Author Archives: pastorharness

About pastorharness

Steve Harness was saved at the age of seven. His father led him to the Lord in their home after a Sunday night service. The Lord has blessed Steve with many educational and experiential opportunities. Educational opportunities include a Bachelor of Bible, a Master of Ministry, a Doctorate of Biblical Studies and a PhD in Christian Counseling. In addition to pastoring, he is also a Board Certified Counselor by the BCPPC. Experiential opportunities include pastor, youth pastor, Christian school educator, school board president, teen evangelist, camp and conference speaker, radio broadcaster, and much more! He is thankful for each opportunity the Lord has given, and he desires to “serve the Lord with gladness" while seeing people saved and growing in their relationship with the Lord.

The Shackles of Addiction

The Shackles of Addiction

The LORD is known by the judgment which he executeth: the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands. Higgaion. Selah.  Psalm 9:16

The evil works we are addicted to snares or shackles us.  When we are doing what we feel makes us free, we may be in fact locking ourselves up in a trap.  Chaining ourselves to a habit.

“Snared” is an old Hebrew word that according to Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary means “a noose (for catching animals) (literally or figuratively): by implication, a hook (for the nose):–be ensnared, gin, (is) snare(-d), trap.”

Wow there is a lot to unpack in that definition.  Here are a few vivid pictures of snaring (and addiction) to consider.

  • Addictions are a “noose” that suffocates real life out of us.
  • Addictions are a “hook” that stabs into us to catch us like we may catch a fish.
  • Addictions are a “gin”, engine or mechanism, used to trap us.
  • Addiction are a “trap” in which when we fall into, it is difficult to get out of.

Unless you purpose in your heart, seek accountability with others, and receive competent counsel from a counselor, it is very difficult to released yourself from the addition.

Addicts need help.  Get help.

The first step to recovery is admitting: “I need help.”

Please give me a call this week.  I would be honored to help you overcome the addition.

With God, all things are possible!  Choose freedom from the chains of addiction that are holding you down.

 

 

 

 

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Fireworks and Service

When lighting the fire for a bonfire or cookout, as the night sky is lit up tonight with fireworks, or as your kids whirl a sparkler, think about the service that affords us the freedom you are enjoying today.  Someone served to enable today’s celebration.

Jesus, speaking in John 15:13 said, Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.  Of course, Jesus is the ultimate example of servant-hood.

Jesus served the will of God the Father.  In John 6:38 Jesus declared: For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.  If you are a Christian, a follower of Jesus, you too are called to serve God the Father.  Do His will for and in your life.  Find His plan, then do it.

Jesus also served men.  His purpose for dying on the Cross was to save us from our sin.  His mission was a rescue mission.  Our sin separated us from God, and the blood of Jesus was shed to cleans us and cover us of our sin.   When God sees a Christian, He does not see the sin of that person, He sees the righteousness of Jesus!  Amen for that.  Jesus served the interested of mankind in making salvation possible.

We too can serve other people.  The Apostle Paul knew what it was to serve the Lord and serve other people.  He said in Galatians 5:13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.

By Love.  It was because of the love of God for man that God sent Jesus.  It was because of love that Jesus died on the cross in our place.  We deserved that death.  It was because of love.  Love is the motivator for any service to either God or other people.  Service conducted with love is service that God accepts and that pleases Him.

As we celebrate freedom, take a moment to thank the Lord for His service to you in the Lord Jesus.  Then look for ways that you can serve other people too!

We are the most like Jesus, when we are serving others!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Draymond Was Right

Draymond was Right

Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.  Ephesians 3:7

After Golden State basketball superstar Kevin Durant was injured in the NBA Finals, fans in Toronto were cheering.  Actually cheering.  Their team had a better chance to win now that Kevin was out.  I hope his injury is recoverable.

Speaking about the sensitivity of fans, Draymond Green, a Durant teammate and fellow NBA All-Star said some truthful statements about the perception he feels fans place on him and others in pro sports.

In effect he said: “Fans expect their pro players to never fail or get injured or sick, but they are people too. They don’t care what happens outside the lines. They expect us to be unreal.”

His words are accurate.  Fans do tend to think of their stars as “more than regular people.”  The expectations and assumptions placed on starts by fans are not healthy.   Not healthy for the stars – or the fans.  Like a referee, his call of “Foul!” is warranted.

In the spiritual realm in which we live, how many people perceive and project expectations and assumptions onto people in ministry? How about what we perceive and project onto other church members?

What Draymond said was right, and his insights also apply to how many people see their pastor in their church.

Here are 3 areas to avoid getting a “Foul” called against you.

