Category Archives: Encouragement


What are you willing to risk for God?

What are you willing to risk for God?

There’s a story about a group of baby sharks about six inches long. Thees small sharks were swimming along doing what baby sharks do when suddenly the current changed a big wave came and confined them in little puddles on land, the little puddles of water on the land had everything the shark needed to live the only problem was they were small not a lot of room for growth. A funny thing happened they stayed a size proportionate to the size of the puddles of water they were stuck in. Weeks and years went by and the Sharks stayed six inches long yet they were fully matured. Finally the day came another big wave hit and return them in the ocean, and they grew to their normal length of eight feet.

That also happens to some Christians. I’ve seen some of the cutest little six-inch Christians who swim around in a little puddle afraid to take a risk for God. But if you put them into a larger area not confined and weighed down by the world they can become great. God wants to release you today no longer are you going to be trapped weighed down in little puddles. The time for You is now be released don’t let the world and your situations put you in a small puddles be free! Be free!! Gods releasing a work in your lives.

What are you willing to risk for God?

To laugh is to risk appearing the fool
To weep is to risk appearing weak
To reach out for another is to risk involvement
To expose feelings is to risk exposing, your true self
To place your ideas, your dreams before a crowd is to risk their loss
To love is to risk not being loved in return
To live is to risk dying
To hope is to risk despair
To try is to risk failure

But risks must be taken, because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing

The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing and is nothing

Only a person who risks is free

Ten reasons for not taking risks:
1. We’ve never done it before.
2. But I’m afraid
3. It’s too radical a change
4. The church will never try it
5. The world will not respond to it
6. We’re not ready for it
7. You’re right but….
8. Why?
9. We will never be able to do it it’s too complicated
10. It’s impossible

How many of you have kids? How many times have you asked them to do something and gotten back the question why? How many times to we find our saying don’t ask why just do it. My dad for instance would tell me to do things when I was little son clean your room, I need to to take out the garbage, study, don’t jump into the street. And he’d get the response why? Son he’d say don’t ask why just do it! Come to find out he had my best interest in mind… Study in good, a clean room is better, jumping in front of cars is dangerous. As my father had my best interest in heart so does our heavenly father for us. How many times when God tells us to do something do we say.. why? But God why? Hello this is God we are talking about he loves us unconditionally he wants what best for us and when he asks us to do Something we need not to reply with why…. But with why not why not lord I’m yours use me. Why not me

Deuteronomy 31:6
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Duet. 31:6 NIV)

Gods got you back be a risk taker and say why not me

Risk takers in the bible – why not me

Abraham – who was the father of the people of God, Abraham the risk taker who left the security and comfort of Ur because of the call of God. He took a risk and became the “father of the multitude ” he is the spiritual ancestor of all Jews and the father of the nation of Israel. Abraham said why not me

Isaac- He went to Mount Moriah with his father where Abraham was going to offer up a living sacrifice- Abraham was directed to sacrifice his son- but Abraham knew deep within God would provide a living sacrifice- but Isaac went with and it was risky but God came through with a ram to sacrifice. Isaac said why not me

Moses – This man of God gave up the best Egypt could offer to serve God. He risked his life and reputation in Egypt to serve God. Moses said why not me

Joshua – the risk taker is still considered one of the best military minds of history. His dedication to risking all to take the promised land is noted by all. Joshua said why not

The bible is full of risk takers who instead of saying God why there said sure God why not me
Deborah said why not me
Ruth said why not me
David – a risk taker who challenged a Goliath. He took a risk for God and slew a giant everyone else was afraid of. David said why not me
Solomon said why not me

Jeremiah – The priest who took the risk to speak for God during the heartbreaking final days of Judah. His risk caused himself to be called a traitor, to be arrested, and threatened throughout his ministry. Yet he took the risk for God and as he predicted, Jerusalem was captured and the nation deported because of their unwillingness to repent to God for their sins. Jeremiah said why not me

Esther was an orphan who became queen of Persia. She was placed in her position by the Lord to be the solution to the problem. She needed to risk her life to save the annihlation of the Jewish people by Haman’s evil plan. Esther said why not me

