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.)

What if people who wouldn’t attend church would come to a Bible study, if it were at a different kind of location?

That’s the question that prompted a local Christian leader, Kurt Faust, to host the “Bible, Blessings, and Brews” pub ministry at the Midland Brewing Company on N. Saginaw Road this summer.

Last month, I was invited by Kurt to come and lead the pub ministry’s Wednesday evening discussion on the topic of forgiveness. Now, you might expect the pastor of a conservative-ish holiness congregation like ours to say “no” to the invitation. But truthfully, I only hesitated a moment before saying “yes.” Continue reading

The TIME is NOW! This has been an unusual summer for my wife and me, as we have been to the mountaintop and we have wandered through the valley with our experiences and our life’s journey. We were blessed and motivated as we listened to David Beam as he shared about one of our passions, the people of Guatemala and their beautiful love for the Lord. Then, Connie’s mom, a 90-year old sweet lady, began to decline in her health as she struggled with pain each and every day. Leaving her in prayer, we traveled to Oklahoma City to the North American Convention of the Church of God where we were inspired with the boldness of the message “Jesus is the Subject,” and heard that in our culture, we must be bold in our walk with Christ and be consumed by his fire and message, despite what is happening in our world. Christ is alive, doing well, and no matter what comes, His Kingdom is in great shape and He reigns in our world.

Then, as we returned, Mom was still declining, not coming out of it and requiring more daily care. Leaving her safely in the care of Connie’s brothers, we ventured to the “Leadership Summit” at Warner University in Florida where we spent the week with almost 200 of the most God-loving, fired-up and ready to serve teenagers in our country, ready to love God, love people and live it out not only today, but with their future. We heard great speakers, had wonderful family times with our groups, spent a day in missionary training at Warner’s Heart Ministry, served in the community, laughed, worshiped, prayed, cried, exploded in joy with the blessings of God and even taught a couple of sessions to students exploring the fruits of the Spirit. Wow, we had an experience of a lifetime!

Connie’s mom was not getting better. As we returned, her pain and suffering was increasing, but we saw how God’s love is always redeeming. Provisions were being made to have three people on 8 hour shifts coming into her home (where she wanted to be) to care for her, with hospice making periodic visits to try and help alleviate her pain. It looked like perhaps she would be able to cope, but then hospice advised that she be moved to another place. She knew, she agreed, but on that Saturday there were no beds and she would need to wait until Monday for a place to be. On a beautiful Sunday morning, as we were driving to church, Connie received the call that her mom had passed. She was FREE, she was with her husband, she was without pain, she was refreshed, and she was with Jesus. There was no hurry, we went on to church, I taught our Sunday School class, I chaired the service, Connie played the piano, we served the Lord as we always did, but we knew that a celebration of life was happening in the next week and we would rejoice in knowing that our place in heaven is secured and we would once again join with family members. As Connie continued to tie all the loose ends together, I visited my 81-year old Mother and just her enjoyed our time together in God’s Kingdom.

The TIME is NOW! We live in His Kingdom, which is alive and now. My task in life has been to help Christ in leading youth to a life-long relationship with Jesus and witnessing to people of His love and care. We are family and we should together be serving and bringing glory to God. My challenge to you: come to church, be part of the family, grow in your love and relationship with Jesus, bring others, serve others, be consumed in your daily walk with Christ. As September comes, come to church and be an active participant in the life of Mt. Haley, the youth ministry, the community outreach, the family of God. Love God, Love People, Live It!

As you can see, it has been a pensive, emotional, exhilarating, inspirational, exhausting and a summer of a lifetime in my walk with Christ. Thanks for listening. But remember and dwell on this: God is good, He is real, He is our strength, He is faithful, He is our shield, He is love, and most importantly, He is ALIVE!

What more could we want?

Meanwhile, we are going to Michigan Adventure on August 5th, see Pastor Jerry ASAP if you would like to go, there will be St. Louis Camp Meeting (with ice cream one night) a concert in Ithaca, and perhaps another quick activity. Labor Day is the latest it can be this year, so school doesn’t begin until September 8th and our first youth ministry isn’t until later. New permission slips for the 2015-16 year will be mailed sometime this month. Summer is still in full swing, however, the church is still opened and will always be waiting for you where we want to help you grow in your discipleship of Christ. COME!

