Publications

March Proclaimer 2017

January 2017

Pastor’s Paragraph

My new grandson is here! How exciting to welcome Dock Frederick Jones into the family. What a great Christmas gift for our family. But, it did not happen without some struggles. Having had two miscarriages, there was some fear and anxiety for 9 months. Then the little guy refused to come out and after 4 days in the hospital, he had to be taken by C-section. Jesus talked about this during his last week on earth, “a woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.” John 16:21. We now know that joy and forget the struggle.
This year, 2017, holds much promise for our church. We have seen God put together a great staff that is now working together better than ever. We have been praying about how to carry on ministry in this time, knowing that ministry today will not be like it has ever been before. This year will have many challenges. We know that our new staff plan will be unique and will bring challenges and will mean some sacrifices. But, we also know that from those challenges can come our greatest ministry yet! We believe our church is pregnant with a new and effective ministry for 2017. It is time to give birth to a new year and a new ministry. Join us in the challenges for this new year. Pray like never before! Minister like never before! Focus on new fruit like never before! And we will birth a new and exciting church.
The same is true for each of us individually. This year is not just another year to do what we are already doing. God has some new challenges for each of us. Take time to pray and listen to what God might have in mind for you as you start this new year. I am not talking about coming up with some new resolutions, but to hear God’s plans for you. He will tell us his plans if we will take the time to listen. I do believe that if we take time to listen and then make plans to reach God’s plan for us, we will give birth to the greatest year of our lives. God wants to use us like never before. Now is our time of anguish as we look forward and try to hear God’s plan, but we will forget all of that when that new plan is born! Wow! What a great year this is going to be!
Pastor John

December 2016

Pastor’s Paragraph

Can you believe it is already December? It is truly the most wonderful time of the year! It is the time when God came to earth to face life just like you and me. One man really struggled with this whole concept. He refused to go to church with his wife because he could not understand why a God, who is over all the earth, would ever become human. It was Christmas Eve and his wife asked him again to go to the service but to no avail. He was sitting at home reading the paper by a large picture window. It had begun to snow outside and the temperature was dropping fast. Suddenly, he heard a thump on his window. He jumped up to see what was going on, to maybe catch some kids throwing snowballs at the house or something, but he saw nothing. Then another thump came and he again got up to look. This time he saw a bird lying down below the window. He stepped back and watched as one in the flock of birds out on the front lawn rose up and flew right into the window. They were trying to get in out of the cold. So the man thought, “I have a big barn out back where these birds could get out of the cold. I will open the doors so they can go in.” He bundled up and went out and opened the barn doors. Then he went back in and watched. None of the birds were making their way back to the barn. Having to do something, the man went back out into the cold and tried to shoo the birds back into the barn. They would only fly up and then right back down on the front lawn. He went and got some food to try to lure them back into the barn but that did not work either. Then in his frustration he said, “If I could just become a bird, then I could lead them back into the barn.” At that moment the bells of the church rang out. It finally hit him why God became a human. In this Christmas season may we never forget why we celebrate. God became like you and me to become our salvation and help us find real life! What a glorious time of year!

Pastor John

November 2016

Pastor’s Paragraph

William Bradford, the governor of the Plymouth Colony in 1623 made this declaration:
“Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as he has protected us from the ravages and the savages, has spared us pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience; now, I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November ye 29 of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three, and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor, and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings.”
This incident became the basis for our yearly celebration of Thanksgiving. As Christ followers, thanksgiving should be a part of our daily life in Christ. We should not need a holiday each year to remind us of our need to be thankful. Yet, so many times we seem to forget how to feel thankful and how to express that thanks to God and to others. I am thankful that we have this holiday to remind us that all during the year we need to be a thankful people.
For some, this holiday has become something far from thankful. As the rush of Christmas buying seems to move earlier and earlier in the consumer’s practice of so-called “giving,” the holiday of Thanksgiving has even been transposed into a time to get the best deals on the hottest gifts for Christmas. We are taken from the thankful heart that the holiday encourages into this selfish, almost mean-spirited, shopper who has to get the particular gift before someone else gets it, and beware if someone gets in our way. Since this, too, is the month in which we vote for a new president and other officials, it can become a very cynical time. We don’t like our choices and yet we must be thankful that we are able to vote and have a say in who leads our government.
The problem is not one of having nothing for which to be thankful, but of our inability to see what we do have. We focus so much on what we desire to have that we forget the closet full of toys, clothes, games, and stuff with which we have been blessed but no longer use. Robinson Crusoe did not have much for which to be thankful after being marooned on an isolated island. Yet he said, “There is not any condition in the world so miserable but that one could find something positive for which to be thankful.” He listed the many blessings that he had, even though he did not have so many things we think we need. Our problem is a sight problem.
Helen Keller (who was blind and unable to hear) wrote words that should convict us as she stated what she would do if she had just 3 days of sight. Sometimes we who have sight daily fail to really see all we have. As we enter into this month of November, may it become a month in which we learn to see again: to see the extraordinary in the commonplace, to see the dawn of each new day, to see the light in people around us, to see the beauty of God’s wonderful creation, and so much more. May our eyes be opened to see how blessed we are with all our needs being met and so many extra things in our lives that half the world will never experience. May we see the privilege we have to vote even if we don’t like our choices. May we see the families and friends that God has brought into our lives and the strength that they give us. But most of all, may we see the wonderful love of God that is expressed to us in our salvation, in the ability to daily talk and walk with God, and in complete forgiveness and cleansing that is ours because of Christ’s great sacrifice for us. May God heal our blindness and help us to see.
Thanking you for all you do,
Pastor John