  • Unrealistic expectations. Projecting impossibilities is a foul against the pastor and against the one with the impossible expectations.  The pastor cannot be everywhere at the same time.  He is unable to visit everyone who misses a service.  It is difficult for him to preach and take attendance at the same time.  Toss into the basket the fact that some parishioners are only in attendance in one service a week, the pastor is less likely to notice they are missing.  For example, if someone that normally attends Sunday morning, Sunday Evening and the Midweek service is missing – the pastor is more likely to see they are not there – because of the frequency of their attendance.  Sometimes the pastor wants to- but can’t.  There are times when I am too sick to make a hospital visit.  We want others to go when that happens, but to have one man visit every person of 200, 100, or 50 people is not very realistic.   Expecting something that is not possible hurts the person doing the “expecting!”  The pastor has a life, family, health needs, and emotional encouragement needs too.
  • Unreasonable assumptions. This is when we assume the worst about people or situations.  Human nature is to assume things are worse off than they really are.  This is the “making a mountain out of a mole-hill syndrome.”  Many good people get caught up in false assumptions.  “He does not like me.”  “She does not care.”  “They like them better than us.”  These are dangerous thought patterns rooted in pride and ego.   This type of thinking is what Paul is warning Titus about in Titus 1:15 Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.  Choose to have healthy and hopeful thoughts about others.  Avoid assuming the worst.  It hurts your impression of others when you project unreasonable assumptions on others. Not everything will go the way you hope it will but compounding every relationship struggle is -assumption.
  • Unhealthy attitudes. The attitude truly determines your altitude.  If you have a healthy, winning attitude, you are more likely to succeed in whatever you are striving for.  In relationships, if you have a healthy attitude toward your pastor, it will help you be an encouragement.  It will cause you to be less critical.  It will create in you’re a desire to help and to serve.  When people serve with their pastor, they are helping advance the Gospel and the kingdom of God through the local church.

Basketball fans, and church members – don’t get a “Foul!” called on you.  Choose to have realistic thoughts about other church members and about your pastor.

He is a real person who cares much, feels deeply, and hopes unceasingly.

Yes, Draymond was right.  Stars are just people too.  Remember this truth the next time you watch a game.

 

In Search of Contentment, Pt. 6

Continuing the thought of things that can only come from Jesus:

The Present of Today. 

One clever thinker got it right: “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift––that is why it is called the present.”  Proverbs 27:1 teaches: Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.

The fact is, we cannot buy another day on earth.  It is Jesus who supplies the breath and heartbeat for another day.  Life is a gift only Jesus can give.

The Provision of God. 

God will supply all the things you really need in life.  The content person who is giving to the cause of God and His Gospel has the backing of Jesus Himself on his life.

Sometimes banks will convey how many assets they have to draw on.  A bank could have $57,000,000,000 in cash, silver, gold, property, and holdings.  That is a lot of money!  Jesus has the “Riches of Glory.”  Think of all the wealth of Heaven, streets of gold, and gates of pearl.  Jesus owns all of that.  In addition, Heaven has no health issues, no jails for criminals, and no funeral homes or graves for death.  In the perfect economy of Heaven, Jesus owns it all.

Christian, you can “go to the bank” of Jesus and see God supply all the things in life you really need.  The “First Bank of Heaven” is always open and will never go out of business. Be sure to understand the differences between your “wants” and “true needs.”  Natalie, my wife and best friend, says that people have big “Wanters.”  My “Wanter” is tested from time to time as well.  You and I must come back to this verse often and choose contentment and trust Jesus to supply what we really need in life.

Jacob, in Genesis 25, is a “grabber.”  He grabs his brother’s heel and grabs his brothers’ stuff (birthright and blessing).  As times goes on, Jacob grabs onto God in a wrestling match, as we see in Genesis 32.  This encounter with God totally changes his life.  He starts to value things of God instead of the things of the earth.

Colossians 3:2 admonishes, Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. This is how Jacob begins to live his life.  His priority change is a good example for us today.  He found contentment in God.

The things worth loving in life are not things.  Jesus told us to love two things: God and then people.  This is the first and second command.  Matthew 22:37-39 elaborates, Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment.  39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Focus your life on the things that God values, and He will supply all you really need in life.  The answer is contentment.

Concluding Thoughts…

  • When you find yourself complaining – choose contentment.
  • When you hear yourself being critical – choose contentment.
  • When you see yourself comparing to others – choose contentment.
  • When you feel yourself coveting another person’s life, position, relationship, job, upbringing, or life-stage – choose contentment.

Like the hot air balloon, this old preacher’s story captures the idea of our search for contentment.  “The story is told about a pilot who always looked down intently on a certain valley in the Appalachians when the plane passed overhead. One day his co-pilot asked, ‘What’s so interesting about that spot?’ The pilot replied, ‘See that stream? Well, when I was a kid I used to sit down there on a log and fish. Every time an airplane flew over, I would look up and wish I were flying… Now I look down and wish I were fishing.’”

