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Things I May Say When Witnessing To An Atheist
Henry Hazard

Henry Hazard

Pastor, Heritage Bible Church

Once some declared himself to be an atheist, I would probably try to engage him/her in a conversation to help me understand why he/she is an atheist. The conversation might go something like this:

“I am sure there is a reason you consider yourself to be an atheist. Would you mind sharing that with me? Following their answer I would ask another question.

“I consider you to be an intelligent person. Would you say that you know everything there is to know about the universe?” If they are honest, he/she will admit they do not know everything about this universe.

“Is it possible, then, that in the section you don’t know about the universe, there just might be God? If they don’t cut the discussion short at this point, I would continue.

“Since you don’t know everything that is in this universe, and if God might be in the section that you don’t know, then it seems to me that you really don’t know if there is a God or not. I think you would be classified as an agnostic rather than an atheist. An atheist states there is no God. An agnostic doesn’t know for sure.

If the person is willing to continue the conversation, I would suggest that since he/she really doesn’t know if there is a God or not, he/she should investigate the issue with those are convinced there is a God and ask why they believe the way they do.

April 20, 2019No comments
So You Want to Commit Suicide
Jeff Scalf

Jeff Scalf

Lead Pastor, St. Andrew Assembly of God

When the fear of giving up is overwhelmed by the stress and pain of the current, well, what do you do? When you feel closed off, boxed in and utterly alone. When you are talking to others, trying to cry out in the midst of your sentences but none are attuned to your pain, what do you do? When your soul and spirit are so vexed and weighted down, drowning in the blustery sea of your emotional despair, when every waking hour is filled with darkness of soul and your spirit entombed in pain of utter loneliness, what do you do? Hopelessness is all that rolls through your mind, your soul and your spirit, just hopelessness, what do you do? Surely all this will end if I just put an end to it. One slip of the blade, one pull of the trigger, one swallow of pills and the pain will end.

Regardless of what your theological persuasion is on the destination of one who commits suicide, lets look at some realities. To the person experiencing these emotions, it is absolutely real. No pat “Christianese” answer will pull one from such depths of despair nor will any pill you give them. No, they need real answers and real answers are found in the Bible and they need real loving friends.

King David was a realist. In several Psalms you see him crying out in despair, “God why have you forsaken me?!” Yet in the next breath he grounded himself in reality, “Why so downcast O my soul, put your hope in God.” So we too need to help those who are suicidal ground themselves in the reality that God is always there. The reality that others in the Bible experienced what they are facing and they made it through and so can they, IF they want to.

One reality that those who are in the throws of contemplating suicide rarely think of is this; suicide is the most selfish act you can ever do. Yes, you read right, suicide is the most selfish act you can ever do. Oh there are many vile selfish acts people can do but suicide is the most selfish. Suicide focuses all your attention on yourself. You assume, wrongly, that your death will affect no one and/or you fail to think through the consequences your selfish act will bring. Yes there maybe those in your life that distain you but there are people who indeed love you and your death will utterly break their hearts to the core. Nothing you leave in a suicide note will bring them any relief of your death. They will carry for life the unnecessary scars your suicide will bring.

The second reality of suicide is this; suicide is a permanent solution to something, which in the scope of life is really temporary. The emotional throws you are in are not permanent unless you choose to stay there.

To chat with a Christian about your suicidal thoughts go to

April 20, 2019No comments
What Victory Feels Like
Luther Stanford

Luther Stanford

Pastor, City Church at Northside

At least once in his life every man needs the experience of coaching little league baseball or pee-wee football. It’s an endeavor that will bring you both tears of joy and tears of frustration. Like one day at football practice, when a little 9 year-old told me, “Coach, tell them not to tackle me. I’m allergic to grass.” My response, “Well son, maybe you should try basketball.” Or another kid who complained, “Coach, every time the ball is snapped that kid on the other side knocks me down.” My response, “Yes he does, and he’s going to keep doing it until you stop him.” Tears of laughter and tears of frustration.