October 2016

Pastor’s Paragraph

When we read through the lists of kings in the Old Testament, we hear commentary about their lives as to how they either did what was good in God’s eyes or they did not. The ones that did good in God’s eyes were blessed in their rule by God. For many of those that did “good” in God’s eyes, there was an added line that said, “but the high places were not removed.” For those few that did do “good” and that did remove the high places, God really blessed their rule. We have seen some very good things happening here at Pennway. We are blessed by God. Yet God has shown me that I have allowed a “high place” to come into my life. You see, these high places were places where the people would go to worship instead of going to the temple in Jerusalem. They were settling for less than what God really wanted. For me, I have allowed some pride to come into my life and that has been a high place that God is helping me to remove. Pride is so subtle. In some situations I have almost had the feeling that I have God’s answer and I just need to tell others about it. I have not believed in the God in them enough to trust that God would help them see what needs to be done, even without me telling them. This pride has caused me at times to not listen as well as I needed to listen when others were talking. I have to give my answer and fix the problem. God has allowed me, through some painful revelations, to see that I need to remove this high place. I am trying to listen more and talk less. I am trying to really believe that God is at work in all of us. I know that it will take some time for me to change. But with God’s help and the help of many around me, this high place will be removed from my life. I do want to walk humbly with God. As I share this with you, I desire your prayers. I don’t want us to just be “good enough” in God’s mission here. I want us to be the best we can be. Maybe there are others in our church that have allowed some “high places” in their lives that need to be removed. These might not be big things and we might see God at work in our lives, but they might be things that are keeping us from being the best we can be for God. My prayer is that it will be said of us like it was about Josiah, “Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like Him who turned to the Lord as he did – with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength…” (2 Kings 23:25).
Pastor John

September 2016

Pastor’s Paragraph

In my discussions with the Leadership Board, it has become obvious that we need to decide what the priorities are for us this fall. We feel like this can be a great harvest time for our church and we want to be ready. I asked God to help me see these priorities directly from His word. My reading led me to Luke 15 where I believe we see the priorities for Jesus and I believe for us this fall. Jesus tells three stories in this chapter. Each of them makes clear a priority for us. The first story is of the lost sheep. The shepherd leaves the 99 sheep and goes out to find the one that is lost. Our first priority must be to find ways to go out and find people who are like this lost sheep. They might have wandered away or maybe have never found their way to the flock. As individuals, we need to love the people that God brings into our life and find ways to help them see God’s love. As a church, we have to find ways to get out of this building and into the community to care for needs and show people God’s love. One of the best ways we can do this is through the North Campus. In many ways we have just dumped this ministry on Pastor James. It is time for us get behind this new plant 100%. I will do all I can to be on the north side of the city as much as possible in order to help build contacts with the people there. I hope that we as the whole church can find ways to build contacts there. May we find what we do well and do it strategically – wherever we can help people find God’s love. The second story is about the woman who lost one of her 10 coins that she needs to get married. This is about a coin that is lost in the house. We have to get our house in order. There are people in our church that don’t know Jesus personally or others that are not growing in their relationship with Him. We have a new Groups catalog and a new Ministry catalog to help everyone find ways to get connected to God, to others, and to our world in ministry. We want all of our in-house ministries to be effective. Be praying about how God wants to use you in these areas this fall. We are not just looking for volunteers, but we are looking for disciples. We believe that one of our priorities is to help everyone in our church to be growing closer to Jesus. The last story is the story of the prodigal son. The son wanders away and loses everything. In his despair, he comes to himself and returns to his father. Our challenge here is to be like the father. If someone today comes to themselves like this young man (and we believe that they will since we are praying that way), the main place they will “return to the Father” is through our worship services. We must make our worship times a priority for us this fall. We need to make sure that we are responding like the Father responds to those who return. We need to run to them, not judge them. We need to throw on them the robe of acceptance. We need to put on their finger the ring of membership. We need to put the sandals of inclusion in our groups and ministries on their feet. And we need to throw a party for them to let them know we are elated they have returned to life! These are priorities to which I believe God is leading us this fall. Please join me in helping these become reality.
Pastor John

August 2016

Pastor’s Paragraph

This morning in my time with God I read from 1 Corinthians 3 and verses 6-9 spoke to me concerning what is happening at Pennway: “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God had been making it grow. So, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.” God is making things grow! We are in the middle of summer and we are seeing growth! That is unheard of for churches in Michigan. We have many of our people gone on the weekends for family reunions, vacations, going to the lake, or just traveling. Yet, we are still seeing growth! We are seeing new families come and come back regularly to our church. Our income is staying up when normally we take a severe dip in the summer. We have people asking to be baptized and families wanting their children dedicated. We have seen answers to prayer for healing, for family situations, for people being set free from prison! Doug has been faithful to make our worship times meaningful even though some of our band members and vocal team members have been gone. Becky has been faithful to make sure our children’s program on Sunday and other special times (VBS) are effective. James has been faithful making contacts and having Tuesday Worship times, building his core team for the fall launch of Pennway North campus. Taylor has been faithful with training our youth through weekly meetings, attending SYC and IYC, and seeing new people come. Lew has been faithful in making contacts with our homebound ministry and even had a night of hymn singing and ice cream. We are co-workers in God’s service here. And I can see God making things grow. We all have one purpose – to help people know and grow closer to Jesus. August is the time to gear up for a strong ministry in the fall. We will be asking for people to find their place in ministry for the fall. There will be a new ministry brochure for you to check out where God might use you this year. We will be signing up people for small groups that will start this fall. We will be offering discipleship opportunities for those who need it. You see, you are God’s field, God’s building. God is going to bring to us some excellent growth this fall. All indicators are pointing to that. But, we each need to be connected to God (prayer, disciplines, worship, etc.), connected to each other through smaller groups, and connected to the world in ministry. Now is the time to get onboard with what God is doing! I hope all of you will find your place in His building, His field!

Pastor John

July 2016

Pastor’s Paragraph

I share the feelings that Paul had as he wrote to the church at Philippi, “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:3-6. I am so thankful for this church and for all of you who are part of this church. I am reminded again of how blessed we are as we finish our 3 year “Together Changing Lives” campaign. During these last 3 years God has blessed us with a growing youth group, many of whom we have seen baptized; with an effective children’s program that has seen over 100 different kids be involved in our children’s ministry since February; our Prime ministry continually helping our Seniors feel a connection with each other; our core group for North Campus continuing to grow; our Spanish ministry reaching more and more families; Pastor Becky being able to become full-time this summer; and many more groups using our church facility (Homeschool, HSMA, Baby Café, Zumba, Christian Services, Sparrow’s Nest, the teachers from Kendon, and many weddings, Quinsenaras, recitals, showers, and open houses). These are able to happen in our church because we were able to replace our boiler with new heating and air-conditioning units, add new windows, new lighting, a new roof, and a new room for our Kidzone. God has been doing some amazing things. You have been giving to support these projects and this campaign so all of this could happen. Our project costs for the last 3 years has been $421,833.73. We had people pledge to give $379,639.76 toward this project and we have received to this day $310,252.68 toward those pledges. Some have not been able to give all they pledged for various reasons and we have had many give that did not pledge. Thanks for your faithfulness toward this church. Over the last 3 years we have averaged over $550,000 in annual income when we include our general budget. Thanks for your faithfulness!
God is at work. As we go through this summer we want to continue to celebrate all that God has done in our various ministries. If you are unable to be here on a Sunday you might want to catch up on what ministry we celebrated on the Sunday you missed. If you have to be gone on the weekend sometimes, don’t forget that this summer we are having Tuesday church as well every other week. We will be looking at the same scriptures we are studying on Sunday. When we come to the fall, we will take pledges to finish this project. “Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of you righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us, your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.”
2 Corinthians 9:10-11.
Pastor John

