Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Secondhand Spirituality

From Grace for the Moment: Volume I by Max Lucado on April 29

Secondhand Spirituality
 Come near to God, and God will com near to you. - James 4:8
    Some of us have tried to have a daily quiet time and have not been successful. Others of us have a hard time concentrating. And all of us are busy. So rather than spend time with God, listening for his voice, we'll let others spend time with him and then benefit from their experience. Let them tell us what God is saying. After all, isn't that why we pay preachers?...
     If that is your approach, if your spiritual experiences are secondhand and not firsthand, I'd like to challenge you with this thought: Do you do that with other parts of your life?...
     You don't do that with vacations.... You don't do that with romance.... You don't let someone eat on your behalf, do you? [There are] certain things no one can do for you.
     And one of those is spending time with God.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Micah 6:8

This morning I have spent some time reading through the "Dedication Booklet of the Salem Congregational Church" from 1951 that was loaned to me by Vernon and Irene Tiede. On the first page is the "Aim and Purpose of This Church." I thought it was interesting so I am sharing it with you today.

     "We do hereby set forth the principles of the Christian faith as commonly held among us, believing that other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
     It shall be our aim to bring joy to little children, instruction and high ideals to youth, inspiration to men and women in the midst of life, comfort to those in life's later years; and to labor together for the betterment of mankind.
     Our fellowship shall not be dependent upon identity of theological opinion, or of outward circumstances, or of denominational name, but shall grow from a common loyalty to Jesus Christ; a common passion to serve the world; a common purpose to just justly, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God.
    Our ideal is a church of the open mind, the warm heart, the aspiring soul, and the social vision, which ever seeks to express all ways of life the mind and spirit of Jesus Christ."

Can we say that we as a congregation are doing these things well? Do we bring joy (Christ) to our children? Do we instruct and hold high ideals for our youth (and not only for our youth)? Are we an inspiration to those in the midst of life? Do we comfort those whose life is short and coming to a close? Do we seek to make life better for all human beings? Is our fellowship dependent on some identity save Jesus Christ? Is our passion for anything beyond what Micah 6:8 teaches (seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God)? Are we a church described as open minded, warm hearted, and soul aspiring? Do we seek to be more and more like Jesus Christ?

If not, how do we get there? Are we truly the church that the founding members in 1887 or even 1951 envisioned? If not, are we worse off, or are we better then anything they could have imagined?

Let us strive to be the Body of Christ that our founders could be proud of.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

May Update

I found myself reading an article on the Resurgence Blog today that left me in tears. Resurgence is a ministry of Mars Hill Church, one of the biggest churches in the United States. Their goal is to train and equip leaders. While I may not agree with everything they say, I find that they speak truth through their blog based on scripture. Here is a link to the article:

6 Warning Signs We're Becoming Accidental Pharisees

I found this article as I was doing some research for my upcoming sermon series. Through the month of May (and perhaps through June), I am going to preach on "Good Church, Bad Church." If you miss one Sunday, don't fear that you will be behind. Each lesson will stand on its own.

Here is the premise for "Good Church, Bad Church":
- What does church look like if we are doing it God's way?
- What does church look like if we are NOT doing it God's way?
- How do we church well TOGETHER?

May is busy! We've got Confirmation Sunday, Graduation Sunday, Mother's Day, Ascension Sunday, Day of Pentecost, etc. Some Sundays are full of more than one of these.

I look forward to seeing you join us for "Good Church, Bad Church:" What should our Body of Christ look like if we are doing it God's Way?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

April 24

From Jesus Calling by Sarah Young on April 24 (written as if spoken by Jesus)

Rest in the Stillness of My Presence while I prepare you for this day. Let the radiance of My Glory shine upon you, as you wait on Me in the confident trust. Be still and know that I am God. There is both a passive and an active side to trusting Me. As you rest in My Presence, focusing on Me, I quietly build bonds of trust between us. When you respond to the circumstances of your life with affirmations of trust, you actively participate in this process.

I am always with you,so you have no reason to be afraid. Your fear often manifests itself in excessive planning. Your mind is so accustomed to this pattern of thinking that you are only now becoming aware of how pervasive it is and how much it hinders your intimacy with Me. Repent of this tendency and resist it, whenever you realize you are wandering down this well-worn path. Return to My Presence, which always awaits you in the present moment. I accept you back with no condemnation
Psalm 46: 10, Romans 8:1

Monday, April 22, 2013

A Cleared Calendar

From Max Lucado's devotional Grace for the Moment on April 21

Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Luke 5:16 NIV

    How long has it been since you let God have you?
    I mean really have you? How long since you gave him a portion of undiluted, uninterrupted time listening for his voice? Apparently, Jesus did. He made a deliberate effort to spend time with God.
    Spend much time reading about the listening life of Jesus and a distinct pattern emerges. He spent regular time with God, praying and listening. Mark says "very early in the morning, while it was still dar, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed" (Mark 1: 35 NIV)...
    Let me ask the obvious. If Jesus, the Son of God, the sinless Savior of humankind, thought it worthwhile to clear his calendar to pray, wouldn't we be wise to do the same?
Just Like Jesus
The Young Adult Bible Study is doing a video study on "Time" by Andy Stanley. I thought this devotional was very appropriate considering the study last night.
The Young Adult Bible Study is for those who are 18-40 years old. They meet the Second Sunday of each month at 6:30 pm. You don't have to be from our church, you don't have to be married, you don't have to have kids. It is just a time for Young Adults to get together and learn a bit about God's plan for life. Childcare is provided if you do have kids.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


Change is hard.

