On “Leap Day”

photo by blinkingidiot

Today, as you are probably aware, is “Leap Day,” February 29, the day that only appears on the calendar every fourth year.  This is necessary because our 365-day calendar doesn’t line up perfectly with our planet’s full revolution around the sun.  One revolution takes a few hours longer than 365 days, so every four years we add a day to make up for the lost time.  But even then that’s not quite right, so every 100 years we don’t add the leap day, except for every 400 years, when we do add the leap day…!  Anybody confused yet?

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12 NIV)

On this particular day, when people (like me) feel compelled to talk about the passage of time, take a few minutes to read the full Psalm quoted above (here’s a link to Psalm 90).  If you think about our calendar confusion enough, you may realize that we live in a universe that is more complicated that we can fathom.  We cannot control everything around us.  Even the best of our days fly away before we realize it, and often our hardest days seem to last the longest.

In short, we are not God.  And that’s a good thing.

Psalm 90 reminds us of our dependence on God, our relationship to God, and our standing before God.  He gives us strength for every day’s labor, and he makes us glad with his love and compassion.  God is not bound by time; he is not confused by the rules for leap days; he does not even need to experience time like we do.  He is “from everlasting to everlasting.”  Before anything else was, and long after everything disappears, God is.

How good it is to be in relationship with this mighty one!  How amazing is his love, that he should die for us in the person of Jesus of Nazareth!  How wonderful it is that he walks alongside us, hearing us when we pray, listening to our needs and desires, giving us strength and peace in every circumstance!

Yes, Lord, teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

–Pastor David

March Youth Update

February was a good month as we held our Super Bowl Party and our Lock-In with great participation and attendance over 20 at each event.  Connie and I were tired after both activities with the Super Bowl being the day after we returned home from Guatemala and the Lock-In —well, we stayed awake all night for those who doubted, having fun with each other and the Word of God.  Super Night, We welcomed two youth from the St. Johns First Church of God plus many friends beyond our own group.

Your students are being PRAYED FOR EVERY DAY!  Students identified as a regular have a “Mt. Haley” church adult (A Prayer Partner) holding them up in prayer daily.  So, if your student receives a note of encouragement or call, don’t be surprised.  The great news is we will be adding new students for prayer this month. God is working within our youth ministry and prayers are being answered and making an impact.

“Jesus and Sticky Questions” will continue to be our topic in Sunday night youth meetings throughout March.  Ask your students about the topics we are dealing with.  They would be great topics even for adults.  On April 1 we will have a special lesson on “The Crucifixion” and then the following Sunday we will not have Sunday night youth because it is Easter Sunday.  Your students have an opportunity for “Baptism” on Easter Sunday if they feel called by God to participate in this sacrament.  If a student is interested in being baptized, please contact Pastor David or me as soon as possible.  We will take you through the purpose of baptism and the steps needed.

We are working on several events during April & May, however, our BIG event will be STATE YOUTH CONVENTION held at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo on the weekend of May 18-20.  Fundraisers will be coming SOON to help raise money for the convention.  A Super Early Bird $40 registration will be DUE by March 25 which will guarantee a $115 cost to the convention.  During April it jumps to $125 and in May it jumps to $150. It pays to plan ahead!

This year’s convention features the speaker Don Jackson.  He was so popular last year, that he is coming back this year.  The weekend worship leader is Joel Hutton with our Friday night guests being Nate Felierstien and MOCI.  The convention costs not only include guests and concerts, but two nights lodging, four meals, tailgate party and all programs. (Tournaments – 3 on 3 basketball, dodgeball, volleyball, chat with Joel Frymire, Don Jackson and MOCI, Talent Search and more)  We also have the opportunity to order a convention T-Shirt for $10.  Look for the posting in the youth room to see what it looks like.

We encourage all of our students to attend our Sunday night youth meetings every week and to participate in all the events of the youth ministry.   The more they attend weekly and participate in the Youth Ministry’s events, the more they will make friends and feel part of God’s people.  We also invite and encourage our students and their families to attend the 11:00 AM Worship Services at Mt. Haley.  We would love to have you join us.

