General Assembly
of the Church of God
in Michigan

"equipping local congregations
to extend the Kingdom of God"

May 27, 2020

Honest to God!

Rev. Jim Horn, Northeastern Regional Pastor

Several years ago, after having served the Clio congregation for many years, as Youth, Associate and finally, Lead Pastor; I came to a needed, but I must admit - difficult decision. Things were going well. We had just completed an extensive, beautiful remodel and expansion of the church. There were no uprisings, we were a healthy, community minded church. We loved the people, they loved us. It was a great gig - I could have stayed forever...we could have kept going through the motions, collecting a paycheck.

But there was this nagging feeling (I often tried to ignore) that perhaps a change was in order. I talked with my wife and State Pastor Bill Jones - expressed my feelings, prayed, and came to the realization that, "yes," a change was in the best long term interest for the congregation and for myself. Although I really had no idea when or what that would be like.

I decided to talk to the elder board. I told them it was time for us to think about transition; over what became the next year and a half. I shared the news with the congregation I had loved and who had loved me for 35 plus years. Why? Why would you go? Where will you go? I didn't know. But I assured them, (as well as trying to assure myself) God's plan would be good for both of us. A new voice, with new vision and giftedness, would carry them into the future and areas of ministry I could never imagine. It would be a most exciting time to see what God had for us both!

There would be no turning back now. We shared, preached, and prepared for the change that eventually would come. The transition over the next year and a half went very smooth as the eventual new Pastor, Rhyan Glezman, was voted in to be their next Lead Pastor...in the first ever, 100% vote I had witnessed in that congregation over my many years! We celebrated, honored, and blessed each other's ministries in a wonderful passing of the baton service. I then stepped away. And now I watch, as Pastor Rhyan, has brought his unique set of giftedness (different than mine) to challenge and move the congregation forward in the coming years.

Was it easy? Honestly, as well as it went... I early on struggled with...

  • Letting go of "my baby" entrusting them to someone else.
  • Seeing someone else now get the attention of people I had married, baptized, loved.
  • Wondering if the church would flourish better than it had under my leadership.
  • Simply walking away, not knowing what would God have for me next.
  • Show me the money! What about a paycheck?

Honestly yes, sometimes those thoughts, jealousies, an insecurities would rear their ugly heads. BUT... (Turn to someone and say..."That's a really big BUT!") BUT- God would remind me... It's not about you Jim. This is my church. That's right Lord - I am a servant, privileged to come alongside and be a caretaker for a short time, in God's continuing story of grace and redemption! Some plant, others water...God gives the growth. I was called to be faithful and turn the reins over, just as someone else did before I came along.

YES -It's God's Church... And yes, some of us I believe have had a difficult time letting go and stepping aside. Some just continue to go through the motions. Some have allowed their fears of what will happen next or finances, to overwhelm their faith. I do understand that. But we don't do our congregations any favor and we miss out on the opportunities and adventures that God has awaiting us. TRUST him, he will take care of us and them.

Can you be honest with yourself? Is it time to let go and move on? Just as someone else had to do before you came along? Is God prodding your heart? Perhaps not...BUT, if you believe it is even time to think about it.....Give me a call, or talk with State Pastor Mark...who just recently "let go" and stepped into a new chapter in his life... "Go Blue/Go Green!" We will be happy to share our continuing story with you! And to let you know - God's not finished with you yet!

Keeping it real!

May 18, 2020

To Sing or Not To Sing, That is the Question

"Praise the LORD. Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the saints." (Psalm 149:1)

...or maybe don't sing.

We have so much to think about in terms of how and when to resume in-person worship services as the covid-19 pandemic continues. I want to raise more one important issue which we should take very seriously: congregational singing.

Some of the necessary adjustments will be easy to make: offering plates at the back of the sanctuary, no greeting time during the service, smaller gatherings, masks and hand sanitizer and social distancing. You know the drill.

But I'm concerned about singing.

Now, I love singing. My wife and I sing all the time in choirs around our community. Singing is very much a central part of our lives - and not just on Sundays. Trust me, what I'm sharing here saddens me greatly:

Last week, the leaders of several major choral organizations (including the American Choral Directors Association, the National Association of Teachers of Singing, and the Barbershop Harmony Society) met for a 2.5 hour meeting. (You can view it online here: https://acda.org/resources-for-choral-professionals-during-a-pandemic/)

There's a good summary of the meeting online here, and I strongly encourage you to read it: https://www.middleclassartist.com/post/nats-panel-of-experts-lays-out-sobering-future-for-singers-no-vaccine-no-safe-public-singing.

The gist of the meeting is this: "there is no safe way for singers to rehearse together until there is a COVID-19 vaccine and a 95% effective treatment in place, in [an expert's] estimates at least 18-24 months away." Not even masks are that helpful: the second numbered point in the summary article states that "masks don't provide safe methods of singing" either.

For the next year or two, there will probably be very, very little choral singing. Maybe none whatsoever.

So should we sing in church?

Of course, choral singing is much different, vocally speaking, than church singing. People at church don't sing nearly as loudly or with as much breath support, and they tend to be physically spread out more than at a typical choir rehearsal. Plus church people sing for maybe 15 to 30 minutes during a service, while choir rehearsals run much longer (90 to 120 minutes).

But I think it's fair to conclude that any kind of corporate singing is a risky activity when (potentially asymptomatic) people expel air into a closed area where others are breathing.

I think we need to consider carefully how we ask people to worship when we return. I'm not sure that congregational singing - as much as I love it - should necessarily be part of the mix, at least not right away.

by Rev. Dr. David Aukerman, Pastor of Mt. Haley Church of God


Oh, the Places You'll Go!

Oh, the Places You'll Go! is a book written and illustrated by children's author Dr. Seuss. It was his last book to be published in his lifetime. The book concerns the journey of life and its challenges. It's written in the style of his classics, The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham. A child's story that is very often gifted to graduating High School and College Seniors. (I have at times and maybe you have gifted it to someone also.). It contains a meaningful message about the importance of seizing new opportunities, keeping an open mind, and trying new things in life; that is one huge adventure, jam-packed with unexpected twists and turns. Filled with optimism, it also addresses the potential for failure and setback, but always with the interjection of advice that maintains - "an optimistic outlook is the key to working ones way through hardship."

I thought of this book recently because our nephew, is graduating High School, but missing out on many of the events he was so looking forward to. I'm sure we all know or have a child ourselves who is experiencing the same disappointment and ups and down of emotions. And frankly...it...well it sucks!

So, I want to encourage you as a Pastor, church, and individuals... do something to recognize this special time in the lives of the kids in your church and possibly those outside your circle. Have a drive by in your parking lot for all Seniors in your community and hand out a gift card for Starbucks, Tim Hortons, maybe a gas card, and note of congratulations. It doesn't have to be much. I’ll even drive by for a $5 Starbucks card! (Well, I am a Senior) Find out the names of all the Seniors in your community and send cards in the mail. Put up a word of congrats on your sign. Give em the book (see above!) C’mon, you're creative! Don't just sit there- do something! Because for them...and us, right now it’s - "Oh, the Places You Can't Go!"

"And will you succeed? Yes! You will indeed! 98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed!"

by Rev. Jim Horn, Northeastern Regional Pastor

May 11, 2020

Defending Tradition
Or Engaging Culture?

"28 For in him we live and move and have our being.[a] As some of your own poets have said, We are his offspring.[b]"
Acts 17:28

a. Acts 17:28 From the Cretan philosopher Epimenides
b. Acts 17:28 From the Cilician Stoic philosopher Aratus

Rev. David Perry, Pastor, Edgewood Church of God in Ithaca, Michigan

My grandmother, Lois Carpenter, was a long time member of the First Church of God in Sturgis, Michigan. She played the organ there for more than 40 years. Grandma Lois also played for funerals for more than 40 years, primarily at Shipper's Funeral home of Colon, Michigan.

