Month: September 2017

Harvest Time

Harvest Time

I think October is the most exciting month of the year! The beautiful autumn leaves bursting with color, as they prepare to fall to the earth, the crisp, cool mornings, the fields full of corn being harvested, the sights and smells of October give our senses an overload.


What wonder! What beauty!


October is the month when the harvest is in full swing. Farmers are gathering their crops, those who have labored through the spring and summer months are busy gathering the fruit of their labors.


The pumpkins and squashes are ripening, the potatoes need to be dug. Many households are busy canning and preparing the harvest for the long winter months that lay ahead.


What exciting days!


I am reminded of the year that we (The Pifer Family) decided to plant about 4 acres of potatoes.


I’ll never forget the incredible work that went into that project. First, we secured a field, and then dad plowed the whole thing with his little Farmall Cub tractor, and if I remember right, a little fertilizer was added as well.


Then, we bought what seemed like tons of seed potatoes, and we sliced each one and then set out about the task of placing them about 12 inches or so apart in rows, it seemed like forever (especially when you are about 13 years old)


Once the field was sown, we had little to do but wait. Occasionally we went over and made sure the bugs were not attacking what we had sown, but apart form that, we just waited.


The summer sped by, and finally, the days of harvest came. We began to dig potatoes, and more potatoes, and still more! I don’t know how many we took in that year, but it was a lot!


As we dug potatoes, we found out that some were rotten, but as we gathered them in, we had no time to separate them, we just picked everything and then sorted later.


We had potatoes! We sold potatoes, we gave potatoes away, we had potatoes with every meal!


That story reminds me of another harvest that is about to take place, a harvest of infinitely greater value than a thousand acre potato patch, it is “The Harvest!”


God has been planting His seed for a great many years now, and the fields are white and ready to be picked.  Jesus gave some pretty good indicators as to when that would take place, and as we watch with eager anticipation of that great Day, we see the world stage is set, and the people and places are getting ready.


You can almost hear the harvesters getting ready, sharpening their sickles, getting ready for the call.


I hope you are waiting with eager anticipation of that great Day. If thoughts of that Day of Harvest frighten you, perhaps you are not ready.


When the time comes for Jesus to return, all fruit will be gathered, ready or not, and then, just like our great potato harvest, each will be sorted, those that are rotten, will be tossed out, but those that are ripe, will be gathered together to be used by God in that remarkable place called Heaven.


I can’t wait! How about you? Are you ready for the Harvest?


Revelation 14:14-16

I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one “like a son of man” with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand.

Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, “Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested.

Posted by onthesolidrock in Thankfulness, 0 comments
Are You for us, or For Them?

Are You for us, or For Them?

First and foremost I am a follower of Jesus; I love Him with all of my heart. You could say that I am a “believer.” To believe in Him is to buy into all He said and did . . . which I do!


Since I believe in Him, I am also keenly aware of the tactics of the enemy of Jesus, namely Satan. Yep, he is real and quite active today. The enemy loves division and is really, really good at promoting it.


It is his tactic to get opposing groups to form strong, unyielding views; to sharpen and divide them to the point of bloodshed if he can. Even a cursory view of history reveals how very good he is at this!


Once the devil gets humanity to the breaking point, he simply stands back and lets us destroy each other; this tactic has worked so very well, it is no wonder he keeps using it!


We need to understand that the cultural battles we are facing today such as; disrespect of flag and country, right vs. left, republican vs. democrat, etc, etc, are all manufactured by the devil to get us to fight. So where does Jesus stand on all of this?


I recall a story out of the Old Testament Book of the Bible, Joshua. God had sent the Israelites to go and take the Promised Land of Canaan.


Great battles were about to be fought and Joshua, a mighty warrior was prepared to get the job done. Here isan excerpt from the Book in the Biblethat bears his name . . .


Joshua 5:13-15

 Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” 


“Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.”


Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?” 


The commander of the LORD’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.


This is what we call a Christophany; it is a manifestation of Christ in bodily form, prior to His birth. I find this to be a fascinating encounter. I mean Joshua is ready for a fight, his mind is engaged and he knows that there is going to be bloodshed, as they take this land called Canaan. He sees a Man standing with a sword drawn, and he wonders if this might be the first encounter.


As he approaches the Man, I’m sure Joshua has his hand on his own sword, ready to do battle. Joshua’s question is revealing; “Are you for us or for our enemies?”


The question assumes only two options; if you are for us, then join us and let’s do battle! If you are for them, then I will have to slay you! Joshua has it in his mind that since he is about doing the Lord’s work, there can only be two options; you are either with me or against me; my way or the highway!


