Hearts on Fire

“They said to one another, ‘Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?’” – Luke 24:32

“Lord, I want more of you! I want my heart set on fire for you, O God. Fill me and use me for your glory!” This is me talking to myself after experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit recently.

Throughout the Bible, fire symbolizes the presence of God. From God’s conversation with Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-3) to the pillar of cloud and fire as the Spirit of God led the Israelites out of Egypt through the Red Sea (Exodus 14:24), our God is a devouring fire (Hebrews 12:29). The first disciples of Jesus were filled with the Holy Spirit as what looked like tongues of fire settled on each of them (Acts 2:3).

Since returning from a conference in Franklin, TN, I feel refreshed and eager for my heart to be on fire for the Lord. Worship gets me jazzed up for God’s fire in my life. I sense God’s presence, power and love when I am in worship with all of you. It’s a great feeling! I hope you sense it too. I think for many of us, myself included at times, the reality is we are just going through the motions; that worship is simply a box that we check. And yet, we really do want our hearts on fire; we want to experience God’s love, mercy and grace.

Too often the reality is that the fire of God’s love flares up within our hearts only to die down to embers. We wonder why we can’t see God at work in our lives. We wonder why we feel so miserable at times. We wonder why we don’t have much purpose or passion in our lives. We wonder why we keep making the same poor decisions in life. There’s flames, but no fire. And then we wonder why it seems our lives are falling apart. We are tired, exhausted and ready to give up. We want to follow Jesus, but we wonder why God hasn’t changed our life yet? We wonder why our hearts just aren’t burning like other people’s hearts are burning.

To be crystal clear here, I have some of these same questions myself. I so badly want more of God’s presence in my life. I desperately desire, hunger and thirst for more of God’s grace, love and truth in my life. As a follower of Jesus Christ, I do not want to simply go through the motions. Instead, I want God to start a fire within me that burns, and burns, and burns. And it takes over every part of my life. Not just on Sunday, but every day of the week. So, when the emotions and the warm fuzzies are gone, and life shows back up on Monday, the fire inside me only continues to grow and grow and grow. That’s my hope for me, but honestly, that’s my hope for all of you as well.

Together we ask, “How do we ensure that the condition of our heart is right to ignite a sustainable fire and not just flames that flare up only to burn out?” Adam Weber, one of the speakers I heard at the recent conference I attended, gave us three things we can do to sustain the fire. First we begin by welcoming and inviting God’s presence into our lives. Not just one time, but every day, all the time. Invite God to light a fire, giving you a passion for God. Secondly, we have to clear out the garbage in our life. We have to remove the sin that is slowly killing our soul. We have to get rid of the jealousy, resentment, lust, bitterness and unforgiveness. And finally, if we want God to set a fire in our life, we have to completely surrender to God. Hand over complete control of your life to Jesus Christ. Invite Jesus to have his way with every aspect of your life, even the scary parts. Completely surrender your life to God and let him have his way with you.

As God sets our hearts on fire, may our joy overflow in order for others to seek this same all-consuming fire. Amen!

Pastor Craig Collins



Spring Into New Life

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his faithful love lasts forever.  Let Israel say, “God’s faithful love lasts forever!” (Psalm 118:1-2)
 
As we move into April we are thankful for the spring weather, as the flower beds, lawns and fields wake up to a new growing season.  Spring is my very favorite season of the year.  I love to watch the flower bulbs push up new life.  I love to see the calves playing in the fields and squirrels chasing each other around trees that are putting on new buds of life.  The whole idea of new life gives me hope.  The “blahs” and dormancy of winter are real.  Spring is that season wherein that which died in the fall is raised to new life. 
 
Jesus spoke about the hope of new life as he discussed his impending death when he said, “Now the time has come for the Son of Man to enter into His glory.  I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone.  But it’s death will produce many new kernels – a plentiful harvest of new lives.  Those who love their lives in this world will lose it.  Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity.  Anyone who wants to be my disciple must follow me, because my servants must be where I am.  And the Father will honor anyone who serves me” (John 12:23-26).
 
This month we remember Christ’s journey to the cross.  We reflect on and thank GOD FOR Jesus’ willingness to die on the cross for our sins.  We will celebrate his last meal with his closest followers at the Living Last Supper at 7PM, Thursday, April 13 at our church.  Then on Good Friday, we will remember Jesus’ death on the cross as we join with other Christian brothers and sisters in our community for an ecumenical Good Friday worship service at 6:30 PM at the First Presbyterian Church in Scottsbluff.  I can’t encourage you enough to take in these two special evenings. 
 
