Thursday, September 4, 2014

2014 Gospel Meeting

Beginning at 6 p.m. on Sunday, September 28, 2014, the Maryville Church of Christ will be hosting a gospel meeting. The topic to be covered is How to Study the Bible.

It's vitally important that we understand what we are reading when studying God's word and understanding it in its proper context. This meeting will help attendees do just that.

The meeting will begin on Sept 28th at 6 p.m. and continue Monday, Sept 29th through Wednesday, Oct 1 at 7 p.m. each night.

It is our hope that you can join us.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Proclaiming His Death

In 1st Corinthians 11:26 the apostle Paul wrote concerning the Lord’s Supper/Communion, “As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.” Let us consider that death for a moment. What really happened on the cross? What is it exactly that we are to proclaim? His death was our death; at least, the one we had coming. Let’s imagine it in more everyday terms rather than using words like atonement, salvation, or propitiation. Jesus pushed us out of the way of that bus barreling straight for us. He jumped in front of the bullet meant for us. He drowned to save us. He ran into the burning house and dragged us out before the house collapsed on Him. He climbed down onto the ledge and pulled us to safety before His own rope broke. He jumped on the grenade Satan had rolled at our feet. He stood up in court as we were sentenced to death and said, “I’ll go instead.” Spiritually, that is what Jesus did for us on the cross. 

If another person had done these things, would we proclaim it? Would we feel too ashamed that another had to die so we might live? Would we feel unworthy of that sacrifice? Or, would our gratitude be strong enough to overshadow our shame and embarrassment? Would our appreciation be so great that it would demand us to honor that sacrifice by telling anyone who would listen? Would we make it crystal clear to everyone that the only reason we are alive is because of the selfless, supreme act of love by another on our behalf?
Heroes on the news always say the same thing: “I’m not a hero. Anyone else would have done the same thing.” We know that’s baloney. They ARE heroes! Jesus is no less a hero and one infinitely greater than any earthly hero. Consider what Jesus did for you and make it personal. He saved your precious daughter’s soul from Satan. He rescued your grandfather from eternal fire. He guarded the soul of your favorite cousin. He died on the cross for your own sweet mother. He died for strangers we will never know. He died for you and for me. He gave all that He could. He gave His best; He gave His blood; He gave His life. 

The price of my sin was paid by another who was innocent. Jesus had to die so I could live. That grim truth is heartbreaking. But at the same time, doesn’t it fill your heart right back up to know how much you are loved? How precious to God you are? Before you were even born, Jesus loved you more than His own life. In Romans 5:6-11, Paul describes how such humiliating sorrow is transformed into joy. “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly…God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us…when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son… we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” 

We proclaim His death when we remember His sacrifice every Sunday through the emblems of the communion: the bread for His body and the fruit of the vine for His blood. Let us devote seriousness to the memorial, but let us also rejoice with the knowledge of what that death produced: eternal life. That is what we proclaim to the world. May the Lord shine upon you.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Rest Stop

The congregation I worked with previously was situated a few blocks off of Interstate 35, an extremely busy highway. As such, we often got travelers stopping by the church building asking for help. There was a convenience store right behind it as well which added to the foot traffic. Coming into the office one morning, I became very annoyed. There was an iron bench bolted into the ground at the front of our building which had been donated in honor of a family who played a big part in the congregation. Thrown under that bench I saw a Dr. Pepper can and honeybun wrapper. I grumbled as I stooped to pick them up and head for the trash can. There is a large, brass plaque dedicating the bench to Vern and Mildred Waller. I was upset at the lack of respect for these two people by whomever made use of their bench. Maybe it was just carelessness; a symbol for a world that doesn’t really care about anyone or anything these days. Suddenly, my grumbling internal rant changed in tone. 

Maybe it was a local teenager who was stopping here for a snack before heading back home to a violent and ungodly household. Maybe it gave him a few moments of peace before the yelling started again. Maybe he didn’t pick up his trash because he wasn’t taught basic courtesy in his home. Maybe he will wonder about the people who gather inside that building and of the momentary peace he felt sitting outside for a few moments. Maybe he will wonder if there is a greater and more lasting peace to be found inside. 

Or, maybe it was that homeless man walking down I-35. You know, the one I drove right by yesterday afternoon? Maybe he stopped here and rested before going back out in the hot summer sun to continue his lonely journey. It had rained briefly the night before. Maybe the bench (which is tucked under the overhang) kept the rain off his head. Through the bench, we provided a bit of kindness that may indeed have been appreciated; but if not, at least we gave him a chance to rest and gather his strength. Maybe that’s all we can provide to some people by showing the love of Jesus. A kind word, a friendly hand, a brief respite from their troubles. Then, they may go on their way and never see us again (or thank us). It doesn’t matter. Our obligation is not affected by their gratitude or acknowledgement. We must follow our Lord’s example. They didn’t respect Jesus and everything He did for people either. Jesus warned His disciples that “A servant is not greater than his master” (Jn. 15:20). We should expect no better treatment. Just do it anyway. So, I had to pick up some trash, but only because someone had used what we provided. I let my scowl melt into a smile as I cleaned up the bench for the next weary visitor. I let the joy of that service wash away my cynicism and annoyance. I think the Lord much prefers me that way. May the Lord shine upon you.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Sunday Preview -- August 10, 2014

