The Shepherd’s Voice2020-04-01T13:44:25-04:00

Putting Jesus Before All Things

by Pastor Steven Grant

In 2004 I battled a life-threatening case of severe pneumonia and pleurisy. One of the things I remember most about that experience was being confronted with the possibility that my life might end, and it became very clear to me what mattered most in my life. A teaching of Jesus that jumped off the page at me was, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Jesus was saying that whatever you consider to be your treasure will have your heart. Without any hesitation, my dear wife Nanette and our precious son Evan immediately came to mind as I began to name my treasures. I also thought of other family members and friends, the church, the Bible, and our great nation. Music was next, as I gave thanks to God for blessing me with a life of making music and the joy of being able to appreciate music with such depth.

Then I was stopped in my tracks. I could hear in my head and in my heart as clearly as if someone were speaking to me in an audible voice, “What about me?” All of a sudden, an overpowering force seized my soul. I had never in my entire life felt such an overwhelming sense of love for Jesus than I did in that moment. I broke out in an uncontrollable sob, recognizing that when potentially all else is lost, when life ends, all I have is Him, and no one loves me as much as He does. At that moment, my heart sang out! Among all the tremendous blessings with which God has so graciously given me, none is more treasured than my Lord Jesus Himself.

It is a good […]

The Underappreciated Virtue

by Pastor Doug Pratt

In times of stability (remember those?) when our environment and personal lives are fairly predictable, we naturally develop habits and patterns and routines that keep us balanced. I suspect that we have all been through periods when we were essentially on “autopilot.” Everything today is as it was yesterday. We make plans and have little doubt that it is within our power and control to carry out those plans. Routine predictability can potentially lead to boredom but has great comforts.

Then come the disruptive times when things are not as they were, but in turmoil and change. These experiences are much more stressful for us to deal with. Boredom is not a danger in times of disruption. Just the opposite, we find ourselves wishing for a return to the stability of our old ways.

In the great coronavirus epidemic of 2020, every American without exception has been impacted in some way. And for many of us, the very foundations of our lives have been shaken. The fortunate few may have been able to self-quarantine for weeks or months without inner stress or significant lifestyle alterations. But for most—including nearly every working person and every family with children of school age in the home and every student and teacher and every healthcare professional and every athlete and every politician and every business owner—the virus threat has brought rapid and dramatic disruptions.

As Christians react to the new and unfamiliar circumstances forced upon us, we are reminded of the spiritual virtues that are most necessary in challenging times. Those of special prominence are: Compassion (the sacrificial work of doctors, nurses, and first responders); Patience (the ability to wait as long as needed for normalcy to return); Courage (to do what is required, even at […]

“Lead Me, Lord”

by Pastor June Barrow

We know we need the Lord. As we sing together, we often pray for God to lead and guide.
“Savior, like a shepherd lead us…”
“Guide me, O Thou Great Jehovah…”
“Lead On, O King Eternal…”

God has led.
Perhaps as you look back, you can see how God has led you. When I am unsettled, I find great comfort in remembering God’s faithfulness to me. He has guided me into beautiful friendships, into this wonderful congregation, and into meaningful work. He has led me to trust in His love and forgiveness and it has changed my life. It is good to recall God’s faithful guidance, as Psalm 78 does: “He brought His people out… He led them… He guided them safely…” God does not change. As He cared for us in the past, so He will care for us in the future.

God will lead.
The Bible assures us of God’s desire to lead each of us.

Your ears will hear a word behind you saying, “This is the way, walk in it”… (Isaiah 30:21, NLV).
I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you (Psalm 32:8, NRSV).
“And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed” (Deuteronomy 31:8, NKJV).

God will lead us well.
As Al and I walked together through his cancer journey, we often said, “We trust in God’s character.” We can’t make God do anything, but we cry out honestly, ask fervently, and trust peacefully. Our desire is to be led into God’s will for us. We […]

There’s No ‘I’ in Body

by Pastor Su Kim

Although COVID-19 has affected the world, mitigation strategies have varied greatly. Reopening phases and conditions, even at the county and city level, have been vastly different. While some regions have endured tragically high death tolls, others appear relatively unscathed.