Memorizing Scripture

If you were raised in church, like I was, you may have committed certain verses of the Bible to memory.  When I was a child, my home church had various Wednesday evening programs.  I remember one of them was called “Bible Mountaineers” – the different age groups of children had labels such as “Cliff Climbers” and “Summit Scalers” – and through the course of the year, we had specific verses and passages of scripture that we were encouraged to memorize.  Those assignments ranged from simple verses (“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23 NIV) to entire chapters (I crammed all of 1 Corinthians 13 into my short-term memory one week!).

photo by valleyboy74
photo by valleyboy74

Even if you were not raised in church, or if you are not a believer, you probably know at least part of one Bible verse.  All I have to say is “John 3:16” and some words might come to mind.  (“For God so loved the world…”)  Here’s an easy one to memorize right now:  “Jesus wept,” John 11:35, the shortest verse in the Bible!  That’s not a flippant idea, by the way; even that one verse reminds us, in its context, that Jesus feels the pain of the loss of loved ones.  His friend Lazarus had died, and while the story ends with rejoicing in Lazarus’s resurrection, Jesus still wept when he was shown Lazarus’s tomb.

In any case, church-sponsored active memorization of scripture usually ends for us when we graduate high school – or even earlier.  If you desire, as I do, that our children at Mt. Haley would be raised in the Christian faith and memorize important passages of scripture, then take this idea to heart:  Our children will do what they see us doing.

This goes beyond memorizing scripture, of course.  Our children will behave the way they observe adults behaving; they will worship how adults worship.  They will resolve conflicts the way they see adults resolve conflicts.  Our children are watching us, and if they do not see us taking discipleship, outreach, and community seriously, then they may not take those components of Christian life seriously when they are adults.

Why is it important for us to memorize scripture in particular?  The Bible is the foundation for our journey of discipleship; it is God’s word for those who would follow him.  The Bible contains everything necessary to describe, understand, and apply salvation in Christ to our lives.  (By the way, this is as far as I go in approaching theological terms like “infallible” and “inerrant.”  But that’s another conversation.)

Memorizing scripture keeps the word of God at the front of our thoughts.  Memorizing scripture helps us recognize false teachings and ethically questionable practices.  Memorizing scripture proves useful in our times of trouble, conflict, or sorrow.  Memorizing scripture gives us words to say to others when they have such experiences.  Memorizing scripture allows us more opportunities to meditate on the word of God on a daily basis.  This is transformational!

So does your spiritual diet include this practice?  Here are some passages that would be worthwhile to commit to memory.  (Can you add to this list?)

  • Psalm 23
  • Psalm 46
  • Isaiah 53
  • Matthew 6:9-13
  • Matthew 11:25-30
  • Romans 8:28-39
  • Philippians 3:7-14
  • Colossians 1:15-20
  • Colossians 3:12-17

–Pastor David

Going to Town

photo by salvobrick
photo by salvobrick

Over the past few years, I have learned the art of “going to town” – that is, combining errands into one trip so that we don’t drive 40 minutes round-trip simply to get eggs and a gallon of milk.  You see, life in Indianapolis was much different for us:  we could get to a grocery store, the bank, or the post office in only five minutes.  Living here in the country, in the neighborhood of the church, has changed our approach to life, at least in that regard.

“Going to town” is something we plan for, something we do intentionally, with wisdom, and with purpose.  This attitude is heightened when it involves catching a plane in Flint or a show in Toledo.

How much more should we be careful, intentional, and excited about going the city of God!

By “the city of God,” I don’t just mean heaven.  Yes, we should be careful about going there, of course.  But I believe “the city of God” refers to the way God helps us settle in his presence – beginning even in this life, and continuing into eternity.  Read these words, which we read in worship on separate weeks earlier this month:

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Let the redeemed of the Lord say this– those he redeemed from the hand of the foe, those he gathered from the lands, from east and west, from north and south. Some wandered in desert wastelands, finding no way to a city where they could settle. They were hungry and thirsty, and their lives ebbed away. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He led them by a straight way to a city where they could settle. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.  … Whoever is wise, let him heed these things and consider the great love of the Lord. (Psalm 107:1-9, 43 NIV)

“How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? … My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused. I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim. For I am God, and not man– the Holy One among you. I will not come in wrath. They will follow the Lord; he will roar like a lion. When he roars, his children will come trembling from the west. They will come trembling like birds from Egypt, like doves from Assyria. I will settle them in their homes,” declares the Lord. (Hosea 11:8-11 NIV)

Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11:16 NIV)

Be intentional about following God on the journey.  Cry out to God when you are lost, and give thanks when the way is made clear for you.  And remember:  God is in the business of expressing his love for us by providing places, physical and spiritual, in which we can settle.

