Joseph: A Good Man

photo by Fergal of Claddagh

The Bible is an amazing book:  the way it points us to God and shows us how to live is unequaled by any other book in human literature.  I’d like to show you something I discovered recently while studying this book; maybe you’ll appreciate it as much as I did!

We often remember Joseph (the Old Testament character) as the boy who was hated by his brothers, given a multi-colored coat by his father Jacob, sold into Egyptian captivity, and eventually the rescuer of his family during a massive famine.  But the book of Genesis paints a picture over the span of several chapters that shows us Joseph’s character very clearly.

  • Abraham and Isaac both tried to pass their wives off as their sisters (Genesis 12 and 26).
  • Joseph’s sister Dinah was raped by a man named Shechem (Genesis 34).
  • Joseph’s brother Reuben slept with Jacob’s concubine, Bilhah (Genesis 35:22).
  • Joseph’s brother Judah had twins with Judah’s daughter-in-law Tamar (Genesis 38).

The early days of the Bible are full of stories that make us blush, either with shame or anger, about how certain men treated certain women.  Now take a few minutes to read Genesis 39, the story of Joseph’s encounters with Potiphar’s wife in Egypt.  Look at how careful Joseph is to maintain his sexual purity, even though his actions resulted in his imprisonment.  Joseph – unlike Abraham, Isaac, Shechem, Reuben, and Judah – was careful to avoid sexual misconduct (having an affair with Potiphar’s wife).  And what was his stated reason?  He could not fathom “do[ing] such a wicked thing and sin[ning] against God” (Genesis 39:9, NIV).

So may it be among us:  that our everyday choices, in all areas of life, may be in clear contrast with the actions taken by the world around us.  Friends, let us follow the way of the Lord, no matter the cost!

–Pastor David

February Youth Update

Yesterday I came back from the Michigan Church of God Pastor’s Institute inspired, motivated and praising God for the opportunities we have as pastors in the state. It was a great time with Pastor David and other pastors from throughout the state.  On Saturday, January 28, Connie and I departed on one of our best weeks of every year, our mission to Guatemala to meet with friends in Christ and to be part of helping a family have a new home.  Blessings!  We thank everyone for the church donation for that home, we thank you for the gifts you help provide for the people and especially for the support and prayers on our behalf. We will be anxious to share with you when we return!

Our Prayer Partner Team for the youth has officially begun.  We have 13 youth and 13 prayer partners in place and through the months we hope to increase in sharing and praying as the ministry grows through the answered prayers.  Partners will be sent prayer materials each month as well as more information about the youth.  Thanks again for volunteering for this important ministry.

Our Swim Party day went extremely well with 17 students in attendance as well as my son & his family and our daughter and her kids joining us.  They had an enjoyable time visiting Mt. Haley and attending the party.  We also welcome Jo and Lawrence Adams & family as they have offer to volunteer in helping with the youth and attending Mt. Haley.  They are a great addition to our ministry.

Congratulations to Isabella Krolikowski and Shane Mudd in receiving their certificates for completion of Year One in the Michigan Student Leadership Institute (MSLI). Special recognition is extended to Paul Hassen for his graduation from the three-year MSLI.  These students should be commended.  MSLI will be having their Spring Tune-Up day on March 24th.

The Scrip’s Gift Card Sale continues through February 5th when we will place the order on February 6 and hope to have them to you by February 12 before Valentine’s Day. Cards do not need to be used for the holiday, but they contribute to the Youth Ministry when you eat out at restaurants, buy groceries, purchase gasoline, get that new outfit to wear or other items that families use.  Thanks for your help.  Extra order blanks are on the back table in the lobby.  Keep bring those pop cans/bottles in, they really help!

The Youth Super Bowl party will be Sunday, February 5th from 5:00 – 9:00 PM at Pastor Jerry & Connie’s home, 712 Stillmeadow, in Midland.  We’ll have snacks, watch a portion of the big game and have some other activities for non-sport fans.  Van pick-up begins at 4:30.  Call Pastor Jerry on Sunday the 5th if you need a ride. (We’re in Guatemala until late on the 4th.)