Over the past three weeks, I have had many people asking me for change within the church. Today I read this article. You can click on the link here too http://www.patheos.com/blogs/afewgrownmen/2013/04/why-traditional-churches-should-stick-with-traditional-worship/

Here is what I want to communicate. Some change is good, some change is bad. Whatever changes we encounter at Salem UCC, we must do it well.

Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that I am against trying some contemporary music, and I am not against traditional music. Whatever we as a congregation, it is for the glory of God. So we do it with all of the best things, the best intentions, and the best rehearsal.

My recent mantra has been: What God blesses, he blesses. What He doesn't, He doesn't. We do the things He blesses, and get rid of the things He isn't.

Where do you see God blessing Salem UCC?

Office Hours

I will be in the office:

Monday thru Thursday 9am-12pm
Fridays off
Saturdays as needed
Sundays 8am-12pm

Afternoons are my time for visiting. I would love to visit you during this time. Please feel free to call the office and set up a time, or stop me after church to set up a time.

Church Office: 928-3866
Pastor's Office: 928-4038
Pastor's Cell: 461-2942

Arlene is in the office:

Wednesday morning
Wednesday 5:45-8:00 pm
Fridays all day
Sundays 9-12

If you need information or to use the copy machine, please use the times that we are in the office.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Easter Quotes

I used these two quotes in my Easter morning sermon. I thought I would like to share them:

-"Christ has not only spoken to us by His life, but He has also spoken for us by His death." - Soren Kierkegaard

- "Our Lord has written the promise of the resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in the spring time." - Martin Luther

This last one is so fitting because of the birds singing and  green grass that is poking through the snow this morning.

When was the last time you saw green grass growing in this part of the country?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Chambers Devotional

I have been reading My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers for my daily devotional. One that keeps coming up in my mind is from March 31.

If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and He shall give him life for them that sin not unto death." 1 John 5:16
If we are not heedful of the way the Spirit of God works in us, we will become spiritual hypocrites. We see where other folks are failing, and we turn out discernment into the gibe of criticism instead of into intercession on their behalf. The revelation is made to us not through the acuteness of our minds, but by direct penetration of the Spirit of God, and if we are not heedful of the source of revelation, we will become criticizing centers are forget that God says- "... he shall ask, and He shall give him life for them that sin not unto death." Take care lest you play the hypocrite by spending all your time trying to get others right before you worship God yourself.
One of the subtlest burdens God ever puts on us as saints is this burden of discernment concerning other souls. He reveals things so that we may take the burned of these souls before Him and form the mind of Christ about them, as we intercede on His line, God says He will give us "life for them that sin not unto death." It is not that we bring God into touch with our minds, but that we rouse ourselves until God is able to convey His mind to us about he one for whom we intercede.
Is Jesus seeing the travail of His soul in us? He cannot unless we are so identified with Himself that we are roused up to get His view about the people for whom we pray. May we learn to intercede so wholeheartedly that Jesus Christ will be satisfied with us as intercessors.
Here are a few things I found myself asking.
- Do I seek God's view of others rather than my own?
- When I see a weakness in someone else do I criticize it, or do I lay it at the foot of the cross?
- If someone else is "less" spiritual then me, do I think that it makes me "more" spiritual? And why do I think this is okay?
- God certainly sees my sin, how would I feel if someone else called out my sin?
- How would I feel if I heard that someone was talking to someone else about my sin?
- Is my sin between me and God?
- Do I lay it at the cross?
- What does intercession look like?
- How do I interceed for others in a way that Jesus does for me?
- Do I kneel in "the garden" for others?
Sin should be left with God. As intercessors in prayer we are to join those who struggle with sin in prayer. If we don't measure ourselves to be spritiual hypocrites, we look more like the Pharisees and less like Jesus.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Here We Are

This is my first week in the office, and in Parkston. We are here! We will finish moving on Saturday. Hopefully by then all of our furniture will be figured out.

Here are my hopes for this blog:

1. It is a place where people can have questions answered. Feel free to ask me questions (easy or difficult), and I will try to answer it. If I think it is a great question for everyone to see the answer too, I will post the question and answer here.

2. You can get to know us (Tim and I) better through stories.

3. Updates of what is going on at the church can be found here. I may not always be the most up to date, but this should become a place where you can find the dates for VBS, the next potluck, or the time for a special service.

4. I will share interesting things I read. I am reading three different devotionals, daily Bible Study, and I am hoping to always have a book or two on the go. Currently I am working on My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers, Grace for the Moment by Max Lucado, Heart of a Shepherd by Angie Best-Boss, A New Beginning for Pastors and Congregations by Kennon L. Callahan.

As I begin this week I think of a hymn that I was introduced to in college. It was one of my favorites to sing in the beautiful chapel at Jamestown College. You know it was a good service when we were sent out with this song. It is also a hymn we sang the week I felt God calling me to seminary. It seems like a long journey since that day, but Here I Am:

Here I Am
 I, the Lord of sea and sky,
I have heard my people cry.
All who dwell in dark and sin,
My hand will save.
I, who made the stars of night,
I will make their darkness bright.
Who will bear my light to them?
Whom shall I send?

Here I am, Lord.
Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go, Lord, if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.

I, the Lord of snow and rain,
I have borne my people's pain.
I have wept for love of them.
They turn away.
I will break their hearts of stone,
Give them hearts for love alone.
I will speak my words to them.
Whom shall I send?


I, the Lord of wind and flame,
I will send the poor and lame.
I will set a feast for them.
My hand will save.
Finest bread I will provide,
'Til their hearts be satisfied.
I will give my life to them.
Whom shall I send?


 We are here. Please feel free to call us, stop by the office or house, etc. 

I am looking forward to CYU's progressive dinner tonight. I can't wait to meet the youth and share in some delicious food.

Blessings on Your Way
Pastor Stephanie