Monday, September 30, 2013

It's Monday - Let's Laugh a Little!


I once heard someone new to the church being asked why they had chosen to start attending.  Their answer was simple, “Because I always find a reason to laugh!”  I think that’s great.  Actually, laughing is one of my most favorite things to do.  The only home that I can think of that would be worse to grow up in than a home that never heard music would be a home that never heard laughter.  Now, I realize that there is also a place for seriousness in church, but let’s not underestimate the spiritual, emotional and physical value there is to laughing…even in church!

According to information on the Discover Health Website, by the time a child reaches nursery school, he or she will laugh about 300 times a day.  Guess how many times a day an average adult laughs?  Only 17 giggles a day, and that's just not enough. We need to laugh, and we need to laugh on a regular basis.  Proverbs 17:22 says, "A merry heart does good like medicine."  In other words, laughter is good for your body. Laughter actually stimulates circulation, produces a sense of well-being, exercises the face and stomach muscles, stimulates the production of endorphins (the body's natural painkillers), and provides oxygen to the brain, to name just a few benefits. 

According to an article called the "Science of Laughter" on the Discovery Health Website, natural killer cells that destroy tumors and viruses are increased when we laugh, along with Gamma-interferon, which is a disease-fighting protein. In addition, T-cells which are important to our immune system and B-cells that produce disease-fighting antibodies also increase in number when we laugh. Plus, laughter has been known to lower a person's blood pressure.  

Laughter is good for your heart.  According to a study at the University of Maryland Medical Center, laughter may actually help prevent heart disease.  The study found that people with heart disease were 40 percent less likely to laugh in a variety of situations compared to people of the same age without heart disease. Laughter, along with an active sense of humor, may help protect you against heart disease.

Laughter is a good workout: It has been proven that hearty laughter actually burns calories, as many as equivalent to several minutes on a rowing machine or an exercise bike.  Laughter can also enhance learning:  Laughter stimulates both sides of the brain to enhance learning. In fact, laughter eases muscle tension and psychological stress, which keeps the brain alert and allows people to retain more information.

Researchers suggest that we need a minimum of 12 laughs per day just to stay healthy. So, go ahead. laugh it up.  Charles Swindol wrote, “I think it is just as sacred to laugh as it is to pray, or preach, or to witness.”  Barbara Johnson said, “Love may make the world go round, but laughter keeps you from getting dizzy.”  I agree!  Psalm 126:2 states, “Our mouth was filled with laughter.”  I hope that is always one of the characteristics of the church I pastor!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Is BIG FOOT Real?


I spent some time this week with my wife and her parents up in the Upper Peninsula here in Michigan.  I have grown to really love spending time in the U.P. and this week was no exception - especially with the fall colors sitting at about 40% of peak!  But it appears that I may not be the only one who loves spending time in the beauty of the U.P.

One night we were at a scenic overlook in Munising, overlooking the great Lake Superior where we met two gentleman doing some video taping.  As we got talking to them we discovered that they both worked with the cable television station - The Animal Planet, and they were in the Munising are of the Upper Peninsula looking for evidence of BIG FOOT!  No - I am not kidding!!!

These guys were from southern California but travel all over the world following sightings of BIG FOOT.  And, yes, there has been sightings in recent years of this creature in the Hiawatha National Forest in the U.P.  I have to be honest - learning this information didn't do me a lot of good on those nightly walks from the camper to the bath house in the pitch black with noises all around me in the woods!

So, is BIG FOOT real?  I haven't the foggiest idea!  I can tell you that I personally did not run into him (or maybe it's a her) during my week up north (for which I am very, very thankful!)!

But let's be honest - weird experiences do happen.  Many people have had experiences where they have been visited by a dead relative.  Others tell of hearing the voice of a dead relative.  Still others tell of feeling the presence of dead relatives.  Some can share stories in which it appears that a dead relative gave them a physical sign of some sort.  These experiences are real, but what exactly are they?

Last week, as we started our new series, "Mythbusters: Are Ghosts Real?"  I answered the question with a definite YES!  The spirit world is teeming with life.  God is a spirit.  The third person of the Trinity is the Holy Spirit.  God created countless spirit beings called angels, many of which fell and became demons.  The spirit of every person since Adam who has ever been conceived and died still exists.  The truth is that there is more life in the spirit world than there is in the physical world. 


But how does this play into these kinds of visitation experiences?  Is it possible for the spirits of dead people to return to the physical world?  This week we will look beyond experiences to the pages of the Word of God to answer this question.  I hope you will join us through the following avenues:

ATTEND!  We have 3 services this Sunday here at Gaylord E-Free Church!  We have a Classic service that is more traditional in style at 9am in the Chapel.  We then have two Contemporary Services in the Gospel Center at 9am and 10:30am.

LISTEN!  Our 9am Contemporary Service is broadcast live on the radio on The Eagle (101.5 FM) here in Northern Michigan.  Beginning by Monday afternoon, you can also listen to the audio of the message at our church website (www.gaylordefree.org).

I'm not sure I can answer the question, "Is BIG FOOT real?"  However, I am pretty certain that I can answer the question, "Do the spirits of the dead ever return to the land of the living?"  Attend or listen this Sunday to find out!  

Thursday, September 26, 2013

What Christians Can Learn From Catching Monkeys


Several years ago, a young girl wrote in to the Ann Landers advice column that was in her local newspaper with the following question:

“Dear Ann, I am a 13 year old girl who is tired of getting yelled at by my parents all of the time.  All I hear from morning until night is, ‘Clean up your room!  Pick up your clothes!  Do your homework!  Finish your chores!’  How can I get them off my back?  Signed, Sick of Parents.”

Ann Landers wisely responded in this way:

“Dear Sick, You want to get your parents off of your back?  It’s easy…clean up your room; pick up your clothes, do your homework and finish your chores!”

