July Youth Update!

Connie and I are preparing for the International Youth Convention in Denver, Colorado.  The Church of God has a convention every two years in the cities of Denver, Orlando, San Antonio or Nashville with 5-6 thousand students & leaders. We arrived for service at Mt. Haley too late to prepare a group to attend the convention in Denver; however, we hope to take a group to Nashville in 2014, which we will begin preparing for in September.  We will be enjoying all the great speakers, conferences, and bands as well as working registration & the prayer rooms, plus renewing friendships with friends from around the country.  The IYC (as it is known) has offered great blessings and opportunities for students & leaders to live for Christ.

We are preparing today for our adventure to Lake City tomorrow after returning yesterday from a week in Anderson, IN for the North American Convention of the Church of God. Our very own pastor, David, was a speaker for a morning service and he represented Christ, himself and our church well.  His message from God was a huge blessing for many people from around the country.  The “camp meeting” is an outstanding venue for the Church of God for pastors and laypeople of the Church of God around the country.  Next year is going to be very exciting as Anderson will host the Global Gathering, with pastors and laypeople from all over the world gathering together to “Praise God” and meet as the people of God.

Anyway, we are traveling to Lake City to spend the day as a guest of Nancy Farison.  The group will be swimming, playing volleyball, seeing the STAND team, plus many other activities.  Thank you Nancy, for providing a wonderful day for our youth.

Upcoming activities for the youth (and sometimes church) include:

  • Sunday, July 8 – Softball Game at 6:00 PM with the Meridian Church of God – everyone is invited and refreshments will be served. “GO MT. HALEY!”
  • Thursday, July 12 – Mt Haley attending the LOONS game.  Dollar night @ the stadium.
  • Tuesday, July 17  – Scavenger Hunt (youth)
  • Friday – Sunday, July 27-29 – Canoe-Camping Trip to Mio.  Leaving Friday evening, Canoeing on Saturday with the Mio CHOG youth, a gathering on Saturday night with Mio Youth, then Church in Mio on Sunday morning, returning home Sunday afternoon.
  • SAVE THE DATE –MISSION TRIP:  Friday – Sunday, August 24-26 to Chicago.  Special letter coming with details 2nd week of July.

A special “THANKS” goes out to the many volunteers who helped make Vacation Bible School a HUGE SUCCESS this year.  We especially appreciate all the youth who participated and helped with VBS this year.

During class time on Sunday mornings (10:00 -10:45) the Middle School students are meeting with Maggie Hyde (Thank you Maggie) and the High School Class is with Pastor Jerry & Connie.  The High School students are beginning to study the book of Romans and we are inviting YOU to come.  Each lesson stands on its own; you are not behind or ahead, SO, join on Sunday mornings.  (You just have to GET UP and COME.)  As always, you are invited to church also at 11:00.   I will be speaking on Sunday, July 22, on a topic you have heard about – “The 360 Revolution” and telling your story of Christ.

Praise God for summer (and even the hot weather).  Hope to see you involved with your youth ministry as you enjoy the summer and its many activities.

Love God, Love People!

Pastor Jerry

Who Needs a Comforter?

Pastor David preached at the Monday morning service of this year’s North American Convention of the Church of God.  This service was held in Park Place Church of God in Anderson, Indiana.  The link below is a recording made by Pastor David from where he stood; we apologize for a few loud clinks and clanks in this audio file.  To order official, production-quality CDs and/or DVDs of this message, follow this link.

Click below to hear Pastor David’s message on John 14:22-31.

Listen now!

A Dark and Stormy Night

It was a dark and stormy night… when Jesus calmed a life-threatening storm with just a few words.  The disciples were amazed and terrified by Jesus’s display of power – who is this man?  And why did he calm that storm, anyway?  And how does this story relate to our quest to investigate our spiritual giftedness?  Click below to hear Pastor David’s sermon on Mark 4:35-41.

Listen now!

Who Determines What’s Right?

photo by Marco Bellucci

Two recent stories have my attention today, and I’d like to share my reflections with you.  First, though, please know that my primary concern with these stories is discipleship and serving Christ, not politics or even ethics.

Yesterday on the radio I heard an interview of a woman named Sarah Tuttle-Singer.  She had an abortion at age 19, has become the mother of two children since then, and recently wrote an essay about her experience with abortion as a college student.  She stands by her decision to have an abortion, even though she acknowledges that it was a “very challenging, very painful process” – especially when she later became pregnant again. At the end of the interview, she commented that when a woman is considering terminating an unwanted pregnancy, “the choice that’s made has to be in her best interest and has to come from what that voice inside of her says is the right choice to make.”

This goes against a biblical understanding of how we should make our choices.

Today, I saw online a “mashup” video – a video that combines two different things or ideas.  With soft jazz music playing in the background, the video alternates between (a) biblical phrases taken from the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12), part of Jesus’s “Sermon on the Mount,” and (b) video clips of Christian pastors condemning homosexual behavior and the people who practice such behavior.  (If you are reading this online, please take a couple of minutes to watch the video.)  To be fair, many Christian pastors have gone too far in condemning individuals for specific sins, specifically those in the realm of homosexuality; it is God’s place to judge, not ours.  I don’t believe people are easily attracted to Christ while being mercilessly criticized by Christians.  What disturbed me, though, about this video was its conclusion:  after showing so many pastors (and children!) preaching that terrible things should be done to gays and lesbians, the video concluded with these words:

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:10 NRSV)

My interpretation was that the video was giving gays and lesbians the designation of “those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.”

