General Assembly
of the Church of God
in Michigan

"equipping local congregations
to extend the Kingdom of God"

August 2, 2021

Slow Down

On Tuesday last week, Simone Biles pulled out of the Olympic Gymnastics Team Championships, much to the surprise of the entire gymnastics world. This hurt Team USA's chances for gold, because Simone is by far the best gymnast on the team (if not the entire planet). Sure enough, our women's gymnastics team won the silver medal instead of gold. But that's not what is important here.

Simone had performed her vault routine, but she didn't complete all the twists which were planned for it. Early speculation was that she had some kind of medical issue, but that turned out not to be the case. Instead of physical health, Simone's real focus was on her mental health. She said afterward, "I just felt like it would be a little bit better to take a back seat and work on my mindfulness."

A lot has been said about the pressure Simone Biles has faced in recent weeks as the widely acclaimed "Greatest Of All Time" gymnast. At twenty-four years old, she has said in TV interviews that her body isn't recovering as quickly as it used to, and that she feels old, compared to her teenage teammates. But her self-awareness and her recognition of the importance of mental health are simply astounding. Simone should be applauded for taking care of herself.

Later on Tuesday, Christian author and professor Dr. Heather Thompson Day tweeted:

Simone Biles saying she doesn't feel mentally strong enough to compete in one of the biggest opportunities of her career

Is actually incredibly in tuned

inspiring

and wise

What if we get to where we are going faster

By slowing down?

This reminds me of how often Jesus spent time in solitude and prayer. Remember the feeding of the five thousand? Check out Mark 6:30-46. Read it again, slow down, and notice the details. Notice how this famous miracle is bookended by Jesus pursuing solitude and prayer. Notice how Jesus stepped away from the crowds and took care of his own mental and spiritual health. Notice how Jesus doesn't appear to be rushed, hurried, or anxious, even when his disciples point out the setting sun and the hungry stomachs and the meager food supplies.

Simone Biles is the Greatest Of All Time in gymnastics, and it's okay for her to take time away for her mental health. Could I suggest, without being too cheesy, that Jesus is simply the Greatest Of All Time? And if Jesus needs time away for his mental and spiritual health, it is crucial that we pay attention to ourselves and get the rest we need, too.

When was the last time you stepped away from your responsibilities, slowed down, and got some rest?

In the words of the great theologian Billy Joel:

Slow down you crazy child

Take the phone off the hook and disappear for a while

It's alright, you can afford to lose a day or two

Rev. Dr. David Aukerman, Pastor, Mount Haley Church of God, Midland, Michigan

July 26, 2021

"The Impact Of Friendship
With The Young"

"One generation commends
your works to another;
they tell of your mighty acts." ~ Psalm 145:4 NIV

I was giving my friend Richard a tour of the Warner Camp grounds on a beautiful sunny day one afternoon at Camp meeting. These historic grounds mean a lot to the Church of God, with the early days of the Gospel Trumpet being headquartered nearby in the small village of Grand Junction. Many of the early leaders of our Movement lived there or came from families around that area. D. S. Warner is buried there at the camp, near the chapel where he preached the last few years of his life and where his funeral was held way back in 1895.

For my family, there is a strong connection to Warner Camp. I grew up going to youth camps, retreats, and camp meetings there. I served under Rev. Ray and Grace Selent for two summers as a high school student, serving as a lifeguard and a youth camp counselor and as a bathroom cleaner or whatever Ray or Grace needed. That was a great time in helping me understand the Call of God in my life. Two of my sons did the same thing, serving during their high school and college years helping during the summers. My wife Jeannie ran the kitchen for several years in the 1980's, as well as helping me direct Jr. High and Sr. High summer youth camps for nine years. Our family loves and owes Warner Camp a lot!

I heard a lot of speakers there at Warner throughout the first 20 years of my life. Several stand out in my mind for the impact they had in helping me finding my call into the ministry. It was not so much for their preaching ability, which was great. Rather it was in their friendship that helped me in hearing and following Jesus.

Dr. Arlo Newell would get out of the tabernacle and be at the Snack bar, eating an ice cream cone and hanging out with us young folks. He learned our names and asked about our lives. He took a sincere interest in us.

Dr. Bill Ellis was a great story teller, he served in Billy Graham Crusades around the nation and around the world, but he was also willing to ride to Sherman's Dairy and eat ice cream with a group of high school students and laugh and listen to us.

Dr. Leroy Fulton was a college president, a wonderful preacher, and an even better encourager. Many of my peers went to Warner Southern because of his interest and help.

So many pastors, such as Jim Sparks, Kirk Bookout, Jerry Nevitt, Charlie Biggers, A.J. Dean, Ed Bowman, Forrest Plants, Harold Minkler, Gary Ausbun, Chuck Martin...I could go on and on. Playing ball, sitting around campfires, spending time together, I could hear and understand their heart for Jesus and for the Church.

The moral of this story: we as pastors and leaders can have more of an impact on the next generation by building relationships with these wonderful young people. Then they will listen when we teach and preach; then they will respond as we tell the Gospel Story of Jesus; and then they will respond to the Call of God on their lives. And then the Church will continue to serve as the next generation rises to the Call of God in their world.

By Rev. David Perry, Pastor at Edgewood Church of God in Ithaca and Northwestern Regional Pastor, Church of God in Michigan.

July 19, 2021

Can one be rich and a Christian, too ?

17 As for the rich in this world, charge them not to proud and arrogant and contemptuous of others, nor to set their hopes on uncertain riches, but on God,
Who richly and ceaselessly provides us with everything for [our] enjoyment.
18 [Charge them] to do good, to be rich in good works, to be liberal and generous of heart, ready to share [with others],
19 In this way laying up for themselves [the riches that endure forever as] a good foundation for the future, so that they may grasp that which is life indeed.
~ 1 Timothy 6: 17-19 - Amplified Bible, Classic Edition

Recent conversations within the Church world here in North America has reflected a socialist mindset that rich people are 'bad.' These well-meaning folks bring up the statement of Jesus in Mark 10:25 ~
"It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God."

That isn't the only statement about riches in the New Testament. To take this verse alone without reflecting on the totality of the Bible is like pulling a single thread from a blanket and saying, "This represents the whole blanket!"

Jesus said it was not easy to be rich and be a Christ follower. Paul echoes the same in his advice to a young pastor, Timothy. Not easy but also not impossible. And also not condemning either. And one more thing, friends: It is a given that some Christ followers are rich and have wealth.

Some folks have a God given gift of making money. Just as some teach, some sing, and some lead in the Church; so some have wealth. They are not to be condemned or told they are less than others.

Paul says to instruct them, guide them in how they can use their wealth for the Kingdom purposes.

Couple of closing thoughts about this subject of wealthy Christians:

  • Greed and envy are not a Christian trait, they are a sinful attitude. I know more greedy, envious poor people than wealthy people.
  • Rich people are suspicious of how others see them. One of my wealthy friends said once, "I don't know if people like me or my money."
  • Rich people want true friendships and they need Jesus.
  • We have an opportunity to be their friend and help them connect to Jesus, if we dont have a condemning attitude towards their wealth.
  • My ministry has been enhanced and blessed by rich believers. One friend who attended another church in our community has given me large sums of cash in the past to use to bless others at Christmas, because of our friendship and of his trust in me.

Friends, what is your attitude on this subject? How does it align with the whole of God's Word?

By Rev. David Perry, Pastor at Edgewood Church of God in Ithaca and Northwestern Regional Pastor, Church of God in Michigan.

July 12, 2021

Weeds among the Wheat

24 Jesus gave them another parable [to consider], saying, "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed [a]weeds [resembling wheat] among the wheat, and went away. 26 So when the plants sprouted and formed grain, the weeds appeared also. 27 The servants of the owner came to him and said, 'Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? Then how does it have weeds in it?' 28 He replied to them, 'An enemy has done this.' The servants asked him, Then do you want us to go and pull them out? 29 But he said, 'No; because as you pull out the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, "First gather the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; but gather the wheat into my barn."'"
~ Matthew 13:24-30 - AMP

This scripture came to mind as I was driving through the country the other day. Where I pastor in beautiful Gratiot County, we have large fields of sugar beets, corn, soy beans and wheat.

The wheat was actually planted last winter, where it took root and then was dormant under the winter snow. In the spring, it turned a bright dark green. Now here in June, the wheat has turned a silver grey green and has formed clusters of seeds on the top of the stalks, called the "heads of wheat."

Next month the wheat will turn a gorgeous gold and then a bright white by the time it is harvested. The seeds will be ground into flour and the stalks will become straw. That was your "4-H" lesson for today.

Jesus told this parable of weeds among the wheat. Wheat is in the grass family, planted pretty close together. There is a weed, darnel ('tares' - KJV) that resembles wheat in its early growing stages. To go in the wheat field and to try to pull the darnel out will create more damage than good. The roots are too intertwined. You have to wait until harvest to separate the weeds from the wheat.