Why is it that so many of us struggle with being obedient and hating sin in our lives?  I think that one of the main reasons is due to the fact that we do not understand how hunters catch monkeys.  In some regions monkeys are considered a delicacy and hunting for monkeys is an art.  Here is what they do.  The take a coconut and cut a hole in the end of it that is just big enough for a monkey to get its finger and thumb into it, but if he grabs a piece of the coconut inside, he cannot get his finger and thumb back out again.  They then tie a coconut to a stake, pound the stake into the ground, and then they go wait in the bushes.

Sure enough, a monkey ultimately comes along.  He picks up the coconut and puts his finger and thumb inside the hole, grabbing a piece of the fruit inside.  Try as he might, the monkey cannot get his finger and thumb back out.  He shakes the coconut trying to free it from the stake.  Meanwhile, out of the bushes come the hunters with their knives, spears, tanks and bazookas.  The monkey sees them coming.  He knows he is in danger.  The monkey knows that all that he has to do is let go of the piece of coconut inside and scram.  But instead, the monkey becomes monkey stew.

Such is the case with many Christians.  We have coconuts in our lives.  These are sins that we know are displeasing to God.  We know that they are causing us harm.  Yet, we won’t give up the coconuts.  What does it mean to hate and forsake sin in our lives?  It means to take the coconuts that we are hanging on to and to throw them as far away from us as we possibly can.


So tell me, is it true in your life?  Are there any coconuts in your life that it’s time to get rid of?  Are there any secret sins that you have been holding on to for far too long?  How true are the words of the Psalmist when he writes, “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.  Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit” (Psalm 32:1-2).  Maybe it’s time to clean up the room, pick up the clothes, do the homework, and finish the chores.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A PARTY with a PURPOSE


Who doesn’t like a party?  Not only are they are great way to enjoy some time with friends, they also can be a wonderful tool to help people meet Jesus.  Who ever knew that evangelism could be so fun?  If you’re not convinced, just look at the story of Levi in the Gospel of Luke.  He’s a tax collector.  That would have made him one of the most hated men in Capernaum.  In the culture of that day, due to their status as traitors, they would have no social interaction with anyone else who was not also on the same low level as they were.

Levi, however, meets Jesus one day and his entire life changes in an instant.  And what is the very first thing that he does afterwards?  The Bible says that Levi gave a big reception in his house.  The Bible also says that there was a great crowd that attended.  We are talking lots of people.  That tells us that Levi’s house was pretty big from the money he made as a tax collector.  Let’s break this party down. 

According to the Bible, Jesus is the guest of honor at this party.  But remember, it’s a huge party with lots of people.  So who else is there?  The Bible says it is a great crowd of other tax collectors and sinners.  That makes sense.  Remember, if you're living in Israel at that time and Levi the tax collector called you up and said, “Hey, want to come over to my house for dinner?”  What would your answer have been?  It would have been, “Not on your life!”  No well-respecting Jew would ever go in to the home of a tax collector.  So the only people that tax collectors could hang around with were other tax collectors who were just as rotten and nasty as they were.  And with them there were other sinners.  This involved anyone else that wasn't welcomed in society like prostitutes, swindlers, robbers, and the like.  This party contained the “who's who” of riff raff in Capernaum.  Those at this party made up the underbelly of Capernaum. 

With that in mind let me ask you a question.  Do you think possibly there may have been some foul language at this party?  Do you think there may have been a few dirty jokes told at the party?  I bet there was on both accounts.  But, yet, here's Levi and Jesus.  And what are they doing?  Nowhere in the text is there any evidence that Jesus preached at this party.  Instead, the only thing it says that He did was to recline at the table with the guests.  Keep in mind that in the culture of that day you didn't sit in chairs at a dining room table.  The tables were very low and you reclined on pillows as you ate and talked. 

Folks, listen, you would never recline at a table with an enemy.  You wouldn't do it.  You only reclined at a table with a friend.  What's Jesus doing?  He's reclining at the table with tax collectors.  He's reclining at the table with sinners - with the riff raff, with the underbelly of Capernaum.  This is such an incredible story to show us that Jesus Christ is a friend of sinners. 

As Jesus reclined at the table with them, what does He do?  The only thing we can guess happened was that there was a lot of incredible conversation learning each other's names and telling about each other.  And what was the motive behind it all?  Why did Levi do it?  It's obvious from the text.  He wanted his friends, even though they were the riff raff and underbelly of society, he wanted his friends to meet Jesus.  Levi had just met Jesus.  His life had changed and he was so excited about it that he wanted his friends to meet Jesus, too.  So he throws a party designed for his friends to rub shoulders with Jesus, the ultimate friend of sinners. 

Did it have an impact?  When you read through the rest of the gospels, you discover that wherever Jesus goes, the tax collectors are trying to get close to Him.  You know why?  They did so because no other rabbi in all of Israel would dare befriend a tax collector.  But Jesus did.  And now they wanted to be with Him. 


Folks, listen, that is a powerful lesson for you and I today as individuals and as a church.  When we begin to rub shoulders with lost people and really show them that we care about them, they will be drawn to this place.  And as a result, they will be drawn to Jesus.  Party on!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Four Lessons from a Royal Wedding


The story of Esther is one of my favorites in the Bible.  Take time to go back and read it again like you were doing so for the first time.  It’s like a mixture of Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast all rolled up into one.  From this amazing story you will see four amazing lessons.   

Lesson #1 - God is always at work behind the scenes orchestrating your life.  Do you realize that while you're sitting there reading this blog post, God is working behind the scenes orchestrating your life.  In the story of Esther, God was working behind the scenes orchestrating the lives of people to get them exactly where He wanted them.  I don't know about you but that gives me so much confidence.  I don't have to fear.  I don't have to worry.  I don't have to live with anxiety because God is always at work behind the scenes orchestrating my life.  God is working behind the scenes even when it looks like evil is winning.  God is even working behind the scenes when you face disappointment.  You see, God knows the future.  And even in your disappointments God is orchestrating your life.  That is amazing.  Never forget that lesson. 

