In Times Like These

A special note from Pastor Steve:

Although we will not be holding service during this special Easter season,
due to the COVID-19 restrictions, it is my hope and prayer that all Christians
continue daily with hearts full of praise and worship, with thanksgiving for
the kindness, love, and sacrificial gifts that have been freely offered to mankind.
May we continue to pray and be concerned for one another. Even though we
are separated for a time, may we be bound together spiritually.
Even so Lord Jesus, come!

Pastor Steve’s message for today, Palm Sunday, April 5, 2020:

In Times Like These

Yes, that’s the title of a famous gospel hymn that says, “In times like these you need a Savior…Be very sure your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock…this Rock is Jesus. Yes, He’s the One…”

Matthew 14:24 (NKJV) says, “…the wind was contrary…”

The rude, blustery, and contentious winds of this past March did their best to blow us off course, and they continue to try the very core of our faith. As believers in the Lord God of Heaven and Earth, we know the trials of this world often result in bringing us closer and closer to a “Rock Solid” relationship with Jesus.

Better it is that we struggle through the valley of temptation, confusion, and anxiety that we may see more clearly the beauty of His love when He brings us to the other side.

It is that very love of Jesus that opens our hearts this time of the year. It is the same love that sustained Elijah when hiding by the brook; the ravens brought him bread and meat (1 Kings 17:1-6). That some love will carry believers through the trials of our lives.

In 1 Peter 1:3-9, the author reminds us that even though we may suffer grief and hardships of all kinds, it may result in praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus.

Hebrews 11:1 tells us faith is “…the evidence of things not seen.” We can’t see the outcome of these days, but we know the Almighty Creator knows perfectly well how things will play out.

God is never too early or too late in the working of the events of this world. Should it really be any wonder that the events of today may cause hearts to be renewed in worship and obedience to the Prince of Peace?

May we not allow the events of these days to overshadow our desire to focus on praising and worshiping the God that Ephesians 1:5 says has “…predestined us for adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.” It was His will that the perfect, sinless Lamb of God would be the atoning sacrifice that would reconcile humanity back unto Himself.

These days should help teach us:

  • the credibility of biblical prophecy
  • the brevity of life, which should cause us to look to the care of others. As James says, your life is but “…a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” (James 4:14)
  • to endure, as James 1:12 tells us, “Blessed is the man who endures temptation…he will receive the crown of life…”

Let us with contrite hearts praise and obey the Son that gave His life, so that many would live.

God bless.

Confidence

A message from Pastor Steve:

As we endeavor to meet the challenges of these days in America, it becomes increasingly clear that our peace and confidence are found only in one place: Jesus Christ. Our success in overcoming the trials and adversity is not dependent on the ways of the world around us, but comes by focusing on our faith, our belief, and our trust in the Son who was willing to suffer more than we ever will.

Why would He ever choose to give up so much honor and glory for those that still reject His free gift of salvation? It’s because of love. A love that is so deep, strong, and powerful that, once we have it, there isn’t anything on earth or in the universe that can take it away from us (Romans 8:35-39).

As we accept the challenges of these times, it becomes especially critical to properly dress yourself each day for the spiritual battles ahead. If you put on the “belt of truth” you won’t be persuaded by the lies of this world around us. Your “shield of faith” becomes your defense against the fiery darts of Satan, which he uses to cause doubt and disobedience in your affairs. And it is your “helmet of salvation” that will remind you, in this season, that by God’s grace, through faith in the atoning sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have nothing to fear (Ephesians 6:10-18).

Perhaps we should not be asking “why” is this happening, but “what” is it that God wants me to learn from this. “What” is in it that will cause me to grow closer to Jesus through this time?

By God’s grace and the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, we can be confident and secure when we employ the Spiritual Armor of God.

be still

Praise Amidst the Fear

From Pastor Steve Collins

Just a word of praise this Sabbath day:

These are difficult days, but just because God delays does not mean He is inactive. His timing is always perfect. I can’t help but sense He is working on the hearts of this world to come back to Him, just as He did with Israel. He sits as a refiner of silver, and the outcome will be all things working together for the good of those who loveHim.

