EnGedi Youth Center

EnGedi Poster 2013I am so privileged to work as the director of the EnGedi Youth Center. EnGedi is a Christ-centered after-school program in the Cedar Springs schools.

Each afternoon we provide the students with a healthy snack, and opportunity to get some tutoring or some homework help, and then lots of classes and sports opportunities. The relationships I’ve made this school year with both the students and their parents have been so rewarding!

EnGedi needs your help.

This is a privately funded 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. So EnGedi is dependent upon the contributions of businesses, churches, and individuals to provide our operating funds. On Friday, May 17, you have a chance to help us reach even more students in Cedar Springs by participating in our fundraising auction.

There will be silent auctions, live auctions with auctioneer Art Smith, desserts, and lots of other fun activities.

Here’s how you can help:

  • Donate items that we can auction off
  • Make a cash donation to EnGedi
  • Attend the auction on May 17 and bid on lots of great items

We have a corporate sponsor who will match each dollar spent at our auction up to $10,000. That means for every $1 you spend, EnGedi gets $2. It’s a WIN all the way around.

If you would like to be involved, or if you have any questions, please click here to email me.

The Cleaning Crew

We had a great time helping spiff up Cedar Springs this weekend. For the third year in a row, I believe the group from Calvary Assembly of God was one of the largest (if not the largest) group which came out for the Earth Day cleanup. So we donned our bright yellow shirts, our trash grabbers, and lots and lots of garbage bags and went to work.

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Huge thanks to Betsy, Harrison, Samantha, Brandon, Stanley, Valerie, Judy, Stephanie, Selena, and Sophie for all your hard work!

Seven Men (book review)

Seven MenWhen I read Bonhoeffer, I knew Eric Metaxas was a special author, bringing such a vibrance and fullness to his subject. So I began Seven Men And The Secret Of Their Greatness with high expectations, and I’m happy to tell you that Eric Metaxas exceeded those expectations!

As the title implies, Seven Men is a collection of seven biographies of key men in history. These aren’t biographies covering the entire lives of these great men, but rather a zoomed-in look at a crucial moment in the lives of these men. Eric gives us just enough of an introduction to their early lives to set the stage, and then concentrates his look at the decisions or stands these men took to achieve the title of “great.”

How does one measure greatness? In the case of these seven men, Eric defines greatness as heroic character put to a test where most are tempted to stop short. These seven men stood firm mainly because of their godly character, and their conviction that a stand in their age would mean others in their own age would be able to stand as well.

Even if you’ve read or heard about George Washington, William Wilberforce, Eric Liddell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jackie Robinson, Pope John Paul II, or Charles Colson, you owe it to yourself to read Seven Men to see why they are considered “great” men.

I am a Thomas Nelson book reviewer.

Run To The Pain

Run to the painWe have become a numbed culture: we try to soften every blow, water down each negative report, ask only surface questions in the hopes that no one will really tell us how much they’re hurting, and then medicate away every symptom. But these symptoms are screaming to be noticed!

Dr. Paul Brand the renown hand surgeon and missionary to leprosy patients in India, wrote:

“Pain contributes daily to a normal person’s quality of life…. Every normal person limps occasionally. Sadly, leprosy patients do not limp. Their injured legs never get the rest needed for healing…. This inability to ‘hear’ pain can cause permanent damage because the body’s careful responses to danger will break down. … A body only possesses unity to the degree that it possess pain…. We must develop a lower threshold of pain by listening, truly listening, to those who suffer. … The body protects poorly what it does not feel.” (emphasis added)

The Gospels often talk of the compassion of Jesus. His compassion led Him to teach the confused, feed the hungry, and heal the sick. The phrase usually used in the KJV is descriptive: Jesus was moved with compassion. In other words His feelings moved Him to action.

The Old English way of describing compassion was to say someone was “moved in his bowels.” This is because the suffering of someone else should be like a kick in my gut too.

Jesus gravitated toward the hurting, but in one story He told, Jesus related something different about His Father’s compassion. It’s the story we now call the story of the prodigal son. In this story Jesus said His Father watched the horizons every day to see if His wayward child would return. When He saw this child coming into view, God saw his slumped shoulders, He could detect his heavy heart and worn-out body. Then Jesus says something amazing, “The Father was moved with compassion and He RAN TO HIS SON!

If our Heavenly Father runs TO another’s pain, what right do we have to ever run AWAY from it? 

If we are to be God-honoring in our interaction with others, we need to (as Dr. Brand says) lower our threshold of pain. We need to feel what others feel, to feel it like a kick in our own gut, and then move toward the pain with help and healing and restoration.

