In A Nutshell | January 27, 2023

Adversity Brings Perspective

My recent bout with COVID reminded me once again that there is so much beyond our control. Because we have so many freedoms, we sometimes think that there is nothing we can’t do, but then reality sets in, and we realize how much of life is out of our grasp.

The Book of James captures this sentiment eloquently with this passage from Chapter 4 (13-15): “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’

Wow! Talk about perspective. Despite our best-laid plans, we are, indeed, a mist. We have no idea what tomorrow might bring — a major storm, a sudden illness, even a dead battery — and suddenly our plans change dramatically. 

The older we get, the more aware we become of our own mortality. There are times when I think about the ambitious plans I have and wish that I could live to 100, but there are other times when I am ready to go the moment the Lord calls.

Fortunately, we can trust in the Lord, thanks to this encouragement from the Gospel of Matthew (6:25-27): “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Instead, let us give thanks for every day, make the most of every moment, and worry not about tomorrow.

Until we meet again, Be Blessed!

In A Nutshell | January 20, 2023

Make Every Day One of Acceptance and Inclusion

You’ve probably never heard of Marlo Anderson, but you are likely familiar with his famous innovation. He was the first to officially develop the idea that each day should have some sort of special designation attached to it, so he established National Day Calendar 10 years ago this week (January 19, 2013).

Since then hundreds of designations have been established, seemingly arbitrarily to the point that there are not enough days in the year to celebrate each designation, so now there are now multiple celebrations for every day of the year.

One could argue that many of the designations (e.g. National Popcorn Day or National Sweatpants Day) are trivial and even silly, but it reminds us that we have so much to celebrate in life, particularly the simple things that we so often take for granted. For example, this Friday happens to be “National Day of Acceptance,” in which everyone is encouraged to embrace those who have a particularly difficult lot in life.

We tend to overlook or intentionally look away from those who live on the margins of society – those who are homeless, poverty stricken, or imprisoned, as well as those who face mental, physical, or emotional obstacles.

Scripture reminds us that we are to “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters” to “not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” (Hebrews 13:1-3).

It can be difficult and even awkward to offer help when we’re not really sure what to do, but we can pray that the next time an opportunity arises, the Spirit will encourage, empower, and embolden us to respond in a way that would bring honor and glory to God.

Until we meet again, Be Blessed!

In A Nutshell | January 13, 2023

Building Spiritual Strength in the Battle Against Temptation

There are so many distractions in today’s world that it is easy for us to veer off course. Fortunately, God knows our strengths and our weaknesses, and He knows that even the most devout among us are vulnerable to temptation. 

In the Book of James (1:14-15), we read that “each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full grown, brings forth death.

This frightening passage paints an almost fatalistic view of temptation, seemingly indicating that there is no hope and no escape, but we know better. We have an advocate in the battle against evil — one who is supremely equipped to support us in this spiritual conflict.

As we see in I Corinthians 10:13, “no temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape that you may be able to bear it.

God will not allow temptation to consume us, and He will always provide an escape route when things reach a boiling point, but the final decision is still ours. We can resist and flee the temptation, or we can allow ourselves to be engulfed by it. 

The best way to avoid such situations is to practice sound spiritual discipline, and for that, we turn to Galatians 5:16-17, which states, “I say then, walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.

Stay strong, stay safe, and the Spirit will walk with us, guiding and protecting us every step of the way.

Until we meet again, Be Blessed! – Pastor John

In A Nutshell | January 6, 2023

Run, Jog, Walk, or Crawl: Setting the Pace for 2023

How do you plan to move forward during this first week of the new year? Will you charge ahead in an all-out sprint? Will you jog, taking time to observe that which is in front of you as well as that which is to your left or right? Will you really take your time and walk? Or, will you start 2023 like a newborn and just crawl?

Chances are we will do all of these at one time or another in the coming year because, as we know, the pace of life changes day-by-day, hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute. None of us can or should keep the same pace throughout the entire year. As we know from the Book of Ecclesiastes, there is a time for everything under heaven. While that famous passage does not mention running, jogging, walking, or crawling, we can infer that such instructions might just as well have been included.

The point of all of this is that we need to be prepared and to respond accordingly to whatever life throws our way. Sometimes, we have to sprint. Other times we can simply jog. Often, we can take our time and walk. And occasionally, either because of our situation or the situation we encounter, we have to crawl.

