Hello to you all, both long-time and new!

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I would like to acknowledge and say a big THANK YOU to all of you who have recently started following this blog. I truly appreciate the time you take to read and respond.

For those who have been reading, putting up with, and/or groaning over the past 3+ years, a hearty thanks to you as well!

It occurs to me that those falling under the newer category might not know all the backstory that comes along with me. I’d like to take this opportunity to allow you the opportunity to catch up!

As I am embarking on a somewhat new aspect of my journey as a follower of Jesus Christ, I have been asked to write an essay introducing myself to the folks who will be considering me for a Rostered (ordained) ministry position within the Lutheran Church. The following is an excerpt from that essay. It is my hope that you, New Dear Reader, will take the time to get to know me a little better (and for those who have heard much of this, you may hit the like button and be on your way).

Thanks once again for sharing the ride with me.

Part 1: My Story

I was born on January 11th, 1960 in Oswego New York to Kenneth and Evelyn Copps. I have one older brother, Carl. I had a happy home-life growing up in in that small town. My parents provided for all our needs and most of my wants in a caring way. Dad worked full-time as a machinist while Mom stayed at home. I had some close friends through the years and it seemed we always congregated at my house. It was warm and open to everyone.

My parents were Roman Catholic and raised my brother and me in that faith. It never meant much to me as I saw going to church largely as an inconvenience on my time. Other than Confirmation, weekly Mass was my only exposure to Catholicism. Things of faith were rarely if ever brought up at home. Tending to shirk responsibility in those days, I was more than happy to do my 60 minutes per week at church and leave faith at that.

At the age of eighteen I opted out of regular church attendance, going back only to be married in 1983. My wife and I attended her local church, Holy Family in Fulton, New York for a brief period after marriage, but that attendance soon faltered as well.

I was well into the downward spiral of alcoholism at this point. The ensuing years are a blur even now. Finally, with my health failing, my wife ready to leave and at the brink of financial disaster, I sought help. A three week stay in a detox-center followed by a 28-day rehab helped prepare me to live a sober life.

It is at the beginning of recovery that my faith life came to be. In fact, I count both my sobriety date and the date of my salvation the same: May 3rd, 1991. It seems that the Bible stories I sat through as a child had some affect after all! I knew in my spirit that the Higher Power the AA literature speaks of was in fact Jesus Christ. I received His forgiveness at the detox-center and have been a follower of His ever since.

That last sentence hardly speaks to the wonder of these last 29 years. I owe a great debt of thanks to Pastor Brent Dahlseng. He took a great interest in my spiritual journey. He encouraged me to read God’s word and to become a person of prayer. He was a tremendous mentor and friend as he helped me navigate my new life with purpose.

God has been faithfully persistent as He continues to call me to His service. Starting as a Small-Group apprentice leader, I have now had the privilege of being on many different prayer ministries as well as hospital visitation teams.

As the Lord has helped me to discern His call on my life, I attended seminary (Rockbridge Seminary) and was granted a Master of Divinity in 2014. We had begun a home ministry by this point and the schooling and training the seminary provided me had enriched my ability to serve. This has proved especially true in my Hospice work as I provide pastoral care to patients and their families.

I was ordained by the Elim Fellowship of Lima, New York in April of 2018. I have had the pleasure to officiate at weddings and our home ministry is now ‘on the road,’ as we serve people in their homes by providing bible study, counseling and the opportunity to worship.

It is with much anticipation that I enter into this next phase of ministry. I continue to trust God will reveal His will to me as I embrace a deeper understanding of Lutheran theology in the service of the church.

Blessings to you all,

Pastor Chuck

A Whole New Meaning to ‘Be Still’

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With New York State pretty much such down in hopes of preventing the further spread of Covid-19, many people are faced with something they have longed for, time.  In my walks around the neighborhood with Violet, I have seen a good number of garages and sheds being cleaned out.  No doubt similar cleanings, sorting and discarding’s are happening in their homes as well.

This is time well spent.  Betsy and I did some of it ourselves as we cleaned out a large closet, taking the opportunity to rid ourselves of things no longer used or long forgotten.  There is a feeling of satisfaction that comes at the completion of these tasks.

But I wonder, what will the majority of folks do once the tidying up is done, especially if this mandated quarantine stretches on.  There is just so much busy-work to do to fill the void left in our schedules.  May I suggest, Faithful Reader, that you put some of this time to the best use of all, getting to know God better.