I remember our first pee-wee football victory. The Buccaneers had just started a pee-wee football program and we were not much of a threat. We were playing 3rd and 4th graders against 5th and 6th grade teams. We were so bad that when we would ask a player, “Are you ready to go in?!” They would often reply, “Not really.” We took more than our share of lumps. In those first two seasons, not only did we not win a game, we only scored a single TD and that was by accident. The cheerleaders gave the boys a cake inscribed with buttercream frosting, “Congratulations on your Touchdown!” It was hard to stay positive, but we kept telling our boys, wait until you get in the 6th grade and we can play an evenly matched game. Keep working hard and things will be different.

That third year, we finally had a legitimate team. The boys pushed themselves in the pre-season and we were ecstatic to travel to Columbia, Mississippi for our first battle. And a battle it was. There hasn’t been a Super Bowl played to this day with that much heart and rugged determination. Midway through the 4th quarter the score was tied 0-0. You can imagine the eruption of emotion when one of our defensive backs picked off a pass and returned it for a TD! We went on to our first victory ever with a score of 6-0.

We won plenty of other games after that, but none were as sweet as that one. I still have a picture with my son Christian on the sideline after the game, both of us drenched in sweat. Our boys knew that night, their hard work had paid off…they were becoming a football team.

As a believer, it’s easy to get discouraged with fellow Christians. We have much in common with my little football team. But by God’s grace we get to experience that same exhilaration time and time again as we stand on the sidelines watching God’s people become what God has called us to be. When we see Christ-followers reaching out to the broken and the forgotten people in our community, we feel victory. When we see people sharing burdens and caring for one another sacrificially and generously, we feel victory. When we see people offering God’s hope to the hopeless and God’s love to the loveless, we feel victory. So, don’t lose heart…we are becoming the Church.

April 20, 20191 Comment
God is Not A Feather
Cory Colravy

Cory D. Colravy

Pastor, Covenant Presbyterian Church (PCA)

Pollsters ask Americans, “Do you believe in God?” 80% to 90% say, “Yes.” But David Wells observed, “Those who assure the pollsters of their belief in God’s existence may nonetheless consider him less interesting than television, his commands less authoritative than their appetites for affluence and influence, his judgment no more awe-inspiring than the evening news, and his truth less compelling than the advertisers’ sweet fog of flattery and lies. That is weightlessness” (God in the Wasteland, p. 88). In other words, many Americans believe in a weightless God, who sits on them like a feather.

A weightless God is a figment of our imagination, a false god, a man-made idol. In our Bibles, the Hebrew word translated “glory” is kavod and means “heavy, weighty.” That means to sin against the holy God is a very big deal. In Isaiah 6 we see the angels around the throne of the King of heaven, high and lifted up. The greatness of the King can be measured by the length of his train and this King’s train fills the temple of heaven! How great, mighty, holy and weighty is He! The angels are singing around His throne, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of your glory [kavod]!” Isaiah says that when this King of heaven spoke, the very foundations of the temple thresholds shook and the whole heavenly temple was filled with smoke. He is “weighty”!

So what was this godly prophet’s response to this vision of God’s “heavy” holiness and “weighty” glory? Did he say, “Groovy, man!” Or, “That’s cool!” Or, “Whatever.” Absolutely not! This godly man cries out, “Woe is me! [That means, Damned is me! I will perish!] For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” So who is that holy, weighty, glorious King who did not sit on Isaiah like a feather but caused him to become completely undone and cry out as a desperate sinner? The Apostle John tells us who Isaiah saw: “he saw [King Jesus’] glory and spoke of him” (John 12:41). Jesus is not a weightless feather because God is not a feather. Jesus is God. He is heavy, weighty. And Jesus will either drink the wrath and judgment of God for your sins in your place, or you will bear His judgment yourself under “the wrath of the Lamb” (Rev. 6:16).

Notice the angel came back to Isaiah with a burning coal from the altar of sacrifice, hot from the wrath of God for man’s sin, and touched Isaiah’s unclean lips with it and said, “your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” Believe in that God, the real One, and Jesus will take the guilt of your sin away, too, and you can face the Judgment of God in peace. Amen.

