Pastor's Blog
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March 2, 2016, 12:00 AM

Getting Political........

So here we are………….. The day after.

“Ordinary Wednesday” after “Super Tuesday.” It appears Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were the big winners yesterday, both taking what some are calling “commanding leads” in their party’s quest for the White House. I have been intrigued by the rhetoric via TV pundits and social media. Some persons are thrilled with yesterday’s outcomes. Others are “madder than a wet hen.” Still others are deeply fear filled about the future and what they will do if the only option to pick from is liar one and liar two (don’t shoot the messenger, folks….) And then there are the folks that are seriously exploring Canadian citizenship…….

In my lifetime I cannot remember another election cycle that has been as obnoxious and polarizing as this one seems to be. People with very strong opinions and feelings are passionately participating in the process on both sides of the aisle. Folks in the Cruz and Rubio camps are trying everything they know to discredit and derail the Trump Express. Folks following Bernie Sanders are desperately trying to bring down the Clinton jetliner that seems to be speeding its way to Pennsylvania Avenue. As Donald and Hillary are pulling away from their respective opponents, they are beginning to set their sights on the other, and I have a hunch that what has been obnoxious so far will seem tame as these two begin to “unload their weapons.” And every bit as passionate are the ones – Democrat and Republican - kind of in the middle who are just disgusted with the whole thing.

While all of this is going on here in the “land of the free,” I was struck by a story on NBC Nightly News this past Sunday evening. It was about a female lawmaker in Iraq – a Yazidi – that has been working for over a year to help women and children from her people escape the clutches of Isis. This Yazidi woman is the Islamic state’s “most wanted” person. Her people are in crisis – men are disappearing by the droves, and over 2000 women and children are currently being held in captivity by Isis, being exposed to and used for God knows what. Here is a woman – knowing her life is in great danger - fighting for those who cannot fight for themselves, while here in the good old US of A, we’re fighting about what “The Donald” uses to keep that wonderful orange glow and whether or not a millionaire like Hillary Clinton can possibly relate to “ordinary” people like you and me. Wonder what would happen to the captive Yazidi women and children if we gave even a bit of the time to their plight that we’ve given to electing the next American president………

All of this creates a strong temptation for Christ followers to surrender to cynicism, to incivility, even despair. I confess I have been tempted to do so somewhat regularly in recent days. Then God – in love mercy and grace – uses someone in my life to remind me of who is really in charge. Just yesterday – Super Tuesday – our treasurer, Barb Lynn was leading devotions at our weekly staff prayer time. She shared a quote from John Ortberg’s book, “If You Want to Walk on Water You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat.” Here’s the line: “Don’t let the NO of fear trump the YES of faith.” The NO of fear says we are DOOMED – evil running rampant, ridiculous amounts of money being spent on a four year job, people suffering and dying all over the world -  reminds me of the old “Hee Haw” song, “Gloom, despair, and agony on me…” (I can hear you singing…) But the YES of faith proclaims in the face of DOOM, God remains in charge. “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world and all who live in it.” (Psalm 24:1) The tomb remains empty and we still serve a RISEN Savior, who is in the world TODAY. And even though it’s sometimes hard to see, things are moving to the moment John talked about at the end of the Bible: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away….[and] He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’” (Revelation 21:1,5)

Remember friends – no matter what things look like or sound like, “Don’t let the NO of fear trump the YES of faith.” And…

Keep Lookin’ Up!
Pastor D.



Comments

03-17-2016 at 9:53 PM
Shelly Weller
I need to print this and read it everyday- I get what you are saying but it's hard not to worry. I needed to be reminded of this.
03-09-2016 at 10:22 PM
Barb Campagna
Do you think God is smiling at all the "talk" that goes on re. our politics? I "listen" and I pray about our government and our leaders, but I am so glad to know that it is God that is truly in charge. I just read today about how Paul prayed for Rome and its leaders.
03-02-2016 at 8:17 PM
Laura Moore
Amen.
03-02-2016 at 6:51 PM
debbie dunlap
No matter how bad things seem...God knows what is going on and He is in charge. We have to go through the dark to see the light.
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February 18, 2016, 12:00 AM

Coexistent Contradictions.......

I write these words on the afternoon following our first “Not a Fan” study during this Lenten season. Sixteen folks from First UMC and Christ UMC gathered at First Church and wrestled with the question “Fan of Jesus, or follower?” Thirty more persons have indicated they’ll be here at Christ Church this evening to wrestle with that same question. Kyle Idleman defines a “fan” as an enthusiastic admirer – a person who is excited about a celebrity or a team or a rock star but hasn’t ever invested themselves with those folks beyond listening to their music or wearing the team jersey or watching the latest movie with the celebrity in it. A “follower” on the other hand is defined as one who “adheres” to someone or something. This adherence is clearly seen in how the adherent conducts their living. The someone or something that one adheres to impacts how one lives life just as glue that holds two things together. The question from the study – Fan or follower? – invites us to look honestly at our connection to Christ to see if we are more admirer of or adherent to Jesus.