Are you content today?  The only place to find true, lasting contentment is in Jesus Christ.  Perhaps a Christian friend reading this has a covetous heart.  Confess that as sin to God and in Jesus’ name choose contentment today – and every day.

Perhaps another reader is not sure they are a Christian.  Even if you were born into a religious home, it does not automatically make you a Christian.  Have you trusted in the GOSPEL – the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus?  Has there been a moment when you expressed faith in Jesus to God through prayer?  Why not trust and believe in Jesus right now?

Pray this way: “God in Heaven, I realize I am a sinner and need Jesus as my Savior.  I confess my sin to you.  Please forgive me of my sin in Jesus’ name.  I believe in the Gospel.  Jesus shed His blood for my sin, died on the cross taking my punishment, and rose again the third day.  I believe in Jesus.  Please save me from my sin and give me a home in Heaven.  Thank you for saving me.”

If you prayed for salvation, please let me know.  I would like to share Bible verses with you to help you in your new faith in Jesus.  Please call 518.583.2736, or email me at: pastor@wiltonbaptistchurch.com

 

 

 

In Search of Contentment, Pt. 5

Find the Supply of Jesus for You. (Vs. 19)

In the context of this passage, Paul was commending the Philippian church members, because they were faithful to send Missionary Paul money to help him further the Gospel and plant new churches.  Paul is the New Testament missionary that most missionaries pattern their ministry after – even today.   Jesus gives a promise to those Christians who are faithful to give to missions work specifically – “God will supply all your need.”

These church folks were content with what money and things they had – so much so that they gave above their regular tithes and offerings to God through their church and gave extra to help Paul and other missionaries.  These people had great faith in God and were not consumed with material gain.  God has said – “I promise that I will give the selfless everything they need in life.”  Do you believe this promise?  Would you give more to missions if God asked you to?

A content person is willing to give more, and because of that willingness, God actually gives him more – to give in return!  It all starts with contentment.

There are several things in life that cannot be bought.  Like the old Mastercard commercials said: “Some things money can’t buy, for everything else, there’s Mastercard!”

  • Good health has no price tag.
  • Good friends cannot be bought.
  • Great marriages are priceless.
  • Great kids are worth every investment you put into them (and more).

Here are some things that only Jesus can supply.

The Peace of Mind. 

Jesus said in John 14:27, Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

Years ago, Ray Cazis summarized a Duke University study on ‘peace of mind.’ Factors found to contribute greatly to emotional and mental stability are:

  1. “The absence of suspicion and resentment. Nursing a grudge was a major factor in unhappiness.
  2. Not living in the past. An unwholesome preoccupation with old mistakes and failures leads to depression.
  3. Not wasting time and energy fighting conditions you cannot change. Cooperate with life, instead of trying to run away from it.
  4. Force yourself to stay involved with the living world. Resist the temptation to withdraw and become reclusive during periods of emotional stress.
  5. Refuse to indulge in self-pity when life hands you a raw deal. Accept the fact that nobody gets through life without some sorrow and misfortune.
  6. Cultivate the old-fashioned virtues—love, humor, compassion and loyalty.
  7. Do not expect too much of yourself. When there is too wide a gap between self-expectation and your ability to meet the goals you have set, feelings of inadequacy are inevitable.
  8. Find something bigger than yourself to believe in. Self-centered egotistical people score lowest on any test for measuring happiness.”

That is a good summary with many biblical applications for our daily life.  Are you living with peace in your life, or is your heart and mind full of anxiety today?  Most of what we worry about will never happen anyway.  Many times, it is the stuff we hope to have or patterns of life we resort to that are contributing to the lack of peace we may experience.

 

 

Please read on the the conclusion of In Search of Contentment, PART 6…

The Value Vs. Cost of A Christian School Education

For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?  Luke 14:28

While you may not be building a tower, every parent is building a child!  The principle of counting the cost definitely applies to how we manage the upbringing and education of our children.  To the Christian parent with conviction for Christian education, there is no monetary value that they would place on a Christian school opportunity for their children. To them it is priceless.

The value of the Christian school far outweighs any monetary cost. The parent with conviction for Christian schooling will find any and every way possible to pay tuition, look for financial assistance, and even change money spending patterns – in order to put or keep their kids in the Christian school.

Everything worth something does cost.  It could cost time, money, energy, and most definitely – commitment.  Schooling always will cost something. Even if a government school education does not cost money, it does cost something.   Not everything is measured by dollars and cents.

