Moving Forward (4/23/17)

Ten years ago, I weighed almost 300 pounds. I’ve lost over 80 pounds since then. It wasn’t easy to do so I did it in stages. When I was at my maximum weight, I began exercising and cutting back on the number of calories I ate each day. I lost thirty pounds but then something happened. I plateaued and quit losing weight. The only way for me to keep losing was to further decrease the number of calories I consumed. As my body got smaller, I had to keep eating less. What got me to one level wouldn’t get me to the next level. The only way I could get there was to change what I was doing.

During my first interview with the search committee at Snake Spring Valley CoB, I was told, “We’re looking for a pastor to help take us to the next level, whatever that is.” My question to you is this: Do you really want to go to the next level? The reason I ask is because what got you to this level won’t get you to the next one. If it could, you’d already be there. The only way to get to the next level is to change some things. (more…)

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Live (4/9/17)

Even though you’re here at church this morning, do you really know Jesus as your Savior? If you do know him as your Savior, how close is your relationship with him?

To help figure this out, we could do a series of Bible studies followed up by a questionnaire. Obviously, we don’t have time to do this right now so let’s simplify things. Please take a moment and honestly answer one question: The emotions I feel when I think about my own death are:

The way we answer this question reveals a lot about how much we really trust Jesus and how close to him we really are. The truth is that even though we’ve been taught Christians shouldn’t fear death, sometimes our attitude about it is the same as Woody Allen’s – I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” (more…)

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The Benefits of Blindness (4/2/17)

The ministry training program I went through required my classmates and I to go to class on Tuesday evenings and every fifth Saturday. To be honest, these Saturday’s got long sometimes, especially when the professor wasn’t an animated speaker.

Occasionally, a professor would let us out of the classroom and take us on a fieldtrip. Once our class was told we would take a day and look at the problems facing the inner-cities. We would either go to New York City, Philadelphia or Allentown. I quickly spoke up and said, “Let’s go to Allentown.” At the time, I lived 100 miles from New York City, 60 miles from Philadelphia but only eight miles from Allentown. I really didn’t think there was any way we would go to Allentown since the other cities are so much bigger. But that’s where we went. (more…)

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The Realities of Ordination (3/26/17)

Today we are celebrating the ordination of brother Gary Koontz. It seems like it was only yesterday when a colleague and friend was preaching my ordination service. He touched on issues and topics that were relevant to serving the Church of the Brethren as an ordained minister. Over the years, I discovered there were a few things he didn’t tell me that I wish he would have covered so I might have been better prepared when they arose. I’ll briefly cover topics in both of these areas today. While I’ll focus on how they apply to pastoral leadership, please know these topics and principles also apply to every person and ministry in the church.

Several principles about serving God are found in Acts 4:1-22. It says, “The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand. (more…)

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Faith of the Centurion (3/19/2017)

In January 2005, God allowed me the privilege of going to Uganda and Sudan with other Church of the Brethren members. The trip excited me because I’d never done anything like that in my life. I was also a little nervous because I didn’t know anyone else who was going.

I flew to Chicago where I met the other team members. We then boarded a plane for London where we would catch another flight to Kampala, the capital of Uganda. A day and a half later, we arrived in Kampala and spend the night. The next morning, we went back to the airport so we could catch a commuter flight to northern Uganda. The name of the airline we were flying on is Eagle Air. The size of our group was 16 people but the airplane had 20 seats. Our group paid for the extra seats so we could use them to carry our supplies and luggage. (more…)

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Living Out Our Faith (3/12/17)

Please take a moment and wrestle with the following question: What is my attitude towards the Bible? Do I believe it is the true, inspired word of God that I need to apply to my life as best I can? Or, is it just another book I can ignore as I go about my daily business?

In his article, Why Your Attitude Is Everything, motivational speaker Keith Harrell wrote, “Your mind is a computer that can be programmed. You can choose whether the software installed is productive or unproductive. Your inner dialogue is the software that programs your attitude, which determines how you present yourself to the world around you. You have control over the programming. Whatever you put into it is reflected in what comes out.” When it comes to applying God’s word to your everyday life, what does you mind tell your body to do? (more…)

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Qualified To Serve (February 5, 2017)

Mother Teresa once said, Prayer in action is love, and love in action is service. Try to give unconditionally whatever a person needs in the moment. The point is to do something, however small, and show you care through your actions by giving your time … We are all God’s children so it is important to share His gifts. Do not worry about why problems exist in the world – just respond to people’s needs … We feel what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean, but that ocean would be less without that drop.

This quote gives us an eloquent description of what God expects from us. We serve others in the name of Jesus Christ because God calls us to be his hands and feet in this world. We live out our faith by bringing comfort to the hurting, encouragement to the disheartened and strength to those who are weak.

Even though we understand this, there are times when weariness and stress causes us to ask questions such as: Am I really qualified to do this? Why does this ministry seem so hard to do? Why are some people so hard to please? Do I really have time to do this? Why does it seem to take 10 times longer than it should to get things done?  (more…)

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A New Way Of Thinking (2/26/17)

Let’s go on an imaginary journey. Pretend you’re out for a drive in the country on a sunny summer afternoon. The sky is blue and the air is comfortable. You’re enjoying the scenery while you look around at the fields and mountains. As you drive by one house, you notice a lovely flower garden right along the road. It captures your attention so much that you keep staring at it. After your car goes past it, you look in the rearview mirror to get one last glimpse. When you finally look out the windshield, you notice the car in front of you has stopped suddenly. You slam on the brakes to keep from crashing into it.

Have you ever had something similar happen to you? You’re moving forward but looking backwards. Rather than being aware of what’s happening now, you’re concentrating on what happened then. (more…)

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How To Be A Better Lover (2/12/17)

Please take a moment and reflect on the following question: How do I define the word “love?” says Love is “a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.” We all hunger for this type of love to be in our lives. We want it to be the foundation for our relationships with our spouses, children, parents and others. We want to love them with passionate affection. We need them to give us the same thing in return.

The sad truth is love doesn’t always work this way. There are times when love is based on tender, passionate affection but at other times this is lacking. To love someone else is to open ourselves up to joy and disappointment, happiness and pain, fulfilled dreams and, sometimes, disillusionment. As a quote from an anonymous source says, “Best feeling in the world; Being absolutely and utterly in love with someone. Worst feeling in the world; Being absolutely and utterly in love with someone.” (more…)

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Flesh or Spirit? (2/5/17)

Some friends once asked Stephanie and I if we would like to spend a day boating with them on a lake. Stephanie couldn’t go because of a prior commitment but I happily accepted the invitation, even though my swimming skills are only slightly better than those of a gorilla.

When I arrived at the lake, our friends were waiting for me. We boarded the boat and headed out on the water. Eventually we found ourselves anchored in a cove where we had lunch. Afterwards, I was given a life vest to wear so I could join everyone else when they jumped off the back of the boat to go swimming.

I had worn a life vest once before. Years ago, when I was a youth leader, our youth group went kayaking. At one point, I overturned in a deep pool in the river. My life vest held me up for a few seconds until I floated to a spot where I could stand up. However, trusting a life vest to constantly hold me up in a lake is different than trusting it for a few seconds in a river.

I put on the life vest, walked to the back of the boat and watched everyone else jump into the water. At this point, I was faced with a decision. Would I trust the life vest enough to jump in? (more…)

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