God’s response to the question is also revealing; He said; “Neither; but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come. Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.”


He said “neither.” Now the Hebrew word that is often translated to mean neither is a very small word, with big implications.


GREEK WORD: Lo; which literally means “NOT.”


Christ was the first to coin that little phrase . . . NOT!


Christ was trying to tell Joshua that whatever he was thinking about Him was NOT.


So when we ask Jesus what He thinks about the situations we are facing we might be surprised at His answer:


  • Are you for democrats or the republicans . . . NOT
  • Are you for or against flag burning . . . NOT
  • Are you for North Korea or America . . . NOT


 . . . And on and on we could go! The Bible say’s this about the thoughts of God:


Isaiah 55:8-9

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.


For the Christian, I think it is time we stop all the petty squabbles and finger pointing; stop with the name calling and boycotting. It is time to take off our sandals and get behind the Captain of the Lord’s Army and follow His lead. It is time to stop taking sides in a battle that has already been won and start working with and for our Captain!


Remember fellow Christian . . . these Words from Jesus


John 17:13-18

“I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.  My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.  Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.


You are no more a part of this world than Jesus is; so stop acting like it is and start living your life in Christ – Up-side Down! Your home is in heaven, you are seated with Christ in the heavenly realms.

Posted by onthesolidrock in Faith, 0 comments
The Can

The Can

I can remember a dramatic season in the life of our church; a season that came about through God’s response to relentless prayer; nearly 8 years of it!


We had prayed earnestly for our church;

“God send revival”


“God, pour out Your Spirit”

We called out with passion, and when God moved, the results were striking and swift! We were not prepared for what was about to take place.


Man of Prayer - Armin Gesswein

Armin Gesswein

We began to notice an increase in our church; both in attendance and in the awareness of the Spirit of God in our midst. Armin Gesswein, a noted student of revival, said that; “When God’s people recognize their need for the Holy Spirit, lost people recognize their need for a Savior” this is so true!


As the Spirit of God moved in response to our many prayers, we began to see all kinds of “things” happening.


We saw homes come under intense stress, even to the breaking point, we saw relationships struggle. Our “foundations” were being shaken. We watched in wonder as sinners came to our church, and found Jesus.


We watched in amazement as the struggle to break bondage to sin increased.


On one particular Sunday morning, as I came out to preach, an amazing event unfolded. We were holding the Sunday morning service in the auditorium of the former East 4th Street School in Emporium; now the Christian Center.


As I opened my Bible to start preaching, a young mother walked in through the double doors leading from the auditorium to the alleyway; she was holding a brown bag.


Walking right in and standing in front of about 80 people, she looked at me and said; “Pastor Rock, can I say something?” I was taken somewhat aback by this odd request; but I told her to go ahead.


She pulled out a fifth of Amaretto liquor from the brown bag and began to sob. After she regained her composure, she said this; “I keep going to this bottle instead of going to God and I need help.”


WOW! Not knowing what could be done, I called on everyone to come forward and gather around this young lady and pray for her! It was a turning point in her life and in the life of our church.  


The next Sunday morning, before the worship service began, I noticed an older gentleman suddenly come out of his seat and make a hasty trip to the stage and he quickly laid down a pack of cigarettes. He would tell me later that he felt God tell him to give these up and to do it right now!


As I prayed about what was going on, I decided to buy one of those bright shiny metal trash cans and I placed in on the stage. That next Sunday I said to the folks that I think God is trying to help us get rid of some things that may be hindering our walk with Him; let’s fill the can!


The following Sunday, I went to move the can prior to the service and it felt heavier. I opened the lid to find a half gallon of rum in there, the next week a fifth of Vodka found its way to the can, another pack of cigarettes, and much, much more!


On Sunday we found the half gallon of rum in the can; following the service, a young lady approached me on the stage and with tears in her eyes, she handed me a bag of marijuana and said; “Pastor Rock, God doesn’t want me to smoke pot no more.”


So that Sunday, I had a half gallon of rum in the can and a bag of pot in my pocket! Amazing stuff right there!


Over the course of the next 3 or 4 months, we filled the can several times! Did we really know what we were asking for when we prayed for “revival?” What were we thinking? What did we expect?


I remember going through a drought in Pennsylvania during the late 1990’s, we prayed for rain; but when it came, we did not realize, that with it, would come mud-slides, and falling trees. We needed the rain, but we were not prepared for the side effects that would come.


Neither did we expect the Spirit of God to come and begin to draw the “mud” out of our lives.


Perhaps we did not expect to have sin pulled out by the roots! Maybe we thought we were “alright”, and that God would just come and leave our landscape as it was.