Let us be more focused on learning the lessons He has for us in the time of trial, rather than on yearning for the hour of deliverance. Take joy in your salvation during this time, and praise Him continually for His unending Mercy.

Blessings.

 

**Note: Though we have cancelled services for this week to do our part to help stop the spread of Coronavirus and allay fears, we do plan to reopen as soon as possible. We are trusting in God and His provision, and pray you are all doing the same. He is in control!

Back to School

This has been a busy summer for me, as I bet it has been for most, especially parents whose children have been set loose from school for the last few weeks or even months. Around here, school is beginning, which means loads of school supplies are being rounded up, lunches are being prepared, and parents are waiting for that blessed moment when their children step onto that school bus and begin a new year of education.

There is one group, however, that I always find on my heart at this time of year: teachers. As a former teacher myself, I know how exciting and stressful this time of the year can be. I also know that with each new year and each new educational law or regulation passed in the US, American teachers take on more and more responsibility. It is a terribly heavy weight to bear, the shaping of both minds and lives, but one that teachers feel called to do day after day.

So, with those amazing people who care for our country’s children every day in mind, I would like to offer a prayer. I found this prayer in an article from Dayspring.com and thought it was beautiful, so I adapted it a bit for this post:

Dear God,

As countless teachers begin the new school year, grant them an abundance of Your wisdom. Prepare their hearts to welcome and love the young souls that fill their classrooms, and may we make sure to show them love and respect in return. Give them grace as they help students who aren’t thriving, courage to say what needs to be said, tools and knowledge on how and when to speak love, and strength when they feel weak. When they feel unseen, remind them that no moment goes unnoticed. They are shaping the future in one million small – yet incredibly important – ways every day. We are overwhelmed with gratitude for the gift of learning they share with our children. Bless them, Lord, and may they see even just a glimpse of how their faithfulness will forever impact generations to come. In Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

The article mentioned above also included some beautiful verses to act as reminders:

If you are a teacher, hold onto 1 Corinthians 15:58 and James 1:5 throughout those days ahead:

So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. (1 Corinthians 15:58 NLT)
If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. (James 1:5 NLT)

If you are a student, make it your aim to never lose sight of Proverbs 4:13:

Take hold of my instructions; don’t let them go.
Guard them, for they are the key to life. (Proverbs 4:13 NLT)

Remember that teachers have an extremely important job to do, and they do it whole-heartedly, every day, despite the things that might be happening in their lives outside the classroom. Keep them in your prayers and be understanding in your dealings with them. They are a blessing to us all!

Hope you’ve had a beautiful, blessed summer!

Sunday in the Park

The first Sunday in July brings a tradition here at Colona Community Church. In recent years, every first Sunday of July our little church has joined with Ridgway Community Church to have Sunday in the Park in lovely Hartwell Park just up the road in Ridgway, CO. We gather for a few hours of praise, worship, and reflection on the freedoms we have been blessed with through the sacrifice of others, plus a wonderful lunch and time of fellowship.

This year, nearly four hundred people came out on a gorgeous western Colorado day to hear the music of JustOne Ministries out of Durango, CO, and an inspirational message from Randy Gradishar, former Denver Bronco. Mr. Gradishar reminded us that we don’t want to gain the whole world at the cost of our souls (Matthew 16:26). One of my favorite moments was when he said that someone told him he should be in the Hall of Fame. His response was that he’s already in the Hebrews 11 Hall of Fame! That’s the only one I can see that would ever matter 🙂

Here are a few poor cell phone shots from my vantage point on the far side:

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The Montrose High School NJROTC Color Guard presented the colors while we sang the Star-Spangled Banner (beautifully led by Rachel B., Daniel E., Kenneth E., and Kristen M.)

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JustOne Ministries started off worship with “I’m Proud to Be an American”

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Randy Gradishar both inspired and entertained.

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This is a portion of the crowd (I tried to get as many Colona Church folks in the picture as I could!)

 

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Pastor Steve led us all in a heartfelt closing prayer before lunch.

