From the Heart

by Pastor Jeff

September/October 2017

Most everybody knows by now that I love the Fall in the midwest. The beautiful colors, the crispness in the air, everyone back on schedule with school starting, sweater weather, football and Edwards Apple Orchard. However, even in the mist of such beauty, many people feel worn down and frustrated. The pressures of life, disappointments, health issues of loved ones and the “daily grind” can all work together to discourage you. Even Christians, sometimes, wonder if God really cares about them. Pastor and author Chuck Swindoll humorously observes, “The problem with The Christian Life is that it’s so daily.” Maybe you are feeling disconnected from God as you read this news letter.

So how do you overcome this sense of aloneness and discouragement? I’d like to share a couple of suggestions:

1. Get alone with God to hear His voice and His heart. Start with the Psalms, where David “wears his feelings on his sleeves.” and realize that God does care about you.

2. Get with God’s people, the church, and recognize that you have a community of believers who truly love and care for you, with all your doubts and imperfections.

3. Put on a sweatshirt or jacket and step outside, look up, look around, and experience the beauty and wonder of God’s creation. Let the sun touch your face, and take a walk among the fallen leaves. David shares in Psalm 19:1-4, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the works of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the end of the earth.”

Never doubt...God is there. And He loves you completely!

Psalm 46: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in times of trouble.”

Enjoy the fall and remember, I love you very much!

I love you all very much!
Pastor Jeff Honson

July/August 2017

In a fast-paced world, how do you slow down and find some quality time to reflect? Well, there is one culprit who is stealing most of us American's time... Know the answer?... It's our smart phone/mobile devices! In 2015, "Digital Trends", a U.S. research firm, found that most of us now spend a staggering 4.7 hours a day looking at our mobile devices! So, one obvious solution to finding more time to reflect is getting off our mobile devices. (Don't start throwing things at me now!) Seeing that we are in the midst of summer (a designated "season of rest"), allow me to ask you some questions:

1. Where was the last time you sat back and made an honest appraisal of your life? Are you on a good path? Have you slid into the traits of self-centeredness, cynicism, crassness, and greed? It's tough, but seriously consider if you are morally "centered" and living a Christ-honoring life. Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight".

2. Have you learned how to relax? I believe that stress is a killer and that we need to find a way to "stop and smell the roses". Whether it's gardening or golfing, reading or hiking, taking off on vacation or resting on the porch in your easy chair, we all need to slow down, chill out, and relax. Don't take yourself so seriously. The world will keep spinning without you being on overdrive! Matthew 11:28,"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest".

3. Are you investing some quality time each day meeting your Creator and Lord? Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well in Sychar (John 4:14)," Whoever drinks the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life". Lately, have you been feeling spiritually "dried up"? Have you been going to the wrong well for refreshment? We all need to learn this one basic lesson: Nothing will ever quench your spiritual thirst except for fellowship with Jesus Christ! So, slow down and take the time to drink the living water that is found in Christ alone! Psalm 23:1-3,"The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul." Think about it; Jesus never rushed anywhere!

I love you all very much!
Pastor Jeff Honson

March/April 2017

Isn't it wonderful to know that, unlike dead braches from winter, God allows us to be reattached to the vine for nourishment? When we are cut off from God, it's of our own choosing – we detach ourselves from God. But God is gracious and allows us to come back to him to be restored and renewed! In Luke 15, Jesus shares three parables to illustrate this wonderful truth.

The first parable speaks to us about the faithful, loving shepherd who seeks out the lost sheep in order to bring them back into the fold. The parable of the lost coin describes the deliberate search of the woman for her one lost coin out of ten, and the well-known parable of the lost son shares the anguishing desire of a loving father hoping for his prodigal son to come back home.

In all three stories, Jesus describes God's extreme joy when one of his lost children becomes "reattached" to him. "I tell you," Jesus proclaims, "there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents" (Luke 15:10). Think of it, when a Christian comes back to the Lord after detaching him or herself form Him, there is a party in heaven!