June 2016

Pastor’s Paragraph

Spring has finally come to us after a lingering winter. Spring is the time when all things are made new. We are praying that our church will be made new. This is an exciting time for us. The doors of opportunity are open for us as we go into the summer. There will be opportunities to get out in our community and meet, love, and care for people. As individuals, we will be out in our yard more, out walking more, in the park, at the zoo, having backyard barbeques, etc. just because the doldrums of the winter weather is past. We can be in the sun again! Please pray that God will open the doors for us to touch lives. Pray as Paul prayed in Colossians 4:3, “… that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.” Paul does not pray for the chains to be gone nor that he gets out of prison. He just prays for an open door. May we do that as we go into this summer and create opportunities to be with people. Pray also for us as a church that doors will open for us to touch our community. I need some people to join me as an outreach team to help us find ways to be out with our community. I think we have several opportunities to volunteer to help with the various festivals that come to town. I believe there are ways we can help serve those in our community, thus building some strong relationships with people. I need a team that will help me plan some of these things for our church. The summer is a great opportunity, and it begins this month! As we hear of the plans that James and the core group for North Campus have for this summer, we here at South Campus should have the same drive to build God’s church. We are not here to just keep up the status quo. We are not here to just keep the doors open. We are here to build God’s kingdom. We are here to help many people know and grow closer to Jesus. Pray about this. Join me on a planning team to help plan some events to help our church people get out in the community. “Don’t you have a saying, ‘It is still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest!” John 4:35. We might think, well summer is here and we will gear up for reaching more people come the fall. We might think, well, I will be gone a lot this summer because this is my time to get away. So, we might be thinking, four months until the harvest. I tell you, open your eyes! The fields are ripe for harvest! If you need some help with knowing how to reap, please come and talk with one of the staff. We believe it is time for the harvest!

Summer Connection Class
One of the classes offered this summer will be one that will study the books, “The Good and Beautiful Life” and “The Good and Beautiful Community” by James Bryan Smith. These are looking at building the character of Christ, following the Spirit, extending grace, and demonstrating love. We will begin the Sunday after Memorial Day and we will meet in the fellowship hall at 9:00am.

Pastor John

May 2016

Pastor’s Paragraph

Spring has finally come to us after a lingering winter. Spring is the time when all things are made new. We are praying that our church will be made new. This is an exciting time for us. The doors of opportunity are open for us as we go into the summer. There will be opportunities to get out in our community and meet, love, and care for people. As individuals, we will be out in our yard more, out walking more, in the park, at the zoo, having backyard barbeques, etc. just because the doldrums of the winter weather is past. We can be in the sun again! Please pray that God will open the doors for us to touch lives. Pray as Paul prayed in Colossians 4:3, “… that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.” Paul does not pray for the chains to be gone nor that he gets out of prison. He just prays for an open door. May we do that as we go into this summer and create opportunities to be with people. Pray also for us as a church that doors will open for us to touch our community. I need some people to join me as an outreach team to help us find ways to be out with our community. I think we have several opportunities to volunteer to help with the various festivals that come to town. I believe there are ways we can help serve those in our community, thus building some strong relationships with people. I need a team that will help me plan some of these things for our church. The summer is a great opportunity, and it begins this month! As we hear of the plans that James and the core group for North Campus have for this summer, we here at South Campus should have the same drive to build God’s church. We are not here to just keep up the status quo. We are not here to just keep the doors open. We are here to build God’s kingdom. We are here to help many people know and grow closer to Jesus. Pray about this. Join me on a planning team to help plan some events to help our church people get out in the community. “Don’t you have a saying, ‘it is still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest!” John 4:35. We might think, well Summer is here and we will gear up for reaching more people come the fall. We might think, well, I will be gone a lot this summer because this is my time to get away. So, we might be thinking, four months until the harvest. I tell you, open your eyes! The fields are ripe for harvest! If you need some help with knowing how to reap, please come and talk with one of the staff. We believe it is time for the harvest!

Summer Connection Class
One of the classes offered this summer will be one that will study the books, “The Good and Beautiful Life” and “The Good and Beautiful Community” by James Bryan Smith. These are looking at building the character of Christ, following the Spirit, extending grace, and demonstrating love. We will begin the Sunday after Memorial Day and we will meet in the fellowship hall at 9:00am.

Pastor John

April 2016

Pastor’s Paragraph

Spring is the time when all things are made new.  Here at Pennway, we are looking at ways we can make things new.   We are very much aware that there are ways that we can improve and become more effective.  Some of these things are simply deciding what really matters and be better at doing those things.  While I was away, I spent a week at Disney with my kids and grandkids.  I was so impressed with how well they do things there.  They are focused on the details and making sure that what they do, they do well.  We are trying to adopt the same idea around here.  God deserves our best.  So, we are working to make our worship, our youth, our children’s ministry, our PRIME group, our small groups the best they can be.  We want all people to be connected to God, connected to other believers, and connected to the world in mission.  If you have ideas for how we can improve these, please let the staff know.  But, some of what we need to do will mean getting rid of the old and becoming new.  Jesus said, “No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one.  Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old.  And no one pours new wine into old wineskins.  Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined.  No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins.” Luke 5:36-38.  Some of the “new” will mean getting more color on the walls and lighting in various areas of our church.  Some of the getting rid of the “old” will mean moving out some things that are outdated – some old TVs, some furniture, moving the organ to a new spot, lights, etc.  If any of you have some questions about any of these, please call me (and not others).  Our hope is that nothing taken out will fail to be replaced with “new” that is better.  But, getting rid of the “old” will mean some changes in programming as well.  Please know that we are only doing what we believe to be what God desires.  Our hope is that we will be willing to become new wineskins into which God will pour the new wine.  That will mean each of us will need to strive to become new wineskins.  That will mean we fall before God with hearts that are open for God to help us become whatever He needs us to be.  One of the ways to better ourselves is to attend the 360 convention this April 16 at South Church.  Also, pray with us as we strive to be filled with new wine.  Our goal is to help people come to know and grow closer to Jesus.  We desire to see the Lord daily adding to our church those who are being saved.   There are so many more that need Jesus.