Allow me to share with you how I endeavored to do this today.  As I was reading through the Book of Psalms, I came to a passage that is familiar to many:

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. (Psalm 46:10 NIV)

I have read and taught from Psalm 46 any number of times, but that in no way makes me an expert or learned theologian.  Realizing my limitations, I took to some of my reference materials out (and there are some very good ones on-line as well), in an attempt to learn more of what God is telling us when He says to be still and know that He is God.

As usual when I make the effort to get more understanding from the Almighty, He doesn’t disappoint.  The word still, as it was used in the original Hebrew, carries a different meaning than what I was anticipating.  To me, being still is just that, to stop moving or doing.  The original language takes this to a new level however.  To be still, as it is written here, means to hang limp, or sink down.  It has the sense of being feeble.

Working with this definition, it becomes clear to me that God wants more than just me stopping activity.  Rather, this scripture is reminding me to recognize my frailty, my lack of significance in the big picture and my over all weakness in the face of a global pandemic.

As I get my mind into this place, I can then better appreciate the rest of what God is saying here.  Once still in the sense of the original word, we are then to know that He is God.  I did the same research on the word know.  This particular word carries a similar meaning to the way we use it today.  It basically means to recognize or understand what is being presented.

But then it goes a little farther.  There is an intimacy attached to the Hebrew word to know as it is used in this passage.  This makes the knowing much more than simply a textbook-type learning.  It becomes a matter of the heart by seeing our great need of God in all things.

When we are still in this context, it becomes possible to begin to fathom how much we need God.  My wife Betsy often says, “The more I get to know God, the more I realize how much I need Him.” That sums up Psalm 46:10 very well my dear!

So Friends, what do you think? Is slowing down to know God better in the midst of a shutdown of life a good idea? Please let me know how you might be doing this.

Thanks for reading,

Pastor Chuck

Hang in there!

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Waiting for something can be quite difficult. The more important that something is to us, the harder the wait usually. Maybe it is that long-awaited get-away vacation or the opportunity to reunite with an old friend. Perhaps, like often happens here in the Northeast US, the waiting for warmer temperatures seemingly takes forever. The wait for these types of things, hard as they can be, hold the promise of something positive when they do arrive.

But what about the waiting when the outcome or result is not known? I am thinking know about those of us who spend time praying for the healing of family, friends, co-workers, etc. We pray, seeking God’s mercy for these folks, but often we see little to no change for the better.

If this describes you, may today’s short blog entry serve as encouragement for you to hang in there. Reading Chapters 3 and 4 from the Acts of the Apostles got me to thinking about this. In Chapter 3, Peter and John meet a man crippled from birth. This person is carried to the gate of the temple courts to beg for food or money every day. Peter, when he has the crippled man’s attention says, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” (Acts 3:6 NIV). Instantly, this man is given the ability to walk.

This healing was instant when it happened, but it was a long time coming for we find out later in Chapter 4, verse 22 that the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old. (NIV)

Here is another example of an instant healing that was a long time coming. Jesus was in Jerusalem for one of the religious feasts when He encountered a man hoping to be healed by the stirred up water at the Sheep Gate. The Bible says of this man, One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. (John 5:5 NIV). John then tells of the conversation Jesus has with this individual and then of the Lord’s speaking a word of healing over him. As He does, this long-term physically handicapped person is instantly healed.

These are just two examples of people who had to wait what had to seem to them like forever before they got relief. But God did move on their behalf.

Like them, we are all captive to the passing of time as we understand it. God is not. He moves in perfect ways, in perfect timing, to His perfect will. This is of course far from our grasp.

So what are we to do? My encouragement is to hang in there! The Scriptures are full of examples of God’s faithfulness. His love and mercy are evident on nearly every page. We also have some experiences in our own lives where God has done something wonderful, just not on our schedule.

We also must remember that because God is outside of time as we know it, we will never fully (or even partially) understand His plans. But hang in there. Keep on praying and seeking His favor or blessing for someone. God’s track record is impeccable. The writer of the Book of Hebrews says this best: Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:23 NIV)

Thanks for reading.

Be blessed and be a blessing, and hang in there!

Pastor Chuck

Who is your favorite

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Most of us have favorites. Be they in the world of movies, sports or music, we have certain personalities, teams and songs that we count as personal favorites.