At one point, the disciples of Jesus got frustrated and just asked Him, "Why do you speak in parables?" (Matthew 13:10). Jesus had many reasons for doing so, but the most basic reason was to illustrate a difficult and complex idea--the kingdom of God. You can almost hear Jesus struggling to describe this broad and challenging new concept. "Oh dear, how can I explain it to you? Well, it's sort of like..." In typical Jesus fashion, He goes on to answer their question by...telling more parables! Seven, as a matter of fact, are found in Matthew's thirteenth chapter. Sunday morning we will briefly examine the important lessons from these parables as we seek to reveal "The Mysteries of the Kingdom (Matt. 13:11)." Sunday evening we look into Paul's letter to the Ephesians to see how we must first understand the hope we have in God, the glorious inheritance we have, and His great power to work in our lives before we can effectively share this "good news" with others. Join us as we strive to fulfill Paul's plea for "Open Eyes, Open Hearts (Eph. 1:18-19)." Hope to see you there!

In His service,
Rob Lester <9)))><

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Sunday Preview for August 3, 2014

The biggest challenge to faith is suffering. It threatens to may us question God and pull away from Him. But trials are designed to bring us closer to Him when something has come between us. We may not always understand, but we can be confident that whatever struggles we face are not punishment. The prophet Amos points out four comforting truths about trials as described by the threshing of grain. Join Us Sunday morning as we find encouragement together that "Not a Grain Shall Fall (Amos 9:9)." Come back Sunday evening as we look at the best church growth program ever written. See what happened "Opening Day (Acts 2:41-47)." Hope to see you there!

In His service,
Rob Lester <9)))><

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Sunday Preview - More Than We Ask

It's disappointing when something that has been overhyped fails to live up to our expectations. A good principle for business and personal dealings is to "under-promise and over-deliver." That's exactly the principle God works under. He never fails to come through and always exceeds expectations. Several times in scripture people came to Jesus for something, but they were thinking too small. He blew away their expectations and went above and beyond. The Lord still operates under this principle today. Whatever blessings He has promised us, we can be sure He will come through far beyond our wildest dreams. Join us Sunday morning as we delight in our God who does "More Than We Ask (Ephesians 3:20)."

Sunday, July 20, 2014

High Standard of Love

I was discussing marriage with some friends recently and I mentioned a little exercise I sometimes use in marriage counseling. I have couples read Paul’s great little treatise on love in 1st Corinthians 13:4-8 “Love suffers long [is patient] and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails” (NKJV). I tell the couple that this is what love does. It is an action, a choice, not merely an emotion. Then I say that since this is the standard of how we should be loving one another (especially our spouse), then try substituting your name every time you see the word love. The passage takes on a new meaning. The goal is to live our life and love others so that all those statements are true. I hadn’t done that exercise myself in a while so I began to go through it. 

“Rob is patient.” 

Ouch. Really Paul? We have to start there? I couldn’t get past #1 due to my wife’s laughter. Or maybe it would be because of the pained look on her face. Either way, I start the exercise with a big ole goose-egg. “Rob is kind.” OK, I think I do pretty well at this most times. Would my wife and kids agree? My co-worker? My cashier? Go down the list and see which sore spots of yours get poked. I guarantee they’re in there. I overheard a member tell a preacher once that his sermon had poked him in a sore spot. The preacher, a very compassionate and wise man, gently replied, “Brother, if I may ask, why is that spot sore?” Likely because we already know we have a weakness there. Continue down the list and see where you are coming up short: jealousy, pride, cynicism, etc. I’ll bet few would even muster a passing grade if we’re being honest. “Well thanks, Rob, for making me feel lousy about myself.” Hey, blame Paul, he started it! 

The point is not to make anyone depressed, but to challenge us to a higher standard. It is a pretty tall order, but I do know of one Man who was able to do it. Jesus Christ. Substitute His name for “love” and every word is true. 

“Jesus is patient” with me when I fail and stumble into sin again. And again. “Jesus is kind.” No one has ever been kinder. “Jesus does not envy.” Who does He have to be jealous of? “Jesus does not parade Himself and is not puffed up.” He didn’t come to earth to win fans and fill stadiums. He came to save souls by dying a humiliating death. “Jesus does not behave rudely.” Even when rebuking the Pharisees it wasn’t because He hated them, it was because they were stubbornly resisting the truth about Him to their own souls’destruction. He was merely frustrated at their foolish pride and how they tried to lead people away from the truth He was preaching. Jesus lived out the often misunderstood principle of “Hate the sin, love the sinner.” On down the list we could go. 