Pastor John

March 2016

Pastor’s Paragraph

In my travels I was able to touch base with some of my relatives. To catch up on some of them was painful. So many have made bad choices along the way and have messed up their lives. One cousin has been married 4 times, has messed up kids and his finances are negatively affected. This is one with whom I was very close during our teen years. We both grew up in Christian homes. How did this happen?

God is teaching me that His heart’s desire is that we obey Him; that we follow Him to the life He has planned for us. God did not have this messed up life planned for my cousin. At some point, he chose to make his own choices and not follow God’s guidance. That was the sin of Adam and Eve. They ate the apple because it would make them like God and be able to make their own choices. The sin in the days of Noah was that they did not seek God’s direction in their choices. They married whomever they desired to marry. Jesus came to provide a way for us to be forgiven and be able to come back into a close relationship with God so that God would able to lead us to the best way. People are lost, not because they are headed to hell, but because they are making choices without God’s guidance. They face these choices with no help. They are lost.

In this season of Lent leading up to the great celebration of Easter, may we seek God like never before. Without a close walk with Him, we will be lost in our choices and not be able to hear God’s guidance on the choices in life. How sad to have to face these choices alone! We exist as a church to help people get connected to God and hear His voice. We provide connections with other believers so that each one can face their life choices with the help of others on the road. And we strive to connect with the world that is in need of help with their choices. So many are missing the life God has planned for them.

Back to my cousin – He has come back to God and found His forgiveness. He is now walking with God on a daily basis, has a great marriage, is making wise choices, and has a church that supports and encourages Him each week. That is why Jesus died, so we can be restored to this relationship. Jesus came back to life on Easter and gave us His Holy Spirit so that we could hear His voice in all of our choices. God has a great life planned for each of us. May we walk closely and hear His guidance so we don’t mess up our lives with bad choices.

Pastor John

November 2015

Pastor’s Paragraph

November is the month in which we are reminded to be thankful, something we should be every day of every month. When Robinson Crusoe was wrecked on his lonely island, he drew up two columns that he called the evil and the good. He was cast on a desolate island, but he was still alive, not drowned as his ship’s company were. He was divided from mankind and banished from human society, but he was not starving. He had no clothes, but he was in a hot climate where he did not need them. He was without means of defense, but he saw no wild beast such as he had seen on the coast of Africa. He had no one to whom he could speak, but God had sent the ship so near to shore that he could get out of it all the things necessary for his basic wants. So, he concluded that there was not any condition in the world so miserable but that one could not find something positive for which to be grateful.
I am so grateful for being able to work here as your pastor. God has blessed us with a great staff, a great leadership team, many people involved in ministry, and people who faithfully support the church financially. God has blessed us with growth and people making new commitments. I am thankful for my family, my wife, my health, and how God continues to meet all of my needs. I am thankful for each of you who call this your church. I am truly blessed. May we all realize that again this month, and every day this coming year.
An ambitious young man called on his pastor and promised to tithe (give 10%), and so together they knelt in prayer to make the promise and to ask God’s blessing on the young fellow’s career. He was only making $40 a week at that time, so he gave $4. But, before many years his income had leaped into higher brackets and he was giving $500 a week. He decided he had better call on the minister and see if he could somehow be released from his tithing promise – it was getting too costly. He told the pastor, “it was no problem when I was only tithing $4 each week – but now it is up to $500 – I simply can’t afford that.” The old pastor said, “I do not see how you can be released from your promise, but we could kneel down and ask God to cut your income back to about $40 again and then your tithe would only be $4.” You see, tithing, giving, and being thankful are all ways we acknowledge who is the source of all that we have. We do have so much for which to be thankful. Remember that!

Pastor John

October 2015

Pastor’s Paragraph

From the Proclaimer:

I am moved this day by how many people are filled with anger and hate. I watched as earlier this week two members of a high school football team tried to take out a referee during a game with cheap shots because he had made some bad calls. Supposedly, the coach even encouraged this action. They tried to justify it saying that the man had made some racial slurs. Even though that is very evil, do we have the right to attack someone else for what they say? We saw this brought close to home yesterday as a fireman, less than a mile from our church who was collecting money for a childhood disease, was struck and killed by someone who got angry with him. We don’t know all that was said, but nothing could have justified what was done. The man turned his truck around and ran the fireman over, killing him. How sad! How sad that people in our world can get so easily angered that they would do such things. Yet, we see it all around us. Anger is an emotion that we all feel. We are not evil for feeling anger. Anger is part of our human experience. It is what we do with our anger that becomes either good or evil. Paul told the Ephesians not to let their anger control them. “In your anger, do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Eph. 4:26-27. As Christ followers, we are called to higher-plane living. One of the fruits of the spirit is self control. If we fail to show self control in our anger, we will ruin any witness we have with others. I have seen this in athletic competition. Some people hate to play in Church softball or basketball leagues because the people there act so unchristian. They let their competitive nature lead to angry responses that are anything but Christ-like. I know that for myself, I have let anger in those situations make me say or do something that was not Christ-like. It is a real emotion. But, “In facing up to our anger, we need to realize that no one else causes us to be angry. Someone else’s words or actions may become the occasion of our anger, but the cause lies deep within us—usually our pride, selfishness, or desire to control.” (Jerry Bridges) So, how do we practice self control when anger comes? Let me suggest a few things. First, we need to walk in the spirit daily so that we are not living for ourselves but for Jesus. When we are living for Jesus, we learn to walk humbly and respond in love to people around us, no matter what they do. Having that as our lifestyle can help us when the anger comes. Second, it can help us to become people of forgiveness. Jesus tells the parable about the man who was forgiven a great debt and yet did not forgive a small debt for someone else (Matthew 18:23-35). It is like we are to forgive others not because they deserve it, but because we have been forgiven so much by God. Forgive. If we have things that we have not forgiven that others have done to us, then we can become bitter. Bitterness can make us have a short fuse and react rather than respond to people. When we have an attitude of forgiveness then we are more ready to understand why someone might have done what they did. Third, if we can look at each person we meet as someone that Jesus loves and find ways to pray for them, even on the spot, we can learn to let our anger go. That feeling of anger will accomplish nothing in our desire to love these people. For example, if I take time to pray a short prayer for the drivers of the cars around me as I drive, I realize that I am much more patient with them. I am more ready to understand why they might have done what they did. And then when the anger comes, don’t let the sun go down while we are still angry. In essence, we are challenged to deal with our anger asap. Count to ten, go for a walk, call your accountability partner, etc. Find some ways that work for you to help you let go of angry feelings. We can deal with these feelings in constructive ways. Anger is a dangerous emotion and if we do not learn to deal with it, we will hurt our witness and we will hurt others. Let God’s Spirit teach us how to deal with this.
Pastor John