I have a question for you today that I hope begins a conversation: Who is your favorite bible personality and why. I have found that depending on the season of life I am in or in what portion of the Scriptures I’m reading, my fave personality can change. That is ok, for God’s Word tells us that it is ‘living and active’ (Hebrews 4:12). With that being true, it stands to reason that this living document with reveal different things at different times to us.

With that being said, I was re-reading about one of my personal favorites just the other day, Philip. Philip is a prime example of a person with a servants heart who remains humble in the service to others, regardless of the fact that he gains a fair amount of notoriety as he does so.

We are first introduced to Philip in Chapter 6 in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. The number of converts to Christianity has been expanding rapidly; so fast that some of the basic needs of these folks were not being met. The original Apostles wisely discern that they need more help, particularly in the distribution of food to widows and orphans. They select 7 people with the qualifications of being ‘known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.’ (Acts 6:3) Philip is one of the 7 that are selected to help in this regard.

Soon after this, persecution breaks out against the growing movement of Christ followers. Many are scattered to other regions, including Philip. He ends up in Samaria where he preaches the Good News of salvation through Christ. With the power of the Holy Spirit, Philip performs miracles that display God’s power. He is very popular among the people and many come to faith there.

With this background, allow me now to share 4 reasons Philip is a favorite of mine.

First: He was obedient to God. As I said, Philip was experiencing great success for the Kingdom of God in Samaria. Yet in Chapter 8 he has an encounter with an angel who gives him instructions to leave that ministry and go down a road toward Jerusalem. No other clarification is given. Philip simply listens and obeys. He did not allow his ego to cloud his judgment. This, in my opinion, is a wonderful example of obedience and trust.

Second: Philip is prepared. Like I said, he didn’t know what was ahead, but we soon find out that he was prepared to meet any challenge that might come. On the road, the bible tells us that Philip meets an official from Ethiopia who is stopped in his chariot, reading from the Scriptures. Feeling the prompting of the Spirit, Philip (in another act of obedience), goes to meet this man and then asks him if he understood what he had been reading.

The official answers that he cannot unless someone explains it to him. Philip starts with the passage the official had been reading (from Isaiah), and explains how this is the message of salvation found in the resurrection of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. It is obvious to me that Philip had himself spent time studying, reading and applying the Scriptures. When the question of explaining something came up, Philip was prepared to give the answer.

Now, we do not have to be biblical scholars to be prepared like Philip. But we do need to be familiar with what the bible teaches so that we too can express the truth found in it.

Third: Philip was willing to adapt to the situation as it developed. The Ethiopian official, after having the Scripture explained to him, wanted to express his joy in coming to this knowledge of Jesus by being baptized. There was water nearby and Philip honored the man’s request by baptizing him right then and there.

Again, we might not be called to such a radical act, but then again you never now. May our trust in God be evidenced by our willingness to perform whatever task the Spirit lays out for us.

Fourth: Philip was consistent. Acts Chapter 8 tells us that after he baptized the Ethiopian official, Philip was suddenly and supernaturally taken from that place and placed in another town. Philip, not resting on his laurels, begins to preach the Good News there and everywhere has he traveled to Caesarea. Philip knew the call God had put on his heart, and he consistently walked it out wherever he was.

There you have my favorite, at least for today, from God’s Word. How about you, Most Precious Reader? Would you share with us one or more of your favorites that you have in the bible and why their story has impressed you? Thanks.

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

30 Years later, 1 Day at a Time

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30 years ago, May 3rd, 1991, was a Friday. Though I had no idea at the time, it was to be the anniversary of my new life in sobriety. As I have documented here before, I am an alcoholic. To be sure, I had no idea of that fact 30 years ago. In fact back then, I wasn’t looking for some way to stop drinking, I only wanted to get out from under the load of trouble I was in. My sick mind thought I might gain some sympathy if I could pass off the mess I had made of things, as in my own words at the time, “Maybe I drink a little too much.”

That may well be the understatement of my life! Yet, as AA has taught me, it is not the amount of alcohol that I consumed but rather what it did to me when I drank that is the problem.

The effect was that over 15 years I had become morally, physically and spiritually bankrupt. I was a wreck, on the fast track to an early grave and an appointment with eternity that would be spent apart from a loving God.

But on that Friday morning all those years ago, all I was aware of was how awful I felt physically. As bad as the stomach pain and shakes were, nothing compares with the devastation I felt as my Dad, with my wife riding shotgun, drove me the 90 minutes to the nearest treatment center that had an open bed. Not a word was spoken and I was left to my clouded thoughts of impending doom.

