to the comfort-zone blues.
2 Corinthians 9:8:
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

Mark 10:27:
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

Philippians 4:13:
I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Acts 1:8:
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you...

2 Timothy 1:7:
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
Somehow I get the impression that God didn't want us to be boxed in by our comfort zones. Instead, He wants us to learn to trust Him more and more all the time.

How often do you find yourself stepping out into an uncomfortable area that is just not you to do something for God? Our human wisdom - our normal rational minds - will hardly ever push us to do something that we think is not possible or that will make us too uncomfortable. But, if we put our trust in God, all things are possible. And this is where God can really move, and then His blessings can begin to flow.
Jeremiah 17:7:
But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him.
If we want to progress as Christians - if we want to be used by God - we’re going to have to trust God at every stage of our growth. To grow, we have to step into the unknown, and this is where we will have to put our trust in God. This is where we will then see the Lord’s provisions. This is where we can then be led by God’s Holy Spirit.

If we want to increase our trust in God, then sometimes we have to put ourselves in a position where we have no other choice but to trust Him. Then we’ll have to step out of our comfort zone - and that's when we'll really begin to see God move in our lives!

I have an idea. Let's say this comfort zone is a can. Instead of letting it box us in (or "can" us in), let's use it to play a game. It's an old game called "Kick The Can." Let's see how far ahead you can kick it.

Once you start kicking the can, I think you'll catch on and keep kicking that thing until it's so far ahead that the comfort zone won't be able to hold you back any longer!

Keep Kicking!
Pastor John

Saturday, March 12, 2011


I remember back when I was a young boy going to my grandma's house almost every Friday night. My aunts and uncles would come over and bring all their kids, and we would fill up the basement and have a great time playing all sorts of games and just goofing around. But besides all the kids, there was one other thing that always fascinated me and that was the fireplace. Being the oldest grandson, I received the special privilege of being the "Keeper of the Flame." I took my job seriously and always kept the fire going. In fact, the adults usually had to tell me to not build the fire so big, but I couldn't help myself. I loved fires. It seemed I was always around fires, the ones I started, the ones I played with, and sometimes the ones I ended up putting out. Yeah, I ended up becoming a firefighter, imagine that! Even today, my wife Carolyn and I love sitting around a fire, whether it's in our fireplace at home or at a campfire when we're camping.

But there is another fire that I'm more concerned about than the one we make with wood. It's the fire that is or should be burning inside of us, the one that God wants to enjoy: our passion for Him. When John the Baptist was talking about Jesus, the coming Messiah, he said this...
Luke 3:16: John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
Jesus was coming, and one of the things He was going to do for His followers was fill us with the Holy Spirit and fire. We see the beginning of this wonderful new ministry soon after the resurrection when the disciples were in Jerusalem in the upper room.
Acts 2:2-4: Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
This is exactly what God wants, everyone of His people filled with a passionate fire for Him. This fire burns bright in us when the Holy Spirit is living and moving inside of us. We have to be careful that we don't push the Holy Spirit away from us and try to walk in our own power.
1 Thessalonians 5:19: Do not put out the Spirit’s fire
That's the last thing we want to do is put out the Spirit's fire. Having this fire is how we offer up our lives as a living sacrifice holy and pleasing to God! This is how we live a life that is pleasing to Him. This is how we keep ourselves from getting bored, tired, stale and lukewarm to God.
Revelation 3:15-16: I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
I don't know about you, but the thought of our Lord spitting me out of His mouth is pretty scary.

Some people are afraid of fire. I think we have a lot more reason to be afraid of having no fire or of being lukewarm. So please, throw another log on the fire and shine on brightly!

