Never Alone


News so Good it’s Just Gotta’ be told
Part 1

Puppies and Kittens

A quick scan of the evening news makes us want to swear off all cable news outlets. As the saying goes, “if it bleeds, it leads.” And social media is flooded with angry, self-righteous rants and stories of loss and pain. And, on top of that stress, we all have our own personal issues to wrestle with.

This leaves the average news junkie hungering for good news. That’s why the most popular Facebook posts tend to be videos of puppies, kittens, and puppies playing with kittens! In fact, some of the greatest moral outrage we encounter is connected to cruelty toward puppies and kittens. I’m sure we can all agree that cruelty to animals is just plain wrong.

All have sinned.* These stark words stand as an indictment against every man and woman’s natural tendencies and desires. I don’t need the 60-Minutes news crew camped in my front yard to reveal this or an anonymous note that says “I know what you did last summer.” I am fully aware that I have sinned.

This is also the easiest part of the gospel message to prove. This truth is, in fact, inescapable. We live in a world immersed with mankind’s sin, destructive pride and self-centered living. I should know – I’m a card-carrying sinner, too. I know one when I see one.

Simple observation informs us that the condition of the world is not improving. Sure we have new life-saving technologies for which we thank God, such as better treatments for cancer, safer airplanes, and airbags. But, outpacing the good, we have also perfected new sin and pain delivery systems used to exploit women and children and to build W.M.D.’s. Not only individuals, but whole governmental systems can be overtaken by pride and a lust for power and control. Individual evil sometimes results in corporate evil, thus multiplying the suffering resulting from sin.

The sin I detest the most, however, is my own. My pride, jealousy, and avarice creep up and take over at times. Then when I am most vulnerable, my sin speaks in excuses and justifications . . . ”no one will know, you’ll feel better, everyone is doing it, what choice do you have?”  Although the Bible teaches that sin is no longer my master,* in my weaker moments, I still occasionally give sin free reign in my life.

But the gospel is “good news” to sinners. The good news is God’s offer of redemption going out to “whosoever will.” People’s self-destructive sin is only the introduction to the good news. The “good” part is God’s redemption of people who seek Him. New life and fresh starts all around for those who put their trust in Jesus.

The blood of Jesus’ cross makes the offer of forgiveness and a personal relationship with God a reality. Now that’s good news! But, who among us sinners can enjoy the good news? God’s invitation to redemption and new life is spoken by God’s Spirit through His church;

“‘Come.’ Let anyone who hears this say, ‘Come.’ Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life.”

Anyone can come to Him and receive forgiveness and a new start. Anyone.

Blessed to be His servant,
Pastor Steve

*Romans 3:23
*Romans 6:14

Never Alone



It is difficult to imagine that it was 15 years ago when my youngest daughter sold enough candy to win a prize.  From a gallery of toys and trinkets Holly selected a tiny bicycle – assembly required.  I remember her look of excitement as she patiently waited for her dad to find time to assemble the tiny bicycle. Although I usually tried to make myself available to my girls, this time I made her wait.

A full two weeks after my sweet girl asked for my help, I finally took the time to sit down with her and attempt assembly. My clumsy fingers were no match for the delicacy of this job. I broke a small piece that was necessary for the tiny bike to work. Already feeling a little guilt at having waited so long, I now felt the shame of failure. A small failure, maybe, but it felt big to me. I was just about to cry when Holly comforted me with these words, “that’s OK Dad; we can get another bike.” She really wanted to be with me more than she wanted the little toy bike.

In that moment I came to the frightening realization that I would not always be able to protect my girls from pain and disappointment. But God did not leave me in that condition. He came to me and reminded me that my only job was to teach my kids to put their hope in Him and He would take care of them. Malachi 2:15 says,

“Didn’t the Lord make you one with your wife? In body and spirit you are his. And what does he want? Godly children from your union.” (NLT)

I realized that there would come a day when my daughters wouldn’t want me to try to shelter them anymore. They wanted to grow to be strong, competent, godly women, and they did just that. And I am now so proud of the mature adults they have become. Our goal as parents is not to train children for worldly success, but to raise up children who put their full trust in the Lord.

I fully trust the God who inspired King David to write these words; “I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.” (Ps. 37:25) God taught me to trust Him with my wife, then with my daughters, and now I will trust Him with my first granddaughter, too.

Growing and learning,
Pastor Steve

Never Alone

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I still miss my Dad. He went to live with his Savior in heaven in 1999. Here he is holding my oldest daughter who is now a mother! Everyone called him grandpa Pope; even his kids. And now, as of last Monday, I’m the new grandpa Pope. A mantel I’m honored to take up.

My daughter and her husband have now blessed our family with a beautiful, brand new 7.5 lb. little girl who has changed many lives already just two days after her birth. My first grand-baby. Amazing.