Perhaps today you find yourself far away from the Lord. You've somehow gotten off track through neglect in your spiritual walk, through some unconfessed sin, or through an unresolved tear in a relationship. Or, maybe you find yourself gradually drifting from the spiritual vitality that you once enjoyed. You're not yet lost, but you're slowly wandering away from the sound of the Heavenly Father's voice. Remember, if God seems far away, it is you that has moved!

The wonderful news is that God is searching for you and wants you back in the fold, safe within his company. If you desire to serve the Lord and produce spiritual fruit, it is vitally important that remain in his presence on a continual basis. And as you remain, he will bless.

"Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:4-5).

I love you all very much!
Pastor Jeff Honson

January/February 2017

If you are like me, 2016 seemed to fly by! Maybe I didn't set aside enough days to R-E-S-T; just to soak in life itself, minus the busy agenda. Maybe I should have taken more time to read God's Word and some classic Christian books (or a fun novel). There is nothing wrong with working hard, but I believe God wants us to recreate in order to achieve balance (and to maintain sanity).

So... Here are some practical thoughts as we enter a New Year... 2017.

1. Designate some serious time to do something fun and meaningful each week that is not your normal job (such as: build a birdhouse, paint a picture of nature, write a poem or song, prepare for a 2k race, or collect some vintage collectibles for your family room).

2. Be more thoughtful about who you are and about what you do with your time. Ephesians 5:15-16 reminds us to, "be very careful then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil". Think before you act and before you lend your opinion. Gain wisdom through prayer, seeking Godly advice, personal research, and through reflection on not to repeat past mistakes.

And, 3. Be more thankful to God for all of his blessings he has bestowed on your life. God is a good, good Father. Jesus is our Savior and our Friend. The Holy Spirit is our Counselor and our Comforter. Be grateful for God's Word, God's people, God's intervention, and God's contant presence and love. Choose to be positive and to, "Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, REJOICE!" (Philippians 4:4).

I love you all very much!
Pastor Jeff Honson

November/December 2016

I always marvel at the beauty and charm of Autumn in the Midwest. The gorgeous colors of the trees, the coolness of the air, the urgency to finish your outside projects, Canadian geese flying South in their "V Formation", and making plans for Thanksgiving dinner with your family and friends. And looking ahead to the mystery and wonder of celebrating the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, at Christmas time. I think of November as a season of God's completion, when the crops that were planted in the Spring have now been harvested, bundled and brought into the storehouses for Winter's usage.

This is the time of year to be especially thankful. And gratefully, in October of 1863, President Abraham Lincoln made a proclamation that (abbreviated),

"The year that is drawing toward it's close has been filled with it's blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come... No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked on these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the most high God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless, remembered mercy. It seems to me fit and proper that they (our blessings) should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November, as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens."

Praise the Lord for President Lincoln's tremendous wisdom and foresight! Let us together invest a little extra time expressing our gratitude to our Heavenly Father during the upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas season. First, for His Earthly provisions, and secondly, for His promised heavenly provisions... All made possible through the saving work of His Son, Jesus Christ!

I love you all very much!
Pastor Jeff Honson

September/October 2016

Call me crazy, but I love September, when we all get back on track, back on schedule and yes... back to “the grind”. Kids are back in school, churches start their Fall programs, industries are back on their post-vacation schedule again, adults begin getting all their outside yard projects completed, the TV networks begin their new fall series’ again, and the National Football League straps down their helmets for it’s bone-jarring 17 week regular season schedule. And, oh yes, Farm and Fleet begins sending out reminders for their October “Early Bird Santa’s Christmas Workshop (ugh)!” Now, since September is a month of new beginnings, it’s also a time to renew earlier commitments. Maybe, somewhere between June and August, you’ve let some responsibilities slip. The right choice is to be decisive, and recommit to completing your project or commitment. Whether it’s finishing your garage “reorganization” or getting your body into shape so you can serve Jesus for the long haul effectively or completing a discipleship bible study, the time to get going again is NOW!!!!