The daughter of a Baptist pastor, she was an accomplished organist and artist. I remember having a conversation with her shortly after Grampa Wayne died and she was preparing to move from a home she had lived in 35 years. She had a collection of an order of service for every funeral she had ever played in. It was amazing. She shared how several times she had been asked to play secular songs; she thought that unseemly for a funeral. One person even asked her to play the "Beer Barrel Polka!"

Wow, Grandma Lois would really be shocked today. I have been doing funerals in the last 15 years where the musical requests make the Beer Barrel Polka seem like a high church anthem. Country Western, Rock, Indi Pop...mostly because the folks identify with that more than with traditional church songs.

So, the question is: do we defend tradition
and keep it sacred music only?
Or do we engage the culture?

Look at the apostle Paul at Athens on Mars Hill in Acts 17. He used the secular material that they identified with to start in leading them to consider Jesus Christ and the Resurrection. I would suggest we do the same. Start with the culture material to lead them to a Living Savior.

Recently I had a service where the family was insistent on playing a Indi Pop song that had some swearing in it. The theme was a person searching for meaning in life. I used that to tie it to U2s great song from their 1987 Joshua Tree album, "Still haven't found what I'm looking for." Launched from there to Ecclesiastes and Solomon's "all is vanity" to leading them to John 10:10 and Jesus' promise to offer a life abundant and overflowing.

We live in a day and age where few go to Church or have a familiarity with Church music. We have to engage the culture in order to gain a hearing so they may hear about a Savior who loves them and offers them all they have really been searching for.

14 But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? 15 And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!" ~ Romans 10:14-15 NLT

May 4, 2020

Learning From A Rough Patch

"Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser;
Teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning."

Proverbs 9:9

Rev. David Perry, Pastor, Edgewood Church of God in Ithaca, Michigan

It was my honor to serve under Pastor Wilton E. Martin (Pastor Bill) at the Sunset Park Community Church of God in St. Helens, Oregon. From 1984-1985 I was the Christian Education Pastor there, overseeing a Bus Ministry and Sunday School as well as being the Director Snoopeeland Preschool and Daycare.

Pastor Bill was a tall lanky man with a dry sense of humor and great wisdom. Well loved by the Church of God in Washington and Oregon where he served faithfully and effectively for many years.

One day the two of us were talking with a fellow whose wife had just left him. He was talking about just pushing on with his life and his desire to seek out a new mate very, very soon.

Pastor Bill said to him, "You need to take time to learn from this rough patch you just went through, so you don't have to go right back into another one."

He then asked him, "What have you learned from this failed marriage that you will do different in the next marriage?"

Pastor Bill taught me the value of being kind. Everyone deserves being treated better than they deserve. Kindness indeed is the Jesus way of dealing with people.

Pastor Bill showed me how asking questions is a great way to help people. Asking questions helps them take ownership of their life and helps them to make the decisions they need to do, rather than telling them what to do.

People sought out Pastor Bill because he listened, and because he was respectful and his questions helped them find a pathway to follow.

I often remember his words when I go through a “rough patch.” I ask the Lord to help me see the situation clearly and to help me learn from it. Nothing worse than to keep going from one "rough patch" to another without learning anything at all.

The Bible speaks of becoming better because of our trials and our sufferings, our "rough patches;" Romans 5:3-5, 1 Peter 1:7 and James 1:2-4.

Hey, Pastor/Church leader: why not take time to sit before the Lord and allow Him to refine, perfect and complete you from your “rough patch” experiences? Let the Holy Spirit ask you questions that you need to face up to and need to squirm under until you learn better.

It will be well worth your while. Call us if we can help you, we are ready to serve you!

April 27, 2020

Enneagrams, personality tests and spiritual gifts

Rev. David Perry, Pastor, Edgewood Church of God in Ithaca, Michigan

The Enneagram craze is just a newer version of a similar theme that re-occurs from time to time. Knowing your Enneagram type is good but there is something more important to understand and to pursue.

Some of my younger friends may say, "Ok, Boomer!" – That I am making a geezer snarky remark. No, I am not but I could. I truly appreciate the Enneagram tool. Please allow me to illustrate and then make an observation. As Old King Solomon said so well and so true:

“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”
Ecclesiastes 1:9

Back in the 1970's it was TA = Transactional Analysis - "I'm OK, you're Ok." We learned about the Id, the Ego and the Super Ego. It was sold as a practical way to deal with self and life. It was helpful.

Then the Taylor Johnson Temperament Analysis test came along. I, as well as many others, took a class to become “certified” – (careful, I know what some of you are thinking when you read I am certified). We offered the TJTA test to help people in marriage and relationships. It is good and it is helpful.

Meyers Briggs Personality tests are similar. You take it and then find yourself on a scale of over 16 personality types with multiple variations. It is great fun and how you can interpret the results are endless.

The DISC profile - Dominance (D), Influence (I), Steadiness (S), and Conscientiousness (C). It is a behavioral test and you find out which of the four general traits you are or combinations thereof. There are Conflict types test. You can have 3 to 7 Conflict types based on which test you take.

EQ – your Emotional Intelligence can be tested. It can be helpful in understanding your leadership style and your typical response to stress.

Spiritual gifts tests are a “Christian-zed” version of personality testing – a way of understanding who you are and how you can serve the Lord in the Church. They are good.

The Enneagram of Personality is testing to see which of the nine personality types you are and how that can help you in life.

Now my observation: all these are good and helpful. Been there, done that, have the test results and the T shirt. Yet one thing is far more important:

In Ephesians 4 and in Colossians 3, we are called to be transformed and to grow into the image of Christ, to talk off the old ways and to become Christ-like in our new life in Him. To reflect Jesus in all that we say and do. That is the ultimate personality test!

Make being Christ-like the personality, the behavior, the style that defines you every day.

Boomer out and 10-4, thank you.

April 20, 2020

A grave Situation

1 Corinthians 15:21-22, 55-57

Rev. Jim Horn, Northeastern Regional Pastor

I finally decided it was time to have one of those conversations we often put off or ignore. So...I asked her, "honey, do you want to have children?" She looked at me...put her hand on my head...and said, “Do you have a fever? Is it the virus or just stupidity...again!" And that’s how my wife and I...both in our 60’s (the new 40s) started to get down to a more realistic and serious crucial conversation, that we have generally avoided.

Just the week before, she said to me... "I just want you to know, I’m not afraid to die...because I know where I'm going." And I said, "Where?" (Wrong response!) But, that was the beginning of what led to talking about death/dying; a subject we had hardly ever conversed much about before. What would our final wishes be? Type of memorial service, and where. Food they might serve..."who cares" she said, “you’re not eating anyway.” Cremation or burial? At which point I jumped in and said, "Yeah, you might want to consider cremation...because it's the last chance you'll have to get that smoking hot body!" (Warning- do not suppress or swallow your smile/laugh...because when you do it goes down and spreads your hips! Oops, to late I see). Anyway, that pretty well ended our talk for that day. To be continued, maybe.

You try it though. Next time you’re with friends... "Hey, what do you think about dying? Then see how social distancing becomes a reality! Most of us...avoid or simply don’t want to talk or even think about it. Really, who does? Glad you asked. Jesus often spoke of death; including his own. But the disciples? They don't want to talk about it; and even rebuked Jesus regarding it. (By the way, don’t ever even think of doing that!). Mark 8:31-38

The Bible from the beginning, certainly does not shy away from death/dying. There is a time to be born and a time to die. Your life is just a vapor, a mist, ffftt then you are gone. It is appointed that we will die. Ecclesiastes 3:2, James 4:13-15, Hebrews 9:27

“Death and taxes...the only difference is that death doesn’t get worse every time congress meets.” (Will Rogers)

What’s going on in our world is a grim reminder. These bodies; were not meant to last forever. They will sag, bag and drag no matter how much you pump them up, lift them up, prop them up, pop a pill, or tuck them in. Don’t believe me...look at your friends! Or better yet, look in the mirror! Yep, one day we will all be 6 ft. down and under; the ultimate in social distancing!