As we wrestled with the question this morning, I made a rather startling discovery: fan of Jesus and follower of Jesus coexist in me. There are times when I joyfully and humbly follow my Lord wherever he chooses to lead, whether the terrain is smooth and easy going, or arid and steep. I am full of faith and trust in Jesus for provision, protection and presence, no matter where the journey takes me. But there are also times when I’d like to “customize” my following. Times when I’d like to tell Jesus, “I admire what you’d like to do in that place, but I think you’ve got the wrong person. I’ll gladly follow you here, but asking me to follow you over there, well, thanks, but no thanks.” It’s kind of like the Facebook conversations I read – and participated in – in the wake of this past Tuesday’s snowstorm. Multiple people expressed gratitude for the folks operating the plow trucks – they enable us to get out and get going. But with the next breath, the same people – myself included – expressed frustration at the plow drivers for pushing snow back into our already cleared driveways and sidewalks! So we are thankful for the people who plow us out, and frustrated at the same people for plowing us in – coexistence!

Sounds a little like what the apostle Paul was saying in Romans 7: (from The Message)

21-23 It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.

Paul seemed to experience “coexistence:” the desire to be sold out for God and the reality of our sinful tendencies present at the same time. It seems contradictory – desire and commitment to godliness living right beside the tendency to selfishness. But that does seem to be the journey of discipleship – learning how to choose godliness over selfishness in more and more situations – being less of a fan and more of a follower. And I am much like Paul – wanting to choose godliness, but sometimes lacking the power to do so. Maybe you’re like that too. Well, here’s how Paul ends Romans 7:

24 I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? 25 The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.

The answer for every place of contradiction, every place of weakness, and the reason behind every moment of victory is what God has done in Jesus Christ. Thank God, …………………….indeed.

Keep Lookin’ Up!
Pastor D.



Comments

03-03-2016 at 2:17 PM
Sharon Goldsmith
Sorry for all the comments!! I was trying to edit the first comment but it wouldn't delete. It just kept reposting instead. Sorry!!
03-03-2016 at 2:14 PM
Sharon Goldsmith
This has been my question, Pastor. Can we be both? Some people I talk to also doing this study say you are one or the other but you can't be both. I disagree because I also feel times I am follower and other times only a fan. Thank you for this commentary.
03-03-2016 at 2:13 PM
Sharon Goldsmith
This has been my question, Pastor. Can we be both? Some people I talk to also doing this study say you are one or the other but you can't be both. I disagree because I also feel times I am follower and other times only a fan. Thank you for this commentary.
03-03-2016 at 2:10 PM
Sharon Goldsmith
This has been my question, Pastor. Can we be both? Some people I talk to also doing this study say you are one or the other but I disagree. Thank you for this commentary.
02-19-2016 at 10:04 AM
Lynn Harriger
I went last night because I have been feeling like a fan lately. But I know that I know Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior! Coexistence ?
02-18-2016 at 8:50 PM
Lois Carr
I think a little of both live in all of us. I know it's true for me.
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February 10, 2016, 12:00 AM

Wisdom From a Steeler....

Two Sundays ago we enjoyed a visit from Steeler great and four time Super Bowl champion Jon Kolb. It was a wonderful time together as a church, and a special time for me to reconnect with someone from my early years in ministry. Jon’s mom and dad – Paul and Norma Kolb – were part of the very first congregation I served as a pastor. I visited with them in their home, and prayed for them often as Norma struggled with several health issues. As you might expect, Jon would come to visit his parents frequently, and often he would accompany them to church on Sunday morning. I’ll never forget the first Sunday he attended the Nineveh Church. I came in the back door, glanced over the congregation, saw Paul and Norma in their “normal” pew, and then noticed this enormous set of shoulders sitting with them. “Wonder who that is?” I thought to myself. As I walked up to the chancel and turned around to greet the folks, I realized who it was: it was Jon Kolb. He was wearing a white polo shirt with the Steeler emblem on the front – I’ll never forget that moment.

Now you need to understand that I am a diehard Pittsburgh Steeler fan. I grew up during the glory days of the 1970’s when the Steelers won four championships. Jon Kolb played on every one of those teams. To have him sitting in the pew was an INCREDIBLE thing for this wet behind the ears preacher. Jon was a HUGE man in those days. In 1978 he was the fourth strongest man IN THE WORLD! To shake his hand was more like he picked you up from the ground and set you back down simply by his hand in yours. Jon was committed to staying in shape, and no matter how many times I saw him during those years in Greene County, my reaction was always the same: “Wow, that man is huge!”