September 2015

Pastor’s Paragraph

I am writing this article while sitting in my brother-in-law’s house in West Virginia. What a beautiful state. While normally this visit would have been exciting and joy-filled, to be with family here and be able to be out in the mountains and such, this trip is not so joy-filled. My brother-in-law is dealing with the disease of Alzheimer’s. It is difficult to see this man who has been a principle in the schools around here, who had his PhD and several masters degrees now not able to put a sentence together. While this is not the joy-filled time of the past, this is still family and we still need to be here to help care for him. It is messy and hard work this time. Sometimes in the church family we only desire to be together for joy-filled times. If we are not feeling that, we consider going to another church where maybe we will feel that. Or, we complain about things and avoid dealing with the hard stuff of being a family. Yet, the very definition of being a family means that we are there for the hard times and the good times. When family gets messy and difficult, those are the times when we can show the love which Jesus said would be our defining characteristic. This is family.

At Pennway we have seen God doing some amazing things. We have had the joy-filled times together as we have seen some people healed, some lives changed, some new people being added to our family, some of our own people stepping up and taking leadership of ministries, and just the joy of being in God’s presence each week. But, there is some hard work to do. This too is part of being a family. We understand that God’s vision for us is to be mobilized to help transform people into multiplying, committed followers of Jesus. That means hard work for all of us as we build relationships with people who do not know Jesus yet. That means that we each find our ministry to which God is calling us to help people grow closer to Jesus and help the church be effective. This means that we sacrificially give of our resources to the church so that ministries can continue to happen. And this means that we give time to the role of discipling each other so that all of us can grow. We will have some tough times as people get older and face illnesses and even death. We are family, so we need to be there for each other.

As we go into this fall we plan to see much fruit. We are moving into a study plan for our sermons and small groups that will help us to look at what we believe. The services and groups will be places where others can be invited to come and think about what they believe and hear what we believe. I know that if we will do the hard work of being a family that welcomes all people and is there for each person, we will see a great harvest. What joy the harvest will bring to us! While it is hard to be here with my brother-in-law, I know that he is in God’s hand and will someday soon have a new body with a clear mind. When we do the hard work of being a family in the church, we can know that there will be a day soon of a great harvest. God is at work! We are in God’s hands! “Then away to the work we must go and join the reaping of grain.”
Pastor John

July 2015

Pastor’s Paragraph

A man who had not been a Christian very long came to his pastor asking him to pray for him to find a different job. “The place I work is so rotten you wouldn’t believe it,” he said. “I hear nothing but foul language and dirty stories, and there’s not one other Christian there, as far as I can tell.” The pastor replied, “I can’t pray for you to get a different job. Why would I pray for God to take the only source of light out of a dark place? That’s crazy. Why do you think that God leaves us here on the earth after we’re saved anyhow?” The man thought and then said, “I never thought of it that way. Do you really think…?” The pastor replied, “Here is what I will do. I’ll join in prayer with you. I want you to call me every morning before you go to work and we’ll pray together that God will keep your light shining down there.” For two weeks the man called the pastor and they prayed together each morning. Then he stopped calling. A week later the pastor saw him and said, “Hey, I’m missing my wake-up call.” The man replied, “Listen, since we started praying, three of the guys at work have come to know Christ and I go down early in the morning so we can have a Bible study together before work. I don’t need to call you, but keep praying.” The pastor replied, “OK, now you’ll probably get your new job. God has a core of light there now and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if you got transferred to another place that’s just as rotten as this one was when you started.”(Jerry Cook, Love Acceptance and Forgiveness, page 73)
That is different than Christians tend to think these days, isn’t it? Many times we are only concerned with our comfort and feel that is what God should be concerned with most. Instead, God is more concerned about building His kingdom than He is about our comfort. Don’t get me wrong, God loves us and wants to help us have the best life possible. But, that might include being somewhat uncomfortable so we can develop relationships with pre-Christians many of whom we might lead to a loving Christ. God has placed us in our neighborhoods, in our places of work, in the various school groups, etc. so that we can be His light to those who don’t see. There are people with whom we can develop relationships and show God’s love. There are people in those places with whom we can pray as they face problems and when they are sick, pray for their healing. If everyone where you live and where you work are Christians, then maybe you need to pray for other opportunities to develop relationships with pre-Christians. Maybe it means that God desires you to change jobs, or neighborhoods, or join a new organization or group, or go to a new health club or whatever. It is so very clear to me that God’s vision for our church at this time, in this place, is that each one in our church look for ways to lead people to Christ. That means that each of us needs to develop relationships and grow in those relationships to the place where we can invite them to church or to a Bible study or a service project. Maybe we need to share our faith with them and help them know God loves them. This is not about getting more people to join our church, but about helping more people come into a personal relationship with God. We can change our world as we see these opportunities and make the most of them. Love people enough to desire them to know God.
Pray about your situation. Pray for the people who cross your path. Pray that God will help you to love these people with an extraordinary love. Pray that God will help you to show others God’s love. If you need someone to pray with you each morning for a while, let me know. God is ready to do some great things through each of you. Listen closely to His leading. You are God’s light in this dark world. We can shine out God’s love and change our world! Isn’t that exciting!

