A blessing in disguise by PASTOR LARRY ROWLAND Rockford Baptist Church Simon and Monique welcomed their fourth child into the world with joy and celebration. Louis was a healthy boy, full of life. Simon was a tanner who lived in a stone house outside of Paris. One of the small rooms of the house served as Simon’s workshop. Because the leather working tools of his trade were often sharp, the children were warned not to play in dad’s shop. But when Louis was still a toddler, he ventured through the shop door inadvertently left open. As Louis was playing with his father’s tools that just fascinated him, he slipped and poked himself in the eye with a sharp awl. The injured eye soon became infected. When the infection spread to Louis’ other eye as well, Simon and Monique helplessly watched as their four-year-old son completely lost his eyesight. Louis’ parents sacrificed to send him to the Royal Institution for the Blind in Paris, and the boy was exposed to the most advanced teaching available to him. He even took organ lessons and excelled as a musician. But Louis longed to be able to read like the other children who were blessed with their eyesight. One summer as he was back home on vacation, the now young teenager thought of an idea. He asked his dad if he could use one of his awls. Simon was somewhat surprised, but agreed, because his son was now old enough to handle tools. Louis then took the awl and, working with some scrap leather from his father’s shop, he began to devise a system of dots that could be felt with the fingers. Because of the ingenuity of Louis Braille, sight-impaired people today can read and write, work on math problems and even compose music. Interestingly, it was the very instrument that caused Louis’ blindness in the first place that became an instrument of blessing for millions of sight-impaired people down through the past 200 years. The same awl that initially caused Louis Braille’s eyes to lose their sight formed the first letters and numbers in the leather that eventually allowed Louis and so many others to read and write.
Wanted: a good friend by PASTOR JON HUIZENGA River Rock Church Recently I heard a mom say that the nicest thing a friend had done for her was to have brought a meal over when she really needed it. Not having that one detail hanging over her head meant a lot. A friend like that is fantastic—and unusual. You need a good friend. Someone needs you to be his or her good friend. What would that friendship look like? Here is a summary of the Bible book called “Proverbs” on the subject: • Constant—“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity,” Proverbs 17:17. • Candor—“Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses,” Proverbs 27:6. • Counsel—“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another,” Proverbs 27:17. • Considerate—“Seldom set foot in your neighbor’s house—too much of you, and he will hate you,” Proverbs 25:17. I smile at that last one. Good friends even know when it is time to go. Spiritually speaking, Jesus tells us that the very thing that will show him to the world is our treating each other like that. (His actual words: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another,” John 13:35.) So, my encouragement to you is: When you’ve enjoyed your reading of the Squire, get off your chair and go be a good friend!
Are you a wise manager? by PASTOR DAVE FERNLUND Algoma Baptist Church In Luke 19, Jesus tells a parable of a man of noble birth who was leaving on a trip. Before he left, he called his servants together and gave them each some money to put to work in his absence. When he returned he asked them what they had done with his money. He wanted to know what they had gained with it. Those who multiplied the money were rewarded. One servant who had done nothing with what he was given had it taken away from him. Each of these men were called on by his master to be a wise manager of his money. How wise are we in handling the finances that our master has give to us? God has given to us the money that we have. He has entrusted it to us for this lifetime, and he expects us to invest it wisely for his purposes. In fact, the Bible says he will bless us if we do this. Will we invest our money wisely? Will we demonstrate contentment in the way we use credit? Will we live according to our wage? Will we focus on our needs and not the limits of how much we can get? Will we understand that happiness and security come from God and not from money? Are you a wise manager?
The omnipotent vulnerability of God by PASTOR MARK W. LOVE St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, Rockford “Christ helps us,” Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote from his prison cell, “not by virtue of his omnipotence, but by virtue of his weakness and suffering… Only the suffering God can help.” (Letters and Papers from Prison, pp. 360-61, Trans. R.H. Fuller-Macmillan New York 1972) When it comes to loving mankind, God does not need to be pushed into the full consequences of living out His love. It is in living out the fullness of His love that God is being who God is. Such love, in its willingness to suffer the full consequences of that love, is judged by fallen human reason to make God too weak and too vulnerable. Such love would seem to deny His omnipotence. Yet it is in such weakness and vulnerability that God demonstrates the true omnipotence of His love in that He freely empties Himself and suffers for the sake of those He loves. Such love does not consider, and never regrets, the price it willing pays for being so vulnerable. Such love sees only the need for such weakness and vulnerability and the blessed benefit of it. It is through such vulnerability that the Son of God willingly comes to meet mankind and save him. Such vulnerability for the sake of another is the perfection of love. Inasmuch as we have been united with Christ in baptism, Christ is with us in all circumstances and conditions of life. In all these conditions, the love of Christ sustains and upholds us so that we can in faith dare to love and live with the risks of being so vulnerable that others might be touched by the love of Christ-through us. “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into His presence with singing! Know that the Lord, He is God! It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise! Give thanks to Him; bless His name! For the Lord is good; His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations,” Psalm 100:1-5.
What more do we need? by REV. SUE YORK Church of the Holy Spirit Belmont As I write this article, I am also preparing for my final weekend before retiring from Church of the Holy Spirit here in Belmont. It seems incredible to me that we have been a mission parish for over six years, having started in Sparta in 1993. It has been a wonderful six-plus years, filled with laughter, joy, challenges and most of all a feeling that the Spirit of God was moving in and through all of us at Holy Spirit Church, and through all the churches. I have been impressed with this community and the strong ministry and witness of the churches in the Sparta, Rockford and Belmont area. Do we really understand that we are atypical of most of the country in the number of churches and the percentage of church attendance? Most of us here have a church and we attend regularly. I will dearly miss my parishioners, but I will also miss my colleagues in ministry, especially in Sparta, where we came together weekly at Sparta Baptist from 9 to 10 a.m. weekly. We gathered around a table and prayed for each other, our congregations, schools, local governments, students and anything else that was heavy on our hearts or for which we were thankful. I highly recommend this kind of prayer circle to all manner of groups, or even two or three friends gathering together. The power of these prayers are tangible and make the world and the ministries that we find ourselves part of all the more effective. I Corinthians 3:5-11 has spoken to me especially these past weeks as I prepare my final homily. Paul says, “So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth… for we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.” What more do we need to know than God, working through us can do even more than we can ask or imagine, that it is not about us as individuals, but about the body of Christ working through us that will grow the church and spread the Gospel, the good news of Christ’s love and message to […]