The Hard Times

photo by Kalexanderson

Automobile accidents can be very tragic events.  We have been reminded of that truth with the recent death of Julie Kurrle and her son Timmy, part of a missionary family in Paraguay, in just such a collision.  Many congregations around the country and, indeed, around the world are mourning the loss of this young woman and her very young son.  Please continue to remember Norberto Kurrle (Julie’s husband) and their daughter Anahi as they rebuild the pieces of their lives, a process which will take a very long time.

This comes at a significant time of the year for me, personally:  six years ago yesterday, a van full of Taylor University students and staff members was struck by an oncoming truck on an Indiana highway.  Four students and one staff member died in that collision, which occurred while I was on Taylor’s faculty as a math teacher.  Recently, the brother of one of these students wrote a good reflection on the aftermath of this difficult event; you can read his thoughts here.

Many inspirational stories can come out of these kinds of tragedies.  For instance, one of the Taylor students who survived the collision was in a coma for some time.  When she finally awoke, everyone began to realize that she was not who they thought she was; there had been a case of mistaken identity at the scene of the crash.  The two families – one who thought they had lost a daughter but found her alive, and one who thought their daughter had survived but realized she was gone – have been drawn together by their common Christian faith.  It’s a beautiful story of healing, sorrow, and the strength of Christian relationships.

More recently, Norberto Kurrle gave a moving speech at the memorial service for his wife and son.  He spoke about searching for God’s plan for his family, trying to make sense of all that has happened, and being grateful for the many blessings of these two lives that God has shared with him.  (You can read all about the memorial service here.)  According to eyewitness accounts, Norberto’s faith in Christ shined through even in this darkest of times.

When Christians struggle with real-life situations, I hear people quote two verses very frequently, almost without fail:  Jeremiah 29:11 and Romans 8:28.  Look up those two verses and read them to yourself, even if you have them memorized.  These verses seem to promise good things to those who trust in the Lord.  So why do tragedies happen?  Are we supposed to look at the hard times of our lives and search for meaning, value, purpose, and good in them?

I don’t know why tragedies happen.  I do know, however, that they happen.  And I do know that God walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death (see Psalm 23).  I know that having faith in Christ is no guarantee that we will avoid trouble, hardship, loss, or tragedy.  In fact, if we truly are following Christ, then we should expect to suffer for the cause of Christ (see Matthew 16:21-28).  And that is not just idle suffering or having bad things happen to us or our families:  it means actively giving witness to our faith in Christ even when the world is falling apart around us.  It means denying our desire for good things (as we might believe Jeremiah 29:11 and Romans 8:28 promise for us) and giving glory to God for his faithfulness to us in all circumstances.

Are we able to exercise our faith in God during the good times and the hard times?  Or are we only fair-weather Christians?

–Pastor David

May Youth Update

May is coming QUICK! Where did the month of April go? As I am writing this, our garage is packed with “stuff” for the Youth Garage Sale this Friday and Saturday. Connie and I are working furiously (I should say Connie is…) to get all of our donated treasures processed and ready for a sale.  The people of our church have been SO gracious and encouraging – we give a ton of THANKS and APPRECIATION to everyone!  We will let you know how we did as soon as the information is available.

In the meantime, we had a Potato Bar dinner last Saturday night and it was extremely successful. We have also had an extremely successful round of raking this spring.  The money earned is helping to pay for State Youth Convention and events beyond. While God blessed us financially, I believe the most important aspect of our work has been the friendships, the bonding, the time together and the kids working cooperatively together to complete a task.  Strengthening relationships through time together and working together as the students of God creates a stronger ministry. Praise God.

We need your prayers—especially for the State Youth Convention May 18-20.  We have 10 students and four adults attending from Mt. Haley, 4-5 students and an adult from the North Euclid CHOG, plus we will be traveling & eating with the Meridian CHOG.  It’s going to be a GREAT weekend and please pray that lives are CHANGED and CHALLENGED.

Sunday nights?  What are we doing?  The 360 Revolution.  Jesus loves and cares for His children. This is lovingly portrayed in Luke 15 with the Parable of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Lost Son. Sharing the gospel demonstrates our love for Jesus. We need to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.  That is only ONE Sunday night summary. The 360 Revolution is only the beginning.  360 means investing in (3) people, praying for them (6) days a week (taking action on at least one of those days) and trying not to miss any opportunities (0) to plant, water, or fertilize a relationship with Jesus Christ.  The students will also be given guidance on how to share their own testimony plus a strategy to share the gospel with their friends.

We are currently offering Hanging Plants for sale.  They are $15 each and are from Kutchey’s Greenhouse.  The students earn $6 for each plant sold and they will arrive at Mt. Haley on Tuesday, May 8 after 3:00 PM, just in time for Mother’s Day.

