Friday, September 16, 2016
Dear E-Flash Friends;
This weekend launches our Fall Kick Off services!
You might be thinking, “Wait a minute… I thought it was still August!?!”
Nope we are more than halfway through September already.
We will begin a new series this weekend titled: “Good Thinking, Bad Thinking.” You probably already know this but what we think about matters. If you would like a further explanation of that concept…terrific! That is exactly what we will be doing over the next few weeks.
The worship team has a special time planned for this weekend. You will definitely want to join us!
I know it’s getting late in the week but there is still time to invite someone. Oh sure, it can feel risky to do so but why not give it a try? It’s possible God has already been preparing someone you know for these moments we will share together. It could be life changing!
The services are at 9am or 11am, Sunday, September 18th.
I am really looking forward to seeing you and I’m already thanking God for the good things that will be happening!
Love and blessings,
First Church of God
4600 W. 111th Street
Oak Lawn, IL
Thursday, September 8, 2016
I have noticed that many Christians have—from a biblical perspective—an incorrect view of death.
Death is, of course, sad and unpleasant. The circumstances which result in death can be terrible, tragic, senseless and evil. I am not trying to minimize the genuine grief which accompanies the death of people we know and care about.
Jesus wept at the news that his friend, Lazarus, had died.
Death is referred to in the Bible as an “enemy.” (1 Cor. 15:26)
So, I am not trying to promote the strange idea that death is insignificant or that we might consider it to be fun.
Death is significant and it is not fun. It is sorrowful. Quite frankly, I do not like death. And I’m pretty confident everyone reading this would agree.
However, when I write that many Christians have an incorrect view of death I am suggesting that far too many Christians understand death to be the worst thing that could ever happen.
This is not true.
By the way, please know I am directing this note to myself, as well. I have sometimes fallen into this incorrect type of thinking. So, I will write this for my own sake: As a follower of Jesus it is important for ME to remember that physical death is not the worst thing that could ever happen.
The biblical view is that physical death involves a transition to another realm. Existence does not end. In fact, according to the Bible, the existence of the follower of Jesus is improved and enhanced after we pass into the next realm.
The Apostle Paul addressed the issue of life and death contrasting the two options and wrote, “I’m torn between the two desires: I long to go and be with Christ [physical death] which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.” (Phil. 1:23-24)
Did you actually process that passage from Philippians chapter 1? Paul considered the option of physical death to be “far better.” How in the world could death be far better? Is he out of his mind?!?
No. Paul could consider it to be better because physical death involved being with Jesus in a more direct and tangible manner. That is an extraordinary view. But it also represents the correct biblical view.
To leave this physical realm is simply to be present with Jesus in the next realm. (Check out 2 Corinthians 5:8.)
Again, those of us who remain behind will be sad. We will grieve. We will miss the person who is gone. But we should not understand the person’s death to be the worst thing that could ever happen because that is not true.
You might be thinking, “Why are you even writing this, Dan? This is a morose topic. Are you trying to make everyone sad? Why does this matter?”
I’m writing this because I have recently experienced the loss of a friend and I currently have some other friends who are dealing with serious life-threatening illness so the reality of death is on my mind.
I am writing this because I see some people I care about who have a biblically incorrect view of death and it is resulting in a degree of anguish and fear which is unnecessary. I wish this were not the case.
I am writing this because I see some other people I care about who are walking with Jesus in such a way that the idea of death—though sad—is nevertheless honestly viewed with an ultimate peace, assurance and hope rather than despair! This is remarkable and it is good.
I am writing this because whether we acknowledge it or whether we try to ignore it this is an issue which personally and directly impacts 100% of us.
I am writing this because expressing my thoughts in writing can be somewhat therapeutic for me. It can help me to clarify what I really believe. It can help me sort out the jumble of feelings I am experiencing.
I am writing this because I hope it might provide some small measure of help to you.
“For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands.” 2 Corinthians 5:1, NLT
Friday, September 2, 2016
Dear E-Flash Friends;
Jesus tells a group of people at a church in a place called Laodicea [my paraphrase], “You’re not hot or cold. You are lukewarm. It’s the lukewarm part that bothers me. In fact, it makes me want to spit you out of my mouth.”
