My Prayer for 2014

March 5, 2014

Use Grammarly’s grammar check because bad grammar hurts our effort to communicate our vision! Speaking of vision:

A Fresh Vision of God for the New Year

I like to preach a New Year’s sermon and this year was no exception. But, I may have picked an unusual passage for it. Here is the passage on which I preached, from Isaiah 6.

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

What I wanted to do here was present a fresh vision from an ancient text for us to consider as we move into a new year. Let me suggest a few things about the passage as we think of 2014.

1) Our culture has become too familiar with God. We view God as some sort of cosmic Santa Claus who we can climb up upon his lap and feel all warm and fuzzy. Yet, how does Isaiah respond when He is confronted with the majesty of God? Woe is me! Don’t you think we need to be confronted by the holiness of God once more? Reminded that the God we worship is the sovereign God of the universe?

2) We need to consider more our need to be holy. Our culture considers how close we can get to the fence without crossing over. Whereas when Isaiah was confronted with the holiness of God he realized that he was a sinner, a man of unclean lips. Have we forgotten the call to be holy as He is holy? If Isaiah, when confronted with God was reminded of his sin, how much more should we?

3) We should be concerned more with atonement and sacrifice and proclaim it boldly as the only way to stand in the presence of a holy God. Isaiah had to have the live coal from the altar touch his lips to “atone” for his sin. We too have had the live coal applied to our souls when we trusted in Christ and His death and resurrection. This is how we are able to stand in the presence of God. How much should we preach this as the only way someone can stand before a holy God, but to trust in the sacrifice of Christ.

I mean not to create some sort of denial of fellowship with God. Clearly through Christ we have access to the Father and receive His love and fellowship. But perhaps we need to balance this with a real awareness of awe and wonder and even reverential fear at the majesty and holiness of God. I pray that we live in light of the holiness of God afresh this 2014!


Book Review – Give them Grace

April 4, 2013

A review of Give them Grace: Dazzling your Kids with the Love of Jesus by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson by my wife Tracy Mickle.

Give Them GraceIn Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus, Elyse Fitzpatrick and her daughter, Jessica Thompson, help parents understand the role of grace in their lives and the lives of their children. The authors challenge parents to consider whether their parenting is grace-oriented, or merely moralistic. Moralistic parenting can be accomplished by any well-meaning parents, but are we as Christians really raising our children in a grace-filled, Christian environment? These are important questions, particularly in light of the rapid departure of many young adults from church.

To this end, the book is very helpful and insightful, however, when it comes to practical application, it gets a little hard to translate. The authors give examples of conversations parents should have with their children when they are in the process of disciplining. These examples are all well and good, but one cannot help but wonder how realistic they are. Do real children really respond the way they do in this book? Granted, my children are still quite small, so perhaps some of this is beyond my current situation, but sometimes it seems a bit idealistic and not practical for most peoples’ daily lives.

My favorite section of the book was the chapters that spoke grace to a parent’s heart. It is so easy to take ourselves much to seriously when it comes to parenting our children. We want to do it perfectly so they turn out perfectly. The authors gently remind us that we cannot ruin our children. We do our best, and the rest is up to God. This is truly freeing, and definitely worth the price of the book.


Don’t Despise Little Things

August 7, 2012

For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice” (Zechariah 4:10).

Zechariah was sent to encourage the continued building of the temple of God after the return from Babylon. Some who saw the temple and remembered Solomon’s temple, despised the new temple as it paled in comparison. Zechariah reminds the people, that Zerubbabel, the governor of Judea, will finish the temple, and it will be a grand thing, even though it will not be like Solomon’s. I am reminded of this verse today as I reflect on our VBS last week.

Our culture in North America is one of an ever increasing “bigger and better” nature. The only things that are ever seen as successful are the things that are bigger and better. Whether it’s who can build the tallest building, who can run the 100 meter dash the fastest, or who’s stadium can hold the most people, we only care about the biggest and the best. Unfortunately, for many of us, we will never be the biggest and the best. Does this mean we are unsuccessful in the task? Never!

