Summer’s Gone?

Say it ain’t so! But as great as summer is in Michigan, how can you beat the fall? Each season is a sign of God’s blessings to us. Fall means football, cooler weather, luminescent leaves, and the start of a new season at the church. Everywhere you turn you can see the signs of a gracious God.

The other day I saw another sign of God’s graciousness. Linda and the twins and I sat down to eat. We always pray before we eat, and Linda lives to bring the girls into faith in the Lord. So, when we sat down and before I could open my mouth to pray over the food, Taylor started to pray. If it were an adult prayer, it would maybe be thought to have not had much content. But, out of the mouth of a three year old it was the Magna Carta, song of Zechariah, and Psalm 23 all rolled into one. Yes, she did forget, until reminded, to thank God for the food. But the prayer itself was a sign of young faith. It was the sign of God’s love for this little child.

When Jesus said in Matthew 19:14 “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these,” it meant something. It meant the smallest and least powerful connected to that which is greater than all else that exists. It meant those who could not possibly earn God’s favor enjoying it. It meant a sign of God’s love and graciousness.

This fall, bring a child to Jesus. A grandchild, your child, your neighbor’s child. We have amazing opportunities for kids. There is Sunday School, Leaping Lambs (the pre-school dance group), Sonbeams Choir, Kids Kingdom on Wednesday nights, an elementary-age youth group, Children’s sermons, Children’s Church, activity bags, MOPS, and the list goes on. All for one purpose: to do what Jesus said. To bring kids to Him.

As great as summer is, it is now fall. It’s time to experience God’s graciousness in a new season.

 

I’ll see you in church.

Pastor Dave

IT’S SUMMER?

So, this is Michigan! One day I was running my air conditioning in my house. The next day my wife finally persuaded me to turn on our furnace. One day it seemed like summer. The next day I was thumbing through the newspaper for news on the Lions games. It seemed like fall! What season is this?

In life everyone goes through seasons. It might be easy to look back and see the seasons of life you have been through. Sometimes it is harder to see what season you are in.  Some retire, and then go back to work.  Some, like Linda and me, are empty nesters who wind up caring for twins.  Some are in a season of employment with a particular company, only to find themselves in another season with another company, or in a different field altogether.

Believers also go through seasons in their faith.  Seasons when faith is growing and alive and God is intimate and close. And there are seasons when faith seems dry and God seems distant. You might stop and look back and see pretty clearly the seasons of your faith life. The question is, what season are you in right now? What season do you want to be in? If you aren’t in a season of spiritual vitality, do you want to be? Do you have a plan to be? What might have led to past seasons of vitality? What will you be doing this season to grow your faith?

Before Jesus returned to the Father, He told His followers to remain in Jerusalem until they were “clothed with power from on high.” They were going to enter into a new season of spiritual power and faithfulness. But, they needed preparation for that season. On the day of Pentecost, they were found gathered together, praying, worshiping, looking forward to what God was going to do. None of them knew for certain what that would be. But, they were found in His presence, so He might work. And He did work. The Spirit descended on them so powerfully that everyone around stood up and took notice.

Before you know it, it will be fall. Summer will be gone. Summer is a season of growth. We have great opportunities this summer for you to be found as were the disciples, gathered with other believers in worship and in prayer and studying His word. Seek Him while He may be found. This is the season of Pentecost.  The season of the Spirit’s working. This summer, seek Him. Tis the season.

Challenged!

“For lo, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone.
The blowers appear on the earth;
The time of singing has come,
And the voice of the turtledove
Is heard in our land.”

Every year at the opening of spring training, Tiger’s broadcasting icon Ernie Harwell would recite this passage from Song of Solomon.  I love when the Tigers begin to start their spring training activities. When pitchers and catchers begin to report in the middle of February, it reminds me that spring is just around the corner no matter how cold it may feel outside. Don’t get me wrong, I love winter but usually by the time baseball hits the radio, I’ve had my winter fun and I’m ready for warmer weather.

Yes, I am a devoted Tigers fan. I have been for as long as I can remember, through thick and thin. The Tigers were horrible when I was growing up, (119 losses in 2003) but I always stuck it out with them. In 2005 when I was in Iowa, I remember walking around campus wearing my Tigers hat and someone from a dorm window yelled, “HEY, THE TIGERS SUCK!” to which my only response was, “I KNOW!” Regardless I was and still am proud to call myself a devoted Tigers fan. I wear the gear, listen to the games, and keep track of the players statistics. It’s something I’m pretty public and transparent about it.