With my focus still solely on me, I had no understanding of the pain they were in or of their concern for the future. They were hurting at least as much as me. Blessedly, they jumped in fully to support me in the journey I was about to embark upon from the very start.

And what a journey! Of primary importance is this: In the small examination room I found myself in the detox were all sorts of literature from Alcoholics Anonymous. As I glanced at it, I saw the reference to a Higher Power. In that moment, the Lord revealed Himself to me as that Power by letting me know that He was with me and would see me through. I count May 3rd not only as my sobriety date (for I have not had a drop since, by the grace of God), but eternally more importantly as the date that Jesus Christ poured out His forgiving grace on me, thus assuring me of my forever home with Him.

Now that journey has completed 30 years. I lack the words to properly thank God for what He has done and continues to do for me. I started this day as I woke up asking Him to do for me what I cannot, that is to stay sober. Then I asked Him to help me see His will clearly today, that I may do and say things that bring Him honor. At days end I plan to thank Him again for what He has provided me.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank my wonderful wife Betsy for her unwavering support of my recovery. I might have done it without her, but in no way would I have enjoyed it as much as I have. Her faith in God helped mine to grow. She continues to live that godly example out day by day, thus encouraging me to do the same.

To the many folks who have and are praying for me to stay sober, you have my deepest gratitude. Your belief in me has made me believe in myself.

To the countless friends I have, both past and present in AA, please know that I love you. Your sharing of life’s challenges and rewards have been a constant support for me as I too face them. I have found your willingness to be transparent about the struggles of life in recovery has shown me how to do the same. And for those times you have called me out, thanks so very much. You have cared enough to want to help me see the blind spots I sometimes put up, those times when I was being less than honest with myself and you. May the 30 years God has given me be an encouragement to you to hang in there for one more day.

30 years, wow! I remember clearly thinking in my early days of my AA experience about the long-term sobriety of some of the ‘old-timers.’ I was 31 when God set me on this path and I recall thinking at that time when one of these icons mentioned that kind of length of sobriety that I would be over 60 years old if and when I got there.

 Well guess what, I’m there! And for whatever time God has left for me to continue on this journey, I pray that He will keep me ever hungry for more of Him, that I may grow in this life He has given me in order to give Him thanks and praise and to continue to share the Good News of His transforming love with all.

Thanks for reading.

Be blessed and be a blessing,

My name is Chuck, and I am an alcoholic. I am also a loved child of God, forever grateful for His overflowing mercy to an undeserving sinner like me.

Rejection

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I have been at this ministry thing for quite some time now. It has been a challenging time in many ways; challenges that without God’s constant help and support I never could have withstood. It has also been a time of countless blessings. These have come in every shape and type imaginable. The joy and peace God has bestowed on our efforts in His name fill my heart with gratitude.

Suffice to say, I have experienced a large range of emotion in doing Kingdom work. Please note that I did not say the full range of emotion, because I experienced a new one to me yesterday.

Allow me to give you some background first. As many of you are aware, Lakeside Christian Ministries primary purpose is to meet people where they are, sharing the Good News of God’s love for them. Jesus met folks this way and we see no need to improve on or change His method.

As I have mentioned in the past, we have had a long-standing relationship with a group of people who live in one of the low-income housing projects here in Fulton. We gather on Sunday evenings for fellowship, a bible lesson and prayer. This time has been one of the biggest blessings God has given me. The warmth of love and the desire to know more about God there has been wonderful. We are humbled to be placed where God is moving hearts.

You may also remember that this part of our ministry was birthed from a Hospice patient who had wanted pastoral care. God formed a connection from our very first meeting (more than three years ago!) that grew into various other family members, neighbors and the occasional stranger coming to their apartment to be prayed with or merely talked to about Jesus. Many interesting questions came from these encounters that led to mini-sermons that weekend.

Sadly for us, this dear Saint was called home to the Lord a month ago. We rejoice that she now is living in the fullness of joy with the Savior, but we miss her here.

The concern Betsy and I had about providing continuity at her passing was seemingly assuaged when one of the neighbors who would join us from time to time on a Sunday, invited us into her apartment. Wonderful, we thought.

However, prior to what would have been the second week gathering at her place, she left me a voice mail saying she had other things going on and would not be available. I returned her call, assuring her that we understood and looked forward to seeing her again the next Sunday.

