The year 2021, much like the previous year, turned out to be full of challenges and difficulties. However, we can always look back and find much to be thankful for and if we look carefully, we will realize that God has and will always remain faithful.
1 Corinthians 1:9, “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of
His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Difficult events have increased our trust in Jesus and helped us remember that we are not in control. God is sovereign and is still on the throne. We will continue to seek His wisdom and guidance and will trust His faithfulness in 2022 and throughout all of eternity.
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 shall direct your paths.”
Job 42:2, “I know that You can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can
be withheld from You.”
Here is a summary of each month including key verses that correspond to the teachings and events from that period of time.
Psalm 1:1-2, “Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor
stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in
the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night.”
In January, our family moved from the house we were renting in Oak Shores into our home in Orcutt. I was still battling fatigue from Covid which had already delayed the move several weeks. It was a difficult move and we are still adjusting, but we are grateful that the Lord provided housing.
Due to state and county restrictions, we were unable to gather in person for worship so we continued to meet online through Zoom. We also started a new Bible study on the book of Ecclesiastes also through Zoom.
Our New Year’s message focused on five blessings that come from reading God’s Word. Those blessings are: You will know God’s ways, God will guide you in His paths, you will be thoroughly equipped and receive strength, and God will comfort and encourage you.
Mark 11:22-23, “So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. For assuredly,
I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and
does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have
whatever he says. “
In February, we continued our study on the gospel of Mark with a message entitled, “Genuine Biblical Faith.”
When the disciples are amazed at the withered fig tree, Jesus simply says, “Have faith in God.” The emphasis of that command is that believers should have a deep-settled, consistent, ongoing confidence in Who God is; what God has said; and what God will do.
When Jesus says “have faith in God”, He is encouraging faith in several aspects of God’s character: In God’s Person, In God’s Promises, In God’s Power, and In God’s Purposes
When it comes to faith in God, we must always remember that He has an eternal plan that He is working to accomplish. He has a purpose, and everything in the universe, even our requests, are subject to His will.
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God
and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all. For God will bring every work
into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil.”
In March, we concluded our Bible study on Ecclesiastes. Throughout the study, time and again we were amazed at how accurately Solomon described the world. The message of Ecclesiastes is as reliable and hope-filled in our modern, secular age as it was when first penned thousands of years ago.
In contrast to the meaninglessness that has permeated Ecclesiastes, in the final chapter we are finally presented with that which is not meaningless: “Fear God and keep his commandments.” When we fear God, it puts us into a proper relationship with Him. To fear God is to hold Him in awe, to reverence Him. It puts Him in His proper place and reminds us of where we should place all the other elements of our lives—love, joy, sadness, success, failure. If we do so, it will affect everything we do or think. It will cause us to understand and accept our proper place in the universe and will keep us from thinking more highly of ourselves than we should.
It is comforting to know that “God will bring every work into judgment” (Ecclesiastes 12:14). If God is concerned enough about me to pass judgment on my life, then ultimately everything in it has value. None of it is meaningless.
Ultimately, then, the meaning of life turns on this very question. Is it for nothing? Or is it of priceless value? Solomon has given his answer. You will give yours by the choices you make.
In March, the state and county restrictions were lifted and we were able to meet back in person at the Don Everingham Center. We had our annual celebration and meeting, although later in the year than we hoped, yet in person. And what a celebration it was! We realized that we had taken for granted the ability to meet together in person for worship. May we cherish every Sunday!
Mark 8:31, “And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things,
and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three
days rise again.”
In April, we celebrated Easter together in person. We went back in Mark to chapter eight with a message called, “Walking in the Way of Jesus.”
For Jesus the way of resurrection required that he first walk the ways of suffering and death. There are three ways that Jesus had to walk, and they are three ways that we also walk as Christians. Being a
Christian means following Jesus. And following Jesus means walking the path that he walked, following in his ways.
These ways are: The Way of Suffering and Sorrow, The Way of Death and Judgment, and The Way of Resurrection and Life. Jesus rose triumphant from the grave. The good news of Easter is that he offers to share his victory with us.
Mark 13:33, “Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is.”
