“OK” People (10/29/2017)

Anyone who knows me can’t help but realize I like to joke around and tease others. One of the people I occasionally tease is Evelyn Creps, our congregation’s board chair person. She also picks back. We both know it’s in fun and we don’t take it to heart. The reason we can do this is because we are building our relationship in other areas. Since she’s been the board chair person for the past two years, we’ve had many conversations regarding church business. We also talk about life. I ask her how she’s doing and she asks about my family.

I went grades 1-12 with a girl I’ll call Sally. She came from difficult circumstances. Her family was poor so often her clothes were outdated, ill-fitting and a little dirty. She also struggled with her grades and, unfortunately, often ate alone at lunch.

Some of the other students picked on Sally about her hygiene and academic struggles. I teased Sally too but, as well as I can remember, I never teased her about her appearance or grades. I just picked on her like I did my friends. Although I couldn’t see it at the time, I now realize there were issues with the way I picked on her. First of all, I didn’t really have a relationship with her. We had different friends and different interests. Second, and most importantly, she never picked back at me. She just hid behind her smile. (more…)

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Shortcuts (10/22/2017)

Our congregation just concluded its Annual Apple Butter Boil. We cleaned, cored and prepared 45 bushels of apples during the past week. We spend Saturday slowly cooking them down in ten kettles to make over 600 quarts. As I think about this process, I realize there’s a much faster way to do it. Now, don’t get me wrong. The apple butter we made is delicious. We just need to speed up the process. After putting a lot of thought into it, I have the perfect way to make instant apple butter. (more…)

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Being Disciples of Christ

On Sunday, October 8, approximately 70 people gathered to wrestle with the question, “What would it look like to be sold out to Jesus and be a dedicated disciple?” The meeting started with prayer and worship followed by discussing the following information:

Discipleship Requirements

Disciples of Jesus must:

*Believe the Bible is the true, inspired Word of God – even the verses we don’t like.

*Be devoted to reading the Bible and praying daily.

*Be obedient to the teachings in the Bible at all times.

*Be part of the discipleship group and not try to “go it alone.”

*Be supporters of other disciples – not judgmental or critical. We aren’t in a contest.

*Be willing to be misunderstood, ridiculed and even rejected by other people – even Christians.

*Allow Jesus into every part of our lives.

*Grow spiritually. People progress at different speeds – but we must progress.

*Quit making excuses about why they can’t do what God calls us to do. (more…)

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Practice Bigger (10/8/2017

My wife, Stephanie, and I have a riding mower that we use to mow our lawn. Regular maintenance is required if we want to keep it operating properly. This includes keeping the proper oil level in the engine. The section of the owner’s manual titled Adding Oil gives the following instructions:

“1) Place the tractor on a level surface and engage the brake pedal lock. Stop the tractor engine and remove the ignition key.

2) Clean the area around the oil level dipstick, dipstick tube, and the oil filter cap to prevent debris from entering the crankcase.

3) Remove the oil filler cap from the left valve cover and slowly pour in oil. Fill the crankcase until the oil level reaches the “Full” mark on the dipstick.

4) Reinstall the oil filler cap by screwing it securely into the valve cover.” (Cub Cadet Model 2206 Owner’s Manual)

These instructions are easy to understand and laid out step-by-step. All I have to do is what the manual says to do.

The truth is I don’t think I really need to follow the manual. My yard wasn’t created level so it’s OK if I park the mower on a hill to check the oil. There’s no need to worry about cleaning around the filler cap before I put oil in the engine. A little bit of dirt in the engine won’t hurt. It really doesn’t matter if I put the filler cap back on because the oil is down in the engine anyway. Most of it will stay in there. Besides, my mower is special. It was created to be different from all of the other mowers so the rules don’t apply to it. (more…)

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Serve and Receive Bigger (10/1/2017)

In fall of 2005, I was invited to join a group of Brethren who were going to Uganda and Sudan. Our main objective was to help the New Sudan Council of Churches erect a building in Southern Sudan. I had no doubt God was calling me to go on this trip so I spent weeks getting the necessary immunizations, taking care of paperwork and gathering supplies. I was told that no matter how much our group prepared to carry out our agenda, we should be ready for things to move slowly or to change at any moment. Uganda and Sudan aren’t like the United States.

A few days before we left, my father asked: “What will you be doing there?” I responded with, “We’re supposed to help build a compound but I don’t know anything else.”

Dad: “Where are you going to sleep?”

Me: “We taking tents but some of us might be able to sleep in huts. I’m not really sure.”

Dad: “What kinds of food are you eating.”

Me: “I don’t know.”

After getting these three responses, my dad just stared at me. His mouth didn’t speak any words but his face said, “Are you crazy?” I was OK with this. I was so certain God wanted me to go that I was prepared to face whatever came my way, even if it meant never returning home. I actually wrote letters to my family, gave them to a friend and asked him to distribute them if I didn’t return. Praise God the trip went well. Although we did experience some delays and changes in itinerary, our group was never in danger. (At least not that we knew about anyway.)

I returned home and went back to work in the family business, which was going through a very difficult time financially. We did our best to pull through and thought at one time were going to make it. However, things just kept getting worse.

One day I snapped. I let loose on God. “Why are you letting this happen? You know how hard we’re trying? When we pray, we feel that we keep getting signs to keep going? Are we not hearing you?”

This went on until was I tired from yelling and I started to get hoarse. It lasted about 10 minutes. After I calmed down, I felt bad and asked God to forgive me.

As I processed the way I approached my trip to Africa with the way I handled our business situation, I began to wrestle with something. Why is it that I trusted God with my death but I didn’t trust him with my life? (more…)

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