JL's Corner

9/30/18

Longtime Upper Peninsula minister Dan Skaggs passed away last week. Dan and his wife Lutrica moved to the U.P. way back in 1972 to work with the church in Hancock where they stayed and served for forty five years. Wow! 45 years is a long time to faithfully serve the church in one location. I was only in middle school in 1972. Where were you?  Whenever I hear of someone staying and preaching in the same place for a long period of time I am encouraged. Surely there were many struggles along the way. Working with a small congregation there were probably financial woes just trying to keep the doors open, the lights and heat on and eke out a meager existence. There must have been numerous Christians and congregations who faithfully sent up support for the work month after month and year after year. I wonder how many Michigan Tech students were influenced for Christ over all those years. Dan and Lutrica hosted countless lunches after services feeding the students physical food and spiritual food.  I remember meeting a young lad from China who had been studying at tech and studying the Bible with Dan. Before returning to China he became a Christian and took his faith back with him.

“The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.  To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen” (I Peter 4:7-11)

The church building has been sold, Dan has fought the good fight, kept the faith and finished his race and the church continues on.

Love, J.L.

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9/23/18
Yesterday we held our monthly pot-luck fellowship meal after worship. We do this each third Sunday of the month and it is a great opportunity to spend some time having lunch together with our brothers and sisters in Christ. It is also a great opportunity to feast on some fabulous food prepared by some of the best cooks in the U.P. After having finished the main course I made my way over to the dessert table. There was zucchini cake with butterscotch frosting along with carrot cake and cream frosting. Yum! Then there was a bowl of donut holes that really did not interest me much, that was at least until somebody told me that they were homemade. I grabbed a couple and truly enjoyed them, even going back for seconds. Wow, homemade donut holes they seemed so special, that was at least until somebody else told me they came from Wal-Mart! Suddenly they lost their edge. You know I never did actually talk to the person that brought them so I still do not know the truth, whether they were made at home with love or mass produced in a commercial bakery.

Whenever someone tells us something about Jesus, we see something on a television program about God, or we read in a book about the second coming of Christ; we might better check what that person or persons is saying against what God has told us in His Word, the Bible.  In fact I would encourage you to check out anything I say in a sermon or in a Bible class against what is said in the Scriptures. I can assure you that I am trying to always preach and teach the truth, but I am a man, a human being with pre-conceived ideas, weaknesses and failures. So be a Berean.
 
”Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” (Acts 17:11)
 
Love, J.L.
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9/16/18

“The moon marks of the seasons, and the sun knows when to go down.”  (Psalm 104:19)

The tell-tale signs that autumn is approaching are very clear. Our night time temperatures are dipping way down into the lower forties and even the upper thirties. Better cover those tomatoes! Every morning steam hovers over the lake as it gives back the heat it acquired from the summer sun. Speaking of the sun its angle continues to change as it glides across the sky a little lower each day. Yes indeed even the trees are starting to change color. First just one here and there but soon the entire forest will be aglow in a cornucopia of color We can see the signs, and they do not lie. We know what is coming. So we better get ready.
 
“The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven. He replied, when evening comes you say, ‘it will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. Jesus then left them and went away.” (Matthew 16:1-4)
 
Are we aware of the signs of the times? Are we ready? Come Lord Jesus!
 
Love, J.L.
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9/9/18
With the average American working some one hundred thousand (100,000) hours in a lifetime having an extra day off with for the Labor Day holiday is very welcome indeed. But what is it that we labor so long and so hard for? Obviously we need to provide food and shelter for our families but we surely do not stop there. We labor to pay for new cars that reduce in value the minute we drive them off the lot. We labor to pay for homes that we cannot take with us and we labor so that we may wear the latest clothes and for all sorts of extras to try and enhance our lives. With all this labor being consumed by our perceived need for bigger, better and more things, I wonder if there is any left to labor for the Lord and things of a spiritual nature. Jesus warned us not to get too hung up on the physical for all of it is temporal.
 
“Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you O you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:25-30)
 
Love, J.L.   
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9/2/18
Sunday God blessed us with a beautiful sun soaked summer day as we hosted: “Worship in the Park/Friends and Family Day”  The event was held out at the Presque Isle Park Pavilion located right on the shores of the mighty and magnificent Lake Superior. The facility is a beautiful log structure with high vaulted ceilings providing extraordinary acoustics for acapella singing. It was “All hands on deck” as our congregation banded together to set up the room for worship, then set it up for lunch and then clean it all up when we were finished. Our chefs did a great job on the giant BBQ grills and folks enjoyed each other’s company at both the indoor and outdoor seating. Twenty plus (20+) visitors/guests attended this event and the pavilion was filled to near capacity. We praised God in song, communed together around the Lord’s Table, prayed and considered Jesus’ story of the Prodigal Son and God’s extraordinary grace from (Luke 15:11-24) All in all it was a great day of encouragement and the church represented Christ well to our community. I was thankful to be able to take part and to watch the church work so well together. May God receive all the glory!
 
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”                             (Colossians 3:16-17)  
 
Love, J.L.
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8/26/18
Have you ever noticed that we live in a world of perks and rewards? For it seems that everywhere I go to do business they ask me if I have a “Rewards Card” or a “Perks Card” when all I want to do is pay for my gas, buy my lunch or purchase an item. If I have earned it or have it coming, please just give it to me and don’t make me carry another card on my key chain or give you all my personal information for your files.
 
When it comes to salvation we can all be thankful that we do not need a “Rewards Card” to get in. We can also be thankful that if we are “In Christ” we are not going to get what we deserve, what we have earned, because none of us has earned salvation, redemption or forgiveness, but rather death. However, once again, God in His great love and mercy has welcomed us, the sinner, into His glory. He has purchased us and paid for our souls in full by sacrificing His One and Only Son, Jesus the Christ. 
“God made you alive with Christ, He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us. He took it away nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14)  
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
 
“For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:8-10)
 
Love,JL
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8/19/18
I was sitting in my living room early one Sunday morning working on the final touches for that day’s sermon, the shades on the windows were open but even though the sun had begun to rise I still could not see anything. There was a heavy fog hanging low and everything just looked gray. However, as the sun continued to rise in the sky the fog began to burn off. At first I could only see shapes and forms but soon I could see my wife’s hanging flowers, the arbor vitae shrubs on the edge of the woods, the baby rabbit running across the yard. I could see clearly for the fog had lifted as the sun had done its job.
 
Many folks go through life in a fog unable to clearly see the way. Where am I headed? What is the meaning of life? What is my purpose?
 
Just as the sun cleared the fog away so I could see clearly, so too the Son, Jesus the Christ can clear the way for you and answer the important questions of life. Jesus himself said:
 
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
 
“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)
Love, J.L.
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8/12/18
Friday afternoon we hosted a family get together at our home. We had parents, grandparents, and great grandparents, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, sons and daughters, cousins and in laws. We had family from two years old to ninety four years old and everywhere in between. Family from Phoenix, Prescott Valley, Cheboygan, Traverse City, Interlochen, Gwinn, Appleton, Perronville, Rhinelander and Marquette. We came from all over to be together. We sat and visited, shared a meal, swam and went for a boat ride. Nothing overly exciting happened yet the time together was totally priceless. Why, because we are family.
 
Some come from large families while others are small, and most of us still have some family alive. Family is a very precious gift from God and none of us should take ours for granted.
 
As Christians we also belong to the family of God, the Body of Christ, the Lord’s church. We are young and old and everywhere in between. We come from many different places, with different backgrounds and life experiences. But each time we gather together we are reminded that we are all one in Christ Jesus. Thank God for our families!
 
“Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.”  (I Timothy 5:3-4)
 
“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows is God in His holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families.”
Love, J.L.
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8/5/18
I just returned from a trip down to my old hometown of Cheboygan for my fortieth class reunion. That’s right fortieth! It seems hard to believe that it was forty years ago that I graduated from high school. But as they say “The numbers don’t lie”. It was wonderful to reminisce with my old classmates and learn how they are doing now. Some were astonished to find out that I had become a minister. I guess my, “Most Likely To Be” back in 1978 would not match up to what I am now. As I told one of my classmates who was shaking his head in bewilderment: “If God can change someone like me he can change anyone.” I then proceeded to tell him my story and another seed was planted.
 
