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

Today’s Chronological Bible reading includes this verse, Romans 2:24, from the New Living Translation:

No wonder the Scriptures say, “The Gentiles blaspheme the name of God because of you.”

There’s a problem among Christians, especially in North America, and that problem goes by a one-word name: hypocrisy. Echoing the words of Romans, it is no wonder that people outside Christianity have no room for God in their lives, especially when Christians are so adept at saying one thing but doing another. Continue reading

Earlier this month, several of us from Mt. Haley attended the Michigan General Assembly of the Church of God. This annual meeting gives us the opportunity to learn about what is happening in ministries around the state and even around the nation. The main speaker this year was Jim Lyon, the General Director of the Church of God in the US and Canada.

He shared some amazing news with us, and I’d like to share those updates with you, too. Continue reading

A friend of mine, a music teacher in Indiana, is working on a master’s degree in his field. Recently, he talked with me about what he is reading and learning in his studies: specifically, the importance of posture.

For an orchestra conductor, posture is extremely important. Every arm movement, every change of stance, even the most minute of gestures can communicate messages instantaneously to the members of the orchestra. Bad posture leads to bad conducting, because the messages communicated by the conductor are confusing and inappropriate. Good posture requires the coordination of many muscle groups throughout the body, which in turn requires exercise and discipline. Conducting is no simple task, and conductors must learn how to pay attention to their posture at all times.

I am concerned that Christians have bad posture when it comes to the LGBT issues that we are facing these days. Continue reading

You know the story of Cinderella, right? A beautiful daughter is mistreated by her stepmother and stepsisters, who force her to do all the dirty work of the house. When the Prince announces a ball so that he can choose a wife, Cinderella is not allowed to attend – that is, not until her fairy godmother appears. The rest, as you know, is history: the dress, the pumpkin carriage, the dancing, the stroke of midnight, the glass slipper, the happily ever after.

It’s a classic story, but really the only thing most of us share with Cinderella is the menial housework which we all must do. Most of us don’t marry royalty or attend fancy events. Designer shoes and limousines are rare luxuries. And “happily ever after”? Well, for many of us, that remains to be seen.

In the meantime, all we have time for is mean, ordinary work. Sometimes the “daily grind” can feel as meaningless as picking lentils out of a pile of ashes.

Do you ever feel like church is that way, too? Do worship services feel repetitive, mundane, and even boring to you? Do you feel obligated or required to come to church? It’s all right if you say “yes” – I won’t tell anyone.

Take a look at Leviticus 6:8-13, a passage we came across last week in the course of our “Chronological Bible” reading. Leviticus is full of regulations, procedures, and rules about how the ancient Israelites were supposed to worship God while wandering in the wilderness. And let’s be honest: some of the chapters in Leviticus are downright boring for us to read. (Just think how the Israelites must have felt as they wandered aimlessly for forty years!)

In this passage, God gives the priests instructions about how to care for the burnt offering that was to be presented continuously before God. Each morning, the priest on duty was to wake up, put on his special priestly clothes, get ready to go to work, and then…

…collect the ashes from last night’s sacrifice.

And then he had to put on his regular clothes. He was then allowed to take the ashes outside the camp to the dump site. The priestly linen clothing was only worn for the menial morning task: Cinderella’s housekeeping work.

What was so special about those ashes? Why was the priest required to wear fine linen clothes for a job that would more than likely get them dirty? And why did the cleaning job require special clothes, but taking out the trash called for a different costume?

I don’t have good answers to these questions. But what I do know is this: these few verses point out the importance of treating God with great respect. The very mundane act of sweeping up yesterday’s sacrificial ashes was worthy of special attire. Being in God’s presence, even for that short amount of time, required priestly clothes – a symbol for the priest’s attitude of humility and holiness.

Every Christian is a priest, in the biblical sense: each of us can offer “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5 NIV). As we do the work of worship, let us pursue humility and holiness before the Lord. Every encounter with God is a unique and meaningful experience, no matter how mundane the activity may seem to us. There is great value in worship, because it is a service that we give to God.

After all, someday the Prince of Peace will come again, and, yes, there will be a “happily ever after” for his Bride. In the meantime, let us express our love for God by worshiping him regularly, joyfully, and intentionally – even in the ordinariness of our worship, and even in the ordinariness of our lives.

This Advent, as we approach Christmas Day, we will be studying the world of Jesus to see just how dramatic his entrance into that world really was. The lessons we discover along the way will shape how we look at our world, as well. Listen in as Pastor David preaches on Isaiah 64:1-12 and the tension that filled Jesus’s world.

Listen now!

How many languages can you speak?  I mean, how many can you speak fluently?

I feel convicted as a citizen of the world that I am monolingual:  I speak only one language fluently.  And I’m not happy about that fact about myself.

Yes, I studied German in high school and college.  But I had five different teachers over the span of four years, so I never got far in mastering the language.  And yes, I studied biblical Greek in seminary, but that doesn’t really count.  (Besides, it’s a reading-only skill.)  In the final analysis, right now I can speak fluently in only one language, the language of my birth.

There is something significant about that last statement:  the language of my birth.  It is a sheer coincidence of genetics, timing, and God’s sovereign will that I was born to English-speaking parents in a predominantly English-speaking country.  Nothing in my daily life requires me to know any language other than English.  And if you’re reading this article, changes are that you are in the same situation.

I strongly dislike the fact that I am monolingual.

This feeling rose up in me during the trip to Europe which Tara and I enjoyed last month.  For the second half of this trip, we were in Riga, Latvia, participating in the biennial World Choir Games.  (Think of the Olympics, except all the competitors are singers.)  Choirs from around the world filled downtown Riga with song and with multiple languages.

Our hotel was a 15-minute bus ride from the main arena venue.  Local shuttle buses transported us and other choir members to and from the arena.  On these buses, we regularly sat or stood next to people from Nigeria, China, Russia, South Africa, Canada, Venezuela, and other parts of the world.  Hearing all the different music styles and spoken languages was an amazing experience!

One event captured my attention.  On a trip back from the arena, we packed into a bus along with a large children’s choir from China.  The American person next to me – a member of our local choir – made a comment under her breath that was not disparaging or disrespectful, but it was something she did not intend the Chinese children to understand.  (My memory fails me now as to what she said; it was something innocuous such as “There sure are a lot of them in this choir!”)

Partway through our bus ride back to the hotel, a few Chinese girls standing nearby began speaking to us.  In perfect English.

I could not return the favor of speaking in their native language.

What’s worse, my friend’s comment was in fact understood by those children.

I learned a few valuable lessons that day:

  1. Never assume that your neighbor cannot speak English.  You may be surprised to learn that he or she does!
  2. Always remember that many millions, even billions of people in this world speak a language other than English.
  3. Our lives and cultural experiences are enhanced when we are multilingual.

I am grateful to have learned English at an early age.  But now I feel that I must redouble my efforts to learn at least one other language, in order to be able to communicate with more people.

Remember also that the gospel was proclaimed in many native languages on the Day of Pentecost:

Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? (Acts 2:8 NIV)

Do you want to learn a new language?  Check out – it is a free website that will teach you any of a number of languages at an easy, comfortable pace.  I’m learning Spanish there!

Pastor David