Lesson #2 - The people God uses are usually the unexpected ones.  Whoever would have thought a Jewish orphan would become the queen of Persia and be used by God to save an entire nation from extinction?  If you're sitting there reading this post and you're thinking to yourself, I am the last person God would ever use, then chances are really good you might be the next person He chooses.  Because the people God uses are usually the unexpected ones. 

Lesson #3 - God is never absent in our lives and in our circumstances.  You know what's amazing about the book of Esther?  Not once, not even once, does the book of Esther ever mention the name of God.  You can't find it. In fact, there's not even a pronoun referring to God in the book.  That's why many people did not feel Ester should be part of the Bible because how can a book be part of the Bible that doesn't mention God?  But as you read this book you will discover that even though you're never going to see the name God as you read, you're going to see His fingerprints on every single page.  You see, that's how God often works.  His invisible providence is always working in our lives and you will see in this book irony after irony after irony that's well beyond coincidence because God is never absent in our lives.  He is never absent in our circumstances. 


Lesson #4 - In the end, God wins.  That's what happened in the book of Esther in Persia during the time of Esther and it still happens today.  Folks, listen.  We live in a time that's a disturbing time.  We live in a time in which it looks often like evil is winning but I need you to understand something.  I need you to realize that even today, even when it looks like evil is winning, God is at work behind the scenes.  His providence is real.  His providence is true.  And when the day comes when this world as we know it comes to a screeching halt, and that day will come, I want you to know that no matter how bad it looks now, on that day God wins.  And when God wins, so does His church.  

Monday, September 23, 2013

READING and RUBBING



The longer someone is in ministry the easier it is to go from a “missional” mindset to a “survival” mindset.  When we end up spending most of our week working out of a sense of “survival” rather than a sense of being “missional,” we are in a dangerous position.  To keep this from happening, we have to make time for some “self-leadership.”  For me, I have found two aspects of “self-leadership” that helps me to stay fixated on acting out of being “missional” in ministry rather than simply trying to “survive.”

The first of these two aspects is READING.  When I make it a point to read good books that inspire me and help me to stay focused, I can more easily continue to be “missional” in what I do. 

The second of these two aspects is what I call RUBBING.  By that I mean rubbing shoulders with non-churched people.  For me this includes having lunch at least 3 days a week at the same place in town where I am building relationships with people in our community who do not go to church and where I am meeting non-churched people every single week.

When I am involved in the “self-leadership” aspects of READING and RUBBING I tend to be more “missional” and focused less on “survival.”  With this in mind, I led our church ministry staff into a 5-week exercise that would give them the opportunity to do some READING and RUBBING on their own without adding any time at all to their already full time constraints. 

Here is what I did.  I bought each of our ministry staff a book of a great Christian hero from the past.  No two books were the same.  I also purchased for each of them a $10 gift card to a local restaurant or coffee shop (no two locations were the same either).  Beginning today (Monday, September 23) and for the next 3 Mondays, each of our Ministry Staff here at Gaylord E-Free is to spend the time we usually spend in staff meeting at that local restaurant READING that book and RUBBING shoulders with non-churched people.  Here are the “rules” I gave to them:

For the next 3 staff meetings they are to go by themselves to the restaurant they have been assigned in order to read their assigned biography.  They may not change or change restaurants or books.  They are to be at their assigned restaurant reading their assigned book for one full hour.  During this hour they are to have their cell phones turned OFF.  The church office will know the restaurant they have been assigned to and can be sure they are contacted in the event of an emergency.

For the two staff meetings after these three READING and RUBBING weeks, each staff member will then give a 20-MINUTE verbal report to the rest of us on the book they read.  We will be pulling names out of a hat to see in what order each person will share. 


Now it’s time for some serious READING and RUBBIBNG!  

Friday, September 20, 2013

Mythbusters: Are Ghosts Real?


It is all around us – stories of paranormal activity.  

Television shows contain it

Best-selling books contain it

Just about all of us know someone who has had a paranormal experience.  It seems like it is being talked about everywhere in our culture except in the church.  

THAT'S ABOUT TO CHANGE!

Beginning this Sunday here at Gaylord E-Free we will be starting a new 6-week series that we are calling

Mythbusters: Are Ghosts Real?”  

In this series we will be answering these questions and more:

Are ghosts real?  

If they are real, what are they?

Do the spirits of the dead come back to the earth?

Is it possible to communicate with the dead?

Outside of the Bible, can we predict the future?

Are there stories of paranormal activity in the Bible?

Should we be concerned?  
Should we be scared? 

Are you ready to hear what the Bible teaches about these areas?

Be sure not to miss one Sunday of this very relevant and timely series beginning this Sunday, September 22.

Be sure also to invite those you know who may be interested in this topic to attend.  And if they can’t attend, then be sure to encourage them to listen to our 9am service each Sunday live on 101.5 FM.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Marriage and Naked Barbie Dolls


When it comes to the unchanging purpose of marriage given by God at the first wedding in human history in Genesis 2:25-25, we’ve now seen severance, permanence and interdependence in the last two blog postings.  Now let’s look at the fourth and final purpose = intimacy. 

If verse 24 describes the wedding ceremony of Adam and Eve, then verse 25 describes the honeymoon.  It says that they were, “naked and unashamed.”  What a great motto for marriage.  I think it ought to be inscribed inside of every wedding ring – “naked and unashamed.”  This is true because marriage is God's design for sexual intimacy at its best.

