On Tuesday morning, a gentle spring thunderstorm rolled through Mt. Haley Township.  Another round of earth-nourishing rain fell through a cool air mass that had me wearing a sweatshirt on the last week of May.  Storms of varying degrees of intensity came and went throughout the remainder of the day and into the night.  In the midst of all the rain, thunder, and wind, one thing remained constant:

Our dog Jake was terrified out of his mind.

photo by Qualsiasi
photo by Qualsiasi

We added Jake to our family about seven years ago.  He came from a rescue organization in Ohio, and his age and birthplace were unknown to everyone.  Over the years, we have come to believe that Jake may be a “Katrina dog” – that is, a dog who was born in the New Orleans area and survived the terror of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  We believe this because he dislikes getting wet in any way and because he shows signs of extreme anxiety at the slightest rumble:  thunder, gunshots, firecrackers, or anything else that might remind him of a terribly frightening storm.

Yesterday’s storms were no exception:  all day long, Jake whined, paced, yelped, and was generally inconsolable.  By the evening, even the sound of falling rain sent him into a panic, as if he could sense that a thunderclap might come in the near future.

Tara and I tried to comfort him in different ways at different times.  But we have realized that nothing we can do – short of giving him sedatives, which we have never done – will help this poor dog survive the emotional trauma of a thunderstorm.  (Opening day of rifle season in November is another fun day for us!)

Have you ever been inconsolable due to a traumatic event in your life?  Or has someone around you experienced such emotional stress that you could not comfort him or her?  Or have you ever been overwhelmingly occupied by a burden to share the love of Christ with someone around you?

In all three of these situations, the message of Jesus Christ reaches out to us and transforms us.  Take a moment to read 2 Corinthians 1:3-11.  In this opening passage of the letter, Paul writes about the comfort of God available to those who identify with Christ.  Two truths are readily apparent:  any comfort in this world comes from God, and the comfort we have received must be shared with others around us.  Yet a third truth – having to do with enduring suffering for the sake of the gospel – captures my attention today.

Are we afflicted with sufferings for the cause of Christ?  Does our faith in Christ find expression in our lives in ways that cost us something?  Are we in need of divine comfort because we are sharing in the sufferings of our Lord?

Or do we have more in common with Jake, who reacts with fear to the world around him, even though he is perfectly safe in the care of his providers?  Do we merely wait for God to comfort us in our everyday distress?

Surely everyday comfort is important, but I believe it is more important to be in need of divine comfort because of our active participation in the work of God.  Let’s get to work!

–Pastor David

June Youth Update

State Youth Convention was SPECTACULAR!  We had so much fun, so inspired and touched by the Word of God, so much drama, victorious in our recreational pursuits, overwhelmed by the worship and CHALLENGED! Challenged to walk with the Lord, to step out and LIVE our faith in our homes, our schools and our communities.  The kids all came home with their stories yearning to share how God worked in their hearts. THANK YOU for all the support and encouragement in our fundraisers. Your help really made a difference and we are very appreciative and grateful!  Thank You!

Summer begins, a few more days of school, the 6th grade had their last meeting and the last Sunday night youth meeting is June 2nd.  CONGRATULATIONS to our three graduating seniors from Bullock Creek, Chase Brenske, Corey Forster and Paul Hassen! Walk with the Lord as you begin this new phase in your journey as high school comes to an end.  Our last meeting will be an introduction to the 2014 International Youth Convention in Nashville, TN.  Come and learn all about the “preparations” we need to start and plan for our IYC and mission project next summer.  On Sunday mornings (except a couple) we invite the ENTIRE youth group to join us for a series on the “Parables of Jesus” @ 10:00 AM.  We will not be meeting formally on Sunday evenings so we are encouraging you to join us on Sunday mornings.  No snacks, no games, just the solid WORD of GOD, followed by Mt. Haley Worship service.

Our summer schedule begins the first week of June.  The tentative schedule is:

  • Friday, June 7 @ 8:00 PM – Campfire Meeting @ the home of Lawrence & Jo Adams
  • Thursday, June 13 @ 7:00 PM – Softball Game & BBQ with Meridian CHOG
  • Wednesday, June 19 @ 7:00 PM – Scavenger Hunt
  • Saturday, June 29 – Day at the Beach in Ludington State Park on Lake Michigan
  • July 7- July 22 – Pastor Jerry & Connie out of town
  • Thursday, July 25 @ 7:00 PM – Mt. Haley @ Loons Gamemichiganadventure
  • Saturday, August 3 – Traveling to theme park, Michigan Adventure (whole family welcomed!)
  • Friday, August 2-9 – St. Louis Camp Meeting
  • August 11-17 – Midland County Fair
  • Friday–Sunday, August 23-25 – Camping/Tubing/Canoeing in Mio

We have one more yard raking project to complete if we can ever get it to stop raining (on a day we have rakers) then we will be done with fundraisers for a couple of months. (Hopefully it is finished before you read this.)  Otherwise, we have the weekly Sunday morning meetings and our fun activities of the summer.

Parents and Church, your prayers, support and encouragement are greatly appreciated and we look forward every week to sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with our students through interaction, study, fellowship and relationship.  Thank you for sharing your son or daughter.

We encourage everyone to come and be a part of our weekly Mt. Haley Worship every week at 11:00 AM and hope to see your kids the Sunday morning meetings and the summer activities.