Couple of thoughts that came to me:

I am too much like those who want to go weed stuff out of the Church  quick to judge, harsh in my opinions and not always appreciating the damage I could do "weeding." I have to remind myself that I am just a laborer for Jesus, the King of the Harvest. The Lord Jesus is patient and willing to wait until harvest to separate and judge. I must wait, too. Not easy but that is my lane.

Until then, I must realize that there is a mixture of good and bad in the Church and in life in general. But humans, unlike wheat, can change. Some of us who are a little "weedy," if we humble ourselves and repent, can change before the Harvest.

Friends, it is always good to take stock of yourself and ask, "Am I good wheat for the Lord or a weed?"

9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. ~ 2 Peter 3:9

By Rev. David Perry, Pastor at Edgewood Church of God in Ithaca and Northwestern Regional Pastor, Church of God in Michigan.

July 5, 2021

amillennialism

On Board Games and Holidays

I used to love playing the board game called Puerto Rico. It's a well-designed strategy game in which each player builds a mini-civilization on their own island of Puerto Rico. Various crops can be raised (like corn, sugar, and coffee) and then shipped back to Europe or sold at the local trading post. Many buildings can be purchased and built, which enhance a player's production, shipping, and trading. The gameplay mechanic is really fascinating, too: there are a certain number of "roles" that players can choose from each round, such as settler, trader, captain, or builder. When a player chooses a certain role on their turn, that player gets a specific bonus, and then all the players can take the actions of that role.

I love strategy games like Puerto Rico. The dynamics of the game, the strategy of how you will try to amass the most victory points, the choices that affect not only your board but the boards of other players - I find that kind of game really enjoyable.

But there's a problem. I said at the outset that I used to love playing Puerto Rico. I don't anymore.

Why? Well, I've left out one key part of the game. For any of your settlements or buildings to function, you need to staff them with people. Otherwise, they will sit empty and not do anything at all. In this game, the people are referred to as "colonists" and are represented by small, round, brown tokens.

Brown "colonists." They literally arrive on a ship and are put to work on your island of Puerto Rico, working in fields or buildings as you direct them. You can shuffle them around, but they never leave your island.

There is another word for these brown colonists, a word that the game's creators conveniently omit: slaves.

Because that's the real history of Puerto Rico and so many other locations in the western hemisphere. Brown "colonists" were brought over on ships from Africa and were made to labor at their masters discretion. But they were not colonists at all. They were slaves.

You may have seen on the news recently that a new federal holiday has been approved by Congress. That holiday is called Juneteenth, and it celebrates the end of slavery in the United States. Juneteenth occurs on June 19 every year, because it was on June 19, 1865, that slaves were proclaimed free in Texas by the victorious Union Army.

To be honest, I had never heard of Juneteenth until about two or three years ago. I never knew about this important day in American history and this important celebration for African Americans  for all Americans. I grew up in Indiana, and Juneteenth simply was not part of the education I received, either in school or at church or in society. But I'm starting to learn, a little bit every year, just how significant Juneteenth is.

The point of all this is to say that I need to grow and change. I need to learn. I need to listen. I need to ask questions, seek answers, and knock on doors that I never even knew existed. I need to join in celebrating Juneteenth and to continue the pursuit of liberty and justice for all.

I probably will never play the board game Puerto Rico ever again. But I look forward to celebrating Juneteenth with every passing year. And I hope I keep learning to uncover the blind spots in my vision - or, rather, the planks in my own eye. (Matthew 7:1-12)

Rev. Dr. David Aukerman, Pastor, Mount Haley Church of God, Midland, Michigan

June 28, 2021

Can One Be A Christian and A Patriot At One and The Same Time?

"Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name," ~ Philippians 2:9 - NIV

"Obey every man-made authority for the Lord's sake-whether it is the emperor, as the supreme ruler, or the governors whom he has appointed to punish evil-doers and reward those who do good service. It is the will of God that you may thus silence the ill-informed criticisms of the foolish. As free men you should never use your freedom as an excuse for doing something that is wrong, for you are at all times the servants of God. You should have respect for everyone, you should love our brotherhood, fear God and honour the emperor." ~ I Peter 2:13-17 - J.B. Phillips

Several Sundays a year, Memorial Day, the 4th of July, and Veterans Day in November, congregational leaders are faced with the question - "Can I be a Christian and a Patriot at one and the same time?"

There are two extremes in this matter:

The first extreme is to drape Jesus in the American flag and to promote a nationalism that is equal to the Cross. That is wrong!

As Paul writes in Philippians 2 - Jesus is exalted above everyone else and His name is above every other name. As Pastor Jim Lyon often prays, "in the singular Name of Jesus!"

The second extreme is to deny ones national identity and to refuse to honor those God calls us to honor. Peter speaks of this in I Peter 2. Some folks go to the extreme of not allowing a national flag or any patriotic hymns in the assembly of the saints. That extreme is wrong, in my opinion.

If you read the Bible, folks in Scripture are identified by their nationality, their tribe, without condemnation or reproach by God. Look at the Grand Finale around the Lamb throne in Revelation 5 & 7 = folks from every tribe, language, people and nation worshipping Jesus!

God made us the color and the citizens we are by design. Be glad in that!

I believe you can be a Christ follower and be proud of your national identity at one and the same time.

I have been blessed to travel and worship with brothers and sisters in the Lord in South America, Central America, and the Caribbean. Most of the time, they have their flags at their buildings of worship. They are proud of who God made them as. They do that without taking away from their highest allegiance to the Head of the Church, Jesus.

Where I have pastored, we have national flags. We pray for those in authority and those serving in the armed services. We honor those who have served and those who gave their life for their country. We do so because we believe it is a biblical principle in honor to Him who reigns supreme above all else -

Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and the Lord of all!

By Rev. David Perry, Pastor at Edgewood Church of God in Ithaca and Northwestern Regional Pastor, Church of God in Michigan.

June 21, 2021

A Different Blindness

John 9:27-34
27 "Look!" the man exclaimed. "I told you once. Didn't you listen? Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?"
28 Then they cursed him and said, "You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses! 29 We know God spoke to Moses, but we don't even know where this man comes from." 30 "Why, that's very strange!" the man replied. "He healed my eyes, and yet you don't know where he comes from? 31 We know that God doesn't listen to sinners, but he is ready to hear those who worship him and do his will. 32 Ever since the world began, no one has been able to open the eyes of someone born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he couldn't have done it." 34 "You were born a total sinner!" they answered. "Are you trying to teach us?" And they threw him out of the synagogue.

Recently our family had the opportunity to spend a few days on vacation up north (is there anything better than northern Michigan in the Summer?) and we had a lot of fun and enjoyed some relaxing downtime. But that isn't the exact point of this story. It was upon our return home I noticed something very interesting. Well, more accurately, I noticed some funky and unique smells. It wasn't anything overwhelming or alarming, but certainly unpleasant. As anyone would do, my wife and I began to ask ourselves if these smells had always been around? Unfortunately, the answer to this question was, yes, our house had that certain smell that comes with having pets. Apparently we had gone nose blind! Dun dun dun...

Sometimes we go nose blind to smells. We can gradually become used to things without realizing it, and then they are just a normal part of our lives - we're "blind" to them. And that's the danger with spiritual blindness: the way we can slip into it without realizing it.

In the passage above, only part of a larger account, there are two kinds of blindness. One is represented in the man who was born with a physical defect of blindness. The second is of the religious folk who were spiritually blind. In reading this account, we learn that spiritual blindness is a serious condition because this form of blindness is easily hidden as it works hard to resist truth and healing.

Following the Crowd

As pastors and leaders, let's get down to the nitty-gritty (channel your inner Nacho Libre here) about a couple issues. Many of us are afraid to ask honest and real questions of our faith. In leading from the front, we are hesitant to be our most authentic self. We lose sleep over what our fellow Christian sisters and brothers would think if we truly expressed our nuanced faith, which is sometimes wrestling with big scary questions, and the spots where it doesn't look very sure. We are hesitant about admitting, within a group of believers, that we have doubts because "as a Christian leader I should have conquered this and I can't admit I haven't."

So, many of us have given into being seen as the Bible answer woman/man. We must have the right answers, after all, because why else would they hire us to do this particular work? We have bills to pay and families to consider, and this can move us into a deep anxiety of losing our positions within the church if we are too transparent, too sincere, too... uncertain of "the answers."

A main dilemma with following the crowd is that the loudest voices of Christianity are not always the best. And it is good to for us to do the hard work, to think about the leaders we admire most, and honestly ask if they are representing Jesus well.

Author and Former FBI director James Comey, in his book titled, "A Higher Loyalty," says it this way...

We all have a tendency to surrender our moral authority to the group, to still our own voices and assume the group will handle whatever difficult issue we face. We imagine that the group is making thoughtful decisions, and if the crowd is headed in a certain direction, we follow as if the group is some moral entity larger than ourselves. In the face of the herd, we tend to go quiet and let the group's soul and brain handle things. Of course the group has no soul or brain separate from each of ours, but by imagining the group has these centers we abdicate responsibly, which allows all groups to be hijacked by the loudest voice.