When I preached a sermon on this at the church I pastor here in Gaylord, Michigan, I used a “Ken” and “Barbie” doll through the whole series as object lessons.  This visual fit verse 25 more than people thought it might.  When my daughter was real little, she had dozens of Barbie Dolls.  She kept them in a big tub and she would often take most of them in to the bathtub with her.  Then she would just throw all of the dolls back in the tub all wet. 

I don't know if your daughter had Barbie Dolls or not, but if there's one thing I noticed it is that for some reason they were always without clothes.  I don't know what the situation is but they always were.  My wife one day discovered an odor coming from this tub.  All of these wet Barbie Dolls had begun to mildew.  As a good mother, my wife cleaned and bleached them all.  She then needed a place to allow them to dry.  When I drove home from the church office that afternoon, I got the surprise of my life.  As I went to pull into our driveway, I found that it was covered with literally dozens of naked Barbie Dolls sunbathing.  To this day I wonder what our neighbors must have been thinking! 

Anyway, back to Genesis 2:25 – “naked and unashamed.”  In our world today, we are inundated 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with the world's view of intimacy.  Here's what I need you to understand.  Any intimacy that is outside of one man with one woman in the bounds of marriage is a cheap imitation to God's best.  God created the best.  Anything else is a cheap imitation.  It is impossible in my opinion, based on scripture, to experience intimacy at its best anywhere other than one man with one woman in marriage.  In Proverbs 5:18-19, the writer describes intimacy in marriage like a fountain you drink from to be refreshed.  He says, “Let your fountain be blessed.” 

Do you realize what God's desire is for you in marriage?  God's desire is that your intimacy in marriage be blessed.  That's God's desire for you.  That tells me that intimacy between a husband and a wife in marriage is nothing short of worship.  He then says,

Rejoice in the wife of your youth.  As a loving hide and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times.” 

The problem is that most men put a period after the word "times" and go, “Amen!”  Believe it or not, men, that line is not the best part.  It's the last line I want you to see. 

Be exhilarated always with her love.” 

That word exhilarated is a Hebrew word that's also translated “intoxicated.”  Do you know what God's view of sexual intimacy is?  God's view is that there be a marriage relationship between a man and a woman that has intimacy that's so incredible that you become intoxicated with each other.  In fact, you become so intoxicated and addicted with each other that you would never even want to look anywhere else for sexual satisfaction.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Marriage - A Two-Headed Monster


In yesterday’s blog post we saw the first purpose of marriage given by God when He instituted marriage back in Genesis 2:24-25.  That purpose was severance – “a man shall leave his father and mother.”  Now let’s look at the second purpose which is permanence.  It says that, “A man shall leave his father and mother and shall cleave to his wife.”  Now, that word “cleave,” if it were to be used today, could describe taking two pieces of steel and soldering them together to make one permanent piece.  That's God's purpose for marriage – permanence – and that purpose has not changed.  God's purpose for marriage always has been, still is, and always will be one man with one woman for one lifetime. 

What’s has changed is our culture.  Over half of marriages today in our country fail.  Over 75% of second marriages fail.  That's the culture we live in today.  So let me just say this.  When I talk to a young couple who's getting ready to marry for the first time, here's what I say to them - If you're entering into this marriage with any other thinking other than this, divorce will never be an option, then don't get married. 

Folks, listen.  Here's the key.  Whether you're married; whether it's your second marriage, third marriage, or fourth marriage; whether you're newly married or have been married for decades; whether your single but desire someday to be married; or whether you can simply say the word “marriage” - if any of those descriptions are true of you, let me just say this - Your marriage is worth fighting for.  Yes, there will be trials.  Yes there will be times of diversity.  Even so, it is God's plan, God's purpose, for you to fight for that marriage. 

We have seen the purpose of severance and the purpose of permanence.  Now let’s look at the third purpose - interdependence.   The verse says, “And they shall become one flesh.”  What's that mean?  To put it in modern-day vernacular, even though it is a horrible analogy for marriage, it means that the moment you say "I do" you become a two-headed monster. 

Think of the progression.  From the time you were born, you were in a state of total dependence.  You couldn't do anything for yourself.  You were totally dependent on your parents.  As you grew up, your parents wisely moved you from dependence to independence.  If they were wise, they did it a little at a time - not all at once.  When you became a single adult you then moved to a state of total independence.  


How does this relate to marriage?  Folks, listen, marriage isn't dependence or independence.  Marriage is interdependence.  When you get married, it's no longer, “What do I want?”  It's now, “What do we want?”  It's no longer, “What are my dreams?”  It's now, “What are our dreams?”  I really believe that the best part of being married is that you get to do life together.  The purpose of marriage is that you have that companion that God created you with a need for, so that you can do life together.  We’ve now seen severance, permanence and interdependence – we still have one more purpose of marriage to look at in tomorrow’s post.  

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Gaylord E-Free Church Welcomes Julia Rupp to our Staff


I am extremely excited to announce the selection of Julia Rupp as our new full-time Director of Children’s Ministries here at Gaylord E-Free Church in Gaylord, Michigan.  Julia will begin her new full-time ministry with us beginning Sunday, October 6, as she take on the oversight of our nursery through grade six ministry. 

Julia went through quite an extensive process to reach this position including submitting a resume, filling out a very detailed and lengthy application, going through multiple and rigorous interviews, and having many reference checks completed.  The Search Team for this position was headed by Marie Sarchet and included two Elders, our CCE Team Leader, the CCE Team Liaison from the Leadership Team, along with a few educators and individuals who are involved in our children’s ministry.  This Search Team was given the job description of this new position as well as a profile of the type of person that we were looking to fill it.  Their task was to conduct a nation wide search and then narrow the field down to no more than two final candidates to turn over to me as Lead Pastor for final consideration.  This Search Team was instructed to only pass on the names of candidates that they unanimously agreed would be good for this position.  They did an outstanding job.