–Pastor David

Doing vs. Becoming

During today’s Wednesday evening small group meeting, I was reminded of a profound truth about the path of Christian discipleship.  We are studying the devotional book “Extreme Love” which was the centerpiece of the Focus 40 (Lent) season earlier this year.  In one of the daily devotional readings, we discussed the difference between “doing” and “becoming”:  how we as disciples should be concerned more about who we are becoming rather than what we are doing.

photo by banlon1964
photo by banlon1964

Does that apply to your life at all?  We all live incredibly busy lives; I have even heard many retirees wonder aloud how they ever managed to go to work in years gone by.  Our society places a high premium on what you can do, accomplish, or achieve.  But I think there is something meaningful in thinking carefully about who we are becoming instead.  How is your character being shaped?  What changes to your values do you notice?  How does faith in Jesus Christ form you into a new kind of person – even if you have been a believer for years or decades?

And now:  how does this apply to us as a congregation?  It is easy for churches to be wrapped up in programs, ministries, and events – things that we do.  Rather than expend all our energy (and use all our God-given talents) on “doing,” what if we focused on “becoming”?  How is God shaping us as a church?  How is the Holy Spirit moving among us, to create something new among us?  What does our future look like as a congregation?  What are we going to become?

Two reminders.  First, we will have “Mission Conversations” throughout the fall season to address these very questions.  And second, you may join in this small group discussion by meeting with us Wednesdays at 7pm.  Take advantage of these opportunities for spiritual growth!

–Pastor David


The other day, I saw a bug in my office.  Normally, I exterminate such pests without a second thought, but this time was different.  This time, I was already deep in thought working on this week’s sermon, and the bug was on the other side of my desk.  Rather than getting up, walking around the desk, and doing the necessary deed, I decided to take the more passive approach: I just watched the bug for a few minutes.

photo by cyriltw
photo by cyriltw

This bug had it in its little brain that the most important thing in the world was climbing straight up the window.  Hanging onto the window for dear life, it crawled higher and higher until it lost its balance.  Then it fell harmlessly to the windowsill and began its trek upward again.  Over and over again, this cycle repeated itself:  the bug climbed up, fell down, and climbed up again.

One word came to my mind as I watched this bug:  persistence.  No matter how many times it fell down, it got back up and began the upward climb once more.  And then I thought, “There’s a sermon in that.”

Of course, there is a humanistic lesson to be learned:  no matter how many times we fail, we must pick ourselves up and move on, resume the course, carry forward one more time.  The world is good at teaching us this message through all sorts of motivational speakers.

But there’s something deeper here.  While my office bug was able to pick itself up and climb upward on its own power, we have no power to pick ourselves up spiritually.  While the bug naturally showed persistence in achieving its goal, we struggle to move forward in our walks with Christ.  It is natural for us to be sedentary, hopeless, passive.

The goal for us as disciples of Christ is in the same direction as the bug’s goal:  to move upward, to climb higher:  to grow and become more like Jesus, to bring about the kingdom of God on earth.  And yet so often we find ourselves falling back into old habits and unredeemed ways of living.  We look around, startled to find ourselves where we began, having the same spiritual ground yet to cover.

This is the point at which God’s grace steps into our lives.  Grace is what God gives to us that we absolutely do not deserve.  Knowing God, having faith, receiving forgiveness for our sins – these and many others are gifts from God brought by his grace in our lives.  Another gift from God is how he picks us up when we fall and puts us back on the path of growth.  We simply can’t do that by ourselves.

Yet such is our journey:  ever upward, ever toward Christ, no matter what lows we experience.  Carry on, fellow believers, and keep the goal always in mind!

Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.
How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest— and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man.
(Proverbs 6:6-11 NIV)

–Pastor David