This summer we had the joy of spending a few days camping with our children and grandchildren near the sand dunes by Silver Lake. I remember visiting there as a child walking the dunes, visiting the lighthouse and swimming in Lake Michigan. Then later as our children grew we returned to do some of the same things, running the dunes and watching the dune buggies master those mountains of sand. For three generations we have returned to this fun-filled vacation spot. We had a great time! We often do a good job of passing these types of experiences on to our children and grandchildren. I often wonder how well we do at passing the spiritual experiences of life on to the next generation. It is common knowledge that the church in America is struggling. It is estimated that only about 18% of millennials (those born after 1981) identify themselves as Christian. In the USA, the church of Jesus Christ is in decline. Of the many things we pass on to our children and grandchildren we must not forget to pass on our faith as well. We can not only pray for our children, but pray with them. Teach your children your favorite Bible verses and help them to discover the wonderful truths of God’s word for themselves. Show them the importance of worshiping God by attending worship yourself every week. Engage your children in acts of kindness to others and help them discover the joy of ministry We parents are primarily responsible for the spiritual development of our children. Your church, pastor, children and youth volunteers are there to assist in this task and we thank God for their presence. With the education season about to begin again be sure to keep your child’s Christian education (faith development) a priority. In the present and in the future you will be glad you did. Grace & Peace, Pastor Ken Bremer Rockford UMC
by Rev. Laurie TenHave-Chapman I can’t see her face because the traffic sign with the word SLOW on it blocks it. What I can see is her torso and legs. This young woman has been hired for the mundane, interminable job of holding a traffic sign all day while construction workers labor around her. She has chosen to spice up the job by showing a little flesh. As she holds up the sign her white T-shirt is hiked up enough to expose about 4 inches of a trim belly, with a pierced navel evident. That torso is a conspicuous presence in an otherwise annoying traffic snare. It is clear to me that she is very aware of her midriff exposure and enjoying the extra attention it’s getting in her well-placed job. When I think of a professional wardrobe I don’t think of a bared midriff! It’s not indecent particularly—just present. Sometimes we are witnesses to a conspicuous presence—something that jumps out at us from an otherwise ordinary setting. Sometimes we are the ones who have created a conspicuous presence of some sort, trying to spice up the world around us. I wonder if we, as people of faith, consider what we need to do to be a conspicuous presence? So many of us just flow by each other, caught up in the daily demands that nothing jumps out at us to remind us of our divine origin. How can we flash a bit of our divinely shaped humanity to grab people’s attention and remind them that there’s more than meets the eye? Made in God’s image, we forgive. We affirm. We spread joy. We say “no” when others say, “Sure! Whatever.” We extend grace. We love unconditionally. We serve others. When we live each day in that radical way, we point beyond ourselves, beyond the traffic snarl, to a God who is hoping we will SLOW down and notice the sacred amidst the ordinary. Be a conspicuous presence that points beyond yourself to the One who shapes each day!
Can’t See… by PASTOR RON AULBACH BridgeWay Community Church Vision is something we take for granted. I’m reminded when I go to the eye doctor and they put those drops in that make things all fuzzy for a couple hours. I think they are secretly testing me for when I’m older. Another time, I was trimming some tree branches with a chainsaw and one snapped back and whacked me in the face. It hit me so hard I saw stars, like a cartoon character. But the vision returned and I was left only with a bloody lip and a bruised ego for being so careless. A moment I’ll never forget was when I was 10 years old and the bat boy for an amateur baseball team. I was setting up the bats, helmets, getting the pine tar rags all folded and ready for the game. The pitcher was warming up too and, like a scud missile, his fastball sailed over the catcher’s mitt and as someone yelled, “Look out!” I turned right into it. Strike, directly into my left eye. It hit me so hard that I spun headfirst into a post with a big eye bolt sticking out of it. Care to guess where the eye bolt hit me? Yup, right eye. Disoriented, I tried to get up and run, only to trip over all the equipment I’d just set up. Ok, stop laughing. I was miserable. They called my parents as the ambulance rushed me to the hospital. Raw steak face, both eyes swollen shut and my mom didn’t even recognize me. But after a month of looking like a Ricky the Raccoon, my eyes opened, and eyesight was completely restored. The doctor said I was lucky, almost blind at age 10. Like I said, vision is something we take for granted. What a gift to have sight, and what a tragedy to have it and not look for the God that gives it. My eyes met those of my wonderful wife, Shawn, over 20 years ago. I’ve seen the miracle of life and watched five perfectly healthy children open their eyes to this world. I’ve seen God transform a crowd into a church, and open individuals’ eyes to the grace of Jesus. […]
Pennant season begins by PASTOR DICK RILEY Rockford United Methodist Church The pennant races are on! As professional baseball moves through the month of September, many teams, including the Detroit Tigers, are fighting for an opportunity to play in the World Series, and they have already begun working harder in order to secure a position in the post-season play. Many players on a pennant-contending team seem to play with more intensity. The front office will now begin bringing up fresh players from the minor leagues and even trade for some talent to give their team an extra edge in the pennant drive. Everyone seems more determined to finish the season on a high note. Excitement fills the air as fans watch their team in hot pursuit of a championship pennant. In many ways, September is also the time when the church enters its own pennant race, striving to achieve the goals it set out for itself at the beginning of the year. It is, therefore, a time when we remember the words of the Apostle Paul who wrote: “Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 3:14). Remembering those words, September, within the life of the church, is a time when the leadership, as well as the rest of the people within the church, start doing things with more intensity—with more determination. It’s a time when the worship services, the educational classes and opportunities, the outreach programs, and the fellowship times are fine-tuned to make sure that the year finishes on a high note as we “press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” Want to be a part of this pennant race, of this championship year? Then go and join with the people at the church of your choice, and see what it feels like to be part of an eternal winning team!
Freedom by PASTOR MICHAEL CISLER North Kent Bible Church As we approach 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, the Creator. 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. As we celebrate our nation’s independence this week, I hope for you both the thankfulness for the freedom we have in this country and joy and freedom that is available in Jesus.