Yesterday (Thursday), I received another voice mail. This one was quite different in tone. She told me that we could no longer gather in her apartment and that she was simply not interested in spending any more time with us.

Wow, I thought as I played the recording. This is a new one. A feeling of rejection came over me. Selfishly, I thought of myself first. Hadn’t I given of my time to be with her? Didn’t I make every effort to listen kindly to all questions and concerns? I felt rejected, there is no other way to put it.

Praying about this last evening and again before bed, I sensed God ministering to my heart. The Lord certainly knows a thing or two about rejection, even telling His disciples that they would be rejected because of Him. In His gentle way, God was leading me out of any self-pity I had so that I could refocus on Him. I prayed for this dear lady and drifted off to sleep.

This morning I awoke to a new sense of hope that only could have come from the Lord. I am assured to the depth of my heart that God’s plan is going forward in Fulton and that He would have us be a part of it. I repented of my self-centeredness and asked Him to show the way!

And though it has not yet been confirmed, I believe we will have a new place to minister this Sunday. One of the long-time attendees has recently moved from those apartments to a senior high-rise here in town. Something tells me we are heading there next!

Please stay tuned. I will let you know what God is up to here!

Thanks for reading. Please pray for our ministry that we honor God in all we do.

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

When Obedience Hurts

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I have written, taught and preached many times that Jesus Christ is the perfect role model for all who follow Him. Although we know going in we will never perfectly emulate the Lord, we can and should be learning from His example on a daily basis.

The Scriptures, of course, are the primary place for us to gain insight into the Lord’s behavior. In the 11th Chapter of John’s Gospel, we find a narrative where much of Jesus character is revealed for all. In it, Jesus receives word that his dear friend Lazarus is sick and near death. The bible tells us that Jesus was not only close to Lazarus, but to his sisters Martha and Mary as well.

We learn that Jesus does not go to them immediately, but waits 2 days. When He and his disciples do arrive at the village where Lazarus and his sisters lived, they find Lazarus already dead.

The sisters each go to Jesus and in their grief question the Lord as to why He did not come sooner. They both believe Jesus would have healed their brother.

As I considered this account again, I wondered for a moment why Jesus didn’t simply say the word of healing when He first got word of Lazarus condition. There are other examples in the gospels that tell Jesus healed at a distance (He sent 10 lepers away who were healed on their way to the priest and the royal officials son, who Jesus sent back home with the assurance that the child was healed. This official found out upon arriving home that his son was healed at the very same time he had spoken to Jesus the day before. These are just two examples of this kind of healing received from Jesus).

Obviously, Jesus was following the direction of the Father, whose desire was/is to make the Kingdom of God known to all. God’s plan was to open the eyes of people to His unmatched power; power even over death. This was also a portent of what was to come with the resurrection of Jesus.

Jesus knew the importance of following the Father’s will, even though in the moment He was going to share the pain of Mary and Martha’s suffering. He was also experiencing a sense of disappointment as well; not that He had failed, but the powerful sense of the lostness of many of the people there.

The gospel writer sums it up in verse 35 of Chapter 11, Jesus wept. As I prepared to write this blog entry, I re-read of my favorite commentators on the Bible, Warren Wiersbe. What he wrote about this entire account is profound, so much so in fact that I want to share it with you all, for there is no way I could improve upon it.

 “Jesus wept” is the shortest and yet the deepest verse in Scripture. His was a silent weeping (the Greek word is used nowhere else in the New Testament) and not the loud lamentation of the mourners. But why did He weep at all? After all, He knew that He would raise Lazarus from the dead.

Our Lord’s weeping reveals the humanity of the Savior. He has entered into all of our experiences and knows how we feel. In fact, being the perfect God-man, Jesus experienced these things in a deeper way than we do. His tears also assure us of His sympathy; He is indeed “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” Today, He is our merciful and faithful High Priest, and we may come to the throne of grace and find all the gracious help that we need.

We see in His tears the tragedy of sin but also the glory of heaven. Perhaps Jesus was weeping for Lazarus, as well as with the sisters, because He knew He was calling His friend from heaven and back into a wicked world where he would one day have to die again. Jesus had come down from heaven; He knew what Lazarus was leaving behind.