April 20, 2019No comments
Stop Going to Church
Jack Stanley

Jack Stanley

Pastor, Parker United Methodist

That’s right. I said it.  What!?   A pastor telling me to stop going to church? Yep, you guessed it.  If there was anything our Lord would not have wanted of us, it is to GO to church.

Have I got your attention now?  That’s right.  We Christians get all huddled together IN a place called “church.”  There we get most of the “church” out of us.  We sing “Just As I AM” then often leave just as we were.

Why doesn’t the church make a bigger impact on its community?  Because we tend to huddle all together only inside the building we affectionately call, “OUR church.” Brothers and sisters in Christ, we don’t HAVE a church, and there is no church that is “ours.”  Or … if there were, then we are worshiping ourselves.

The unintentional co-founder of the branch of the church that set me apart for ministry, left the building, just like Jesus left the synagogue, under great scrutiny as back then, and still today through much of the UK, the church literally is the building.  He left to bring the gospel out of “sacred buildings” and into highways and byways.  4K miles a year on horse or feet.  Billy Graham, whose loss we have been mourning, led communities and even countries to the cross, and rarely from inside a church building.

Wesley joined Whitfield in preaching outdoors under GREAT scrutiny.  “You can’t do that!” they were ordered. There is a sense in which “going” to church is exactly opposite to where we should be going: to the people, to the world, the needy, the orphan, the widowed, the homeless, the lost, the hopeless.

Going “to” church, connotes that we can leave the church, or that the worship is done IN the church.  You know this.

Of course I wouldn’t mind at all if any of you chose to come by the building that serves as MY “lighthouse” or post for ministry.  But, I’d be most proud if when you did, you were impassioned to leave it to transform your world. For many years I served as an “extension minister,” extended from the church to serve airmen and their families around the world.  Aren’t we all to be extensions of the ministry of Christ where we live, work, play, sleep.  Always. Everywhere?  We gather AS the church, then dispatch AS the church to give hope to our hurting world.

Check it. IN the 3 times or so the word “church” is spoken by Jesus’ and the 100 or so by his disciples, you’d be hard pressed to show that a single time they are referring to a building.

Let’s join Marsh and Avery (1972) in singing: “The church is not a building. The church is not a steeple. The church is not a resting place. The church is a people… I am the church. YOU are the church. WE are the church together. All who follow Jesus! All around the world! Yes, we’re the church together!”

April 20, 20192 Comments
She Was Rude To Me, But…
Steven Kyle

Dr. Steven Kyle

Pastor, Hiland Park Baptist Church

When I was growing up I remember going to the movie theatre and seeing “Rocky”. I can remember thinking it was the greatest movie I ever saw. Then when I was in college I saw it again on a black and white portable TV. Of the two, which one do you think I got the most out of? Which one was I more involved? The answer is obvious. It’s the same way in life. If you really want to get involved in the life that God has given you, you have to learn to see the big picture.

We tend to think in terms of NOW. We see the mundane details of our life as urgent…as “do or die”. This kind of thinking is counter-productive, and creates unnecessary stress. Most of our problems are not a matter of life and death, and there’s no point in blowing them out of proportion. Dean Smith, the former basketball coach at University of North Carolina once said, “If you make every game a matter of life and death, you’ll be dead a lot.”

In order to keep things in perspective, we should condition ourselves to ask the following question: Will this make a difference in 2500 years? For most of the things we allow ourselves to get stressed about, the answer would be “no”. In 2500 years will it matter if the waiter messes up our order? In 2500 years will it matter if I don’t make this sale? Will it matter what kind of car I drive? Will it matter if someone is rude to me? Will it matter if the Seminoles beat the Gators? Will these things matter in 2500 years?

On the other hand, if you share Christ’s love with someone, will that matter in 2500 years? If you take time to disciple a new believer, encourage someone, or give financially to a worthwhile cause. Will that make a difference in 2500 years? The answer is obvious. While there are many things we do that have no eternal significance, there are other areas of our lives where we have the opportunity to make a contribution that will last forever.

