Yesterday afternoon, a neighboring church celebrated the baptisms of eight people, each of whom has experienced salvation in Jesus and is dedicating his or her life to following him. Together with seven other people who were baptized in September, the Midland Missionary Church has now seen fifteen people go through the waters of baptism in the past few months. Praise the Lord for how he is moving in that congregation! Continue reading

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!

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

August Youth Update

August already!! By the time you are reading this, we will have had a GREAT day at Michigan Adventure.  As I am writing, we have 37 people going and I am just getting ready to order tickets.  The month will go fast and kids will be back at school and our Sunday nights will be in full gear.  We are planning on celebrating “Rally Day” at the church on Sunday, September 8, then the youth year will begin on Sunday night, September 15th @ 6:00 PM.  It will be GOOD to see the kids every week.

photo by gaspi *yg
photo by gaspi *yg

Also, on the weekend of Saturday, September 7 through Monday, September 9, the youth will have a room full (about 75 plants) of mums for sale to kick-off the fundraisers for the International Youth Convention in Nashville next summer.  We haven’t received the costs yet, but Kutchey’s promises the best selection of mums in the area.  Hope you can support the youth and make your yards more beautiful.  More details coming.

July was a busy month for Connie and I.  We enjoyed the Mt. Haley Loons game night and were joined by several of the kids.  Connie and I had an extraordinary opportunity in Oklahoma City for a week.  We served as youth leaders & counselors at the Church of God Leadership Summit for a gathering of over 160 outstanding young people from more than 20 states.  We had outstanding speakers, worked an afternoon of Tornado Disaster Relief in Moore, Oklahoma, and visited the Oklahoma City Bombing Museum & Memorial, plus many group sessions and interaction with some great young leaders in the Church of God.  It was an awesome experience and was thrilled to be involved.

The St. Louis Camp Meeting is this week and we encourage everyone to attend.  There will be great services every night and an opportunity to gather with Church of God people from all over the state. The Midland County Fair comes quickly after that and involves many of our youth.  We invite you to get to the fair and see their pigs, goats, and other animals.  On the weekend of August 23-25 we will be having our adventure in Mio at the Adam’s cabin & campsite.  Our plans are to go tubing on the AuSable (costs will be coming soon), attending church at the Mio Church of God, eating out traveling there & back, and just generally having a good time together.  Sign up will begin after Michigan Adventure.  Every Sunday morning and with events we will continue to either have devotions or lessons on the “The Parables of Jesus.”

A major event we would like you to consider and pray about is Baptism on Sunday, August 18th. Baptism is an important step of obedience in a believer’s life, as an acknowledgment of the salvation experience already accomplished and a personal public testimony of your acceptance of Jesus Christ as your Savior.  Pastor David or I would love to have the privilege and honor of baptizing you in the morning worship service on that Sunday.  If you are thinking of being baptized or have definitely decided, please contact me about our service.  We will help to answer all questions, concerns and thoughts.

There will be two introductory meetings we will be having soon.  The first one is a Guatemala Mission Meeting on Thursday, August 22, 2013 to introduce the 2014 Mission Trip.  We will discuss costs, purpose, what we do, etc for those who are interested in possibly attending in February.  There is a $100 registration DUE by September 8th for this mission.  In September (date to be determined) there will be a parent & student meeting about attending the International Youth Convention in July of next summer in Nashville, TN.   A $115 Early Bonus Bird Registration is due by December 12, 2013. We will need to discuss purpose, missions, fundraising and other important details.  We hope you will come and hear about this wonderful opportunity for your kids.

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

Blessings,

Pastor Jerry

July Youth Update

Time!  It moves so fast!  We have already held three of our summer events and they have been GREAT!  Our Camp Fire @ the Adams was extremely successful and we actually surprised Corey Forester with a Graduation Party – a beautiful night with lots of people.  THANK YOU Adams for hosting this popular event. Our second event was the Mt. Haley-Meridian CHOG Softball game and we had a fabulous night.  AGAIN, lots of people & participation with a good time had by all.  It was just old-fashioned FUN!  We ended up postponing the “Scavenger Hunt” because we didn’t have enough for at least three teams, but we will be revisiting that in the future. Last Saturday was the major God-Sighting as 28 of us traveled to Ludington State Park on Lake Michigan for a day @ the beach.  It rained most of the way across the state, then with about 10 miles to our destination the skies cleared and we had a beautiful sunny day.  Although it was a little bit windy, we managed to have our cookout, played in the water and on the sand, climbed some dunes and I think most of us got TOO much sun.  Great day together in the Kingdom of God!

Connie and I (plus Pastor David) had a wonderful time at the Global Gathering in Anderson, Indiana as we enjoyed the services with speakers from around the world and it was especially special to meet Sudipta Nanda, a pastor from northern India who oversees over 700 congregations.  What an opportunity and privilege for our church to be able to join two other churches and sponsor him for the Global Gathering.  I would encourage you to check out the Mt. Haley web page and read Pastor David’s reports on the Gathering (here, here, and here).  It was truly a BLESSING to have the opportunity to attend and participate in the Global Gathering.

Connie and I have another opportunity this month also.  We will be departing for Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on Sunday, July 7, to attend the Leadership Summit and work as pastoral & adult leaders for a gathering of youth from all over the United States.  As well as hearing outstanding speakers, we will be doing Tornado Disaster Relief work, visiting the OKC Bombing Museum & Memorial plus many other activities.  This is part of Connie’s job as Michigan State Director of Youth and my role as chairman of the Michigan Student Leadership Institute.  We will be returning to Michigan by Tuesday, July 16.

Our next activity is the Mt. Haley CHOG day at a game for the Great Lakes Loons on Thursday, July 25.  Tickets are $9 each and it is DOLLAR night.

Our BIG event is for the youth & their families (anyone in the church) if they would like to attend.  On Saturday, August 3rd, we will be traveling to Michigan Adventure in Muskegon, Michigan. If we have over 25 people, we will have the group rate of $24 per person.  There will be a sign up for this and we will be promoting all this month.  Also, St. Louis Camp Meeting of the CHOG begins on August 1st and continues on through the next week.

At every summer event and on Sunday mornings at 10:00 AM in the high school class we are having devotions and lessons on the “Parables of Jesus.”  We encourage you to check out the parables and the message Jesus has for you every Sunday morning.

photo by NewSpring Church
photo by NewSpring Church

Another significant opportunity this summer is a service of Baptism on Sunday, August 18, 2013.  Baptism is an important step of obedience in a believer’s life, as an acknowledgment of the salvation experience already accomplished and a personal public testimony of your acceptance of Jesus Christ as your Savior.  Pastor David or I would love to have the privilege and honor of baptizing you in the morning worship service on that Sunday.  If you are thinking of being baptized or have definitely decided, please contact me about our service.  We will try to answer all questions, concerns and thoughts.

Looking ahead to August our youth ministry will be going to Mio for a tubing/canoeing/camping weekend on August 23-25.  We will be staying at the Adams’ cabin, spending the day on the AuSable and attending church in Mio.  We had a wonderful time last year and looking forward to another good time.

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

Blessings,

Pastor Jerry