Perhaps my favorite part and the one which may be most encouraging to you is “Jesus hopes all things.” Jesus loves us and always hopes for the best in us. He knows our hearts and yet He still has hope that we will do the right thing. Often, we won’t, but He HOPES we will. He believes in us even when we don’t believe in ourselves. He is our cheerleader saying, “I know you fell into that sin again, but you can beat it! Get up and we’ll try again, you and Me. I’ll be right beside you.” That’s love right there. If Jesus believes in you, can’t you try to believe in yourself? “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). 

“Rob never fails.” 

Sadly, this is not a true or accurate statement. But “Jesus never fails” is 100% true. Jesus has never failed and He never will. Never. In John 13:34 Jesus told His disciples to “love one another as I have loved you.” That’s a pretty big challenge, as we have seen. We may fall short, okay, we WILL fall short, but let’s at least TRY to do what Jesus said. Aim for that high standard and we will certainly be closer than we were before. You can do it! May the Lord shine upon you.

In His service,
Rob Lester  <9)))><

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Been There, Avoided That

There is a great difference between empathy and sympathy, even though they are often used interchangeably. Sympathy is limited to an emotional response. You feel compassion for someone because of their suffering. We may send a “sympathy card” to express sorrow for whatever they are going through. Empathy goes beyond simple emotions. Empathy means you enter into that person’s suffering and share the experience with them. We may feel compelled to do this because we have experienced the same kind of struggle before. This might mean we can offer hope and insight into their struggle. Certainly empathy is a deeper and more intimate response. But we may carry this distinction between sympathy and empathy too far. 

In the midst of their pain, people often say you cannot relate to their struggles unless you’ve been through it yourself. This may be partly true. If I have never lost a child, struggled with addiction, or faced serious illness I may not be able to fully appreciate that situation. My advice may seem shallow or even uncaring. For example, “Why don’t you just stop doing whatever your addiction is?” If we have not been through what the person we seek to help is suffering, we should choose our words and advice very carefully. 

Maybe the best advice to give is none at all. Consider the three friends of Job who sat in silence with him for seven days before he spoke a word. They were offering love and sympathy that whole time. When they opened their mouths and began trying to “help” Job see the source of his troubles, they became “miserable comforters” (Job 16:2) and only added to his suffering. For this reason, some are hesitant to offer any sympathy because they don’t know what to say and fear they will say the wrong thing. But empathy may not always be the best route after all.

Instead of rebuffing someone who hasn’t “been there” perhaps you would be wise to listen. They may not be simply preaching at you and rendering judgment on your failures. Maybe I am in a position to help you specifically BECAUSE I’ve been able to avoid falling into those traps and mistakes. Why would you want advice from someone who failed? Don’t you think I’ve been tempted to steal, lie, cheat, pursue pleasure, and take the easy way out too? Maybe my life has been better because I was able to avoid those things, therefore, maybe I can help you avoid it too. It is not necessary to swim in the filth in order to encourage someone else to get out of the hogpen. I don’t have to dive in to know that I don’t want to be in there. There is a place for both sympathy and empathy. The challenge is to know which and when.

“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15 NKJV). Jesus was tempted in every way but didn't fail. That is what makes Him perfectly suited to help us. He can sympathize because He loves us and has compassion for us (Mark 6:34). He can also empathize because He endured every kind of temptation we face. The difference is that Jesus conquered every one of those challenges where we often fail. This does not disqualify Him from helping us, but rather makes Him the perfect advisor. He can offer words of wisdom and comfort unlike anyone else. “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30). 

In His service,
Rob Lester  <9)))><

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Sunday Preview - Martha's Faith

A sacrifice is, by its definition, something that costs you. We talk about "making sacrifices" for things such as our family and careers. It is a decision we make that one thing is more important than another. Worshipers of God under the Old Testament offered sacrifices of animals, grain, and wealth. They made the decision that pleasing God and obeying His commands was more important than holding onto those things for themselves. Under the New Testament, Christians do not offer animal sacrifices, but we are still commanded to sacrifice. What should our offering be? Paul describes it in Romans 12:1 by telling us what we must offer to God and how. Join us Sunday morning as we consider what it means to be "A Living Sacrifice (Rom. 12:1)". Lazarus is remembered for being raised from the dead by Jesus Christ. His sister Mary is remembered for anointing Jesus with expensive perfume. But Lazarus' other sister Martha is usually remembered as the one busy doing housework. This should not be. While her brother Lazarus still lay dead in the tomb, in the depth of her grief Martha made a startling confession of faith in Jesus. This confession is written in John 11:27-28. It is this which she should be remembered for. Join us Sunday evening as we celebrate "Martha's Faith (John 11:27-28)." Hope to see you there!

In His service,
Rob Lester <9)))><

Monday, June 2, 2014

It's VBS Time Again!

