How do you want to grow spiritually in the remainder of 2017? How will you renew (or establish) covenant promises with God in the areas of practice, teaching, and community? Listen to Pastor David’s message* on Deuteronomy 30:15-20, and use this printable PDF to map out your desired growth areas for the rest of this year.

Choosing Life

(* We apologize for the poor audio quality in this recording.)

Charlotte. Tulsa. New York. Ferguson. Cleveland. Baltimore. North Charleston.

What these cities mean to you depends on a lot of factors. What they all have in common is a similar headline: “[Insert Name] Killed By [Insert Name].” If you’re like me, you live a very safe distance away from all these places which have experienced turmoil in recent days. Midland County, Michigan, has been far removed from scenes of police shootings and race-related protests. So it’s easy for people like me to form our own opinions without having to engage with actual people, on all sides of these issues, who are suffering. Continue reading

TUESDAY was a great day at the TRACKS with lots of preparation taking place. We were all allocated to our roles as we prepared for upcoming days. Dawn was well into her hair cutting, some where shopping for wood and designing a set of stairs, the ladies were preparing for the clothing give-away up at a church along the tracks, paint was being chosen and bought for the painting of a house, and lots of relationships were being caught up on and developed. A busy day.

Today we received a red sheet of devotions to reveal the Gospel story. The RED paper is for the blood of Jesus shed on the cross. We were blessed with possibly the most quoted and well known portion of scripture: For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16) This is the promise of scripture that people have held on to for centuries.

It was the type of day that went with our thoughts and reflections of a day such as this. We looked to scripture to exemplify our theme, Shaped For Serving God, that would define our work. 1 Corinthians 12:6 says, God works through different men in different ways, but it is the same God who achieves his purposes through them all.” This year’s team was different in that only one person had not been to Guatemala before on a mission. We were a variety of people: a little girl, a couple of high school kids, some graduates, some college kids, some adults with younger families, a family planning on the mission field, a couple of pastors, and finally a few of us older folks who were living out our God-given mission in our retirement years. We were a diverse group with a variety of skills and talents. The quote that equipped us was this: We will be the most effective when we use our SPIRITUAL GIFTS and ABILITIES in the area of our HEART’S DESIRE, and in a way that best expresses our PERSONALITY and EXPERIENCES. Of course, these capitalized words spelled out the shape of our preparation for the mission that God had in store for us.

packing hygeine kits for our Guatemalan friends
packing hygeine kits for our Guatemalan friends

All of God’s people are given spiritual gifts as they accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. Some of us have known these gifts for years, and sometimes they have even changed; some have a grasp of their gifts and several in group were still seeking the gifts that Jesus had given them. God gives every believer gifts to be used in ministry. This mission definitely expressed all the various types of gifts God had given and they were used to bring Him glory. Probably one of the most evident shape witnessed within the group was our HEART. For many, this was the second, third, fourth or even ninth excursion in Guatemala so the passion and heart of this appointment was extremely evident. Serve the Lord with all your HEART and have PASSION! The Guatemalan mission has always been fun and fulfilling; however, our team felt new passion and love once again. It gets into your heart, and you just want to go back. It’s hard to explain, but God has definitely placed the mission upon our hearts.

It’s amazing every year how God constructs a team that meets the needs of the people. Every year we have a variety of ABILITIES that shape the trip. This year we had hair cutters, singers, builders, painters, strong bodies, organizers, salesman, preachers, givers, leaders, artists, Spanish speakers, people persons, etc. And over the years we have also been blessed with seamstresses, teachers, nurses, masons, electricians and the list goes on. All our ABILITIES come from God and are to be used for God’s glory. As I said, it is always amazing how God puts together a team that is just right for the mission experience we are on. To God be the Glory!!

PERSONALITY – We are all unique! The personality of a mission team is always unique. With personality, comes humanity – good, difficult, positive, negative, optimistic, worried, reflective, flippant, God-honoring, and so on. Fortunately, my experiences have given me the wisdom that teams must be focus on one thing: God. When you have eight full days together with people other than your family, there has to be a lot of give and take. That’s true of all groups, and, yes, even Christian teams. We have to practice what we have preached. There are many hours of discussion, working together, free time, times we are tired. People agree on things, people disagree, and God gives us plenty of practice in thinking of others. When we are focused on God, it drives us the right way, helps us think less of ourselves and eventually brings glory to God. And that’s what is all about. It’s not Mt. Haley’s trip, not yours, not mine, but God’s. So with our personalities, does God shine through? Are we Loving God, Loving People and Living It? That is an every day thought that continues every day of the year.

Our last piece of our shape is EXPERIENCES. We have been shaped by the EXPERIENCES in our life. God has blessed Connie and me with many experiences through our 40 years of ministry. I have been on dozens of work missions, conventions, retreats and opportunities to serve God. Every one has helped me for the next one and yet each is unique and special. Past experiences teach you many things, but they are all about God and bringing Him glory. Even when an experience doesn’t work, we ask, “What did we learn and how can we improve?” I leave you with this scripture: “God has given each of you some special abilities; be sure to use them to help each other, passing on to others God’s many kinds of blessings.” (1 Peter 4:10)

As is always the case, we worked through our Key Questions and had a lively and blessed discussion on Tuesday evening as we shared with each other the many ways that God had touched our lives that day. Our thoughts for the day left us with a couple of reflections: To serve is beautiful, but only if it is done with joy and a whole heart. Our shapes divinely helped to fill us with joy today and we knew we were in the right place at this time. Love and kindness are never wasted. They always make a difference. Thank you Lord for letting us share in your kingdom today and may you receive glory in our efforts to make a difference in your Kingdom. Glory to God!!

NEXT: The 4th Day of Our Guatemalan Spiritual Journey

I learned something very important on this year’s mission trip to Guatemala: coming home on a red-eye flight while changing time zones during the “spring ahead” change to Daylight Saving Time is not very much fun at all. This past Sunday, we took off from Guatemala City at midnight Central Standard Time, and four hours later we landed in Washington, D.C., at 6am Eastern Daylight Time. That was, in a word, rough.

Of course I learned more important things on this trip, as well. In the next few posts, I would like to share some of my reflections from this week-long mission trip to Central America. My hope is that this will give you a good sense of what took place during this trip, as well as how this trip’s lessons can connect to our everyday lives back at home. Continue reading

Listening is such an important skill to learn. Some of us were born with a tendency to speak (or scream!) more often than not. Others of us were born as more quiet infants. But all of us have had to learn – and must continue to learn – the art of listening. This is more than just hearing what someone else says, but really trying to understand that person from his or her perspective.

Yesterday afternoon I had one such opportunity, which I’d like to share with you today. Continue reading

Recently, I have heard a few people at church express their concern that my Doctor of Ministry work is leading to one inevitable outcome: my “moving on” to another pastoral position at some other church. If those few people had the courage to share their feelings with me directly, I can only imagine that others of you may be feeling the same thing privately.

Let me clear some things up for you: I have no intention of leaving Mt. Haley any time soon. I am not doing this Doctor of Ministry degree as a “career advancement” move. I’m doing these studies because I believe in this ministry, the Mt. Haley Church of God, and I want to enhance both my skills as a pastor and our ministry together as a congregation. Continue reading