Everyone has money, even if just a little. Everyone has stuff, even if not very much. None of us want to lose our money or stuff; most of us wouldn’t mind having a little bit more.

So what does it look like for a Christian, a follower of Jesus, to handle the things of this world? What does God expect of us? How best do we honor Christ through how we handle money and other tangible resources?

“The earth is the Lords, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.” (Psalm 24:1-2 NIV)

I believe there is one fundamental realization upon which we must build our practices of discipleship in this area: everything belongs to God. All the money in your pocket and in your bank account belongs to God. All the electronic devices within your grasp belong to God. All the coal, oil, gasoline, and wood that you use to heat your home, power your car, and mow your lawn – these all belong to God. All of it belongs to God!

We are simply stewards of what God has entrusted to us.

Abraham realized this, I believe, when he returned home after rescuing his nephew Lot and defeating several neighboring kings in the process. Abraham’s encounter with the mysterious Melchizedek features an important biblical truth: “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth” (Genesis 14:19 NASB). Only then did Abraham, apparently spontaneously, give Melchizedek a tenth of everything, thus forming the basis for our practice of the tithe. (See Genesis 14:17-20.)

The tithe, a basic standard in which one gives ten percent of one’s income to the church, is a time-honored practice and useful indicator of spiritual health. When we tithe, we acknowledge the truth that everything we have belongs to God, and we owe our very existence to him. Living on the 90% that remains after the tithe is, truly, a blessing. Do you tithe regularly? Is that part of your spiritual lifestyle?

God isn’t interested in pure numbers, though. Once, when Jesus watched people putting money into the temple offering plates, he commented that a poor widow’s two tiny coins were worth more than many rich people’s large gifts (Mark 12:41-44). It could have been that those rich people were giving a tithe of their income, or even more than that. But the one who was applauded by Jesus was the one who acknowledged that everything she had belonged, quite literally, to God.

So let’s assume that you tithe or that you are working toward tithing, toward giving a tenth of your income to the Lord. What do you do with the rest of your money? What do you do with the rest of your stuff?

Have you met someone who needs a hot meal or a new pair of shoes? Do you have a friend whose car is broken down and needs repairs? What about the struggling family whose son is growing into the size of clothes that your boy just outgrew?

How much of your money is going toward junk food, carbonated beverages, tobacco, or alcohol? Are you saving for the future? What kind of (and how much) debt are you in, and are you making progress on paying it off?

If God were to audit your books (those entitled “My Money” and “My Stuff”), what would he find?

One of the surest signs of spiritual health is the wise, God-honoring use of material possessions. Be a good steward of what God has entrusted to you!

WOW!!  Powerful, Incredible, Spirit–Filled, Fun, InTune with God, Jesus!  Words cannot describe the 2014 Nashville International Youth Convention and the experience that 10 kids and 4 counselors had this summer (along with over 5,000 others).  We came back touched by Jesus, grounded in our faith, changed people and ready to serve our Lord.  We desire to not only be a good youth group but a GREAT Youth Ministry, being disciples in our daily walk, serving our community and proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. The stories & experiences will be talked about through the next few months and remembered in our daily lives. We will be sharing with you soon about all we experienced and participated in.  Everything went just as planned, our hotel stays, Mammoth Cave, our incredible worship services, classes, our Change the World service project, the Indianapolis Zoo, downtown Indianapolis, the Spaghetti Factory, and what a place for the convention – the Gaylord Opryland Resort.  God blessed us with the funds to go, the experience and mostly His love.  Thank you to everyone who played any role in making this happen.  It was incredible and God blessed IYC.  
We followed that experience with our “Day @ the Beach” @ Ludington State Park last Sunday as we were blessed again!  It was a BEAUTIFUL DAY on Lake Michigan for the Mt. Haley Youth Ministry! Rained all the way there – then the skies parted and the sun shone until 4:00 then we departed and rained all the way home. God Was GOOD! Enjoyed Cops & Donuts, picnic, and fun on the beach! Great Day!

