You’re Included TOO!

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Inclusion. Certainly a word we hear frequently of late (and that is a very good thing!) For a person professing to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, being inclusive ought to be second nature. Sadly, what ought and what is are many times not the same

There is no place where it is proper to exclude anyone simply because of skin color, gender identity or any of the other social, religious, economic, etc. labels that get thrown around. What many consider as ‘being different’ is often someone living in a way that we are not accustomed to. Being inclusive means to drop the idea that different equals bad.

The Lord Jesus taught frequently about being inclusive, which tells me that this struggle is not a new one. Whether we want to admit it or not, most of us are most comfortable when around others who look, act and believe as we do.

What blessings we miss out when we throw up those types of walls. We waste our precious time and energy if we spend it trying to protect what we have from ‘outsiders.’ Likewise, we cut ourselves off from the opportunity to share life with various groups of people who might very well have invaluable lessons and experiences to share with us. From the personal perspective of a parent of a child who is a member of the LBGTQ community, I can tell you God has poured forth abundant blessings on the relationships my wife and I have made here. That’s not to say we have done anything special, except maybe to be non-judgmentally inclusive.

Jesus’ instructions for life are quite clear: Love your neighbor. Period. There is no place for judging or trying to change someone. To love means to listen and to always advocate for justice. It is to seek means of communication, not for disparaging thoughts or words.

While are thoughts are turned toward inclusion today, please remember that you are included too! We need to set aside our tendency to see things in an us v. them mentality. Being inclusive is to put those types of thoughts away, for good.

What helps me in this regard is taking to heart the words of inclusion Jesus spoke for everyone. In other words, from Jesus’ perspective we, that means all of us, simply are included. The Lord spoke in broad terms that were applicable to individuals.

For example, in Matthew’s gospel Jesus is quoted as saying, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 NIV). You need not be a bible scholar to understand what “all you” means: Everyone! Jesus invites us, all of us, individually, to come to Him and receive His blessing of rest and relief when the weight of the world gets too heavy. I love this. No prerequisites, no condition, no being a certain this or that, but rather come to Jesus, the One who loves you because you are you.

Yet the inclusion of God can take us even further. If we take the Lord up on His offer for peace and rest, He then as an assignment for us. An inclusive assignment. We are to take this awesome gift of His love and share with the world around us. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19a NIV).

Here is another case where all means all. I realize most of us are not going to be called to another nation to carry the message of God’s love, but that does not release us from our responsibility to doing so in our own context. We are to share God’s love with everyone with no excuse acceptable for exclusion. What that looks like and how we do this will vary from one person to the next, but the common bottom line is this: God’s love, His forgiveness and care are not to be restricted or withheld by us for any reason because God includes all!

God includes all. Period. Let’s include that in our personal lives as well!

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

Signs

Hello Blog-o-sphere! It is good to be here again! I think I made mention at the beginning of August that I had a busy month coming up. I truly had no idea how busy it would become.

I’ll spare you the details, except to say that as always, God showed His faithfulness to me in so many ways that the things that occupied my time this past month were not burdens, but blessings!!

I would like to share a snippet from my sermon of Sunday, 8-29. (Should you want to hear the whole thing, please go to our website: www.lakesidechristianministries.org)

I was talking about the hard-heartedness of the Pharisees in Jesus day as found in the 7th Chapter of the Gospel of Mark. They see the Lord’s disciples “eating with defiled hands,” meaning they were not washing them ceremonially as their rules decreed.

Jesus rebukes them telling them their hearts are not seeking God, but rather looking for praise, power and control over people as keepers of their burdensome list of rules and regulations.

All this made me think about my life; how I live it. What impressions do I give people in my everyday interactions with the world. I imagined my life as a house with various signs placed in the front yard. As I considered this, I wondered just what kinds of signs people might see.

I ask my listeners to join me in considering this. I asked: “Would the signs in front of the ‘house’ of your life say :“Keep Off!” Or “Go Away, you are not wanted here!” Maybe, “This is a place of judgment, and I am the judge.”

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You get the idea. I went on to ask myself and everyone to take a good look at what our lives look like. I asked us all further questions: “We wouldn’t withhold kindness because we perceive someone as living a different lifestyle than us, or we wouldn’t withhold friendship because someone has a different political opinion than we do, would we?”

Obviously, these types of ‘signs’ do not promote fellowship or encourage anyone. They serve only to protect us and our personal bubble we try to maintain.

In contrast to this, I asked if we might all put different placards in the front yard of our life. Signs that say: “All are welcome. Let’s talk about that. I’m not perfect so I will not expect you to be.”

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Or perhaps this: “I am a sinner saved by grace. Come, let’s share the experience of life as friends, getting to know each other along the way.”

How about you, Most Appreciated Reader: What do the signs outside the house of your life say?

Be blessed and be a blessing,

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

A Day is Like a Thousand Years

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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

Prayer: Monologue or Dialogue? — Hidden Arrows

Dr. Eastman was one of my seminary professors. He has continued to be a blessing to me in the years since. His love for our Lord and depth of knowledge of the Word have long inspired me to emulate his life. Please take a moment to read his compelling thoughts on prayer.

Thanks

Talk about honesty! One of my seminary students admitted,  “My past practice of prayer…has been mostly a monologue.” He then made a simple yet powerful case for centering or contemplative prayer: “I am attracted to it because it will help me grow in my commitment to listen more to God…” Can you identify with that? […]

Prayer: Monologue or Dialogue? — Hidden Arrows

You Just Never Know

I spent the majority of my 40 plus hour work weeks as a painter. The last twelve years of time-clock life I was the Facilities Painter at Le Moyne College, a Jesuit school in Syracuse New York. This last gig was by far the best. I was hired to start the department and it was basically left to me to organize and complete all the paint work on campus. It was a perfect fit for my personality. God has wired me to be an organized self-starter, and this played very well in this job.

Of all the fond memories I have of being a Dolphin (Le Moyne’s nickname), working with the summer crew of students was the very best. Those twelve summers allowed me to meet and interact with some fine young women and men. We shared lots of laughs as we completed the re-paint of all the dorm rooms on campus each year.

I am blessed to still be in touch with a number of “my kids,” as I fondly called them. Many have assumed prominent and interesting positions since graduating from Le Moyne. There are many schoolteachers in this group, as well an occupational therapist, several nurses and even a Funeral Director, to mention just a few.

The summer paint crew consisted of between 8 to 12 students each summer; so it is safe to say I worked with at least one hundred different students during my time there. Most had never held a paint brush when they started with me, making the first several days with them a challenge, to say the least!

It was always my intention to give my charges more than simply painting lessons, however. Working side by side with them for three months gave us the opportunity to get to know one another. The pastors heart within me cherished the times when our discussions went beyond assignments and into the realm of the eternal. Though I attempted not to be overt in my style, when questions pertaining to Jesus and/or Christianity came up, I did my best to answer in meaningful ways.

As in most cases in life, and maybe especially in ministry, we seldom get to see much if any fruit from our labors. I am ok with this, for ministry to me is all about God and His love for all people. If He should choose to use my words or actions to reach another person with His message of hope, may He get all the glory!

That is not to say that I do not wonder about the impact I may have had on my summer kids.

The other day, as I was looking at the gift they gave me as it hangs in my office, God gave me a blessing. You see, the picture I shared with this entry is what my crew of students gave me on their last day of the summer of 2016, just shortly before I left Le Moyne College to go into ministry fulltime.

If you would look at the picture again, you will see that each of them signed it (some with the nicknames I assigned them!) and attached a paint brush they had dipped in gold paint. The caption they wrote touched my heart with God’s affirming message about my efforts with them: Your brush has touched our lives.

What a blessing! These young folks, with grades, loans and many other things to occupy their minds, took the time to let me know what they thought of the time they had spent with me. As I looked at what they had given me, I felt a renewed sense of encouragement to carry on with what God has given me to do.

I share this with you today, Faithful Reader, so that you too may experience some encouragement. Yes, the days can seem long and this particular year can appear to be unending, but please hang in there, you just never know when what you say or do is reaching someone in a positive way.

Be Blessed and be a Blessing,

Pastor Chuck

Hey God, are you listening to me?

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Generally when I, or I suspect most people, ask another, “Are you listening to me,” we want to make sure our point was received or to get a positive response way more than simply wondering if what was said was in fact heard.

I believe the same principle applies when we pray. Our desire is to not only get the Almighty’s attention, but also to get the response to our prayer that we want.

I am also aware that many followers of Christ have spent lots of time earnestly praying for others as well as themselves. I have been asked more than once by these folks if God really listens to our prayers. I realize that the companion question to this is, ‘Does God answers all our prayers?’ Though I am confident that He does, the purpose of this particular blog is to address the inquiry of whether or not God is listening to our prayers.

Though the anecdotal evidence I have gathered through years of ministry point to a resounding ‘Yes!,’ that God is listening, I believe going to the one true source, the Bible, will give us the clearest and infinitely more reliable answer. Please know that the following in no way exhausts the truth found in Scripture pertaining to God hearing our prayers, but it is my hope that these few examples will eliminate any doubt lingering in your heart or mind (Spoiler alert: God is always listening!)

Clear proof that God is listening can be found in the Book of Daniel, Chapter 9, verses 22- 23 record this message being delivered to Daniel by the angel Gabriel: “Daniel, I have now come to give you understanding. 23 As soon as you began to pray, an answer was given, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed.” (NIV)

Notice how quickly the answer was made; as soon as you began to pray. There is no call waiting with God, no need to leave a voice mail, He is listening.

Here’s an example of one of those long time, devout people I mentioned earlier found in the beginning of the Gospel of Luke learning that God is always listening. Zechariah, who was to become the father of John the Baptist, had been praying to God for a son. He continued this fervent prayer even though he and his wife Elizabeth were now quite old. As we soon learn, age and circumstance pale in the face of the Almighty’s power and plans. One day, as Zechariah, a priest, was about his duties in the temple, an unnamed angel appeared to him: When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John.” (Luke 1:12-13 NIV)

Once again, prayer was heard. There is so much more to consider here in this particular passage, but I’ll leave it for another time except to say isn’t cool that the angel knew both Zechariah and his wife by name? This tells me that our prayers are not going to some faceless call-center, but rather are being received personally and with great care.

That is just two examples of prayers being heard. I take great encouragement from them (even if an angel has not been sent to me to deliver the answer!). As if the evidence of Daniel and Zechariah having their prayers heard were not enough, Jesus Himself shines the light of truth on the matter. Immediately before calling His friend Lazarus back to life, the Gospel of John records Jesus saying the following about being heard by the Father: So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” (John 11:41-42 NIV)

Jesus, in complete assurance of what He said was heard by the Father, spoke those words for the benefit of the crowd gathered there and for us. God is listening, always.

Here is one more example, this time from Father God Himself. In 2 Chronicles Chapter 6, there is recorded a long prayer that King Solomon prayed as He and the people dedicated to God the newly completed temple. Please take the time to read this prayer as it is a wonderful example of what our heart position should be when we approach the Almighty in prayer.

Then in Chapter 7, we read that the dedication is over and the people have been dismissed to their homes. It is then that God appears to Solomon and says, “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices.” (2 Chronicles 7:12 NIV)

No angel was sent to Solomon with an answer. Rather, God Himself delivered the message that the prayer offered had been heard.

As stated earlier, this barely scratches the surface of biblical evidence of God hearing prayers. But, you might be thinking, Daniel and Zechariah were notable characters. Maybe their standing moved their prayers up the line faster than those of ordinary folks like you and me.

Not to worry. Our limited and finite abilities as humans to take in information influences how we think God can. Never forget, He is omnipotent. He is limitless, we are limited. Because of His infinite capacity to care for us, He is able to hear all our prayers as we pray them.

I hope these thoughts on whether God hears us when we pray brings you some comfort in this regard. Next time we’ll consider if God answers all our prayers. Until then, keep on praying: God is listening!

Blessings,

Pastor Chuck

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

House Calls

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Long ago, before Netflix, color television and Covid-19, it was fairly common practice, especially in smaller cities and rural communities, for the local doctors to make house calls.  Hard to imagine, but a phone to their office could get you an appointment where he (remember it was a while ago) would come to you! Even prior to the current state of affairs, this is like ancient history to most of us.

In my calling as pastor, I have had the privilege to make many such house calls over these past three and a half years.  Instead of a black bag, I carry a well-worn brown bible.  Like the general practitioner of old had to be prepared for most anything, I am presented with a wide range of spiritual issues that plague folks.  I am no expert in theology, but I do know a thing or two about the power of God to move in people’s lives.  My own experience with darkness and how the Almighty freed me from it is a testimony to His awesome power that I often share.

The ministry goal of Lakeside Christian Ministries is simple: to be the hands, feet, ears and heart of Jesus to our community and to people wherever we go.  If you have some time (you probably do these days!), please read Chapter 4 of the Gospel of John.  In it you will find Jesus meeting and talking to a Samaritan woman.  That alone was news-worthy then: men didn’t talk to women in public and she was Samaritan, someone who was considered lower than low on the social scale.

None of that mattered to Jesus.  He simply started talking to her.  As He did, she revealed her pain to Him.  Their encounter not only brought her great comfort, but when she told people in her village about Jesus, many of them went to see Him and came to believe He was indeed the Savior.

It is with our hearts set on being to people as Jesus was to this woman that we started out.  God has blessed these efforts and we have come to know some wonderful people that have opened their hearts and their homes to us.  By word of mouth, other families have asked us to share with them as well.

We are not a church that is a building; rather we are people who love the Lord and build relationships with others because of His great love.  It’s a pretty simple formula really, be watchful for opportunities and be willing to go when they appear.

Because of the restrictions of the current crisis, I won’t be making any house calls for a while.  I make this decision because of the recommendations of health care professionals.  I firmly believe that physical (I don’t like to say social) distancing will help to slow down the spread of this virus; especially among those with whom I so often visit.

Having said this, I am more than ready to make virtual house calls at any time.  If, Dear Reader, you are seeing this on Facebook and want to speak with me, please send me a private message.

WordPress (where this blog can be found) provides a place where you can comment.  Please use this to get in touch me with and we will arrange a more private place to communicate.  The same goes at our web site (where you can hear any of the messages I’ve posted over the years): www.lakesidechristianministries.org.  You can email me  there or if you prefer, my personal email is: pastorchuck38@gmail.com.

I promise you two things if you reach out in any of these ways. First, mine are the only eyes that will see what you write and two, I will get back to you so we can talk further.

Thanks for reading.  Please be kind to one another and may you find the peace that God promises: And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)

Blessings,

Pastor Chuck

When Your Words Don’t Help; Try Listening

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Like many, I suppose, I could stand to work on my listening skills.  As a pastor, I often get to hear many of the struggles, pain and uncertainties that people are going through.  Yet hearing and listening are two different things, are they not? It occurs to me this morning that I hear with my ears, but truly listen with my heart.

For me, the difference is in how deep I allow what I hear in.  For example, when my mind immediately jumps to what I will say in response, I am merely hearing what is presented.  And even though my response may be helpful, it probably will not approach the deeper core of the situation; because in using only my hearing, I fail to engage my heart.  This makes it difficult for me to empathize, because I have placed the goal of simply answering above connecting.

Recently, a family to which I have ministered for over a year suffered the loss of an adult child to a drug overdose.  This close knit and multi-generational family is devastated, as you can well imagine.  Using only my ears to hear over the previous two weeks, I have heard their pain as they attempt to make sense of a senseless loss.  Even with my best intentions, simply hearing and then responding has been of little help.  My attempts to bring comfort have yielded few results.

Last evening, as my wife and I met with several of these dear folks, God got my attention.  As the theme of pain and uncertainty was once again talked about, I began to listen instead of just hearing.  Rather than allowing my mind to work itself into a frenzy formulating a response, I kept it quiet. This allowed more of the depth of their suffering to reach my heart.

At the urging of His Spirit, I then shared with the family that I had no answer for them.  But what I did have, I offered without reservation.  Rather than offer a solution to end their pain, I simply acknowledged the depth of their despair while encouraging them to not give up on God during this time.

I realized this morning that as I listened to them last night, I could offer the best help I have available: me.  I assured them that should they call or want to see me, I would be there.  Listening, rather than merely hearing, allowed me to be open to a different approach, one that was so much more personal and I believe helpful.  As Betsy and I left them, I saw hope begin to glimmer in the midst their pain.

I would love to read any suggestions you may have on how to become a better listener should you wish to share them.

As always, my deep appreciation for taking the time to read this,

Pastor Chuck