Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Why God, WINTER?

      Let's admit it, we have had a hard winter, a very cold, brutal winter.  It seems sometimes like it will never end.  Winter is hard on our bodies.  Hospitals are filled with people with complications from the flu .  I can imagine what it is doing to the wildlife who have little or no shelter.  I look out my window at the brutal cold and hope our cat is OK but we know the Coyotes already ate him.  At least he's not cold.

      Winter is not only hard on us physically, it is hard on us spiritually.  Winter affects our moods and emotions.  We become sick of it, we hibernate, we are less active, we may even blame God.  Have you ever taken a walk outside after a snowfall?  There is literally no path, you walk and set up your own path.  It is easy to get lost or to slip and fall.  But it is also an adventure.   Everything looks fresh and new under that blanket of snow.  When I lived in Sweden I remembered that people there didn't hide from the cold and snow-- they enjoyed it.  Many opened their windows during the day to let in the fresh, cold air.  I remember looking out my window and seeing schoolkids on skies going to school.  Cross country skiing was very popular.  I used to go out at night and ice skate on a frozen lake, just my friends and I, all alone and in the dark except for the moon and stars.  It was a wonderful time to pray Psalm 19,  "The heavens are telling the glory of God;and the firmament proclaims his handiwork."

    Winter is a time that tests your faith.  Do you believe spring is coming?  As we look out at the mass of white we wonder sometimes "Will this ever end?"  The bible tells us in Hebrews 11 "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see."  Winter teaches us patience.  As we await Spring we can even celebrate the beauty of winter.  Winter can even be the source of pleasure if you are prepared for it, if you act accordingly and bundle up against the cold and wind.  That has spiritual connotations.  This is a dark, cold world without the love of God in Christ inside us to save, protect and lead.  Winter can be a lonely time until we remember God's Word in Isaiah 41 "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

    Winter is good, it gives the land time to rest, and the farmers tell us the snow protects and nourishes their fields so in the spring they can plant good crops.  It can even be good for us.  Why not try some of these things:
   Catch a snowflake with your tongue 
• Go for a sleigh ride 
• Ice skate 
• Make a snowman 
• Make snow angels 
• Take a walk and look for animal tracks 
• Sit in a sunny place outside and feel the sun on your face 
• Drink a cup of hot chocolate outside 
• Take photos of trees with bare branches 
• Go sledding down a hill

  Winter is a time to share.  Does winter drive you to Christ?  Does it drive you to the pleasures of hospitality?  Our neighbors are also tired of winter.  We haven't seen them unless they are in church.  Call a friend you haven't seen in a while to see how they are doing.  When is the last time you caught up on news from your relatives?  Winter makes time for us to think about important matters.  In fact Winter is a great time to work on our prayer life.  Do you speak with God?   We often say we are too busy.  Winter has a way of slowing us down.   Lauren and I were stuck in traffic hours on the highway a few weeks ago.  It was a good time to pray.

    Lastly, winter is a time to get ready for spring.  We often do not enjoy the beauty of spring fully unless we have gone through the cold of winter.  Prepare for the warm days, the spring rains and remember  what David wrote in Psalm 72 "He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth".

   

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Very Intense Movie about the Problems in Africa

Memo:
To:   EPC Ministers
From:  Don Hurry, 724-368-1102

RE:  Film that would be good for your church, especially Senior High Youth Groups on the horrible problems of Africa, esp. children.

I have for loan a video that you might want to preview and use.  ACTUALLY – YOU CAN WATCH AND COPY THE FILM FROM ONLINE AT http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/invisible-children/
There is a separate YOUTH GROUP video with it to organize a “House Party” Youth night to inspire youth to organize and help out.


The movie is called “Invisible children”

The purpose of this video is to get Americans informed and connected to the horrible crisis African children are going through.

Synopsis:  Three American youth travel to Africa in search of a story.  They are idealistic and liberal (their hero Che Guevara’s poster is behind them as they prepare to leave indicating they think revolution is the answer to Africa’s problems). 