Vacation Bible School 2014 begins tonight at the Maryville Church of Christ at 217 E. 6th Street, Maryville, Missouri at 7 p.m.

There are classes for all, from children to adults, and it will surely prove to be a valuable time to learn about God and to spend time together. We hope you will join us!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Bone-Deep Faith

“And Joseph said to his brethren, ‘I am dying; but God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land to the land of which He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.’ Then Joseph took an oath from the children of Israel, saying, ‘God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here’ ” (Genesis 50:24-25). Twice Joseph said, “God will surely…” This reflected the deep faith of Joseph. His faith literally went into his bones when he made provisions for their care after his death. He was absolutely certain that God would “surely” fulfill those things He had promised so long ago to Abraham. Joseph knew that his people would one day enter and receive the Promised Land of Canaan. His faith in a future event was rooted in the past. Indeed, all faith is rooted in the past. Joseph had seen evidence of God’s faithfulness, His power, His justice, and His mercy in past events. This established a trust which allowed him to have faith in future fulfillment that he could not yet see. What God WOULD accomplish became just as real as what God had ALREADY accomplished. 

Joseph’s faith began as he looked in the past. It started with God’s promise to Abraham that his descendants would possess the land of Canaan. This promise was repeated to Isaac and Jacob (Joseph’s grandfather and father). God had protected them and prospered them just as He promised He would. Joseph’s faith also rested upon the events of his rise to power from slave to pharaoh’s second-in-command. He recognized how God had put him in the position to save his family. “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Genesis 50:20).

Joseph had no need for further proof. Critics of Jesus had demanded, “Give us a sign and we’ll believe.” Jesus understood their stubborn hearts and knew that yet another miracle would not convince them if previous signs had not. He essentially told them, “You’ve seen enough.” This is the same rebuke that the rich man received in Luke 16:27-31 when he asked for a sign to convince his brothers. There, Abraham says, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.” God’s word spoken before to Abraham was good enough for Joseph.

His faith was based upon what had happened in the past, but Joseph’s faith continued as he looked ahead. He looked beyond the current situation in Egypt. Things were going pretty well for him and his people. Yet, he knew that at some point they would leave. Joseph wasn’t stuck in the comfort and prosperity of the moment. He believed God would bless them even more. Joseph’s faith also looked beyond the difficulties that lie ahead in driving out the Canaanites. God had told Abraham how evil the Amorites were (Gen. 15:16). They would prove to be tough enemies who would not give up the land easily. Despite all this, Joseph saw it as a “done deal”. He knew without a doubt that his people would be there one day. He stated with absolute certainty that “God will surely” accomplish those things. It was never a question of “if” but only of “when.” Oh, that we could have such faith in God’s wisdom and providence today! May the Lord shine upon you.

In His service,
Rob Lester  <9)))><

Friday, May 23, 2014

Sunday Preview -- May 25, 2014

I DO believe that heaven is for real, but I do not believe that fact because of a book, movie, or someone's near-death experience. I believe it because the Bible has been proven to be true and the Bible affirms the reality of heaven. Pretty simple logic to follow. The Bible also affirms the reality of heaven's opposite--hell. Unfortunately, while many eagerly accept the accept the notion of heaven, many also reject the possibility of a place of eternal torment. A careful reading of Matthew 25:46 reveals that if words mean anything at all, then heaven can ONLY be exactly as real and eternal as hell must be. Join us Sunday as we begin a two-part study of the afterlife with "The Reality of Hell (Luke 16:19-30)." But DON'T miss the second part next week when we rejoice in "The Glory of Heaven." We must work to avoid hell, but more than that we must actively seek heaven! Sunday evening we continue our series A Walk Through Psalm 23 with "Part Nine: A Table Prepared (Psa. 23:5a)." Hope to see you there!

In His service,
Rob Lester  <9)))><

Friday, May 9, 2014

Sunday Preview - May 9, 2014

God has a habit of using imperfect things. When the time came for His Son to put on human flesh, God kept to this pattern. A study of the individuals in the lineage of Jesus is fascinating. Perhaps most interesting are the women who are included. There are no less than five women and each of them possessed flaws. But God saw something in these women that the world did not. He honored them as ancestors of the Savior of the world. Join us Sunday as we pay tribute to these remarkable women as "Mothers of Honor (Matthew 1:1-16)." We continue our Sunday evening series A Walk Through Psalm 23 with "Part 7: Through the Valley (Psalm 23:4)." How did a senior ski trip help me learn more about trusting in the Shepherd's guidance? You may be surprised. Hope to see you there!