A few weeks ago there was a “Bible Verse Challenge” making it’s way around Facebook. The concept was for 7 days to share your  favorite Bible verse and nominate a few people each day to participate in the challenge as well. I ended up being nominated by a few people and found myself conflicted and struggling with doing the challenge at all. Not because I couldn’t think of Bible verses to post or that I’m never online. It sounds dumb but, I was almost afraid to post anything about my faith. I didn’t want to offend anyone (a large percentage of my friends are non believers) and I didn’t want to get into any theological spats. My personal relationship with God, I felt, was something to keep personal. How could I consider myself a disciple of Christ if I wasn’t willing to publicly show it? I prayed about and took part in the challenge and was able to find a lot of joy in it. It was almost freeing.

The whole thing was a bit of a wake up call. Had I been challenged to participate in the “7 day Name Your Favorite Detroit Tiger” challenge, I would not have hesitated to start posting and nominating. Why then was it so hard to be public about my faith which is infinitely more important than rooting for a baseball team. I let my priorities get mixed and my perception of my public faith become distorted.

I need a good wake up call like that every now and again. We all probably do. It’s easy on one hand to proclaim something like our faith is the most important thing in our lives, but do our actions reflect that? I claim to love the Tigers and my actions show that; it’s apparent I invest myself into following them. The hard question I had to ask myself recently is “Have I been investing myself into my faith growth the way I invest into other things of this world? Are my actions reflective of what I proclaim, or am I just kidding myself?”

Spring is traditionally the time for everything to wake up. Gone are the drab days of winter.  Everything around us is coming to life. No matter where you are in your faith walk, take time to take a step back today and ask God to challenge you. That is a scary prayer to lift up, but God does His best work when we are outside of our comfort zone, because then we need to completely rely on Him. He equips the called; He meets all our needs for the glory of Jesus Christ.

Building Biblically Strong Families

When I was a kid my family loved to go camping. One trip, dad took us kids fishing in a canoe. My dad said, “Ok, this looks like a great spot, Bren, throw the anchor in,” and I did. Unfortunately shortly after that, we were drifting far from the “Great Spot” dad had found for us. I looked down and there at my feet was a long rope with a hook on the end. An anchor cannot keep you from drifting if it does not have a good rope attached to it!

Jesus can be compared to an anchor in our kids’ lives. It is our job to attach a good sturdy rope to it so that when kids face the storms of adolescence, teen years, and college, they will never drift farther than the rope that connects them to Jesus.

In order for the Children’s Ministry at St. Michael to be an effective ‘rope’, it needed a mission statement. After prayer, I used Deuteronomy 6:4-9 verses as my starting point.

4Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is one.   5Love the Lord your God with all your heart and   with all your soul and with all your strength. 6These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7Impress them on your children. (How do parents impress them on their children? He tells us in next verses). Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

‘Impress them on your children’ is the FOCUS verse for Faith Formation at home. I want to equip parents to feel they can comfortably talk to their children at home about their faith (daily). Daily is important because we send our kids into the world every day where they are exposed to non-Christian (and sometimes an ANTI-Christian philosophy/living) via movies, school, music & video games. If we are not actively teaching them to recognize the difference between the world’s and Jesus’ teaching, they will be vulnerable to fall prey to the world and the enemy.

Two Primary Goals gleaned for the Children’s Ministry mission statement are:

  1. Bring the Love of Christ and the Message of Christ to children through purposeful, structured experiences/programs.
  2. Assist parents in defining and implementing Faith Formation at Home through resources, tools, and events.

 

Children’s Ministry Mission Statement is:

Building Biblically Strong Families.

This statement will guide me as I lead the ministry, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in 2015.

We already had one such event that was purposeful and fun at the same time. The Mug-N-Muffin. The purpose was to create opportunities for emotional and spiritual connections from parent to child. I guided the moms, grandmas, and daughters through fun, intentional discussions. Instead of the usual instruction-type of communication that happens between parent and child (i.e. clean your room, do your homework, stop teasing your brother), they experienced emotionally deep and spiritually motivated conversation. The Lord truly blessed our time together!

To God be the Glory for His work at St. Michael.

May God Bless each one of you with an intimate relationship with Jesus today and always.

 

 

Blessing Your Child

Confession from a church employee – I have never read the book of Numbers. Just the title itself sounds sooooo boring! Since I am in children’s ministry, it is a crime to bore a child with the Bible. My goal is to prevent those eye-rolling, “this is boring” comments from the little ones.

Despite my apprehension, I have discovered a wonderful section of verses in the book of Numbers. These verses are familiar (especially if you attended the recent Mug-n-Muffin event) because they are the same ones the Pastor speaks over the congregation at the end of a church service. In these verses, God is sending a message to Aaron through Moses that he wants to bless the people. God wants the people to use specific words to bless each other.

