I Started Running Again

I started playing basketball on Tuesday nights again for the last couple of weeks and it has been fun.  I haven’t played in over a year due to a leg injury.  Most of the guys who I am playing with are about 25 to 30 years younger than me.  The first week, my shot was just okay and I gassed out after game 3 and was not much of a factor in the outcome of the last game.  I was tired.  The second week, my shot was even better and I did not run out of steam until game 5.  I can tell that I am progressing and that my stamina is coming back.  I ran the floor with the best of them, dribbled behind my back during one fast break on my way to a layup and I even illustrated the “Dr. J baseline scoop” on a couple of occasions.  The scoop shots were a crowd favorite and elicited shouts from one bystander of “Old man buckets!” every time I scored.  He didn’t get tired of saying it and there were a couple of games where he got to say it a lot.

I have been running during the week to prepare for the games.  I figure it will take about another month before I get back to what I consider being in “good game shape” and being able to run all night, for two hours without getting tired so that I can compete well.  For me, doing well at basketball has always come down to being able to run well.  I am not a natural three point shooter but I can play defense, I can rebound and I can run.  When I think of running well I think of what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:24:

1Cor 9:24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.

Paul, at this part of the chapter is speaking of the importance of the gospel and living for Christ.  When I think of the effort and the energy and the practice and the pride that I put into running well and winning at basketball, I wonder if I always place the same effort and energy, the same practice and pride into sharing the gospel and living for Christ as I do for playing basketball.  I hope I put more emphasis on my relationship with Christ!  I think I do.  I hope I do.  I pray that I am always concerned about learning God’s word, living God’s word and lovingly sharing it with others.  I pray that I am running the Christian race in such a way that I am winning where it counts.

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Some Things Should Be Let Go

I attended the funeral yesterday for one of my friends  named Steve.  I’ve had a lot of good memories and good stories come to my mind this week about Steve. A good person always leaves you with a lot of good stories and good memories and Steve is one of the best. I remember one time at church a group of us men were trimming trees and clearing debris after a storm. We had been working for a few hours and as I was walking to the other side of the property I met up with Steve. He mentioned he had moved an old saw horse but got popped by a yellow jacket that had made a little nest underneath it. I told him I would have helped him but that I didn’t even see him moving that old saw horse. He smiled and said, “Well, what with those yellow jackets and all… I really didn’t move that saw horse very far. A fellow needs to know when to let some things go.”

That was Steve. He had a way with words. I used that story one time of Steve, the sawhorse and the yellow jackets to illustrate the verse in Ephesians 4:31 where we are told to let go of bitterness, wrath, anger, slander and malice in our lives and instead are told to be kind, tenderhearted and forgiving others just as God in Christ has forgiven us. By the way he lived, Steve always helped me remember that some things are worth holding on to and some things just need to be let go. I know Steve helped others remember things like that too. And for that reason, it’s gonna be real hard to let him go. I hope that God blesses you this week with good times and good friends to hold onto and the good sense to know when to let some other things go.

Until next time, stay strong in the faith,

Pastor Phillip Stephens

Posted in Christianity, Ephesians 4:31, faith, God, good advice, Let Go of Anger, Lost a Good Friend, Saw Horses and Yellow Jackets | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Where Will I Be in Five Years

I have been involved in interviewing candidates for a couple of different jobs during the last month. One of our interview questions had to do with where the candidate did NOT want to be in the next 5 years. The responses we received varied a lot but generally led to discussions about where the candidate did plan or hope to be in that time frame.
Those kinds of discussions always remind me that God does have a plan and a purpose for everyone. Sometimes those plans are revealed clearly to us and other times they unfold slowly over a period of time with twists and turns that surprise us. So although I know it’s good to plan, strategize and develop resources, I also know it’s good to be flexible. The Bible says in Proverbs 20:24
Proverbs 20:24 Man’s steps are ordained by the LORD, who can know his own way?
Yes, we can and should make plans. But we must always remember that it is God who ordains and orders our steps.
Posted in Be Flexible, Christianity, Church, faith, God, God has a plan for you, Planning, Planning for the Future, Proverbs 20:24, religion | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Let Your Light Shine

I had been noticing for a while that one of the three shades in the light fixture in the guest bathroom looked different than the other two. As I am a little bit color blind I told Marta I must have accidentally picked up one that was the wrong color when we replaced those “Hollywood” lights that came with the house. She pointed out that two of the shades had regular bulbs in them and the one that looks different has a special light in it. That’s why it shines a little brighter and stands out from the others. I like that. It reminds me of Christ’s words to His disciples in Matthew 5:16 “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

We are all pretty much the same but it’s what we let shine through that can make a difference. Right now with everything that is going on in our state, in our country and in our world…it is a pretty good time for us to shine a little brighter.