Regardless of the pace we set (or the one that life sets for us), we can take comfort in the fact that the Lord is always with us. There are several Scripture passages that affirm this, including Deuteronomy 31:6-8, which advises us to “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified…for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.

Even when we feel alone or deserted, He is always with us, and that should provide comfort, assurance, encouragement, hope, and peace.

Until we meet again, Be Blessed! – Pastor John

In A Nutshell | December 23, 2022

Wishing You a Spirit-Filled Christmas and a Holy New Year 

Does the Holy Spirit have a place in your life? If not, this just might be the perfect time of year to rekindle the flame and invite it to flourish within you in the year ahead.

I was introduced to the Holy Spirit at a very young age, and I have been intrigued by it ever since. I often likened it to a Guardian Angel — always with me “to light, to guard, to rule, and to guide,” to quote a line from a prayer that I recited daily as a child and continue to do so to this day.

Over time, as my faith has grown, my belief in and reliance on the Holy Spirit has expanded, and I continue to have great faith and confidence in its multi-faceted power as an advocate, a protector, and a mentor, as well as a source of conscience that keeps me accountable in all that I say and do.

Scripture is filled with references to the Holy Spirit, including the Gospel of John (14:26) where Jesus reveals this gift when he tells his disciples that although he will be leaving the earth for a time, they will not be left alone. “The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things,” he says, “and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”  

In many respects, I believe that the Holy Spirit is vital to our future. We are so divided across the nation and around the world. We must come together through our unity in Christ, and I believe that it can be facilitated by inviting the Holy Spirit to live and work in each of us so that we will be able to work with others. 

There’s far too much vitriol and violence in our world today, but the Holy Spirit can overcome all of it. After all, the Spirit is characterized as a dove, which represents peace — a peace through God that transcends all understanding.

Best wishes for a Blessed Christmas and a Happy, Healthy, Holy New Year! 

Until we meet again, Be Blessed! – Pastor John

In A Nutshell | December 16, 2022

A Season and a Reason to Believe

Do you believe in miracles? That’s what announcer Al Michaels said as the United States Hockey team was about to beat the former Soviet Union at the 1980 Olympics in one of the greatest upsets in sports history.

I think each of us has a slightly different take on miracles. Some have experienced them in one form or another. Others might be skeptical, but it’s not so much whether we witness or are part of a miracle; what really matters is that we believe that miracles can and do take place.

This past Sunday evening, our church hosted a movie night for young people, which turned out to be a smashing success. We had more than 20 young people in attendance, which some might call a miracle, but it was really the result of efforts by our youth leaders, JJ Cline and Jen Moser, as well as several others who invited young people from our community to attend. I also believe that the event was blessed by our Lord.

The movie, titled, “The Search for Santa Paws” was a cute story about a talking dog who could only be understood by those who believed in Santa Claus.

That theme is not far off from our faith experience. It’s really impossible to hear, much less understand, the Word of God until we first believe. Then, after establishing a relationship with Him, his words become clearer and much easier to grasp.

Remember what Jesus said in the Gospel of Mark (9:23): “Everything is possible for one who believes.” That includes miracles. So, during this Advent season and in the year ahead, let us all be sure to listen for God’s voice as we read His sacred Word. It will become much clearer if we believe, and our faith will become much stronger as a result.

Until We Meet Again, Be Blessed! – Pastor John

In A Nutshell | December 9, 2022

Setting Time Aside to Read the Bible

During a recent course of study at the Methodist Theological School of Ohio near Columbus, I took time to stroll through the library. As most libraries go, this one wasn’t all that large, but there were still rows and rows of books, many of which were gathering dust because they had not been opened, much less read, for years.

Books take us on many fascinating journeys, fueling our imagination and enlightening our mind, but with so many other things vying for our attention, we seem to have less and less time to read.

In my case, I usually start reading two or three books at one time, rotating from one to the other depending on my mood, but often, once I stop reading them, I have a hard time getting back to them, leaving me with shelves of books that are half read. I enjoy reading, but it makes me tired, and I lose my concentration, which causes me to fail to retain what I have read.

Many people feel that way about Scripture. It can be hard to understand and difficult to retain/ As a result, we set the Bible aside and fail to get back to it for weeks, if not months.

