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B I G  I D E A 
“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15).
Pastor Bob
C H U R C H   M E D I A

Recent Messages

April 2020

Middle Sabbath Service – April 29 ( Wednesday)

“Middle Sabbath Service – April 29 ( Wednesday)”.

Middle Sabbath Service — April 22 ( Wednesday)

Middle Sabbath Service — 1st week of Eastertide

Maundy Thursday Evening Service

“Maundy Thursday Evening Service”.

Sabbath Sunday Service — Palm Sunday

“Sabbath Sunday Service — Palm Sunday”.

Middle Sabbath Service – April 1

“Middle Sabbath Service – April 1”.

March 2020

Sunday Sabbath Service – 5th Sunday

“Sunday Sabbath Service – 5th Sunday”.

Middle Sabbath Service 2 — March 25th

“Middle Sabbath Service 2 — March 25th”.

Sunday Sabbath Service – 4th Sunday

“Sunday Sabbath Service – 4th Sunday”.

Middle Sabbath 1 — March 18 (Wednesday)

“Middle Sabbath 1 — March 18 (Wednesday)”.

F R O M   T H E   B L O G

Recent Posts

UNDERSTANDING LENT (with a few laughs thrown in!)

While it’s still early in our Lenten Season, I thought it a good time to review again some of the basics of Lent. The more we understand what Lent is about and what it means, then the more we become able to commit to Lent as a vital part of our faith life. 

This week, I’ve borrowed an article about Lent by Norton Herbst from the website “exploreGod.” And along the way, I have inserted a few Lenten cartoons (almost seems like an oxymoron, doesn’t it?) to keep reminding us that while Lent is a very solemn and reflective time, it doesn’t necessarily need to be a dark or depressing time. Hope you enjoy!

Pastor Bob <>< 


The idea of Lent began during the third and fourth centuries. The number of days is based on the biblical significance of the number forty—specifically, the forty years the Israelites wandered in the desert and Jesus’ forty-day fast in the wilderness.

Thus, Christians describe the forty-day Lenten season itself as a journey in the wilderness. Lent represents a time of searching for God amidst the brokenness of life, a season of intentional fasting before a time of feasting. Historically, Christians have given up something during Lent as a symbolic way to mark their journey and refocus their energy on their relationship with God.

  Most often, this includes fasting from certain foods or drinks. Some skip a meal each day or give up specific things such as meat, caffeine, alcohol, or sweets. Others give up more modern luxuries such as the Internet, social media, or e-mail; reading books, magazines, or newspapers; shopping; watching television; or listening to music.

It is important to remember that none of these things are inherently bad, sinful, or evil. Yet any of these pleasures can easily become overly important in our lives. We likely have all experienced that.

The idea of a Lenten fast is to abstain from these subtle but powerful influences in our lives in order to become less distracted and better equipped to give one’s full attention to the spiritual journey. It is an occasion to relinquish something one typically enjoys in order to identify with Jesus and the sacrifice he made on Good Friday.

Significantly, “Lent should never be morose—an annual ordeal during which we begrudgingly forgo a handful of pleasures.” Lent should be considered an opportunity to realign ourselves with God and pursue a renewed relationship with him.

Many Christians adopt something new during Lent as well. They choose to pray at fixed times each day, read the Bible, serve the poor, observe moments of silence and meditation, or engage in habits that enrich the soul.

On Ash Wednesday, some Christians attend special church services and place ashes on their foreheads as an outward symbol of the repentance and fast they are undertaking. The day before Ash Wednesday has become known as Fat Tuesday, or more familiarly, Mardi Gras. The day is considered one’s last chance to indulge in rich foods, intoxicating drink, or anything else one is giving up for the following six weeks.


This yearly ritual may sound strange to anyone who has never observed Lent. But the point of Lent is not to do something “religious” to somehow impress God. Nor is it about drawing attention to what you are doing. Jesus himself warned his followers about fasting or praying in a public and prideful manner.     

Rather, Lent is about recognizing the regular seasons of life and embracing the rhythm of fasting before feasting. And this fasting—however one chooses to observe it—is a journey of faith. A journey of reflection and self-examination. A journey that provokes repentance and transformation.

Lent is a journey that culminates in the hope of Easter morning.

                                                        <>< <>< <>< <>< <>< <>< <><

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Tonight,is the beginning of your Lenten journey for 2021. Lent is just another one of the amazing opportunities for spiritual growth that God continuously puts in front of you. But for many of these opportunities, one of the first barriers we need to overcome is commitment. Many of us have trouble making the personal commitment to our own spiritual growth, and thus we end up missing opportunities from God to grow in our faith and live closer to the Way of Jesus. If you’re like me, you’ve probably missed more of these opportunities than you care to count. 