Pastor John

June 2015

Pastor’s Paragraph

There is no such thing as partial commitment. When the pilot of a giant airliner is speeding down the runway, there is a certain point where he cannot decide to remain on the ground. When he crosses that line, he is committed to the air, or the plane crashes to the ground. Unfortunately, churches are filled with members who have never left the ground. They sit there for years gunning their engines. They are always preparing, getting ready. They have been planning on it, meaning to, wanting to, trying to, going to, aiming to, hoping to, etc. But the tragedy is they never leave the ground. God is doing great things in our church and lives are being changed. God has helped us to have success with so many different things: lives changed, people healed, hope restored, good Bible studies and small groups, and growing children and youth programs. We believe that God has many other goals for us that are reachable in His power. God’s goal for us of 50 persons baptized by next Easter is reachable, but it will mean commitment. It will mean that each of us will need to foster relationships with people who don’t know Jesus yet. We will need to show them love, talk about what God is doing for us, and invite them to come with us to some “God” thing. It means a real commitment on our part. And summer might just give us the opportunity for these relationships.
The struggle for us in commitment is a spiritual struggle. It is the struggle about which Paul wrote when he said, “Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. This is your spiritual act of worship.”(Romans 12:1) Here we see that we are called to commit our whole lives to God. Jesus taught that we need to lose our lives in order to find them. That is commitment. Yet, many of us are too busy to be committed to any other thing and we have adopted the pattern of living a non-committal life. I am putting the challenge before us to make this a turning point in our church. I hope that we can start now to move to a new phase in the church. That will mean a new commitment. Our vision is to be a people mobilized to help transform people into multiplying, committed followers of Jesus. May we commit to this vision. As we go into the summer, may we make some new commitments to God.
• Commit to being a part of worship each week. If you are on the road, make sure that you find a church to attend. When possible, try to make it back for worship here. God deserves our worship.
• Commit to giving each week to this church. Commit to regular budget giving and to giving toward your pledge for the building fund. Even if you are on the road, mail in your tithe and
offering, or get on the plan to have it automatically debited from your account. The needs of the church continue.
• Commit to serving God’s church in some capacity. Find a ministry that you can join and give time to each week, or at least each month. Be involved in VBS, Summer Movie Nights, or some other outreach event.
• Commit to being a part of a small group. If you don’t have one, start one. If you need help, ask the pastors. We really do need each other.
• Commit to talking about God with people this summer. Find those relationships that are
growing and mention God. Move the relationship to a deeper level.
• Commit to offering your whole life as a living sacrifice to God, to serve Him first in all that you do. This means being transformed into the image of Christ.

I will make these commitments to you myself. I will also commit to do all I can to help you in your commitments. If we can make these commitments, I believe that we can change our world. God has great things planned for Pennway as we move to this new phase of ministry.

Pastor John

May 2015

Pastor’s Paragraph

One pastor was asked about how he motivates his volunteers to serve with joy and passion. His response was clear, “We have to stay laser-focused on a common vision, mission and strategy and eliminate all other options.” As a leadership board, we are trying to clarify these for our church so that we can have that laser- focus. We are convinced that God’s mission for us is to help people know and grow closer to Jesus. That is our mission, and we believe that is the mission for all churches. But what is God’s vision for us here at Pennway at this time in our history? There have been a lot of different visions for this church through the years. These have led to the building of these excellent facilities that we have at this time. These visions of the past have led to many effective seasons of growth for the church. But in this season, at this time in our history, what is God’s vision? We on staff and those on the leadership board have been discussing this for a while now and at this point we define our vision (a picture of what we believe God wants us to be) as this: The people of Pennway mobilized by God’s Power to help transform people into multiplying, fully- committed followers of Jesus (based on Acts 1:8). Each of these words is important to that vision. Let me explain. We want our people to be mobilized, not stagnant, to go out and love people and help people to understand about God’s love for them. This is a shift from the past when we tried to create a place here where people would come and hear about God and find God here, more of an attraction model. Now we are looking at motivating our people to go out and be the church seven days a week. We know that those outside the church, the irreligious people of our community, are not going to come to church to find God. They have no interest in church. But, if we can be the church in this community where God has placed us, loving people with God’s love, we can sow the seeds that will reap a harvest of souls. We want to help them connect with God, their Creator. Our goal is not just to help them find God, but to help them become fully- committed followers of Jesus. This involves helping them become connected to other believers who can help them keep growing in their relationship with God. Our desire is to use God’s plan for changing lives – multiplication. Jesus started with 11 fully-committed followers who helped others become fully-committed followers who helped others become fully-committed followers, etc. Within 50 years the followers were spread all over the known world. We want all of the Christ followers of Pennway to be connected to the world producing fruit in others, becoming multiplying, fully-committed followers of Jesus. We want to be laser-focused on that vision.

I believe that God has some WIGs (Wildly Important Goals) for us to work on for this year – from now until Easter of 2016. These are: 1) baptize 50 people 2) Average 450 different people involved in ministry each month. 3) 150 people involved in a connecting group of some kind. Our strategy is to have everyone involved in Connecting with God, Connecting with other believers, and Connecting with the world around us. We want to keep our focus on these things. These will be our measures of success. I really want all of us to understand this so we can be focused. As we go through the book of Acts over the next few months, I hope we can see these principles for the church that worked then and will work today. God is at work!
Now, we need to understand that to be laser-focused will mean that we have to say “no” to dozens of other visions, strategies, programs and ways of being the church that don’t fit into our mission, vision, and strategy. Saying “no” to some things is hard, but it will be worth it to follow where God is leading us right now. If you have any questions about any of this, please talk with me or someone on the leadership team. Let’s keep discussing this until we all are on board and know our focus. God will bring the harvest, I do believe!