Pastor John

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Sting

Last week I ministered on the book of Esther. I love the way you get drawn into this story and get to know all the characters: Esther, Mordecai, Haman, Xerxes, and a few of the background cast. It reminds me of a 1973 movie called The Sting with Paul Newman (of salad dressing fame) and Robert Redford. In both stories, the bad guy has devious plans to fulfill his evil plot. Innocent people are going to get hurt or even killed, but something happens. The plot twists, and the good guys hatch another plan that will not only disrupt the original evil plot, but also, now the bad guy is the one who ends up getting burned and everything turns out better than anyone ever thought possible! What I really find amazing is that something along these lines happens to us all the time. We just need to make sure we recognize what is happening. It definitely relates to a scripture that most of us know and love.
Romans 8:28
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

The bad guy in our lives could be the devil or even our own fleshly nature and, in either case, things are done that can only bring disaster of some sort down on our heads. But then somehow God intervenes in these trials, sorrows, afflictions, or problems and the very things that looked so bad to us before have now been redeemed and are somehow together, now working out for our good. The key here is that we need to do our part, which is laid out right before our eyes in this scripture. We need to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and we need to be walking in His purpose.

God wants to bless you. He wants you to see His blessing in your life. When we find ourselves in the midst of problems, don't climb on the pity-party bandwagon. Instead, look through the problem and try to see where God is. How is He going to use this to strengthen you, to mature you, and to make you more into the image of His Son, Jesus? The Holy Spirit is here to lead us into all truth. He will guide us in the right direction if we seek His help. He is here to help you! Don't fall for the con - no problem is too big for God.

In the story of Esther, the evil villain Haman is killed by being hung on his own gallows.

Remember, the good guys really do win in the end! That's us!

And just in case you never read the end of the story, here it is:
Revelation 12:10
For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.
Revelation 20:10
And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

Our enemy, who thought he had the upper hand, is finished.
End of story! What a sting!

God Bless,
Pastor John

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Our Testimonies

Last Sunday, I spoke about the fact that we are all called to be "Witnesses" or "Evangelists" for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We may not feel like Billy Graham on any given day, but that doesn't really matter. Each one of us has a testimony - God's Word tells us exactly that.

1 John 5:10: "Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart."

1 John 5:11-12 goes on to say: “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

What a wonderfully simple message! God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son: "He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

It's so simple that it's almost too easy for many people to believe! Do you know who Jesus is? Would you like to live for all eternity with Him in heaven? Would you like to know Him personally? Would you like to pray and ask Him into your heart?

Simple questions, the simple truth.

But as simple as it is, it is the absolute truth. We can illustrate this truth with a story, the story that we know best - the story of our own lives.

This is our testimony. We have asked Jesus into our hearts, and He has changed our lives both inwardly and outwardly, now and forevermore.

Here is my challenge to you.

Take out a pen and paper or sit at your computer and begin to write out your testimony.
* Write out a little of your past, what you were into, where you were headed, how you felt, what didn't seem right about your life.

* Then write what caused you to begin to search for something better, for God, for a purpose or whatever caused you to eventually end up coming to Christ.

* Next write about the actual event, when you were born again, when you were saved, when you prayed and asked Jesus into your life.

* Finally, write a bit about what has changed since you became a Christian. How has God blessed you, how has He fixed some of those areas that were broken in your life, how has He changed your way of looking at life, etc.

I had a friend who once did this. After working on it and perfecting it and adding a prayer of salvation at the end, he made it into a little tract with his own picture on it and gave it to people he met. He also added the contact information for his church and let people get in touch with him through there.

It always does us good to sort out our thoughts and put them into some type of order. This will help us be able to share our testimonies with much more confidence and, who knows, maybe you'll make your own tract. If you do, please show it to me. I'd love to see it.

God Bless,
Pastor John

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Fruit Tree

Imagine a large beautiful tree. This tree has been growing in your neighborhood for many years and has now reached an impressive height. The wonderful thing about this tree is that it is filled with some of the most tantalizing fruit you have ever seen. This fruit must surely be filled with all kinds of vitamins and minerals and will certainly have the sweetest taste and finest texture of any fruit around, at least if the sight of this tree is any indication. Everyone talks about this tree with its amazing beauty, its bountiful fruit, and its unlimited potential.

