God of Gentle Whispers by REV. ROBERT ECKERT Courtland-Oakfield United Methodist Church “…the Lord wasn’t in the wind… the Lord wasn’t in the earthquake… the Lord wasn’t in the fire… After the fire, there was a sound. Thin. Quiet,” from 1 Kings 19:11-12, Common English Version. Hebrew scripture tells the story of a prophet named Elijah, a man who zealously advocated on behalf of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at a time in the history of ancient Israel when its king and queen, Ahab and Jezebel, zealously advocated on behalf of the idol-god Baal. More than different perspectives on the mysteries of life, this was a struggle for the hearts and minds of the people of Israel, a conflict of ideologies that turned violent with Ahab and Jezebel killing prophets of God and Elijah killing prophets of Baal. When Elijah feared that the next clash with the king and queen would be the one that would cost him his life, he ran into the desert to hide and eventually holed up in a cave on Mt. Horeb, described in the story as “God’s mountain.” While in the cave Elijah heard a voice that he identified as God asking, “Why are you here?” as in, “What the heck are you doing here?” Elijah reminded God of his passionate service on God’s behalf, then summarized the current status of the campaign: “They have torn down your altars, and they have murdered your prophets with the sword. I’m the only one left, and now they want to take my life too!” The voice told Elijah to go out of the cave and stand on the mountain, “The Lord is passing by.” Elijah must have felt that he’d gone from the frying pan into the fire. It wasn’t enough that Ahab and Jezebel wanted him dead, now he had to answer directly to God. He was frightened, ashamed, alone, and likely expecting the worst. And he got it—a strong wind blew that tore apart rocks—God must have really been angry, but wait, “the Lord wasn’t in the wind.” Then an earthquake and then a fire, but the Lord wasn’t in either of those. Finally after all the pyrotechnics, “a sound. Thin. Quiet.” Some translations say “a still, […]
Spring Storms by PASTOR MICHAEL CISLER North Kent Bible Church Our late winter and early spring have been very interesting this year. We had very little snowfall in February and record-breaking highs for March temperatures. Yet, April has brought its usual strong storms. Last week I picked up sticks for about 30 minutes following the strong winds that came through. Some have been awakened in the night from the thunder and lightening. Even as I write this, it is dark and rainy outside. These dark days and violent storms that come through are a lot like life itself. We can have large periods of time, months, years, even decades when most everything is going very well. However, all of that can change so quickly. Health issues can arise in our lives, the lives of our parents, or worse yet, the lives of our children. A steady job with a steady income can be lost overnight, or over the course of a three-minute visit to somebody’s office. Life itself can be lost in an instant. These storms of life and others like them are real and they affect people in our community often. This is the part where I include a Bible verse that ties it all up so it’s rainbows at the end. Well, the truth is, sometimes these storms last a long time and life is really hard. Please don’t get me wrong, I believe that the Bible is God’s Word and that it speaks to our lives in real ways. I believe, and have experienced, that a single verse, or even a few words from a verse, can give us hope, encouragement, strength, and can help us face these storms of life for another day (e.g. Psalm 23:4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me). I also believe that as Christians, there is almost always more that we can do. Offering a Scripture verse can be a great blessing to individuals as they traverse the storms of life. How much more of a blessing to offer the Scripture AND spend time with them, listening to them, sitting with them, being […]
by PASTOR RON AULBACH BridgeWay Community Church The book “Unbroken” by Laura Hilenbrand, captures perfectly what it means to live a long, prosperous life. Louis Zamperini was a rebellious youth who found his gift in running. He was fast! Dashing records in the mile in high school, college at USC, and became the U.S. hopeful for Olympic gold. Until WWII broke out, and Louis would put his running career on hold to serve our country as a bomber in the Air Force. A perilous military assignment, to say the least, and after surviving several close calls, his B-24 bomber was shot down over the Pacific. Most of his crew were killed at impact, but Louis and two other servicemen survived. On a small raft adrift for over 2,000 miles with no food or water. Minimal rain and the occasional raw fish barely kept the men alive. The raft was a magnet for sharks, who constantly circled it, even lunging up onto its sides in attack. After 47 days, death was imminent, so Louis prayed in desperation: “God if you save me, I will dedicate the rest of my life to serving you.” The immediate