This team ultimately passed on to me the names and information for two final candidates.  I then, with the help and assistance of Marie Sarchet (Search Team Leader) and Jack Dutton (Director of Counseling Ministries here at Gaylord E-Free Church), conducted final interviews with both candidates.  These final interviews were very extensive and deep.  After they were over, the three of us were all in unity that God had made it clear that Julia was the right person.  We still took four additional days to pray and ponder more on this and then met again with the result being that we were still unanimously at 100% peace that Julia was the right selection.  Last night, the Elder Board gave their unanimous consent for me to offer Julia the position, which I have done and she has accepted.

Julia has a B.A. Degree in Elementary Education from Cedarville College in which she attained certification in Kindergarten through Grade Eight as well as her preschool certification.  Her course study included Children’s Ministry and her minor was in Bible.  She also has done continuing education in gifted certification, ESL Classes, and Cooperative Learning Methods from Columbia International University, as well as being certified by Child Evangelism Fellowship.  Julia has many years of teaching experience both nationally and internationally, having taught in Tennessee and in China.

Julia has served in a more unofficial role over the past year leading our Sunday morning and Wednesday evening children’s ministries and has done a fabulous job.  Most of all, Julia has an unmistakable heart for the Lord Jesus Christ, for Gaylord E-Free Church, and for meeting as many children as possible right where they are, and helping to move them to where God wants them to be. 

I am thrilled at what Julia brings to our staff and ask you to give her your great encouragement, and most of all, your fervent prayers and support.

Believing God for Great Things!

Pastor Scott

Marriage - A New Sheriff In Town!


When God officiates the very first wedding in human history – the wedding of Adam and Eve in the beautiful Garden of Eden - He clearly gives the purpose for marriage.  In Genesis 2:24-25, He says, “For this cause…”  Stop!  For what cause is He talking about?  If you go back earlier in the chapter we see the fact that God made Adam with a need for companionship which can only be truly fulfilled through a wife.  Now keep reading.  “For this cause, a man shall leave his father and mother and shall cleave to his wife and they shall become one flesh.”  Verse 25 then adds, “And the man and his wife were both naked and not ashamed.”
 
Over the next few blog posts I want to show you from theses verses four purposes for marriage.  Before I give you those four purposes, I want you to understand that the purposes we're going to see in these verses have never changed.  Our culture has tried to change them.  Even churches have attempted to change them.  The truth is that God's purpose for marriage stated at that very first wedding has never changed.  How do I know that? 

I know this because a couple thousand years after the first wedding, when Jesus is walking on the earth, He repeats this very purpose.  In Matthew 19, someone tried to trap Jesus with a question concerning divorce and Jesus said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female?”  He then quotes right from Genesis 2:24, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh.”  The purpose of God had not changed. 

In fact, not only did Jesus repeat it, but after the death and resurrection of Jesus and His ascension back in to heaven, the Apostle Paul also repeated the same purpose.  In Ephesians 5:31 Paul quotes word perfect from Genesis 2:24 – “For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh.” 

What does all this tell me?  It tells me that God's purpose for marriage has never changed.  The same purpose that God speaks in Genesis 2:24 is the same purpose that God has for marriage yet today.  Based on this, let's look at four purposes for marriage from those ancient but extremely applicable verses.

Purpose number one we're going to call severance.  “For this cause,” the Bible says, “a man shall leave his father and mother.”  What is God saying?  To put it in the lingo of the old, Wild West, it means that the moment you say, "I do," there's a new sheriff in town.  Think about it this way - growing up who was the most important human relationship in your life?  More than likely it was your parents.  Understand that according to the Bible the moment you said, "I do," a new sheriff came to town.  Because you see, folks, the moment you say "I do" there's a new priority in your life.  From that moment on, the most important human relationship in your life must be your spouse – “A man shall leave his father and mother.”  Do we still honor our parents?  Absolutely.  Do we still love our parents?  Absolutely.  But there's a new sheriff in town. 

Why is this important?  I've seen a lot of marriages go through troubles because they couldn't figure out this purpose.  Even if you're a daddy's girl, after you marry the most important human relationship in your life must be your husband.  Even if you're a mama's boy, after you marry the most important human relationship in your life must be your wife.  Folks, listen, if you ever have to choose between making your spouse happy or making your parents happy, choose your spouse. 


As parents, we need to release our children to obey God.  We should never make our adult married children choose between us or their spouses.  We should never resort to guilt and manipulation in order to try to get them to sway our way as parents.  We need to release our adult children to obey God and to make their spouse the most important human relationship in their life.  

Monday, September 16, 2013

Paging Gordy


In her book, “An Hour On Sunday,” Nancy Beach, Arts Director for Bill Hybels at the Willow Creek Community Church, tells of a man named Gordy.  Here is what she writes:

“Gordy and his wife, Barb, serve on our production crew.  Their children are grown, and for now this couple has chosen to invest in building community on our backstage team, helping to set up stage equipment and props and diligently praying for everything that takes place in our services.  Gordy is a big man with twinkling eyes and a balding head.  Like the rest of our crew, he always wears black clothing so he can fade into the background while setting up props on stage during a service.”

“When I arrive at church, Gordy has been working for a couple of hours.  He always greets me with a warm smile and inquires, ‘How can I specifically pray for you?  Is there anything in this service that most concerns you?’  Often my response fills Gordy’s eyes with tears.  During rehearsals, Gordy provides an enthusiastic audience for actors and musicians who wonder if their material will connect.  He laughs the loudest and is the first one to let them know if he is deeply moved.  Before the service begins, Gordy leads a circle of crewmembers in passionate prayer for God to work mightily among us and through us.  Between services, Gordy is the master of encouragement, letting all of us know that the part we played truly mattered.”

As I think about Gordy, I have to believe that the vast majority of the thousands of people who attend services at Willow Creek every weekend have no clue that this man even exists.  I doubt that they could pick him out of a crowd.  Yet, to the few dozen people who pour themselves into utilizing their God-given gifts and talents to provide moments in worship that God can use to grab hold of the hearts of people, Gordy is irreplaceable. 