We all want God to bless us with lots of different things – health, safety, wisdom, love, wealth, protection from evil. We especially pray for our kids when they leave the house every morning. And we can rest assured that God hears our prayers and takes care of our physical needs. However, here we see that not only does God want to take care of our physical needs but he desires to give us His favor, His grace, His mercy, His peace!  Wow, what a concept! It is difficult to wrap my mind around.

The God of the Universe, God who causes the sun to rise and set, who cuts a path for the lightening, who tells the waves of the ocean how far they may go(see Job 38) this same God wants to use his power to bless you and your children!

Here are the words of the blessing from Numbers 6:22-27 (NIV)

22 The Lord said to Moses, 23 “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:

24 “The Lord bless you
and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”

27 “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.

 

I love the promise at the end of the verse! God promises when we do this that He will bless us.

At a time in my life when I had trouble sleeping, a friend gave me a verse from Psalms that says that God ministers to us while we sleep (Psalm 16:7). Why not use these verses from Numbers? Wouldn’t this be a wonderful way to tuck your child in at night? Think of yourself as the go-between for your child and God. You are their advocate! You are not only tucking the covers around them but also tucking the Holy Spirit all around them. Place your hand on their head, shoulder, or hand and say the words from the verses and know that God keeps his promises.

May God fill your home with His peace and love!

Do you pray with or bless your children before bed? If you try the blessing in this post, please tell us about it in the comments!

Have a Heart: A Matter of the Heart

February:  the month devoted to love.  Stores are filled with heat-shaped boxes of candy and heart shaped cards and vases of flowers with heart-shaped gift tags.  All this is available for the consumer so that he can find the appropriate expression of his devotion to his loved one.  If that expression of love has been preceded by a year of thoughtful and loving words and deeds, it is welcomed and cherished by the recipient.  If not, it is just an empty ritual, done out of duty rather than true devotion.

Our relationship to the Lord is similar. He, too, desires our sincere devotion, not empty lip service.  “The Lord says: ‘These people come near to Me with their mouth and honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me’ ”  (Isaiah 29:13).

Stewardship is serving, helping, giving, but love is the basis for stewardship.  Without love, our good deeds are empty and without merit.  The first act of true stewardship is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5).  Jesus called this the most important commandment (Mark 12:29, 30).  With that love for the Lord in us, we are enabled to be good stewards.  Then we can do acts of good stewardship, acts of true devotion.  We are enabled to . . .

  • “Give generously to Him and do so without a grudging heart” (Deuteronomy 15:10).
  • “Carefully observe [His decrees and laws] with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 26:16).
  • “Share with God’s people who are in need.  Practice hospitality” (Romans 12:13).

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Colossians 3:23).

God, through Ezekiel, promised, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put My Spirit in you and move you to follow My decrees and be careful to keep My laws” (Ezekiel 36:26-27).  This promise He has fulfilled in His Son, Jesus, Who has followed His Father’s decrees and kept His laws for us.  As we strive to live fruitful lives of stewardship, at the same time, we rest in Christ Who has been the perfect steward for us.

It is a Matter of the Heart!

In Jesus,
Pastor Tim

Seeking the Light

There is a mourning, a fog of sadness that covers me when I take down the Christmas decorations. For five weeks the sparkling silver, red, and green have overtaken our house. Lights twinkling in the darkness, glowing, guiding me during my early morning reading. But today, it will all be put away. The white cold, stark days begin. Days of waiting until we can decorate again. And as much as a dread the undoing, I crave the cool, clean crispness of January unfolding forward into spring, summer, and beyond.

It is in this chilly darkness that I remember to crave the Light. To be ever mindful of it, to never take it for granted. The prophet Isaiah states: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:2) The passage of time each year brings us to another Christmas. But the truth of it is that “Christmas can only be found” – Ann Voskamp reminds us in her book “The Greatest Gift”. Christmas is our hope, our brilliance even when the lights are put away and the shadows of winter lay before us. It is here where Ann reminds us that “God favors the darkest places so you can see his light the brightest.”

Epiphany is upon us. The traditional date when the wise men visited baby Jesus after following the star to Bethlehem. Their journey took them many months over difficult terrain. Each night they marked the position of the star in order to keep following it. It was only in the darkness where they could find their position and map out where to go.

We also wait in the shadows of this world that is not our home. May we continually seek the light of Jesus in these months until Christmas. May we love others looking for light in them as we reflect the glow that Jesus is to us. And may we remember what the disciple John wrote: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)