As we go about our daily business, we need to get in the habit of thinking in terms of eternity. In 2 Peter 3:8, Peter said, “Do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” These words remind us that there is a big picture to all of this.

The few years we are here on earth, the small circle in which we live, these are only a tiny part of all that is and we must remind ourselves that we are not the center of the universe; the world, the team, or the job does not revolve around you or me. We must also remind ourselves that there is more to life than just money, possessions, and materialistic pursuits. There is an eternal aspect of life that cannot be ignored.

April 20, 2019No comments
Definition of Faith
Wade Rinehart

Dr. Wade Rinehart

Owner of First Choice Physical Therapy

Complete trust or confidence in someone or something.

Everyone talks a big game about having faith, but when we are asked to put our faith to the test, it becomes very up close and personal. I had such a moment last spring break while on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic with my family. I wanted to show them just how lucky we are to live in a free country with running water and all the creature comforts one could want. Our mission was to spend five days helping to build a community shower and bathroom as well as give out water filters to help those in Juan Bosch, D.R. have better access to clean water. The project was hard work, and everyone chipped in to make the project successful.

With the bathroom complete we moved on to the water filters which required us to go door to door. We pulled up to the first neighborhood with an interpreter in tow, gung-ho about giving these people some Jesus in the form of water filters. Me, being the fearless leader that I am, wanted to show my girls how it was done. So, we go to the first house where I commenced to tell them how to install the filter onto the 5-gallon bucket and how to use it. Everything went well up until the point when they asked me to fill the bucket up and take a drink from the filter.

The interpreter went to a nearby ditch-yes, I said ditch-to scoop up some water to be filtered. I have to tell you that the water was not your typical dirty. It was a greyish, unholy mixture of I don’t know what, that gave me a reflexive gut cramp just looking at it. I remember having a conversation in my head with Jesus reminding him that I was doing this for the kingdom and that the filter better work, as my hand began to shake while turning the spigot on the filter to fill the cup. I have to confess that as the water poured out of the filter, it was so clear and clean, but I threw the first pour out anyway. I poured another and asked the people if they would like to take a drink and it was a unanimous and resounding NO!

At this point, I had the Dominicans, my family and God himself watching me, so there was no backing out now. I lifted the cup to my quivering lip and took the smallest sip as if to test the water for any bacteria that may still be present. Much to my surprise, the water was good, and in the little Spanish that I know and with a surprised look on my face I yelled “Bueno!” Everyone laughed and wanted to try the water too.

I went on to tell them about how the filter was much like Jesus who takes our dirty, sinful lives and cleanses it, making us whole again. I learned that faith is only faith when it is put to the test…and that those water filters really do a great job!

April 20, 2019No comments
Two Umbrellas
John Friedman

Dr. John C. Friedman

Pastor, Forest Park United Methodist Church

In his book, What About Tomorrow?, Dr. J. Wallace Hamilton, tells a story about a Baptist minister, Dr. Gordon Torgerson, who sailed across the Atlantic Ocean one summer. Dr. Torgerson noticed a man sitting in a deck chair reading the Bible. He sat down beside him and said, “Forgive my curiosity, but I’m a Baptist minister. I assume you are a Christian, and I’m interested to know how it happened.”

“Yes,” said the man, setting aside his Bible. “I’m very glad to talk about that. I’m a Filipino. I was born in a good Catholic home in the Philippines. Some years ago, I came to the United States to study law. My first night on campus, a student came to see me. He said, ‘I’ve come to welcome you to the campus and to say that if there is anything I can do to help make your stay here more pleasant, I hope you’ll call on me.’ Then he asked me where I went to church, and I told him I was a Catholic. He said, ‘Well, I can tell you where the Catholic church is, but it’s not easy to find. It’s quite a distance away. Let me make a map.’ So he made a map to the Catholic church and left.