Public speaking and dying are listed at the top of most people’s fears. Pastors are especially prone to both of these, every Sunday morning. (Pause...think about it...remember...hips) Moving on... Someone has said “life is like a roll of toilet paper; the closer you get to the end the quicker it goes." I can relate to that these days! Not that any of us are anxious to go! The late comedian George Carlin once said, "I'm always relieved when someone is delivering a eulogy and realize that I'm listening to it." Everyone of us will one day die...but let’s not pencil that in on our calendar just yet. Easter, just past; is a celebration of hope and joy; not for just one day of the year but every day of our lives here on this earth! We do not have to be overwhelmed by the fear of dying, “nor grieve as those who have no hope.”

We know without a doubt, it's not the end of our story, but the beginning of an eternity with the One who has triumphed and overcome a "grave situation." And we are assured of his promise - "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die..." - John 11:25

"I guess it comes down to a simple choice really...
get busy living or get busy dying."
(Andy Dufresne played by Tim Robbins in the movie - Shawshank Redemption)

LIVE, LIVE, LIVE! your life, with hope and joy each day; not in the fear of death, but in the promise and power of the resurrection!

And when you and I are gone from this life to our eternal home in heaven...shed a tear and smile/laugh (cause "hips don't lie") Enjoy the fried chicken, potatoes, green beans, and Aunt Claudia's ham casserole and that weird looking jello thingee. And don't worry about me, I'll be eating Angel food cake.

Finally...Share with family/friends...have the talk...let them know the hope you have in Christ!

Ck it out - They're good for your head and your heart! Songs: Going Home by Chris Tomlin, Because He Lives... And taking you back to an oldie... Grave Robber by Petra

April 17, 2020

I'm putting you ...ON NOTICE!

Rev. Jim Horn, Northeastern Regional Pastor

Spending time around home most of the day, you begin to notice things you might not have seen in a while. Like "those people." Vaguely familiar; who are they? Oh yeah, my kids...
(Charlie and what's her name...and is that... John? I thought you moved out when you turned 25!)... and we have a dog? Two?

Is that faucet still dripping? Wow those gutters look like they have trees growing in them. Huh, that ceiling does need to be painted. Can you believe all this stuff in the basement? With all this junk in the garage, I'm surprised I can park my car in here. Yeah, guess these pants are a little...tight! What? When did our neighbors move? Whoa, that many channels; I thought we only got ESPN. Will you look at all these dust bunnies. Is that a bald spot? Hey, did anyone notice...the dishwasher isn't working!

Strange, how we live our lives day in, day out, and either ignore, take for granted or no longer notice what has been there most or all the time. Often it's just from neglect or not paying attention. I’m out driving the same routes over and again, then suddenly notice a business I’d never seen, thinking they must be new; but then reading the sign - "Serving the Community for more than 50 years." Really? Or have you ever been driving some distance and suddenly it's like...you wake up! And you wonder, where am I? I'm driving but I don't remember seeing anything! But here I am with the steering wheel in my hands, going 70 mph +++. Weird isn't it? Maybe, Jesus really did take the wheel. (Shout out to Carrie Underwood)

"Noticing" as I read, has to do with - observing, paying attention, being aware of. So today, I’m putting us all on notice! So pay attention...please.

Most of us have probably been paying attention to the news, Facebook, and other media outlets; as we try to be aware of the present situation we are experiencing. And hopefully we are observing the proper precautions, being a good neighbor, and focusing on some family time.

But I also hope that you are taking time to notice/observe, what God is doing in an around us. Despite our circumstances, God is doing some really neat, caring, loving, kind things, through individuals and churches, that might never have come forth under “normal circumstances.” Yes, he is in the midst of every single thing that we are going through right this very minute. Yes, it can be difficult when you’re going through disappointments, hardship, uncertain times. Our prayers are often more like...God do you see what’s happening? Where are you!? We are not immune from the trials and tribulation of this world. But more importantly God has promised, never to leave or forsake...that his presence/love, is and has always been with us. He's been there every moment of every day...waaaay before there were even dinosaurs! The question is not... Where is he? But rather... Where isn't he!

A Few Final thoughts...

  • Pray a simple prayer - "Open my eyes to see you Lord."
  • Listen for his word of promise- "I’m right here, always have been, and always will be!"
  • Observe what God is doing in the lives of others...and what he might want to do through you!
  • Music! Your Grace Finds Me/Matt Redmond, He is with Us/Love and the Outcome, etc.
  • Check out Alma CHOG series - Noticing God (They will be happy to share)
  • Share a word with others and State Office/Pastor Mark - Where/What you see God doing.

April 15, 2020

The value of presence in ministry

7 Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. 8 I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. ~ Colossians 4: 7-8

Rev. David Perry, Pastor, Edgewood Church of God in Ithaca, Michigan

Years ago, I did seasonal work for a farmer named Carl. In the spring, picking rocks – mind numbing. In the summer square baling – a true workout. Throughout the year, sorting, vaccinating and cutting piglets. Why? So they will taste better, but don't think about it.

Carl was a very pragmatic straight talking man full of country sayings. One that he often would say to me, "Preacher, sometimes in life you feel 'bout as useless as hip pockets on a hog."

Carl had other sayings but we will stick with this one.

Carl is right – often times as a pastor / church leader we are called on to be with people who have been betrayed by loved ones, or have experienced tragic loss or have received the most devastating news. We are there as God’s representative, as uncomfortable as it is.

Our normal inclination is to "talk" but words are really no good at these times. What is most important is presence. To be there, to stay there, to listen and to demonstrate a silent love.

Tychicus was just such a person to the apostle Paul. Paul mentions him five times in his writings. Ty was with Paul in good and bad times. Paul was a larger than life dominant figure, and this is speculation, but I will bet Ty was a good listener. Sort of like this anonymous poem:

His thoughts were slow. His words were few and never formed to glisten.
But he was a joy to all his friends, you should have heard him LISTEN!

Several years ago, we attended the celebration of Pastor Jim Horn's ministry at the Clio Church of God. For over 38 years Jim served as a Youth leader, teacher and preacher at Clio. Pastor Jim is an excellent speaker, creative teacher. Call him, (810) 240-2528, he is available for pulpit supply.

Yet in that Celebration service person after person spoke of Jim's ministry in these terms - "He was there..." Not about what he spoke on or taught about but on his presence in their lives at key moments.

When they were saved, when they were baptized, when they were married, when kids came; in the happy times. It was with tears of gratitude they spoke of 'when divorce, or death, or tragedy struck'.... "Pastor Jim was there."

Dear friends, may God remind you of the great ministry of being there, especially of being present with others in the face of trouble. May the presence of the Lord be yours as you do so for others, in Jesus name, amen and amen!

April 9, 2020

Great Expectations.....Great Frustrations

Rev. Jim Horn, Northeastern Regional Pastor

Few weeks back we went up to my wife's, sisters home in central Florida, to spend a few days and to be with our nephew who is a High School Sr. He was getting ready for tournaments in Lacrosse, and that weekend was Prom. So he was pretty excited. He had his tux, flowers ordered for his girlfriend...and expectations for a grand night out with all his friends. And then... two days before all the hoopla; the Corona virus cancelled out all activities, including classes.