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God Answers Prayers

I have had several conversations with different people over the last month or so about the concept of prayer.  One of the conversations was with an individual who respectfully stated that he saw no need for it and thought that Christians were wasting their time engaging in it.  He pointed to several individuals close to him who prayed for something but did not get the answer they desired.  He therefore drew the conclusion that God does not answer prayers.  I disagree and believe that such a conclusion is born out of a wrong understanding of the purpose and the concept of prayer.  Prayer is not a means where we drop off a laundry list with God of things that He must do for us.  No.  Although the Bible does say in Philippians chapter 4 that “by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let our requests be made known to God” it does not promise that we will have our requests and our wish list fulfilled.  Prayer is a means whereby we come boldly before the throne of grace “that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” And when we go to God’s throne we accept whatever mercy, grace and help God bestows upon us.

It helps me to think of prayer like this.  God is a mountain and prayer is a life line; it’s a big strong rope that we make into a lasso.  And we swing that rope and we lasso the top of that mountain.  Now we are connected and we put our hands together and pull on that rope, and we pray, and we pull.  And we invite other people to pull on that rope with us!  And when we pull on that rope, it doesn’t pull the mountain closer to us, it pulls us closer to the mountain!  The more I pull, the longer I stay at it, the more people I invite to pull with me, the closer I get to the mountain.  See, prayer helps me draw near to God.  And when I am closer to God I have a better chance of seeing and understanding how He is working in my life so that I can line myself up with His will.

At the same time, prayer pulls me closer to His comfort, closer to His mercy, closer to His grace during my time of need.  And it is true sometimes He does answer my prayers, my requests and my supplications EXACTLY as I have asked.  That does happen sometimes.  Sometimes it does not.  But what happens EVERY time is that God gives me His comfort!  What happens EVERY time is that He gives me His grace!  What happens EVERY time is that God embraces His child who draws near to Him in their moments of need.  As Paul says in Philippians chapter 4, when I make my requests known to God by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, I am blessed with a peace that passes all understanding.  God always answers prayer.  He may not give me what I want, but He shall always supply me with what I need.

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Expectations and Being or Not Being Discouraged

We had our Vacation Bible School program this past week.  A team of college age counselors came from a local summer camp and put on a program for us.  They provided music, lessons, crafts and did a great job of interacting with our kids.  It was really wonderful to meet each of them and learn a little bit about how God has been working in their lives.  It was also a blessing to hear our kids answer questions about God and share what they already know about Christ.  I can tell that our kids have been learning a lot from parents, grandparents and Sunday school teachers.  I am grateful for the way God worked in and through the VBS program in our church this week.

I thought we would have had more participation from our community; as it was only grandkids of members came.  Someone at my office asked me if I was discouraged about that.  Surprisingly enough, I was not.  Though I had hoped for a bigger turnout, I know that God is in control.  And I know that we were faithful to what He asked us to do.  Anytime we are faithful and obedient, we should never be discouraged – even if things don’t turn out like we plan.  When someone asked me why I was not discouraged, one of the verses that came to my mind was Philippians 4:8

Phil 4:8  Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

Besides God being in control there were some other very excellent, honorable and lovely things that happened this week.  Some of our newest members were very involved and supportive of the VBS program.  One of our members who is 88 years old came every single night to encourage the kids and the counselors.  And while we were together we sang songs of worship and we talked about the truth of God’s word!  So although some of my expectations were not met, and although there are some things we may do a little differently next year, I know that there were lots of blessings this week – things worthy of praise!  And I know I will never feel discouraged if I choose to dwell on these things.

Until next time, stay strong in the faith.

Posted in Christianity, Church, diligence, Do Your Best, faith, Philippians 4:8, religion, Vacation Bible School, worry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Memorial Day 2017

There’ll be hotdogs, hamburgers and soda pops,
Yes, a long weekend is on its way,
But before we start the celebration,
There’s something I’d like to say.

Let’s take a moment to remember
That the freedoms we’ve all enjoyed
Have been established and secured
By the men and women who’ve been deployed.

So let’s give thanks to those still serving,
And remember the ones who’ve been laid to rest,
For all of them are deserving
Of our honor and respect.

Posted in Christianity, God, God's Love, Greater Love, John 15:13, Memorial Day, Poem, poetry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment