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 

In A Nutshell | November 11, 2022

Building a Foundation for Service Through Humility  

Election Day has come and gone, and most of the races have been decided. Now, as our new leaders prepare to take office, it is essential that they understand their role as servants first and leaders second. 

Jesus set the standard for servant leadership during his brief time on earth, and he encouraged us to live our lives accordingly. Scripture is filled with passages about service to others, and virtually all are based on the premise that humility is a fundamental virtue for all people, particularly those who lead. 

In the Gospel of Matthew (20:26), Jesus said, “whoever would be great among you must be your servant.” That is wise advice for all of us. He also said in the Gospel of Mark (9:35) that “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” 

We know that in order to be sincere and genuine followers of Christ, we must be his servant and a servant to others. Jesus also reminds us in I Corinthians 4:1-2 that all of his stewards “must be found trustworthy.” There is no place for deceit or deception in discipleship. In addition, he instructs us in Ephesians 2:10 to do the “good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should all work in them.”  

Our creator certainly has a plan for us as revealed in Jeremiah 29:11, and we must be attentive and obedient to the way in which he is leading us. He implores us in Colossians 3:23-24 to work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that “from the Lord [we] will receive the inheritance as [our] reward.” In this way, “we are serving the Lord Christ.” 

There is certainly plenty of incentive for us to be faithful servants. As we know, good works do not bring about salvation; only the blood of our Lord can do that. However, Scripture also encourages us to clothe ourselves…with humility toward one another,” for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”  

One day, as stated in the Gospel of John (15:15), he will no longer call us servants, but instead friends, “for all that [he] has heard from [his] Father [he] has made known to [us].

Let us pray for our leaders as they take office, and let us also pray for one another that we will embrace humility and serve the Lord by serving others, not just in election season, but throughout the entire year. 

Until We Meet Again, Be Blessed! – Pastor John 

In A Nutshell | November 4, 2022

Out of the Darkness and into the Light  

It’s that time of year again — time to turn our clocks back one hour as we return to Standard Time. This annual ritual brings a short-term benefit and a long-term dilemma. The benefit, of course, is the extra hour of sleep we will enjoy this Sunday, and who wouldn’t cherish an extra hour of sleep? The dilemma is a prolonged period of darkness when the days grow shorter, colder, and more foreboding. 

When it comes to our faith, darkness is something we instinctively avoid while the light is something we inherently seek. As we know from Psalm 119:105, God’s “Word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” Indeed, light helps us to navigate our way through life, but darkness plunges us into the realm of uncertainty, often leading to dubious choices and sometimes disastrous consequences. 

This begs the question, “Why do we allow ourselves to be exposed to the darkness, much less swallowed up by it?” Well, part of the reason is that we are human, living in the flesh, and therefore vulnerable to life’s temptations. Another reason is that we are inherently curious and want to know what is on the other side of that wall or curtain. 

Fortunately, God gives us the ability to snap out of this trance and get back into the light as we read in I Corinthians 10:13 — No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. 

This is often difficult to believe, given the power of temptation, but fortunately, we have an advocate. In the Gospel of John (8:12) Jesus proclaims, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Imagine that, simply by following Him we will always walk in the light. 

And finally, he challenges us with a responsibility that comes with his promise when he says in the Gospel of Matthew (5:16), “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” 

Our days will soon be growing shorter, but our light can continue to shine brighter as we profess our faith and live boldly according to God’s Sacred Word, while also helping to lead others out of the darkness and into the light. 

Remember to set your clocks back one hour before you go to bed on Saturday night, and be sure to join us for All-Saints Day on Sunday morning. 

Until We Meet Again, Be Blessed! – Pastor John 

In A Nutshell | October 28, 2022

Facing Our Fears Through Our Foundation in Faith 

I never understood the fascination that some people have with fear. There are enough things in life that scare me; I don’t need horror movies or haunted houses to add to my angst, but there are people out there who get a kick out of frightening themselves and others. On the other hand, there are plenty of people who allow themselves to be paralyzed by fear.   

So what is the best way to deal with this natural human emotion? Well, Scripture provides considerable guidance in terms of confronting the fears we all have, and most of it is encouraging. In the Old Testament Book of Isaiah (41:10), for example, we are advised to, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  

The Book of Deuteronomy (31:6) is equally reassuring with this passage: “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” 

In the New Testament Book of Philippians, we are encouraged to “not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” 

And finally, this short passage from II Timothy (1:7), which states, “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” 

All four of these passages remind us that God is always with us, so there is no reason to fear. Of course, that is easier said than done, but if we hold firm to our faith and stand on the rock of Jesus as our foundation, we can make it through any adversity that we encounter in life. We can also share our faith with others so that they, too, can build a foundation in Christ that can help them weather the storm. 

On this Halloween weekend when many people like to scare and be scared, let us address the fears we have in life and acknowledge the advocate we have in the Lord, who helps us to overcome those fears.  

Until We Meet Again, Be Blessed! – Pastor John

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