Love God, Love People


Pastor Jerry

Meaning for Those Who Struggle

In John 16:12-15, Jesus reassures his disciples that God the Spirit will be with them during their upcoming days of struggle and service.  There is meaning in these words just on a surface level, but there is also greater meaning when we look at them in context.  What do these words have to do with the everyday life of a follower of Christ today?  Here is Pastor David’s message that concludes the series “What Jesus Gave”:

Listen now!

Universal Redemption

This week, the Catholic Church’s Pope Francis gave a brief message in which he made some remarks that have prompted worldwide attention.  In these remarks, he spoke about the common human desire to “do good” – something that unites people of all cultures and faith traditions.

Pope Francis
Pope Francis

Pope Francis’s comments were based on the gospel reading for the day, Mark 9:38-40, in which Jesus says that someone doing miracles in his name should be allowed to continue even though he is not part of the “core group” of disciples.  The rationale?  “Whoever is not against us is for us,” said Jesus.  This led the pope to state that all people, even atheists, are redeemed by the blood of Jesus, because all people are created in the image of God and all people have the God-given command (and desire) to “do good.”

Before we jump to conclusions and responses, let’s remember a few things:  the world is a complicated place, sound bytes often reduce conversations unfairly, and Pope Francis raises a few worthwhile points here:

  • If we consistently “do good,” then we will avoid war, murder, and killing in God’s name – which is against God’s character.
  • God has indeed created all people in his own image.  This means every single person is loved by God and deserves our respect, compassion, and love.
  • “Doing good” in community leads to a “culture of encounter” which breeds peace, not conflict.  Said differently, we are to live in community with each other, not in isolation.

I have been very interested in Pope Francis, his beliefs, and his practices since he was inaugurated earlier this year.  I appreciate a great deal about him:  his call to poverty, his emphasis on service, his humility (even in such a high position), his simplicity.  These are exciting days to have such a pope in the world.

Yet we need to be careful when we talk about how the blood of Christ redeems all people.  It is true that God desires all people to be saved; he does not want anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9).  God did create us in his image exactly so we might enjoy right relationship with him forever.  But even in Old Testament days, forgiveness for sins had to be obtained through animal sacrifices, which individual believers would bring to the tabernacle or temple.  Redemption was not automatic then, and it is not now.

…because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. (Hebrews 7:24-27 NIV)

The most important faith-related question for any person is this:  What will you do with Jesus?  The answer to that question – for better or worse – transforms life, community, and why we “do good.”  Let us faithfully proclaim Jesus as the Savior of the world and encourage those around us to enter into relationship with him.

–Pastor David

What do you want?

We have been spending a lot of time in John’s gospel during our Sunday morning services lately.  At the beginning of that gospel, when Jesus had attracted his first two disciples, this startling question is recorded:

Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” (John 1:38a NIV)

A pastor friend of mine recently told the story of a research student who polled random people in a certain city.  This student asked each individual the same three questions, and all three questions were exactly the same:

What do you want?

photo by zubrow
photo by zubrow

How would you respond to that question?  What do you want?  Perhaps there is a pressing need in your life; perhaps a loved one is ill, or you have outstanding bills that need to be paid.  Maybe you feel pressed for time in your everyday life, and you would like a real vacation – or more hours in the day!  Maybe what you want relates to your work, your home, or your family.  For me, I certainly could use more hours in the day, or perhaps a clone of myself to get twice as much done!

But now think about the question on a deeper level:  What do you want?  What is really most satisfying in your life?  Where do you find the most meaning?  What drives you?  What motivates you?  The things that motivate us reveal what is really important to us.  There are only so many priorities that we can have, and certain events or circumstances just won’t get us to behave, feel, or believe differently.  But other priorities are higher in importance for us.  Personally, one of the (lighter) things in this category is interacting with my dog Jake.  Sometimes, such as just now, I will look over from my desk, see him looking at me, and watch him start to wag his tail as we stare at each other.  Then after a few seconds he stands up slowly – his back hips are getting rusty – and comes over to be petted.  Call me crazy, but this helps me remember something about live and love and family and relationships.

So here’s the third and final question:  What do you want?  What is this all about?  Why do you believe in Jesus (if you do)?  How would you respond to Jesus’s question in John 1:38?  What are we really about?  Why does our church exist?  Why does the church exist?  My answers to this … well, my answers hopefully come through each sermon you hear at Mt. Haley.

This sequence of questions invites us to think more deeply about our lives, our church, and the meaning of everything we do.  The answers we give are probably the most important thoughts we have.

The disciples responded to Jesus by saying,

“Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” (John 1:38b NIV)

My pastor friend commented that when we truly listen to our deepest desires, our answers to the ultimate questions, then we will hear God’s voice leading us forward.  Let us all listen carefully for the voice of the Good Shepherd and find out where he is staying, so that we might stay there with him and learn from him.

–Pastor David

Peace for the Confused

Have you ever been confused about life?  Have you wondered where God is in the midst of your daily struggles?  You’re not alone:  Jesus’s disciples felt the same way after his crucifixion, something Jesus prepared them for in John 14:23-29.  Here is a link to Pastor David’s sermon on this passage, presenting this week’s gift from Jesus to his disciples:  peace for the confused.

Listen now!