I know. I know. That is a vivid metaphor and it is a pretty unusual thing to say to a church. You might be thinking, “What is He getting at?”
I’m glad you asked! That’s what we will be talking about this Sunday, September 4th. We are finishing up our series on the 7 messages to 7 churches from the book of Revelation. It is going to be interesting, challenging and helpful. Really!
It is Friday night as I write these words and the worship team rehearsal just ended. So I know from firsthand experience, we will have some terrific music. God will be honored.
You won’t want to miss it!
I realize it is Labor Day weekend but it seems to me the best plan for Sunday morning would be something like this: Get up. Go to church, first. And then do whatever else the day holds.
(…Hey, a guy can express his hopes and desires, right?)
Speaking of expressing my hopes, I hope to see you this Sunday!
Love and blessings,
First Church of God
4600 W. 111th Street
Oak Lawn, IL
9am or 11am
Wednesday, August 31, 2016
Sometimes in the give and take of everyday life I get grumpy and frustrated and I forget how blessed I am.
When I have some time to think honestly about these grumpy and frustrated moments it bothers me because the truth is that I am genuinely thankful for the wonderful life God has given me and I want to nurture a heart and a life which expresses authentic gratitude.
Most of the people I know—most of the people who will read this post—are extraordinarily blessed. What I mean is if we were to consider many of our life circumstances in light of the circumstances of a large percentage of people in the world, we are blessed with significant advantages and comforts in comparison.
I don’t raise this point in order to make us feel guilty, I raise this point in order to remind us to be thankful.
When I see in myself or others—those of us who have much—an attitude of ungratefulness it disappoints me. And to be painfully frank I feel like I’m seeing too much ungratefulness from people who should be incredibly thankful. Again, I see this ungratefulness in me, too, sometimes. So please understand, I’m not trying to pretend I stand above the fray as a beacon of perfection.
(By the way, I just looked up “fray” and it is a real word. And the dictionary says it is frequently used by people who are close to being beacons of perfection.)
It is interesting to know studies on happiness have found that being thankful tends to promote happiness. In other words, rather than thinking: “If I feel happy then I will be thankful about it.” It actually works better this way: “If I will cultivate an honest heart of gratitude happiness will follow.”
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Friday, August 26, 2016
I went to the hospital a little over 3 years ago with chest pains. This was not the first time I had this type of experience. But in some inner sense I had a sneaking suspicion this time was going to be different.
I was right. It was different.
Tests revealed some fairly significant blockages in my arteries and I underwent a catheterization procedure to have a stent placed in the main artery in my heart. Then just a couple of weeks later I had to have another procedure. More stents were needed.
Apparently a strict diet of Doritos, Twinkies and Pork Chops was not a wise choice, after all. Weird, huh? Now, I primarily eat lettuce and once in a while for a real treat I’ll chew my way through a big pile of celery. (That’s for special occasions when I’m feeling wild and uninhibited!)
One of the main challenges of this time in my life was not physical, however. It was mental or maybe it would be more accurate to say psychological. (I’m not sure I know the precise difference between the two terms.)
When these medical issues happened I came face to face with this realization: I am getting older and I am going to die.
I know. I know. This realization is about as obvious as it gets, but it genuinely bothered me.
Oh, don’t get me wrong even though I can be a little bit slow sometimes I knew that the clock continues to tick and someday we will experience physical death. We all know that, even though some of us prefer to never think about it. When I say I came face to face with this realization what I mean is that these blatantly obvious truths became realizations for me in a new way. A more uncomfortable way. A more tangible way. A more present way.
I am not alone and that matters. Someone is walking through this with me. But these realizations of life can still hit us in ways which require a bit of mental adjustment.
In my mind, I always considered myself to be relatively healthy. In fact, I may have had an unrealistic overconfidence regarding my physical health.
My parents, who were overweight most of their adult lives, lived into their 80s (my dad almost made it to 90) and were relatively healthy into their 70’s and beyond. They went for years and years in their 40s, 50s and 60s without going to doctors. My brother and sister are—at least compared to me—relatively healthy. I assumed relatively good health was in the genetic cards I had been dealt. When all this occurred my understanding regarding my personal health took a big hit.