Though Gaylord E-Free is not anywhere near the size of the Mega Church that Willow Creek is, we also have dozens of people who utilize their God-given gifts and talents every week with a heart and a purpose to be used by God to provide moments of worship that God can use to grab hold of the hearts of the hundreds who attend our worship services. 

Is there a “Gordy” in the midst of our congregation?  Is there a “Gordy” at E-Free who stops our key participants on Sunday morning to ask how they can specifically pray for the service?  Is there a “Gordy” at E-Free whose eyes fill with tears as they hear of the deep desire of the stage leaders and participants to see God move through the service?  Is there a “Gordy” at E-Free who isn’t afraid to show it when God uses something in the service to move him closer in his walk with his Lord?  Is there a “Gordy” at E-Free who gathers people together prior to the service to passionately pray for God to work?  Is there a “Gordy” at E-Free who is the master of encouragement and lets everyone know that the part they played Sunday truly mattered? 


Paging, Gordy…Please report to Gaylord E-Free Church!  

Saturday, September 14, 2013

BACK TO CHURCH SUNDAY


This Sunday is National 
BACK TO CHURCH SUNDAY!  


Who do you know that use to go to church but for whatever reason has quit going?


Who will you invite to church this Sunday at Gaylord E-Free?


Friday, September 13, 2013

WE'RE GOING BACK TO CHURCH!


This Sunday is BACK TO CHURCH SUNDAY here at Gaylord E-Free.  It’s still not too late for you to invite people you know who use to attend church at some point in their life, but for whatever reason, have quit doing so.  Invite them BACK TO CHURCH this Sunday.  Studies show us that most people who do not go to church would in fact attend if they were invited by a friend.  Here are some updates regarding our services for this Sunday:

·         We will be showing a video promotion this Sunday for the showing of the motion picture “Home Run” which will take place in the Gospel Center on Friday night, September 20.  This movie is produced by the same makers of “Facing the Giants”; “Fireproof”; and “Courageous.” 

·         We will be showing a specially designed movie trailer at the end of our services promoting our new series, “Mythbusters: Are Ghosts Real?” that will begin on Sunday, September 22 here at E-free. 

·         “The Frightened Family” will be making a return to our Contemporary Service with a skit designed to help welcome everyone “BACK TO CHURCH.” 

·         In our Classic Service, there will be two special music numbers.

·         A special “Welcome to Church” video will be shown right before the sermon in all of our services.

·         There will be great worship in both of our Contemporary Services and in our Classic Service.

·         I will be preaching a message entitled, “Four Cheers for the Church,” from Philippians 1:3-18.

It is going to a great Sunday here at E-Free.  Please be praying for God to use our services here and over the radio to meet as many people as possible right where they are at and help move them to where He wants them to be!

See you Sunday!

Pastor Scott

Thursday, September 12, 2013

ARE YOU GOD?


The world is a different place when it is viewed through the eyes of a child.  So, by the way, is the church.  I was reminded of this last Friday as my wife and I were out doing our usual grocery shopping routine.  We ran into a mother from our church who was shopping with her children.  As we talked, her little boy, who was sitting in the grocery cart, looked up at me and asked me this pointed question:

"ARE YOU GOD?"

Several possible answers went through my mind, such as:

"Only on Sundays, Son!"

"No, but I did sleep in a Holiday Inn Express last night!"

"My wife thinks I am!"

The truth is that we all had a good laugh at this cute display of innocence.  But it was obvious from the expression on this little guy's face that he was very serious in his inquiry.

The more I thought about this encounter, the more his question became a convicting challenge.  In the eyes of this little guy, because he only sees me every Sunday on stage at church preaching from the Bible, I am to some degree associated with God.

In our culture today, in the eyes of children sports athletes, movie stars and rock stars are put on a "look-up-to" level.  Unfortunately, many of them fail to live up to that expectation.

But to the children at church, the pastor is also on a "look-up-to" level.  This means that as a pastor, I have a huge need to "walk the talk," not just when I'm preaching on the stage on Sunday, but also when I'm walking through the grocery store on Friday.

No, my little friend, I am not God.  But thank you so very much for the reminder that "little eyes" in my church" are "looking up to me."  Like the Apostle Paul, may each pastor in America, including myself,  be able to say with genuine sincerity to people of all ages in our churches,

"Follow me as I follow Christ!"    

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Vision Tree is Ready for Harvest


Last Sunday here at Gaylord E-Free Church we showed the final instalment in our 5-part Vision Video series showing the vision of our church in the past, present and future.  The last section of that video series took us on a visual review of our 3-year vision plan (you can view that video in yesterday's blog post).  On that Sunday we also passed out a full-color brochure highlighting this vision that we believe that God has given to us in order to meet as many people as possible right where they are and help move them to where God wants them to be.  

Along with that, we now have out Vision Tree full of apples and located in the back foyer outside the Gospel Center.  Most of the tree is covered with green apples that indicate the many specific aspects of our 3-year vision plan and the cost associated with each particular element.  The red apples indicate areas that have already been paid for and ave moved from being a dream to being a reality.  As God lays it on your heart to give a financial gift to see a specific element(s) of our vision take place, simply do the following:

Physically remove the green apple which will reveal a red apple beneath (red shows that this aspect has been paid for).  

Place a check in the box that is located on the table at the tree with the apple you picked, being sure that your gift ids clearly marked as to what item it is paying for.  You may also give your gift through the church offering or by contacting the church office.  Either way you give, please be sure to indicate what specific aspect of the vision plan you are giving the gift towards.  

Because we don’t want to sacrifice present ministry, we do ask that all gifts toward our vision plan be above and beyond regular giving.  