No Lacrosse tournaments, no Prom...staying at home...and he hasn't seen his girlfriend in person since. This is not how his Senior year was supposed to end! Indeed, "great expectations have become great frustrations!"...as we all very well know.

It's now what we call "Holy Week." Palm Sunday, the crowds welcome Jesus into Jerusalem, with shouts of "Hosanna!" There was excitement, anticipation, and great expectation. Jesus would be their conquering king; freeing them from the tyranny of the Roman government.

Of course they were wrong. And that is why later that same week; they cried out "crucify him!" Even the disciples, those closest to Jesus, are confused and scared, as they realized, things weren't going as they might have expected.

By the way, what were your plans or expectations for Easter Sunday... Baskets of eggs and chocolate bunnies...maybe some Peeps. New outfits, hairdo...shoes...church service...

So, are you frustrated because Easter isn't going according to your plans? Instead of all dressed up, (no holes in the jeans this week) you will probably just sit down in your pjs with a cup of coffee and watch on-line. And no Peeps or marshmallow chocolate eggs!

Who would have ever expected, that people all over the world... wouldn't be in a Church building of some sort this Easter Sunday? Not me.

You do realize the "first Easter" took place in a "cemetery"...outside, with few folks in attendance who were initially pretty sad, because their expectations had been frustrated also. It was not what they expected...not the way its supposed to end! But then...nobody expected a miracle!

Ahh, Gods plans, thoughts and ways are way above my pay grade and puny expectations. Who would have thought the Lord of all creation, would leave his throne in glory...

Come from heaven to earth; not to Lord it over us, but humbling himself taking the very nature of a servant, forgiving the undeserved...to die a cruel and excruciating death on a cross...taking yours and mine place...not because we loved him; but because he loved us. And three days later, death is defeated. But what did you expect? Remember! "He is risen, just as he said!" Indeed, the Lord of Glory! The God of the unexpected.

So how do we prepare for the unexpected without frustration? I'm not certain...it's where we walk indeed by faith, trusting every day; reminding ourselves, that Jesus didn't come to fulfill our expectations of what we wanted, but rather what we needed. But one thing for certain, I'm excited about the rest of the untold story God is going to write in and through our lives!

"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no human mind has conceived, the things God has prepared for those who love him." 1 Corinthians 2:9

Happy Easter. He is risen, risen indeed!

March 30, 2020

Living In The Shadow Of A Bigger Church

Baskins Robbins, Yoda and defining success

Rev. David Perry, Pastor, Edgewood Church of God in Ithaca, Michigan

"Size matter not. Look at me. Judge me by size, do you." - Yoda

A familiar trend in conversations in the last few months with fellow pastors is,

"There is this newer/bigger /more popular church just down the road from us!"

And then they share frustration, envy, and fear due to this bigger church group nearby. One pastor shared, "some of my people are leaving, it is like they are running to the new shiny thing that captured their attention!" Wailing and gnashing of teeth...

I understand these feelings, I have felt them too. Here is how I have worked through this and some suggestions and resources for you who have similar thoughts.

First, the bigger ones are our brothers and sisters in Christ! Work on your envy, it is a sin. Celebrate their ministry and learn to celebrate yours as well. We all have our role in developing disciples for Jesus. God has called us to make disciples - we all have a part in that.

Re-define what "success is" as a pastor/leader:

"An amazing sense of freedom comes with becoming secure in our own skin, secure in who we are, and secure in what God has called us to be and do."

Shawn Lovejoy - "The Measure of our Success- an impassioned plea to pastors"

Stop the unhealthy 3 C's = from chapter 2 of Shawn Lovejoy's great book, "The measure of our success";

  • Stop comparing yourself to others
  • stop copying others and become who God called you to be
  • stop condemning others it is a sin!

Learn who you are and stay in your lane for the Kingdom!

Adopt a "Baskin-Robbins" attitude: Their motto? 31 flavors of ice cream. Some folks like chocolate, some like butter pecan, some like birthday cake, and some just like vanilla. Some folks like bigger congregations, but some do not. There is a market for your size church, for your style of ministry, whatever that is. Be positive and be bold and trust God to bless you as you do your best for the service of the Kingdom.

George Herbert served as a pastor and poet and writer in a small church in England over 300 years ago. His ministry is still blessing people to this day. Pray as he did:

"Our God and King, who called your servant George Herbert from the pursuit of worldly honors to be a pastor of souls, a poet and a priest in your temple: Give unto us the grace, we pray, to joyfully perform the tasks you give us to do, knowing that nothing is menial or common that is done for Your sake; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen."

Call us at the CHOG in MI, we are ready to help and encourage you!

Suggested reading:
"The Measure of our success - an impassioned plea" by Shawn Lovejoy
"A Big Gospel in Small Places- why ministry matters in forgotten communities matters" by Stephen Witmer
"The Grasshopper Myth- Big churches, small churches and the small thinking that divides us" by Karl Vaters.

March 27, 2020

Social Distancing: A Necessary Sabbath

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

Mark 2:27-28: "Then Jesus said to them, 'The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!'"

Social distancing is a good thing for humanity. We must slow the spread of covid-19 by making thousands of small and large sacrifices every day. Our current "stay-at-home" order is a positive step in that direction. It's for the sake of humanity as a whole, for the sake of our community at large, that we keep our physical distance from each other. And this season of social distancing may last longer than we prefer or believe to be necessary.

Easter Sunday will be different than it has ever been in the course of our lives. Churches will (and should!) remain empty. And this is a good thing. We need a sabbath rest - not so that we can be refreshed or avoid exhaustion (though those are important, too), but so that we can move into the future as a more healthy species.

I encourage you to think of this season of social distancing as a sabbath, or even as a mini-sabbatical. Yes, the work of the church must go on. We will find creative ways to worship together, to encourage each other, to study scripture together, and even to celebrate Easter. In some ways, pastoral ministry will be more difficult and more exhausting over the next several weeks - especially for introverts like me, and, yes, for extroverts like some of you. We will each face a number of challenges, just like everyone else in our society.

If we view staying at home as a sabbath period, then we can find rest in the midst of a chaotic time. We can listen deeply to God in the midst of the silence of our streets and calendars. We can take deep breaths as we walk with Jesus toward the cross, follow him into the tomb, and wait for the dawn to arrive on Easter Sunday. We can linger with Jesus in the joy of his resurrection for the days leading up to his ascension. We can wait quietly with a mixture of uncertainty and hope for the arrival of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.

Sabbath periods were made to meet the needs of people. I know that this season of social distancing is "technically" not a Saturday, but that's exactly the point Jesus was trying to make in Mark 2:27-28. Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath, which means that he is in charge of giving us rest when we need it. And humanity, on an epidemiological level, needs to rest.

So lean into this season of rest. Beware of the urge to over-perform as a minister - I myself slept fitfully last night because of that very urge. Keep returning to the Lord in prayer and meditation. Listen for God's voice. Rest in the Spirit. Sit quietly at the feet of Jesus.

Oh, and wash your hands, stay at home, and maintain social distance, too.


Tissue Issue

Rev. Jim Horn, Northeastern Regional Pastor

Do Not Worry - Matthew 6:25-34 (NIV)

34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

"You don't know what you got, till it's gone." Those lyrics came from a song originally sung by Cinderella; back in the late 80's. (I had to look it up, in case you're wondering) It does seem kind of appropriate to bring back those lyrics in light of our recent "tissue issue." Who would have thought this would become one of the major news stories of our day. People standing in lines; not for a concert, but toilet paper. Ahh, the simple things of life.

I think of my younger days when we grabbed rolls of toilet paper to go out and decorate some of our friends/neighbors trees. I still remember the rush I got flinging my rolls 50ft up into the air and watching them stream down like fireworks on Tommy's oak tree. A light wind gave it a most ethereal feel. But a light rain...well thats another story. And yes, of course I had to drive by the next day to appreciate a nights work well done.