They arrive in the Sudan where they are immediately confronted with the ravages of revolution and war.  Instead of going to record from the revolution’s side they have to flee and wind up with Christian refuges who flee Sudan into Northern Uganda.  The rest of the film they record children being kidnapped nightly from their homes and subsequently forced to become child soldiers in the revolution. These children, ages 5-12 are forced to kill or be executed.  Children (mostly boys) have to flee the countryside to survive and end up in huge camps on the Verandas of Christian Missionary hospitals.  This film is dedicated to exposing this tragic, and amazingly untold story.  The problems it deals with is brutality, rape, child sexuality, death, overpopulation and under care and the worst problem – a loss of hope.

The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), also known as the Lord's Resistance Movement, is a militant movement, which is described by some as a  cult which operates in northern Uganda and South Sudan. Since 2005 there have been claims that the group has entered the Democratic Republic of Congo, but in 2007 it was reported that they were in Central African Republic.

 The LRA was initially formed to resist the Uganda People's Defense Force (UPDF), called the National Resistance Army (NRA) before it took control of the country. The NRA/UPDF has been accused of widespread murder, rape, and pillage.   They commit widespread human rights violations, including murder, abduction, mutilation, child-sex slavery, and forcing children to participate in hostilities

The film is not preachy or even direct.  It merely points out firsthand how little children are forced to leave their homes to avoid kidnapping and worse abuse and end up as orphans.  The American youth interview the children to see what is on their minds.  They face physical and mental disease, PTS, and grow up wild and undisciplined.

While not set up as a Christian film it seems they see that the problems in Africa are definitely Evil versus Good and the only possible answer to the problem is Christian hope. They see Christian missions as the only solution while underfunded and overwhelmed.   The answer to the problem is not just to throw money and feed them or to defeat one group or another.  It is to give Africa stability and hope through Christ.


It is a very, very intense film that needs prescreening and lots of discussion afterwards but it is definitely worth seeing.

Friday, November 8, 2013

A Belated Invitation

OPPPPSSSSS
       I have a belated invitation I hope you will avail yourself of.    I was supposed to invite you over to dinner so that we could watch a Billy Graham video together.  I took the training, assented to promote the viewing.   But there are many things in life that just don't work out the way you plan them.
       I am speaking of Billy Graham's HOPE FOR AMERICA.   This may be Billy Graham's last message to America and we should hear it.  But this crazy, busy, hectic, depressing, world that we live in draws us away from what we should hear and troubles us with many things we should not take time for.
      First, let me tell you what I think of Billy Graham.  He was my parent's preacher - not mine.  Growing up Catholic at school and church we were not encouraged to promote Billy much.  He was not Catholic, he came from the south which was at that time not Catholic friendly and he was a Baptist who are not known for their love for Catholics.
      However from what I saw in my youth Catholics as well as Protestants loved and respected him.  My mother was a Billy Graham catholic.  She spent an hour in church a week but spent just about every day listening to Billy Graham on the radio while she did her housework.  Her Catholicism was shaped more by Billy Graham than by the pope.  And that was a good thing.  As for me, Billy Graham was my parent's preacher.  I could not escape hearing him, respecting his call to salvation, witnessing his great crusades but there were other preachers I listened to more.  There is something about children not identifying with what is important to our parents.  You do respect it but you don't want to admit it because you want to forge your own way.
      I have participated in Billy Graham crusades before and wondered at the great response of people coming out not only to hear him but his associates.   I was a counselor on the floor as people came forward to "Just as I am without one plea but that Thy blood was shed for me".  My own son at 3 years old came forward to receive Christ at a Billy Graham crusade.
     Billy Graham has been called the Pastor to the Presidents.  And he was.  I remember during Nixon's presidency and later Ford and other presidents that Billy was called upon a lot.  I worried that he would be used or bent to promote their agenda rather than turn them to Christ's agenda.
      Lauren and I went to a Billy Graham School for Evangelism in Washington, DC a long time ago.  It was a great experience and I will never forget thinking about sneaking out during a seminar to see the White House and Capital.  As if he knew what I was thinking he said "You preachers don't forget that we are paying your way to be here for this training.  I don't want any of you to think you are going to miss out to go sightseeing."   I felt like a kid caught with my hand in the candy jar.  And we stayed from morning to night every day for the training and didn't see much of Washington.  I did see Christ's protecting hand at work as we walked to our hotel through some of the most scary neighborhoods of Washington, DC.   Billy didn't pay for top notch hotels.  In fact it was roasting hot and the hotel not only would not turn the air conditioning on - the hotel's windows didn't open and we sweltered all night.
      But I am digressing as usual.  Christians were challenged to open their homes and invite unsaved people to dinner and to watch this presentation.  I took the training.  I was disappointed as I heard so many Christians say "I can't do that, I don't know my neighbors, I don't invite people to dinner, it would be too embarrassing."  And then I thought "Who would I invite?"  I couldn't think of anyone who would come.  You can't just go out and invite strangers to your house.  The neighbors I knew were Christians and the ones I wasn't sure of I didn't know."   I pray that the Billy Graham Association found better people than me to make this personal home crusade work.
    That is how I am ending my article.  You can come over for dinner if you like pot luck and we could watch Billy Graham's Hope for America on You Tube.
     Or you can watch it yourself.  Here is the listing,   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mq7xhYuuqCs

