Pastor Dave’s Blog

Starting Towards Jerusalem (2/18/2018)

Please wrestle with these questions: If there are areas in my life that are out of God’s will, do I want to know what they are? Once I know what they are, am I willing to change in these areas?

Allowing God to show us our sins and then change us is hard. We struggle with giving God this much access and control in our lives. There are several reasons we don’t want God to do this.

The first one is we get comfortable with our sins. Pornography releases chemicals in the brain which excites as well as relaxes those who view it. Drinking, smoking and overeating brings pleasure to our bodies even though the aftereffects can kill us. Being mad allows us to keep control because others usually back down during an argument if we respond in anger. Having sexual relationships outside of marriage allows us to enjoy the pleasures of the flesh without having to make emotional or spiritual commitments to each other.

What does Jesus say about this? Continue reading

Released From Bondage (2/11/2018)

Being a disciple of Jesus isn’t easy. He calls us to let go of the things we have in our lives that are preventing us from being the people he wants us to be. We all know from experience that letting go of deep-seated ideas and emotions is difficult.

One area where we have to be mature as disciples is in the area of trusting other people. That’s difficult for anyone who has experienced painful rejection or been hurt by others in the past. If we want to continue on the path of being a disciple of Jesus, we have to let go of past hurts and learn to trust. Most people who have been sexually abused have trouble trusting other people. For example, one lady who experienced this kept asking me, “Can I trust you?” over and over again because her pain and feelings of betrayal was affecting everything she did.

I realize this is an issue that’s uncomfortable to all of us and very painful to some. Let me start off by saying that I was never molested or abused. I don’t know what it’s like to experience it firsthand. All I know is what it’s like to work with those who have.

I’m not preaching on this subject because it’s the “in” thing to discuss in culture right now. I’m doing it because throughout my ministry, I’ve dealt with many people who still carry the scars of being sexual abused. Another reason is that in talking with other pastors, I’ve come to realize sexual abuse is a much bigger problem in this area than many people want to admit. Continue reading

Brave (1/28/18)

One of my fondest childhood memories is taking rides with my family through the mountainous back roads of West Virginia. One of these roads contained a place where we could stop and walk out on a rock cliff that overlooked a small valley. The view was incredible.

Once when we were standing on the rock, I asked my father, “How high is this cliff?” “Look over the edge and see,” was his response. That didn’t sit well with me. I don’t like heights. He added, “Step out and look. I’ll hold your hand to make sure you don’t fall.”

At that moment, I had to make a choice. Would I give up control, take dad by the hand and trust him to keep me safe?

The nation of Israel had to make the same choice. Would they give up control, take God’s hand and trust him when they faced danger? They had been slaves in Egypt. Their living conditions were horrible. Male children were drowned at birth. They were beaten, oppressed and overworked. God sent Moses to lead them out of Egypt and to Mount Sinai, where he gave them the law. Then he led them to the edge of Canaan, the land he’d promised them centuries before. Continue reading

Bonded (1/21/18)

Emperor penguins are the tallest and heaviest of all penguin species. They grow to heights of 44-48 inches tall and weigh between 55-84 pounds. Some have been known to stay submerged for up to 18 minutes and dive to depths of 1800 feet.

Their reproductive cycle begins at the start of the Antarctic winter, in March or April. They walk at around 1 MPH to their breeding grounds, which is anywhere from 31 to 75 miles from the sea. After the female lays her egg, she transfers it to top of the male’s feet. The female returns to the ocean to feed while the male incubates the egg for about two months.

The female returns around the time the egg hatches. She then feeds and tends to the chick while the male walks back to the ocean for food. The parents take turns going back and forth from the ocean to the chick so they can feed it. They do this until the chick is around 140 days old. Then the chick is on its own.

In many species of animals, the male has nothing to do with raising his own offspring. He breeds the female and then leaves. The mother assumes total responsibility for raising the young. Penguins are different. The project of hatching and raising a chick to adulthood will fail unless they both work together through every step of the process. For example, if they aren’t successful in transferring the egg from the mother to the father’s feet, the cold temperatures will soon freeze the egg. This means all of the work they’ve done up to this point has been in vain. Continue reading

Rafters (1/14/17)

What’s your honest answer to this question: Am I living up to my fullest potential as a Christian? For example, even though I don’t understand everything written in the Bible, am I being obedient to the verses I do understand? Am I compliant to the leading of the Holy Spirit in me? Is Jesus the most important thing in my life?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, why not? Perhaps it’s because we’re not living as we were created to live. To help understand what I’m talking about, let’s look at penguins again.

A group of penguins on land is called a waddle. The term comes from the way penguins walk. To “waddle” is to “walk with short steps and a clumsy swaying motion” (Oxford Dictionaries). Last week, we talked about how there are instances where our walk with Jesus is filled with short, clumsy steps. At times, we’re waddlers. This is why we need to love and support one another. But, at this point, we need to wrestle with something. Are we really supposed to be waddlers? Continue reading

Waddlers (1/7/18)

Do you ever wonder what goes through a pastor’s mind when he or she is in front of people? Let me tell you what went through mine when Jeff Dibert, our Pastoral Support Team Leader, gave me your Christmas gift. During the worship service, Jeff asked Stephanie, my wife, and I to come forward. Then he handed me a gift bag. When I pulled out a stuffed penguin, he said, “We heard you like penguins.” I immediately thought, “Surely to goodness they didn’t buy me a penguin, did they?” Knowing Jeff, he would if he could.