This particular spiritual blindness, 'following the crowd,' often leads to a place of indifference or apathy. And when we abdicate responsibility to others, at the expense of authentic spiritual searching, we settle for a faith that isn't our own. Indifference takes the spiritual responsibility off of us and places it on the group. We give in to believing "whatever is good enough for the loudest voice (insert your favorite ones here) is good enough for me!"

Cynicism

One of the most crippling causes of spiritual blindness, the inability to see the truth, is cynicism. What I mean by cynicism is, looking at everything with disdain and skeptical thoughts resulting in a general mistrust and suspicion.

I'm guessing that if you are reading this, there is a good chance you have been burned by someone in the church. Maybe you had a bad experience with an entire church family some time ago and the only way to cope with the pain was to close off that part of your heart. Maybe you have always felt neglected by your congregation because they treat you like a 'hired hand' and it seems they are extracting all the value they can get out of your giftedness. These are real hurts and I do not want to minimize our experiences of harm. Along with this acknowledging of our hurts and pains, we must guard against the distrustful actions of cynicism because it is a poison.

Cynicism is toxic because it will extinguish whatever trust is in our heart. It will undermine whatever trust we have in the goodness of God, in the unity of a church family, and in our fellow leaders of the church. Cynicism poisons whatever good is really taking place and presents us only with the skeptical lens in which to view the world around us. One of the worst results of cynicism is the manifestation of the posture of dismissal, where we dismiss people that don't share our opinions and have different experiences from ours.

Seeking Wholeness

Now, I know that we may not want to look at our faith with critique because it doesn't always come out like we wish. We don't often have a willingness to do what is required to change our minds (which is a great definition of what repentance means) or we aren't willing to be vulnerable enough to seek the kind of knowledge and help we need to assist us in changing. Quite frankly we don't see what we don't want to see. The brilliant teacher, Beth Moore, says it this way, "People don't need Christians to act like you always have it all together. People need you to be real!"

Think about the kind of healing that would take place if we just got real before God and others. How might we, by going first, be able to help one another move past their own spiritual blindness? Can you imagine if the Church of Jesus always led with helping one another deal honestly and lovingly with their blind spots?

Let it begin with us. Let's be the ones to begin the difficult work to honestly assess our places of potential spiritual blindness, to hopefully realize any dangerous blind spots. Then, we have a choice to make. Will we seek healing and accept the needed rehabilitation, or do we prefer to maintain status-quo?

It can be easy to drift along in our partnership with God and become 'Nose-Blind.' It is far too comfortable to pretend that we have all the right answers (like the Pharisees in John 9) without actually pursuing a transformative encounter with Jesus (like the man born blind). By honestly assessing the ways we can be spiritually blinded we may examine where our faith is at right now compared with where we most desire it to be.

My wife and I had to come to terms with the fact that we had become nose blind to our indoor pet's smells and we had to do something about it (thank you carpet cleaners and air-wick fresheners). We had easily slipped into our lack of smell awareness, but once we wanted to notice it, the smell was unmistakable.

The hard truth about dealing with spiritual blindness is that we have to WANT to see it. Do we?

By Rev. Matthew Stone, Pastor at First Church of God in Greenville, Michigan.

June 14, 2021

Are the "Sins" of the Bible a moral construct of society?
Or a decree from God?

"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

3 "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, "Let me take the speck out of your eye, when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye...

12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. ~ Jesus in Matthew 7:1-5 & 12 ~ NIV

Social media is often a toxic, mean spirted, demeaning place. Studies show that significant time on social media leads to depression and anger in users. Why is that? I think Jesus has an answer here in Matthew 7 and He also has a solution, too.

Stop and look at your social media messages or your regular conversations with others:

When you are measuring others, what is your goal? To hurt? To put down? To condemn and shame? Then what will they do in return? Probably the same thing you did to them.

"Selective Moral Outrage" is when I can see the "sawdust" in your eye but I cannot see the 2x4 plank in my own eye. That is, I am less than honest about my own shortcomings or faults. I see your opinion, politics, etc. as wrong but I cannot see the faults in my own position. So there is no grace, no honesty, and no mercy. This attitude leads to a "dog eat dog" world of hate and revenge.

I see it as the "drowning man panic." Lifeguards are trained that a drowning man will panic and grab ahold of anything to push down to keep them up and afloat. Ask yourself, when you are bored or upset or feeling blue, does putting others down in your communication help you stay "afloat?"

The Golden Rule of Jesus challenges us to practice this: to treat others as you would like to be treated. Simple and brilliant!

Before you push "send," pause and ask: is this something I would like to receive from somebody else?
Would this be helpful or hurtful? How would I respond to this language and to this kind of message?

As followers of Jesus let us be fair, honest about ourselves, and kind and constructive towards others.
Let us be "Golden" to each other, okay?

By Rev. David Perry, Pastor at Edgewood Church of God in Ithaca and Northwestern Regional Pastor, Church of God in Michigan.

June 7, 2021

amillennialism

Theology, Scripture, and Unity

Recently, Rev. Dr. Jeff Frymire (Church of God pastor and professor of preaching with Asbury Theological Seminary) posted these three paragraphs on his Facebook page, along with the above image:
-----------------

ON CHURCH OF GOD DOCTRINE AND THE NATION OF ISRAEL

For all my Church of God friends: The recent upheaval about the U.S. support of Israel has, once again, brought to the forefront some of the doctrinal distinctions upon which denominations and church groups differ. While one can argue the geopolitical realities of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, the theological/doctrinal issues are what I am addressing here. First and foremost, the Church of God is amillennial in its approach to eschatology. Basically, that means that we believe that Christ will return and the world will end. This is in stark contrast to groups that have one of several forms of pre-millenialism where there are such doctrines as the Tribulation, Rapture and the 1,000 year reign of Christ on earth. In this doctrine, the nation of Israel plays a key role after the church is raptured. When the church is gone, it is the nation of Israel that provides the evangelistic message to the unbelieving world during the tribulation (though some groups wait until the mid point of the tribulation before the rapture of the church occurs).

As you see, the Church of God position does not teach these things in no small measure because they are not part of how we interpret scripture, in particular the Book of Revelation. I remember having a Wednesday night bible study class in Fresno where I advertised this study of Revelation. We had about 40 folks show up. When I framed my approach to the study of Revelation as being one wherein the book had to make sense to those to whom it was written and that, therefore, Israel becoming a nation in 1948 was not a fulfillment of prophecy or part of the interpretation of Revelation, I ensured the fact that the bible study would decrease in size. The next week we had 14.

In today's politically charged world there are many churches and groups that believe supporting Israel militarily is the Christian thing to do. One may certainly support Israel because of what you believe politically but in the Church of God we do not see support of the nation of Israel as being a scripturally mandated position. Many evangelicals support Israel as a matter of biblical prophecy. The Church of God has no such position. [...]
--------------------

[David here again] This is a great example of why our theological beliefs matter - especially our beliefs about the person and work of Jesus, including our beliefs about his second coming. This is a great example of why our methods of interpreting scripture matter, too.

We may not agree on every political topic. Frankly, that's a good thing, because we need to be able to communicate and maintain healthy, loving relationships with people who see the world differently than we do. In the Church of God, we emphasize unity, not uniformity. We can disagree with each other and still remain one in Christ. That's a huge challenge in today's world, and - spoiler alert! - that's the challenge we hope to address in our General Assembly gathering this coming November.

Take a few minutes to consider the issues that you care most deeply about. Maybe the nation of Israel is among those issues, or maybe other things come to mind. Think about why you care so deeply about those things. What does your theological heritage in the Church of God contribute to the conversation? How do you interpret scripture and apply it to those issues? Is it possible for you to remain united in Christ with someone who believes differently than you do?

These are big questions, and we should take our time in answering them.

Rev. Dr. David Aukerman, Pastor, Mount Haley Church of God, Midland, Michigan

June 1, 2021

Are the "Sins" of the Bible a moral construct of society?
Or a decree from God?

"Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived..." ~ 1 Corinthians 6:9 ~ NIV

In our day and age, many folks when they "deconstruct their faith" (tear apart their faith, throw out some stuff and keep or add other things) they often use the idea that the "sins" of the Bible are a product of society; that is, a moral construct of that society's values and understandings, a man-made product and subject to criticism, and certainly flawed as all human issues are.

And since these "sins" are a man-made construct, it is open for debate for acceptance or rejection, based on your own criteria. A phrase often used, "That may be Paul's opinion or the Jewish values of that time but it is not the "truth," and therefore, it is not my truth."

So, the question is: are the "sins" listed in various places in the Bible just a man-made idea or is it a decree from God?

As a pastor and church leader, this is a crucial point for the health and direction of your ministry, "how you view the Biblical record." A couple of observations to look at, if you please:

1) Look at other denominations that have adapted the view that the Bible is up for debate and is a "human construct"...how are they doing? Plain answer = dead and dying, splitting and fracturing. Do we as the CHOG want to follow in their footsteps?