Thank you for sharing your son or daughter with us, your support and your prayers.

Pastor Jerry

God’s End of the Bargain

Pastor David's stained glass gift

Remember Genesis 9:8-17, where God promises to Noah never to destroy the world again with a flood?  God’s sign of this covenant was the rainbow, a thing of beauty that many people enjoy seeing still today.  What does this have to do with God’s ultimate covenant with his people in Jesus Christ?  Click below to hear Pastor David’s sermon on 1 Peter 3:13-22.

Listen now!

Ash Wednesday

photo by Sarah Korf

Today is Ash Wednesday, which falls forty days (excluding Sundays) before Easter Sunday.  Traditionally, this begins the season called Lent, an intentional time of prayer, fasting, repentance, contemplation, and meditation on Jesus’s death and resurrection.  A broad majority of Christians begin that season today.

You may notice some folks with smudges on their foreheads; those are ashes that have been applied to believers’ foreheads as a sign of their repentance and humility before God.  I remember seeing a college student of mine some years ago come into math class with ashes in the shape of a cross on her forehead.  She was always kind and respectful in class, but her demeanor seemed even more sincere and thoughtful on that day.

The Church of God does not always make a big deal of Ash Wednesday.  In fact, this will be the second year that our movement engages in a new program called “Focus 40,” which begins next Wednesday and counts forty days (including Sundays) through Easter Sunday.  You will hear more about Focus 40 very soon!

Why is Ash Wednesday so important?  What’s the big deal about ashes on the forehead, anyway?  The whole practice has to do with a correct understanding of ourselves.  All of us have sinned, and we all fall short of God’s glory.  The death and resurrection of Jesus is an event to celebrate, to be sure, but it also encourages us to be mindful of ourselves as sinful people who have been redeemed at great cost.

Just after Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, God sent them out of the garden and explained the curses that would follow them for the rest of their lives.  In Adam’s curse, God states that the man will have to toil and labor as he works the ground for food.  This is because Adam was taken from the ground; “for dust you are and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3:19 NIV).

Friends, remember that our need to work hard in this world is a result of our sinfulness before God.  Our sins have real consequences that affect our lives.  And our sins had real consequences for Jesus, as well, who went to the cross on our behalf so that our sins might be forgiven and that we might live holy, God-pleasing lives.

Perhaps it would be good for us to wear ashes on our foreheads all the time, if that would help us remember our position before God.  Be blessed in this season of preparation for Easter.

–Pastor David

Focus 40 is coming soon!

I am writing this on February 10, but many of you will be reading this in early March when our monthly newsletters are printed and distributed.  By that time, the title above should read “Focus 40 has come!”

This is the second year in which the Church of God movement has put together this event, “Focus 40,” which is to be an intentional time of prayer and fasting during the 40 days leading up to Easter.  Last year’s emphasis was on prayer and fasting for spiritual renewal and revitalization; this year’s emphasis is on prayer and fasting for specific people to come to know the Lord.

Prayer and fasting often appear together in our scriptures.  Perhaps most notably, Jesus spent 40 days fasting (and presumably praying) in the wilderness just before beginning his ministry on earth (Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, and Luke 4:1-13).  In the Old Testament, Moses fasted for 40 days on two different occasions while he received the tablets of the law of God (Deuteronomy 9:7-21).  In the New Testament, the apostles appointed leaders for young churches after praying and fasting to determine God’s will (Acts 14:23).

This year, we are gathering together as Church of God people in a concerted effort to pray and fast regarding those friends, family members, and acquaintances we have who are not in a saving relationship with Jesus.  This is surely very important work!  We cannot keep the good news of the kingdom of God to ourselves; we are called to make disciples and to instruct others to keep Christ’s commands.

I encourage you, friends, in the time leading up to Easter (and beyond!):  invest yourself in prayer for people who do not know the Lord.  If you are able, skip a meal once in a while and use that time and energy to come before God in prayer.  If you feel led to do so, fast for longer periods of time.  (Remember that you should discuss any extended fast – even for a few days – with your doctor ahead of time.)

Let us pray that we will see a new generation of believers come to know the Lord in our midst!

–Pastor David