Isn’t it funny how once our minds start going in a certain direction, we keep moving in that direction even if it isn’t logical? Then I got to thinking, “Is it even legal to own a penguin in the U.S.?

“No. I don’t think it is. Are they sending me someplace that has penguins?”

By this point, Jeff revealed, much to my relief, that the gift was tickets to a Pittsburgh Penguins game.

Later in the week, I started thinking about my original question. “Is it legal to have a penguin as a pet in the United States? I decided to look up the answer. According to several websites, the answer seems to be only if you’re a zoo. Since they’re a protected species, you can own them only if you have the right permits and a proper place to house them. Continue reading

Go (12/24/2017)

In Luke 1, the angel Gabriel appears to Zechariah the priest and tells him that his wife, Elizabeth, is going to have a son who will announce the arrival of Israel’s Messiah. When their baby is born, they name him John. We now call him John the Baptist. Gabriel then appears to Mary and tell her she has been chosen to be the mother of the Messiah.

Luke 2 starts with Mary and her husband, Joseph, going to the town of Bethlehem, where their baby is born. Mary gave birth in a stable because there was no room for them in the normal living quarters. She then placed the baby, named Jesus, in a manger. A manger is a feeding trough. Continue reading

Wait (12/17/2017)

If you grow vegetables or flowers, are you planning on planting your seeds in the ground right now? If you said “no,” why not? The dirt you’re going to plant them in is right there. It never goes anywhere. Even though they’re harder to find this time of year, we can buy seeds, straw and fertilizer. Your plow and tiller are in the shed. So, again, why not plant now? The answer is simple. Seeds won’t grow right now because it isn’t the right time for it to happen.

We understand the concept of time. Our days are structured by it. There is a beginning and an ending to everything we do. We get up in the morning, do our daily activities and then go to sleep. Tomorrow we’ll repeat this same process. And the next day and the next day and…. Even our life span has a time limit.

God isn’t constrained by time like we are. Somehow, he operates outside of it because he is eternal. But he enters our world to redeem us from the curse of sin. The Christmas season is a time when we celebrate the way God entered into our world by sending the Messiah to be born. Continue reading

Listen (12/10/17)

How do you respond when God asks you to step out in great faith and do something that could change the course of your life?

Last week, we looked at Luke 1:5-25. In this passage, the angel Gabriel appeared to the priest Zechariah as he was serving God in the temple at Jerusalem. Gabriel said his wife, Elizabeth, would have a child who would grow up to announce the arrival of the Messiah.

Zechariah responded by asking, “How can this be since she is old?” Gabriel then rendered Zechariah unable to speak until his son was born.

Within a short period of time, God asked Mary to do something that would change her life. Luke 1:26-38 gives us the details of how it happened. 26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Continue reading

Stop (12/3/17)

We are creatures of habit. Sometimes our habits cause us to do strange things.

I drive a lot. Even when my wife, Stephanie, and I travel, I do most of the driving. Like most of you, I’m used to doing the same thing when I get in and out of a vehicle. I can get in, start the vehicle and fasten my seatbelt without having to think about what I’m doing. Once I’ve arrived at my destination, I can shut off the motor, unhook my seatbelt, take the key out of the ignition switch and exit the vehicle without thinking about it.

Occasionally, I have to take my pick-up truck to a garage for repairs. I try to schedule repairs on Stephanie’s day off from work so she can help me get back and forth from the garage. Once, the parts supply store sent the wrong part to my mechanic. They couldn’t get the right one there until the next day.

These things happen in life. No big deal. Since Stephanie had to work the next day, I called a gentleman from our congregation, Gary, and asked him if he would take me to get my truck the next day. He said he would be happy to do it.

He arrived at my house the next day once my truck was fixed. I sat down in the passenger seat of his vehicle and hooked my seatbelt. We pulled out of the driveway and headed towards the shop. We had a good conversation during the ride.

Fifteen minutes later, we pulled in. Gary shut of his engine and got out. My mind was still on our conversation but that didn’t matter. I could exit the vehicle without thinking about it. I reached down to the right and tried to unfasten my seatbelt like I always do. But there was a problem. I couldn’t find the button to unlatch it. I looked down and couldn’t see the latch. By this time, Gary had gotten out of the vehicle, walked around to the passenger door and opened it.

I looked up and asked, “How do you unhook this seatbelt?” He responded, “It’s on the other side.”

I have to say I felt like a fool. My mind had been distracted. I didn’t focus on the fact I was in the passenger seat instead of the being in the driver’s seat. The seatbelt latch was on the opposite side. After I paid the bill for the truck repairs, I drove off thinking to myself, “I bet he wonders what kind of pastor they hired if he can’t even unhook his seatbelt.” Continue reading

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