We are NOT having Sunday night youth throughout August.  However, we will be beginning the new school year on Sunday, September 7th for all youth – new 6th graders through one year after graduation. New 2014-2015 Parental Medical/Permission Release Forms will be mailed to each family during August.  We need to know for sure the new 6th graders entering the youth ministry in September, so please let us know who they are.  Also, Pastor David and Pastor Jerry will be meeting with the Young Youth parents this month as they make the transition into Sunday night youth.  We will be contacting you soon.  Although we have no Sunday night youth, we are having Sunday School classes for Young Youth (with Ron Hyde) and the “Tough Questions With God” class (with Pastor Jerry) at 10:00 AM each Sunday.

We have had the planning meeting in Detroit with the Center for Student Missions (CSM) for our mission trip to Detroit on the weekend of August 22-24.  We currently have nine signed up to participate and we can accept 5 more people (high school – college) up until Wednesday, August 6th.  If you are interested, please contact Pastor Jerry ASAP.  Plans include working at a food bank, helping with a clothing agency and serving supper at a homeless food kitchen.  We will probably share meals at a “Soul Food” restaurant, a  “Polish” restaurant and a “Mexicana” restaurant, all located in Detroit ethnic neighborhoods. Plus on Sunday morning, we will worship and attend the Hope Community Church on East Jefferson Avenue in Detroit.  We have many Spirit-filled and serving opportunities on this weekend.  We were chosen as one of three groups to help “pilot” a mission trip in Detroit as CSM expands to another US city.  God has blessed us with experience-based opportunities.

Our Winter Retreat isn’t until January, but it will be here sooner than we think.  Taking a little break from fundraising, however, we will have our annual “Mum” Sale in September along with some yard work opportunities.  We have greatly appreciated all the support we received the past few months in earning our way to IYC and the Detroit CSM.  We will have another “Garage Sale” next April and we thank you for all your contributions; however, we ask you to “save them” until next April. Connie and I have been receiving things already for next April – which we appreciate – but we are fearful for their well-being with storing them in the church’s garage (rodents & mildew), because we do not have space available in our home.  So, I am trying to kindly trying to say “Thank You,” but keep your treasures for us until April!

The Youth topics and curriculum for Sunday nights & mornings in the Fall has not been decided yet, but with IYC and student input we have some great ideas in the hopper.  Most of all we want to help our kids experience God, to equip them to live as disciples, and to send them out to serve the community and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with their family and friends.

We encourage you to attend the services and events of the St. Louis Camp Meeting being held Thursday, August 7th through Friday, August 15th. Worship Service is every evening at 7:00 PM with Evangelist and Song Evangelist, Dr. Jeff and Joanie Frymire. Children, Youth and Adult activities are planned each day.  Come and join us for “Camp Meeting!”

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  

Last week at VBS, our children came up with a list of questions that they wanted to ask God. They wrote these down on large, red cardboard question marks, and then the question marks were placed side by side to create large, red hearts. This was to remind the children of that day’s Bible theme: even when you don’t understand, Jesus loves you!

Today, I read through those questions and found some of them to be very profound. In this space, I will do my best to answer a few questions from my perspective. What do you think? Can these questions spark conversations around your dinner table, church pew, or Sunday school classroom?

How did God make himself?

God was never created; God has always existed, from before the beginning of time. Jesus Christ is “the image of the invisible God,” and “by him all things were created” (Colossians 1:15-16). The Spirit of God was present before the universe began (Genesis 1:2). It’s hard to understand, but God simply is. There never was a time when God was not around!

What happens to animals when they die?

I wonder this myself. Tara and I had a dog named Lindy who died a year ago, and we miss her very much. Where is Lindy now? Sometimes we say that people who believe in Jesus go straight to heaven when they die. Maybe this happens with animals, too. (But remember, the Bible teaches that Jesus will return to earth at the end of time, and then all Christians will be raised from the dead to live with him forever (1 Corinthians 15).) Will our pets be waiting for us in heaven? I sure hope so!