Just like the powerful rains that created new landscapes for many homeowners, so it is with the Spirit of God when He comes, everything changes, old ways are cast down, and new ways are set in place. Sinful habits, both visible and invisible, come to light when the Spirit of God is among us.


So what will we do? Shall we keep praying, “God send revival?”  I should think so! I say, change the landscape, make ALL things new!


“Pour out Your Spirit Lord” and don’t stop till we are completely changed, inside and out! Draw the “mud” out of our lives, and uproot sin!


Lord, Reign on us, make us Holy, as You are Holy! Don’t stop until we are refined, purified, and made fit for the Kingdom of Heaven!


Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.                                Daniel 12:10

Posted by onthesolidrock, 0 comments
If you can’t say it with Love . . .

If you can’t say it with Love . . .

Sherri and I have spent over 25 years in Christian ministry, serving three small churches. I served over 21 years as senior pastor of a small church in our hometown of Emporium; served 6 years as president of the Cameron County Ministerial Association; 6 years as district leader in the Bradford ministry area and had been a part of many boards and committees as well.


Sherri and I often like to quote the Farmer’s Insurance moniker; “We know a thing or two, because we’ve seen a thing or two.”


A pastor’s job is pretty diverse and covers a broad range of duties that include things like weddings, funerals, graduation ceremonies, Sunday sermons, personal counseling and much, much more.


One of the biggest challenges a pastor encounters is trying to get the church-going folks, who call the local church their own, to participate in the outreach, upkeep and financial support needed to keep the church alive and thriving.


Many folks have a misinformed idea that somehow the church just exists and gets it resources from outside the local gathering; that the denomination must provide all the financial needs. For our local church, and all the churches I know of, that is simply not the case.


ALL the resources of time, talent, and finances, always come from the local congregation. So when it comes to keeping the building and grounds nice and well kept, it is up to the folks to get that done.


If the utility bills get paid, and the local pastor is to get a paycheck, the congregation needs to financially support the church in order for that to happen.


When the church folks are unable, or unwilling, to provide these resources, the church begins to struggle. For many churches, when this happens, the pastor’s paycheck is the first thing to go.


This leads to the pastor having to take an outside job to provide for their own family; which in turn causes the pastor to be less available for the spiritual needs of the church; which may cause grumbling inside the church body.


So the local pastor has to try and balance his or her life in such a manner as to be effective both inside and outside of the church; leading both the church and his family. When this balance gets out of whack . . . stress sets in!


During one of those stressful seasons inside our church, I allowed circumstances to overpower my reasoning and I lashed out . . . here’s how it went down from my point of view.


As many small churches do, we were struggling to maintain our facility. Having acquired a rather large structure; the cost of operations were beginning to eclipse our ability to financially cover them. I voluntarily ceased receiving a paycheck from the church and did small jobs on the side to make ends meet; too often the ends did not meet and I grew frustrated.


The responsibility for the upkeep of the building did not subside, but rather increased, so we needed to call out the church folks to help with these ongoing efforts.


However the volunteer turnouts were always very small and those who could actually do the kind of work we needed done, would rarely come out. Finances dropped even further and a sense of defeat and frustration began to well up inside me!


One of the blessings of being a pastor is that you know a great deal about all of the families inside your church; and sometimes that blessing can become a curse!


I noticed that many of the folks, who had the means to help, would not, while those who had meager means were giving all; and I grew even more frustrated.


I spent much time in prayer and seeking the Lord over how to address this issue without coming across as attacking any person or persons specifically; which is one of those “cardinal” sins a pastor should never commit!


So with God’s help, I crafted a stinging message that I would deliver, which I felt would address the problem.You can read that message HERE if you like.


Sunday came and I delivered the message with passion and zeal; you could say, as some did, it was a “Fire and Brimstone” sort of message! There were 14 visitors in the church that Sunday and I recall many of them were so encouraged and challenged.


One couple who lived nearly a 100 miles away from us who were visiting family that week; began supporting the church financially; giving over a third of our budget that year!


So, the message went very well, some of the regular folks went out that day with great conviction; so the mission was accomplished.


However . . . I could not leave well enough alone!


It was during the summer; that’s why the large group of visitors that day;  however, there were many of our regular folks, who were out that Sunday, many of whom I perceived “needed” to hear this message; so I decided I would preach the same message the following Sunday  for those who missed it!


I would give another blistering delivery; making sure they got the point!


Sunday came; and again, a number of the very people I had hoped to have in attendance were gone again; but I went ahead and delivered the message. There seemed to be a rather striking difference however; the power and presence of God was void; the message came out OK; same as before . . . the same Scripture, the same illustrations; but the Spirit of God was gone.