I did not like having to come to grips with the fact that I was dealing with such significant health issues.
I remember the first time I talked to someone after these procedures and I used the phrase, “My cardiologist…” Man! That really bothered me. It still bothers me.
I have a cardiologist?
How can a guy like me have a cardiologist?
What the heck is going on here?!? I’m not supposed to have a cardiologist! That’s for sick elderly people!!!
Ninjas don’t have cardiologists, they just chew on special, medicinal herbs based on closely guarded, ancient martial arts secrets once in a while and everything is fine.
“Where’s Kwai Chang Caine when I need him?!?”
About 3 months ago, I had another episode and ended up back at the Emergency Room. Another heart catheterization procedure followed and this time most of my major organs were removed and replaced with digital cybernetic parts. I feel fine but my friends and family have noticed I’m now speaking with a thick Austrian accent.
I’m writing this story because my cardiologist’s office called me about 25 minutes ago. “Mr. Marler?” the voice on the phone inquired, “We need to reschedule your appointment.”
“I’m sorry, who did you say this is?”
“This is Dr. __’s office. You know, your cardiologist.”
“Oh yeah, I have a cardiologist, don’t I?”
…Yep, things are different.
Sunday, August 21, 2016
Most of us have had the experience of seeing people we love make mistakes and wishing we could stop what was happening. We don’t want people we care about to have to deal with the difficult consequences of unwise actions. It breaks our hearts to see them in pain.
But many of us have also discovered that there is a process of learning, growing and maturing that must take place in life. And an unavoidable aspect of this maturing process involves making mistakes. We cannot learn to walk without falling down.
Hey, think about it: there were people who loved us and they could not prevent some of the mistakes they saw us making. In a very similar way we will not be able to prevent some of the mistakes we see people making.
I’m not suggesting we can never help or give wise counsel when we see people heading in a direction that will cause pain. If we can intervene and prevent troubles, that’s great, we should do so. But sometimes they will not be ready to hear our advice and we will have to endure the heartache, be patient and… pray.
Sunday, August 14, 2016
My last post was titled: Keep Trying.
This is yet another keep trying post.
Many of the things I have tried to do have not worked. I have had a few successes along the way sure but I have failed so often that it is embarrassing to me.
(I was going to list some of my really humiliating failures here but I can only take so much embarrassment.)
The worst part of failing, however, is that it’s fairly common to reach a point at which we say something like this to ourselves: “Well, forget it. I have tried and tried and tried and I have met with failure so often that the pattern seems to be very clear and well established. Failure appears to be inevitable. Therefore, it makes perfect sense to stop trying. Give up. Go lie down in a corner and take a nap.”
However, I am not going to stop. With God’s help I am strenuously avoiding pessimism and cynicism. (When I write, “with God’s help” I mean that in a very literal and intentional way.)
I am going to keep on working and keep on trying. I am even going to be ridiculous enough to be optimistic. That’s right, you read that last sentence properly. Optimism! Because with God all things are possible!
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 15:58
Saturday, July 30, 2016
Note to self: Keep trying.
I have the type of personality and temperament that causes me to become very embarrassed, discouraged and self-conscious when I make mistakes and disappoint others. But I also have the type of personality and temperament that has resulted in my serving in a number of leadership positions. Positions in which I have made lots of mistakes and disappointed others.
If you are one of the many people I have disappointed please know that I am genuinely sorry. Perhaps there will be some very small consolation in knowing I am disappointed, too.
So I understand how it would be easy to give up, go hide and not try anymore. I really do. I have felt tempted to do so. In fact, I’m writing this post from my secret underground bunker. (The freeze dried meals are not very tasty.)
But I mention this to remind all of us—including myself—not to give up.
It is important for us not to let the errors, failures, mistakes, embarrassments, disappointments and discouraging moments of life cause us to quit.
Most people who have achieved significant goals and objectives have done so after falling down.
…. A LOT.
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
Monday, July 25, 2016
I have discovered that many people experience a sense of both joy and relief when they come to understand that authentic faith in God is not fundamentally about the legalistic observance and oppressive practice of religious rituals.