In North America though, we view success in ministry in terms of numbers. Who has the most people at their services? Who has the most members, the most baptisms, the most children in Sunday School. It’s easy to become discouraged when you realize that your small little group of believers is never going to be “successful” when you view things in this light. Zechariah reminds us that we must not despise even the smallest works of God, for they are a time to rejoice in God’s work and provision. Some of you may not know yet, but our efforts to put on the first VBS at our church in years resulted in 3 children attending. To some, they would be extremely disappointed that for all the time and money they spent preparing for this VBS, that there were only three children. I think instead, you need to be incredibly excited that three children came regularly to hear the Word of God taught to them. Here’s some neat things about this VBS:

The children who attended all had familial connections to one of our church members. Why is that important? It’s important because it shows that the effort spent reaching out and inviting friends and families is not in vain, and that sometimes the best way to reach people with the Gospel is to build relationships with them.

The most awesome thing I heard was that these children would prefer to come to VBS than the carnival. Some were concerned that we would have low turnout because of the annual carnival last week, and surely it had an influence on our attendance. Yet, to hear those children say they would rather hear the Gospel, memorize Scripture, do crafts, play games, and hang out with a bunch of older folks, rather than go on all the rides at the carnival should be incredibly encouraging to you all.

It was wonderful to see our folks all come together and lend a hand to reach out to these children. Whether it was games, crafts, refreshments, teaching, helping, or whatever needed to be done, to see folks come together to work hard to make VBS enjoyable and Gospel-oriented is so encouraging for a pastor to see. I am so thankful for all of you and all the effort you put in. I hope you’ll plan to help us again next year as we continue to try to reach children and their families with the Gospel.

Think too about the Gospel that these children heard and saw demonstrated in the lives of those who served them last week. We do not know what kind of seed was planted or how God will make it grow. But I do know, that God’s Word never returns void. What a wonderful blessing to invest in the lives of these children with the riches of the Gospel.

Lastly, don’t stop the momentum of reaching out to children. We need help to start Sunday School this fall. Maybe these three children will be there too? We have no idea, but what we do know is it is our job to reach out to families with the truth of God’s Word.


Why Pastors Need a Vacation

August 2, 2012

You may or may not have missed this blog too much. I missed connecting with you folks, but of course, but one of the reasons this was not updated was because I was away on vacation. And, in all honesty, I was glad to be away from this blog and the other burdens of pastoral ministry.

Please don’t get me wrong. My family and I are happy to be serving our little church and love them all. But just as everyone needs to get away for a little bit to rest and recharge, so does the pastor. And while we as pastors never “turn off” (we’re always thinking about the church and its needs), the change of venue and schedule can be just what we need in order to be even more effective as a minister of the Gospel. Let me give you a few reasons why it is so important for the pastor to “get away”.

 Rest

Frankly, all people need rest. And pastors are no different. The burdens of ministry weigh down on pastors in some ways, like no other job. As administrators, public speakers, public relations specialists, researches, counselors, and various other hats, we have lawyers educations, work doctors hours, and generally do not receive similar benefits. The minimum we can do is take some time away to rest and detach from ministry for our own sake and for the sake of our families who put up with a lot less attention because we are devoting our attention elsewhere. Sitting in our little cottage in the Finger Lakes, we could do as we please: go swimming, go to the park, go to the zoo, or simply stay in and read and relax. What a blessing it is to do so!

 Reflect

It is true that pastors never truly “turn off.” We don’t have a profession like others who don’t have to think about it when they aren’t doing it. If you work in a factory, I doubt you worry about your machine working properly while you are away. Yet, pastors do not have true replacements. We are always thinking about the life of our church and how we can grow and improve. Yet, it is in a different context. Without all the routine of regular church life, we can focus and think about the big picture and the situation we are all in and how to make improvements and adjustments. We might not have major epiphanies but we often can think differently about our ministry while away to the benefit of all.