Easter Sunday, April 16, we will celebrate Jesus’ resurrection to new life.  This is the pinnacle of the Christian faith as we hold fast to our hope that Jesus’ resurrection is just the first fruits of those who have died (1 Corinthians 15:20).  As we die to ourselves, and live to serve Christ, we hold fast to the new life that is in us.  Christ’s victory over death affirms in us the hope that we too will have eternal and everlasting life through our faith and trust in Jesus Christ. 
 
April 23, will be a very special day in our church as six young ladies will be confirmed as members of our church.  They will say “Yes” to the love offered them through Jesus Christ as they publicly profess their faith in him.  They too will be celebrating new life in Jesus Christ.  Please join us at the 8:30 AM worship service on April 23 as we celebrate these young people.  They are: Tamara Brocious, daughter of Cindy Brocious; Alison and Emily Carpenter, daughter of Katie and Ray Carpenter; Sarah Connot, daughter of Sherry Preston; Jordan Hughy, daughter of Chad Hughy; Keelyn Morris, daughter of Ashley Morris and Matt Buckridge. 
 
Yes spring is a very special time of year.  The signs of new life are everywhere.  May we be so very thankful to God for the new life we have in his Son, Jesus Christ.  Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.  His faithful love lasts forever! 
 
Blessing, Peace & Love,
 
Pastor Craig


Lent. What Is It? How Does It Affect Me?

Remember you are dust…and to dust you shall return. 
 
Lent is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter.  It is a season of preparation for celebrating Easter.  You might ask yourself, how do I get prepared for Easter?  I believe preparing for Easter involves more than picking out a nice Easter outfit for yourself, your children or grandchildren.  It’s more than preparing a special Easter Sunday meal for your family.  This season of preparation is meant to be personal.  It’s meant to involve self-examination, to take a hard serious look at your life.  It may involve a new spiritual practice; giving of yourself in fasting, study, meditation and prayer. 
 
I recognize that to examine our own hearts and lives is not always a comfortable or enjoyable experience.  I get that.  It may be easier on you to glance over the material, to dance around the margins, to keep yourself guarded, and not be very involved.  As tempting as this might be I invite you this year to step up and accept the challenge.  We will intentionally confront our own mortality.  It’s a way in which we recognize we are created by God, made in God’s image, and yet, so often we fail to be God-like.  We are broken.  As you give yourself to this experience, we will come face to face with our need for our Savior, Jesus Christ. 
 
We will begin this season called Lent on March 1, at 7p.m., with our Ash Wednesday Worship Service.  I encourage you to make the sacrifices necessary to be fully engaged in this season of self-examination and preparation.  Make every effort to be in worship: heart, mind, body and soul.  Take advantage of the opportunities to grow, whether it be at our Tuesday Lenten Lunches (beginning March 7), our Thursday study of the Apostles’ Creed (beginning March 9), or other bible studies offered in our church.  Branch out a bit further.  Attempt something new.  If you’ve never been in a study, take advantage of this season to stretch yourself.  God will be with you.  Of that, I am certain and it will be good.
 
Blessings and Joy,
 
Pastor Craig


Treat Others With Grace And Love

 

“But to those who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies!”  (Luke 7:27)

Jesus changes things.  Or, at least I’d like to think so.

The social and political climate of our nation is such that there is a lot of anxiety, tension, hostility, and people generally behaving badly towards one another.  Newsfeeds and social media are ripe with people attacking and condemning those with opposing viewpoints.  In social media, friendships are being cut off because of varying viewpoints.  It is just sad the way we treat one another.  I appreciate the passion of the people.  I’m glad we live in a country where we are free to express our discontent.  Protesting is one thing, destroying people’s property and hard earned businesses is not okay.  In these United States it seems we are far from united. 

How do we as Christians interact with the discontent and anxiety?  Is your faith in Jesus Christ reflected in the way you react to what is going on in our nation today? Jesus can teach us a lot about how we treat others.  Just a week ago during Children’s Church at Kid’s First, we were learning about Jesus and the woman at the well (John 4:4-30)  The kids learned that God loved the world so much that he gave his son Jesus.  Jesus gave his life for all people so that we could be friends with God again.  Jesus showed this when he was friendly with the woman at the well.  Though everyone else was surprised that Jesus would be a friend to her, Jesus was eager to help her learn that God loved her also.  She discovered that Jesus is God’s Son and he can change our lives so that we, too, can love everyone.  Maybe its lessons like this that can help us treat one another with love. 