Starting tonight, and for the next 40 days of Lent, we have again, an opportunity to renew our commitment to God and to our own spiritual growth. I want to encourage you to not miss this one! I believe that in your heart, you are ready for this, and indeed, you are needing this. So, I urge you; Do not miss this opportunity.

Allow me to suggest some things that might help you get out of the starting gates. First, as with anything that has to do with God, you must be honest with yourself about where you are today in your spiritual life. After all, God already knows all about it. Like right now … God knows your fears and weaknesses about making a commitment to Lent 2021. God knows exactly what your needs, and God will help you all along the way by putting opportunities constantly in front of you. God will also be your personal mentor known as the Holy Spirit, and will help you hear things, see things, or find things, that you could not have done by yourself. 

Once you honestly reflect upon who you are today, and where you would like God to take you, then surrender the complete journey to God. The whole thing … none of this “co-pilot” stuff. Let God pilot and take your seat back in coach. 

God’s will is the only way to go, but we have to surrender our self-will for God’s will to have a chance. And even with all that about God’s will, you still have the most important role in this spiritual process, because God has made a promise to all of us that God will not intrude into our life uninvited, nor will God force any decision on you that you are not willing to make. 

So, you see, God and you … need each other. Think about that for a minute! The almighty and all-loving Creator of the universe and maker of all things in it, needs you to help build his Kingdom – whether that be in Arthur or your local community, or at Vine Street CC or your local church, or in your family, or in any area of your life that is in need of help from above. If you become willing, then God’s will can impact every single part of your life, and the more God’s way becomes your way, then the better your life is becoming. 

After honest reflection about where you are on your spiritual path; and after a sincere and intentional effort to surrender to God the things that you need help with (no limit!); now the time comes to take the leap. And that requires a decision, made by you, to sacrifice your instinctual urge to mold your own life, and instead, put all your trust in God. But whether it happens or not is all in your hands. God will come to your door, but you have to open it. God cannot, and will not, do this alone. 

Sometimes I stop to reflect on where I am spiritually by comparing a “religious person” with a “religious thinker.” So many of us start out by being a religious person … that is, a person who comes to know a great deal about religious things – like the Bible, the church, the members, the hymns, the prayers, and even the pastor! As for me, I didn’t start out that way, but I know many of you did. The church, with all its things to know about, was your religious life. 

The danger of being a religious person is that you become susceptible to “growing” comfortable with all the things you know so much about, and thus “change” becomes very challenging for you. The truth is, God is a constantly changing revelation in our world. God is always revealing himself to us in new ways, each and every minute of our lives.  Many of us miss God in our midst because we haven’t developed the eyes to see or the ears to hear. And encountering God is encountering change. Alas, many religious people close their doors to change, and thus to spiritual growth and the revelation of God in their own lives.

For all of us religious people out there, the message that God has is to take the leap … to make the transition from being a religious person to becoming a religious thinker. Look at it this way: Knowing about things is not the same (not even close) as knowing things. Religious thinkers know about what most religious people know about, but on top of that they know, through their own personal relationship with them, what all these religious things mean for them in their daily life. It’s a personal thing … there’s a spiritual relationship with them.  

So, for example, religious folks know about the Bible in some detail, but they may not know how to read the Bible with the Holy Spirit. Thus, they probably don’t see that they have a personal stake in the words of the Bible, nor an understanding that the Bible they know about, is really about them, and that it’s telling their story on a daily basis. When you know the Bible personally, then it becomes “living word” to you, and it meets you right where you are at, on any given day. 

Still, the most important difference between religious people and religious thinkers is their relationship to Jesus. Religious people claim to know a lot about Jesus, while the thinkers have a personal relationship with Jesus. They don’t just have knowledge about Him, but they receive His wisdom in their hearts.  Jesus truly becomes their Lord, and their God, and their Shepherd. They’re not so much focused on knowing about the gospel sayings of Jesus as much as they are reliant on what Jesus says to them personally about gospel things. Big difference! 

Vine Street Christian Church is in spiritual transition. All Jesus-centered and religious thinking churches are. Unlike many denominational churches, Vine Street asks of everyone, to step out and take the leap. Could it happen that every member, and nonmember for that matter, jumps into a new way of life based on having a personal experience with all the religious things in your life … starting with Jesus. 

All of us need spiritual growth. No one ever reaches the final destination in this world. And Lent is the ideal time to take this leap. So … Let’s all, in our own way, with God, make a personal commitment to Jesus that wherever our relationship is with Him today, we will spend the next 40 days with Him personally, each and every day, surrendering to His Father’s will and to His Way – the Way of Jesus. 

No, you can’t do it alone. Yes, you need to embrace Jesus as a personal friend to take even the first step. But try it. Make this Lent your “Leap of Faith Lent.” And if you commit to that, then 40 days from now, when Jesus rises from an empty tomb, and looks you in your eyes, he will call you by your name, because you’ll be best friends! 