Christians—if we are truly Christ-like—should be known as the most compassionate people of anyone. What are you doing to let this be seen in your life?

Don’t Create Spiritual Parasites

MosquitoPastor, here are two quotes for your consideration…

Theology is the science of Christianity; much that is wrongly called theology is mere psychological guess-work, verifiable only from experience. Christian theology is the ordered exposition of revelation certainties. If our teaching and preaching is not based on a recognition of those things that cannot be experienced it will produce parasites, people who depend on being fed by others. —Oswald Chambers (emphasis added)

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. —Acts 17:11 (emphasis added)

As a pastor our job is not to spoon-feed a watered-down message to everyone. Our job is to challenge our congregations to find God for themselves. We should be creating in them a hunger for God’s Word; we should be encouraging them to study the Bible for themselves; we should be preparing them to feed themselves on the richness of Scripture.

Or, we create needy spiritual parasites. It’s our choice…

Thursdays With Oswald—A Glorious Opportunity

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Oswald ChambersA Glorious Opportunity

     If you are a saint, you have a glorious opportunity of following the example of Jesus and being strong enough to decline to exercise your rights.

From Bringing Sons Unto Glory

He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant. (Philippians 2:7)

“Do you think I cannot call on My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” (Matthew 26:53-54)

Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done. (Luke 22:42)

Saints, you have a glorious opportunity to go and live like Jesus.

Caring For Our City

This week we celebrated Earth Day, where I think Christians should be at the forefront in taking care of God’s creation.

It is a shame that so many evangelical Christians not only have little concern for the environment, but are sometimes known as anti-environmental. How can this be when our Creator God has asked us to care for His creation? Not only is our pollution of the earth totally unacceptable, but this is an issue that our young people care about; and if we don’t connect with them on valid issues such as preservation of the environment, how can we expect them to listen to us at all? —George Verwer (emphasis added)

I couldn’t agree more with Mr. Verwer! So here are some places that Calvary Assembly of God is getting involved, and I encourage you to join us (if you live near Cedar Springs), or do something similar in your own community.

Cedar Creek cleanup 2013Cedar Creek Cleanup—Saturday, April 27, from 10am-noon. We’ll be cleaning up along the banks of the Cedar Creek, and even in the creek itself. We’ll also help clean up trash and debris along the White Pine Trail where it passes through the city and intersects with Cedar Creek. We will have some waders to use, but please make sure you wear clothes that you don’t mind getting wet and dirty.

Community Service Sunday 2013Service Sunday—Sunday, May 5, from 11am-2pm. This is a collaboration with several other churches in Cedar Springs. We’re shortening up our gatherings in our church buildings, so we can head out into the community to put our worship in action. There’s a long list of activities including: providing full-service to motorists at local gas stations, painting and sprucing up Elmwood Cemetery, planting flowers, singing for the residents of Metron Nursing Home, trash pick, window washing for businesses along Main Street, and many, many more. And we’ll wrap up our work time with a potluck lunch in Morley Park.

Community Cleanup Days—Saturday, May 11, from 10am-noon. Similar to the cleanup efforts in Cedar Springs, we’ll be tackling some spring cleaning projects around Solon Township.

“Love Thyself Last”

As I was studying for our series Life Together, I remembered this poem from Ella Wheeler Wilcox, and I think it’s a perfect picture for remembering our joyful duty to one another

Ella Wheeler WilcoxLove thyself last. Look near, behold thy duty

To those who walk beside thee down life’s road.

Make glad their days by little acts of beauty

And help them bear the burden of earth’s load.

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Love thyself last. Look far and find the stranger

Who staggers ‘neath his sin and his despair;

Go, lend a hand, and lead him out of danger,

To heights where he may see the world is fair.

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Love thyself last. The vastness above thee

Are filled with Spirit-Forces; strong and pure

And fervently there faithful friends shall love thee

Keep thou thy watch o’er others and endure.

a

Love thyself last, and oh! such joy shall thrill thee

As never yet to selfish souls was given;

Whate’er thy lot, a perfect peace will fill thee,

And earth shall seem the ante-room of Heaven.

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Love thyself last, and thou shalt grow in spirit

To see, to hear, to know, and understand.

The message of the stars, lo, thou shalt hear it,

And all God’s joys shall be at thy command.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

16 Quotes From “Firsthand”

FirsthandI strongly encourage Christian parents to put a copy of Firsthand into the hands of their children, high school age and older. This book will help them think through making their faith in Jesus something personal to them. You can read my book review by clicking here. Below are some quotes that stood out to me. All of these quotes are by the authors, unless otherwise noted.