I still can't believe the recipients were upset with the artsy beauty of it all. Beauty, I guess, truly is in the eye of the beholder. However, I did come to a more complete understanding, when I was also "targeted" with a work of far flung art, on three of my trees!

Alas, those days now seem just a memory. We wouldn't think of such an exorbitant use of a commodity that is hoarded, as if made of gold, nor even think of sharing our artistic "T-P-ing" with others. How sad... Soon we all will have "bidets" following in the way of our friends across the pond. It could be worse I guess - corncobs, newspapers, and my good friend Dave's idea of soft tortilla shells.

But I do sometimes wonder...??? Will there be TP in heaven? Then I am assured... Of course - Angel Soft!

Jesus reminds us... Were not to be hoarders of the things of this world, find contentment in what you have, be willing to share with others. Don't worry; the God whose eye is on the sparrow, surely will look after you! We are too blessed to be stressed!

Share your blessings and your... Charmin (Extra soft for me please) with others and particularly with those in need.

"But some nights as the winds blow softly through the trees...I think back...and smile." Keep smiling and trusting God to meet all our needs...

March 25, 2020

Social Distancing

Rev. Jim Horn, Northeastern Regional Pastor

38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, [a] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38-39 New International Version (NIV)

You know this "social distancing" might not be so bad for some folks...especially for those you wanted to avoid anyway. Oops, just a moment, my wife just gave me one of those looks. (No honey, I love 24/7 days with you and not having any sports to watch, and spending those hours with you...every...single...day.)

Ok, where was I? Social distancing...which has been going on longer than we can imagine. Even in the life of the church. The religious Pharisees couldn't stand the common folk...or that guy named Jesus. Especially him hanging out with sinners. Jews don't want to associate with Samaritans, the "unclean" or the Gentiles. The rich and elite won't associate with the poor and lowly. The blacks and whites can't get it together. Want to talk about church denominations? Didn't think so. Don't want my kids hanging out with "their kids." Republicans and Democrats - forget about it! The LGBT and me...nope, no way. Michiganders and that "other team" - that ain't happening!

Why we even had a Civil War, over trying to distance ourselves from one another.

I understand that there must be difference between us. That's ok. You say tomato, I say..."no thanks, don't like em anyway." But I hope the things that create some social distancing between us, do not bring about a lack of respect, caring, concern, or dismissal of our common humanity. Not everyone will be close to us, but we do need to realize we really do need one another. We were not made or meant to be completely isolated. I know that, because the ONE, who created each one of us, told me so.

Not only were we created for relationships, but God came near to us, to be with us. Rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief. Red and yellow, black and white... Not just some of us... ALL, ALL, ALL of us. And let me tell you, it would have been a whole lot easier to just write some folk off...including me!

Aren't you glad He didn't let anything, nothing, nada, get in the way of wanting to be with you and me! So, if God right now, seems far-away, who moved?

Rest in His Word of promise to each of us - It's the good news! And we all could use a little good news these days, God is with us! God is for us! God loves us!

During this time of "imposed social distancing" continue as you have read; to stay in touch with family, friends, and those "other" folk, via cards, phone calls, and all your other techie ways. Who knows you just might add another friend to your life.

We're ALL in this together, but never alone. Stay In touch!

Share your comments with Rev. Jim Horn, Northeastern Regional Pastor


Giving Thoughts

Rev. Kirk Bookout, Children of Promise

Our church, like many in my area, is not having public services right now. We are streaming worship Sunday. As I write this, my wife is online giving to God through our local church. Now is a really good time. If you are a pastor, you are hoping your people also give either on line or in the mail.

If you consider reminding your people to remember your church, here are a few simple things to consider.

Someone (I do hope you know who) said, You receive not because you ask not. I have been taught and have seen it to be true that if we dont plant the seeds, it often simply does not cross peoples minds to support our cause. I have talked to people who have told me of support to a local charity. When I ask why not the local work of the church, they look blank for a moment and say, This group asked and the church did not. I just did not think of the church. Don't like that? Well, I am not thrilled either  but it is appropriate to ask.

Some never ask. I don't want our church to think we only want their money. The only people I have ever heard make that charge are not people of the church. Your church knows you care. I have a question? What part of our life is not given to God? What we do with what we have is spiritual. To ignore teaching about giving is to miss the mark in discipleship of the whole life.

When we do ask, I keep these 4 basic things in mind.

  1. It is always appropriate to say thank you for commitment. I am only aware of one scripture that says we should try to outdo one another. (Rom 12:10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. RSV.) When my wife, Debby, and I make a gift, we do not expect a thank you. But when we receive a gift, we expect to say thank you. Starting with a thankful heart is good.
  2. Studies consistently show the top reason people give in the USA is a sense of relationship a sense of connection. In churchy language, it is a sense of family. So, to be blunt, don't send a letter out saying that the budget is low. Send a letter out with relational language, family language. Talk about the church family and giving to this community of faith together.
  3. The second reason is vision. People want to give to something that makes a difference. Actually, vision is a form of relationship. Your vision is a statement about who you are, what is important, what you are all about. Thats part of relationship. Family language and vision are a good pair. As a church family we support each other in our giving and as we come together, we reach into our community, in the region, and around the world. People see God at work in us, because we do it in His name. You can probably be more specific about your own church.
  4. Number three is a reason people continue to give. You are trustworthy and accountable. During this time we are being vigilant with our gifts. They are God's resources, and we are going to be good stewards of your gifts.

In what I do, I often describe my job as helping people do what they really want to do. The people of Jesus Christ want to be His people, make a difference, and be blessed in that journey. Help people remember they can give as part of their Christian walk. Youll be blessed  but so will they! As a pastor help your church reach beyond their walls  locally, regionally, and around the world!

March 23, 2020

Regarding the Threat of Coronavirus... My Thoughts

Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD. Psalm 31:24 KJV

Rev. Jim Horn, Northeastern Regional Pastor

Uncertain times can breed fear, anxiousness, and any number of other negative symptoms. We seem to be in one of those times presently. As believers we can place our confidence in the certainty that we have a God who knows exactly where we are, what is happening, who remains our peace and confidence.

Many people however, do not have that same hope. But let us not be quick to dismiss their frustrations, angst, or anger. They should not find us with self-righteous attitudes of arrogance or prideful disdain. Hopefully they will see in us a kind, compassionate, caring and comforting friend.

We are all subject to frustration (who me?) when our personal plans, our lives are upended by circumstances we can't control or understand. (Where's my toilet paper!)

Stop, remind yourself...not just me...but we ALL are in the same boat. So grab an oar, pull someone else out of the waters, and keep rowing!

As our leaders; nationally and locally instruct and ask us to follow their advice Let us not be so arrogant or ignorant to think we know better.

Heed the Scriptural admonition to pray for and obey what they ask of us!

Not out of fear, but out of love for your neighbor and those most vulnerable in our communities. (Thanks Pastor Erin, Alma CHOG for that insight) Certainly it would be foolish and irresponsible to do otherwise.

Finally, do not politicize, criticize, entertain conspiracy theories, judge, blame or shame others. Pray for wisdom for all our leaders and especially those families who have been affected. Pray that solutions would be found to eradicate this virus and that ultimately we will see something good come out of all this that will unite us in our common humanity.

March 16, 2020

~ The Power of "As You Wish" ~
in the Church

Rev. David Perry, Pastor, Edgewood Church of God in Ithaca, Michigan

"Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life."
~ John Homer Miller

One of the greatest movies of all time is the 1987 classic, "The Princess Bride." Great movie, with a great message for the Church.

A quick synopsis: A grandfather comes to cheer up a sick grandson at home grandson and reads him a story.