The spectators saw in His tears an evidence of His love. But some of them said, “If Jesus loved Lazarus so much, why did He not prevent his death?” Perhaps they were thinking, “Jesus is weeping because He was unable to do anything. They are tears of deep regret.” In other words, nobody present really expected a miracle! For this reason, nobody could accuse Jesus of “plotting” this event and being in collusion with the two sisters and their friends. Even the disciples did not believe that Jesus would raise Lazarus from the dead!  (Warren Wiersbe BE Bible Study Series.)

Sometimes, you and I are called to obedience that will cause us pain or discomfort. This is not a place I look forward to being in, as predictability and comfort are my normal default settings. But I must keep the greater picture in mind by remembering that my purpose today is to further God’s Kingdom in all that I say and do. Jesus has also said that His followers are the pickup their own cross and follow Him. I believe this is what He was referring to when He said that.

There will be times when hurt will accompany the being in the Father’s will. The Son of God has indeed modeled this for us. I find great comfort in knowing that our Savior has experienced all the emotions that go along with being a human being. May we call on His loving care and mercy to see us through when those tasks fall to us.

Thanks for reading.

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

He Got Out of the Boat

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As we walked Violet, our Goldendoodle, early this morning, my wife Betsy asked what I had planned for my day. I listed several chores I was going to do around the house and added that I hoped to publish a blog, if only inspiration would come. I explained that the well had been dry the last few days, but I was remaining committed to share what I believe God puts on my heart.

Things still appeared a bit dry, even as I began to research John 11, the raising of Lazarus, as a possible blog. It was at this time that my phone let me know I had a new text message from our dear friend Cheryl. (I highly recommend checking out her blog, Care for Parkinson’s, found here on WordPress, to get to know her as we have. She is a blessing!)

Anyway, Cheryl shared a devotion for today that had spoken to her in such a way that she wanted Betsy and I to have access to it as well. Having now read this, I feel the prompting of Holy Spirit to share some thoughts on this passage of Scripture. Thank you Cheryl for the nudge I needed today!!

Chapter 14 of Matthew’s gospel contains the familiar account of Jesus walking on the turbulent sea toward the boat the disciples were struggling against the wind in. Verse 26 tells us what they felt as this unexpected sight: When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. (NIV)

Jesus then attempts to assure them that it is indeed Him, and they need not fear. At this point Peter speaks up, “Lord, if it is you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” (Matthew 14:28 NIV)

You probably know the rest of the story: Jesus tells Peter to come to Him on the water. Peter jumps out of the boat and does start to walk on the water, only to start sinking when he took his focus off Jesus and put it on the waves all around him.

Lessons abound on this point, as much has been written and said about Peter’s apparent lack of faith. Even Jesus points this out to the Twelve when He and Peter get into the boat with them as He chastises them for having doubt instead of faith.

To be honest, I sometimes want to get a little judgmental toward the disciples. I mean, they had seen Jesus do so much. He had healed many and produced food for thousands out of basically nothing. His teachings and overt actions of love toward so many had been witnessed by this select group.

But I am not in judging mode today. Today instead of pointing a figurative finger at the disciples, I am instead marveling that Peter got out of the boat at all. I do not have much experience being aboard boats, save a few canoe trips (on a calm pond) and sight-seeing cruises around The 1000s Islands here in Northern NY.

This makes me appreciate all the more what Peter did. At least he got out of the boat at the invitation of Jesus. We can safely assume he was as startled/scared as any of them at the sight of someone walking toward them on the water; water that the 12 had been struggling to cross for some hours in the dark of night.

Yet, Peter got out of the boat. I believe I understand a few things better now as I re-read this narrative. First, Peter asked Jesus a specific question (If it is you, tell me to come to you on the water. V. 28) to which Jesus simply said, “Come.”

Despite what he was feeling, Peter heard from Jesus, and got out of the boat. He could have stayed aboard with the others, waiting to see how this played out. Sure, it was windy and wavy, but he was an experienced mariner and probably knew he would survive this squall as he had many others before. Lesson received, Peter: Don’t stay paralyzed in a circumstance. Rather, seek Jesus. Ask Him what to do and then act in faith on His response.

This took a fair amount of courage on Peter’s part. Talk about literally stepping into the unknown! He trusted in Jesus, and got out of the boat! And for a few wondrous moments, he too was walking on the water. Next lesson from Peter: There may well be great wonder when you step out in faith. To get the fuller extent of this wonder, we need to keep our focus on Jesus. It is my intention to do so, but I/we all know that the world around us is often in upheaval, revealing things that often vie for our attention. Thanks to Peter’s example, I am going to make a better effort to stay focused on Jesus.

