Last week, Pastor David, Pastor Jerry, and Connie Graham traveled to Oklahoma City for the Church of God Convention.  This coming week, several members of our youth group will travel to Nashville for the International Youth Convention.  Today, Pastor David preaches on Matthew 10:37-42, a difficult but important passage.  What does it say to us, and how are we challenged to move ahead as the Church of God?  Listen in:

Listen now!

Our youth group is preparing to travel to Nashville from July 3 through July 9 for the International Youth Convention of the Church of God.  Please keep them in your prayers as they engage in this potentially life-changing experience!

This Word document gives the full itinerary for our group.  Download it and keep up with their travels and events!

2014 IYC Itinerary

The World Cup is an amazing event, in which representatives from dozens of countries compete in soccer, the world’s most popular sport, in order to earn the title “best in the world.”  That recognition will go down in sports history, and the winning team will be on top of the world until the next World Cup is held in four years.

What lessons can we learn from this event?  Consider these ideas:

People can unite around common interests.  Of course, national pride is tremendously strong at World Cup time.  We all hope our home country wins its next match, if not its group and the entire tournament as well.  However, I am amazed how so many millions (and billions!) of people around the world can be “tuned in” to this event, either literally or metaphorically.  For all their differences, many of the world’s people have something in common:  love of football.

  • For Christians to consider:  Can you imagine what church would be like if we focused on what we have in common, rather than on what divides us?  I am thinking about groups of denominations, individual congregations, and even friends and neighbors.  What if we were to “tune in” to our common faith in Jesus Christ and work together for the peaceful expansion of the kingdom of God in this world?

People can become excited about meaningful things.  A soccer game is ninety minutes long, and some people find that to be far too long to be interesting.  But did you see that goal from thirty meters? that beautiful corner kick? that perfect header? that successful penalty kick?  When something takes place that impacts the course of the game, people watch closely and become involved.

  • For Christians to consider:  We believe that Jesus is the most interesting thing in the universe.  But somehow our church gatherings tend to become mundane, routine, and just plain boring – for guests, for young people, and sometimes for well-seasoned adults!  What makes our gatherings meaningful for you?  How can we best communicate that meaning to others?  How are we transformed and energized by our regular encounter with God through corporate worship?

Major problems can be swept under the rug.  Surely you have heard about the financial cost incurred by Brazil as they prepared to host this year’s World Cup.  You probably have heard complaints from Brazilians that so much money is being spent on a one-time event, but so much need exists and persists in local communities near the new stadium venues.  Maybe you know about the working conditions of construction, food-service, and hospitality workers in Brazil.  But when the game comes on your TV, do you remember the many issues going on behind the scenes?

  • For Christians to consider:  Churches are notorious for hiding their problems from everyone – visitors and members alike.  We smile at each other on Sunday morning, ask “How are you?” expecting a pleasant response, and mask past conflicts and divisions.  We talk behind each other’s backs.  We question others’ motives.  We find fault and spread it privately.  But we shake the hands of visitors and invite them to come back; we pretend to be a united congregation; we hope the pastor (or time) will fix the problems.  What if we did not hide our faults but accepted our responsibility for their existence?  What if we ran toward Christ together instead of away from conflict separately?  What if our gatherings were marked by stark honesty before the Lord, true unity through faith in Jesus, and holiness of conversation by the power of the Holy Spirit?

What do you think?

Pastor David

Last week, three young people from our youth group graduated from Bullock Creek High School. The ceremony was a wonderful time of celebration; around 140 teenagers, their families, and friends looked back on the past and forward to the future. A few select students commented on the wide-open nature of the graduates’ adult lives. A video presentation depicted the graduates’ early years and favorite high school memories. The Bullock Creek Superintendent, Mr. Charles Schwedler, commented in his remarks that this was his twentieth Bullock Creek graduation ceremony. I reflected on these things while I watched each graduate cross the stage, receive his or her diploma, and greet Mr. Schwedler with a handshake (or a hug).

My own high school graduation was nearly half my life ago, but I still remember it very clearly. Almost three hundred students formed my senior class, and the graduates’ names were called rather quickly, with just a few seconds between names. I noticed a striking difference at the Bullock Creek ceremony, thanks to the smaller class size: each graduate was allowed to walk all the way across the stage before the next graduate’s name was called. This prompted me to think about this ceremony as a rite of passage.

Life has a number of rites of passage such as graduating from high school. We participate in these events as many have before us, and once we go through them, there is no turning back. A high school graduate cannot “un-graduate” from high school. A Boy Scout cannot undo his “crossing over” and become a Cub Scout again. A baseball player cannot have another chance at his first professional ball game. A young person only gets one “first paycheck” from her first job. Two “single” people will never truly be single again after they are married, even if the marriage ends in divorce or widowhood.

At each of these moments, we acknowledge that something meaningful is taking place. A hurdle is being crossed; a transition is happening. Things will never be the same. Life will change and will have new meaning as the future becomes the present. It is crucial that there be some kind of group celebration at moments like these: a graduation ceremony, a “crossing over” ceremony, a cheering crowd of baseball fans, and so forth.

Our spiritual lives should include celebratory rites of passage, as well. We tend to make Christian faith a personal, private experience; we accept Jesus into our own hearts, we pray silently, we hide our tithes and offerings in envelopes. But certain moments in our spiritual development deserve public attention.