Should the Lord tarry, we plan to do this again on the first Sunday of next July. Hope to see you in the park! Have a blessed day 🙂

 

Love Is All You Need

This morning in church, Pastor Steve spoke about love, and it has been resounding through me again and again. It got me thinking about the fact that love is something we are sorely lacking in our world today. We’ve become a society that doesn’t understand what real love is, believing instead in the lie that love is the same thing as lust and greed and selfishness.

Love isn’t about getting what we want; love is about sacrifice. It’s about selflessness, generosity, and truly caring about others with no expectation of anything in return. “We know what real love is because Jesus gave up His life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives [our treasures, those things we hold most dear] for our brothers and sisters” (1 John 3:16, NLT [with my additions]). Instead of the world’s definition of love, where we care about someone mostly because they care for us in return or they can help us or they are attractive, God says that love is about putting others first without ever considering how it will affect us.

As the Beatles once sang, “All you need is love. Love is all you need.” According to the Bible, this is pretty accurate. Look at the opening verses of 1 Corinthians 13: “If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would be only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3, NLT). You could be a huge success according to the world, but without love, it is all meaningless.

The Beatles spoke true: we do need love, but only if it is godly love. And how do we achieve that kind of love? According to the Apostle Paul, we study the Word, since, “The purpose of [his] instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and a genuine faith” (1 Timothy 1:5, NLT). The more we plant His Word deep in our hearts, the more we meditate on His Word, the more we come to know Him, the more we push out the worldly ways and mold ourselves into those who can love like Christ, those who can give love to others even knowing that we may never have anything in return.

If all the people in His Creation could learn to live like this, can you imagine the beauty and joy and peace and hope and, of course, love we would see every moment of every day? This is my prayer for you and for me: that we learn to love like Christ.

Sealed

seal 2

In the good, old days, men used to place a seal on their documents before sending them off. The seal was usually made of clay or stone with a specific identifying mark carved into the face, which was then pressed into melted wax. When the document arrived at its destination, the seal proclaimed who sent it and authenticated the document.

We, too, are sealed, but not by mere wax, which is easily destroyed. “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation–having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14, NASB). The word translated “sealed” is from the Greek word σφραγιζω (sphragizo), meaning “to stamp (with a signet or private mark) for security or preservation” (AMG’s Annotated Strong’s Greek Dictionary of the New Testament).

When you believe, when you repent of your sins and turn your heart to Jesus, you become identified as one of His own! The Spirit, which you are sealed with at the moment of salvation, is God’s guarantee that He has purchased you, bought you with His blood.

When you are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, it means there is now “nothing incomplete or defective about you.  When God made you new, the last thing He did was check you out, thoroughly examining and inspecting you before placing His final seal of approval on your heart” (Rick Renner, Sparkling Gems from the Greek).

Once you are sealed with His Spirit, you are sealed for eternity! You are His and nothing can ever melt His seal off of you. 🙂

Thankful for Freedom

I love that we in America officially kick off our summer, our time to play and relax with family and friends, by first remembering those who have gone before us. We honor those loved ones we knew and those we didn’t know who still gave their lives for our freedom.

mem day

This Memorial Day, I’m especially reminded of those around the world who don’t have the freedoms that we do. They don’t have the liberty to love and serve God, to openly express their faith, to share His truth with others without fear of persecution. Many have lost their earthly lives for standing up for their belief in Jesus Christ.

And yet, here in America, we have the freedom to serve Him every day in every way, and we tend to take it for granted. As President Ronald Reagan said, “I don’t have to tell you how precious gift of freedom is. Every time we hear, watch, or read the news, we are reminded that liberty is a rare commodity in this world.” We are a blessed nation, blessed by God who sacrificed His only Son for us and by the men and women who have sacrificed so much to give us opportunities and freedoms that most people in the world do not have.

God has called us to live in freedom and to use that freedom to serve one another in love (Galatians 5:13). We can’t take that freedom, paid for at such a high price, for granted. This Memorial Day, and every day, we should thank God for His blessing of freedom, thank Him for those who serve to protect our freedom, and ask Him to bless those who don’t have the freedom that we do.