Yes, I plan on getting out of the boat more often because the One who calls me to is ever faithful. He will not allow me to fall by the way, so long as I realize I need Him for every step I take (be it on dry ground or not!?).

How about you? Any ‘getting out the boat’ experiences you would like to share?

 I would love to hear them.

As always, thanks for reading. I appreciate your time.

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

Let’s Stop Devaluing Life

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April 16th, 2021

Much has been written and said about the de-sensitizing of our society towards violence. It seems that rarely a day goes by where we hear of and see the videos of a mass shooting and other acts of violence and destruction. It is as if we are becoming increasingly numb to killing. How do we process this, we ask ourselves. Perhaps as part of our survival instinct we do not allow these actions to effect us on a personal level. Sure, we feel the emotions that these reports bring: sadness for the families who have lost someone, anger at the perpetrator and frustration about what can be done. But we often times do our best to keep them from going any farther.

I must confess that in my comfy little spot in Central New York, much of the terror of this violence seems far off. From my easy chair I watch the news and empathize with the hurting, but what can I do about these events that seem to be overwhelming and unmanageable, and so far away?

My little bubble burst a few nights ago as an eleven month old baby was shot and killed a few short miles from me in Syracuse. You read that right, an eleven month old child. One car passed another and opened fire, striking the kids in the backseat, mortally wounding the one.

Eleven months old. I still cannot get my heart and mind fully wrapped around that. The innocence and trust of a little one blown away in a hail of bullets.

I must admit, I am not de-sensitized to this terrible act. Having raised two kids and been part of many other families as they raise theirs, the thought of having that little life snuffed out breaks the heart.

As I watched the report on this tragedy, one official was interviewed who said something that has resonated with me since. He was asked, “What can we do to stop this senseless killing?” His reply, “Until we stop de-valuing human life, nothing can be done.”

There it is. I believe this person has it exactly right. Until we can simply look at another person and understand that they are of great value, no community action program or gun amnesty proposal will lessen the violence in our streets and across the country.

I know it will not be easy or quick, but this must not stop us! We as a society have been on this downward trend for some time now. It is time for each of us, all of us, to stand up to this darkness with the only true weapon we have: Love.

May we all see our neighbors, both near and far, as the precious human beings that they are. This value is intrinsic to all God’s creation. Let us be intentional in seeing it in others.

I realize this sounds a bit like I have my head in the clouds and that the prevalent problems of today are just going to go away by simply being nice to one another.

But on the other hand, why not start there. Why not become part of a grass-roots movement that places equal love, care and concern for all people, simply because they are people.

We must, as a society, re-educate and re-orient ourselves. You and I can make a difference in our little parts of the world. Let us lead by example, recognizing and celebrating the value of all others as we together traverse this life.

The following is from the Twenty-Four Hours a Day book published by Hazelden. Appropriately, it is the Meditation for the Day, April 16th. I believe it clearly makes the point I have tried to above.

I must try to love all humanity. Love comes from thinking of every man or woman as your brother or sister, because they are children of God. This way of thinking makes me care enough about them to really want to help them. I must put this kind of love into action by serving others. Love means no severe judging, no resentments, no malicious gossip, and no destructive criticism. It means patience, understanding, compassion and helpfulness.

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

Good bye … or see you soon

Another thoughtful and encouraging blog post from my wife Betsy

Write With God

Last weekend brought news of two people in our circle whose earthly lives ended: one due to a lost battle with addiction, and one due to a lost battle with cancer. Both had professed faith in Christ, but the pain exhibited by their loved ones was real – and raw.

We arrived at the funeral home for the first one, who was a brother of my sister-in-law so we saw him from time to time over the years. We celebrated his faith and we prayed as he struggled. That morning, my sister-in-law tearfully asked my husband if he could do the memorial service. Of course, he said. Chuck shared words of comfort and hope, then opened the floor to family and friends. A young nephew got up and shared a powerful, faith-filled message and a call to anyone in the room who was ready, to accept Jesus as lord and…

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A Day is Like a Thousand Years

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(image courtesy of pinterest)

According to the most recent statistics from hospicenews.com, the average length of time a person was under hospice care in the United States was 77.9 days during 2018. That is just a tick over 2 and a half months. I have always had an affinity for numbers, as I find they help me in my expectations and plans.

This is well and good for most of the mundane activities and sports that I enjoy. However, I have found that God pays little attention to the conclusions that we draw from our statistical findings.