In His service,
Rob Lester  <9)))><

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Increase Our Faith - Luke 17:5

In Mt. 18:15-20, Jesus had been teaching His disciples about how to deal with brethren when there is a conflict. Right after this, Peter chimes in with a question, sort of. Peter asks in verse 20, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” (NASB). Peter probably thought he was being pretty generous. Wow, seven times! Peter, you’re too kind. How shocked he and the others must have been when Jesus answered, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” Now, Jesus did not mean that we should keep a tally sheet and when/if we reach 490 we can then say, “That’s it! I don’t have to forgive you anymore!” He was using a ridiculously large number to indicate that we should not be in the accounting business, but in the forgiving business. 

Jesus expands on this in the parallel passage in Luke’s gospel which is found in chapter 17. As if the words in Matthew 18 were not hard enough to live out, Jesus ups the ante on forgiveness. “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. “And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” (Luke 17:3-4). Well, now you are just asking too much, Jesus. Seven times in the same day? That means this person is not showing true repentance and does not deserve forgiveness. AHA! Not so fast. That requires us to know and judge a person’s heart and ONLY God is qualified to do that. Jesus makes this painfully simple: He repents, you forgive. Period. But Jesus, You don’t know how many times he has—NO! He repents, you forgive. This is the command. But Jesus, wouldn’t it be better to teach this person the lesson that—NO! He repents, you forgive. Just do it. But Jesus, what if he doesn’t ask for forgiveness? Does that get me off the hook? This is the part where Jesus would facepalm and shake His head. Don’t miss the point.

The disciples surely didn’t miss the point. Their perfect understanding was proven by what they said next. Jesus had just commanded them (and us) to forgive as many times as someone repents. Their immediate response was, “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5). They knew they (and we) were going to need some divine assistance to carry out that command. The Lord’s answer is astounding. He essentially says in verse 6, “Use what you’ve got—it’s enough.” Their faith seemed as small as a mustard seed compared to the gigantic task ahead of them. Jesus told them that if their faith was sincere, then it was big enough. Well, OK Jesus. But if I manage to pull this off, I deserve a medal and a parade! The Lord predicts this attitude in verses 9-10 and strikes down any prideful feelings which may arise. “[The master] does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.’ ” We don’t deserve a round of applause for merely doing what we were commanded. We are not worthy of a spot in Hebrews chapter 11 with the superstars of the faithful. We haven’t elevated ourselves to some lofty position of Christianity. We haven’t gained anything extraordinary. We are still sitting at zero. All we have done is prevented ourselves from falling below the line of obedience and into a deficit. Is forgiving hard? Yes! It may be the one of the hardest commands to obey. What it is not, however, is optional; it is required. So let’s you and I stop treating it like it is optional. Let us not require people to grovel, beg, and crawl for our forgiveness after we think they’ve suffered enough and shown “proper” repentance. God did not require that of us. We may sin seven times a day against Him but He offers mercy every time we ask. His grace is eager, available, and immediate. So should ours be.

Monday, March 24, 2014

New Sermon Series: Where He Leads I'll Follow - A Walk Through Psalm 23

We hope you can join us in person or via the audio sermons posted online for this new series beginning March 30, 2014.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Good Neighbor

Once, as I was rolling my dumpster to the curb in preparation for the next day’s trash pickup, I noticed my next-door neighbor’s dumpster still sitting beside the garage. I knew my neighbor was out of town, but would be back home before the next trash day. So, I wheeled the dumpster out to the curb for him. I remembered making a mad dash in my pajamas early on trash day several times when I had forgotten and I would have appreciated someone watching out for me that way. I felt that I was being a good neighbor.  

Jesus once told His disciples to love their neighbor as themselves. In response, someone asked the question, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus answered by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37). This parable shows that our neighbor is anyone in need whom we can help. Indeed, if we have the ability to help someone and the opportunity to do so, it creates an obligation on our part which we cannot neglect.

The real issue, however, is how we can love others as ourselves. First we must ask, “how do we love ourselves?” The answer is—quite naturally! Nowhere in the Bible does God command us to love ourselves. He doesn’t have to! It comes easily to our nature to be selfish. When we really examine how we love ourselves, some challenging things come to light. We make excuses for our bad behavior. “Well, I was just tired and under stress.” We give ourselves the benefit of the doubt. We are optimistic we will do better next time. We do not focus on the mistake, but rather on the good in us. We never think we are evil people or lost causes. We think we are basically good people who just slipped up. Here’s the rub. Should we not extend this same courtesy to everyone else for their mistakes? Let that sink in for a moment..

The parable of the Good Samaritan is a very appropriate answer to the question about who my neighbor is. Not only does it show us that everyone is our neighbor, but it also sets a gold standard for being that good neighbor. The Samaritan did not help the man because he knew him. They were not close friends. He did not hope to be rewarded or praised for it. He simply found a man in trouble, took care of him, made provisions for his care, and left quietly. Is that not exactly what Jesus did? He found us when we had been beaten by Satan, robbed of hope, and left for dead. Jesus healed us, tended our wounds, made provision for our care (the church), and left suddenly. But He also promised to return. Let us make sure we can say we were good neighbors to all people when He comes back. Let us follow Jesus’ example and treat people the way He treated us. Let us cut others the same slack we give ourselves so generously.