“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the worst. But for this very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever, Amen.” (I Timothy 1:15-17)
 
‘It is no secret what God can do. What He’s done for others, He’ll do for you. With arms wide open, He’ll pardon you. It is not secret what God can do.”
(It is no Secret, Stewart Hamblen, 1950)
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7/29/18
“Four things on earth are small yet they are extremely wise. Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer.” (Proverbs 30:24-25)  

On my commute to town and back I pass a home that has a large pole building with a lean-to attached to the side of it. As I have been passing by this summer I have noticed an ever growing stack of cut and split firewood filling the lean-to until just last week when I saw the wood shed was full. The owner of this residence is ready for what is sure to come in the future. A wise Yooper puts away firewood for the winter like a squirrel stores away nuts for he knows what is coming.
 
“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ ‘No,’ they replied ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. Later the others also came, ‘Sir! Sir!’ they said, ‘Open the door for us!’ But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’ Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”  (Matthew 25:1-13).
 
Are you ready?
Love, J.L.
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7/22/18
My wife Pam recently went picking fresh strawberries from a local farm. This morning I smothered my bowl of Special K with the juicy, sweet, melt in your mouth little morsels. This is just another example of the many simple gifts of life that God has lavished upon us as we enjoy living here on planet earth. The creation is chuck full of little treasures for us to discover, responsibly use and enjoy. Every day when I drive home I am greeted by beautiful flower gardens, green yards and endless trees. Today I am reminded that I should stop and give thanks for these and the many other wonders that God has so graciously given us. He is indeed a very generous God and His love and care for us is clearly visible all around us.
 
“You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly. The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you have ordained it… You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance. The grasslands of the dessert overflow; the hills are clothed with gladness. The meadows are covered with flocks and the valleys are mantled with grain; they shout for joy and sing.” (Psalm 65:9-12)
 
“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities, His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)
 
Tomorrow Pam goes to pick wild blueberries so I am looking forward to fresh, homemade, blueberry muffins and pancakes. Yum!

Love, J.L.
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7/15/18
Every year many Americans celebrate the Fourth of July. Our family has been getting together each summer at my parent’s home on Long Lake in Cheboygan to celebrate. We raise a huge American Flag while singing the Star Spangled Banner. Donning our patriotic attire we place flags all around the yard, on the dock and on the boats. In the afternoon during the annual boat parade I pull my son James around the lake dressed as Uncle Sam. The boat we use is a vintage red, early 1960’s model, Rinkerbuilt with a forty horse power Johnson motor. The boat is the oldest left on the lake and the people love to see it pulling Uncle Sam as they wave and cheer. The day of course is finished off with fireworks. It is definitely one of my favorite holidays.
 
The fourth of July also known as Independence Day celebrates the signing of the Declaration of Independence by our forefathers in Pennsylvania, way back in 1776, declaring the United States independence from Great Britain and its King. Each year we celebrate the freedoms that many have fought for, some even making the ultimate sacrifice and giving their life for.
 
As Christians we sign a sort of declaration of dependence when we are baptized into Christ for we understand that our salvation is totally dependent on our faith in Jesus whom by His death, burial and resurrection has freed us from our sins. Now that is truly something to celebrate!
 
“To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve His God and Father to Him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.” (Revelation 1:5-6)
 
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”                   (Romans 8:1-2) 
 
“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)
 
Love, J.L.
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7/1/18
Jesus said: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”(Matthew 7:24-25)

The unprecedented, torrential rains that hit the Copper Country communities roared down the hills carrying mud stones and other debris with them. Many of the old houses in the U.P. actually have foundations made of rock. Therefore the houses remained standing however the basements were full of water, mud, sewage, rocks and debris. Oh what a mess the rain caused.

Early last week the Hancock congregation was contacted by the “Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Effort in Nashville Tennessee desiring to send up a whole semi-trailer full of food, personal items, infant items, cleaning supplies, shovels, rakes, wheel barrows, bleach, face masks, gloves, rubber boots, mops box fans, clothing, water and much more. After some outstanding organizing and coordinating by Troy and Holly Belanger, members of congregations from the U.P. came together to help serve those devastated by the flood waters by distributing the many relief items as well as listening to their stories, crying alongside of them, praying with them and giving them some encouragement and hope. We were simply trying to be God’s hands and feet, loving our neighbor as ourselves and by doing so the name of Christ along with his church was lifted up. May God receive all the praise glory and honor for it was only by His grace that this effort came to be.
 
Love, J.L.