Daniel – a prophet who took the risk of serving God in a nation under captivity and refused to change and conform to their ways. Daniel the prophet who took the risk to refuse to bow to the emperor and acknowledge him as divine. His risk taking caused a King Nebuchadnezzar to accept the Lord. Daniel said why not me

Ezra said why not me
Nehemiah said why not me
John said why not me
Peter – risked all to come to Jesus on the water. Peter said walk on water with God sure why not me
Stephen- The first disciple killed for preaching the Gospel. Stephen said why not me
Andrew -He was killed in preaching the salvation message of Jesus. Andrew said why not me
James, Philip,Thomas,Matthew all said sure God why not me God you need me to go do this ok God sure why not me

Paul -Risked all after his encounter with Jesus to reach the Gentiles for Christ. He endured persecution. Paul said why not me

Mary the mother of Jesus. She risked her reputation and life to give birth to Jesus. Mary said why not me

Joseph was bethrothed to Mary when she was found with child he was going to put her away but an angel changed his mind. He risked everything to marry Mary and raise Jesus. He put his life in danger helping to raise Jesus. Joseph said why not me

Jesus – He was willing to risk all to follow God’s plan even risk his own life on the cross to see to it that God’s plan was fulfilled and the world given redemption through his sacrifice. Jesus said why not me

He is the ultimate risk taker of all time! He worked through his fear in the Garden and he faced them and defeated them with the courage to risk all for God. Jesus knew that to defeat fear you had to risk comfort and safety and face it head on in God.

Al these people had the attitude of a risk taker because they said “Why not Me?” The key here to understand is that maturity in Christianity says “Why not me” The willingness to enter into Whenever, wherever and whatever God wants.

The truth is — when risks are taken for God things happen visions from God become realities. Lives are changed and miracles happen! Risk takers in the bible who left impressions on our minds and spirits as inspiring examples of fearlessness in the face of ridicule, harassment, sacrifice and even death for the spread of the Kingdom of God.

These risk takers changed their future and our life for the better. How about you? Do you want to take a risk for Him? I dare you! Take a risk for Him! Why not you?


Loving your Neighbor

Loving your Neighbor

Loving God can be hard because we can’t see Him. But loving our neighbor can be hard because we CAN see him. Sometimes he’s so annoying that we don’t want to see him!

Reminds me of the guy who drives down to Soldier Field in Chicago. He says to the guy at the ticket counter “I’d like two tickets to the Bears’ playoff game.” Seller says “I’m sorry, we don’t have tickets because the Bears didn’t make the playoffs.” The next day, the guy comes back to the ticket counter again. he says “I’d like two tickets to the Bears’ playoff game.” Seller says “Do you have a problem? I told you yesterday that we don’t have tickets because the Bears didn’t make the playoffs.” But the guy keeps coming back every day for two weeks! Finally on the 14th day, he says “I’d like two tickets to the Bears’ playoff game.” The seller says “You are driving me crazy! For the last time, we don’t have any tickets because the Bears didn’t make the playoffs!” The guy says “I know. I drive down from Wisconsin every day just to hear you say that!”

That guy was annoying! How many of you know someone who is really annoying? As Christians, how do we love people like that? How do we show the compassion of God to the same people who drive us crazy, and WHY should we even bother?

That’s the topic of today’s sermon.

In Matthew 22, Jesus interacts with irritating people who try to trip Him up with trick questions: Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar? If a woman has seven husbands, whose wife will she be at the resurrection?

Now they ask Him “Which commandment is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus says “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”

The word translated “love” means “wholehearted, unconditional affection.” We should love our neighbor with almost as much passion and purpose as we put into our relationship with God!

You say “Wait a minute! The leaders didn’t ask Jesus about the SECOND greatest commandment. So why does Jesus mention it?

Because love for God is validated and demonstrated by our love for others. You cannot love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength without loving his people. How do I know that? Because of 1 John 4:20. It says “If anyone says, ’I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar!” Loving God and loving your neighbor is a package deal. If you love God, you have to love his kids.

