Stuff Happens!

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Have you ever had one of those times where it seems like everything is crashing in around you? I have! The past several of weeks have been one of those times. It all started back about 4 weeks ago when on a Saturday night we were getting ready to have a “date night.” I walked into the bedroom and stepped on a very wet spot on our carpet. At first, I thought our dog, Roxy had had an accident, which never happens.

Then I realized there was water on the floor in the hallway. At that point Dawn opened the closet where our hot water heater is located and found a very wet closet floor - and water leaking out of the water heater. We were going to go out with Pastor Jay and Holly so we called them to let them know we had a slight problem. They immediately came over and helped us

We immediately shut off the power to the hot water heater and grabbed the hose from outside to start draining it.  I called our insurance company and they sent a restoration company over to the house to help us clean up the gallons of water that had leaked out.

One thing led to another and before you knew it, our wood floors were being taken up to get the water that had seeped into the sub-floor.

By the time they finished, all of our floors throughout the house were damaged and had to be removed. For the next three days, huge industrial fans were blowing on our sub-floors to dry them out.

While that was happening, my Jeep airbag light started flashing and dinging. I had a problem with the airbag that was actually a recall item. I had to re-arrange my schedule to spend several hours at the dealership getting it fixed

The next thing that happened was we almost missed getting Dawn’s truck inspected, but realized that her front rotors were shot and needed to be replaced. Luckily, our neighbor is a mechanic and was willing to replace them for us.

Anyway, I know that these things are minor compared to stuff that other folks are going through. I serve as the Captain of the Chaplains’ Unit for the Portsmouth Police Department. Unfortunately, during this same time frame, one of our officers was shot in the line of duty. I found myself spending hours at the hospital ministering to her and her family.

I realized that I am blessed and the minor inconveniences we were going through were nothing in comparison.  God showed me that it is important to put things into the proper perspective, and regardless of what we are experiencing, remember what the Bible says in James, Chapter 1.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

I lost count!

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Some months back Thrive Church decided to partner with a non-profit organization here in Portsmouth called Mercy Drops. It is an organization that does some wonderful things for lower income and homeless folks in the City of Portsmouth.

Dawn and I decided that we would help with one of their initiatives that gives out Care Packages to people who are homeless in the downtown are. The first time we helped, we were assigned a specific area with other folks to hand out these plastic bags with items like socks, water, nabs, and personal items like toothbrushes and the like.

I would have to admit that first time really opened my eyes to the needs in our city. Over the course of an hour or so, we handed out 100 of these Care Packages. But that wasn’t what opened my eyes. It was the relationship that some of the folks in our group had with the homeless people.

They knew their names and stuff about them – medical issues, family names, whether or not they had been applying for part time jobs. They knew personal things about some of them. I remember thinking, WOW, they actually know these people!

I came to realize that it really wasn’t about the Care Package as much as it was about a relationship with these folks. I came away that day with a totally different opinion. The people of Mercy Drops were making friends and developing relationships with folks and that made the whole experience personal!

Dawn and I decided that we were going to help out with this as much as possible. We made a habit of coming down on Mondays to help give out the Care Packages and it wasn’t long before we were making friends and building relationships.

After a while the folks at Mercy Drops asked us if we would be willing to serve as Team Leaders on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th Mondays. We prayed about it and said Yes! We began to really talk it up at church and ask folks to consider helping too.

Now, a lot of our folks are serving with Mercy Drops in several different ways – Like Dawn and I, some are volunteering on Mondays with the Care Packages. Others are helping on either Tuesdays, Thursdays or Saturday’s handing out lunches, some are helping with the program Mercy Drops has in Lincoln Park with the children and still others are serving in other ways with Mercy Drops.

God has called us to serve the “least of these” and we are honored to be a part of what God is doing in the City of Portsmouth.

The truth is, if we sit on the sidelines, we will miss what God has planned for us to do! Come on, get in the game and roll up your sleeves to serve – I know God will amaze you when you do!

Whom Will You Serve?

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I have been sharing a series on Worship with the church. It has me thinking about what happens when we really get serious about our worship – when we really go all in and start giving everything to God in worship. It changes everything. We approach life differently because worship truly is a lifestyle, not something we just do at church on Sunday mornings.

However, when we go all in for Jesus, it makes Satan mad! Satan is always at work trying to divert worship away from God – he will attack and turn up the heat if you commit to become a true worshiper of God.