2) Look at this from Carey Nieuwhof: a great pastor and church guru!
https://careynieuwhof.com/25-random-pieces-of-advice-for-leaders-in-their-20s-30s-or-40s/

LIVE LIKE GOD LOVES YOU AND EVERYTHING YOU READ IN THE BIBLE IS TRUE
Most people wish someone loved them unconditionally. Someone does.
So live like it.
And while you're at it, live like everything you read in the Bible is true.
Doubt your doubts. You won't regret it.

3) Look at Jesus and His use of Scripture: He quoted it, used as illustrations and revered the Old Testament He studied. Matthew 5:17 - "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." Jesus accepted and followed the Scripture...what does that say to us?

For some good thinkers and good material to help you in this field of Christian apologetics, I recommend these folks:
https://www.rebeccamclaughlin.org/
https://www.breakpoint.org/

By Rev. David Perry, Pastor at Edgewood Church of God in Ithaca and Northwestern Regional Pastor, Church of God in Michigan.

May 24, 2021

Sketchy Theology by Joe Watkins

Sketchy Theology

You know the saying, "A picture is worth a thousand words"? I would like to introduce you to some pictures that demonstrate the truth of that adage.

Rev. Joe Watkins is an ordained Church of God minister and a friend of mine who lives in the Dayton, Ohio area. He is a skilled, professional artist, and he cares deeply about Jesus, the gospel, and the church. Recently, Joe launched a new effort to combine artwork and Christian faith, which he calls "Sketchy Theology."

It's a good play on words: "Sketchy Theology" does not refer to theology that is somehow questionable, but rather theology that is explored through Joe's artwork. You can find his posts on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/sketchy.theology/), or on Joe's personal Facebook or Twitter feeds.

Joe's work always centers on the good news of Jesus. Sometimes it is encouraging, and other times it challenges our expectations. "Sketchy Theology" is meant to be thought-provoking and to stimulate discussion as we "build faith in Jesus for a better and more beautiful world."

Take, for instance, the post from May 5 (https://www.instagram.com/p/COfcKUzh81F/). The image itself is worth meditating on for several minutes: the death of Jesus, represented by the cross and sealed tomb, makes sense only in light of his resurrection. The resurrection is portrayed in the reflection, where the joy of resurrected life is shared with all sorts of people around Jesus. It's a powerful image comparing what seems to be true with what is fully, deeply true. It contrasts the evil which humanity enacted upon Jesus with the good which Jesus brought about through that evil act.

But the words Joe has connected to this image are just as powerful: "We call good evil and evil good. We enact violence on our citizens and our enemies alike. ... But what about when love of neighbor, and love of country cannot go hand in hand?"

Take a look at what Joe is doing. Reflect with him. Share his work with others. Ask questions, dig deeper, and allow your faith to be centered more and more explicitly on the teachings, practices, and lordship of Jesus.

Rev. Dr. David Aukerman, Pastor, Mount Haley Church of God, Midland, Michigan

May 17, 2021

Dr. Albert Einstein and
Dr. Bonita Laudeman
and The Key To Pastoring

30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. "Do you understand what you are reading?" Philip asked.
31 "How can I," he said, "unless someone explains it to me?" ~ Acts 8:30-31

"Genius is making complex ideas simple, not making simple ideas complex." ~ Dr. Albert Einstein

It was an honor to be a part of the Installation Service for Pastor Madonna Snyder of the Three Rivers First Church of God. Pastor Madonna is a gifted leader and her husband Burt is a great teammate and we are excited for the future of that congregation under her leadership. Dr. Bonita Laudeman gave a great message at that Installation service.

Our family loves Pastor Bonnie - she is full of humor and wisdom and she is a real blessing to our family. Pastor Bonnie said something in her message that day that made me think of Dr. Albert Einstein.

It is a concept that both Dr. Einstein and Dr. Laudeman agree on:

"That simple is better than complex."

And in pastoral ministry, that is a key factor we should aim for in our communication and teaching.

Pastor Bonnie said how often we pastors speak in a language and in terminology that make things look far more complicated than they really have to be. It gives us an air of superiority and it boosts our ego.

Bonnie gave an example of being focused on the idea of 'stronghold' found in the Scripture. She bought enough books on the subject to fill a shelf. Then a female pastor friend of hers said, "Bonnie, a stronghold is something that has a strong hold on your life."

Simple and genius.

That definition of 'stronghold' was better than a shelf full of books and a dozen multiple syllable words.

Hey pastoral friends, look over your notes and ask yourself, "How can I make my communication simpler and more understandable for my audience?"

It is not about dumbing down your message but rather it is about helping people make a connection to Jesus. Whether they think I am clever, smart or whatever is not as important as to whether they can find Jesus in what I say and teach. That is our true goal - connecting others to Jesus.

Oh, great minds think alike. Thank you, Dr. Albert Einstein and thank you, Rev. Dr. Bonnie Laudeman!

By Rev. David Perry, Pastor at Edgewood Church of God in Ithaca and Northwestern Regional Pastor, Church of God in Michigan.

May 10, 2021

What Needs Does the Church Have?

I recently posed this question to a group of two dozen teenagers at this April's Michigan Student Leadership Institute. We were discussing spiritual gifts, which is a major piece of the first-year-student curriculum of MSLI. I was leading these students through a preliminary discussion of the nature of spiritual gifts, before diving into the nuts and bolts of what various spiritual gifts look like.

I was really curious to hear from these students, so I asked them a few broad, open-ended questions: "What is Christianity all about?" and "What is spirituality, anyway?" and, the question mentioned above, "What needs does the church have?"

This third question, about the needs of the church, was important to ask because I wanted to connect our spiritual gifts to their application in the life of the church (the local congregation and/or the broader church). I told these students that our spiritual gifts aren't for our own benefit, but these gifts are to be used for the benefit of all (1 Corinthians 12:4-7). Therefore, we should be careful to discern the needs of the church, in order that we might use our gifts to meet those needs.

So I asked the question: What needs does the church have? I figured it would be an enlightening way to hear what's on the hearts and minds of these rising church leaders.

Any guesses what they said?

I'm not making this up. The first three answers they gave were, and I quote, "more people," "more young people," and "more money to pay the bills."

More people.
More young people.
More money to pay the bills.

Think about that.

Think about where they may have come up with those ideas. Think about who might have said, within earshot of these students, "you know, the church just needs more people," or "I don't know how much longer we can keep the lights on, unless people start giving more money."

It is absolutely heartbreaking that these teenagers' first ideas about the needs of the church have to do with butts and bucks. The lesson they have learned from us adults is that the survival of the church is of utmost importance to us.

But the church's survival isn't of utmost importance to Jesus. Because Jesus isn't concerned about the survival of the church. He knows it will survive. "On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it" (Matthew 16:18) - no matter how you interpret "rock" and "gates of Hades," you can tell that Jesus is confident in the survival of this thing called the church.

What needs does the church have, from Jesus's perspective? What might Jesus say to us today about the needs of our congregations, our movement, and "the church" in general? Here are a few ideas:

  • The church needs to be self-sacrificial. (Mark 8:34, deny yourself, take up your cross, follow Jesus)
  • The church needs to preach good news to the poor. (Luke 4:18-19, liberation, recovery of sight, release from oppression)
  • The church needs to humble itself and be clean, holy, inside and out. (Matthew 23, woes to the Pharisees)
  • The church needs to give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's. (Matthew 22:21)
  • The church needs to love God and love neighbors wholeheartedly. (Matthew 22:37-40)
  • The church needs to be deeply connected to Jesus, to remain in Jesus, to abide in Jesus. (John 15:1-8, vine and branches, apart from Jesus we can do nothing)
  • The church needs to be one - united with God and with each other in love (John 17:20-23, Jesus prays for the unity of his followers)
  • The church needs to be led into all truth by the Holy Spirit (John 16:12-15, see also John 14:15-31)

The list could go on and on. And it has nothing to do with butts and bucks and survival.

There's a sermon series in this question, and I encourage you to preach that series. Because the messages we communicate are being picked up by our teenagers. The conversation must change. We must lift our gaze away from our own navels. We must decide that the church will be about the things of Jesus.

What needs does the church have? Ask the question and listen for answers.

Rev. Dr. David Aukerman, Pastor, Mount Haley Church of God, Midland, Michigan

May 3, 2021

Them Words...

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. ~ Ephesians 4:29 NIV

The preacher saw a pull start lawn mower for sale for only $2.00 at the end of a driveway. Being a bargain hunter, the preacher stopped and asked the old man selling it,
"Why only $ 2.00 - does it run?" The old man answered, "Yeah it runs...My kids bought me a new one."

So, the preacher paid the two dollars and took it straight home. But no matter how many times the preacher pulled, the mower wouldn't start. Angry, the preacher took it back to the old man. "You said it ran!" The old man said, "Well when you pull the rope, you have to swear at it, too."

The preacher said, "Well it's been so long, I don't even know those swear words anymore."

The old man replied, "Keep pulling...they'll come to you."

"Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift." ~ Ephesians 4: 29 - The Message

As pastors and church leaders, our words are the stock of our trade. They carry a lot of weight. And as I look back over the years, it was the mean careless words that I have said in anger that have created the most pain for me and for others. What about our words? Allow some suggestions:

Slow down and don't say everything you are feeling. "...slow to anger..." - James 1:19. Weigh your words first before you say them.

"Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits." ~ Proverbs 18:21

Take control of your emotions - "If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless." ~ James 1:26 = You can reign in your tongue, don't let it run loose on it's own.

Transform your words from a wrecking ball to a building block - Bless rather than curse, encourage at all times, gently instruct and correct. Speak to others in a way you would want them to speak to you.

Apologize and forgive when your words are not Christ-like.
"Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." - Colossians 3:13

Contact the State office if you would like to have Rev. Jim Horn come and lead a training on "Conflict and Communications" for your congregation. 1-800-369-5890.

By Rev. David Perry, Pastor at Edgewood Church of God in Ithaca and Northwestern Regional Pastor, Church of God in Michigan.

April 26, 2021

Handling Snakes

There are churches that still handle snakes in 2021, as ridiculous as that sounds. I grew up having to clarify that I was part of the other Church of God, the ones that don't do that.

Pastors and leaders in snake handling churches, willingly expose themselves to venomous snakes because of Mark 16:18. Jesus said, "They [believers] will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all" (NIV). These church leaders claim they aren't afraid of snakes because the Bible says they will not be hurt.

They say, "I'm not afraid, God will protect me."

Motivated by not being afraid, snake handling churches participate in this reckless behavior because they claim God's protection.

In the last year I've heard, "I'm not afraid, God will protect me" more times than I can count and it isn't related to handling snakes. People have told me this, when they refuse to wear a mask or they won't social distance, especially at church. In fact a couple told me this last year in an email when they left my church.

Their motivations for their actions are based on not being afraid. This is not a bad thing but this line of thinking leads us to participate in reckless behavior.

I wonder what would happen if we changed our motivation to love. Jesus says time and time again the greatest commandment is to love God with our whole beings and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Our motivation for everything we do as believers is done out of love for God and others.

This changes everything. I don't handle snakes not because I'm afraid or I don't believe God will protect me. I don't handle snakes because that is not a loving action toward myself or my neighbor. It is not loving to willingly put myself at risk for the sake of testing God's protection.

I wear a mask, not because I am afraid or that God won't protect me. I wear a mask because I am motivated by love and over the last year it has been proved that the simple action of wearing a mask can save lives.

It has nothing to do with being afraid, it has everything to do with loving God and my neighbor.

My church has a sign as soon as you walk into the building, it says, "Please love your neighbor by wearing a mask and social distancing." We aren't afraid of covid but we are choosing to love our neighbors with our actions.

We don't handle snakes because we all know snakes bite.

We wear masks because we all know at this point, that the coronavirus kills people. My prayer is that we change our motivations from not being afraid to being motivated by love.

Rev. Emily Clark, Pastor, Faith United Church of God, Grand Rapids, Michigan

April 19, 2021

Continue to Root and Grow

6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
Colossians 2: 6-7

My mother's family is from the mountains of East Tennessee and Western North Carolina. Hill people, Appalachians or some would say, "Hillbillies."

Story is told of a mountain man walking down the road past his neighbor, all dressed up in his finest suit; He had a deck of playing cards in his breast pocket, a jug of moonshine in one hand, and a big Bible in his other hand. "Where ya heading to?," his neighbor asked.

"Chat-a-noogie. 'm a gunna gamble, drink, and do some carousing!'," he responded.

"What's the Bible fer?," his neighbor asked.

"Well, I plan on staying on thru Sunday and I'm gunna go ta Church!"

Hill people tend to be independent fundamental Calvinists. I grew up in West Michigan, the enclave of Calvinism of the Midwest. The saying about Calvinists was, "they were square on Sunday and round all week."

We in the Church of God folks and in the Wesleyan Holiness wing of the Church believe that the life of faith is more than just "one and done deal." We agree with the Apostle Paul as he wrote to the Colossian Church, "...continue to grow and live in Christ..." ~ Colossians 2:6-7

Some of the Christians that I have admired most and use as role models are older saints who do not rest only on what God has done in their past. They continue to give testimony of what God is doing today, how they are growing in new ways in their faith and what the Holy Spirit is teaching them today as they continue to search the Scriptures and serve as the Lord leads them.

I like the way Steven Curtis Chapman expresses this in his song, "The Great Adventure."

So come on get ready for the ride of your life
Gonna leave long faced religion in a cloud of dust behind
And discover all the new horizons waiting to be explored
This is what we were created for
Saddle up your horses, we've got a trail to blaze
Through the wild blue yonder of God's amazing grace
Let's follow our leader into the glorious unknown
This is a life like no other, whoa whoa this is the great adventure

So friends, let us root in and continue to grow up in Christ!

By Rev. David Perry, Pastor at Edgewood Church of God in Ithaca and Northwestern Regional Pastor, Church of God in Michigan.

April 12, 2021

Can We Feel The "Burn" Today?

32 They asked each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?" - Luke 24:32

These two disciples were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus - a seven mile walk which would take about two hours, give or take. No cars, no buses, no Uber. Walking and talking for a couple of hours.

These two were depressed; Jesus whom they thought was the one they had longed for, was dead. And all the hopes they had, all the excitement they felt, seemed gone. They were like a party balloon long after everyone has left, deflated and wrinkly.

Another man joined them and asked, "why you so gloomy?" They were astonished, "Are you the only one in Jerusalem that didn't know what happened?" They told how they thought Jesus was the one, but now He is dead, although some say that He might be alive.

Then this stranger challenged them to re-focus and to look at the Scripture; starting with the first five books of Moses and then thru the Prophets, he explained to them all about Jesus revealed in the Old Testament. Then they stopped to get a bite to eat...

30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?"
- Luke 24:30-32

Pause for a minute and apply this to us today:

How many people are seeking for that 'one thing,' that one new experience that they think this will be the end of all things I have been searching for! So they buy books, listen to podcasts, go to special meetings and try new experiences, hoping this "new and improved" will be 'it'.

We as people we tend to go from one thing to another, like Bono in U2 singing,

"But I still haven't found what I'm looking for..." Joshua Tree album, 1987

What you are really looking for is Jesus. He is all you are longing for and all you really need.

You can find Him as you open your heart on your life's journey, as you reflect on His Word in Scripture - it really is that simple and really that profound.

You can feel that same "burn" that those two disciples had that day. Take the Bible and let it take ahold of you. Allow the Holy Spirit to burn in your heart as you discover Jesus through the Scripture.

Better yet, find some others to look at Scripture with you and share the "burn" together.

Happy trails to you as you study and discover Jesus together.

By Rev. David Perry, Pastor at Edgewood Church of God in Ithaca and Northwestern Regional Pastor, Church of God in Michigan.

April 5, 2021

Wisdom In Responding To Needs

"I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves." - Matthew 10:16 NIV

Sheep cannot run fast, they have no fangs or claws to defend themselves, so they have to be on alert, surveying their situation to escape the wolves that are out there after them. Snakes have to be shrewd, thinking, planning, and preparing to catch their prey because they are limited in their abilities due to having no limbs. Doves are a symbol of innocence and purity.

Jesus uses these critters to prepare His followers as they go to minister in a world that is fraught with danger. What He said to the 72 sent out 2000 years ago still applies to us today. We may not face the same kind of physical danger the 72 did but there are wolves out their waiting to take advantage of us.

Years ago I was meeting with two of my men in my church office in the evening. A man came in the building, frantic that he had a family member who was in a car crash, rushed to the hospital in Grand Rapids (45 minute drive away) and he needed cash, now!

I called the police dispatch, they checked their data base and the State Police and they found no record of any accident involving any of the names the man gave me. I called several hospitals and found the same answer. I told this fellow his story didn't prove true and we would not give him any cash. Upset, he yelled and questioned my faith, my character and my family background as we showed him the door.

My two guys were stunned, "He flat out lied!"

"Givers have to set limits because takers rarely do."
- Henry Ford

Christian leaders need wisdom, toughness and yet open hearts to see true needs.

Hurting desperate people will lie and threaten to get what they want. Don't wait til this happens to you; prepare now how and what you will do and what you will not do in responding to needs.

Take time to review and plan for your responses to needs that people will present to you.

Every congregation needs to develop policies and guidelines to help protect your members as they serve and to help in using your resources in the wisest way possible. If you need some help in this, go to our Church of God in Michigan website, under Church Health and check out sample policies.

https://micog.org/churchpolicies.html

Friends, if you need help in developing your congregations policies on helping people in need, please feel free to contact the State Office – we are ready to help you!

Call 1-800-369-5890 or email us at micog@micog.org.

By Rev. David Perry, Pastor at Edgewood Church of God in Ithaca and Northwestern Regional Pastor, Church of God in Michigan.

March 29, 2021

Theological Deconstruction and
a cautionary tale

Matthew 7:24-27

Theological Deconstruction is a hot topic in some circles within the Church world. It has been an issue that the Emerging Church/Progressive theology has promoted during the last 20 years. Some of its advocates are authors like Brian McLaren, Rob Bell and Fr. Richard Rohr.