What they don't know is that there is something terribly wrong with this tree. If you were to draw close to the tree and see what is actually happening, you would not believe your eyes. This tree is doing something that just isn't right. Certainly no tree was created to do this. It seems to go against all that is good, decent, and natural. This tree is eating its own fruit!

Upon closer inspection you find that this tree has set itself up so no one else gets to sample this very needed fruit. It takes in the sun and the water. It lets itself be trimmed and pruned. It enjoys the admiring looks of those passing by, but never even considers sharing with anyone else any of the amazing fruit that it has been blessed with. What a shame! What a waste! What useful purpose does this fruit tree really serve? Who ever heard of a fruit tree eating all of its own fruit and not letting anyone else enjoy what it has to offer? I'm sure God would never have created it to be like this. It's definitely not fulfilling its purpose.

This story reminds me of a scripture in the Book of Daniel. This scripture also talks about a large, beautiful tree.
The tree grew large and strong and its top touched the sky; it was visible to the ends of the earth. Its leaves were beautiful, its fruit abundant, and on it was food for all. - Daniel 4:11-12
The fruit was meant for others - not for the tree, not for itself. This tree got it right!

In John 15, verses 5 and 8, Jesus tells us:
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

God desires that each one of us bear much fruit. He wants us to be "full of good fruit" according to James 3:17.

According to Colossians 1:10, we are to " a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work..."

And one final scripture. Romans 7:4 tells us we are to bear fruit to God.

Let's not be like the tree in the story. Instead, let's use all that God has given us - our talents, our giftings..."our fruit" - and let them be food for all.

Don't sell yourself short. You've got a lot to give. God knew what He was doing when He made you!

Be Fruitful,
Pastor John

Friday, February 11, 2011

Dumping The Darkness

Everywhere we turn, we see and hear things that we know are wrong. So much of what is written, spoken, or viewed can actually lead many people down a path that could literally destroy them. It’s almost as if there were pipelines of lies being pumped into our culture through every possible outlet at an ever-expanding flow rate being consumed as fast as humanly possible. These lies are sort of like black crude in a way - they fill people’s minds with darkness. Of course, we know - or should know - the source of all these lies, all this darkness.

Speaking of the devil, in John 8:44 Jesus said: “...for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

The devil is pouring out his lies so that he can lure people into his kingdom, the kingdom of darkness. I used to live there - we all did at one time - until God, in His mercy, rescued us.

Ephesians 5:8 says: "For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light."

God is now calling us to be the antidote to all of this darkness, all these lies. He is calling us to be light in this world.

Matthew 5:14-16: “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

Somehow, God wants to use us in all the different places where we have influence. We may not think we are very influential people, but I’ll let you in on a little secret. The Holy Spirit in us can touch people’s lives in ways we could never have imagined if we will just let Him use us when the opportunity arises.

We can bring terror into the devil's camp by blowing up his pipelines of lies. We truly can be light to this world. It's Christ in us - His word in us, His Spirit in us - that’s how we do it. With Him, all things are possible. Don’t sell yourselves short. I believe in you. God believes in you. Trust God who is in you!

Shine on Brightly,
Pastor John

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Guest Speaker: Craig Fasler

We had a guest speaker at church this past weekend. It was great to see Craig after close to 10 years! The weekend started out a little rough with a call I received telling me that Craig's flight had been canceled. Originally, Craig had been scheduled to arrive at 11:00am, but that time was changed to arriving at 6:40pm. This would be cutting it close, but still not too bad as we would arrive at the Young Adult meeting a few minutes late but they could hold off for us and all would be well. However, as the day wore on, the flight time changed five or six more times, and Craig didn't end up arriving until after 9:00pm when the meeting should have been winding down. I guess God had different plans.

We arrived at the Young Adult meeting around 9:30pm, and instead of finding a tired, bored group, we entered into a crowd of enthusiastic, on fire, excited young people. God had been working mightily. Many had already been touched, and one young lady had given her heart to the Lord.