Pastor John

April 2015

Pastor’s Paragraph

As I move into this season of Easter, I am more aware of the suffering that Jesus endured than ever before. Mel Gibson gives a clear picture of all that Jesus suffered in those final hours of His life in his movie, “The Passion of Christ”. I hope to watch this movie every Lenten season. I need that picture in my head of all that Jesus suffered. That should have been me. May I never forget, may I never forget!
But, what really is the passion of Christ? What was it that moved His heart, that motivated His life? Although He came to earth to die in our place, His suffering was not His passion. Although He knew that to take on the sins of the entire world would be very painful; this was not His passion. Although He knew people would reject Him and that even His disciples would desert Him; that was not His passion. His passion was what motivated Him to be willing to do all these things. His passion was what He lived for every moment of His life. His passion was what brought Him back to life on that third day. His passion was love.
Jesus had an intense love for the Father that made Him willing to do anything that the Father asked Him to do. This love was seen even as boy in how He had to be in the temple reading the scriptures. It was the passion of His life to be with His Father. All through His life we see Jesus taking time to push away from the crowds to spend time alone with His Father. It might have been early in the morning or at evening or even all through the night. When He came to His greatest trial (the night that He would be betrayed, accused, beaten, sentenced and killed), He turned to some special time with the Father. He agonized with the Father over what was ahead for Him, but through it all, His love for the Father is seen in how He desired His Father’s will more than His own.
Jesus also had an intense love for the people around Him. No matter where Jesus went, when He found people in need or hurting, He would be filled with compassion for them. It was this love that brought Him down from the comforts of heaven in the first place. As He came into Jerusalem, this love moved Him to tears when His heart broke for those that would not listen to the message. This love for people is seen in His intense desire for all to know God personally. He would not let the religious games that people played, nor the ongoing sin that people would hold on to, stop Him from trying to help them see the way. This passion was a compassion that would not let Him stop short of giving His whole life for those who might receive Him.
Let me ask you a question: What is your passion? If they were to make a movie about the passion of your life, what would it be? Would it be your family for whom you feel like you do everything yet have very little time to spend with them? Would it be your job that takes most of your “awake” time yet seems to make little difference in this world? Would it be to be liked by people around you, even though you know you will never please everyone? As Christians, meaning to be “Christ-like,” our passion should be the very same passion that Jesus had. LOVE.

– an intense love for God, our Father; a willingness to do anything that God asks us to do; taking time to be alone and talk with God and listen to Him.
– a passion for people as well; being moved with compassion to help the hurting, doing all we can to help others discover God’s love; to move out of our comfortable pews and find ways to get
involved with people.

What is your passion? What is your motivation for life? May we all find a new love for God and for people that gives our life new meaning. May it be our passion!

Pastor John

March 2015

Pastor’s Paragraph

How would you feel if you came into the sanctuary next week and we had a noose hanging from the middle of the church, or if we had a guillotine on our stained glass window, or if we had an electric chair fastened to the wall in the front of the church? What would the world around us think if we had a church like that, where we worshiped these tools of execution? Most would think that we were nuts or sadistic or evil. Yet, for these last 2000 years that is exactly what the church has done. Sometimes we forget that the cross is the electric chair of that day and age. In fact, it was one of the worst ways of killing someone. It was a terrible way to die!
Yet, we have in front of our church this tool for killing people. Many of us wear gold images of these intruments around our necks and have them printed on our letterheads. Why? Why is the cross lifted up and revered by all Christians? Why do we sing about this cross and fall before this cross and hold it so sacred? This is a very important question for us to answer. This is a very relevant question for this time of lent, leading up to Easter. Let me take a few minutes to answer.
First of all, it is not the cross that we revere, but what happened on that cross. Every one of us has chosen to not follow God’s ways (Romans 3:23). The Bible calls this sin. Each of us was built with a need to have a relationship with our creator. But, when we choose to not follow His ways, He lets us. The result is death = separation from God (Romans 6:23). We can try all sorts of things to get back with God – like going to church, being good, doing the right things, etc. – but all of these will fall short of making up for our rebellion (Ephesians 2:8-9). God saw us in this hopeless situation and sent His only Son to come to earth and make things right. He didn’t just come to show us the way. He came to die in our place, so that we can be restored to our relationship with God (Romans 5:8, John 3:16). It is like we were on death row and going to the electric chair. But, at the last minute, this man steps in, sits in our place, and dies so that we don’t have to. That is what Jesus did on the cross. That cross was for us, it was what we deserve. But Jesus, who was guiltless, died in our place so that we can be forgiven (guiltless). So, what Jesus did on that cross is very important to us. It is the only way that we can get back to a right relationship with God.
But, this cross is also important for us because it is the way that we are able to enter into God’s presence and communicate with Him. When Jesus died on the cross, the curtain in the Temple, dividing the holy of holies (where the priest would go to be in God’s presence once a year) was torn in two. Because of the cross, we can enter the very presence of God, talk to Him and hear from Him – the God of the universe! Wow! So the cross is our passport into God’s presence.
This cross matters because it is our victory. It is on the cross that having to follow the law is defeated. It is on the cross that evil is defeated. It is through the cross that God enters into hell and wins the battle over death so that we can have eternal life. (Colossians 2:15) And the cross that we hold up is an empty cross. Jesus defeated death and rose again – victory!
This cross is also important to us because this is what we are asked to take up and carry. Jesus said, “If any one would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23). This gift of forgiveness given to us on the cross is not forced upon us. We must receive it into our lives. We must confess our sin that caused Him to go to the cross. We must admit our part in His death. Then we will be forgiven. To take up this cross also means to follow the call that God has for our lives. God created us for a purpose. God calls us on a mission. We have a reason for being on this earth and that is our cross. Just like going to the cross was Jesus’ reason for coming to earth, our cross is our reason for being on earth. To take up our cross means we say, “yes” to our mission and to all God wants us to do.
So, in this season, may we worship at the cross. May we understand it is a tool for death, it meant great suffering. But may we also see that it provides for us life! Lift high the cross!