Theological Deconstruction basic idea is that we must tear down our faith, throw out aspects we don’t like and possibly, maybe, put it back together, better. "Possibly," because that is where the rub is and where our cautionary tale begins.

Look at the tale of Bart Campolo: https://www.premierchristianity.com/Blog/Bart-Campolo-says-progressive-Christians-turn-into-atheists.-Maybe-he-s-right

Raised as a Baptist, the son of Dr. Tony Campolo - noted Christian author and speaker- Bart traveled and spoke at many colleges and youth conventions as a sought after Christian speaker.

Then Bart says once he deconstructed the ideas of God's sovereignty and Biblical authority, he kept progressively going until today he identifies as an atheist.

"Once you start adjusting your theology to match up to the reality you see in front of you, it's an infinite progression"
- Bart Campolo

Bart predicts that many Progressive Christians will lose their faith as they abandon traditional doctrines.

"Deconstruction is only helpful if it's followed by reconstruction of something that's better."
- John Mark Comer

John Mark Comer says, https://qideas.org/qmoments/what-we-get-wrong-about-deconstruction/

"At one point people went from deconstructing church structure to deconstructing orthodoxy and then you are off to the races...for many young Christians, scripture is no longer their authority...Progressive Christianity is just a resting stop to Post Christianity and it offers no robust vision of discipleship."

So, to many of my young Christian leaders, whom I love; I pray you think hard before you pursue a Deconstructed faith. Not only for yourselves but also for those you have influence on.

I ask you to consider again the faith that you first received, what many before you and many still stand on, a faith that can withstand many storms and still stands strong.

"I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else." - C.S. Lewis

By Rev. David Perry, Pastor at Edgewood Church of God in Ithaca and Northwestern Regional Pastor, Church of God in Michigan.

March 22, 2021

What To Do With $1,400?

Now that the American Rescue Plan has been signed into law, most of us will receive $1,400 per person in this third round of stimulus payments. I'm not interested to debate whether or not this is a good thing, whether or not you agree with the ARP, whether or not you're concerned about where all this money is coming from. The fact of the matter is that most Americans are going to receive $1,400 in the next few weeks, if not sooner.

My question for you is this: What will you do with $1,400?

This is a spiritual question, not just a financial question.

I'm not here to tell you how to use these stimulus funds. Every person is in a different situation, and there is no single "correct" or "best" way to use this kind of money. If you do a quick search, you'll find lots of suggestions from financial experts about what to do with this third stimulus payment. (Here is one article with six really good ideas: https://www.kiplinger.com/personal-finance/602390/money-smart-ways-to-spend-your-third-stimulus-check)

What I want to communicate today is this: How you decide to use this $1,400 says a lot about your spiritual health.

You probably know as well as I do that the Bible talks a LOT about money. There are hundreds and hundreds of references in scripture to wealth, possessions, cash, and how we use these tangible resources. Jesus spoke frequently about money, as well. Remember these? "You cannot serve both God and money" (Matthew 6:24), the teaching about the poor widow who gave all she had out of her poverty (Luke 21:1-4), the parable about the rich fool who built bigger barns for himself (Luke 12:13-21). The list could go on and on.

Apparently, God believes that our relationship with money is important. How we view money, how we use it to care for ourselves, how we use it to help others, how it's related to biblical issues like justice and righteousness and shalom - these are ways for us to gauge the spiritual maturity with which we approach the topic of money.

There is no separation between our spiritual lives and our financial lives. The financial decisions we make are spiritual decisions, and the spiritual growth we experience will affect our financial attitudes and choices. When we make decisions about money, we should do so carefully, thoughtfully, intentionally, spiritually. I'm not saying that we should pray for ninety minutes before spending a single dollar. I'm saying that we should recognize the inherent spirituality of all our decisions, including our decisions involving money.

What will you do with this $1,400 stimulus payment? Who will benefit by your use of that money? How will you use it while remaining fully aware that God cares how you use that money?

Here are a few suggestions for you to try on for size:

  1. Be intentional with your use of the stimulus payment. However you decide to use this money, do so deliberately, thoughtfully, carefully, prayerfully, and responsibly.
  2. Invite a trusted individual into your decision-making process. Sit down with a close friend or mentor and discuss how you want to use this stimulus payment. This can have the powerful effect of helping you to see your motivations more clearly. Beware of the temptation to brag, to be prideful, to be self-righteous. Listen for wisdom, and respond with humility.
  3. Wait (if possible). Give yourself time to make this decision, if you can, because $1,400 per person is a lot of money. You may have an urgent need, such as an outstanding debt or an upcoming rent or mortgage payment. But if there is no sense of urgency, take your time. Journal about your decision. Sleep on it. Come back to it the next day, or a week later. You might find extra wisdom as you wait.

The second suggestion above might be uncomfortable or awkward, because we have been trained by our culture to privatize financial matters. But we have been trained to privatize spiritual matters, as well. I don't think either of those is healthy. We need to be able to talk honestly with others about financial and spiritual issues, in the context of safe and (yes) confidential relationships. Ultimately, that's a redundant statement, because financial issues are spiritual issues. So let's deal with financial issues in spiritually healthy ways.

What will you do with $1,400?

Rev. Dr. David Aukerman, Pastor, Mount Haley Church of God, Midland, Michigan

March 15, 2021

Was the Early Church socialist?

Acts 2-5 and 2 Thessalonians 3

A question that has arisen lately in blogs and writings in the Church world is, "Was the Early Church socialist?" And then a follow up to that is, "Should we advocate for Socialism as a Church?"

My opinion is "yes and no," and "no." Let me explain.

First, some definitions are in order from Merriam- Webster Dictionary:
Socialism - any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods ~ as opposed to:
Capitalism refers to an economic system in which a society's means of production are held by private individuals or organizations, not the government, and where products, prices, and the distribution of goods are determined mainly by competition in a free market.

In Acts chapter 2-5, the Early Church grew explosively. A sign of the real change that Christ made in His followers was the generosity they showed to those in need. And as they were a generous people to those in need in their world, we pray, that we, too, would be known as a generous people to those in need in our world.

Yes, they did in chapters 2-5 behave in a communal Socialist manner. I believe that changed as time moved on. Look at some of Apostle Pauls earliest writings, the Pastoral Epistles;

  • 1 Thess. 4:11-12 - work and don't be dependent on others.
  • 2 Thess. 3:10 - here he addresses the need for individuals to work, produce, and to contribute.
  • 2 Thess. 3:12 - earn the bread you eat.
  • 1 Timothy 5, he calls for folks to take care of their own and comes close to cussing when he says... "Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." ~ 1 Tim. 5:8.

As a student of history, when you look at when the Bible and the Gospel comes to various cultures, there is a rise of individual freedoms, capitalism and middle class development. It is called the "Social Lift of the Gospel."

Perhaps John Wesley said it best in a sermon in 1789 on the Use of Money

  • earn all you can,
  • Save all you can,
  • Give all you can.

Wesley's own commitment to giving was consistent throughout his life. As a student at Oxford, he lived on 28 pounds a year. As his earnings increased to 30 and eventually to 120 pounds annually, he continued to live on the same 28 pounds. He told people that if at his death he had more than 10 pounds in his possession, they could call him a robber. ~ Bishop Kenneth L. Carder

May the Church of God people be industrious in earnings and generous in giving, amen?

By Rev. David Perry, Pastor at Edgewood Church of God in Ithaca and Northwestern Regional Pastor, Church of God in Michigan.

March 8, 2021

"Live like you were dying...a Christian response to Covid."

"Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong." ~ 1 Corinthians 16:13"

Do you know the song, "Live like you were dying"?

Country singer Tim McGraw (who bears an uncanny resemblance to me, and hey, I sound just like him, too) released this song in 2004. The last chorus has this phrase...

"I hope someday that you will get the chance to live like you were dying."

It is a song that is about living here and now, taking on the risks and making the most of life. This is a great message for the Church today.

Risk is a part of life. Getting up in the morning, going to the bathroom, driving in a car, anything and everything we do and are a part of involves risk. The idea that there is a magic potion, pill or whatever that will totally eliminate risk from our lives is false. And to wait until that to happen is fruitless. The only people who don't face risk at all are in the cemetery.

In our present time, we are doing all we can to avoid risks. The Pandemic is creating a mindset of limitations. My concern is that this limiting mindset will carry on and stunt the ministry of the Church.

In past times of plagues and pestilence, the Church rose up to care for the sick and the dying. Some of the greatest moments of the Church were during such a time as this.

This is a challenging time for Church leaders. Please, don't let the risk of this time keep you from fulfilling your mission as the people of God.

Another song, from a man who faced hardship beyond what any of us have had to, Charles Naylor:

Whether I live or die,
Whether I wake or sleep,
Whether upon the land,
Or on the stormy deep;
When 'tis serene and calm,
Or when the wild winds blow,
I shall not be afraid-
I am the Lord's, I know.

May our prayer be - "Help us, Lord to be strong, to be courageous and to be the Church you have called us to be - in the mighty name of Jesus we ask, Amen!"

By Rev. David Perry, Pastor at Edgewood Church of God in Ithaca and Northwestern Regional Pastor, Church of God in Michigan.

March 1, 2021

What Would Be Helpful to You?

We have been at this "Weekly Pastoral Call" business for quite some time now. Did you know that all of these articles are stored in an online archive on our website? You can view them at https://micog.org/wpc.html. The first WPC article was written over four years ago, in November 2016, and it has become a regular part of our weekly experience here in the state of Michigan.

Here's a quote from that first WPC article: "The Church of God in Michigan wants to interact with our pastors throughout the state. [...] Our desire is to send an article to Michigan pastors and associates every week. They will center around the health of the pastor and the congregation, and how they grow for the purposes of the Kingdom."

I think it's time for us to check in with each other and see how well this WPC email is meeting our needs. I know how easy it is to delete an email without reading it. And if you delete these Weekly Pastoral Call emails without reading them, well, gotcha! you're reading this one. But if we aren't reading these emails, then we ought to do something different, something more meaningful. Because the goals of interacting with each other and encouraging the health of our pastors and congregations are more important now in 2021 than they were in 2016.

So I have a couple of questions for you. Yes, you!

  1. What do you need from our state organization for your own health or the health of your congregation?
  2. What topics would you like to see addressed in these Weekly Pastoral Call articles?

As the Chair of our General Assembly this year, I want to do everything I can to help us communicate with each other, engage in important conversations, and support each other in our work for the kingdom of God. Please take a few minutes to consider these questions and send in your responses - to me, Pastor Mark, Becky, or your Regional Pastor (John Davey, Al Grant, Jim Horn, Dave Perry). Let's make 2021 a year of health!

Rev. Dr. David Aukerman, Pastor, Mount Haley Church of God, Midland, Michigan

February 22, 2021

"Stay in the boat 'til He wakes up"

Pastor Denny Huebner is a product of the First Church of God, Peoria, Illinois. Denny attended Colorado State University, Anderson University, and Asbury Theological Seminary. Denny has 40 years of pastoral experience having pastored in Belfast, Northern Ireland; Baraboo, Wisconsin; Columbus, Ohio; Tampa, Florida, and is now in Elkhart, Kansas. Denny is the Board Chair of Helping Hands in Motion, a ministry which assists missionaries and national leaders with encouragement, resources and training.

See Helping Hands in Motion, Inc. https://helpinghandsinmotion.org/ministry-of-hhim/

Pastor Denny shared this devotional at our Annual Meeting in January, 2021:

23Then Jesus got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, "Lord, save us! We're going to drown!"
26 He replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.
27 The men were amazed and asked, "What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” ~ Matthew 8: 23-27

No one really anticipated what Covid 19 would do this past year of 2020. We were caught off guard in the Church about the changes and the challenges that would come in doing ministry during a time of a pandemic.

We cannot deny the "storm" that is around us. The "storm of covid" is real and the storm is intimidating. Many of us are scared about the future. This storm can crowd out our faith. It can paralyze our ministries.

And it seems to us that the Lord is "sleeping."

Friends, let us remember that the Lord is with us in this storm. We are not alone or totally helpless, for the God of all Creation, who is our Loving Savior, is here with us in this boat.

If He seems "sleeping" or silent for whatever reason we cannot discern, and if He allows this Covid to happen, it is not without a reason or a purpose.

Friends, take faith! Jesus is still in control. Jesus has a plan greater than this storm. The Church will survive and move on to accomplish His mission.

Until He "wakes" up and reveals it to us, stay in the boat. Stay calm. Trust and believe in the Lord.

Thanks for a good and timely, Pastor Denny!

By Rev. David Perry, Pastor at Edgewood Church of God in Ithaca and Northwestern Regional Pastor, Church of God in Michigan.

February 15, 2021

Get Vaccinated!

That's it. That's the message for today. Get vaccinated against covid-19 at your earliest opportunity!

I know that's not a popular message for everyone to hear. I pastor a rural white congregation, and, late last summer, one of our members took exception to me saying from the pulpit that we should all get the covid-19 vaccine whenever it becomes available. This particular person has never been vaccinated for anything. I get it.

I recently met with a handful of other pastors in our local community, and the topic of the vaccine came up in discussion. "Are you going to get the vaccine?'" one asked. I said, "yes, as soon as I can." Another pastor shook his head and said "no" - he thinks he probably had covid a few months ago and doesn't feel that the vaccine is necessary.

A while ago, a church member told me she would never get the covid-19 vaccine, because she was sure that it will include microchips to track her every move. I know some Christians - even some pastors! - believe this vaccine somehow fullfills the "mark of the beast" mentioned in the book of Revelation. (Really important side note: the covid-19 vaccine is absolutely not the "mark of the beast." That interpretation isn't based on sound theology. That's not how symbols in apocalyptic literature are meant to be interpreted.)

I know there are two sides to this discussion. But these are not two equal sides. It's not up to a coin flip. It's not about personal preference. And it's not about interpreting the book of Revelation. The science is sound: the covid-19 vaccines are safe and effective, and they are a crucial part of how we will make it through this pandemic. But they'll only work if enough of us receive the vaccine.

Getting people vaccinated is slow going, of course, for lots of reasons. But that's okay. One fruit of the Spirit is patience, right? We can be patient for a while longer. We can keep practicing social distancing, mask wearing, and hand washing - even after we receive the vaccine, because yes, vaccinated people still can contract and transmit covid-19 to others. We can keep doing all these things to practice love for our neighbors.

But we need people to get vaccinated. We need to get the vaccine ourselves, when the time comes, and we need to encourage our people to do the same.

Pastors, ministers, church leaders: use your voices to encourage your people to be vaccinated!

Rev. Dr. David Aukerman, Pastor, Mount Haley Church of God, Midland, Michigan

February 8, 2021

In Christ, there is no room for the
"best kind of sneetches"

12-13 You can easily enough see how this kind of thing works by looking no further than your own body. Your body has many parts-limbs, organs, cells-but no matter how many parts you can name, you're still one body. It's exactly the same with Christ. By means of his one Spirit, we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything. (This is what we proclaimed in word and action when we were baptized.) Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain-his Spirit-where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves-labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free-are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive.
- I Corinthians 12:12-13 The Message

What do pastors do all day? We read, study and ponder. And one of my favorite theological authors to read and ponder over is Dr. Seuss. Especially his seminal work, "The Sneetches."

Now, the Star-Belly Sneetches
Had bellies with stars.
The Plain-Belly Sneetches
Had none upon thars.

In the Church, we have folks who are very different from each other. Skin color, culture, age, gender, education levels, taste in music, political parties, style of worship, versions of the Bible, Spirit-filled vs quiet contemplative, and values preferences as to rural or urban or suburban, and on and on some more. This has all the ear marks for disaster, right?

And the problem I am hearing from many of you, is the same problem the Sneetches had - some of you are beginning to think that you are the better than the others (whether you are traditional, progressive, conservative, liberal, etc., etc.)...

But, because they had stars, all the Star-Belly Sneetches
Would brag, "We're the best kind of Sneetch on the Beaches."
With their snoots in the air, they would sniff and they'd snort
"We'll have nothing to do with the Plain-Belly sort!"
And whenever they met some, when they were out walking,
They'd hike right on past them without even talking.

There is a lot of pride and "elitism" of thinking we are better than the other right now in the Church.

Couple of thoughts:

God has placed diverse members together...for a reason! Learn to love and appreciate the differences.

God wants us to be a part of the same Body...embrace that instead of running away from that. Humble yourself. Lead with love, not with judgement.

Satan and critics of the Church are betting we will never learn to love and get along. These critics are just like Mr. Sylvester McMonkey McBean  -the Fix it up Chappie... who took advantage of the Sneetches pride & elitism...

But McBean was quite wrong. I'm quite happy to say
That the Sneetches got really quite smart on that day,
The day they decided that Sneetches are Sneetches
And no kind of Sneetch is the best on the beaches.
That day, all the Sneetches forgot about stars
And whether they had one, or not, upon thars.

May the Church learn to love each other the same way as Jesus loves us all! Amen?

By Rev. David Perry, Pastor at Edgewood Church of God in Ithaca and Northwestern Regional Pastor, Church of God in Michigan.

February 1, 2021

“Called to love each other!”

"Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another."
I John 4:11

This January of 2021 marks the 40th year of my serving in Pastoral Ministry. I started out at the Skyway Church of God in Renton, Washington way back in January of 1981.

My father in law, Rev. Marvin “Jim” Taylor, gave me a story at that time that has helped me keep my bearings in ministry over the years:

A fresh grad from Seminary accepted a call to serve in a faraway Mission field. Arriving there, an older missionary asked him to greet the villagers who had gathered to meet this new missionary. "I will translate for you, since you haven’t mastered the language yet," said the older missonary.

The young grad launched into a lengthy lecture:

"I have come fully prepared to expand your barely literate minds so that you will benefit from my education to show the proper interpretation of the Bible according to the latest theories of higher criticism and furthermore, I will teach you to apply proper contextualization of the Sitz im Leben of the passages so as to not add any of your simplistic backward understandings to the reality of the text of scripture..." the young grad went on and on like this for a while.

After the young grad finished, the older missionary looked at the people and said,

"He said he loves the Lord, and he loves you, and he is glad to be here!"

A common temptation as a pastor is to look down upon those that we serve. It is due in part to our preparation for ministry and our daily focus on ministry. It can create an illusion of superiority over our flock. We need to remind ourselves that we are a part of a team in ministry. Our calling is not about impressing others with how smart or how clever we are. As pastors are called to love and to serve those that Jesus has called us to love and to serve.

You cannot love people if you look down on them. You cannot serve the Lord effectively if you feel superior to those He has called you to serve.

At the end of it all, what counts is not our education or the sermons or the buildings, budgets or the number of bottoms in the pews: What truly lasts is the building of loving relationships with our flock as we serve the Lord together.

Pastor Jim Taylor was one of the most effective pastor evangelists I have ever known. It wasn't from his sermons as much as it was from the way he loved people. Jim Taylor was a great friend to all he met.

It didn't matter to Jim if a person was young or old, good or bad, what color or class, rich or poor, dry or drunk, straight or gay...Pastor Jim loved them all with the love of Jesus.

And those who knew Jim grew to love Jesus, too. Jim proved that loving relationships have more of an impact than anything else in helping people find Christ.

This year of 2021 is a good time to renew our calling of loving others the same way Christ loved us!

By Rev. David Perry, Pastor at Edgewood Church of God in Ithaca and Northwestern Regional Pastor, Church of God in Michigan.

January 25, 2021

God's Word, Numbers, and
God's Purposes

"As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."

~ Isaiah 55:10-11 NIV

I was driving into town to pick up Sunday lunch, alone, and in was just as well I was, for I was in a foul mood.

That Sunday morning worship was a fraction, I mean a tiny fraction of what our numbers usually are for worship. This Covid 19 virus has either put some of my congregation in quarantine or they were reluctant to assemble for fear of exposure.

I feel like starting an AA- type of support group for pastors:

My name is Pastor Dave and I am addicted to numbers. For you who dont know, we pastors are happy when we have big numbers and sad when we don't. Ask our spouses and families if you don't believe me, they'll tell you. They are the ones who suffer from our little addiction.

God is faithful and God can work in spite of my emotional moods, praise His Name! That Sunday at noon time, God spoke to me as I drove home from the KFC with lunch.

"My purposes are being fulfilled." This virus and low numbers are not a good indicator of whether God is working. He is - we may not be able to see it from our perspective. Our metrics of measure are not always good measures of the work of God around us.

"Refocus on the new ways I am working" - The Lord said, look at just a couple of weeks before, in another low number worship, a young lady gave a great testimony of God working in her life before we baptized her. Look at the numbers of hits on your Facebook worship... you are connecting with people you had not connected with before. Look with new eyes at where I am, still is working.

Wow, God is amazing and works in spite of what we can see or cannot see.

"Be faithful in proclaiming My Word" - Do your best regardless the numbers you see. Strive for excellence in your ministry even in this virus season. Sloppy or halfhearted efforts are not worthy of the Lord who we love and serve. Serve Him with joy and with your best.

My prayer is that I might be faithful in this trying season of Covid, open to the new ways of ministry God is bringing about. My prayer for you is the same. Hang in there, we are all in this together.

By Rev. David Perry, Pastor at Edgewood Church of God in Ithaca and Northwestern Regional Pastor, Church of God in Michigan.

January 11, 2021

Peacemaker

"For to us a child is born; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, PRINCE OF PEACE." Isaiah 9:6

Several years ago I went for training in the mountains of beautiful Colorado with John Denver. Wow! Really? (No... you are so gullible at times.). I meant with another gentleman named John, outside of Denver. I was training, over a course of three years in "peacemaking" from a Biblical perspective with PEACEMAKERS, a widely recognized, international organization that has been involved with all major denominations, the Billy Graham Team, and many para-church ministries.

Anyone who knows me well; knows I am not an overly emotional/reactionary person. At heart I am a peacemaker, majoring in joy! But this writing I warn you ahead of time, comes from the seat of some emotion with a strong sense of devotion to the life and my continued understanding of Jesus Christ.

"Emotion without devotion will lead to commotion."

I am upset, mad, disappointed and saddened by what has taken place in our world lately. It is unsettling to witness such a divided and visceral discourse in our nation. Sadder still, to see the unnecessary and inexcusable violence that has resulted in the loss of lives.

So lets address the "elephant in the room" - Where is the Church? And what is it's role in all of this?

It's NOT to carry out our own political persuasions or opinions as if they’re gospel. Because heaven knows we don't all agree regarding these. It's NOT to point the finger to accuse/slander another. And it is NOT a time to put our head in the sand and just ignore, accept or excuse the behaviors and attitudes that we see. I am not talking to, or just about the world...but also to those disruptive, dividing, behaviors and attitudes that are showing up in the lives of our churches. WHAT?? Aren't we all Christians who love and treat others with kindness, humility and respect? You don’t want me to answer that.

For almost 30 years I have been privileged to share "Peacemaker" in many of our churches. Whether it was in the early Church or just yesterday... conflict, tension, angst and anger has reared its ugly heat more often than we’d like to admit. The issues that disrupt, agitate, destroy relationships and divide humanity from one another is an issue of the heart and soul. And sadly it often seems the enemy of our souls has the upper hand. BUT, we also know, while the enemy may be claiming ground in this war...eventually Our God Reigns!

Let's be honest, most of us don’t like confrontation/conflict. So, we often ignore it or just sweep it under the rug...for years; which does nothing to resolve the issues or deal with people involved. The result is often divided churches that split; and almost always...broken relationships. Some of us know exactly what I’m talking about.

But did you know (I sure hope so). There is a Biblical way to effectively deal with conflict, difference of opinions and difficult people. And the end result can bring healing and glory to God. But wait...Spoiler Alert! He looks to use you/me in the process of "peacemaking." And it happens, when in the midst of all the chaos; we submit our lives to the Prince of Peace, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and His Word, to actively live in our hearts and lives.

Today, now more than ever, we need peacemakers. Agents of reconciliation. People of courage and compassion, who will step into the "great divide" that splits churches and people from one another. The Church is to proclaim the truth of the gospel, the life, and example of Jesus Christ. The gospel is NOT based on yours or mine opinion, (fact is He never asked for it!) The gospel brings peace. It does not create barriers. It brings us together in right relationship with God and one another. His Word, His example alone are our standard for our conduct and living. If you're living any other way...may I suggest you examine the Scriptures and life of Christ.

We are here to help. If you are willing to build a "culture of peace" in your church, that reflects Gods peace and the power of the gospel of Christ in our lives; responding in a way to conflict that will honor God, promote justice, reconcile relationships and be a powerful witness for Christ...please, give myself or State Pastor Mark a call.

Blessed are the Peacemakers! Peace and Joy!

By Rev. Jim Horn, Northeastern Regional Pastor, Church of God in Michigan.

Check it out...they're good for your head and heart!

Matthew 18:15-35
John 17:21
Ephesians 4:2-3
Galatians 5:16-25
1 Peter 3:8-17
Psalm 133:1


Dear Flock, Friends, and Family,

As we begin this New Year, we are people of hope. The trials of the past are gifts from God to cleanse us and make us stronger and wiser. As the people of God we are a blessed people. It's in this context that I give you this New Year's blessing:

May your love grow to include not only your God, your family and friends, and your country, but also your enemies.

May the love for your enemies lead them to Christ, so that they become your friends.

May the joy of the Lord fill you to overflowing so that others seek your presence, because in your presence they are blessed.

May the peace of Christ fill you and your home and your nation so that it transcends all the turmoil that surrounds us.

May the Lord have HIs will in your body so that whether in sickness or health you glorify Him. May you find grace in times of sickness and gratitude in times of health.

Finally,
May the Lord bless you and keep you;
May the Lord make HIs face to shine on you and be gracious to you;
May the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.

May you enjoy a blessed New Year,

By Rev. Dr. John Miller, Pastor at Oakley Community Church

January 4, 2021

Regional Pastor Jim Horn is passing this along from Ted Nugent's Facebook page:

Welcome aboard Flight #2021. We are preparing for an on-time departure into the New Year. Please make sure your Attitude and Actions are secured and locked in an upbeat and upright position. All self-destructive thoughts should be turned off at this time and remain off forever. Any negativity, hate, and discouragement must remain completely stowed. In the unlikely event we lose Altitude while under pressure, simply reach up and pull down a Prayer. Prayers will automatically activate if you have Faith. With Faith, you will be able to assist other passengers.

There will be NO BAGGAGE allowed on this flight. Now, Captain God has cleared us for takeoff. Our first destination is Love, with continuing stops at Peace and Joy. Before you deplane make sure you dont leave any of your Hopes and Dreams behind. Once these are lost, they cannot be reclaimed. If theres anything we can do to make your flight more enjoyable, please do the same by paying it forward. We wish you a pleasant flight!

By Rev. Jim Horn, Northeastern Regional Pastor, Church of God in Michigan.