The man said, “When I awakened Sunday morning, it was raining. I thought to myself, I’ll just not go to church today. I’ll get some more sleep. Then there was a knock on the door, and when I opened it there stood that student. His raincoat was dripping wet and on one arm he had two umbrellas, and he said, ‘I thought you might have a hard time finding your church in the rain. I will walk along with you and show you the way.’

“As we walked along in the rain under the two umbrellas I asked, ‘Where do you go to church?’” ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘my church is just around the corner.’ “I said, ‘Suppose we go to your church today, and we’ll go to my church next Sunday.’
“I went to his church, and I’ve never been back to mine. After four years, I felt it was not the law for me, but the ministry. I went to Drew Seminary and was ordained a Methodist minister, and received an appointment to a Methodist church in the Philippines. My name is Valencius. I am Bishop Valencius, Bishop of the Methodist Church in the Philippines.”

Now, that is a fascinating story of one of the most important people in the world–not the Bishop, though he is important, but the student with the two umbrellas. All of us need to be like the student with the two umbrellas: someone who makes our faith so useful and so attractive that others say, “Your faith has helped me! I want the kind of faith you have!”

April 20, 20191 Comment
Most people do not know that they are dysfunctional.
Dallas Finch

Dallas Finch, L.C.S.W

Finch & Finch Consulting Group, LLC

Meredith Finch

Meredith Finch Thurlow, L.C.S.W.

Finch & Finch Consulting Group, LLC

Most people do not know that they are dysfunctional. The reality is we are all uniquely and wonderfully made with our own quirks and defense mechanisms. The very thinking styles, behavioral and instinctual responses that are used for safety all too often keep us stuck in patterns that impact our quality of life. We all face issues related to mental health and emotional wellness. In the U.S., anxiety is the most common mental illness experienced by adults. Eighteen percent of the population is diagnosed with an anxiety disorder each year and only 36.9 percent of those diagnosed receive treatment. It takes a high level of courage to reach out for help in a world that is quick to cast judgment on those who need support. Everyone could benefit from therapy and life coaching. It is completely normal to struggle with maintaining a healthy balance with all the roles and responsibilities in our lives. It’s normal to get into ruts in our marriages. We all have blind spots that get in the way of intimacy and connection. We all fear losing connection with others or fear being seen as we are. All are a part of the human experience. Unfortunately, these struggles and accompanying parts of ourselves calling out for attention tend to get shoved into the shadows of our consciousness. We don’t address them or try to understand them until they start creating disruption to the point they can no longer be ignored. It’s easier to blame or point at others’ struggles than it is to “take the log out of our own eye” and see our own dysfunctional selves. Conflict, grief, stress, addiction, depression, anxiety, and trauma all provide opportunities to learn about ourselves and change patterns that are no longer serving us. Successful struggle requires growth. Just like one’s physical health depends upon knowing about our body, developing healthy habits and, at times, seeking professional intervention; mental health also requires knowledge of ourselves, developing necessary healthy habits, and professional intervention at times. Maintenance and practice of healthy choices in both areas can decrease the risk of major illness.

April 20, 2019No comments
What I Would Say to a Person That is Considering Suicide
Henry Hazard

Henry Hazard

Pastor, Heritage Bible Church

I know that you are discouraged at this point of your life. You may believe that your situation is hopeless and that by committing suicide you will be able to solve all your problems. But I would like you to consider some other facts.

First, just because your life ends on this earth does not mean that it is the end. You will have to face your Creator and give an account for the life that He gave you. What will you say when He asks you, “Why did you do that? I had a future planned for you. I am the God of hope. I intended to walk with you through your struggles and give you victory. I wanted you to lean on Me and learn to trust Me so that your life would be a testimony that encouraged others going through difficult times.”

Second, not all suicide attempts are successful. If one survives, there may be permanent brain or liver damage or some other debilitating injury.

Finally, God has a perfect will for each person, including you. He knows how to make your life meaningful but you will have to yield yourself to Him. Let Christ be your example. He endured pain, rejection, ridicule and a terrible death. But He did not commit suicide. He leaned on His heavenly Father for grace and strength. He was victorious! You too can be victorious over your situation.

April 20, 2019No comments