Holding to the cross,
Pastor John

February 2015

Pastor’s Paragraph

Well, it is February, the month when we emphasize love. Love is something that we all need and we can’t survive without it. I read of a very sad story of a man in Hamburg, Germany. The skeletal remains of the man were found in his apartment, sitting in front of a TV set, with Christmas tree lights twinkling nearby. The lights were from a long past year. The man had been dead for 5 years and nobody had missed him. He was divorced, disabled, and had been obsessively reclusive. The other tenants just went about their business and it was not until his bank account ran dry (from automatic payments of his rent and utilities) that his landlord investigated. How sad it was to not have anyone care about him! Jesus made it clear that the main thing we need to be about is love. Love is something we all talk about and yet fail to really understand. Let me refer to the love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, to get some specifics of how we need to step up our game in this area of love. To love means that we are patient with people when they do stuff we don’t understand. We are kind to them no matter what. Love means that we don’t compare ourselves to others so that we don’t envy them or boast about ourselves or let pride mess up relationships. We never dishonor others if we love them. Love means that we don’t just live for ourselves but that we are always looking at others and their needs. Love is not easily angered nor does it keep a record of all the wrongs done in the past. It completely forgives because the person is more important than the offense. Love never delights in evil so that it never passes on negative stuff about others. Instead, love rejoices in the truth and the good in others. Love always protects others, hopes the best for others, perseveres in believing in others, and it never fails to do what it takes to care for them. This is what love really is all about. How are we doing with that? How are we doing in loving our spouse, our family, friends, church family, neighbors, even our enemies?
Now, I am not writing this to make us all feel terrible about how little we love others. I am challenging us to evaluate how we love because to follow Jesus is all about loving like this. We need to love our spouses, our families, our church family, our neighbors, and yes, even our enemies like this. We can’t do this in our own power. We have to let God work through us to teach us this love. When we understand how completely God loves us, it really helps us see how to love others (read Isaiah 53 again and see the love that Jesus has for us in His sacrifice). When we live in that complete love, we are free to not worry about whether other people love us. Then, we can focus on just loving them, no matter how they respond. When we know we are loved by God, there is real freedom! And then when we live each day in the Spirit, the Spirit produces in us this kind of love. It is the first fruit of the Spirit. The key is to let God work in us. We fail to love like this because we get lazy and self focused.
Ole and Olga lived on a farm in Iowa. Olga was starved for affection. Ole never gave her any signs of love, and Olga’s need to be appreciated went unfulfilled. At her wit’s end, Olga blurted out, “Ole, why don’t you ever tell me you love me?” Ole stoically responded, “Olga, when we were married I told you that I loved you, and if I ever change my mind, I’ll let you know.” Unfortunately, people around us need to know they are loved and it needs to be shown to them over and over again. May we never let anyone be like the man in Germany. May we live the love that Jesus said would be our trademark as believers. Love is what will change our world. Love is what the world, like Olga, is starving for.

Pastor John

January 2015

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A salesman passed the corner each day, and after a week he began to pity the boy who was striving to sell his puppy. He stopped and said, “Son, do you really want to sell this dog?” The boy replied, “I certainly do!.” “Well you’re never going to sell him until you learn to ‘see it big.’ What I mean is, take this dog home, clean him up, doll him up, raise your price, make people think they’re getting something big, and you’ll sell him.” That noon the salesman came by and there was the boy. The puppy was groomed, perfumed, and beribboned along side a big sign: TREMENDOUS Puppy for Sale – $5,000. The salesman gulped and realized he had forgotten to tell the boy about the “Keeping-It-Simple” principle. That evening he stopped by to tell the boy the other half of the formula, only to discover that the boy was gone, the puppy was gone and the sign lay there with “SOLD” written across it in big letters. The salesman couldn’t believe it. This kid couldn’t have sold the dog for $5,000. His curiosity got the best of him and he rang the boy’s doorbell. The boy came to the door and the salesman blurted, “Son you didn’t really sell that dog for $5000 now, did you?” The boy replied, “Yes, sir, I did and I want to thank you for all your help. The salesman said, “How in the world did you do it?” The boy replied, “Oh it was easy. I just took two $2,500 cats in exchange!”
The lesson learned from this story is that we need to think big. As we go into this New Year, it is time again to be thinking about what goals we might have. You see, unless we take time to evaluate and plan for this year, it will be no better than the past year. I believe that this could be the best year of our life. I believe that God has great things planned for us this year, but we have to catch sight of that vision, that goal that he sets before us. Paul tells us to “press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” (Philippians 3:12b) Jesus has called you to be His child for a reason. I would encourage you to take the time to spend at least an afternoon in prayer, seeking God’s guidance. Ask Him what His plans are for you this year. What goals does He have for your family, your job, your ministry at church and in the world, and what goals does he have for your relationship with God? As the star was to the Magi and as the angels were to the shepherds, God wants to lead us into a great year. Take the time to hear His dreams and goals for you. Then take the next step:
An African American young child was growing up in Cleveland, in a home which he later described as “materially poor but spiritually rich.” One day a famous athlete, Charlie Paddock, came to his school to speak to the students. At the time, Paddock was considered the “fastest human being alive.” He told the children, “Listen! What do you want to be? You name it and then believe that God will help you be it.” That little boy decided that he too wanted to be the fastest human being on earth. The boy went to his track coach and told him of his new dream. His coach told him, “It’s great to have a dream, but to attain your dream, you must build a ladder to it. Here is the ladder to your dreams. The first rung is determination! And the second rung is dedication! The third rung is discipline! And the fourth rung is attitude!” The results of all that motivation is that he went on to win four gold medals in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. He won the 100 meter dash and broke Olympic and world records in the 200 meter. His broad jump record lasted for 24 years. His name – Jesse Owens.
As we set new goals for this year, may we look to the ladder that will get us there. I would turn these rungs around from the way the coach listed them for Jesse. I would point out attitude first. Our attitude needs to be that of Jesus Christ, “who being the very nature God did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant.” (Philippians 2:6-7a). Our attitude needs to be one of service. The greatest things we can accomplish this year will come about as we humble ourselves before God and let Him work through us. With Him, everything is possible.
The next rung is that of discipline. To get close with God, to lose weight and be healthier, to give the time needed to really care for another person, takes discipline on our part. There is no time; we must take the time from something else to do what needs to be done. We must discipline our lives to not let anything of this world hold us back from our goal.
The next rung is dedication. This refers to giving something priority in our lives. Many of the goals that God has for us will never be accomplished unless we give them priority in our lives. We might need other believers to help us hold to these goals. Two are better than one! Give these goals priority!
Then the last rung is determination. We must stick to the goal. These are not just New Year’s resolutions. These are goals for our whole year and our life. We must be determined to get to the goals that God sets for us, no matter what it costs us or how difficult it might be. We must be determined to get there.

2015 here we come!

Pastor John