"Adapted by William Goldman from his 1973 novel The Princess Bride, it tells the story of a farmhand named Westley, accompanied by companions befriended along the way, who must rescue his true love Princess Buttercup from the odious Prince Humperdinck." - Wikipedia

The reading takes place over several days and the grandfather would always question, "Do you want me to read on?" The grandson's answer was, "Yes", and the Grandfather would reply "As You Wish."

That phrase, "as you wish" ties the whole story together. It is a phrase that I have pondered over and have come to a conclusion that it is a key to a healthy church family.

"Inconceivable!" you say? Patience as I explain.

23 "'If you can'?" said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes." ~Mark 9:23

Faith is the key to everything – it is a hope, it is an attitude and it becomes power when we focus on the generous unlimited God instead of our temporary struggles. "As you wish" faith will do more to help you and your ministry than talent, money, size, location, etc., etc.

Look to develop a bigger faith in Jesus. Pray that He will do as Paul prayed for us in Ephesians 3:20:

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,"

"As you wish" is also an expression of love for others. It was the way that Westley loved Buttercup, the way that Grandfather loved his grandson. It is the willingness to lay aside my wants, my preferences, and my desire to control in order to show love for and to serve other's needs.

It is truly the way of Jesus.

28"just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."~ Matthew 20:28

"As you wish" is service for others – it is indeed, "True Love," the greatest thing in the world, (even better than a MLT.)

March 9, 2020

It is about Partnerships in your Missions witness

Rev. David Perry, Pastor, Edgewood Church of God in Ithaca, Michigan

2While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." 3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. - Acts 13:2-3

"There are no Lone Rangers in ministry." Hey, even the Lone Ranger had had his faithful campion, Tonto and his trusty horse - whose name was ______?

(To find out that name of the Lone Rangers horse, ask a person my age or older.) They will also explain who the Lone Ranger and Tonto is to some of you who didn't watch TV in the 1950's or 1960's. You are welcome, keemosabe.

Church Missions is more than just sending money or other people to do the work. Missions was designed by the Lord to form partnerships, long term friendships. If that is not happening with your congregations Missions program, you ought to re-evaluate it...you are missing a key piece.

The Early Church called, sent, and involved both sending and receiving parties in their Missions.

May I make some suggestions for helping your congregation keeping the Partnership focus as part of your Missions program?

  • Make Missions a prime time event give your main service for it. If treated like as a priority by leadership, the congregation will come to support it as primary, too.
  • Educate yourself on the culture of those you are reaching out to. Intentionally communicate your desire to be partners, friends.
  • Seek long term ongoing mission's support and projects so relationships can grow and deepen. Invite and help finance them coming to you as well as you going there.
  • Develop a Mission Team attitude "Some send, some go, all support."

Jesse Ziegenfuss was a proud member of her church family. Jesse was a shut in with very fragile health but she was never the less a faithful prayer warrior and generous supporter of the Missions program of the Greenville First Church of God. After our work camp to Brazil she was anxious to hear of our achievements that she helped make possible. Our Missions team bought her a special bracelet as a "thank you" for her love and support. She cherished that bracelet.

Jesse was laid to rest in Fairplains Cemetery east of town in 1993. She is with the Lord in Heaven but the bracelet she loved is still with her earthly remains, as she instructed.

"Some go, some send, but all share" Missions is about partnership, true friendships, and it is a joy that we all have a share in!

March 2, 2020

A Blue Print For Sharing Your Missions Witness

Rev. David Perry, Pastor, Edgewood Church of God in Ithaca, Michigan

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." - Acts 1: 8

In 1990, I proudly become pastor of the Greenville First Church of God. They were and are a great church family! At that time they had probably a typical Mission budget = $2000 split more than 16 different mission projects. They raised the funds through bake sales and multiple monthly "linger longer" fellowships with free will offerings – some of you know what those are.

So if you do your math "go-zent-a's" and carry the nought, that ain't much money spread out like that. Not very effective at all.

We looked at the Acts 1:8 passage and saw a blue print pattern that we re-oriented our congregational Missions around. We also see this as a pattern for individual Christians witness as well.

  • Jerusalem = your family, friends, community in which you live.
  • Judea = your region in which you live and have influence.
  • Samaria = cross cultural, folks different than us.
  • Ends of the earth = international partnerships.

Greenville started targeted budgeting for Missions and targeted Mission fund raising projects to finance their Missions. They do Faith Promise commitments – asking people to give over and above tithing, as a faith adventure to support missions.

They budgeted money for Home Missions – helping folks in need in our area. They supported the local food pantry. Developed crews that did home repairs and built handicap ramps for those in need. They are in their 12th year of a food truck ministry that gives out food to more than 100 families each month.

Several teams were sent to help CHOG Michigan congregations and CHOG camp grounds in building projects.

They have sent four teams after Hurricane Katrina to the small African American community of Pass Christian in Harrison County, Mississippi to build homes. Multiple teams have gone to Eastern Kentucky to work with Rev. Garland Lacey of Appalachian Ministries in serving some of the poorest of our nation.

Internationally they have sent more than 20 teams to build church buildings and schools in Brazil, Guatemala, and now this year to Belize.

This four part pattern of witness has helped Greenville now for 30 years, under three different pastors. It helps to focus interest in and develop support for their Missions program. More than 75 different persons, ranging in age from Jr High to folks in their 80's have shared in work camps and projects throughout the past 30 years. This type of Missions requires thousands of dollars but money follows vision. Get a vision, share it, and money will come.

Pastors and church leaders, if you need help in developing your Missions witness for your congregation, contact us here at the State Office. We would love to help you in creating a well-rounded witness for your congregation.

February 24, 2020

Rev. David Perry, Pastor, Edgewood Church of God in Ithaca, Michigan

The Power of Your Calling -

"The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it." - 1 Thessalonians 5:24

It is an honor to serve on the Board of Directors for Helping Hands in Motion (HHIM https://helpinghandsinmotion.org/). HHIM is a support ministry to national leaders, providing support and funding for key ministries in Haiti and India. In Haiti we support the House of Blessing Orphanage in Calabasse. The Executive Director of HHIM is Pastor Richard Fields and our Board Chair is Pastor Denny Huebner, of the First Church of God of Elkhart, Kansas.

Denny shared this devotional at our board meeting on Feb. 7, 2020:

Look at the power of a calling of God on your life! Look at Joseph in Genesis. His calling came as a teenager. A calling bigger than he could really understand or manage. None of his family really understood it.

Then look at Joseph's life: his brothers thought about killing him but instead sold him into slavery. That didn't stop his calling. His master recognized his strengths, promoted him but when Joseph choose not to give into sin, he was falsely accused and imprisoned. Still his calling was there.

In prison he helped the imprisoned cup bearer of Pharaoh and because of Joseph's help he was set free. "I won't forget you, I will help you!," but he forgot Joseph. For two years, he forgot Joseph.

Still, the calling of God on Joseph's life was there.

Two years later, the cupbearer remembered Joseph and recommended him to Pharaoh as one whom God gave the ability to interpret dreams. Joseph spoke the truth of God to Pharaoh. Pharaoh responded by promoting Joseph to second in command of the land of Egypt. Thanks to Joseph's leadership, the country was spared from starvation.

Then Joseph's family came begging for help. The ones who rejected his calling. Still Joseph followed his calling. He choose mercy over vengeance. The family was saved, they were reunited and the Messianic line restored.

Joseph the grown man was able to see the culmination of a calling that came long before as a teen. That calling sustained him through all kinds of trials. The twists and turns of life cannot stop the calling of God.

We all stand today with a calling of God. It will guide us and strengthen us for today. It may not answer all our questions about tomorrow or the future. But the calling of God is enough for what we need right now.

Trust God's calling today and tomorrow and let us follow Him faithfully into the future that lies before us.