     I challenge you to watch it - I did and it was a lot more exciting and pertinent than I thought it would be.  It isn't that long and you will be blessed by the message.  Maybe you can spread the word around and ask people to watch it - either with you - or alone.  It is a message that needs to be heard even if Billy Graham was my parents preacher.

                                 

      

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Pal or a Friend?

Did you ever have one of those strange nights in which your dreams take you back in time to important events in your life?   I had one last night.  It seemed the whole night I was dreaming about a friend I had in school.  It was strange because I haven't thought about him for many, many years.  I was remembering that he wasn't just a pal, he was a friend.

What's the difference between a pal and a friend?  You have lots of pals but many people have very few friends.  Growing up I ran with a bunch of boys my age who were pals.  We played together all summer, we walked home from school together.  But our relationships were based on doing things together.  We played ball, went swimming, went to the movies.  I got what I wanted out of the relationship and they got what they wanted.  We didn't need one another, a pal is replaceable.   As time went on our interests took us different ways and it was easy to part.   Many of my pals went the wrong way and tried to take us all with them.  Some hated their parents and wanted us to hate our parents as well.  They took up dirty talk, swearing. smoking and said "If you want to stay with us you must swear, tell dirty stories about things we knew absolutely nothing about and smoke too."  I tried but I just couldn't.  My parents began to dislike my pals and blamed them for my bad habits.  They only drew me to my pals more.  I wanted to fit in but I didn't like the way they began to follow other gods.  Pals go along and tolerate bad behavior.  Friends care enough to challenge you to believe God and do good.

My father was the one who brought a big change into my life at @13 years old.  He would take the Incline every day and walk over the Ft. Pitt Bridge to work at the Pittsburgh Press.  He met many people on that incline and one of his friends was a Scoutmaster who kept after him about getting my brothers and I into Scouting.  When my dad would bring it up I would think "I already have problems enough without that."

One day my father came home from work with a big bag.  He said he had a present for me.  I opened the bag and it contained a sleeping bag.  I asked him what I needed that for.  He said I was going on a Scouting camping trip.  I said "No, I'm not!!"  He said "Yes, you are and that's that.  I'm your father and you will do what I tell you."  After a huge fight I went.  The camping trip was at Raccoon State Park and it changed my life.  I learned to love dirt, trees and stars.  I also made a new set of friends.  Dave was one of them.  He was a leader.  He was very positive and very ambitious.  And he saw in me a friend.   His ambition was to be an Eagle Scout and he didn't want to do it alone.  So he invited me to come along with him.  Now here is what makes the difference between a pal and a friend.  He thought that being an Eagle Scout would be good for him (that makes him a pal) but he also thought it would be good for me (that makes him a friend).  It took 4 long years and 36 merit badges and many service projects to make Eagle.  There were times I wanted to give up and Dave kept me going and times he wanted to give up and I kept him going.  We did lots of things together like hiking and camping.  His great love was bicycling and he dreamed of having a French racing bike.  He saved and saved and got it.  He sold me his old English racer and we went on bike hikes.  I can remember a 50 mile bike hike we took.  I can also remember a 25 mile hike we took in one day.  It was Dave that got me going to the Presbyterian church.  He said he didn't like sitting alone in front of his parents and there were few kids his age.  So I started attending.  Then he said he didn't like going to Sunday School because there were no kids his age.  I said I would go one time.  They put us both in the old men's class where we were fascinated by these old men's stories of WW1 and WW2 and how their experiences related to the bible.  I learned a lot in that Sunday School class.

