It’s February already! We are well into 2015 and time just seems to fly. Our Winter Retreat was awesome this year. We had snowy great weather for traveling to and from it, plus the weekend went just as planned. “Collision with God” was our theme for weekend as Brett Talley from Church at the Crossing in Indianapolis delivered several great messages that challenged our thinking and brought us closer to God. Josh Lavender proved to be a great Worship leader, as he and his band brought us closer to the throne of Grace. Again, through the victorious effort of our Mt. Haley girls, in ga-ga ball, we brought home the Winter Retreat Traveling trophy to reside at Mt. Haley until next year. Lots of tubing, skiing, ice-skating, indoor games, broomball and other activities provided fun for everyone. Special thanks to Chase Brenske and Paul Hassen for serving as temporary counselors for the weekend. Thank You! Special recognition goes to our table cup masters as they entertained the meal crowds with their display of timing, rhythm, and manipulation of their cups. (You would have to be there to understand!) Great Retreat! Well done, Connie!

Who is the Holy Spirit! We are almost done with our series of “Who are God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit?” We will be wandering into a discussion on “church” and living in the Kingdom of God this spring. There will be NO YOUTH on Sunday, February 1 (Super Bowl Sunday) and February 8 (leaders in Guatemala). Bible Study on Sunday mornings continues to look at “Purpose, Purity, Power and People” and will throughout the year. The GRADS @ Graham group on Sunday nights is studying “Why Revelation” and will be through March. Again, I would emphasize that Youth begins at 6:00 PM on Sunday nights, not at 6:15, 6:25, 6:40 or whenever. Your help in starting on time is appreciated!

There is a special Concert and Super Bowl Party at the Community Nazarene Church in Midland on February 1st for High School and College-aged kids. PW Gopal will be in concert at 5:00 PM followed by a big-screened viewing of the Super Bowl with pizza and snacks provided.

Unfortunately, due to a variety of reasons the Lock-In was postponed. People were out of town and had conflicts, and we called it off when we only had 6 people coming on Wednesday before the Friday. The Lock-In is a huge activity, needs extra adult supervision, and has a higher cost than most local activities. Signing up for events is important to us in planning – so help us out! The GOOD news is we did have the swimming party which was very well attended (15 kids) and we enjoyed the pool, each other and Pizza Sam’s. We will let you know when we find a new weekend for the Lock-In.

Guatemala is NEXT WEEK! 15 servants from 5 different churches (8 from Mt. Haley) will be departing for Guatemala City on Thursday, February 5 and returning to Midland Thursday, February 12. We have been spiritually prepared and challenged, we have insurance, we have bonded together, and our plane tickets are purchased. We will be weighing our luggage on Tuesday this week and flying on Thursday. Your prayers are wanted, needed and appreciated as we minister in Guatemala! We will have many blessings, stories and God-sightings to share with you when we return.

Can’t believe it! The time is coming for registration for the annual Michigan Church of God State Youth Convention held in Kalamazoo on the weekend of May 15-17, 2015. This year’s speaker is Reverend Doctor Todd Faulkner, campus minister of Anderson University. The worship leaders are Alanna Story, a new and upcoming Christian band. If you register in March, it’s $120 with a $40 deposit. After that, the costs go to $130 in April & $155 in May. We have a special deal for you this year. If you pay the $40 registration in March, the Mt. Haley Youth Ministry will match your $40 and provide fundraisers to work on in April & May to complete the $80 balance. To have the match, you must register in March. Our fundraisers work best in April & May because the weather breaks and we can rake, collect pop cans, sell hanging baskets, etc. SO, plan ahead, save yourself $40 with the match and then earn the rest of the way to a great SYC!

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, Live It!

Blessings, Pastor Jerry

A huge crowd had full hearts but empty stomachs. Jesus asked his disciples to feed the thousands of guests. But they complained: “Are we to spend that much?” Maybe, just maybe, that was the wrong question to ask. Pastor David helps us explore the issue of stewardship in this sermon on Mark 6:30-44.

Listen now!

The ancient story of Job is an incredible drama – that is, if you like long, extended, repetitive speeches. The “frame” of the story is easy to remember: a wealthy man loses all his possessions, children, and most of his health, apparently just as a test from the Tempter (in Hebrew, “the Satan”) to see if Job will be faithful to God.