Have a beautiful Memorial Day and remember to thank those who have given so much for you to be able to enjoy it! 🙂

 

Grace That is Greater

One of those hymns that gets stuck in my head and I sing over and over through the week is “Grace Greater than Our Sin,” by Julia Johnston and Daniel Towner. Towner’s catchy tune makes the song easy to remember, but the words are what lift my heart. It is grace that will “pardon and cleanse within;” it’s grace that is “greater than all our sin.”

Singing that hymn in church this morning struck my heart and made me really think about God’s grace and what an unfathomably marvelous thing it is. Grace, according to the Holman Bible Dictionary is “undeserved acceptance and love received from another…unmerited salvation…grace, favor, mercy….” It is this undeserved acceptance, this unmerited favor that offers us sinners, we people who’ve fallen far short of God’s perfect standard, salvation. Wow! As the Apostle Peter says, “We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 15:11).

The key, however, is that grace is undeserved. God doesn’t put qualifications on His grace for us. Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us that we are saved by the free gift of God’s grace through faith in Jesus, not by works, so that we can’t boast about saving ourselves or earning our salvation.

Do you think you can earn God’s favor? Do you believe that you can go through your life and do good things—be nice, smile, give money to the poor, help little ladies cross the street, etc., etc.—and somehow do enough to be worthy of God’s love and salvation? How do you know when you’ve done enough good to outweigh the bad?

We can never know for certain that our good deeds stack higher than our bad. Praise God, He doesn’t use works as His measuring stick, for we could never measure up. Praise God that we are saved through His kindness—His grace— and not by good works, because if we could be saved by our good works, grace wouldn’t be what it is—free and undeserved (Romans 11:6).

And now, “May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word” (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).

Effective Prayer

This Thursday, May 3rd, is the National Day of Prayer, a day when Christians from all over our vast nation gather in churches, small groups, schools, homes, or go out on their own to pray specifically for the United States of America. This year’s theme is “Unity,” and the foundational scripture is Ephesians 4:3, “Making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (You can learn more about this event at their website.)

While the National Day of Prayer is special to many, every Sunday at Colona Community Church is a special day of prayer for us. We set aside time in every normal Sunday service for “Praise and Prayer Time.” It is during these moments each week that members of the congregation can share their joys and burdens with each other, so that we can rejoice alongside and pray for one another. It is a privilege that our small congregation cherishes.

Prayer is so important to and such a blessing for those who believe. Taking our requests to God is a privilege for believers that Christ paid for with His death on the cross. It was then that the veil separating the Church from the Holy of Holies was torn, granting us direct access to the throne of God. Now we can take our hearts right to God, and He will hear our requests.

Does that mean that God will give you that new sports car you’ve always wanted or the big house on the shore of a beautiful lake that you dream of? No. Sorry to say, but that’s not what God means when He says, “I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours” (Mark 11:24, NLT).

Note that John 15:7 says it even more succinctly: “But if you remain in Me and My words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!” (NLT). There’s the key: remaining (or the old KJV word abiding) in Christ, planting His words in your heart, growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus. As Rick Renner wrote: “Jesus knew that if His words take up permanent residency in your heart and mind, you will never ask for something that is out of line with His will for your life. His Word will so transform your mind that your prayers will always be in accordance with what He has already said.”

So as we work out our salvation (Philippians 2:13-14), as we draw nearer to God (James 4:8), as we abide in Him (John 15:7), our prayers become more effective, because we are praying His will (Matthew 6:10), we are seeking Him first (Luke 12:31).

If we want America to be “great again,” if we desire for our nation to turn back to God, it must begin with each individual believer feeding on the Word, filling our hearts and minds with its Truth, abiding in Him, so that our prayers may become even more powerful and effective, and we can spread our joy and peace and hope and love to all those around us.

I do hope that you will join me and countless others this Thursday as we pray for the U.S.A. and all who live, work, and play here. May God bless America again!

And if you have a burden that you’d like the fellowship of Colona Community Church to be praying for, please click on our “Prayer Requests” page and send us a message. We will be honored to take it to the throne for you and come alongside you in your time of need. God bless you today and always!