When we went hiking we would talk about God and about our futures.  Dave told me that when he was 6 years old he darted out into the street and was hit by a car and was dragged a long way.  He almost died and had many operations.  He said that experience showed him that God cared enough to keep him alive and that God had a plan for him.  I asked him what that plan was.   He said "When I grow up I am going to live in Philadelphia and marry a Jewish girl".   I thought that was the most horrible plan I could imagine.  Who would want to live in  Philadelphia (Filth-a-delphia)?  And why would he want to marry a Jewish girl.  The only Jews we knew ran the Variety store and Cinema in Mt. Washington.   He said Jews were ambitious and successful and he wanted to be successful too. He asked what I thought God's plan was for me.  After a lot of thinking I said "I want to live in Europe".   He went "Wow, that is ambitious".  Do you know what?  Both of us realized our plans.   He did go to live in Philadelphia and marry a Jewish girl whose father owned an insurance company and he worked for his father-in-law.   I did live in Europe.  What drew us together as friends was faith that God is good, that He loves us very much and has plans for our lives.   This was at a time my pals were blaming and hating God, living selfishly and taking drugs.  Dave had a good heart.  There was a kid in church and school who was our age who had cancer.  Other kids avoided him because he lost all his hair and looked very sick.  Dave would eat lunch with him at school.  Dave was very caring about other people.  His father was deaf and I saw that he could actually relate to his father in a way I wanted to relate to my parents.  They could actually communicate and trust each other.  He had a much younger brother who he thought was very annoying and a huge brat.  But you could tell he still loved his brother.

After achieving Eagle we sort of went our own ways and didn't see much of each other.  His main passion was playing drums in the High School Corps.  He did so well they offered him a four year scholarship to Carnegie Mellon.   He turned it down because he said it would be too much work.  I lost touch with Dave until one day 15 or 20 years later on vacation I went back to Grandview Ave. UP church.  His mother told me that Dave was married but couldn't have children.  She also said he was dying of cancer.  I called him and tried to talk about how much those good old days with him meant in helping me in life.  He died shortly after I called. He was in his early 30s.  It was strange that after all these years I should have a dream about him.  One thing that came though that dream was that in life we have many pals.  But we have few real friends.  Dave was one of those real friends that even when we were apart so many years I knew we were striving for the same things and wanted the best for each other.  The foundation of our friendship was our common love for Jesus Christ, our knowledge that God had a plan for our lives and that it was good.  I wish for you that you can have at least one true friend in life.  Each of us surely needs at least one.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Is Anyone Good? Does Anyone Love?