Continue reading

If you are participating in our “Daily Bread” (Chronological Bible) group, then hopefully you are off to a good reading start this year! We are now finished reading Genesis, the first of the 66 books of the Bible, which contains some of the oldest stories in the scriptures. Next up is another very ancient story, the story of Job.

But let’s pause for a moment to consider what we’ve seen so far.

Continue reading

In our “Chronological Bible” reading this week, we came across a few more well-known stories in the first half of Genesis. Tara and I found ourselves discussing several of these stories from time to time, especially those stories that were surprising or troublesome in some way or another. Let’s take stock of what we have seen so far:

  • Abraham passes off his wife Sarah as his sister in Egypt.
  • Sarah gives her servant girl Hagar to Abraham as a wife. After Hagar gives birth to Ishmael, Sarah has her (and the child) kicked out of the household.
  • Lot very nearly sends his own two daughters outside to be raped by the men of Sodom.
  • Lot’s wife is suddenly and inexplicably (other than the “look back” to Sodom) turned into a pillar of salt.
  • Lot’s two daughters choose to sleep with their father and have (grand)children by him.
  • Abraham passes off his wife Sarah as his sister again, this time because of King Abimelech. Meanwhile, the women of Abimelech’s household are afflicted with infertility because of this situation.
  • Isaac passes off his wife Rebekah as his sister, again because of King Abimelech.
  • Esau learns that his parents don’t like him marrying foreign women, so he marries another one.
  • Jacob marries Leah, even though he wanted to marry (and thought he was marrying) her sister Rachel.
  • Leah and Rachel are portrayed as petty competitors for the most children with their husband Jacob. To this end, two other women (slave girls) are given to Jacob as his wives.

…and that’s just from twenty chapters of Genesis! Do you notice a pattern here? How is it that so many stories in the first book of the Bible have such a negative slant against the women in the stories? Sure, ancient Middle Eastern culture tended to be rather patriarchal in nature – and many cultures around the world today, including our own, still tend to favor men to varying degrees.

Having a patriarchal culture is one thing, but telling so many stories that portray women in such a negative light is another thing. What is going on here?

I can’t really make sense of this. The women of Genesis get a pretty bad rap, and I don’t have a good explanation. They are mistreated, abused, neglected, and disrespected on multiple occasions. The important overarching story of Genesis is God’s covenant with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the twelve sons (all men). The sign of the covenant is circumcision (only for men). In many cases, the women seem expendable.

Maybe the best conclusion to draw is simply to make sure that the same thing does not happen in our world today. Maybe the experience of reading these stories in Genesis should compel us all – men and women alike – to treat women with utmost respect in our everyday experiences, our churches, our schools, our workplaces, our government, and our homes.

I encourage you to read about a present-day movement emphasizing gender equality (#HeForShe) at this website:

Pastor David

Happy New Year! I was happy to see 2014 come to a close and have great expectations for 2015. Knowing that God is always good all the time helps to shape my reactions to life with the knowledge that He is always in control and that my purpose in life is to be like Jesus and to bring God glory in all things.

With that said, we had have great moments in our Youth Ministry this year and we have also struggled. Our conventions and retreats, the new retreat location at Cran-Hill, the SYC and especially the IYC were filled with the Holy Spirit and many students advanced on their decisions to serve the Lord. The fundraisers were especially important as they bonded us together, weekly meetings went well and most of our activities were well participated. The Detroit weekend and Guatemala were fantastic mission opportunities and God was glorified! Students were baptized and many are much more open to walking in faith. GRADS @ Grahams has been a ministry for those people who need a place in the church.

We celebrate our success, but we also recognize the struggles that every ministry endures. Thanks for the prayers for me as I lost my dad this year but rejoiced because I know he has been healed of that terrible cancer & pain, and is now dwelling in the house of the Lord. I have also struggled with my eyesight, dealing with several surgeries but knowing that soon God will restore my sight.

We are a ministry in transition. We have lost several key players due to the natural process of graduation and the group has become younger. Through God’s grace, patience and love, my role now is to weave the students into a ministry where they accept each other, appreciate each other, care for each other, work with each other, not judge each other and most of all, love each other through God’s grace as we grow in Christ. We live in a culture where the easy thing to do, if we don’t like something or someone, is to walk away from it and not even try anymore. My prayer is that God reclaims the group, brings everyone back into the fold, resurrects leaders and creates a comfortable, loving, accepting atmosphere that glorifies God. We welcome your prayers!