Why do people get in car accidents?

This is a very powerful question, and I don’t have a good answer for it. I do not believe that car accidents are “supposed” to happen, as if they are somehow in God’s plan – especially when someone dies in the accident. Tragedies happen to all different kinds of people, and often without reason. While I do not know why accidents happen, I do know that God provides comfort to all who are suffering (2 Corinthians 1:1-11). And maybe that’s enough.

Do you [God] like naptime?

Absolutely, God loves to rest! After God created the universe, he took a whole day off (Genesis 2:1-3). Sometimes it’s not fun for a kid to take a nap, but trust me, napping is an acquired taste. But rest assured: God never falls asleep on the job of being our God and watching out for our needs (Psalm 121).

Why does my dad need to work on the house?

(I wish I knew more about this question, because it almost seems to come from a painful or lonely place.) Dads need to work on houses because they love their children. One of a parent’s many jobs is to make sure his or her children are safe, warm, and protected from bad weather. When your dad works on the house, you can remember that God the Father is watching over you as well (Psalm 127:1).

Why do people smoke?

Smoking releases very addictive chemicals into the brain. People who smoke usually know that smoking is very bad for you, because it leads to deadly forms of cancer. But people who smoke have a very hard time quitting, because of those addictive chemicals. The Bible does not address smoking directly, but it does teach that we should honor God with how we use our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Why do teenagers sometimes get mad at grown-ups?

It is hard to be a teenager! During your teenage years, you change in many ways. Your body, mind, and emotions develop very rapidly – but not always at the same rate. Sometimes, teenagers feel grown up but still have to listen to their parents. Sometimes, they feel mad about something at school or involving their friends, and that anger carries over into relationships with adults. Sometimes, teenagers don’t understand what they are feeling at all. But trust me, eventually those feelings of anger will go away as the teenagers become grown-ups themselves.

Why does my brother pick on me?

Brothers (and sisters) pick on their siblings for many reasons. Maybe they want to feel better about themselves, or maybe they are upset because others picked on them. They may not realize how much it hurts you when they pick on you. My advice is to follow the Golden Rule, and to remind your brother (gently) of the Golden Rule: “Do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12 NIV).

Will the Cleveland Indians win the World Series again in Pastor David’s lifetime?

Yes, they will! (Hebrews 11:1)

…I hope.

Jeremiah 29:1-9 is an ancient letter encouraging Israelites in exile to settle down peacefully and not to revolt against the Babylonians, their captors.  God wants us to pray for and work toward peace, even for our enemies.  How does this apply to the present day?  Listen in to Pastor David’s message on this passage.

Listen now!

Nikolai Interior

Nikolai Book

God is SO GOOD!  On Thursday, July 3, our Mt. Haley Church of God International Youth Convention delegates will travel to Nashville, TN. We have a 7-day adventure planned and God will be glorified in this special moment in time.  The primary purpose for attending an IYC is to create a moment for life change and we are hoping for transformed, changed lives as we engage in the activities of the IYC.  The other benefits we will reap from this will live well into the year.  One of the benefits throughout the process has been getting to spend a lot of time with our kids while fundraising, where our relationships have been strengthened and grown and we are so proud of our kids.  Many of them thought three years ago that attempting such an adventure was not possible at Mt. Haley but they have hung with me as I kept telling them that “All things are possible with God” and that God will bless their lives, their spiritual growth, their relationship with Christ and our Youth Ministry. We are especially pleased, blessed and thankful that our group will be offering over $600 to the national youth missions outreach.  We have faithfully tithed 10% of our fundraising money to “Spread the Word” since the beginning and we want to glorify God in our efforts.
And, what an effort is has been!  Many of our students earned the funds to pay their IYC registration in December, pay their way to Winter Retreat in January, pay their way to State Youth Convention in May, pay the cost of IYC, plan & pay for the Detroit mission in August and some are even saving for the Guatemalan mission next February.  God has BLESSED our youth greatly – spiritually, economically, and in their daily walk with Christ!