Thanks Pastor Denny!

February 17, 2020

Planning--part two

Rev. David Perry, Pastor, Edgewood Church of God in Ithaca, Michigan

Divine Interruptions

"Commit to the Lord whatever you do,
    and he will establish your plans." ~ Proverbs 16:3

I have a modified a popular Christian saying in this way:

~Jesus loves me and everybody else has a wonderful plan for my life.~

I admit that is a little "tongue in cheek" but I will confess to you that one of my bigger frustrations are interruptions of my plans.

I dare say most Pastors and church leaders will say, "Amen!"

In those frustrating moments, I have slowly learned that "my plans are not always His plans" - riffing off Isaiah 55: 8-9. If I am willing to commit my plans to the Lord, ala Proverbs 16: 3, then the Good Lord may alter or change or, in the words of my good friend Pastor Ken Wiedrick, "tweak them" as He see fit.

A few years ago, Trevin Wax had an article on this at the Gospel Coalition Blog, entitled, "Life's interruptions are Divine opportunities." Quoting Trevin:

"C.S. Lewis recommended that Christians stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one's "own," or "real" life. He wrote:
'Interruptions are not obstacles to our plan; they are opportunities for us to embrace God's plan'."

As I look back at my ministry, I see where this has played out many times. I have prayed with folks for salvation at odd times and helped them overcome issues that I was unaware of before they came to me.

People don't know or even care about our life plans but they open up to us when they have a need or when the Spirit has worked in their heart. Often that isn't planned on my calendar. I can complain or I can cooperate.

So now when an unscheduled interruption occurs, I am now asking God to show me where the Divine plan is in this and to help me work with it rather than whine against it.

An old word from the ancient Persians is "Serendipity" - it comes from their folklore about some adventurers who stumbled upon a treasure by accident!

We as Christians don't believe in chance or accidents but that God guides and leads us through life. Friends, plan well and be willing to adjust as God leads you in these "serendipity moments."

February 10, 2020

Planning--part one

Rev. David Perry, Pastor, Edgewood Church of God in Ithaca, Michigan

Fail to plan is to plan to fail

Commit to the Lord whatever you do,
    and he will establish your plans. ~ Proverbs 16: 3

Years ago, my wife and I were sitting in a Christian psychologist office. He was explaining that our son had Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and that was why he wasn't doing well in school and was disorganized in life. The good doctor explained that this was hereditary... that was when both the doctor and my wife looked at me.

"What?!", I said, "I wasnt listening."

The good doctor went on to say ADD isnt bad  we tend to be creative, energetic and entertaining. But when it comes to organizing and especially follow through  we need real help. Planning, structure and good habits can harness an ADD person and help them succeed in life.



"If you don't know where you are going, you might end up somewhere else." ~ Yogi Berra

King Solomon writes to commit to the Lord whatever you do,..." the presumption here is that we ought to plan our lives as best we can.

Pastor, Christian leader, what are your plans? For this day, the week, the month, quarter, this year ?

Take time to regularly plan and organize your time and energy to do what God is calling you to do. Establish good habits and routines to help you in the process. Prioritize your tasks, break up your projects into workable sections.

Don't let the urgent take the place of the important in your life. -Charles Hummel

Block out the time to plan. It is worth the time and effort, it will pay off big time in your life.

Take the time to retreat and get away, to look at big projects and to develop preaching series. Planning ahead now will make your ministry more effective than last minute "hurry up" or the spiritual cop out, "I'll just let the Lord lead..."

It is amazing to me as I plan and then lay it out before the Lord, how insights and adjustments come to me that are better than before. I feel peace in knowing that I have done my best in planning my time and now I will trust God to guide me through the time ahead.

"Hey,! What about all the interruptions that come up in ministry?"

We will look at that next time. Trust God that there is a reason and purpose in everything planned and un-planned and that together we can fulfill all that God has called us to do.!

February 3, 2020

Don't lose it, your love for Jesus

Rev. David Perry, Pastor, Edgewood Church of God in Ithaca, Michigan

4 But I have this [charge] against you, that you have left your first love [you have lost the depth of love that you first had for Me].
~ Revelation 2:4 – Amplified Bible (AMP)

"In America you can be a success as a pastor and a failure as an apprentice of Jesus; you can gain a church and lose your soul." This quote from @johnmarkcomer has haunted me for a few weeks. Trying to make sure apprentice (or disciple) comes first.
~ from Pastor Aaron Perry- South Creek Church, Kokomo, Indiana - @APbeard

This recent Twitter from a great young pastor (no pride on my part, uh?) - Has had me look again at an issue that all pastors and church leaders face - allowing others things to crowd out their love for Jesus.

I went into ministry because I loved Jesus. I was excited, optimistic and ready to conquer the world for Him. ! I remember the 1985 GA here in Michigan because an older pastor I had known and respected since I was a child, spoke privately to me about ministry and the Church in negative defeatist terms. Blew my mind…but sadly I now am in my 60’s and after 39 years of pastoral ministry, I understand his burned-out pessimistic attitude.

But I am not going to surrender to that negative mindset and neither should you!

Regardless where our place of service is - rural, urban, large or small, solo or on staff - we all need to maintain a lifelong love of Jesus. If we don't, our ministry will be stunted and will eventually fail.

Okay, how? Here are a couple of ideas that work for me. I would be interested in yours, too.

Take time every day - to worship the Lord. I sing to Jesus, I praise Him, I express by words, my love for Him. Not just on Sunday, not just when others are around.

Count my blessings -literally write down what God has done for you. It is always far more than what you can think of off the top of your head. Better than I deserve ! Blessed beyond all measure.

Get away with Him - retreat, un-plug and detach from the rest of the world for a while and rest, listen and see what the Lord has for you.

Repent and turn around - when you see something, can be good or bad, that is separating you from God, change. Turn around. Re focus and work on what will keep you with Jesus.

Never forget what Jesus has done for you! He saved me, called me, placed me, and helps me every day. Best of all, He loves me! And I love Him. Always and forever.

January 27, 2020

Barking dogs, focus and your ministry

Rev. David Perry, Pastor, Edgewood Church of God in Ithaca, Michigan

7 Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives' tales. Instead, train yourself to be godly.
~ 1 Timothy 4:7 - New Living Translation (NLT)

We live in a day and age where fighting and arguing are everywhere. TV shows like Maury, Jerry Springer, Judge Judy, and a host of reality shows attract viewers who love watching other people fight.

Social media is a place where people go to vent, argue, and to try to "one up" others. Being rude to others online is considered acceptable, even sadly among followers of Christ. It pains me to see the way fellow Christians use un Christ like language towards somebody because they are a __________ : - fill in the blank = "liberal" or "conservative" or "Democrat" or "Republican" or "Progressive" or "Fundamentalist"...etc., etc....

Are you sure Jesus is okay with that kind of cruel, snarky, caustic language?

The combative nature of people is nothing new. Paul writes to Timothy about how to live as a Pastor and Church leader in 1 Timothy and more than three times in this letter Paul talks to Timothy about the temptation to fight and argue:

"...not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money."
~ 1 Tim. 3:3 NIV

4"They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions 5 and constant friction between people of corrupt mind,..."
~ 1 Tim. 6: 4-5 NIV

"You will never reach your destination if you stop
and throw stones at every dog who barks."
~ Sir Winston Churchill

Paul calls Pastors and Church leaders to be gentle, literally power under control, and to stay focused on teaching and proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord. It comes down to this - My desire to win or to be "right" is not as important as it is to proclaim Jesus as Lord. Will I let go of my pugnacious nature in order to win others to Christ? Focus on our true mission!