There is a Youth Lock-In at the church on Sunday night, February 19th.  Bullock Creek and Midland do NOT have school on Monday the 20th.  There will be games, food, devotions, movies, etc during the night plus possibly some other special activity.  More details will be coming on the time it starts and other information as we get closer to the night.  Watch for a postcard!

We will be continuing with our series, “Jesus & Sticky Questions,” through out the Sunday nights until Easter.  Great discussions with the Word of God and how we live our everyday life will challenge us.  Students, feel free to invite friends and we encourage congregation members to tell families about our Youth Ministry at Mt. Haley Church of God.  See you when we get back.  Thanks for your prayers!

Pastor Jerry

OT God vs. NT Jesus?

photo by jerebu

The other day, I was listening to a radio news program while driving.  The program mentioned how the outgoing governor of Mississippi, Haley Barbour, had pardoned some 200 people convicted of crimes.  In a sound clip, Gov. Barbour commented that many of these people he pardoned had earned his trust by working faithfully at the governor’s mansion.  He also mentioned that his actions were motivated by the Christian principle of forgiveness; everyone, he said, deserves a second chance.

You may or may not agree with his reasoning, but that’s not the issue that strikes me today.  The news program host then turned to a political commentator and asked her what she thought about Gov. Barbour’s application of religion to politics.  The political commentator’s response went something like this (a paraphrase, not a quote):

“I am not an expert on religion, but I have heard many people refer to the differences between the Old Testament version of God and the New Testament version of God.  The former is more about justice and punishment, while the latter is more about love and forgiveness.  The public conflict about Gov. Barbour’s pardons seems to reflect these differences.”

Friends, as biblical Christians, we must affirm this truth:  there are not two versions of God in the Bible.  God is one (Deuteronomy 6:4).  The Lord does not change (Malachi 3:6).  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).  While God may change his mind from time to time (Jeremiah 26:19, among others), his essential character remains the same throughout all history.

It is a mistake to say that the Old Testament God is different than the New Testament Jesus.  That idea damages the truth that in Jesus the fullness of God dwells in bodily form (Colossians 1:19).  It is not helpful to call the OT God judgmental and the NT Jesus forgiving, because then you can allow yourself to pick which one you want to believe in, depending on your circumstances.

Let us remember that the OT portrays God as forgiving (Jonah 3) and the NT portrays God as the ultimate judge (Romans 2:12-16).  God forgives and judges; this is his nature.

When we think about whether governors claiming Christian motives should pardon convicted criminals, we must resist the urge to appeal either to the “Old Testament God” or to the “New Testament Jesus.”  Issues surrounding conviction and forgiveness are much more complicated than we often make them.

My advice?  Practice obedience to God; speak the truth about his righteousness and justice; rehearse his forgiveness as often as possible.  And perhaps we should be more generous and understanding with our politicians and media commentators alike!

–Pastor David

Let’s Go Fishing

Fishing in January might be your thing – or maybe not.  But when Jesus called his first disciples to be “fishers of men,” he was calling them to a full-time vocation.  And this calling carries a sense of divine urgency with it.  What does this well-known story have to do with us and how we live our lives today?  Click below to hear Pastor David’s sermon from this week.

Listen now!


“Jesus Makes All Sad Things Untrue”

photo by Paul Nicholson

I enjoy reading church signs.   When I drive from place to place, I watch for churches, because the words on a roadside marquee often tell quite a bit about what’s important to a church.  Sometimes a church (like ours) will give a preview of the coming Sunday’s sermon; other churches will advertise upcoming events and programs.  Frequently, a church will put an encouraging phrase on its sign, and these are often the most interesting to me.

Recently, I passed by a church with this saying on its sign:  “Jesus Makes All Sad Things Untrue.”  In all fairness, I did not call or stop in at this church to ask what the sign meant.  So I don’t know how the church’s pastor has explained this statement or what the church people think of it.  But I wonder… does Jesus really make all sad things untrue?