God told him to go preach to the people of Nineveh. However, Jonah took a boat in the opposite direction! But, once Jonah was thrown overboard, God provided a very large “underwater taxi” to transport the old prophet back to his original destination! (Jonah 1:7-17 & Jonah 2:10) So, let’s all admit our shortcomings to the Lord, ask forgiveness, and seek God’s guidance on how to get started on our commitments again. You see, God wants you to succeed! Be slow, be deliberate, set realistic goals, and take the first step to your chosen destination! With God’s help, you can do it!

Ephesians 5:15-18, “Be very careful, then, how you live, not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.”

I love you all very much!
Pastor Jeff Honson

July/August 2016

I would like to re-tweet a concept with you that I had shared four years ago...It’s called the “Grace Matrix,” You see, God’s grace was given to all Christ-followers when Jesus died on the cross for our sins and then rose from the grave, victorious over sin and death. It is at that point we received the greatest gift ever, forgiveness of our sins and a permanent relationship with our heavenly Father. Jesus’ sacrificial act of love made this all possible! When we receive the unmerited favor of God through grace, three spiritual gifts result from God’s Holy Spirit: Gratitude, Joy, and Peace.

  1. Gratitude is the realization of how much we owe God for receiving all the blessings of our salvation. This prompts us to “offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God.” Romans 12:1
  2. Joy is the internal attitude of thankfulness for all that Christ and His Father have done for us, which manifests itself in “Gladness of Heart.” Paul reminds us” that we should all rejoice in the Lord always!” Philippians 4:4
  3. Peace is the knowledge that “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose,” This brings us a contentment of heart. Romans 8:28 A peace “which transcends all understanding.” Philippians 4:7

So, I urge you to live out God’s grace by manifesting His love shown to you and demonstrated to the world around you by your Gratitude, Joy and Peace!

I love you all very much!
Pastor Jeff Honson

May/June 2016

"Life is like a box chocolates.... you never know what you're going to get".

That, of course, is the famous quote from Forrest Gump, the main character in the Oscar-winning film from 1994, where it won "Best Picture of the Year". The point Forrest was making is that we must accept whatever life puts in our path and then makes the most of the situation. That, of course, is definitely not easy to accept during difficult times in our life. A more appropriate way to approach challenging times is to hold on to the promise found in Romans 8:28, where Paul proclaims, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

In Joni Eareckson Tada's article, "Frame of Reference", She, (a quadriplegic since age 18) shares that often times life appears to be haphazard and hard to put together. But, she observes, that when we look at Jesus as our point of reference, that all the seemingly unrelated and "random" events of our lives begin to fall into place. As we piece together the Old Testament prophecies about a future Messiah, Jesus' astonishing birth, his sinless life, his brutal substitutionary death for our sins, his powerful resurrection, his commissioning of his disciples, his amazing ascension, his promise to someday return to rule along with his children, and finally, his promise of eternity in Heaven with Jesus and God the Father... Then we have an unmistakable Christ-shaped frame of reference that helps us understand the true purpose in this grand puzzle called "LIFE"!

The bottom line is this: Living for Christ's glory personally and endeavoring to be Jesus' ambassadors to people desperately in need of forgiveness, peace, and hope for their eternity - That's what makes life worth living!

Colossians 3:17, "And whatever you do whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."

I love you all very much!
Pastor Jeff Honson

Mar./Apr. 2016

In Philip Yancey’s excellent book, “Finding God In Unexpected Places,” the author observes that “we tend to see what we are looking for.” In other words, we often times “pre-decide” the outcome of our search so that we are unable to see God’s presence in our surroundings. For example, a group of early Spanish sailors who had reached South America after a difficult voyage brought their sailing ship into the headwaters of the Amazon River. But, it was so wide, that the sailors assumed it was a continuation of the Atlantic ocean. It never occurred to them that they could drink the water, since they expected that it was saltwater, and as a result, many sailors died of thirst. But, in reality, their ship was floating on the world’s largest source of fresh-water! The sailors didn’t have to die, but they didn’t take advantage of the resources that God had made available to them.