2020 is an Election year for the USA. The temptation will be to stop and to argue with those we disagree with. Think before you engage. We are called to preach the Gospel, not push a political party or agenda. To Proclaim a Savior, not a candidate. Our attitudes and the tone of our messages are as important as are the positions.

Let us be known as the people who love Jesus and who lovingly help others to connect to Him.

January 21, 2020

Disappoint, Envy, and the Toledo Mud Hens

Rev. David Perry, Pastor, Edgewood Church of God in Ithaca, Michigan

5 "What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe - as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor." ~ I Cor. 3: 5-8 - NIV

Recently several younger pastors have vented their frustrations to me of folks that have been a part of their congregation and are now leaving for another church group.

"I led them to the Lord!" ... "I walked with them through this (numerous issues - marital issues, child issues, health issues, etc.)...." "they left for me/us for something more new, shiny, or bigger..."

Wow, pastor, this hurts! I feel you on this, been there and have a T-shirt, too.

We pastors are human and we are prone to emotional stress in these matters. How to handle it? May I give a few ideas I pray that will help as I have struggled with this:

The main thing is people believing in Jesus: both in 1 Cor. 1:17 and now again in 1 Cor. 3, Paul picks up the idea that we (all pastors, in all sizes of congregations ) are not as important as Jesus. We are servants together to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord.

Please keep this in mind: I am a servant of Jesus, helping to connect people to Him. I am part of a team, a group effort in the winning the world for Jesus. Are my ego needs more important than helping others connect to the Lord Jesus Christ?

I have a role in disciple making: The Toledo Mud hens are a minor league baseball team affiliated with the Detroit Tigers. They develop young players who are often called up to play for the Tigers. They also rehabilitate players that need some extra help.

In several of the congregations I have served, I have felt like the Mud Hens: I help a person come to Christ, to grow in faith and then watch them go on to a larger group.

My choice now; whine and complain or say "thank you" that they still serve my Lord and theirs?

I have several prospects that are serving in other places, and I am grateful to see them serve. I have a role in their walk with the Lord and I keep lines of communication open to help in that. People move all the time and open doors allow for continued disciple making.

Seek the Lord's reward: back in 1985 I was serving a small rural church. My friend Jim Cook was the pastor of St. Joe First Church – much, much bigger outfit. Jim regularly invited me to lunch and at one lunch said to me with much appreciation and encouragement, "Dave, I could never serve as well as you do there in Cassopolis." God used Jim and that conversation to encourage me. My place of service is not small in God’s eyes. My role is important to God.

The Lord Jesus Christ saved me and called me into the ministry. It is a privilege that I get to help others find salvation in Jesus, too. Hang in there, Pastor!

January 13, 2020

The daily work we preachers' do!

Rev. David Perry, Pastor, Edgewood Church of God in Ithaca, Michigan

"Study and do your best to present yourself to God approved, a workman [tested by trial] who has no reason to be ashamed, accurately handling and skillfully teaching the word of truth." ~ 2 Timothy 2:15 Amplified Bible (AMP)

This January is the 39th year of pastoral ministry for me. Glory be to the Lord for this. The calling into ministry is both from God and a work of effort for me. It is like much of the Christian walk = a gift that we receive and a gift that we must also grow and develop.

A former friend of mine (I won't mention Glenn's name so I won't embarrass him) has said several times real loud in public, "I wish I had a preachers job – one hour a week!". It does beg the question; what do preachers do during the week?

Many, many things but perhaps the one of the most essential thing we ministers and church leaders ought to do is study the Bible daily.

The idea Paul has in mind in 2 Tim. 2: 15 is that studying the Bible is an ongoing intentional effort on our part. There is danger in saying, "Well, I have a college degree or I have memorized this or I preached/ taught this passage so many, many times, that I got this completely down pat!" None of us can afford that attitude. That smugness will choke our spirit and will weaken our ministry.

Study and keep studying the Bible. Preacher, church leader that is our job. Don't coast or rely on past work only. Study the Bible daily and study it freshly - with an open mind ready for new insights.

I am at a point in years of ministry where I am sometimes teaching/preaching on passages that I have used before. The danger is to just rely on my old notes and become pretty formulaic.

For many years I had a glass diamond globe that hung from my rearview mirror in my car. The cool thing about it is as the Sun shone through it, the different faucets of this diamond globe would reflect the sunlight into a variety of dazzling hues of color. Same light, different angle, variety of beauty.

The beauty of the Bible is if I am willing to come to it fresh and open, it has new nuances for me to discover each day!

The Word of God is timeless and speaks God's truth to all people in all cultures in all generations. Studying it over time has revealed an unending stream of wonder!

Study and keep studying the Word of God. Enjoy the journey of discovery God has for you in your daily study.

January 6, 2020

Recalibrating

Rev. Mark K. Richardson, State Pastor, Church of God in Michigan

"Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past." "Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert." Isaiah 43:18-19 (NASB)

Most new cars, and certainly all smart phones today have Global Positioning Systems (GPS) capability. This has become a near necessity in our time. This great tool allows us to travel nearly anywhere in the United States and beyond with turn-by-turn instructions based upon satellite positioning of our location. It been my experience that this usually works very well, except for those times when I decide I know better than the GPS and start off on a “shortcut.” My most egregious mistake with this was once turning an eight hour trip to Nags Head from Pittsburgh into a grueling 13 hour trip by taking a “shortcut” through the mountains of West Virginia. If you are familiar with how a GPS works, you know that when you go off course it will say something like “Recalculating” or “Recalibrating.” It will then give you a new route with adjustments made to fix your “shortcuts.”

Happy New Year to you all, by the way! Each New Year represents a great opportunity for us to go through a time of “recalibrating.” If you are like me, you like to take time at the beginning of a New Year to evaluate the previous year and, based upon that, go through a time of “recalibrating” for the New Year. I want to share with you some things that have helped me over the years as I work through my process.

Review With Thanksgiving (Look back over 2019 and thankfully assess several things)
Who you are now versus who you were in January 2019; What you’ve accomplished over the year; What you didn’t do that you wanted to do; What lessons you’ve learned good and bad; What people impacted you during the year; How have you grown in every way in your life; What precious cargo have you discovered that you can take with you in 2020; What from 2019 do you need to put into the dumpster that won’t help you going forward. Thank God profusely for it all, good and bad, because each of them will teach you something that will make you better and move you forward. In fact, I would encourage you to offer to God a daily litany of thanksgiving for what He has done, what He is doing, and what He is going to do.

Remember With Praise
Remind yourself just Who your God is: His Presence; His Power; His Providence; His Plan; His Provisions; His Promises. Remind yourself of what He has called you to do, and rededicate yourself to doing it with all you have. Draw near to Him in daily devotion, remembering the zeal you had when you first answered the call to serve Him. Remember that you can trust Him to honor every good and perfect gift He has laid aside for you and put in you. Make it a daily habit, just like with thanksgiving, to praise Him for Who He is and what He is capable of doing. As you stoke your remembrance of His greatness and glory, allow your perspective of God to grow. Try making praise (and thanksgiving) the biggest part of your prayers, with the desire to know Him more, hear Him more clearly, and have more of Him.

Recalibrate With Determination
Set your entire being on going forward and claiming that which God has prepared for you. This is the challenge for us to recalibrate some key things that make the journey of the call richer. The things we need insure are on the right course are things like: Our attitudes, our consecration; our commitment; our focus; our determination; our health (physical, mental, spiritual, financial, relational); our passion for Christ. Be determined that in your ministry and your home life apart from ministry that you will give excellent, determined effort to be pleasing to God. There will always be a score of tasks to do, goals and objectives to meet, and the whirlwind of ministry, but never allow them to keep you from staying on course with the Lord. If you find yourself there in any way, “recalibrate!”

May the Lord bless us all with an awesome 2020 in this great ministry and in every aspect of our lives.