The faces of those in attendance went from conviction to guilt; the results of that second message were that a handful of people would leave the church and never return. In retrospect; I don’t blame them at all; I likely would have left too!


As I reflected on the situation later that week; I asked God; “It was the same message, same Scripture; what went wrong?” And that is when God said; “Rock, if you can’t say is out of love; even if you’re right, you’re wrong.”


A seasoned Free Methodist Pastor; Rev Bob Brest of the Bradford First Free Methodist Church, used to tell us in regards to being a shepherd; “You can sheer sheep really close many times, but you can only skin a sheep once.”


I skinned a few sheep that day and they may never recover, and for that, I will be held accountable.


In the following weeks, I would stand before the congregation several times, publicly apologizing for stepping out of bounds . . . lesson learned! I hope by sharing these lessons of humility, you may avoid some of the pitfalls that I fell into.


The most painful lessons we learn in life, are the ones we learn at the expense of others.


So, if you can’t say it out of love . . . don’t say it!

Posted by onthesolidrock in Humility, 0 comments
Searching for Big Foot  . . . Seriously?

Searching for Big Foot . . . Seriously?

In 1996 while driving down an old country road, I drove past the Old Gardeau Community Church; located about 3 1/5 miles from Sizerville State Park. As I drove by this old church; which had been closed for about 6 years, I told the Lord how awful it was that this aged church was shut down!


Later that same night, a feisty old lady by the name of Arlene Walker, called me out of the blue! Arlene was a tough lady with a heart of gold. She called me and this is what she said; “Hello, this is Arlene Walker, me and a bunch of us old ladies wants to get the Gardeau Church opened again and heard you were a preacher now. Will you come up here and open this church?”


WOW! I told her I would consider it and get back to her. After she hung up, I told the Lord; “well that was quick!” After a little more prayer and talking it over with Sherri, we decided to go forward and open the old church.


The church needed a great deal of work; so we all dug in and cleaned the bugs, bats, and mice out, the best we could, and we started holding services there . . . oh, the stories that this old church could tell!


After several years, we decided the church could use a paint job; so I took on the project. I got a pressure washer and took all the old paint off of the church; it was a pretty big job. I primed the entire structure, and then proceeded to paint everything!


When it was all done; I stood back and admired the work . . . it turned out pretty nice, even if I do say somyself! Getting a little “puffed up” over how nice thechurch looked; God decided it was time to deflate me a bit.


One Sunday, a few weeks after the paint job was done, as I was getting ready to close up the church and head home, I noticed a gentleman drive up in a car and get out, heading over to the church. I could see that he was carrying a camcorder and a clipboard. My head started to swell with pride; clearly, he was here to do a story on the old church and how beautiful it looked now!



The Gardeau Community Church near Sizerville, Pa.

The Gardeau Community Church



As I floated my ego out the door to greet this man, he came over to me, shook my hand, and asked me if I was the pastor. Beaming, I told him I was, and then he pointed across the road toward a valley and asked me if that was Parker Run. Confused by his question a bit; I told him that it was indeed Parker Run.


The man then turned to me and handed me his business card. He told me that he was here to investigate a Bigfoot sighting! WHAT! Bigfoot here? I looked at the business card; “Pennsylvania Bigfoot Society, Timblin, Pa.”


He went on to say that a good Christian man owned a camp up there and he reported seeing a Bigfoot recently. I thought to myself; “That a good Christian man may have been seriously backslidden up there with some Jack Daniels and maybe saw a black bear . . . but a Bigfoot . . . Come On!”


This gentleman asked if anyone reported seeing a Bigfoot in the area.  I told him that no one had mentioned anything to me about seeing a  Bigfoot anywhere around these parts.


Now I did tell him that my son and I had hiked up Parker Run recently, which we did, and that the only thing we saw up there were a large population of beavers. About 3 miles up it looked like a Lincoln log factory;  with beaver dams all over the place.


The man turned around quickly and with excitement in his voice, said “no way!” I said, “Yep, lots of beavers up there.” The man looked me squarely in the eyes and with conviction told me that beaver was Bigfoot’s favorite food!


I thought I was going to die! It was all I could do to keep from losing it. The man jotted down a few things, thanked me for the info and off he went.


Ego effectively deflated . . . And who said God does not have a sense of humor!


For many years I carried that business card in my wallet and I would pull it out occasionally and share it with fellow pastors saying . . .  “You know you pastor a country church, when . . .


Hope this one made you smile!


Proverbs 17:22

A joyful heart is good medicine, But a broken spirit dries up the bones.


Copyright © Faith Upside Down

Posted by onthesolidrock in Humility, 2 comments