Together, we can saturate Otsego County with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and let that bleed over into all of northern Michigan!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

VISION WHITE BOARD VIDEO


Gaylord E-Free is a church with a purpose.  We desire to be used by God to meet as many people as possible right where they are and help move them to where He wants them to be.  At the beginning of this year, we launched into a 3-year Vision Plan with the ultimate goal to saturate Otsego County with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to then let that bleed over into all of northern Michigan. 

This is a vision that we believe God gave to us and He has already blessed us in opening doors far ahead of our anticipated time-schedule.  For example, our 9am service each Sunday morning is now being aired live each on The Eagle, 101.5 FM. 

Realizing that many who are attending E-Free are new to our church since we introduced our 3-year vision plan, here is a quick overview of what we believe God has called us to do.  The vision plan focuses on the following areas:

The first area is that of our worship services and technology.  This will no doubt be the greatest way that we can saturate our county with the Gospel.  The vision includes a technology upgrade with new lighting and cameras that will allow us to broadcast the message down to the Classic service.  It will also open doors for us to stream our services on the internet and continue to utilize radio and even television to meet and move people all over northern Michigan. 

This technology will also equip us with state of the art environmental projection which will allow us to change the entire front of the auditorium in both our Contemporary and Classic services into multiple scenes and displays.  To be able to accomplish all of this and to utilize this new equipment to its fullest potential, the vision plan also includes the addition of a Technology Director to our staff

Another area of emphasis in our vision plan is in the area of connecting people.  We don’t just want to attract people to our church, we desire to also see all of these people connected into our church.  Our goal is to see 80% of our average Sunday morning adult attendance plugged into a Life Group or into one of our Equip-U Classes. 

With multiple services we know it will become more of a challenge to connect with people on Sunday morning.  That’s why our vision plan includes the addition of a cafĂ© here in our facility where people can take time before, in between, and after services to connect with each other.

A third area of emphasis has been a focal point here at E-Free for decades and that is our ministry to children and youth.  Our vision plan calls for the addition of a full-time Director of Children’s Ministry.  This is another area where God is already at work as we are now just a few weeks away from introducing this new staff member to our church family. 

Currently our nursery areas are in two separate locations in our facility.  The vision plan calls to relocate and expand our nurseries so they are all in the same location and are large enough to handle the growth we are experiencing.

As a church we are unique and blessed to have a counseling ministry that includes having a licensed Christian counselor on our staff.  Our vision calls for this area to be expanded through adding a female counselor to help minister to more woman, children and families.

Being outward focused is the heart of our vision.  That’s why this plan calls for us to return to seeing 20% of all of our offerings going
 back out to into our community and around the world.  In the same way that individuals are called in Scripture to tithe their money, we see this 20% as a way our church tithes from the resources God has blessed us with.

The final area centers on our facility.  God has blessed E-Free with an amazing facility, but over the years the wear and tear has taken its toll on our building.  Our vision plan calls for much needed maintenance and updating so that we can continue to use our building to its fullest potential.  Due to the increased usage and demand on our building, we also are looking to add a facility manager to our staff who can give full-time oversight to the stewardship of our building.

Through making these steps of faith in these areas, we believe that we can fulfill our purpose of meeting as many people as possible and moving them to where God wants them to be.  But to see this vision become reality, we need you to be involved. 
First, we need you to pray.  Nothing of eternal importance happens apart from prayer.  The creation of this vision plan was bathed with prayer and we want to be sure that its implementation is carefully wrapped in prayer as well.

One of the things we ask you to pray about is how you can be involved.  In the back foyer we have a Vision Tree which is filled with green apples that represent areas of our vision plan as well as their associated costs.  As God leads, you can actually pick one of those green apples through your gift for that item.  Under each green apple is a red apple which will visualize that God is taking the dream He gave us and turning it into reality for His honor and glory

This vision plan is aggressive and will challenge us as a church as it pushes us out of our comfort zones.  We believe that this is a good thing because there is always a challenge between the comfort of where we are and the potential of where we could be.   


Sunday, September 08, 2013

Connecting Christmas 2013 with Easter 2014


I know it is only the second Sunday of September and most people are certainly not thinking Christmas right now.  But Sunday morning we made a huge Christmas announcement that has the potential to result in some amazing fruit.  Before I spring into the announcement, let me preface it with some thoughts.

There is no question that Christmas and Easter are the two biggest Sundays of the year in the American Church.  But it seems to me that most churches all do the same thing, be it the annual Christmas cantata or live nativity to the dramatic passion plays at Easter time.  I once heard a very successful pastor of a very large church say that if we want to reach people that no one is reaching we have to do things that no one is doing.  That got me thinking about Christmas and Easter.  What can we do as a church on these two huge holidays that no other church is doing in order to reach thousands of people that no other church is reaching?  This is where the idea stemmed from.

Along with that, let me also say that I believe that every once in a while the church needs to take a risk - a Spirit-led risk.  In other words, if we are going to reach our potential when it comes to meeting as many people as possible right where they are in order to help move them to where God wants them to be, then we have to at times try something way out of the box - something that could work but it might also be a total bust.  This idea falls into that "risk" category as well.

So here is what we are looking to do at Gaylord E-Free.  This Christmas season we want to encourage everyone who is part of our church to put Christmas lights up this year, even if you usually don't.  That sounds easy enough, doesn't it?  But wait!  There's more!  This year, not only do we want you to put Christmas lights up on the outside of your house, but we then want you to leave them up AND ON all the way through Easter.  You read it right.  We ware looking for at least 500 homes in our church to have their Christmas lights up and on every  night (or at least every weekend night) all the way through Easter.  Now, what will this accomplish?

First, it is going to be a visual message to our community that Christmas is connected to Easter.  You can't really understand Christmas without also understanding Easter.