Even experiences within our own congregation have varied dramatically. Some have found surprise blessings during this time, such as increased time with family, new or rekindled hobbies, or a more relaxed pace of life. Others have felt pain and heartbreak as loved ones became ill, lost jobs, or suffered through isolation and loneliness. This seems to suggest that our experiences are individualized. But for Christ-followers, our experiences are shared and communal.

In his letter to the church in Rome, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). The mark of Christian love is not merely our response to personal experiences but our response to that which our brothers and sisters in Christ experience. When one of our own rejoices, we are to respond with joy, not bitterness. And when one of our own mourns, we are to mourn with them. Their sorrows and their gladness become our own because we are one body: Christ’s. Paul wrote, “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26). This statement stresses the interconnectedness of the body of Christ. We have the capacity to show true Christian love because through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection God made us family (Romans 8:15-16). In fact, Jesus redefined His family as those who do God’s will (Mark 3:33-35).

When we think of rejoicing […]

Power in Listening

by Pastor Brad Rogers

In 2009 while traveling on a United Airlines flight, musician Dave Carroll’s guitar was damaged by baggage handlers at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. He arrived at his final destination in Omaha only to discover that his $3,500 Taylor guitar was irreparably damaged. After spending a hopeless nine months corresponding with customer service, he took a new tactic. Carroll wrote a humorous song entitled “United Breaks Guitars” which he posted to YouTube. The video went viral with over 150,000 views the first week and caused United’s stock price to plummet by 10 percent—the equivalent of $180 million in shareholder value. It suffices to say, United took notice, and Carroll received a phone call from the Director of Customer Solutions who wanted to make it right. Compared with the nine months of waiting for customer service to respond, this was a powerful and speedy solution!

Today, those who have felt voiceless and unheard have found a voice. The internet, especially social media, has given power and speed to our communication. Now it seems that everyone has a proverbial bullhorn to broadcast views quickly to the world. Sometimes it results in real change.

The power and speed of our newfound voice has led to a culture where the default mode of operation could be summarized as “be quick to speak and quicker to become angry.” With everyone talking, there seems to be little in the way of deep listening or reflection. Especially in these complex and volatile times, I wonder if the greater power isn’t in finding our voice, but in spiritual listening.

The words of James, the brother of Jesus, have been resonating and reverberating in my mind in recent weeks: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone […]

The New American Idol

by Pastor Doug Pratt

“I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols.” -Isaiah 42:8

The hit singing competition show American Idol ran for 15 seasons on the Fox Network and, after a short hiatus, returned two years ago to ABC. Its panel of judges (with some audience participation) searches annually for an amateur singer to be elevated to national prominence and stardom and given a recording contract. The show is at times fun, at times moving, and at times quite over-the-top. But its very name holds a striking irony—one that biblically-literate Christians can easily recognize.

While the word “idol” in popular use today typically refers to an entertainer or athlete or other celebrity who has achieved fame (and usually wealth) by their exceptional talents, its original meaning in biblical times was very different. An idol was an object of worship by pagan people, often represented by a statue or carving or other physical representation. Sometimes the idol was a superstitious and primitive depiction of natural forces (such as gods of fertility or harvest). People sought to pray to, sacrifice to, or in some other way appease or bribe the “god” to bless them or help them. In its worst forms, idol worship became horribly corrupt. In even its most benign forms, worshiping an idol was a substitute for worshiping the One True God. He alone is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, the source of ultimate Truth, the Redeemer and Judge, and the all-powerful One who alone can answer our prayers and fulfill our deepest longings. The Apostle Paul in Romans chapter 1 identifies the worship of idols, substituting false gods for trust in the true God, as the core and fundamental […]

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