We will not have a Youth Meeting on the Sunday we return from State Youth Convention (May 20) and we will not have a Youth Meeting on Sunday, May 27 due to the Memorial Day Holiday.  Our last youth meeting for this school year will be on Sunday, June 3.  Youth meetings will not be on Sunday nights during the summer.  There will be 7-9 activities scheduled on various nights of the week and will include prayer, devotion/lesson and a fun activity.  These nights will last longer than the time we usually have. With the summer brings more flexibility and NO homework that needs to be done.  Watch for the upcoming schedule so you can plan.  We have some pretty exciting ideas for these days!

Once again, thank you for sharing your son or daughter with us.  Sharing the gospel with your kids gives us joy and we truly hope for the best in their lives.  Together, God can be praised!

Love God, Love Others!

Pastor Jerry

What are you reading?

photo by Alexandre Dulaunoy

I have a stack of books in my office that I want to read.  These are great books that have been recommended to me by various people.  For my own personal growth and for my continuing education as pastor of this church, I really do want to read through these books.  The only problem is this:

My stack of books to read grows over time – it doesn’t get smaller!

You might think that I would actually make progress in my reading list, but unfortunately there are more books out there than anyone could ever read.  By the time I finish reading one book, three or four more have been recommended to me.  So many good Christian authors, especially in recent years, have written about the life of discipleship, obedience to Christ, faithfulness to God, church-related topics, and so forth.  What are we supposed to do?

It’s at times like these that I remember one particular Bible verse:

Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.  (Ecclesiastes 12:12b NIV)

This was a favorite verse for me in seminary, because it seemed like all I did was read books in school.  But my seminary friends and I always quoted this verse to each other tongue-in-cheek.  It really is a blessing to have access to so many different perspectives, authors, and ways of thinking about following Jesus Christ.

On my reading list right now are several books.  “You Lost Me” by David Kinnaman explores why young people who have been raised in the church are leaving it now that they are adults.  “Forgotten God” by Francis Chan is a book about our lack of emphasis on the Holy Spirit in our churches and our lives.  “10 People Every Christian Should Know” by Warren Wiersbe summarizes the lives and teachings of ten important Christian leaders from the past three centuries.  And that’s just scratching the surface.

What’s on your reading list?  Do you have a book or two handy (in addition to the Bible) that you are reading to help you along in your walk of discipleship?  Are you sharing your books with your friends and family?

If you don’t have anything to read that will help you grow in your faith, come talk with me!  I would be happy to share my books or the church’s books with you.  We have more than enough for everyone to use and to learn from!

–Pastor David

As long as we love him…

photo by theotherway

Recently, four of our congregation’s children completed their study on baptism.  These were the four who were baptized on Easter Sunday.  What a day of rejoicing that was!  In preparation for their baptisms, each student completed a study book on baptism in which they answered questions about Bible stories and passages relating to baptism.

One of the questions asked the children to read Romans 8:28 and write what it says in their own words.  Here is Romans 8:28 (NIV):

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

And here is one student’s summary of that verse:

As long as we love him, he will call us.

Take a minute to think about that statement!  As long as we love him, he will call us.  While that thought might not be exactly what Paul intended when he wrote those words, I think it’s a beautiful way of describing the relationship between our love for God and his call on our lives.  I have never thought of this relationship in quite this way, but it really interests me.  It might even help us adults answer some important questions that we face:

How can you tell if God has called you?  Well, if you love him, then he has called you according to his purpose.  It’s as easy as that!

What has God called you to do (or be)?  That’s a tricky question that each of us answers differently based on our talents, skills, interests, and situation in life.  But anything God has called us to do (or be) will be rooted in our relationship of love with him.  That’s the starting point.

Has God’s call on your life run out?  Have you completed your tasks?  Is it time to retire from the service?  No!  Remember, as long as we love him, he will call us.

God is always up to something new.  Sometimes God is making our lives new; at other times, it might be our families or our church or our community that he is calling to become new.  But we can rest assured that for as long as we love the Lord, he will indeed call us according to his purpose.  And we may be comforted to know the truth of the rest of Romans 8:28 – that in order for his purpose to succeed in our lives, God works all things for our good.  (The emphasis is on God’s purpose being fulfilled in us, not in our experience of all things working out.)

Friends, be encouraged by this child-like restatement of a scriptural truth.  Love God, listen for his call, and ready yourself for new avenues of service in his kingdom!

–Pastor David

Easter: What did you expect?

We had a tremendous celebration of Jesus’s resurrection on Easter Sunday!  Six people, young and old alike, were baptized as believers, and Pastor David preached on Mark’s account of the resurrection (Mark 16:1-8).  That passage contains a great deal of drama and emotion – especially since it falls at the end of Mark’s gospel.  Click below to hear Pastor David’s sermon on this passage.

Listen now!