         Not only have I been a participant in the human race, I have also been an observer of our race.  And my observations are not good.  I have served on juries, been in courtrooms, worked as a Treatment Coordinator for Disturbed youth, served as camp counselors and directors.   And of course I have been a pastor for a very long time.
         Like most humans I have looked for heroes.  The media is in a constant source of fresh heroes.  But heroes have clay feet, hidden agendas, and some have sorted pasts.  The media not only discovers heroes, they tear them down as well.
         Sit in your local courtroom a day.  You will hear the same story told over and over from case to case.  It is a constant procession or thieves, molesters, spouse or child abusers, crazy behavior.  I almost broke down and cried seeing one such procession as self righteous people who hired professional lawyers to fight for their "rights" in their day of court.  They want to justify themselves and punish others.  Very seldom do I watch Judge Judy or the other media courts because they show how seedy, yes, even disgusting, we humans are, not only the guilty but also the "innocent."
         The question is "Are there any good humans?"  The bible goes against the popular grain and says "NO"  In the Old Testament Jeremiah wrote "(Jer 17:9-10)"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings."   In the New Testament Jesus says (Matt 15:19): “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.”  The Apostle Paul was inspired to write (Rom. 3:10-12): “As it is written: "There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one."
          If you are looking for real human heroes you are sending a holey bucket down into a desert-dry well.  I have been doing a series of sermons on the Book of Genesis and the procession of humans is heart breaking.  Adam and Eve, Cain, the people of Noah's day, Noah drunk and molested, the people of Babel wanting to make a name for themselves, Abram's dealings.  It is all pathetic, we are a pathetic race.   Even when we come to Abram we see a papa's boy at 75, infertile, in a pagan village and he and his wife Sarai show a lot of bad habits.
       And yet God loved these people.  God loves us - that is incredible - how could God love us prideful, self righteous, prideful losers?   The bible and the Holy Spirit convict us that it is true, God loves us.
       The question is "Why does God love us?"   I'm almost afraid to ask. One thing is certain - - God does not love us because we are lovable or because we are good or because we deserve His love.  If anything the opposite is true, we deserve death.   I was on a jury that send a man to prison for many years.  He looked like a nice young man with a good future ahead of him.  All wasted - who knows what he will be like when he gets out?  I hope he has the opportunity to hear God's Word and repent - that's his only hope.
       Why does God love us?  It is because  1 John 4:8 tells us it is not that we are lovable but because GOD IS LOVE.  It isn't us - it's HIM.  This is profound, God doesn't just love, He is love!  God's very essence is love.  Love infuses God's being; fashioning even His wrath and anger.  This is not a squishy, meaningless love, the kind we often give one another.  We don't have anything to barter for God's love, we can never be good enough.  It is just being open to receiving God's love as a cup is open to receive the pouring or a box is open for a filling.  The Bible tells us God pours and we receive.  Noah, Abraham, and all the saints are opened to receive God's love.  And when we receive it in Christ we respond by glorifying God as a cup glorifies with the steaming coffee or the box glorifies with its contents.  We glorify God by receiving His love in Christ and becoming the person we were created to be.
         Our only goodness and glory is having Christ in us.  The bible tells us God demonstrates His love by sending His Son to die on the cross for our sins (I John 4:10).  God demonstrates His love by drawing us to Himself (John 6:44).  God demonstrates His love by making us a new creation.  God demonstrates His love by continually filling us with His Holy Spirit. 
          Is anyone really good?  No, not really.  You show me a good person and you will find a thin layer covering sin.  Our goodness depends on what we are filled with.   A cup or a box is glorified by being filled.  So are sinful humans.  We are made good not by what we do, but by what God has done and is doing in us.  The next time you are ready to bow and honor a human, or pride yourself in self-righteousness or comfort yourself that mankind really is underlying goodness, stop and take and honest look.   Then give glory to God who fills His people with goodness and imputes it to us because of what Christ has done for us.
       The only way to be good is to have Christ within because only God is good as only God is love.
     
 





Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Mountville Presbyterian Church (EPC)
2759 Mountville Road, Portersville, PA 16051,    724-368-3385,   Don Michael Hurray, Pastor