The world looks a little different this morning as I see everything through the eyes of a grandpa for the first time. Through these eyes, my heart is filled with praise as I see the beauty and power of God’s prescribed order (Gen. 2:20-25).

Now I look to Scripture for guidance. I’ve received much counsel concerning this phase of life. The consensus is nearly unanimous; my job is to spoil this granddaughter. A pretty irresistible urge, I’m sure. But, does Scripture have anything to say about my role? In Deuteronomy 4:9, we find the marching orders for grandparents;

“But watch out! Be careful never to forget what you yourself have seen. Do not let these memories escape from your mind as long as you live! And be sure to pass them on to your children and grandchildren.”

So, I now see that I am called to serve as the tribal storyteller. My job is to tell my grandkids the many stories of years of God’s faithfulness to our family. I will recount the passages of Scripture that have had special meaning to the generations of our family. I will encourage them to put their trust in Him.

I look forward to reaffirming the goodness of God to my grandkids by retelling the stories of His great deliverance. And, by giving her ice cream when mom and dad aren’t looking.

Can’t wait to get started.
Grandpa Pastor Steve

Never Alone


My insurance agent did not seem to mind when I snapped a photo of this oddity by his desk. Either I don’t know what is vital in the field of home, life and auto, or I may not be in good hands. I’m not one to be easily confused, but I thought the “vital data” would go in a file, hard drive, or fire-proof lock-box.

There is truth in the saying that a fool is someone who knows the price tag of everything but the value of nothing. Even in the world of Christianity, we become confused about the many things shouting for our attention verses the “one thing” worth the investment of a life.

You might toil and nudge that “B” grade into an “A,” get that bonus at work, or just one more degree, but what Jesus considers vital is His presence in our heart. In all the busyness of life in the Southern California fast lane, the story of Mary and Martha serves as a reality check.* If there was a big project to accomplish, filled with pressure and organizational details, Martha was on the job. After all, if you want to get things done, it’s best to enlist busy people, right? Martha was working hard to do all the right things and to do them perfectly. Mary, on the other hand, was fascinated by the words and presence of Jesus. As Mary sat at His feet, not unkindly, Jesus affirms that she has chosen the one thing that really matters – time spent sitting at His feet.

In the midst of life in the fast lane and the pursuit of promotion and performance, I hear Jesus’ gentle voice saying, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” (Mark 6:31) And again I hear Him say, ““Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Jesus desires the presence of our hearts more than the produce of our hands.

Sometimes the meaning of words change through the generations: bad means good, and cool means hot but, in this story, vital still means vital . . . like vital signs and vital organs and vital data.  What’s the one thing worthy of the investment of your life? Knowing Jesus. Hear His invitation to come away to a quiet place today and rest. Now that really is vital, isn’t it?

Pastor Steve

*Luke 11:42

Never Alone


A loving mom’s prayerful watch over her sick child in bed…. Does it tug at your heart the way it does mine? This last week, I saw something just as powerfully loving – Joyce nursing her mom back to health. Her mother has undergone major surgery and Joyce has had the great honor of aiding in her recovery. Her mom is a gracious, godly woman whose suffering only serves to deepen her faith-encounters with the God who loves her. Her character and love are being perfected in the fire of personal pain.

No one escapes planet earth without sampling the bitter taste of suffering. The rain truly falls on the “just and unjust.” * And, as Job discovered, “man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.” * Jesus promised that “in the world you will have tribulation . . .”

I have studied the scriptures and skidded off the road a time or two; and I am convinced that Jesus is not a preventer. There are some who would have you believe that Jesus is an airbag to cushion all your sudden stops, a parachute when you fall from high places, a guardrail when you take a corner on two wheels, Zycam when someone sneezes on you. In reality, he is not always the preventer. Scripture does not describe Jesus as One who attentively labors to prevent all pain and suffering. He is presented to us, more importantly, not as a preventer, but as the Redeemer.

Jesus did not prevent his own suffering. The only man in human history who did not deserve to suffer could have called down a legion of angels for protection. But he was paying a debt that he did not owe. The debt was yours and mine. His own suffering, the greatest ever experienced, came for the purpose of redeeming humankind from the self-destructive nature of sin and for the defeat of death itself. Sin no longer has the victory and death holds no threat for those who are in Christ Jesus.* Pain is redeemed for glory in eternity and suffering leads to the restoration of the character of Christ in human personality.

And now, as our Redeemer, we are assured that Jesus . . .

will never leave us or forsake us.
will use our pain to create an “eternal weight of glory” as He prepares us for our eternal home.
will perfect our ability to love and care for others who suffer.

One thing I know for sure: Those who have not suffered much cannot love much.