The most obvious example is baptism. We practice “believer’s baptism,” in which adults and youth (but not infants) are baptized by being immersed completely underwater. This is an act of obedience to Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20) and an outward symbol of the inward transformation that takes place when a person receives God’s forgiveness and commits to follow the Lord. Baptism is incredibly public; most sanctuaries include a baptismal pool in the worship space. And this is how it should be. When a person is baptized, the rest of the congregation celebrates this rite of passage. Those who have been baptized in the past have an opportunity to remember their own baptisms, just as the Bullock Creek ceremony helped me to remember my own high school graduation.

Are there other spiritual rites of passage? Other Christian traditions will celebrate a person’s first Communion. A marriage ceremony, done properly, is a spiritual rite of passage as well. Dedicating a newborn child is a spiritual rite of passage for the child’s parents. Other examples include the first time someone prays in public, gives a personal testimony, or even preaches in church.

I believe Christians do not always celebrate these rites of passage with enough vigor and excitement. When a person is baptized, this is a huge deal! A life has been transformed, and we should praise God! When a couple is married, it’s not just a warm, sentimental moment; it is the spiritual uniting of two souls that God has called to become one. We should celebrate and stand in awe of God’s work! When someone takes the courageous step of leading in worship for the first time, we should rally around that person and affirm the spiritual growth that God is accomplishing in him or her.

I also believe that our rites of passage, spiritual and otherwise, are rather slanted toward our younger years. You could potentially experience all of the above events by age 25 (or even earlier). What, then, do you do for the next fifty or sixty years of your life? Are there no more hurdles to cross, no more transitions to experience? Once you “graduate” into fully adult life, what is there left to achieve?

The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and direction to the young – let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance – for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline. (Proverbs 1:1-7 NIV)

Let the wise add to their learning. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. A high school graduation ceremony is called “commencement” because something is starting, not because something is ending. Rites of passage propel us into the future, and it is crucial for us to celebrate these moments to encourage others and ourselves to move forward in our spiritual development in the Lord.

Celebrate our graduates! And take the next step in your own life!

Pastor David

June is always one of the most exciting times of the year!  The end of the school year, graduations, parties & open houses, exams, accomplishments, warm weather and the anticipation of the summer. Our Youth Ministry has completed another successful school year as we met weekly discussing prayer circles, relationships, “God’s Not Dead,” God’s purpose for us, characters of the Bible and of course, Christmas & Easter. We also have done parties, a lock-in, Winter Retreat, State Youth Convention, many fundraisers, covered a
lot of miles in the van and a lot of times together.  God has blessed us in many ways.

$415 by 6/29 is our general theme this month as we prepare the final
arrangements for the International Youth Convention.  We have 9 students and 4 adults committed to traveling to Nashville, TN for the Bi-Annual International Youth Convention of the Church of God, from Thursday, July 3rd through Wednesday, July 9th.  Our theme is from Galatians 5:25, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”  There will be fabulous speakers & services, great bands, opportunities for service, instructions on purpose, purity, power and people, sights to see, a 5-star hotel and many other once in a lifetime experiences. PLEASE PRAY for the spiritual awakening of our students and adults plus for the financial blessings still needed for the experience.  Some students are ready to go and paid, however, there are some students who still need God¹s help (and maybe even your help) in conquering the $415 by 6/29.  God has a plan and we
are believing in it!  There will be a Youth-Parent Meeting on Sunday night, June 29th.  We are asking all IYC youth and their parents to be at that meeting for last minute preparations for the trip.  High School youth will NOT meet on June 8th (my son¹s ordination), however we will meet on June 15 & 22, then the IYC group on the 29th.  We are expecting all IYC youth to be attending the meetings in June.  The lessons will be appropriate for all high school students.

Another mission opportunity we have this summer is an experience with the Center for Student Missions (CSM) in Detroit on the weekend of August 22-24, 2014.  This was an unexpected opportunity offered to our youth ministry due to my past experiences with CSM in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Houston & Nashville.  We were asked to bring a high school group to “pilot” a weekend in Detroit, a new city for them, this summer as they explore expanding their national program to another US city.  We are registered for 10 people presently and must bring a minimum of 7 and a maximum of 14.  Please pray with your student about possibly participating in this weekend at the end of the summer.  Our ministry had a fantastic time in Chicago two years ago and we know that some would like to experience God¹s work again in the city.

This summer we will be doing a lot of IYC fundraising in June.  If you have opportunities for students to earn some quick cash for this, please give us a call.  Our softball game with the Meridian Church of God will have to be delayed due to scheduling conflicts so it will be sometime later in the summer.  We are doing “Day At The Beach” at Ludington State Park on the weekend of July 26th. There will be some spontaneous events throughout the summer so watch all of our media outlets for events. Every Sunday morning we will be doing “Tough Questions With God” and we encourage students to attend
the morning class.  There will be no Sunday night meetings throughout July and August, however we start up again on Sunday, September 7th.

Pastor David and I will be holding a meeting with Young Youth parents to discuss our past couple of years, concerns, goals and their transition into Sunday night meetings in the Fall.  They are welcomed at any summer activities of the youth.

Once again, we would like to express “Congratulations” to our Bullock Creek High School graduates, Brandon Helm, Isabella Krolikowski, and Nick Torres. We know all of you have college and work intentions; however, you are welcomed to come to Sunday night meetings for the next year.

A special “Thanks” is also extended to Lawrence and Jo Adams (plus Connie) for supervising our State Youth Convention with my needing to leave on Saturday morning for my Dad’s funeral.  We have heard nothing but good reports about the weekend and I was very appreciative for the help as I joined my family in Indiana in honor of my father.

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 and our congregation for holding the youth up in PRAYER.

Love God, Love People!


Pastor Jerry