At the time of your reading, we are either preparing to depart for Winter Retreat, experiencing Cran-Hill Ranch or celebrating the things that God did over the weekend! We are taking 9 students and I know the weekend is FULL with students and counselors from all across the Church of God congregations in Michigan. We’ve had a great speaker in Brett Talley from Indianapolis Church of the Crossing and are probably enjoying the worship of Josh Lavender & his band out of Florida! Winter Retreat is always a weekend of the Holy Spirit with students drawing closer to Jesus and His love. A shout-out goes to my wife, Connie, the CHOG Director of Youth Ministries in Michigan. Hundreds of people have been blessed with her leadership and the success of state activities and I know she humbly serves to bring glory to God.

The NEXT Big event is the annual YOUTH LOCK-IN on Friday night, January 23rd where we insanely lock ourselves in the church to eat, play wild and crazy games, watch movies, pray and devote, (maybe sleep?) and generally stay up all night. This is, hands down, the most asked for and biggest highlight of the year for many of our students. Details will be coming SOON after the retreat is finished, so watch for them. HOWEVER, WE NEED parents, helpers, volunteers, bodies, to experience the night with us. We are asking for people to help us in 2-3 hour shifts throughout the night to guarantee a success. Connie and I could handle this, but it’s more fun and easier with help. Thanks! Call us!

Guatemala is becoming more and more official each day! 15 servants from 5 different churches (8 from Mt. Haley) will be departing for Guatemala City on Thursday, February 5th and returning to Midland Thursday, February 12th. We have been spiritually prepared and challenged, we have insurance, we have bonded together, our plane tickets are purchased, and we are ready except for the packing. We still need your prayers, money for the house and other expenses and your encouragement. God has BIG plans for Mt. Haley and the Guatemalan community.

This month we will still pursue the study of “Who is the Holy Spirit” and in Sunday School we are still looking at “InTune with Purpose, Purity, Power and People.” GRADS @ Grahams are starting an 8–week study on Revelations which should provide some great discussions.

We NEED your help! I am just going to be blunt. Let’s make a New Year’s resolution. The Youth Ministry has 3 events every week – Sunday School @ 10:00 AM, Mt. Haley Youth @ 6:00 PM and GRADS @ Grahams at 8:15 PM. We are beginning to be a very “tardy” youth ministry. On a typical youth meeting night, we usually begin with 2-3 students at 6 and it may take up to 45 minutes after the start time to have everyone there. The same issue effects the other two meetings also. All the meetings have been well planned to fill up the opportunity to share God’s Word. We ask your help in keeping our meetings start times (and dismissals) punctual. We almost always are open 15 minutes prior to the meeting and want to begin on time. Thanks for the help!

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, Live It!

Blessings, Pastor Jerry

I don’t want to be a “January 3 Christian.”

Many of us at Mt. Haley are reading the Bible all the way through during this new year. We are using the so-called “Chronological Bible,” which rearranges the biblical text into the order, more or less, in which the events in the Bible occurred. This will help us draw connections among the stories of the various books of the Bible, and by the end of 2015, we will have read all 66 books in their entirety.

I intend to write a post each week to share some of my reflections as I read the scriptures with you this year. And as we get started, my first thought is simply this:

I don’t want to be a “January 3 Christian.”

The first readings of the Chronological Bible are similar to many Bible-in-a-year reading plans: we covered the first several chapters of Genesis. In the first three days of the year, we have read Genesis 1-9, which contain many well-known stories:

Creation. Adam and Eve. The fall. Cain and Abel. Noah and the flood.

And we still have 362 days to go. It’s only January 3! There is so much more to the Bible than just these first few stories.

I have heard Christians argue that we have to defend a literal six-day creation in order to believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus. I have heard Christians say that without a literal apple(?) in a literal garden, everything else in scripture becomes meaningless. I have heard Christians say that modern-day weather events might be a sign of the end times, because God promised (remember) that he wouldn’t destroy the earth by a flood again – but earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis and the like are apparently fair game for divine wrath.

Why do we emphasize these stories from early Genesis so much? Why do we make them the litmus test for true Christian faith? Why do we urge ourselves to be “January 3 Christians”?

If you love these early stories, keep on loving them. But please keep in mind that we have yet to read over 99% of the Bible.  What if the best is yet to come?

What if Genesis 1-9 just gets the ball rolling so we can find out what God is really up to in his relationship with humanity?

Keep reading, friends, and let’s keep up the conversation.

Pastor David