Wow. It has been a long time since I last posted so let me give a quick update. If you don’t know, a little over a month ago we moved. We now live in Shelbyville, Michigan. I have been called as the pastor of counseling and discipleship at Orangeville Baptist Church in Plainwell, Michigan. As you can see from the title, my main area of responsibility is to build a Biblical counseling ministry where people come to Christ and grow in Christ. I am really excited about this. If you know me at all, then you know that I am very passionate about Biblical counseling and connecting the transforming power of God’s Word to everyday life. I get excited about this because I believe there is a vast disconnect between what people hear on Sunday or read in their Bibles and how it all translates into a changed life. I love to come alongside people and help them wisely relate God’s word to their personal walk with Jesus Christ so they can exalt and honor Him in all that they say, do, and think.
This past Sunday, April 22nd, was my fourth Sunday serving here. Yes, that means my first Sunday here as an associate pastor was on April Fool’s Day. No, it wasn’t all just a big prank! Ha, Ha! My family and I have been enjoying getting to know our new church family and our new community. God has blessed us with a beautiful house not far from the church building for which we are very thankful. I am hard at work getting the word out about our free biblical counseling that we are calling, “Orangeville Biblical Counseling Solutions” (if you don’t mind, take a moment and find our page on facebook and give it a “like”). I am also hard at work getting ACBC certified so that I can improve my ability to speak God’s truth in love and to help others do the same. Here is a picture of my new office. It used to be the church library. Orangeville Baptist has never had three pastors simultaneously so they had to convert the library into my office. It is a lot smaller than my old one in Newberry but everything fits nicely. If you are in the area, feel free to drop on by and visit!
Just a couple of days ago, late in the evening on Labor Day, our family said goodbye to our dog Buddy. We adopted him from the local animal shelter just days before they had to close it. That was 9 years ago. During those 9 years we had a lot of adventures with Buddy. While there were days when he greatly annoyed us, we all grew to care about him, especially my oldest daughter Alexis. Buddy was her best friend.
Yesterday, late in the afternoon, we buried him. I asked everyone in the family to share a memory they had about him. Everyone did, including myself. You might think that’s strange but you see, I believe animals are great teachers. Also, when we read the Bible, we are often encouraged to learn about God and life from the animals. Remember Proverbs 6:6? Or remember Matthew 6:26-27? Just to name a couple. As I have personally reflected on his time with us, here are some things that Buddy has taught me and I hope I never forget.
- Live life to the hilt – Buddy was not, by any means, a lazy dog. He lived life to the uttermost. In fact, when we picked him out at the animal shelter he was with several other puppies. The rest of the puppies were laying there but Buddy was jumping and scratching and doing his best to get out of his pen. That habit never broke. We gave up trying to keep him in a pen or crate. Every time we came home, he had somehow broken out and was at the door to greet us. This teaches me much about my Christian life. A verse I meditate on frequently is Colossians 1:28-29, “He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.” As Christians, we are to live to the hilt for the Lord Jesus Christ. We are to be living sacrifices who are solely and wholly committed to Him.
- Enjoy people – There are two kind of people in the world: here I am or there you are. A “here I am” person waits for others to come to them but a “there you are” person seeks other people out. Buddy was a “there you are” dog. He loved people. Although a large dog, he always wanted to be a lap dog. He wanted to lick your face. He wanted to play with you. No matter where we went as a family, he would sit near us or with us or on top of us. When friends visited, he (often to their annoyance) would smother them with attention. This reminds me of Jesus who was a master of people-work. He loved and cared for and enjoyed people. He sought people out and pointed them to salvation in Him.
- Guard what’s important – As much as Buddy loved people he also was a great guard dog. When unfamiliar people came to the door he barked and growled ferociously – especially at the UPS delivery guy. Valerie and I enjoy going on walks together. Before we leave, Valerie would often say to Buddy, “Guard the kiddos.” And he did. Sure, sometimes his barking would drive you crazy but he was defending us and there was a comfort to knowing when we were walking that they would have to get through Buddy first. This causes me to think of the duty of Christians and the church at large to defend the truth of the Bible. It also brings to my attention of how God defends and guards his people.
- Always watching – You could count on it. Before we even pulled into our driveway, there was Buddy’s head and beady eyes poking up over the window ledge. When one of us would go away, such as Lexi to school or Valerie to get groceries, Buddy would sit at the window and watch. Are we not called as Christians to watch and pray for the Lord’s return? Are we not also called to watch out for false teaching and to watch out lest we waste our days and time?
- Death is inevitable – Buddy was a mixed breed of Boxer and Labrador. The veterinarian told me Monday night that the longest she had seen a Boxer live was to the age of 13. The average lifespan of Boxers I am told is 10-12 so Buddy was at the end. He was not long for this world. But even in his death he is teaching us. The Bible teaches that death entered this world because of sin and so Buddy dying painfully but importantly reminded my young family that death is real. It is their first real experience of loss. I am a pastor so my kids have been to more than their fair share of funerals and seen people lying in caskets but it didn’t phase them because they didn’t know them. But Buddy’s death got their attention and God is teaching us that we live in a sin cursed world that groans for its Creator (Romans 8:19-24). Buddy is teaching us to look to Christ who conquered sin and death and Satan.
With all of that I can say, “Thank you Lord that you are sovereign over all and can use anything to teach us and grow us in You. Thank you for giving to us our faithful four-legged companion (who Valerie called “Buddy James Manwarren” when he would get in trouble and it just kind of stuck). He has taught myself and my family some important lessons. Help us to remember and keep learning. All glory to Your name.”
Have you ever thought about why you were born into your particular circumstances? If you are reading this blog entry you are most likely a Christian whose life has been purchased by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. You are also likely relatively wealthy, at least compared to most people living in the world. If you have the ability to eat three times per day and have shelter over your head, you are better off than many people in the world. If you earn $25,000 per year, you are the richest 10% of the world. You are rich. In fact if you earn $2,200 per year you are the richest 15% of the world. If you reading this you are literate and likely had several years of education. If so you have received more education than hundreds of millions of people around the world. Perhaps you have gone to college, even graduate school.
So why? Why you? Why your particular circumstances? There are people around the world who might be asking the same questions. Wondering why they weren’t born in America. Wondering why they can’t eat three times per day, why they don’t have the luxury of throwing food away. Wondering what it would be like to go to school or attend college or even read. Wondering what a warm bed feels like.
You could have been born as an impoverished child in an unreached nation. Perhaps as a girl born into a Muslim family where you would be forbidden to show anything beyond what can be seen through the eye slits of your veil and could be beaten if you disobeyed even the simplest command of your father. You could have been born in a remote village in Vietnam with little food or education and no opportunity to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You could have been born as a girl in Africa who will eventually be sold by your parents into sexual slavery. That could have been you.
Take 10 minutes to read the rest here!
Below is a link to “thelopezblog.” It is an invitation to “laugh, cry, and smile” with the Lopez’s and will mostly consist of “stories, reviews, and snapshots of what a day looks like with six children ages 4 and under.” Of interest is their recent adoption of not one baby, but triplets!
Click here to go to their website.