We MUST say THANK YOU to all the people in our congregation who have prayed for us, encouraged us, bought things from us, hired us for jobs (and many times overpaid us much more then we were worth), brought pop cans and given donations on our behalf.  Words cannot express the gratitude we have for you because this clearly became a whole church endeavor and we were extremely blessed by the congregation. Thank You!! 

Meanwhile, we are in Nashville being blessed by God and you can follow us daily on the IYC Itinerary posted on the Mt. Haley website (and on the bulletin board in the narthex).  We hope to come home with many testimonies and stories of our 2014 adventure.  
We are doing “Day At The Beach” at Ludington State Park on July 27th.  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.  
Our summer mission opportunity 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, Houston and Nashville.  We were asked to bring a high school group to “pilot” a weekend in Detroit, a new city for them, 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 God’s work again in the city.    
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

Hobby Lobby.  Contraception.  Health care reform.  Abortion.  The death penalty.  Welfare.  Wars.  Drones.  Prayer in schools.  Gun control.  Gay marriage.

Do I have your attention yet?

Chances are, you have strong opinions about the above topics, which have been at the forefront of public conversation in recent days and months.  Is there a “correct” Christian perspective on these issues?  Is it possible that well-meaning followers of Jesus can have differing opinions?  How should we vote, speak out, or defend our beliefs?

We live in a time of increased polarization within our country and around the world.  Republicans and Democrats in the US are being pulled toward their ideological extremes.  Sunnis and Shiites in the Middle East are engaging in bloody conflicts against each other.  Conservative and liberal Christians are separating from each other in congregational life, public discussion, and even geographical location.

When it comes to any of the issues that divide us, I too have my own opinions.  I believe some stances are morally appropriate, and others aren’t.  But I also believe in a more important truth, one that guides my conversations with people about these issues:

It’s complicated.

Should Hobby Lobby be required to provide its employees with full insurance coverage for contraceptives?  Regardless of whether you say “yes” or “no,” the truth is that it’s complicated.

Should our nation legalize same-sex marriage, or use drones to eliminate enemies in other nations, or pass tighter gun control laws?  It’s complicated.

These issues are complicated because they impact different people in different ways.  They are complicated because my opinions, wisdom, and experiences on any given topic do not equal the sum total of all people’s opinions, wisdom, and experiences on that topic.  They are complicated because life is complicated.  The world is not black and white (there are many different shades!); Christianity cannot be boiled down to heaven or hell (there’s so much more to faith than that!); ethical questions do not always have nice, clean answers.

Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap [Jesus] in his words.  They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians.  “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.  You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are.  Tell us then, what is your opinion?  Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?”  But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me?  Show me the coin used for paying the tax.”  They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, “Whose image is this?  And whose inscription?”  “Caesar’s,” they replied.  Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”  When they heard this, they were amazed.  So they left him and went away. (Matthew 22:15-22 NIV)

Should the ancient Jews pay their required taxes to Caesar, whose Roman Empire occupied their God-given inheritance?  Or should they revolt against Rome and trust God for the victory?  (Historical note: the Jews tried the latter, and their revolt ended in Rome’s utter destruction of the capital city Jerusalem in AD 70.)

In this passage, Jesus proclaims an astounding truth:  the kingdom of God is not the kingdom of this world.  And we are to be citizens of God’s kingdom – even while we live as citizens of this world.

In short, life is supposed to be complicated.

So build your opinions about Hobby Lobby and gay marriage and gun control, and be sure your opinions are founded in the truth of scripture.  But listen carefully to the opinions of those who disagree with you, especially when their opinions are founded in scripture as well.  Listen to the stories of those affected by major current events, and tell your story faithfully also.

And always give to God what is God’s – even your very life – as complicated as that is to do.