At a basic level knowing God is about an actual relationship with a being who knows us, loves us and is alive. And what is even more extraordinary is that this being happens to be the almighty creator and Lord of all things!
(I know this almost sounds too good to be true. That’s why it is referred to as good news! Really good news.)
These realities are what make it possible for us to enter into something much more than the routine exercise of rituals. Rather we can enter into the knowledge, truth and presence of God, himself, through the Lord Jesus Christ.
So… rejoice and be glad!
Sunday, July 17, 2016
My dear friends let’s remember that bad news is always going to get the most attention. And to be fair, sometimes the bad news is very important and deserves to be told. Some stories and events are painful to encounter but we need to hear about them anyhow. We need to be aware of what is happening.
However, it is also important for us not to become so immersed in the stories of stress, strife, pain, friction, animosity and violence in our world that we become overwhelmed with a sense of hopelessness and pessimism.
It is not irresponsible or unsympathetic to bear in mind that every day there are good, happy, positive, noble, uplifting and encouraging events occurring. Every day there are people who are engaged in helpful, noble, inspiring activities. Every day there are people joyfully serving others with genuinely loving hearts.
These positive stories may not be as sensational. These good and uplifting stories are often very simple and do not involve the inherent drama to draw us in like the negative stories. But they are real. These good activities are happening... all the time. It is helpful for us to keep these good activities in mind.
I know some of us hear the latest news stories and we have a sense of sadness and pain—maybe even fear—deep in our hearts. I can understand those feelings. But remember… the Light is still shining.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.” Philippians 4:8
Saturday, July 16, 2016
Dear E-Flash Friends;
I am glad to be back in Oak Lawn and am really looking forward to worshiping with my church family this Sunday. There is a feeling of enthusiasm I have for speaking and teaching this week that I have not had in a while. I’m not even sure I can explain it. I love to preach God’s word but I have a sort of fresh excitement and anticipation.
Well, whether I can explain this excitement or not (and I can’t) I suppose I should consider it to be a good thing (and I do).
We are starting a new series this Sunday, July 17th from the book of Revelation. The title of the series is: 7 Letters To 7 Churches. On July 17th, the first message of the series will present the message Jesus had for the church at Ephesus. It is a message that is relevant, interesting and helpful to our church today!
The worship team has wonderful, inspiring, God honoring music planned and we will be celebrating Communion, as well.
You will want to be here this Sunday! Seriously. God will be honored and we will be blessed!
See you on Sunday!
Love and blessings,
Sunday, July 10, 2016
My sister-in-law Paula said, “Hey look at this guy!”
It was a large cricket with pretty colors moving slowly through the sand. As I looked at the creature I was struck with an impulse to reach down and let him crawl onto my hand. So I put my hand in front of him and, sure enough, he crept onto my palm.
I said, “I wonder if he will bite.”
Paula said, “No way. He won’t bite.”
Nadia said, “He might.”
As he began crawling up toward my wrist I said, “He has some great colors. Get a picture while he is on me.”
Normally, people can easily reach their phones in less than 10 seconds but we were at a beach and the phones had been stashed away in duffel bags or beach totes and so they searched for phones while the cricket continued crawling up my arm.
By the time photos were actually taken the large cricket had ambled up my arm, onto my shoulder, around to my back and then up to my neck.
It was a strange feeling, sort of ticklish and slightly creepy as he gripped and un-gripped his cricket feet moving around my neck.
When he eventually bit me it hurt but truthfully it was not terribly painful. It was like a strong pinch. The problem was that it caught me off guard and made me nervous because I wondered if there were any potentially significant negative effects from a cricket bite.
This all happened several hours ago.
In the past 10 to 15 minutes I have noticed the emergence of… let’s see… how can I put it? I do not know an accurate way of describing it. I have noticed the emergence of something I can only describe as “powers.”
I know you’re probably laughing and rolling your eyes but I suddenly have capabilities I never used to possess. For example, two minutes ago I easily jumped over a bus without really giving it much thought. And just before that I ate close to 1 acre of a local farmer’s crops.
Oh well… I’m going to take an aspirin and lie down. I guess I’ll be fine in the morning.