As the years passed Jon and I lost touch with each other. So when we decided to invite him to spend the weekend with us last month, I was quite excited to see if he was still as big as I remember, especially since he would be well into his 60’s by now. Standing at the back door of the church, I saw him get out of his car and walk toward me. “Well,” I thought, “He’s not quite as tall as I remember, and maybe not quite as ‘buff’ anymore, but those shoulders still give him away.” And when he walked in and took my hand, every bit of the strength I remember in his handshake was still there. “He’s still a big man,” I thought.

What became more apparent as the weekend progressed was that Jon is not only a big man physically – he’s also a big man in his spirit. He talked some about his days with the Steelers - great stories – but he talked the most about his love for God and the relationship he has with Jesus Christ. I will never be a big man physically like Jon is. But I hope and pray my love for God and my relationship with Jesus Christ is every bit as big as his. Jon maintains his physical size and strength through consistent training – even in his 60’s. He would say as important as that workout is, his consistent attention to working out spiritually is even more important. I couldn’t agree more. There is no substitute for daily attention to practicing the means of grace (prayer, Bible reading, worship, fellowship with other Christians, servanthood, and generosity) to grow a big spirit.

Appropriate thoughts for Ash Wednesday – the beginning of Lent 2016. Think on these things, and as always…

Keep Lookin’ Up!
Pastor D.



Comments

02-12-2016 at 3:10 AM
Scott
You too are a big man with a Jesus. Heart inside of you my friend!
02-12-2016 at 3:10 AM
Scott
You too are a big man with a Jesus. Heart inside of you my friend!
02-10-2016 at 9:29 PM
Shelly Weller
Jon has used his "celebrity" status wisely- to talk to people about Jesus. He's a good guy and I always enjoy listening to him.
02-10-2016 at 4:56 PM
Pat Mann
What more can one say other than, Amen and Amen.
02-10-2016 at 3:06 PM
DeWayne B.Greenlee
Thanks for sharing! Back to
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January 7, 2016, 12:00 AM

Plans and Presence

Well……

Christmas Day 2015 didn’t turn out quite as Betsy and I had planned. Christmas Eve was wonderful: great worship services, wonderful food and family time at home, and the “long winter nap” that’s the blessing of having “older” children. Then came Christmas morning! Coffee on, fire in the fireplace, excitement and anticipation in the air! The gifts were passed out and Kate began tearing into hers. Then I noticed Betsy leave the room. She came back shortly and everything seemed OK. In a few moments, she left the room again, and returned after a bit longer time interval. I asked if she was OK, and she simply identified a bit of nausea. This exiting and reentering continued, growing more frequent as time passed, her level of discomfort visibly increasing with each trip. Finally she called me to the back of the house and I found her practically doubled over in pain. I have not seen her like that in 37 years, so I knew something was terribly wrong. We decided quickly to head to the hospital. Kate and I got her into the car, but a very short distance down the road I was dialing 9-1-1 and heading back to the house. The ambulance arrived and we made a speedy trip through town to the ER at UPMC Northwest. Tests were run, pain meds were administered, and it was determined that a hernia she’s had for 4 years had become strangulated and would require immediate surgical intervention.

Now remember…….it’s Christmas Day!  

All kinds of thoughts ran through my mind: is surgery on Christmas Day even an option? Who would be available to do it? How long would it take to make this happen? As I wondered about these things, the doctor walked in the room and a peace immediately calmed my racing mind and anxious heart – it was Dr. Matt Lehman from our church. He “just happened” to be on call on Christmas Day. Matt examined Betsy, looked at her test results , and at 11:35am said, “we need to do this now. I’ll call in the team.” So……wait……. he wasn’t the only one on call – a team was standing by! Phone calls were made, paperwork was signed, and by 1pm Betsy was in surgery. As I sat by myself in the waiting area, I thought about the hours that had brought us where we were, and the ways that God had been at work long before I realized it. The EMT’s were wonderful – caring, compassionate, and a calming presence. I had never placed my bride in an ambulance before – the guys were fantastic. The ER nurses and doctors at Northwest were focused  and patient with Betsy in pain and her anxious husband who was wondering how to help her hurt go away. Dr. Lehman and his team were superb – as absolutely attentive to our situation on Christmas Day as they would have been on any other day. The first time I saw Betsy post op, who was standing beside her bed? Our family physician, Dr. Will Fee – on Christmas Day! And the nurses on the third floor after surgery provided excellent care with a sense of humor about the day that made us laugh and feel at ease. Every one of these persons was God’s presence for us that day. Christmas is all about Emmanuel – God with us – as a little baby in a town called Bethlehem. But for us this year, Emmanuel was present in EMT’s and nurses and surgeons and hospital staff.