The point is that God is creating opportunities for us and he is making His resources available to us all the time. However, we frequently fail to take advantage of all that God has to offer us, because we are not listening to His voice and we are not looking for the clues that God has left for us; clues that would make our lives much more meaningful. Perhaps it’s time for us to listen more carefully to the Lord’s “Still, Small Voice,” the one you can only hear when you intentionally seek him. The answer for what you should do with your life and how God will provide for your needs might be closer to you than you think!

“I sought the Lord, and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4

I love you all very much!
Pastor Jeff Honson

Jan./Feb. 2016

If you are like me, entering a new year has a sense of mystery to it; it is the factor of the unknown that causes us to be a little unnerved with what may lie ahead. But, we need to keep in mind that it is more important to keep our eyes focused on our all-powerful God than any difficult challenges that we will experience in 2016.

My hope for all of us is that we will invest the time and effort to grow closer to Jesus during the next twelve months. The best ways to do this is to talk to God (Matthew 6:6-13) through prayer and by learning to understand Him by studying God’s word (2 Timothy 3:14-17). There is nothing more important than staying close to the Lord so that you can hear His voice clearly. As you listen to Him, He will give you instructions as to whom you should talk to and what you should do to bring others closer to experiencing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. As Christ’s witnesses (Acts 1:6-8) and His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:17-20), all Christ followers are given the responsibility to glorify God with both our words and our actions (Colossians 3:17).

There is no doubt that 2016 will be full of surprises and challenges. But, hold on to this truth, God is Faithful, and He will be there to help you through any challenging circumstances! He will make you strong (Isaiah 40:28-31)!

"But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength…” Isaiah 40:31

I love you all very much!
Pastor Jeff Honson

Nov./Dec. 2015

Living in the Midwest all of my life and in talking to lots of people, almost universally, people love the fall here in the Winnebago and Boone county area. Obviously, the fall colors, football season, Edwards Apple Orchard and Thanksgiving are at the top of the list for things we love. But, I really think there is an underlying, very important reason that people also love fall in the Midwest; I call it “A season of preparation”. Fall is a time for bundling up, raking up, gathering in, closing things up, and preparing for Thanksgiving, for Christmas, and for the inevitable cold winter ahead. The season of fall has purpose and deadlines, and this creates a sense of excitement and of challenge. And, most of us love the intrigue of thinking, “can I get all my tasks done in time?”

I believe that God expects for us to work and be responsible; and this gives us a sense of accomplishment. God also wants us to be prepared for what’s ahead so we don’t end up not having things in order for the next phase of our lives. So, as you begin to continue your fall projects to prepare for the busy, cold days ahead, thank God that you can work and can enjoy the progress you have made. Oh, and take in all the beauty of God’s amazing creation while you are at it!

I love you all very much!
Pastor Jeff Honson

Sept./Oct. 2015

It's inevitable and it's necessary; yet most of us resist it...that's change. We don't like it, we're afraid of it. But, change is linked to progress. And like it or not, change is going to happen.

In Luke 5:33-39, we see Jesus being chastised by the law-driven Pharisees for breaking the "rules" of fasting and abstaining. They didn't like that Jesus was changing the rules. Jesus responded by saying,...."No one pours wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, the new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for He says, the old is the better than the new.

We all tend to get contented with the "old wineskins" of what is familiar. However, we in the church must be willing to try new approaches if we are going to be effective in impacting nonbelievers with the amazing message of freedom, forgiveness, and purpose through having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We need to be willing to allow the Holy Spirit to use new methods of reaching people for Christ, whether through skateboarding, small groups, Christian films, retreats, or one-on-one evangelism. Like Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:22, "I have become all things to all men (and women) so that by all possible means I might save some."

I love you all very much!
Pastor Jeff Honson

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest…”
– Matthew 11:28-30