In May, I presented several exciting messages from Mark 13 describing the second coming of Jesus. Early in chapter 13, Jesus describes the signs or birth pains that would precede His future coming and the end of the age. Later in the chapter, the Lord focuses directly on His return in glory.
In Mark 13:33, Jesus instructs to take heed, watch, and pray.
We are easily distracted by this world, our fleshly needs and desires, and the schemes of the enemy (2 Corinthians 2:11). When we take our eyes from Jesus and His imminent return, our values begin to shift, our attention wanders, and soon we are living like the world and bearing little fruit for God’s kingdom (1 Timothy 6:18–19). He warned us that we must be ready at any moment to stand before Him and give an account of our lives.
“Watch and pray.” We can only remain faithful when we are devoted to prayer. In prayer, we continually allow God to forgive us, cleanse us, teach us, and strengthen us to obey Him (John 14:14). In order to keep watch, we must pray for endurance and freedom from distractions. We must pray without ceasing.
When we live with the eager expectation of the Lord’s return we are more likely to keep our lives pure and our hearts ready to meet Him.
The day is nearer today than it was yesterday. Let’s be ready for His return! And as we wait, let us take heed, watch, and pray!
Mark 9:31, “For He taught His disciples and said to them, ‘The Son of Man is being
betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. And after He is killed, He
will rise the third day.’”
In June we began a series of messages describing the betrayal, death and burial of Jesus. We also worshipped together through new music and favorite hymns about the cross.
We reverently approached the sacred text describing the depths of Christ’s agony before and during His crucifixion. His pain was infinitely greater than anything anyone else in human history has ever experienced.
The crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ opened a way to God that will never be closed. Now, all those who come to Him by faith, trusting His death on the cross and resurrection from the dead as their sole hope of salvation, will be eternally saved by the grace of God!
We are reminded what a precious gift our salvation is and the price paid for it by the Lord Jesus. As we think about the pain and humiliation He suffered for us, paying a price that we could never pay ourselves, we can’t help but praise and thank Him and commit ourselves to a life of obedience to Him.
2 Chronicles 7:14, “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves,
and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from
heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
This year, the fourth of July fell on a Sunday. We had a beautiful patriotic service, shared strawberry shortcake and prayed for our great nation.
Here were our prayer points for America:
- Pray that we would humble ourselves, seek God’s face, and turn from wickedness.
(2 Chronicles 7:14; Proverbs 22:4-6)
- Pray for light in the darkness. (2 Corinthians 4:6: Matthew 5:16; Isaiah 9:2; Colossians 1:12-14)
- Pray that God will help us let go of anger. (Ephesians 4:26-27, 31-32; Psalm 37:8)
- Pray that we will love God and others. (Mark 12:29-31, John 13:34)
- Pray for Christian unity. (Matthew 12:25; 1 Corinthians 1:10)
- Pray that the fear of God will drive our actions. (Proverbs 1:7; Acts 9:31; Isaiah 66:5; Psalm 2:11)
- Pray that God’s will be done in our country. (Matthew 6:9-10; Mark 14:36; Ephesians 3:20-21)
May God bless America!
Mark 16:6-7, “But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth,
who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him.
But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee;
there you will see Him, as He said to you.’”
In August, we began Mark chapter 16 discussing the Resurrection of the Son of God. We had a second Easter to celebrate with special music, guest violinist Don Charles, and Easter treats.
We talked about the difference a day can make. On Saturday everything looked bleak, barren and dead. On the Sunday of Christ’s Resurrection, everything changed forever! On Sunday the stone was rolled away and the world would never be the same. Such is the power of the Resurrection!
When the death and Resurrection of Jesus, which is the Gospel, are embraced by faith, a new birth takes place. A sinner becomes a child of God. A new creation is born.
2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
Mark 8:34, “When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also,
He said to them, ‘Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and
take up his cross, and follow Me.’”
In September, we finished the book of Mark with message 64 in a series that started on February 4, 2020. During the year and a half that we studied Mark, we followed the Lord Jesus Christ. We followed Him through the days of His earthly ministry. We followed Him as He battled the religious leaders. We followed Him as He healed the sick, cast out demons and raised the dead. We followed Him as he performed many great miracles.