So the lesson? When things don’t quite go as you planned, remember God is present in the chaos, often in the lives of the people He places around us. Thanks be to God!

As always…

Keep Lookin’ Up!
Pastor D.



Comments

02-14-2016 at 6:04 PM
Sharon Goldsmith
Even though you want to be with your own family on holidays I used to feel a certain sense of another family and togetherness when working on Christmas or Thanksgiving. People were kinder and nicer for the most part and I often enjoyed sharing my holiday with my patients when it was my turn to work the holiday.. And a certain feeling of love and kindredship all sitting around a tree singing Christmas carols. At least for one day and night most people were kind and thoughtful to others.
01-09-2016 at 2:15 PM
Tish
So often we are so unaware of the angels placed around us at all times. "Praise God from whom all Blessings flow" and how grateful we know you are for those blessings given to your family on Christmas day. Our prayers for Betsy's healing and complete recovery are offered daily, and we praise the Lord, with all of you, for His faithfulness.
01-08-2016 at 3:54 PM
Charlene Schroder
Praying Betsy is doing well and you were able to enjoy your postponed Christmas celebration. Sometimes we need a reminder God is in control even when we aren't. And His provision is so much greater than we can anticipate or plan. God knows our needs and provides even before we ask. Happy New Year to you and your family.
01-08-2016 at 11:21 AM
Christine Garmong
Praise God, praying for a Betsy. Chris
01-08-2016 at 6:30 AM
Pat Mann
Our God is faithful. Jesus promised, "He'd never leave us, nor forsake us." (Heb 13:5) He just didn't tell us in what way. Thanks be to God. Blessings
01-08-2016 at 3:32 AM
Carol Pfeifle
Prayers from Oregon.
Been studying Psalm 91. God was protecting you.
01-08-2016 at 12:04 AM
Robin Riddle
Gracious Father we are thankful for all those who unselfishly place others ahead of their own families in times of need. Thank you for your gift to this family as they celebrated in a uncharistic way. I pray you continue to comfort and strengthen Betsy in her recovery. Amen
01-07-2016 at 9:44 PM
Mikki
Praise God for the people he puts in our lives to give us peace when it is needed.
01-07-2016 at 9:44 PM
Peg Peary
God's blessings as you recuperate, Betsy. Dave, God has obviously sent Angels to surround you and Betsy. Please allow those same Angels and all the others He's sending to you to give you what you need to rest and be loved. You are in my thoughts and prayers.
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November 24, 2015, 2:49 PM

Pondering Thanksgiving....

So I took a walk in the woods yesterday. I needed to get a look at my deer stand before next week, so I decided to go while I had a few hours to spare. Walking down the road I was remembering the last time I was in that section of woods. My brother was with me. He had dropped me off at my stand and made his way to his. Since that day a year or so ago, much has happened: he and I moved my son to Nashville, he turned 50 years old, he and I both have had  major surgery - to name just a few. I thought about some of these things as I walked through the woods, and I found myself giving thanks for the simple ability to be where I was yesterday afternoon.

 

I shared a challenge with the children at Christ Church this past Sunday for the days leading up to Thanksgiving - find some simple things to say thanks for. We all do a pretty good job of giving thanks for blessings of food and family on Thanksgiving day - certainly things we should be thankful for. But blessings come in many shapes and sizes - like the ability to take a walk in the woods. Or the wonderful companionship of a good dog like our Emma Rose. Or friends we can count on to share the ups and downs of life's journey. Or Christian brothers and sisters who step in to help and offer support when help and support are needed. Or sitting down with someone special who - as I type these words - has just turned on a classic - “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.”

 

If you were to take a few moments during these days leading up to Thanksgiving to give thanks for some simple things in your life, what would be on the list?

 

Remember the song from “Godspell:” All good gifts around us, are sent from heaven above. Then thank the Lord, thank the Lord for all his love. And the words of Psalm 103:  Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

 

Happy Thanksgiving, friends, and remember…

 

Keep Lookin’ Up!

Pastor D.

 



Comments

11-24-2015 at 5:45 PM
Pat Mann
I'm not speechless when it comes to what I'm thankful for, it's just that there isn't enough room. But, I'd definitely start with Jesus, family, church family, FB family, friends, and both of my pastors, Janz & Sam. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family. Blessings, too.
11-24-2015 at 4:17 PM
Dick and Joan
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family. Looking forward to Dec. 12 and 13 for our Chrismas canata. God bless.
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