“You must be emptied of that of which you are full, so that you may be filled with that of which you are empty.” —Augustine

“One of the most liberating and powerful statements of all time comes from the lips of Jesus: ‘You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’ (John 8:32). And we’re writing this chapter to tell you something that will set you free. The only way we’ve been able to experience freedom is by making the choice to get completely gut-level honest with God and others.

“God can use you and me through our brokenness, but first we have to get real and vulnerable with Him and with others. I think this powerful ‘get real’ dynamic works for a few reasons. First of all, being real with God and those around us invites us to drop the pride and pretense and to walk in humility. Second, honesty invites us to live every day in gratitude for the incredible grace that Lord has shown us. And third, since now we know we can’t make it on our own—and that’s okay—we’re ready to invite God’s power to do for us what we can’t do for ourselves. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:9, ‘I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.’ This turns the concept of weakness and vulnerability on its head. We are saying that God makes up for our weaknesses. We are admitting that He is ready to work through them. Our weaknesses can actually become our greatest assets because they draw us closer to the Lord. And once we see how God can use them, we have all the more reason to be open about our struggles.”

“When all you see is a life in pieces, remember: the Remodeler wants to change you from the inside out. And He’s at work building your character to match His great calling and purpose for your life.”

“We have to decide, moment by moment, if we want to act changed or be changed.”

“It is more important to live one word of Scripture than it is to memorize volumes.” —Tim Hansel

“When our faith looks like a long list of things we should do, it’s usually a sign we’re not really focused on knowing God today for ourselves. Firsthand faith is all about a relationship with the God who is always faithful.”

“God is no less with you in your doubts that He is with you in your certainties.”

“Firsthand faith means we’re not afraid to bring our burning questions directly to God. But it also means that we’re not afraid to simply relax in His love. Even when all our questions haven’t yet been answered.”

“The needs of this world are endless. So whenever we feel a divine disturbance, it’s essential that we respond with firsthand action. If we don’t, it will quickly turn into secondhand bitterness.”

“James tells us that faith without works is dead (James 2:26). The most certain way to go back to living a secondhand faith is to refuse to act upon the Holy Spirit’s movement in your heart…. When you do not respond to a divine disturbance of the Holy Spirit, you get bitter and you criticize. That helps no one. … When you don’t respond to a divine disturbance in your life, you become the greatest obstacle between an unbelieving world and a loving God—a judgmental Christian.”

“Your eternal footprint—the impact you make on this earth—will be determined by whether you respond to the calling of the Spirit of the Lord in your heart to love a broken world, to step into the gifts and passions the Lord has blessed you with yo meet the needs that others overlook.”

“When we set out to discover our own firsthand faith, we were disillusioned with church. We had seen how imperfect the church could be, and we were certain that church was the problem. Coming full circle with our firsthand faith, we now realize that church was not the problem. The problem was out view and definition of the church itself. It took us a long time to understand that church wasn’t a building or a pastor or a sermon series. It’s easy to point out everything wrong with the church when you stand outside it and approach it with a consumer mentality. We thought the church had given us a secondhand faith, when in reality we had chosen to avoid a firsthand relationship with the community of Christ follower we claimed to care about.”

“The church is messy and imperfect because it is made up of broken and imperfect people. Are you sitting on the sidelines because the people in your church are imperfect or ‘just not like you’? … God designed you to be in community with your local church. He designed you to have firsthand relationships not only with Him but also with the people in your church. You can come up with plenty of excuses not to get involved and reasons that your church has it wrong, but when was the lat time you looked inside yourself and really searched your own heart for issues?”

“You can try to live out a firsthand faith on your own for as long as you want, but until you live out that faith in a community, you will never realize your full potential in Christ.”

“As a Christian, you are part of a movement that will outlast you, and you are part of the Firsthand Generation. As communities of believers rise up, we will gain momentum and create a movement that is stronger than anything we could ever accomplish on our own. Perhaps God is calling you to gather people and become a leader in the Firsthand Generation. Take up the challenge.”

National Day Of Prayer 2013

NDPWhen God-fearing people are concerned with the direction their nation is heading, when they are upset over the lack of biblically-sound laws, when they are pained over the cultural trends, God gives them just one recourse: Prayer.

Furthermore, God gives them only one place to look: In the mirror.

If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)

May 2 has been designated as a National Day Of Prayer, and I sincerely hope you will find a time and a place to pray for our country.

Calvary Assembly of God will be open from noon to 1pm for a time of prayer. If you can’t join us, please make an altar wherever you happen to be to humble yourself and pray. It’s the only recourse we have!

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