How would you feel if someone said “I like you. You’re a good guy. It’s your creepy kid I can’t stand. I don’t know how you can put up with that munchkin every day.”

I’m going out on a limb here, but you would probably not take that as a compliment. You’d say “Anyone who’s not OK with my kid is not OK with me.”

That’s how God feels. If we’re not OK with His kids, we’re not OK with Him. This doesn’t mean you need to be best buddies with everyone you ever meet, but it does mean supporting, strengthening, serving, and interceding for neighbors in need.

Next question we need to ask is “Who are the neighbors God wants us to love?”Jesus explains this in the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10. A man gets beat up and left for dead by robbers. A priest passes him by, then a Levite passes him by. Then a Samaritan man sees the hurt guy, and takes pity on him. He bandages up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he takes him to a roadside inn and pays for the man’s expenses while he recovers from his injuries.

Then Jesus says “That’s what it means to love your neighbor as yourself. Showing kindness to the least, the last, the lost, the lonely, and the unloved. Extending God’s grace in its various forms to the hurting, hated and heartbroken people He brings into your life.

And Jesus says we should love them as we love ourselves. I eat three meals a day, I brush my teeth, I take my colitis medicines, and sometimes I even exercise because I care about the body God has given me.

Jesus is saying we need to show the same concern for others that we have for ourselves, even the ones that drive us bonkers. One thing we can do is support people spiritually.Romans 12:25 says “Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn.”

I read about a boy who went to the store to buy milk for his mom, but he got home later than anticipated. Mom says “Why are you late?” The boy said “I saw a boy crying next to a broken tricycle and I went over to help him.” Mom says “You are such a sweet boy! Did you fix the tricycle?” Boy says “No, I couldn’t fix it.” Mom says “What did you do next?” The boy says “I sat down and cried with him.”

Sometimes there’s nothing we can do to alleviate the situation. But we give emotional support just by being there.

But I still give my emotional and spiritual support. I can say “I am unable to help you. But I’m good friends with the One person who CAN help you. Let’s look to Him in prayer right now.” Ephesians 6:19 says “Be diligent, and always keep on praying for all the saints.”

You say “Pastor Marc, what about the person who calls me on the phone four times a week? I know they need spiritual support, but it’s getting to the point where I don’t want to answer the phone anymore! The constant calls drive me crazy! What should I do?”

Talk to them. Give them 10-15 minutes of attention, affirmation, and support. Then you put your thumb over the earpiece, and you say “I need to get off the phone. I need to get back to what I was doing. Thanks for calling. You want to have lunch next week? Great. I’ll see you at the Hearthstone Monday. Bye.”

You can be a supportive witness for Christ by talking on the phone to the needy people God brings into your life. But you also have a right to get back to what you were doing. So try this out and see if it works.

We can support people spiritually, and we can also encourage people heartily. Hebrews 3:13 says “Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

People are starving for encouragement, because of the economy, because of family problems, and because of personal failure. So as a messenger of Jesus Christ, you have the awesome privilege of being able to bring the encouraging news of God’s love to people in your life.

There’s a girl in the youth group who has a napkin note ministry. We were up in Door County having breakfast, and she takes out this napkin, and she writes “The hash browns were delicious, the service was sensational, and you were very nice. And by the way, Jesus loves you.”

I don’t know where she got the idea. I take that back. I know where she got the idea! But isn’t that a cool way to love your neighbor as yourself? Isn’t that a neat way to share the encouraging words of God?

Do you know anyone right now who’s been down in the dumps? Is there anyone in your life that needs to be cheered up? Send them a note. When you get to the end, you can say “By the way, Jesus loves you, and so do I.” Proverbs 16:24 says that “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and healing to the bones.”

Jesus goes on to say that “All the law and the prophets hang on the commandments to love God and love others. Paul even says in Romans 13:8 that he who loves his fellow man has fulfilled the law.

Why should we love our neighbor? Number one: Because God loved us first! 1 John 3:16 says “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.”

Number two: We should love our neighbor because we want them to know that they are loved. In 1974, President Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace. No one wanted to have anything to do with him.