Perhaps together during this Advent season, we can launch a new initiative to read the Bible with more frequency and deeper thought. Let’s set some time aside during these last two weeks leading up to Christmas and read passages that intrigue us, as well as those that bolster us, and even those that baffle us. 

I suggest that you find a quiet place and a specific time each day, maybe before you go to bed or when you awaken the next day. That way, you can always have your Bible at your bedside to provide wisdom, clarity, direction, and comfort — any time of the day or night.

Until We Meet Again, Be Blessed! – Pastor John

In A Nutshell | December 2, 2022

Purple Passion and Its Place in the Christmas Story

Colors can evoke a range of emotions, and during the Advent season, we are celebrating each week with a different color. We opened with green last week, and we move onto the color purple this week.

Purple is a symbol of passion, and is often associated with the Lenten season, representing the solemn crucifixion of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This raises a question about why purple would also be part of the Christmas story.

Well, when you think about it, the answer is really quite simple. In the most famous of all
passages from the Gospel of John (3:16) we read, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have
eternal life.

Without Christmas, there would be no Easter. Without Christ, there would be no
salvation. This makes the color purple all the more appropriate because without passion
there would be no redemption.

First it was the passion of God the Father, who looked out upon a broken world and
showed his compassion, grace, and mercy by sending his Son as an atonement for our
sins. Then, it was the shedding of Jesus’ blood, which actually turned from red to purple
at the time of his death because there was no longer oxygen circulating through His

While the crucifixion of Jesus is an agonizing story, it is the basis of our hope for new
and eternal life. Without him, we are doomed to eternal damnation, but with him, we are
promised everlasting life in His Father’s Heavenly Kingdom.

If you have any article of clothing that is purple, try to remember to wear it this Sunday,
as we prepare to once again celebrate the birth of Jesus, but also to praise Him for his
selfless sacrifice that transformed our fate from damnation to salvation.

Until We Meet Again, Be Blessed! – Pastor John

In A Nutshell | November 25, 2022

Placing a Special Emphasis on Being Thankful 

As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends this week, let us take a moment to remember those who will not have a place at the table and might be dining alone, if they are able to dine at all. 

It’s amazing how we can live in the same community but actually be part of two different worlds — those who have adequate resources and those who don’t. There are many people who struggle with poverty, and so much has been done to try to break the cycle, but it seems to continue day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. 

For those of us who are blessed, it’s hard not to consider the plight of others, but there is only so much we can do. We have a well-stocked pantry at Oak Chapel, which is available 24/7/365. We have a Helping Hands Fund to provide assistance to those in dire need. We have kind, caring, and compassionate people willing to help in whatever way they can…but it often doesn’t seem to be enough. 

Perhaps we need to be more reliant on and fervent about prayer. God can do all things, and we know that he listens to our pleas, especially when we lift up others. So, as we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving and enter into Advent, consider this passage from Colossians (3:15-17)… 

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” 

May your Thanksgiving be bountiful and your Christmas be merry and bright! 

Until We Meet Again, Be Blessed! – Pastor John

In A Nutshell | November 18, 2022

Tightening My Belt Heading Into the Holidays 

What I dread most about this time of the year is not the holiday, but rather, the consequences of eating too much, so this year, I am going to try something different.  

Instead of dieting after the upcoming six-week celebration of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, I’m going to try to eat less in the days leading up to these holidays. We’ll see how it goes, but it’s worth a try. 

Likewise, I am going to trim a little of the fat from our weekly Nutshell missive. I’ve come to the conclusion that 500 words may be too much for your busy schedules, so by cutting back to about 300 words, I can streamline the message and give you more time for other activities during the holidays and beyond. 

The Bible suggests that less is more in a number of passages, including the call to store up our treasures in heaven and not on earth and the bold suggestion to sell all that we have and follow Jesus. Material things are nice, but too much of a good thing can be distracting and interfere with our relationship with the Lord. 

The old saying that “you can’t take it with you” rings true for all of us. True, the wealth we leave behind can be of value to our heirs, but far more important are the examples and lessons we shared with them over the years.  

Oh, and speaking of food, we will have our monthly Fellowship Dinner after the service this Sunday, so we can put off our “dieting” for another week. If you are able to bring a side dish or dessert to share, that would be great. Also, after the dinner, we will begin decorating the church for Christmas, and we would love to have you join us for that as well. 

Until We Meet Again, Be Blessed! – Pastor John 

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