We followed Him through the desert, across the sea, over the mountains, and through the valleys. We followed Him as He went to the cross to die for our sins. We followed His body as He was carried to the tomb and sealed inside. We followed His disciples as they ran to the tomb to investigate the rumors of His Resurrection. We followed Him as He went to His disciples and let them know that He had risen from the dead. Finally, we followed Him to the Mount of Olives and witnessed His Ascension.
Throughout the Mark series we were challenged by His invitation to follow Him. If we are going to be disciples, we must be focused on Jesus Christ. We must be with him in His Word, we must follow Him even if we are not sure of where He is taking us, we must live by His teaching (which means we must know those teachings well), and we must imitate Him. In other words, everything becomes secondary in life to being like Him.
The disciples had walked with Jesus for three years, learning, observing, and participating in His miracles. Yet, even they could not follow Him faithfully in their own strength. They needed a Helper. This led us from Mark into the book of Acts which tell us all about the Helper, the precious Holy Spirit.
Also, in September we held a special “Back to Church Sunday” worship service. Many invited their friends and literal neighbors, and I gave a special message called, “Church is Essential!”
Acts 2:46-47, “So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread
from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart,
praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church
daily those who were being saved.”
Early in our new series on the book of Acts we talked about the marks of a healthy church. Acts 2 describes a healthy local church, the first church after the day of Pentecost. We learned that a healthy church is marked by continual devotion to the Lord, to His people, and to His work in the world. We were challenged to measure ourselves by it and to seek to follow its example.
Also in October, we began a new Bible study called “Sharing Your Faith.” We learned how to share the gospel with others through simple conversations and our own personal testimony. We encouraged one another to share the hope of Jesus Christ with others. It was so edifying to hear each other’s testimonies about how we became followers of Jesus.
Acts 4:13, ” Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived
that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that
they had been with Jesus.”
In November, we continued on in our study of the book of Acts. The message from the first half of chapter four was titled, “Bold Witnesses.” The members of the council were amazed at the boldness of Peter and John, who had not been educated in the rabbinical schools but had been with Jesus.
The four characteristics of a bold witness as seen in Peter and John are:
- Bold witnesses are filled with the Holy Spirit. (Luke 12:11-12; 21:12-15; Ephesians 5:18;
- Bold witnesses spend much time with Jesus and learn from Him. (Matthew 23; Luke 11:37-52)
- Bold witnesses testify of what they know for certain.
- Bold witnesses declare Jesus as the only way of salvation. (John 14:6)
May we be bold witnesses for Jesus Christ in the last days. May the church be strengthened and may we rely on the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives.
Psalm 35:18, “I will give You thanks in the great assembly; I will praise You among
At the end of November, I gave a message called “True Thanksgiving.” True thanksgiving means more than a thankful heart. It involves giving public testimony of our thanks to God. May all of us be bold and wise in our daily lives, looking for those opportunities every day to give testimony about our great God.
That Thanksgiving message ended up being my last sermon for the year. We had a Covid outbreak in the family causing us to miss the entire month of December. Yulia was hit especially hard by it and was very ill for many days. I am very grateful for everyone who prayed for us, brought us gifts, groceries, and treats, and filled in for us. I am especially thankful for Pastor Wendell Brown for preaching and for Keith Wells for leading worship.
I am surely blessed by each person who is part of the Heritage Village Church family. Each of you is such a valuable part of the Body of Christ! I am grateful for the innumerable ways each of you serve the Lord. Thank you also for your prayers, affirmations, and thoughtful gifts throughout the year.
I am also blessed by our wonderful board of directors. Each board member truly seeks God’s will for our church and possesses great insight and discernment.
I started the year 2021 with a message based on a sense of helplessness many were feeling due to political events and turmoil in our country. Some asked me this question which was the title of the message, “How Can I Make a Difference?”
Unfortunately, the division and turmoil continued throughout the year 2021. The message given at the beginning of 2022 is still true for 2021:
You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. Don’t be down- don’t be discouraged. We can make a difference together in the world for God! If you feel helpless this day, be encouraged. We have direct access to the very throne of Almighty God! Let us keep ourselves pure, blameless, and salty before Him and He will have mercy on us and hear our prayers.
For it is into His mercy alone that we entrust ourselves at such a time as this!