In His service,
Rob Lester <9)))><

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Sunday Preview -- March 16, 2014

"A friend in need is a friend indeed," as the saying goes. It is times of need that "You find out who your friends are," according to another old saying. The Lord is the best friend we could ever have and He is always eager and willing to help. The first few verses of Psalm 46 describes what God provides in those troublesome times for us as His children. Join us Sunday morning as we are encouraged to learn how God is "A Very Present Help (Psalm 46:1-3)." Sunday evening we will be examining our giving to the Lord and...hey, where are you going? You get back here! What's important to remember is not how much we give but with what spirit and motivation that we give. We gain some insight into this matter by looking at how Israel prepared for the building of the tabernacle with the lesson "Give Till It Feels Good (Exodus 35-36)." Hope to see you there!

In His service,
Rob Lester <9)))><

Friday, March 7, 2014

Sunday Preview -- March 9, 2014

"Go big or go home" is what some say about making a daring attempt. God follows this thinking to some degree. He tends to "go big" with whatever activity He is engaged in. Many times something simpler would have sufficed but God chose to exercise His flair for the dramatic. The sun could have just popped over the horizon every morning like a light bulb coming on, but God made the sunrise gradual, majestic, and unnecessarily beautiful. That's His style. Sunday morning we will consider "The Abundance of God" and see how this affects His blessings, His judgment, and His grace. Come back Sunday evening as we dig in for a taste of "Sandwich Theology (3rd John 11)." It involves coaching, butter, and a woman named Jezebel. I won't reveal any more so you'll have to come by the building or listen online to find out what I'm talking about :)

In His service,
Rob Lester <9)))><

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Spirit of a Champion

 The 2014 Winter Olympics wrapped up the other night. To be honest, my family only watched the events sporadically. It depended on what else was on or what we were doing. As it said in the old intro for “ABC’s Wide World of Sports” we witnessed American athletes experiencing both “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” Honestly, I could really take it or leave it regarding most of the Olympics. I was very glad to see something remarkable on the evening of February 10th, though.

We were simply waiting for the news to come on. The last event of the night was men’s 500 meter speed skating. The Dutch team was absolutely dominating. On the next to last run, two skaters from the Netherlands (twin brothers Michel and Ronald Mulder) had secured both the silver and bronze medal. The announcers were talking about a sweep of the medal podium. Sure enough, another Dutch skater, Jan Smeekens, took the gold on the last race. The camera panned over to silver medalist Michel who simply lost his mind cheering for his teammate and his country. He was more overcome by emotion than the man who had just beaten him by a few thousandths of a second! The important part came as a look of confusion swept across Michel’s face. He was looking at the screen showing the final race times. The announcers indicated that the judges were making an adjustment for some reason and the crowd became hushed. After making the time correction, the ruling was that Smeekens had actually placed second and Michel was now in first place.

His reaction is what inspired me to write this article.

On his face, there was confusion, then disbelief, and finally a look of almost sheepish embarrassment. For a moment, Michel seemed somewhat disappointed that he had won. He covered his face with his hands and slid them down to his chin as realization washed over him. Then he ran over and hugged his training partner who leaned over the railing. In that momentary reaction, Michel Mulder showed the heart of a true champion. He cheered harder for his team and country when he had the silver than when he won the gold. Mulder felt a flash of sadness for his teammate’s failure before he allowed himself to rejoice at his own victory. In that brief glimpse, Mulder displayed humility, selflessness, and pure joy at another’s success.

This is a perfect example of the love represented in the Bible by the Greek word “agape.” It is a love which seeks the best interest of another despite the personal cost. It was the kind of love God had for mankind when He sent His Son Jesus to the earth to become a sacrifice for our sin. John 3:16 tells us, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (NKJV). Never forget how much you are loved.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Sunday Preview -- March 2, 2014

The temple in the Old Testament was where God's presence dwelled (at least in part). It was a sign of His covenant relationship with Israel, His chosen people. He had promised that He would be among them. That temple was destroyed by the Roman army in 70 A.D. Does that mean we are left without God's presence today? The New Testament teaches that God dwells within both the church collectively and the individual Christian. The question is, exactly HOW does God's Holy Spirit dwell within us? Is it literally within our bodies in a physical sense? Or, is it only in a representative and figurative sense through His Word? We will examine this important and often confusing topic as we finish up our Sunday morning series with Part Nine of "The Sweet Sixteens: Temple of the Holy Spirit (1st Cor. 3:16)." Sunday evening we will be studying the "City of Refuge (Numbers 35:9-15)." Under the Law of Moses, God provided a place of safety for those running from danger. He has provided a place of eternal safety for us today in Christ and His church. We will try to understand the symbolism of those cities in the Promised Land and how they form a picture of our eternal place of refuge--heaven. Elder Don Peters is winding down the Gospel of Luke class and I will be discussing infant baptism with the teens. Hope to see you there!