Jesus certainly doesn’t make all our painful experiences unimportant.  No, life is hard – sometimes quite hard – and God never promised us that belief in him would turn into a carefree life.  In my own devotional Bible reading, I am going through the book of Job.  Often, I am struck by how human Job’s emotions are.  He experienced incredible loss and suffering, and if I were in his shoes, I might say words similar to his.  Faith is no magic rescue from hardship, even though our painful experiences can be redeemed by God to make us whole, strong, and able to help others through similar situations.

Jesus certainly doesn’t make our problems suddenly disappear.  If a loved one passes away, there is no going back; this sad thing will always be true.  If someone in our family or community experiences abuse or neglect of any form, a relationship with Jesus may not immediately fix everything.  If you are struggling to pay the bills and keep the lights on, God has promised that he will provide for all your needs (2 Corinthians 9:8), but you probably won’t win the lottery next week after praying about it.  Our problems are our own, and often they are very, very true.

So what could this sign mean?  Here are a few ideas:

  • Jesus can correct our self-image.  You may not like who you are; you may not think you are valuable to anyone or to God.  Jesus makes that sad thing untrue!
  • Jesus can provide hope.  You may not feel like the future is worth living for.  Jesus makes that sad thing untrue!
  • Jesus can help us love and be loved.  You may feel very alone, even if you are around people all the time.  Jesus makes that sad thing untrue!

Following Jesus is about redemption, hope, and transformation of life.  What sad things in your life can Jesus make untrue?

–Pastor David

Does Job Fear God for Nothing?

“Then Satan answered the Lord, ‘Does Job fear God for nothing?’” (Job 1:9)

photo by Buck Lewis

A few years ago, I was on an errand of some sort, and I found myself driving through the snowy side streets of inner-city Indianapolis.  In places, the snow was four or five inches deep, and for my light-weight, low-riding Honda, it proved to be impassable:   soon I was stuck in the middle of the road with tires spinning hopelessly.  As I began to rock the car back and forth (which is rather challenging with a manual transmission), I saw a stranger walking by.  A young man in his late teens or early twenties walked just behind my car.  I opened my door and asked him if he could give me a push, and I’ll never forget his response:

“I’ll push you for five bucks.”

I turned down the young man’s offer and finally got myself moving again without his help.  But the deal he proposed stuck with me:  I asked for a small, harmless favor, but he saw an opportunity to get something for himself.

“What’s in it for me?”  This is a natural (if selfish) question that nearly everyone asks sometime or other.  The most dangerous place for this question to appear is in our relationship with God.  And yet, if we’re not careful, the way we relate to God can be as selfish as the motives of the young man I met on that snowy street.

Are we in relationship with God for selfish reasons?  Do we serve God because of what we receive from him?  Think about how you pray:  what kinds of things do you pray for?  How often do you pray simply by giving thanks to God for who he is?  How often do you pray simply by confessing your sins to him?  I believe that many Christians pray mostly about their own needs and desires.  We tend to think of God as a divine vending machine that will dispense grace if we ask for it correctly.

This tendency extends beyond our prayer life, as well.  What motivates us to gather for worship?  Why do we give our tithes and offerings to God?  Why do we study the Bible and apply it to our daily lives?  If we do these things so that God will bless us in return, then we are in danger of being accused just like Job was.

In the first two chapters of the book bearing his name, Job is accused by Satan (whose name means “the Accuser”) of serving God with less than pure motives.  Job is incredibly wealthy and successful, and he has lived a blameless life.  But the Accuser challenges God to take away Job’s material blessings – his oxen, donkeys, sheep, camels, servants, and even his children – to see if Job will still serve God.

Would we worship and revere God for nothing?  Would we serve him if there were nothing in it for us?  Can we agree with the suffering Job, who remained true to God despite unspeakable losses?

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there;
the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;
blessed be the name of the Lord.”