It will be subtle – he will fill your head with all kinds of thoughts:

“If I really become a true worshipper – people will think I am weird.”
“I will be labeled a fanatic.”

If that doesn’t work, Satan will then try to introduce some “other” gods into your life.

It won’t be blatant. It won’t be a golden calf.  It will be something as harmless as your work, or your involvement in your community, a charity, sports, your computer, your car or truck, or your motorcycle. It could be your family, spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend. It could be even things that seem to be godly – your work at church, the ministries you get involved in - anything that he can get you so engrossed in that God gets pushed back to 3rd or 4th or 5th place in your life.

Being alert to the dangers of idols is increasingly important as you commit to become a true worshipper of God.  Satan will attack and try to get you to stumble.

Remember – We must worship the Lord God only!  This is hard stuff – but it is true. The main issue throughout all of history has been – whom will you serve?

Settle it now – worship God and God alone.

Worship

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This past week we started a new message series I am calling www.iworship.GOD. I know you are thinking that is the coolest name ever for a series (or you're thinking that it's lame.) I think it says what God is calling every one of us to do – WORSHIP HIM!

The Bible tells us that we are to worship God, the Creator and Sustainer of everything. The Bible says the Heavens declare His Glory. Jesus tells us that we are to worship Him in Spirit and Truth. Throughout the Bible the message is loud and clear – God wants our worship, plain and simple.

However, God loves us so much that He gives us the choice. We can choose to obey His Word and worship or we can choose not to obey. By giving us free will to choose, He demonstrates His real love for us.

For me personally, worship has been an opportunity for God to speak to me. It has been during times of worship – real worship that I have clearly felt His presence and understood what he was asking me to do.

I remember it like it was yesterday. “A Night of Worship” it was called at the church. We came together and worshipped. It was an amazing evening. The band was great and the worship leader was sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. It was during that evening I felt God calling me to full time ministry.

That night I made the decision to obey God and do whatever it took to become a pastor. It meant going back to school and getting my degrees. It meant a journey. It meant hard work, It was the beginning of some 26 plus years of ministry, of growing and serving of study and learning.

Just recently, last year I was in a service visiting a local church. The worship was powerful. The feeling I had was familiar – like that evening some 26 years ago. I felt God’s presence – I felt God calling again. This time it was to step way out of my comfort zone and take everything I have learned, everything I had done and use it to plant a church – Thrive Church. God has given me a vision to create a place where people can Thrive – a place to discover and use the gifts and abilities that God has given them to serve others, and in the process help them find Jesus.

I encourage you to approach worship, perhaps differently. Listen for that still small voice – listen to see what God is calling you to do.

"What an idiot!"

As a pastor, I am asked often to conduct funerals and memorial services for loved ones who have passed away. Understandably, this is one the most difficult times for a family and friends to experience. I meet with families and friends to plan the service and to ensure that the family’s wishes are carried out and that the service will be a celebration of the life of the loved one.

Over the years I guess I have performed well over a hundred funerals or memorial services. Most of the services go off without a hitch. I share memories of the person’s life, family members and friends speak, sometimes there is music – a song sung by a friend or a special guest, and I share a message from the Bible on God’s Love or what Heaven will be like.

Then there are times when the best laid plans can’t prevent something from happening that to be honest, you really wish wouldn’t happen. Recently a family asked me to conduct a funeral for a lady. I met with the family and they shared some very fond memories of their mom. One story was that she referred to her children and close friends as idiots. Now mind you, she did this in what they called a “loving way.”

The funeral service at the funeral home chapel went well. I mentioned this story during the service and a lot of folks laughed, knowing that story.

Did I mention the day of the funeral it was pouring down rain? In fact it rained all day! After the chapel service we proceeded to the grave side. I had an umbrella so it wasn’t a problem going from my vehicle to the tent covering the grave.

People huddled around the grave trying to stay dry either under the tent or an umbrella. I said a few words and a lady sang an old gospel hymn. While she was singing I noticed that the tent was sagging right over where I was standing. Just then, I gust of wind blew through the tent causing the gallon or so of collected rain water to spill off the top of the tent and like clock-work, a gust of wind blew through the tent in the opposite direction causing all of that water to blow back on me. I was soaked from head to toe. Water was dripping off of my suit.

Everyone saw what happened and there were smiles and giggles. The lady singing didn’t miss a note and finished her rendition of the song. I thanked her for the song and thought for a moment. I then said, “She is looking down from heaven and thinking, Pastor Steve, what an idiot!”