In His service,
Rob Lester <9)))><

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Sunday Sermon Preview -- February 23, 2014

I can hardly go a week it seems without hearing some reference to the "Rapture." Maybe it's the uncertain times we find ourselves in (which have always existed). Or maybe it's that the world seems to be falling apart (as it has been since the Garden of Eden, see Romans 8:20-22). Whatever the reason, more and more people are talking about the return of Jesus and what that means for both believers and non-believers. The apostle Paul wrote First Thessalonians to comfort the church there in Thessalonica about their misunderstandings of this very topic. What can we learn from it and can it offer us any hope or comfort as well? We will continue our Sunday morning series "Sweet Sixteens Part Eight: Something to Shout About (1st . Thess. 4:16-17). Come back Sunday evening as we consider what it means to "Break the Mold (Romans 12:2)." Although the world seems to encourage tolerance of everyone's opinions and beliefs, it actually demands conformity. This is a challenge because the world's standards are always changing! Paul wrote to the Roman church to warn them about following the world's pattern. The will of God which is revealed in His Word is what should be the standard for us. Come and let us reason together!

In His service,
Rob Lester <9)))><

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Sunday Preview for February 16, 2014

After worship one Sunday, the song leader for that morning came up and gave me the obligatory compliment, "Good sermon." I thanked him and told him I appreciated the songs as well. He raised his hands in humble protest and said, "Well, it's nothing like what you do up there." I reminded him that although the sermon may be involved in scriptural commands regarding the assembly, there is no clear command that a formal sermon must be presented when the church gathers to worship. We ARE, however, clearly commanded at least twice to sing songs of praise to God and encourage one another. What exactly are we to sing and how are we to sing it? Join us Sunday morning as we continue our series on the "Sweet Sixteens Part Seven: Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs (Colossians 3:16)." Sunday evening we will examine Paul's advice on what to do when we feel mistreated or unappreciated by others. We must remember to "Be Patient When Wronged (2nd Timothy 2:24). Hope to see you there!

In His service,
Rob Lester <9)))><

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Sunday Preview - February 9, 2014

What is the definitive statement on love in the Bible? Many would quickly say John 3:16. Some might prefer Romans 5:8. Others still might point to the beauty of 1st Corinthians 13:4-8. These are all wonderful statements and descriptions of love in its many aspects. But I would suggest to you that the most extensive discussion of "agape" may be found in 1st John 4:7-21. The centerpiece of this treatise is found in the simple but deeply profound statement of verse 16 in that passage. Join us as we continue our Sunday morning series "Sweet Sixteens Part Six: God is Love (1st John 4:16)." Today many people (not just Christians) are concerned about the moral decay of our nation. America has turned from its Christian foundation and embraced increasingly godless behavior. David asked in Psalm 11:3 "If the foundation is destroyed, what can the righteous do?" We will attempt to find an answer to this question Sunday evening as we consider our "Broken Foundation (Psa. 11:3)." Hope to see you there!

In His service,
Rob Lester <9)))><

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Preacher page

I have a personal blog where I share thoughts and articles. Please check it out:
Christian evidences were an important part of my journey to faith in Christ and they remain a passion of mine. This is a blog I began to discuss evidence for creation and the debate over evolution. There are extensive archives and article links.
Take a look and comment if it catches your interest!

In His service,
Rob Lester  <9)))><

Monday, February 3, 2014

Each New Day is a Gift

Every new day ahead of us is a gift from God. Thanking him for this bright and beautiful day.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Sunday Preview -- February 2, 2014

I am always struck by the pleading of the father in Mark 9:24 whose son was demon-possessed. He comes to Jesus hoping that the Lord can heal his son. Jesus tells the man, "All things are possible to him who believes." The desperate father cries out, "I do believe! Help my unbelief!" Now, this man clearly has some level of belief. He brought his son some distance with the confidence that Jesus might be able to help them. But also note that this father realizes his belief is incomplete. He knows that whatever faith he has is not enough. Indeed, it is never enough. We ALL need more, deeper, and stronger faith in Jesus. The question is how do we get it? How do we grow our faith and how is faith generated in the first place? The next lesson in our Sunday morning series will shed light on this as we continue "The Sweet Sixteens Part Five: Faith Comes By Hearing (Romans 10:16-17)." Just as our faith may be incomplete, so too is our life outside of Christ. We need many things in order to feel fulfilled. How does Jesus (and Jesus alone) satisfy our greatest needs? Join us Sunday evening as we come to realize that we can only be "Complete in Christ (Colossians 1:28)." Hope to see you there!