But later that year, Senator Mark Hatfield flew out to California to spend a couple of days with the former President. When he left, reporters said to him “Why did you fly out to California to see Nixon? It’s not going to look good for your political career to be seen with a disgraced politician.”

Hatfield replied by saying “The only reason I flew out there was to let Mr. Nixon know that someone loved him.”

The world will know that we are Christians by our love. Jesus loves you so much. Once we receive Him as our Lord and Savior, we need to take His message of love to the people in our lives. Love your neighbor as yourself by supporting them and encouraging them in these hard times in which we live. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.



Three weeks after moving from Washington State to the Midwest I found myself sleeping in a barn at a retreat in Kansas. In the middle of the night a violent storm jolted me awake. Torrential rains pummeled the side of the barn. The wind howled and thunder boomed louder than I had ever heard before.

As I sat on the hay listening to the storm, my mind kept running through scenes from the 1996 movie Twister. Watching Helen Hunt dodge massive tornadoes was the only way I had learned anything about these powerful storms.

Fear paralyzed me. I had no idea what to do, as I realized I was not in control. Repeatedly I imagined myself being sucked into the sky, standing at the pearly gates of Heaven quoting the line from the Wizard of Oz, “I don’t think I’m in Kansas anymore.”

It turned out that the storm was relatively mild and I had nothing to be concerned about. But I didn’t know that in the moment! The uncertainty and fear that I experienced was very real.

This type of fear surfaces when we discover that our perception of absolute control over our lives is an illusion. Any number of situations we face lead to this realization.

Natural disasters like the recent tornado outbreaks in Joplin, Missouri and Moore, Oklahoma turn cities upside down. Nations threaten war with one another, leaving citizens under the constant threat that their world could be very different the next day. The pressures of life push individuals to their breaking point. Jobs are lost. Tests come back positive for cancer. Loved ones tragically pass away much earlier than anyone could possibly have imagined.

It seems that the promise of facing difficult days becomes only stronger the longer we are graced to live.

Psalm 46 is a hymn to be sung by a congregation in worship as a reminder that even in complete chaos God is in control.

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling.

The congregation confesses together that God is present in the midst of our present hardships. He is our strength and shelter when we encounter the unknown.

When God created the earth he separated the water and the land. Even if creation started to reverse and the mountains fell back into the seas, God would still be in control. Therefore, we have nothing to fear.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her;
she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of the heavenly armies is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

In difficult times, God provides sustenance to his people. Even though individual battles may be lost, we can have complete confidence that God is still with us. He will be there to help us pick up the pieces when a new day begins.

Nations rise and fall, but when God speaks the earth melts. If the Lord of the heavenly armies is with us we have nothing to fear when the nations are in turmoil. He is ultimately in control of the kingdoms of the world.

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
The Lord of the heavenly armies is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

The hymn shifts from a group confession to an invitation to those outside the community. The congregation calls the surrounding nations to, “Come and see the works of our God. See that no one has ever been able to stand against him. He is even Lord over the elements of war. With his words alone he causes wars to cease. Therefore desist your futile attempts to stand against him and know that the great ‘I am,’ Yahweh, is the one and only God. He will be exalted in the nations. He will be exalted in the earth. In the end, our God will ultimately be victorious in every way! The Lord who controls heavenly armies of angels is with us. Our protection comes from the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who throughout history has been faithful to his people.”

When natural disasters turn our world upside down our God is still in control.
When we see our nations on the verge of war our God is still in control.
When we encounter incredible personal suffering our God is still in control.

The works of our great Enemy are futile against the plans of our God. On days it seems that battles are lost we still place our trust in Jesus. Even taking our last breath we can have complete confidence in him, knowing that one day we will rise again just as Jesus first rose from the dead. The great weapon of our Enemy has been defeated. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?

If our God is for us, who can be against us? What could we possibly fear? The Lord of the heavenly armies is with us; the God of Jacob is indeed a fortress.

Ways to live a blessed Life!

Ways to Live a Blessed Life

We learned that God has blessed all of us by giving us one blessing after another.

What steps should we take to live a blessed life?

1. Receive God’s blessing through Christ.
2. Celebrate God’s blessing in worship.
3. Expect God’s blessing by faith.
4. Share God’s blessing with others.