I recently watched a video on Facebook that was a humorous lesson on how to disagree without making people feel terrible.  You can find it by searching KidPresident on the internet.  The young man in the video offers six steps to disagreeing with others.  I’ll share four of them: 

The first is to treat people like people.  Don’t forget the people with the opposing views are fellow human beings and worthy of respect.

Step two, listen, listen, listen!  Before trying to change someone’s opinions, listen to them.  Even if what they are saying doesn’t make sense to you. 

Step three, Pause, Breath, and Love.  It’ okay to disagree.  But it’s not okay to be mean.  Don’t say anything until you can say it with love.  This life stuff is hard.  Let’s not spend our time being mad at each other.  You don’t have to see eye to eye to work shoulder to shoulder. 

Step four, acceptance.  The thing we have to accept is not everyone is the same, and that’s a good thing.  Nobody wins when all we want to do is win. 

I am certain the various viewpoints of our nation are equally held in our church.  Those who are sitting next to you may not have the same opinion of things as you’d do.  May the Holy Spirit strengthen us to treat one another with grace and love.  We can do this.  It’s who we are called to be. 

Blessings and Peace,

Pastor Craig.



Happy New Year

Here’s wishing all of you a very Happy and Blessed New Year!  Lori and I are visiting our daughter and her family in Kentucky as I write this to you.  We are having the best time!  Of course we love spending time with our grand daughter, Collins.  She turns one on January 6th. 
 
This is the time of year for resolutions.  Do you make any? I’ve known people who say, “I don’t make New Year’s resolutions because I can’t keep them anyway, so what’s the point? I want to share with you some reasons for making resolutions and maybe you’ll give it a try this year. 
 
First, we all need changes.  Sometimes we have a hard time admitting it.  I’ve heard people say, “I have no regrets about my life.  If I had it to do all over again, I’d do it the same way.”  But that seems way to blind of an attitude, and rather self-serving to me.  There is great power in confession – to ourselves, to God, and to others.  Owning up to our failures is the first, painful step on the road to something better.
 
Second, when we start a new year, it’s a good time to assess the previous year.  How did it go? What do I want to do differently this year? This time of year reminds me of Jeremiah 4:3, which says, “Break up your unplowed ground, and do not sow among thorn.”  Any farmer knows the more land you put in production the more prosperous you’ll be.  But it’s useless to sow seeds in ground that is overrun with thistles.  So, as we assess our lives, are there areas where in your life where the weeds are taking over? Or, put another way, what percentage of your life is producing something of value to God?  Perhaps you have unplowed ground that needs broken up and made more useful? Reassessment.  The start of a new year is a good time for reassessment. 
 
Third, New Year’s is an excellent time for mid-course corrections.  Sure, we might fail in what we set out to do, but if we fail to plan then we plan to fail.  If you’re so fearful of failure that you never set up your row of tin cans to shoot at, you’re not very likely to hit any at all.  Failure is not the end.  For the person who determines to learn from it, failure is a friend. 
 
The apostle Paul had a good approach to handling failures.  It seemed that projects to which he had devoted years were turning to dust before his eyes.  But during one of his stints in prison, we can see from on of his letters an unwillingness to quit.  If “Forgetting what is behind,” he wrote, “and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:13-14, NIV)  No wonder he made a mark on this world.  He stopped looking back and looked forward instead.  He didn’t let the fear of failure keep him from trying again. 
 
Fourth, New Year’s is a time to learn to rely more heavily on the grace of God.  Trust in the Lord to be your helper.  Life is too hard to face it alone!  One more secret from the Apostle Paul: “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” he said (Phil 4:13, NIV).  And God’s strength saw him through a lot-through pain, through joy, and through accomplishment. 
 
If this last year, you didn’t practice relying on the Lord as much as you should have, there is no time like the present to make a New Year’s resolution.  In fact, why don’t you say a short prayer right now-use these words if you like:
 
“Dear God, I want the new year to be different for me.” 
 
Now spell out in prayer some of the changes you’d like to see.  And close this way, “Lord Jesus, I know that I’m going to need a lot of help for this.  So right now I place myself in your hands.  Help me to receive Your strength.  Amen.” 
 
Good.  Now you’ve got a much better chance of a Happy New Year.
 
Grace, Peace and Love,
 
Pastor Craig