Our Freedom by PASTOR MICHAEL CISLER North Kent Bible Church As we celebrate our nation’s Independence Day, it causes me to pause and give thanks for the freedom that is available to us. I am thankful for the many who have served and sacrificed in the past to allow that freedom. I am thankful for those who serve and sacrifice today to continue that freedom and to attempt to provide it for others. I am thankful to those who have led within our governmental offices in all levels to first lay the groundwork of this freedom and then to uphold it. I am thankful that we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights. I am thankful also for the freedom available to us in Jesus Christ, the son of God. Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” In Jesus we have freedom from the result of sin, which is death, through the promise of the resurrection. We also have freedom from the bondage of sin, the yoke of slavery mentioned in Galatians 5:1. Sin in our lives can become a bondage that we feel we can’t get away from. We can struggle and struggle against it but feel like we are not breaking free from it. The reason for this is that by ourselves we can’t save ourselves from sin, we need to turn to Jesus to break free from that which holds us. In Hebrews 12:1-2 we find these words, “…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…” We see here the truth that sin easily entangles us and the importance of turning our focus to Jesus. I hope you have both thankfulness for the freedom we have in this country and freedom that is available in Jesus.
A weekly inspirational message
Midlife Crisis by PASTOR RON AULBACH BridgeWay Community Church There was a hit song by Paul Simon back in 1986 that can best be described as a man experiencing a midlife crisis. He’s walking down the street and his head full of unanswered questions. Why am I so soft in the middle? Why am I short of attention? Why are my nights so long? Where is my wife? My family? What if I die here? Who’ll be my bodyguard, now that my bodyguard is gone, gone? “You can call me Al” and if you feel like you are living more like Al than you’d care to admit, I’ve got good news for you. These are the questions that most ask. Research indicates that an actual “midlife crisis” is a myth. Not everyone that hits their 40’s and 50’s actually experience a crisis. They don’t all by Corvettes, timeshares and dream of breaking par. David Almeida, PhD at Penn State says the crisis is definitely a myth but “this certainly is a stressful time of life for most people.” These years bring affluence allowing you to finally afford the luxuries you’ve always dreamed of while at the same time having to navigate the heavier demands dealt out by the boss and family. Add to that the likelihood of having to also care for aging parents, and it feels like a midlife crisis is upon you. There is another way to look at the middle years of your life. I’m finding that there really is a difference between “living” my life, and just “doing” life. Doing life looks like a schedule that is consumed with things that have no purpose, and ultimately no passion behind them. Living life means you look for the opportunities that will bring greatest joy to both you and the people around you. Joshua was crystal clear on this, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, but for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). Serving is living, and serving the Lord brings the greatest life. Let God be the object of your service, your bodyguard, and the answer to all your questions.
Giving thanks for freedom! by PASTOR DICK RILEY Rockford United Methodist Church Once upon a time, a man found the barn where Satan kept all his seeds of sin stored. In bag after bag, seeds were stored that were destined to grow in the hearts of people everywhere. There were seeds of envy and greed, seeds of hatred and lust, and seeds of bitterness and idolatry. In row after row, the man found all the different seeds of sin, and then, suddenly, Satan himself entered the barn. The man looked at Satan and then looked at the many bags of seed—the seeds of sin. “So, what do you think of my bags of seed?” Satan asked. “Tell me,” the man asked. “Will these terrible seeds—will they grow anywhere?” Reluctantly, Satan frowned and admitted that there was one place in which his seeds of sin would not grow. “And where is that?” asked the man. “My seeds of sin,” said Satan, “will never grow in the heart of a grateful person.” This coming week, we will celebrate our nation’s 236th birthday! What a blessing! What a gift! What a time to celebrate all of the freedoms that we enjoy in this great land of ours! And what a wonderful time to pause and, with grateful hearts, thank the Lord our God, worshiping Him in the church of your choice, and, as the Apostle Paul reminds us, “giving Him thanks and praise” (I Thess. 5). Have a great and grateful Fourth of July week!
God’s grace evident in a stranger by REV. LAURIE TENHAVE-CHAPMAN First Congregational Church, Rockford “Whad’ya think?” I asked my husband after we read an article in the paper. It gave a brief bio on a couple of exchange students who still needed host families to make their dream of studying in America come true. We had both talked about serving as a host family before, but weren’t actively looking at the time. Somehow I had been drawn to read the article in which young people from far away vulnerably described their gifts and their hopes. One jumped off the page at me and, as my husband read about her, seemed like the right fit to him, too. We called the number listed to make a preliminary inquiry. We checked with each of our kids to see how they felt about opening our home to a stranger. They each gave their blessing and we had signed on the dotted line within two weeks of casually perusing that newspaper! Somehow we knew that this decision was not simply our own, but that God was at work. We made the necessary preparations and welcomed her at the airport last August. What a wonderful year it has been! How can you grow to love a complete stranger who moves into your home? The starting point is prayer: channeling God’s love to this new family member. Being open-minded and flexible are critical qualities when sharing space with a newcomer. Expecting to learn from them even as they learn from you will bring untold gifts your way. Berenice has broadened the world of my children. We have been reminded that we are pretty much the same around the world. We are all God’s children! The State Department underwrites the Foreign Exchange Student Program as they believe this is one of the great ways to bring peace to our world. This national priority shows great insight! The Hebrew people are reminded in Deuteronomy 10:19, “You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Jesus praised the righteous believers by saying, “For I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” We have learned that in a beautiful way this year in our own family. We will mourn […]
Gifts by REV. DAVID MEYERS Holy Spirit Episcopal Church As spring has unfolded around us, the church has walked the Great Fifty Days of the Easter Season, gave a passing nod to Ascension Day, and now, as of last Sunday, has entered the season of Pentecost. The Day of Pentecost is remembered as the time in which the Holy Spirit came upon the gathered Apostles with great wind and fire. The outpouring of the Spirit gave them greater understanding, inspired preaching, and gifts they never knew they had in bringing the Good News to the world. The Mystery of the Holy Spirit is the indwelling Presence of God in our lives and in our world. The Spirit sustains all things, encourages all goodness, is in all, is over all, and is doing more in us than we can ask and imagine. Just like the Apostles, the Spirit continues to enter each person with all-consuming love that is manifested in gifts and skills. The Bible refers to seven spiritual gifts, but there are as many gifts as there are people. Each person is endowed with spiritual gifts at baptism. As Thomas Merton wrote, “We get a name in baptism. That is because the depths of our soul are stamped, by that holy sacrament, with a supernatural identification, which will eternally tell us who we were meant to be. Our baptism, which drowns us in the death of Christ, summons upon us all the sufferings of our life: their mission is to help us work out the pattern of our identity received in the sacrament.” It becomes, then, the mission of all of us to not only discover ourselves but live into our gifts. For some, gifts are easy to recognize. For others, the search is more elusive. Sometimes we know our own gifts. Oftentimes, however, gifts must be identified and named by others. This is the value of the worshiping community. When gathering in the name of Christ, we enter a fellowship in which gifts are honored, nurtured, respected, and celebrated. Realizing all are different, may hold different beliefs, may even entertain opposing viewpoints, the inclusive church becomes stronger. The Christian community creates a marvelous tapestry that can overcome the world in furthering the Kingdom of […]