Second, it will hopefully create a "buzz" in our community.  By about Valentine's Day there should be a lot of talk about why so many people still have their Christmas lights on.  That buzz will then only build through St Patrick's Day and April Fool's Day as Easter is not until later in April this year.  We then hope to do some creative advertising towards the end of that time-frame making the connection between the Christmas lights and coming to Gaylord E-Free on Easter.

Finally, it will give each person in our church who participates a pretty easy platform to talk about Jesus between Christmas and Easter.  Undoubtedly, at some point a neighbor or co-worker is going to ask you why you still have your Christmas lights on. This will give you the easy opportunity to say, "I'm keeping my lights on until Easter because to really understand Christmas you have to understand Easter."  What a great opening to talk about Jesus to others and invite others to come to E-Free on Easter.

So plan now to get your Christmas lights dug out of the attic, or bought from the store so that you can hang them up before winter sets in so you won't have excuse later not to participate!  Will it work?  I have no idea but I can't wait to see how God might use it as we all take this Christmas risk together!

Merry Easter, Everyone!

Friday, September 06, 2013

Three Powerful Words


Phillip was one of Jesus’s disciples.  How did Phillip meet Jesus?  John 1:43 says, “The next day Jesus purposed to go in to Galilee, and He found Philip, And Jesus said to him, ‘Follow Me!’”  As a result, Phillip became a follower of Jesus.  Phillip was so excited about finding Jesus that he wanted to tell one of his closest friends whose name is Nathanael.  So how does Phillip invite Nathanael?  Notice two things.

First of all, he's very intentional.  He doesn't go, “You know, Jesus, it's really been great meeting you.  I'd love my friend Nathanael to get to know you and if I happen to come across Nathanael, I'll mention you to him.”  That's not what he does.  Look at what he does do in the next verse.  It says, “Phillip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him of whom Moses and the law and also the prophets wrote.  It's Jesus of Nazareth.’”  He's intentional.  He makes it a priority.  He basically says, “If I don't do anything else, I'm going to invite my friend Nathanael to come see Jesus.” 

Imagine what would happen if every believer had that mind-set going in to this next weekend.  I wonder what would happen if each of us would say, “If I don't accomplish anything else the rest of this week, there is a certain person this week that I'm going to be sure that I invite to come to church with me this Sunday.” 

Not only was Phillip intentional, he also took the initiative.  In this story, Nathanael gives some pushback to Phillip’s invitation.  Have you ever invited someone to church and they gave you some pushback?  They looked at you and said, “If I came to church the roof would cave in!”  Nathanael does just that and gives some pushback but it doesn't detour Phillip.  He still takes the initiative. 

You see Nathanael’s pushback in verse 46 when he asks, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”  Culturally, Nazareth was not the place travel agents planned vacations to in that day.  In fact, it was called by some “the city of garbage.”  It wasn't a place that people wanted to go visit.  So when Phillip says to Nathanael, “Hey, I found the messiah, he's from Nazareth,” Nathanael basically says, “Whoa, can anything good come out of Nazareth?” 

I love what Phillip does.  He doesn't argue the point.  He doesn't try to explain it.  He just looks at him and responds with three powerful words.  He looks at Nathanael and simply says, “Come and see!”  I love those words - Just “come and see.” 

And what was the result?  Was it effective?  Look at verse number 49.  It says, “Nathanael answers Jesus and says, Rabbi, you are the Son of God.  You are the king of Israel.”  Nathanael comes to follow Jesus because Phillip said three words to him - “Come and see.”
 

Folks, listen.  Good things happen when you invite people to church! 

Thursday, September 05, 2013

This is a FOOTBALL!


The legendary Vince Lombardi coached the Green Bay Packers, arguably the best team to ever set foot on a professional football field.  Once, after his Packers lost to a very inferior team, Coach Lombardi said nothing after the game.  The next morning these monstrous men who had spent most of their life on the gridiron, sat in silence, fearing the wrath of the coach who demanded so much from them.  When Lombardi entered the room he spoke softly.  He said, “Men, today we go back to the basics.”  He then held up a football and said emphatically, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” 

There are many times as I watch the church flounder to be the glorious church that God has called her to be that I went to hold my Bible high into the air and say, “Today we go back to the basics.  Church, this is a Bible.”  ”

The truth is that the church today seems to be more biblically illiterate than ever before.  I think there are several reasons for this.  One is all of modern electronics we have today in our entertainment world.  Between the television, DVD’s, movie theaters, IPODS, video games, computers and the internet, we have very little time left for the Bible.

Another problem is the disintegration today of absolute truth and the bent there is toward critical thinking that has caused us to spend more time questioning the Bible than learning the absolute truths and convictions that allow Scripture to change our lives.  Now don’t get me wrong, I think we should all be able to know more than a recitation of a creed.  We need to not only know what we believe but why we believe it.  But the need is to start first with what we believe.  I was able several years ago to have breakfast where the President of a well-known Bible College spoke.  He said very clearly that incoming freshmen know less about the Bible today than ever before.

When I taught my Contemporary Issues class at Grace College, the very first thing that I would do on the very first day of class is to have the students take out a piece of paper and from memory list the 66 books of the Bible in order and spelled correctly.  In seven years of teaching, I had less than five students that could do it without any errors.

Folks, listen, why don’t you give it a try?  Without looking in your Bible, pull out a blank sheet of paper, number 1 to 66 and see how close you can get.  Can you list the books of the Bible in order?  Can you spell them correctly?  My guess is that many (perhaps most) cannot do both.  So, let’s go back to the basics!  Is there really anything more basic to the Bible than knowing the books of the Bible in order and how to find them when the pastor says, “Let’s turn to…?”


Why not make the determination right now to tackle this one no matter how long it takes.  You may be able to do it in a week.  It may take a month.  For some, it may take a year.  That’s okay.  Learn three 3 books a week and in just 22 weeks you’ll be finished.