So many are the benefits of a Christian school:

  • The reinforcement of Christian values the parents are currently teaching at home.
  • Math, science, literature, and history all taught from an absolute truth perspective.
  • Weekly chapels and daily bible classes to encourage spiritual growth and frame advanced spiritual formation in the heart and mind of the student.
  • A safe place to practice Christianity on a daily basis.
  • Not only is there the potential for spiritual formation, but also social formation. Students can practice their Christianity and relational skills in a formal setting.
  • An atmosphere that reduces, not totally eliminates, a worldly mindset. Kids are kids (still sinners) in any environment.
  • The areas of academic rigor, social interaction, and personal discipline each have high expectations for each student.
  • Teachers who value and love each student, taking the time necessary to engage them daily, pray with them, and encourage good academics while fostering a good attitude.
  • A curriculum developed from a non-secular Christian world view.

These benefits are either practical, philosophical, or spiritual.  None of these benefits are economical.   With benefits like this, you see why parents with a Christian school conviction value the school opportunity so much!  The economic cost is not much compared to the spiritual, social, and philosophical benefits.

It is simply worth it to them. Here are several areas a Christian school convicted parent may change in their life in order to be able to “afford” the Christian school.

  1. They may buy store brand items instead of brand name items.
  2. They may buy food in bulk instead of prepackaged individual servings.
  3. They may go without soda pop or other high-priced beverages. Some people even resort to being so health conscience and financially savvy, they only drink water.
  4. Some resort to buying what is on sale at the grocery store, even clipping coupons, or scanning receipts for refunds on an app.
  5. Some teach their older kids how to mow lawns and the students save up for school the previous summer. Other seasonal work can assist in this too.
  6. They sell high ticket items such as an extra car, boat, ATV, snowmobile, or camper.
  7. They may cut back on unnecessary things in life such as cable, Internet, newspaper / magazine subscriptions, or cell phone services.  Children and teens have no real need for big cell phone plans. Non-smart phones can cost as little as $10 a month and even then – that is a luxury.  One phone to share is sufficient and not only will cut spending but will also ensure morality and create accountability for their phone usage.
  8. They may take less trips. Less spontaneous trips to the store due to poor planning. Even 2-3 days less on some vacations (in some cases) could pay the entire year’s tuition for one student!

Cost Versus Value.  They do not always match.  Explore your options.  How much of a value is a Christian School Education as opposed to not having one?  What is the true cost?

Any other cost cutting ideas to help pay tuition for a Christian school education???

Please post them in the comments below.

In Search of Contentment, Pt. 4

Find the Strength of Jesus in You. (vs.13)

What an incredible statement: “I can do all things through Christ…” This well-known verse is many times taken out of context or stretched to imply things that it is not truly dealing with.

The doing of “all things” is not accomplished by your own power, intellect, ability, or willpower.  It is accomplished by the power of God.

Being content is a choice founded upon the strength of Jesus.  Many people are in search of contentment but may not even see that the underlying drive in their life is the need for contentment.  They may turn to a relationship in search of being content or satisfied.  They may turn to drugs, vaping, alcohol, pornography, or some other addiction in search of fulfillment.

What happens is the relationship, the addiction, or the perceived “need” then becomes a controlling factor in their life.  Instead of finding contentment, they find themselves enslaved to the “need” for more of their “medicine” or, in reality, poison.

Christianity Today, in their March 2019 magazine, featured the testimony of a former NFL player named Miles McPherson who played for the San Diego Chargers from 1982-1985.  As he tells his story, he had everything a person could want: a well-paying job, a dream come true to play professional sports, the high life of an elite few in the world, playing in the NFL.  But something was still missing in his life.

At a party with many veteran players, the men he looked up to as a child, he was offered drugs.  He said about that experience: “The cocaine that I consumed that night took me by the lapels and forced me into submission.  Soon enough I was completely under it’s control.”

Miles knew several Christians on the team, and they were vocal about their faith and about the power of Jesus to set people free from their sin and addictions.  One morning, after a day and night of drugs, no sleep, and a complete inability to say “no” of his own power to the drugs, he realized that it was Jesus Who had the power for the “no.”  That morning, in desperation he prayed to Jesus for salvation and asked God to deliver him from the power of the drugs.  And God did.

Something changed in him that day.  From that point on, he did not take any more cocaine or other drugs.  God changed him.  In the power of Jesus’ name, the addiction was gone.  Powerful story.

Instead of searching for contentment in drugs, relationships, the workplace, or some other aspect of life, it is possible to find contentment in Jesus.

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”  All things include contentment.  It includes the power to overcome addictions and to see life in a new “God Dimension.”   Instead of relying on your own power to be a winner, rely on the Lord Jesus.

The Apostle Paul had God’s power in his life to find contentment: in the court house, in the jail house, in a crowded ship, in a church, and in a home.  He found contentment when he was hungry and thirsty as well as when he was full and well-hydrated.  In poor health and in good health, he was happy in Jesus.  With no money or some money, he was content in the name of Jesus.

Ask the Lord for His power to help you find contentment in the midst of your present situation.  With His power, you can have the same life but see it in a whole new way.   God’s power can give a “God Dimension” to you.

 

Please read on to PART 5 of In Search of Contentment