 Relax

The burden of Sunday’s can be exhausting. Planning and executing, preaching and reading. It’s hard sometimes as the pastor to actually enjoy the worship service. When we are away, we attend other churches and we are able to sit, and participate like other believers and be fed. All too often, despite all the reading pastors do, we don’t get fed enough because we’re always busy feeding others. Being away in another church allows us to be fed so we can be strengthened to be able to feed you further. Plus, there is the benefit that you will able to be fed by a different person than me. While consistency is good and having the same person preach each week is the best idea, it’s good for you to hear other people as well, especially people in our own flock. I am thankful for the men of our church and their excellent job in filling in for me. I think if the Lord ever took me from this Church (God forbid!) you would be in capable hands!

 Recognize

Lastly, what this allows us to do is to recognize just how blessed we are. Even though we get to hear other preachers and be with other Christians, we are always reminded how much we miss our own people when we are away. We were glad to get away on vacation, but we recognize where we want to be is with our church family. Thank you everyone for providing for us the time away to sit back and relax and rest and review. The greatest benefit of all, is that it, Lord willing, makes me a better husband, father, and shepherd of God’s flock!

 We’re glad to be home!


Deacon’s (Benevolent) Offerings and Why They’re Good

June 19, 2012

Helping others, whether they be part of our families, part of our churches, or part of our communities is something that is sometimes very hard for us to do, but something that is incredibly important for us to pursue as Christians.

One of the many reasons I love our church so much is the fact that we care about others. I was so glad when I came to TBC and saw how we collected monies monthly in our Deacon’s Benevolent Offering to help meet the very real physical needs of people in our congregation and in the community at large. While we don’t always collect a large amount of money, the Lord often gives us resources to meet needs for people in our midst. Since I’ve been in Tunkhannock we’ve been able to reach out and meet various needs of people in our congregation for heating oil, groceries, transportation, and other such expenses. We’ve also been able to meet the needs of people in our community as well with things like rent, groceries, gasoline, and other things as well. You may wonder why we should help others with our resources. Let me help you consider a few reasons why.

The Image of God

All people are created in the image of God. In Genesis 1:26–27, we read, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

Here we see that in creation, God made us to be like Him. We have rational thought; exercise decision making; have a spiritual capacity; carry out our responsibilities that God has mandated. All of these things place an intrinsic importance on humanity simply because they are made in God’s image. As much as you might like your dog, for instance, it is not a person and not made in the image of God.

Sometimes, we think we should only help people if we can see them get saved. This misses the point that we should care for people, not just to see them saved, but because they have intrinsic value to them; they are made in the image of God. So one of the reasons we collect monies to give out, is because people have value to God and should have value to us.

Do Good to All Men

Galatians 6:10 reads, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Paul here reminds us that when we sow good works, we will reap in season, and that therefore, we have an obligation to do good to all men. Paul qualifies that we should focus our attention on the church (the household of faith) but not just to the church but to all men. One of the ways we demonstrate the charity and mercy and love of Jesus in our lives and in our churches is to help all people when we are able. So, one of the things we do is to help people in need when we have the resources to do so. We may not always see a tangible result at first, but vs. 9 reminds us, that when we sow, we too will reap eventually.

This is all to say that we should remember that we are obligated to care for people because they have value to God since they were made in His image, and that when we have the chance we should do good to all men for when we sow good, we will reap good in the end. This is why we collect funds to be distributed by the deacons to minister to people in both our congregation and in our community. Who knows what benefit and blessing it may bring!