C.S. Lewis wrote, ”Why love if losing hurts so much? We love to know that we are not alone.” And further, we love because God first loved us.

Loving a little more each day,
*Matthew 5:45; John 5:7; John 16:33; I Corinthians 15:53-57

Never Alone


The Bleating of Sheep

II Samuel 15:22-23; Isaiah 57:15
Saul was the most envied among the young men of Israel. Taller, stronger, and more handsome than any of the other young men. He was the MVP, Most Likely to Succeed, and voted “best smile” by his peers. Young men were green with envy and young women swooned as he walked by ( II Samuel 9:2). Saul was destined to be the first king of Israel at the rebellious request of the people.

Still, God chose Saul and intended to bless him. And he obeyed God, just not all the way. For instance, he had a better idea than God for the allocation of the sheep and oxen. So God commanded Samuel to speak this word to Saul; “Because you rejected the word of the Lord, the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel.” (I Samuel 15:26) This is the tragic result of half-hearted “followship.”

I want to entrust to you the core-lesson of almost 40 years of following Jesus: only those with a heart willing to obey will hear the voice of God. He does not speak so that we can consider His will as one of many “viable” options. We can make our lists and create our decision making grids, but He commands from heaven with perfect authority. God only “lives” in two places; the high and holy place, inhabiting eternity, and with he who is “of a contrite and lowly spirit.” (Isaiah 57:15)

The contrite and lowly of heart are fully submissive to the God whose name is “Holy.” He delights in making Himself known to the humble, and through the humble. And His promise is to “revive” the hearts of the contrite. They are the one’s who hear the invitation of Jesus and gladly leave everything to be with Him. They are the ones who hear His voice and follow without question. The ones with humble and obedient hearts receive this great reward: they hear His voice.

Most churches have a patriarch. Ours was Harry White. He was the de-facto mentor and pace-setter for many of the young men who’ve grown up under Centerpoint’s ministry (including me). Harry described the follower of Christ as one who signs the bottom of an unbreakable blank contract and then hands it back to God with the promise to do whatever He asks. To go where He sends. To say what He wants said. To cooperate with Him in becoming a man or woman conformed to the image of Christ, living and loving like Jesus. Our part? Sign the contract and pay attention to His lead.

The prophet Samuel’s words to Saul remain true; “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams” (I Samuel 15:22). Only the contrite and lowly hear His voice. Only those who humbly come to Him with a desire to fully follow Him will experience His lead. Only those who follow with their whole hearts will know His deep peace and lasting joy.

The promise of God to those who humbly follow is “to revive!” The Hebrew word Chayah is to restore life, to really live! “A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.” John 10:10

Seeking to follow more closely every day,


Never Alone

You Could Have Been Great

I admit – I have odd taste in movies. You may remember some of my favorites: Secondhand Lions (2003) which critics called “A wholesome but schmaltzy movie;” Radio (2003) starring Cuba Gooding Jr, based on a true story; and The Kid, starring Bruce Willis. They all have one theme in common – redemption. The critics called The Kid “too sweet and the movie’s message to be annoyingly simplistic.” Personally, I find the critics to be annoying.

The message of The Kid brings the hope of new beginnings. Bruce Willis plays Russ Duritz, a successful but selfish image consultant who gets a second shot at life when an eight-year-old version of himself mysteriously appears. The eight-year-old Russ reminds him of his childhood dreams of marriage, flying planes, and owning his own dog. Before his 40th birthday, Russ finds that money and power have betrayed him in a crisis of emptiness.

Russ’s redemption begins when his girlfriend, Amy (played by Emily Mortimer), hears the dreams of eight-year-old Russ, turns to his adult version and says, “you know what the saddest thing of all is? You could’ve been great.” These words have rung in my ears for 15 years now.

In the Old Testament there were none more successful than the handsome and fearless King David.* As God’s chosen leader, he had anything he desired and commanded all he surveyed. Power, fame, influence, women, feasting and servants. He had everything. Everything except the forbidden fruit. Her name was Bathsheba, and wanting her drove David mad. He even went to the extreme measure of having an honorable soldier murdered rather than admitting responsibility for the baby he fathered with Bathsheba. He had it all, but obeyed his lust to his own harm. Even his own handsome son, Absalom, died having led a rebellion against his father’s throne. David’s sorrow was so great that he wept and cried out “Would I have died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”* In exchange for a moment of earthly pleasure, the consequences for David’s sin were directly suffered by his children.

I’ve known many men who had great potential for serving the King, who were gifted for great impact but settled for making fleshly desires their god. You know what the saddest thing of all is? They could’ve been great. They were chosen and gifted, but couldn’t resist the forbidden fruit. And how about the men I’ve known who destroyed their marriages rather than deny themselves? The saddest thing? They could’ve been great.