answer seemed cruel as he was captured by the Japanese and placed in a prison camp. His wiry athletic frame wasted away, dropping from 150 to just over 70 pounds. One prison guard, nicknamed “The Bird,” stalked him and beat him every day. For two-and-a-half years, Louis was verbally assaulted, starved and beaten, but he was never broken. Then, the war ended. Post-War life wasn’t any easier for Louis. He had deep-seeded resentment toward the Japanese, became a raging alcoholic, struggled with his marriage, and had no money. Then, in 1949 he heard a young preacher named Billy Graham. The message was simply: “For God so loved the world that he gave his son Jesus.” Then Louis remembered that prayer on the raft. He gave his life to the Lord, and immediately felt the peace that had eluded him. He found instant relief from the addictions and went on a mission to forgive his enemies. I think it would be more accurate to label the book “Broken,” because that’s what Louis really was. And that’s exactly the kind of life God […]
Our Easter Attitudes by PASTOR DICK RILEY Rockford United Methodist Church The day of Easter came and went this past Sunday, but the celebration of Easter is something that can happen all year long! Easter, you see, is an historical even, but it’s even more than that. Easter is also a celebration of Christ’s victory over sin and death, but it’s even more than that! Easter is really about an attitude. In fact, it’s about four different attitudes: 1. Easter is an attitude toward life. The disciples were convinced, following the resurrection, that they could turn the world upside-down—that nothing could stop them. Why? Because they knew—they had experienced—that Jesus Christ was alive—risen from the dead—and because that was true, nothing that they proposed would be impossible. Easter is the conviction that, because Christ lives, I too, through faith in Him, shall also live! What a great attitude toward life! 2. Easter is also an attitude toward death. We all know that death is real, but the Bible teaches us—and in Easter, we celebrate—that death is not final; it is not the Last Word in our lives. Life, true and abundant life, is available to all through our faith in Him who rose from the dead on that Easter morning. What a great attitude toward death! 3. Easter is also an attitude toward the future. Christians know that Easter is a foretaste of what the world ought to be—a foretaste of the Final Victory over death and despair, over hatred and hostility, over pain and poverty, and over sin and sadness. What a great attitude toward the future! 4. Easter is, finally, an attitude toward God, being aware, as Mary was in the Garden that Easter morning, of that Unseen Presence—that Holy Presence—in our lives, and knowing that He will always be there, with us and for us! What a great attitude to have toward God! I encourage you to worship this week in the church of your choice, and continue celebrating our Easter attitudes!
Loving Words by PASTOR SCOTT SWIX Hope Community Church A couple of years ago there was a wonderful animated movie called “Up” in which a house is carried away by thousands of helium balloons to take the old man and the young scout on an adventure. No one balloon could do it, but put enough together… and you could fly. The idea of each of those balloons helping lift the house is a bit similar to how the words we choose and use help lift our relationships with others and help them fly—or drag them back down to the ground. Think of each caring, loving, encouraging word as one of the balloons. It provides lift. Each negative word, each insult, each put-down, each word of anger drags the relationship back into the mud again. What’s worse, studies have shown that negative words weigh more than loving words lift up. Seems that we remember those mean words longer. It takes 10 words of encouragement to balance one harsh one; sometimes even more than that, depending on what was said. It’s hard to believe and trust the nice things someone says if we keep hearing nasty ones as well. Well, there’s lots of wisdom in keeping our tongues in check and our words to ourselves. The Bible’s book of Proverbs is full of great advice and reminders of the damage that harsh words cause and the benefits of loving ones, such as 12:18, “Reckless words pierce like a sword but the tongue of the wise brings healing,” and 16:23, “A wise man’s heart guides his mouth,” which are just two of many. Jesus reminds us that what comes out of our mouths really defines us. But in this electronic age it isn’t just the spoken word. One on one, live, we can have enough trouble. Texting and instant messaging appear to make us choose worse words—the person isn’t right there with us, and folks say things that they wouldn’t say in person. Verbal bullying in online social media is another example, where blogging and website “comment” sections take it even further. Reviews of these remote and often anonymous electronic forums show them often full of extremely judgmental, disrespectful and insulting responses—all to people we don’t really even […]