Off we go — Walking this path together … Pastor Bob <><

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In last Sunday’s message, I offered an abbreviated walk through the Gospel of Matthew. 

First, we learned about the man born blind as Jesus taught us that in the Kingdom of God there are no preferences among people. We are all welcome equally into His Father’s grace – no one earns, no receives, more than anyone else.

Then we learned about the attendees at the wedding banquet hosted by the King. Jesus taught us that the Kingdom of God is open, and available, to everyone. No invitation needed. Come just as you are. Nothing about you, not one thing, will keep you from feasting at the banquet table.

But, it’s the third lesson that tells us how we are called to live in the world. Jesus simplifies it for us! We either live like sheep, or live like goats. Only the sheep receive the spiritual gifts of God and enter into an eternal life now. And what is it that the sheep did, that the goats didn’t do? Jesus summarized how we’re supposed to live in 6 simple (but not easy!) ways:

  • <>< Give the hungry something to eat
  • <>< Give the thirsty something to drink
  • <>< Invite the stranger in
  • <>< Give clothes to those who need them
  • <>< Look after the sick
  • <>< Visit those in prison

So, we learn that by putting our self-centered desires aside, we can actually receive all the blessings of heaven by trying to bless others in need. Who? Well, Jesus makes it clear throughout the gospels that there is no person that is considered beyond our help. Indeed, Jesus goes on to say that it’s those most in need that should be our priorities. He says, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matt. 25:40)

Many things can hold us back from living this way. Most of these things are “taught” to us through our own live experience and through the training we receive from our family and our culture. And almost all the time, these lessons are based on worldly and cultural values, not the gospel values that Jesus taught us. And almost all of those are based on the powerful belief that the most important thing in the world is ME! Particularly, the lesson of putting yourself first in all things and being fearful of anything that violates this code. 

Jesus didn’t teach any of those values. Instead, He taught us about eternal and universal truths that exist both in this world and beyond it. He told us we must die to ourselves first, so that we can be re-born into the person God created us to be. He said we have to put away the ways of the world so that we could enter into the Kingdom that He has come to prepare for us.

And Jesus knew that one of the biggest barriers to following His way in this world would be fear. Fear can sap the gospel spirit (and Jesus with it) right out of any of our good intentions because fear and divine love are not compatible. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus shares these thoughts: 

  • <>< “I tell you my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more” (Luke 12:4)
  • <>< “Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life” (Luke 12:22)
  • <>< “Do not be afraid little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32) 

When we become willing to let Jesus help us with our fears, then we gain a new way to see. In fact, the ones we were most afraid of become Jesus to our new eyes. And when that happens, then our journey with Jesus has become our primary way of life. Worldly and cultural values are now seen for what they are; illusions to keep us in our place. 

Jesus never wants us to stay the way we are, even when we’re following Him. Walking with Jesus is a new revelation every single day. And you can rest assured, Jesus will bring those He calls you to help, right to your doorstep. They’re all around you every day. That’s why every day with Jesus is a mission trip experience! 

Valentine’s weekend at Vine Street Christian Church will be a big step forward toward becoming a Matthew 25 church. Some members of our church will be taking clothes that the congregation has donated to the Hour House recovery center in Charleston – giving clothes to those who need them. Some members of our church will be taking food donated during our Advent “Place for Kids” to our local food pantry at the Methodist church – giving food to the hungry. Some members of our church will be delivering or sending Valentine’s gift bags to those in nursing homes, to those in the military, and to local neighbors who may not even know us – giving gifts of love to those who may be sick, strangers, or just good old neighbors. (And every gift bag will have a Valentine’s Day card created by our precious Vine Street kids!) 

And trust me – those who reaching out and giving to the neediest this Valentine’s weekend will be the ones most blessed, for they will be the ones finding Jesus all around them, in every person they give to. 

Wouldn’t it be great if every member or friend of VSCC found a way to be part of the Matthew 25 effort? Let this be my personal invitation to you to find a way to join in the giving. I promise, if you say yes, then we will find a way to meet you where you’re at in life and either hook you in to something already started, or create a new way for you to be a part of the blessings. 

If you are even interested a little bit, then text me or email me (859-351-9585; bobsilvanik@gmail.com). It’s not about me wanting you to help the church, but about Jesus wanting to change your life in a way only He could. Pray about it. Think about it. Reflect upon it. Then reach out to me. 

Just imagine if we had a spontaneous explosion of giving and serving whereby every one of us was on board. Think about what that would mean to the least of us … and even more so, to each and every one of us – including you! 

Blessings along the Way … and may the peace of God fill your heart,                            

Pastor Bob <><

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Meet Some Of Our Team

Bob Silvanik
Beth Jones
Office Manager
Ruth Ann Lowder
Ed Coller
Candi & Bryan Thomas
Cleaning Crew
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Address: 249 S. Vine Street Arthur, IL 61911