Has forbidden fruit caught your eye? King David will testify; it’s not worth the price we pay. A somber warning of the inevitability of the consequences of our choices. Redemption, however, is right on the other side of broken-hearted repentance. Read Psalm 51 to discover God’s path of redemption. Read this and walk in humble obedience, or prepare to hear, “You know what the saddest thing of all is? You could have been great.”

Pastor Steve
*Begin story with II Samuel 5

*II Samuel 18:38

Never Alone


A comparative
observation on joy . . .

I’m Happy when I earn a free treat on my Starbucks card, but I’m filled with deep joy when I sit with a close friend, separated only by a warm cup of coffee. For me, nothing creates a greater safe-zone for sharing the secrets of the heart.

I was happy when the girl who caught my eye said “yes” to a first date, but after thirty years of marriage, my heart is filled with deep joy every time I think of her. Our shared experiences, both good and challenging, bring a depth of joy that is impossible to express.

Why was Jesus willing to endure the cross? I don’t even want to endure a bee sting for a friend, let alone an enemy. The writer of Hebrews exposes the motive of Jesus’ heart; He was willing to endure the cross “for the joy that was set before Him.” What joy? Humiliation, pain, mocking, scourging, and a criminal’s death for the only one who did not deserve to die? No – His joy was focused on the other side of the cross.

Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the author of Hebrews writes that Jesus, “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”* What was the source of Jesus’ joy as He endured the cross? You were. Better than the best cup of coffee, better than your closest friendship, better than your first love. His ultimate pain and suffering was leading to a life of abiding with you. His joy is found in knowing you. When He was on the cross, you were on His mind.

The joy that was set before Him on the cross is that we might know Him. He was willing to endure the cross that we might enter into a love relationship with Him. Jesus said “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.”

The greatest possible joy is to be reunited with our Creator; to enter in to His joy and abide in His love. Nothing else compares. Nothing else lasts. C. S. Lewis put it this way:

“We are halfhearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
The Weight of Glory

We are never alone when we live in the joy of knowing Him,


*Hebrews 12:2

Never Alone

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I might take some heat from the guys for this, but I must confess: I like cats.  Ella is my little eight-pound cat.  She is soft and gentle, bringing much joy into our home.  Unless something spooks her.  Then she turns into a mini-meat grinder.  Just ask my ankles.

Fear can make us mean.  It can make liars of us or drive us into isolation.  Even Yoda knew that “Fear is the path to the dark side.  Fear turns to anger; anger leads to hate and hate leads to suffering.”  Fearful people come from the ranks of those who have been hurt or abandoned in the past.  If we’re not careful, victims can become perpetrators, hoping to avoid being hurt again.

We have all walked through our dark valleys, terrified of shadows and things that go “bump” in the night.  Our great hope is that as we walk through the “valley of the shadow of death” we can grow to be fearless because our Great Shepherd carries both a rod and staff.  These tools are symbolic of the direction and protection provided by the shepherd of our souls.

King David said,
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

There is only one force on earth that can permanently deliver us from fear; the awesome love of God.  His perfect love actually “casts out fear.”  The in-filling of love that accompanies His Presence will replace our fear with courageous, risk-taking love.

You can live free of fear when you know He is with you.


Never Alone


And now for something a little different.  The Sci-Fi channel recently featured a “made for television” movie called Sharknado.  The premise is this: global warming causes a giant tornado to erupt over the Pacific Ocean, sucking thousands of large sharks into its funnel and depositing them all over the California coast.  Not only do the homeowners have to deal with flooding, but they must also battle great whites in their living rooms.  Now THAT’S a disaster.
The powerful winds of natural disasters are often referred to as “acts of God” by insurance companies and newscasters.  Neither the birth of children or beautiful vistas are acts of God, but the damage associated with hurricanes and tornados is blamed on deity.
The Old Testament Hebrew word picture for the Holy Spirit is “ruach;” the wind or breath of God.  God’s Spirit is portrayed by the prophet Ezekiel as a Wind, blowing the dust out of our souls and breathing new life into us.  Reviving weary and discouraged people.  A wind of healing and Power.  Raising us up to new life.  A Wind of Holy Presence.
“. . . then The Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”  He can do that because “In Him (Jesus) was life, and the life was the light of men.”  (Genesis 2:7; John 1:4)

How special are we?  God created us in His image and endued us with life by His very own breath.
What drew me to Him at first draws me still.  The gentle Wind of His presence blowing forgiveness, new direction, life purpose, and the courage to accept myself and my circumstances.  It’s enough just to be with Him.
Slow down and listen to His Spirit “that times of refreshing may come from the presence of The Lord.”  (Acts 3:20)
Never alone,