As soon as Craig began to speak, God turned up the fire a notch. Before the night was through, everyone was stirred up by the Word and some challenging videos. Some of our young folks and some not so young had been prayed for and healed and that set the stage for the next day. Saturday morning everyone came ready to learn and then go out into the streets and to the stores to share the Lord and pray for people. More great testimonies!

Sunday proved to be an equally amazing day. Craig was in rare form and spoke on evangelism in a way that touched everyone's hearts as well as our funny bones. Some of the personal stories he shared moved many to tears, but in his own unique way he soon had us laughing again even though he was challenging us at the same time. 

Sunday on the way to dinner, Carolyn, Craig, and I stopped off at the hospital to visit and pray for a member of our church. While we were at the hospital, we ended up praying for a couple of other people, and one was very interested in coming out to church when he was released.

Dinner was at Outback, and there we witnessed and did the two-question test to our waitress and the manager who both promised to read a salvation tract before going to bed that night.

When all was said and done, I heard nothing but good reports about the whole weekend. I'll tell you what, Craig never stops. What you saw on Sunday goes on seven days a week for him.

I hope you were touched and challenged to go out and spread the Good News that only we, as Christians, possess.

Love in Christ,
Pastor John

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Game

I was thinking about a little toy that Carolyn and I bought for our granddaughter to play with at our house. It's one of those wooden boards with all the different shapes cut out: square, circle, triangle, octagon, etc. The object is to put the right shape in the right hole, and it ends up teaching you about all the different shapes. In fact, this particular board speaks out the name of the shape when you put the right shape in the right hole, so you also learn how to pronounce the words.

The reason I brought this little game up is that it's a matching game and I thought I would challenge you to a matching game of our own. Remember the scripture I talked about on Sunday? Let's look at it again.

Philippians 4:8:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Here's the way this game goes. Consider what you have been thinking about for the last day or so. You've probably had hundreds if not thousands of thoughts. Now write them all down. Yeah sure! I'm not going to get a lot of takers on that challenge. Ok - how about something a whole lot easier. Write down the main parts of this scripture, just the key words.

True, Noble, Right, Pure, Lovely (lovable), Admirable, Excellent, Praiseworthy.

Eight simple words. Now when you start thinking about something or talking about something, see which word it matches up to. Remember the one who is really challenging you to this game is not me but God himself. He is the all-time champ. He's the one who made up the rules and who is also the judge.

This is a great way to begin to train our minds to start thinking as God would have us think. This is how we renew our minds. This is how we are transformed. This is how we are then able to determine God's will or purpose for our lives - His good, pleasing, and perfect will.

If you would like to take this challenge a step further, look up the eight key words. In fact, I'll give you the Greek translations for them, and you can go to a search engine ( and look them up.

Here they are:
  1. Alethes
  2. Semnos
  3. Dikaios
  4. Hagnos
  5. Prosphiles
  6. Euphemos
  7. Arete
  8. Epainos

Type the word above and type "Greek" next to it. The search engine will give you a definition of the word. Now you're doing a Bible study!

Get these words in your head and use them like a filter. See how many of your thoughts can pass through them and how many get filtered out.

This is a great way to grow. Challenge yourself and see how well you do.

Remember you do have a partner who will be more than happy to help you - the Holy Spirit. He will guide you into all truth.

God Bless You Abundantly,
Pastor John

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Washing The Car

I got my car washed a few days ago and what a difference! All the salt, all the sludge, all the dirt was gone. Just like that, what a transformation! My car looked like it was brand new again, almost like it just came from the dealer's showroom. It's fairly easy to renew the way a vehicle looks. Too bad we can't renew our minds the same way — something quick and easy for five or six bucks.

So why am I talking about renewing our minds? Because God told us to do it in His Word. Romans 12:2 tells us: "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will."