In His service,
Rob Lester <9)))><

Friday, January 24, 2014

Sunday Preview -- January 26, 2014

Sunday morning we will continue in our series "Sweet Sixteens" with Part 4: "Calling on the Name of the Lord (Acts 22:16)." In that passage, a man named Ananias told Saul (who would later be known as the apostle Paul) that he needed to do this. What is involved and what is meant by this command? It is spoken of elsewhere in the New Testament by Paul himself in Romans 10:9-13 and also by the apostle Peter in Acts 2:21 where he was quoting from the Old Testament prophet Joel. Clearly this is important, so how does one go about obeying this command? We will try to reconcile these passages and see the full picture of what it means. Even more importantly, we will learn what it does NOT mean despite popular denominational teaching. Sunday evening we will study another aspect of Acts 22:16. Satan is a salesman. He's selling sin. He uses many common marketing tactics to accomplish his wicked goal. God does not need to resort to tricks and schemes to "sell" us on the truth. It speaks for itself. Together we will learn to watch out for some of the sneaky tricks of the devil. Join us and see why it is crucial to "Act Now! (Acts 22:16)."

In His service,
Rob Lester <9)))><

(Audio for these sermons can be found in the menu to the right ---------->)

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Sunday Preview - January 19, 2014

We sometimes hear about an athlete or actor giving an "inspired" performance. This points to a power or ability which is so amazing that it seems to have come from another source. You can see the word "spirit" at play within the word. This "spirit" provides something more than is normally expected from a human being. In scripture, the word translated as inspiration actually means "God-breathed." This isn't just a poetic metaphor, but rather a vivid description. Divine inspiration is what sets the Bible apart from EVERY other book ever written. God is the Bible's author and He produced it through the hands and pens of men. How did He ensure its accuracy while still allowing for individual writing styles and expressions? Can we trust the Bible to accurately reveal the mind of God? Come find out Sunday morning as we continue our series "Sweet Sixteens: All Scripture is Inspired (2nd Timothy 3:16)." Sunday evening we will consider the concept of family. We will hope to answer the question "Who Is My Brother? (John 1:12-13)." Are we in the family of man or the family of God? Or both? What, if any, are our responsibilities to those family members? How do we get into the family of God? Join us as we sort through these questions. Hope to see you there!

A Humble God

Some people have a problem with God. They feel that He is arrogant, conceited, and will fly into a rage when any of His followers dares to give any attention to another so-called god. After all, the very first of the Ten Commandments is “You shall have no other gods before Me.” And the second goes right along with it about not worshiping idols and images. Is God really so insecure? These commands (and similar ones throughout the Bible) are not born out of insecurity. Rather, they are born out of His love. He knows that these other “gods” do not truly exist and can do nothing to benefit humanity. His jealousy is a natural result of His passionate love and concern for our well-being.

We refer to God as our “heavenly Father,” much like Jesus did. But the picture of God’s relationship to His chosen people is not of a parent but a husband. This metaphor is clearly (and painfully) seen in the minor prophet Hosea as well as in the New Testament (Ephesians 5:25; Revelation 19:7). The jealousy of God is that of a husband seeking to prevent His “wife” from giving herself to other lovers. He knows they will not love her as He does and will only harm and abuse her. God’s jealousy is not that of a celebrity seeking adoring fans. It is the reaction of a heartbroken husband whose beloved has abandoned Him for a womanizer.

Atheists claim that God is an egomaniac who craves and demands constant worship and praise to feed His insecurity. It is significant that nowhere in Scripture does God command praise. The call to praise comes from God’s grateful servants. In the Bible, it is those who have seen God’s worthiness of praise who call upon their fellow humans to offer it. God commands obedience and holiness, but He never commands us to feed His ego. Even these commands of obedience and holiness are not for His benefit, but for our well-being and happiness. The God of the universe seems only to be concerned about us, His beloved.

It seems a strange thing to call the Supreme Being in the universe “humble.” But God is indeed humble. Who would He need to impress? Whose approval does He need to seek? The humility of God is proven by His actions in the human world. The ultimate power in the universe took on a weak, frail, human body so that we might see His level of devotion for us. He was willing to die a shameful and horrifying death on a cross just to give us a chance at eternal life. What other “god” in history or mythology has humbled himself to such a degree? None. Let us praise the Lord who loves us so dearly. May the Lord shine upon you.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Sunday Preview - January 12, 2014

The gospel is literally the "good news." It is the best news ever! The good news is that Jesus came to die for your sins and mine so we could be reconciled to God and experience the glory of heaven. The gospel tells us how this all came to be and what we must do to be saved--repent and be baptized (Acts 2:38). People today think there are many things that save in many ways. The truth is, only the message of the gospel tells one how to be forgiven of sins. Join us Sunday morning as we continue our series on the "Sweet Sixteens: Power Unto Salvation (Romans 1:16)." Sunday evening we will consider a question Jesus asked a crippled man in John 5:6 "Do You Wish to Get Well?" Today many people seem unaware that they are sick. Even more are unwilling to do what is necessary to be healed. Come answer that question for yourself Sunday night. Hope to see you there!