This also goes against a biblical understanding of how we should make our choices.

Please remember that I am thinking about discipleship and serving Christ, not about politics or ethics.  I am not advocating for abortion rights or gay rights; however, those issues aren’t my main concern.  My main concern is how we view scripture, ourselves, God, and the nature of righteousness.

God has given us the immense responsibility of free choice, so that we can freely know and choose to follow him.  Yet that responsibility does not translate into a self-determined righteousness that says, “I believe this choice is good; therefore it is good.”  God has also given us the immense challenge to follow and to serve Jesus Christ with our lives, facing persecution if necessary from those who do not believe in the gospel message.  Yet that call to suffer for Christ does not translate into a self-validation that says, “I choose to live my life how I please, and look how persecuted I am by people who disagree with me.”

These present-day stories about abortion and homosexuality are warnings to us who claim Christ as Lord:  Our ethical choices about life and sexuality do matter to God.  Beyond that, though, our understanding of right and wrong cannot begin and end with our own preferences.  We must strive to become more Christlike, even when that goes against what we think or feel is right for ourselves.

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need. (Matthew 6:33 NLT)

–Pastor David

Serving Humbly

This Sunday, we continue our biblical study of “spiritual giftedness,” the way in which God blesses us and calls us to serve in his kingdom, by investigating the kingdom of God itself.  Jesus’s only two parables in Mark regarding what the kingdom of God is like are found in Mark 4:26-34, and they both have to do with agriculture.  What does this have to do with us today?  Click below to hear Pastor David’s sermon on this passage.

Listen now!

God Redeems This World

photo by Brett Jordan

Today I’d like to share with you a paragraph from a commentary on Mark’s Gospel.  This was written in 1974 by William L. Lane, and it deals with the reason Jesus taught in parables to describe the Kingdom of God.  Although this paragraph is full of academic-sounding language, I promise it will be worth reading:

Basic to parabolic utterance is the recognition of the two strata of creation: the natural and the redemptive. Through parables Jesus called attention to what had previously been hidden in the redemptive order. The realism of his parables arises from the certainty that no mere analogy exists between the natural and redemptive order, but an inner affinity, because both strata originate in the purpose of God. That is why the Kingdom of God is intrinsically like the daily natural order and the life of men. The createdness of the natural order thus becomes the vehicle for the tenor of the redemptive. A contemplation of the one order can reveal or illumine truths of the other, because both reflect God’s intention.

Wow!  Allow me to try to unpack this paragraph.

Jesus taught in parables because he knew there is a connection between the world as it is (“the natural”) and the world as God intends it to be (“the redemptive”).  Surely God wants to redeem his creation, including sinful people like us.  In order to do that, God chose to reveal, through Jesus, what this redeemed life looks like.  When Jesus used parables to teach his disciples and the crowds, he was using a form of speech that they could connect with.  But that’s exactly the point:  God’s kingdom is not going to replace this world.  Instead, God intends to redeem this world (“the natural order”) by transforming it – and people in it, like us – so that it will be pleasing to him.

So we can reflect on the world around us and learn something about how God intends to bring his kingdom in its fullness.  This is how Jesus taught: through parables that use our everyday lives to convey deep, meaningful truths about the Kingdom of God.  For instance, as we’ll see this Sunday, the Kingdom of God is like a small, humble seed that grows mysteriously into a large, important plant.

On the other hand, we can reflect on God’s work of redemption through Jesus’s death and resurrection, and through that reflection we can discover truths about this created world.  For example, God has brought about salvation through Jesus Christ and is bringing his kingdom into this world; therefore, this created world fundamentally matters to God and should matter to us as well.

In the end, to quote William Lane once again, “both strata originate in the purpose of God.”  That is, both the created world and the work of redemption through Christ are part of God’s ultimate plan for the universe.  They are intimately connected to each other because God uses both for the best purpose possible:  to bring himself glory and honor.

–Pastor David

Missionary David Beam

from news.bbs.co.uk

Yesterday we had the privilege of hearing from David and Damaris Beam, missionaries to Guatemala.  Since the late 1970s, David has worked as a missionary in Guatemala City, where he met his wife Damaris.  A large portion of their work is to build cement block homes for families in a very poor district of the city.  To help with this task, many church groups have traveled to Guatemala in recent years.  Our youth pastor Jerry Graham and his wife Connie have gone on several of these mission trips, most recently this past February.

It’s exciting for me to announce that Mt. Haley Church of God will be partnering with a neighboring church, Meridian Church of God, to sponsor and to help build a cement block home in Guatemala City in February 2013!  Our share of the construction expenses is $2500, and there are two ways that we will begin to raise funds for this project:

  • Our “Mission Jug” is back!  You know how quickly loose change will collect in your pockets and purses.  Why not bring your change to church, drop it in the Mission Jug, and watch the funds for our Guatemala house grow?
  • On Father’s Day (June 17), we will give a special love offering toward this project.  That’s because we understand the importance of fatherhood, faith, family life, and affordable housing.  By helping a family have a stable house structure – and by communicating the love of Jesus Christ to this family in person next February – we will help the family have a more stable home life.

This is an exciting time of involvement in missions for our congregation.  I hope you’re looking forward to this as much as I am!

–Pastor David