How many times have we, as Christians, wished we knew what God's will was for our lives? Let me let you in on a little secret. Our carnal minds don't want anything to do with following God's will. They only want to please our fleshly nature. The problem with this is that we feel empty and without purpose or hope. We believe deep down in our spirits that there is more for us...and there is.

To get hold of God's will and to understand His purpose for our lives, we need to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Only then can we begin to grasp the wonderful plans He has designed for our particular life!

How do we do that? If God is a spiritual being, how can we understand His thoughts?

Romans 8:5b: “...those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.”

Let the Holy Spirit lead us. He will guide us into all truth. As we read God's Word, He will open it up to us and cleanse our minds by washing them with the Word.

Hebrews 4:12: “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

The Word of God is the true and final authority to help us sort out our thoughts. It will judge them. The Holy Spirit will speak to us through God’s Word and tell us when our thoughts, perceptions, and attitudes are wrong.

The only way we can walk in God’s purpose for our lives is to have the focus of our minds changed from pleasing ourselves to pleasing our God. Then our will is transformed. Then our minds will be renewed. "Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will."

God bless you!
Pastor John

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Seeing is Believing

Why is it sometimes so hard to believe that God truly does have great things in store for us? Think back to when you were young and you wanted something so badly that you could almost taste it. You probably had no possible way of getting what you wanted unless your parents got it for you. And then it happened. Maybe it was Christmas or your birthday or some special reward, but you saw the box or went to the store and suddenly the dream became a reality.You got what you really never believed you would have, or at least you weren't sure you would have. Seeing was believing!

Now we're grown, and God want us to know that greater things are yet to come! I'm not talking about material things now, I'm talking about the things God wants to do in our lives: big changes, great accomplishments, spiritual gifts, restored relationships, defeated sins, renewed minds, and so many other things that only you and God know about. God wants to give you the desires of your heart, but our love for Him must be real.

For these things to happen, we need to believe God for them - that He has the ability and the desire to do them for us. We need to see to believe, but not like when we were children. Now we see differently. We see with eyes of faith. We need to draw near to God and get a revelation of His vision or purpose for us. God will speak to us through His Word, through the Holy Spirit, and sometimes through those He has put in our lives. God doesn't want us to wander aimlessly through life. He has a purpose and a plan for each of us. The problem is that we don't always see them or sometimes even look for them. That's why we need to open up those eyes of faith. We weren't born to be blind, but to see both physically and spiritually.

I know that your heavenly Father wants to bless you. His plan is to prosper you and give you a hope and a future. Can you see it, can you taste it? The Lord is good! His mercies are new every morning! Taste and see that the Lord is good. Stop, look and listen! What is God trying to get across to you? Whatever it is, it's what you need.

God Bless You Abundantly,
Pastor John

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The New Year

Here we are in the new year. It's now 2011, and I just got used to writing 2010 on my checks. Oh well. It's funny how the days and weeks can go by relatively slowly, but the years seem to fly by. I'm still thinking of Y2K as though it were yesterday and that was already 11 years ago! Anyhow, it is a new year once again, and I was thinking of a scripture that seems very appropriate for this time.
Ephesians 4:22-24: You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
I recently read that the typical New Year resolution lasts about two weeks, so don't make this a New Year resolution. Instead, decide that it's time for some more of that old "self" to be gotten rid of. Like spring cleaning, once it's thrown away, it's gone...for good.

What "old thing" has been hanging around and getting in our way, preventing us from moving forward? What part of our old selves can we "put off" or put out in the trash to get rid of? Just like going through the garage or basement or closet, something that looked good a while back looks outdated or useless now, and it's time to get rid of it. Some of those old ways - that old self - are also pretty dated, so let's dump them. God will send a helper - the Holy Spirit - to help us carry them out to the trash. Then we'll have more room for the new us, the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

I pray that God will bless you and prosper you in this new year of 2011 and that all of us will be seeing more of the new self in each other as the year progresses.

Pastor John