Everything that we have is because of the grace of God.

To be blessed. I don’t know of any human being who doesn’t desire to live a blessed life. And because God is really sweet to us, he made sure to include His recipe for a blessed life right there in His instruction book.

Let’s look at Joshua where we met some VIBP’s (Very Important Blessed People).

In Joshua 1, Moses is gone and Joshua is the new leader. Previously, the Reubenites, Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh asked Moses for permission to go ahead and settle just east of the Promised Land.

The time had come for the rest of God’s people to cross over and claim the promise. The Reubenites, Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh could have just said, “Good luck guys! Buh bye!” They were all settled in and set.

But that’s not what God’s people do.

God’s people are ever on guard ready to serve and support each other. The R’s, G’s, and 1/2M’s left the comfort of their already established homes to do whatever it took to help the rest of God’s people claim their rightful place and settle across the Jordan River.

They committed themselves to Joshua, their trusted leader. They made an easy transition from following Moses to following Joshua because they knew both men were appointed and anointed by God.

“Then they answered Joshua, ‘Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you as he was with Moses. Whoever rebels against your word and does not obey your words, whatever you may command them, will be put to death. Only be strong and courageous.’” (Joshua 1: 16-18)

Whatever, wherever, whenever.

We have to pause and ask ourselves, Are you willing to do whatever it takes to serve God and support His people? Are you willing to put our own comfort aside to help others have the same opportunity?

The fighting men challenged Joshua to be strong and courageous. How beautiful that they used the same verbiage God used when he privately challenged Joshua a few verses earlier. (See Joshua 1:6-7)

I love it when God confirms His instructions through the wise words of fellow Believers. I imagine Joshua got “glory bumps” when those fighting men confirmed God’s charge to him by saying, “BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS!”

The book of Joshua continues by telling the story of the Israelites’ victorious journey into the Promised Land. In chapter 22, Joshua stands before those fighting men once again. He commended them for their valiant efforts and told them it was now time to enjoy the fruit of their labor. Everyone was settled and ready to enjoy the long-awaited promise of a land flowing with milk and honey.

But before he sent them on their way, he gave them a solemn warning.

“But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you; to love the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to obey his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and all your soul.”

Being blessed is a dangerous place to be. If we get too comfy, we’ll let down our guard and give the evil one lots of little cracks through which to sneak.

So what’s the recipe for a blessed life?

1. Love the Lord your God: Our love for God should be so intense that we can’t bear to not be in His presence. We need to learn to truly love Jesus. What is meant by loving Jesus is having a relationship with Him. God wants you to lean on Him with everything.

2. Walk in all His ways: Blessed people walk in sync with God at all times…no lagging behind or rushing ahead. Understand what is true worship.
We go to church and praise and worship God. Understanding that praise and worship just does not stop on Sunday. Worship is a daily attitude. An attitude of positivity and above all an attitude of gratefulness

3. Obey His commands: This is where the whenever, wherever, and whatever comes in. We should have NO limits to our obedience. NO reservations. NO wavering. Trust in God.
God blesses those who trust, believe, and expect His blessings. We must consistently have faith.

4. Hold fast to Him: When you think of holding on to God, what picture comes to your mind? Do you picture someone hanging onto the side of a cliff with white knuckles shaking? I’ll tell you what I picture. I picture a little child in Daddy’s arms with arms wrapped tight around his neck and head rested securely on his shoulder. Daddy’s big arms are doing the heavy-duty holding.

5. Serve Him will all your heart and soul: Just as the fighting men left their homes to take on the important mission of claiming the promised land, we all have a mission. Christians should never be bored! No coasting through life. No half-hearted effort. No sitting around waiting for someone else to do it. Bless others and God will bless you.
We are all God’s children. What we know about our Lord is available to others. God is pleased when we share what we have with others. Life is a cycle. As we give to others, God gives to us.

Some recipe, huh? No obscure ingredients, no fancy slicing and dicing, no marinating for hours.

Love Him, walk with Him, obey Him, hold onto Him, serve Him…and be blessed.