40 Questions About the End Times – Book Review

May 10, 2012
Title: 40 Questions about the End Times
Author: Eckhard Schnabel
Series Editor: Benjamin L. Merkle
Publisher: Kregel Academic & Professional
Date Published: 2011

Eckhart Schnabel has written a book entitled, “40 Questions about the End Times.” With the current interest in the end times amid speculation about the end of the world, there is a need for a scholarly book to answer questions concerning the return of Christ, and Schnabel has written such a book. He states in his introduction that the goal of the book is to “answer the series of important questions that are raised about the times leading up to the end, while avoiding sensationalism.” (pg. 9)

He begins with a helpful discussion, in which he defines the theological terms associated with the end times. Precise definitions are given for amillennialism, premillennialism and postmillennialism and other terms. As an expositor, Schnabel has chosen not to use these terms throughout his book in an effort to keep the discussion focused on the Scriptures. This is refreshing and places the focus on the text rather than theological systems.

Next, Schnabel discusses his method for interpreting the eschatological passages of Scripture. He states that the text must be interpreted according to its “historical, cultural and linguistic context,” which is the way that all Scripture should be interpreted. However, then he states that he will interpret the text symbolically rather than literally. According to Schnabel, interpreting end times Scriptures literally whenever the text will allow is “an illegitimate demand because it leaves the decision when to interpret literally and when to interpret symbolically up to the modern interpreter.” (pg. 12) Schnabel concludes his discussion on interpretation vowing to use clear passages to interpret unclear passages, but he does not follow his own advice. For example, in Revelation 13:16, John discusses the mark of the beast. “He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name.” (NIV) The text clearly states that people will be forced to receive a mark on their hand or forehead, and yet in his discussion concerning the mark of the beast, Schnabel states, “The expression ‘mark of the beast’ is a symbolic way of describing the state’s measures that are designed to ensure that people submit to compulsory idol worship.” (pg. 203) The book contains other examples where he interprets clear propositional statements as being symbolic, in keeping with his focus on symbolism as opposed to the literal meaning.

Eckhard Schnabel has written a book answering important questions about the end times. His book is scholarly and pastors will find it challenging as they wrestle with the text of end time prophecies. But I would not recommend this book to my congregation, because of Schnabel’s preference for symbolic interpretations over literal in clear texts.

Pastor Allen Mickle Sr.
Walkerville Evangelical Baptist Church, Windsor, ON


Contraceptives and the Constitution

February 15, 2012

This is a letter I sent to our local paper, The Scranton Times-Tribune, about the hub-bub over the contraceptive mandate and the first amendment. I am unsure if they will print it but thought it might be interesting reading for others.

“I am not Roman Catholic but I support them in their endeavor to uphold the first amendment when it comes to providing contraceptives/abortifacients via insurance providers. Whether a religious employer pays directly for women to receive these items or whether the insurance company that the employer pays premiums to is required to provide them, both are in clear violation of the free exercise clause of the first amendment.

Debates over Catholic women using these items or the cost savings of contraceptives over delivering babies (don’t get me started on the cost savings it was for us to have our son at home with a licensed midwife, but that’s another matter) are really smoke and mirrors. No Catholic is saying women cannot have access to these items (albeit we wish our culture embraced life rather than death); even the women in their employ (regardless of whether these women choose to obey the teaching of their religious faith). They are saying they should not be forced to violate their consciences as religious entities and individuals to pay for them de facto or de jure. Let them pay for them themselves.

Enshrined in the first amendment is the provision that the government will not restrict religious individuals and institutions from exercising their religion. Roman Catholics believe one cannot use contraceptives or abortifacients, and most orthodox Christians hold that one cannot use abortifacients; not because we suppress women and their rights, but because we uphold the right for all people to have life and to enjoy it abundantly; even unborn children in the womb. Therefore, to force religious groups to violate their inherent beliefs to uphold life by providing, even by extension, things that, in essence, prevent or destroy life, would be to violate their free exercise of religion.

This is not about Roman Catholics or about Democrats. It’s about the Founding Fathers protecting the rights of religious individuals from being infringed upon by the government. To force any to violate their devoutly held, and core, religious convictions for the sake of free or cheap contraceptives is a violation of the first amendment and should be decried by religious and secular alike who seek to uphold the rights and freedoms of Americans enshrined in the Bill of Rights.”

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