Never up to this point in ministry have the words of St. Peter rung more true to me: But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. (2 Peter 3:8 NIV)

This tells me that it is God who created time for us. He is outside of its restrictions and constrictions. But we, like all living things, need the passing of minutes, days, weeks, etc. to help us mark time for the things of this life. In His infinite wisdom God set time in motion the way He has for our benefit. He works to a far different schedule than us, hence the helpful description of time passing by Peter as mentioned above.

I mention all this as a little background as I now tell you about Mrs. M. She was one of the first patients I had as a Pastoral Care Provider for our local hospice organization. When we first met, she had been given the prediction from her doctor that she had 2 to 4 months to live, well within the established length of time for most hospice patients.

The thing is, this was going to be an great example of God not heeding our statistical knowledge. I was invited into Mrs. M’s home in March of 2018! I just received word late last evening that she had been called home to her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Her expected 2.5 months of hospice care turned into just over 3 more years of life!

And please understand, she was not merely checking the days off as they went by. In those early months after I first met her, she was still mobile and enjoying many of the things in life. She spent time with her large and extended family members, went shopping and got out to play her beloved bingo as well.

But most importantly, Mrs. M. spent much of that time deepening her relationship with Jesus Christ. It was an honor for me to be a part of this.

To be clear, in my role as Pastor in hospice, my primary focus is to provide spiritual care for the patient and any family member that chooses to join. I am not to be overtly Christian in my approach, but rather simply listen with care and provide support in ways that are appropriate to each situation.

That is not to say I cannot share faith, but that I cannot lead with it. However, there are not restrictions placed on me should the patient have questions, thoughts or concerns about Christianity.

Mrs. M. made this abundantly simple for me. At our first meeting, after introductions around, she asked me, “What happens to me when I die?” Talk about an open door to expressing and sharing the love of Christ! As I began to explain what the Bible teaches us of our need for a Savior, I learned that she had trusted Jesus for her salvation by accepting His forgiveness for her sins some years ago. Like many folks, however, her knowledge of the possibilities of what that relationship with Jesus could mean to her in the here and now was limited.

From that point on, our once or twice meetings per week were mostly spent on exploring the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in the Scriptures. What I was so honored and humbled to see was how Mrs. M. lived out these truths. As her many visitors stopped into chat when I was there, she never missed the opportunity to invite them to join us in discussion and prayer. The love, compassion and care she lavished on these folks, regardless of how she was feeling on any given day, continues to inspire me to be my best for God when I am given the chance to.

Watching God bless Mrs. M. in so many ways is one of the greatest gifts He has ever given me. As a matter of fact, after 12 months, the hospice agency re-evaluated her condition and released her from their care. She remains the only graduate of hospice this side of eternity I have ever known!

This ending with hospice did not cut our relationship short, thankfully. By this time, my wife Betsy and I were in there home on Sunday evenings leading bible studies and worship. As time went on, more and more family and neighbors were invited to join Sunday Night Church, as she lovingly called it. Again, the abundance of God’s blessing is incredible.

I have learned so much from her over these past 3 years with the single most important one being to follow the instruction of God: to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself.

I conclude these thoughts today by asking for your help in carrying the love of God forward as my dear Mrs. M. did without reservation. Please take the time today to let someone know how much you care for them. It does not need to be anything special, maybe just a call or a walk across to street to check in on a neighbor. Or perhaps there is a family member you are in tension with. With the love of God in your heart and mind, be the one to set the those issues aside long enough to simply let them know that you care about them.

Thank you and may you be inspired by Mrs. M. as I have been.

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

That Changes Everything

Here’s another post from my wife Betsy’s blog, Write With Jesus

Write With God

Our pastor did something different during her Easter message. She shared a series of statements and invited us all to conclude those statements with, “But Jesus is alive, and that changes everything.”

I’m going to take this statement with me when I go to work tomorrow. I’ll take it along next time I’m driving to WalMart. I’ll recite it while waiting in the doctor’s office. While watching our golden doodle Violet gambol about the backyard? Sure, why not contemplate that statement there, too.

I just need to remember not to add anything, like “ … that changes everything to MY liking” or “ … that changes everything so that those who have wronged me get what they deserve.”

Jesus is indeed alive, and has been so since that first Resurrection Day more than 2,000 years ago. It has most assuredly changed everything. While our world continues on, broken, divided, embittered…

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