A LETTER FROM YOUR PASTOR - July 2013

Dear Members of Mountville Church,
            I just got back from an exciting week in Colorado.  I was sent by our session as a delegate to this year’s General Assembly of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.  In all my 35 years of serving the church I have never attended a G.A.   Because of our wise move into the EPC I was very delighted in what I saw.  What I experienced at the G.A. is a sure sign we made a right move and a sure portent of good things to come for Mountville Church.
            The EPC General Assembly was not about controversy, fighting, facing heresy, one-upmanship, the latest cultural fads, and angry pagan groups demanding we bow to their latest attack on morality.  INSTEAD, what I found was prayer and a focus on what God’s Word directs His Church to do today.   The focus was not on personalities and politics.  The focus was on loving the Lord Jesus Christ and each other.  The GA was mostly about relationships.  Every pastor and elder that I met was a delight.  We focused on who we are as Christian leaders, how our churches are doing, what are we doing to lead our youth to Christ, what we are doing to reach our community with the Good News of Salvation thru Christ, and what we are doing to reach our nation and our world with the power and authority of the Gospel.  
Among the preachers were former U.S. Senator Bill Armstrong, career missionary and head of the EPC’s Engage 2025 global initiative to the Muslim world, Dr. Greg Livingstone, Moderator Ken Roberts, host pastor Dr. Jim Dixon and new to the EPC pastor Jim Noble of Desert Hills Presbyterian Church in Scottsdale, Ariz. During the assembly the moderator-elect, Bill Dudley, pastor of the Signal Mountain Presbyterian Church outside Chattanooga, Tenn., became the EPC moderator.  What is noteworthy about the speakers and most of the attendees were that we were mostly new to the EPC.  It was like attending a gala gathering of PCUSA exiles that have arrived at the Promised Land.  And the joy, the enthusiasm and the newness were all evident.  Now we can do the Lord’s word uninterrupted by lesser things.  And the EPC is growing by leaps and bounds.
What came out of this G.A.?  Our focus and mission is to evangelize the world and that includes challenging the heart of Islam.  We are starting Christian churches, schools and missions in every Moslem land that we can to offer these people a choice between light and darkness.    We are committed to reaching youth and including them in leadership.  I served on the College and Youth committee.  We are working with campus ministries to reach college students and are urged to include high school students in worship leadership and to develop their Christian leadership skills.
worshiped in three churches while I was away.  All three had in common modern Christian music and choruses, use of projectors, praise bands, song leaders and teams and a non-churchy atmosphere.  The focus was on fellow-shipping in the Lord.  All three churches were very open and welcoming to newcomers.  This was especially important because all three communities are very fluid and changing.  The impression from all three was we love the Lord, we love each other and we want to love you too.  A worthy goal for Mountville Church to continue reaching for.
                                                            Don Hurray, Pastor


Saturday, June 22, 2013

EPC GA Ends

It was sad to see it end.  That is an amazing statement because most such meetings that I have attended in past people were glad to get out as soon as they could.  Why was it sad?   Because although there were 2000 people in attendance it was like heaven.  You could go up to anyone and get a smile and an introduction and sharing you life.  There was no dissent, no suspicion, no angry spirits.  It was like heaven where we were just enjoying the presence of Jesus Christ in our midst.

The opening prayer was the the Kazakhstan pastor.  They pray long but it was a relevant good prayer.  He prayed for President Obama "because he is leader over this nation and we pray he doesn't do anything outside Your will."

The sermon was by a pastor who spoke how God called him to faith all his life and he struggled against it most of the time.  he had plenty of questions about God and tried to stray as much as he could going into philosophy, stop attending church, arguing with Christians.  He spoke about how God's Holy Spirit pursued him and placed people in his life over and over to challenge him to follow Christ.  He finally surrendered and found tremendous peace in being where God planned him to be from before the foundation of the world.

We heard from the Women in ministry group.  They have prepared a report to present to the 2014 GA in Knoxville.  They are continuing to resource and train and attempting to build into women's lives the need to take their place in the transformation of the world.  She said they are in transition as the EPC grows by leaps and bounds.  They are looking for ways to take leadership roles in next year's GA.  They want to pursue the truth of God's Word for women to stand on.

They gave permission for the Committee on Administration to take action to retain, revise, outsource or terminate the EPC medical plan for pastors when Obamacare takes hold and puts our plan in jeopardy.

GA next year will be in Knoxville.  In 2015 it will be in Orlando

We approved "Christian friends of Korea" as our Approved Mission agency there.

Approved taking three mission groups, Antioch Partners, Frontier Fellowship and Outreach Foundation that were formerly part of the PCUSA but have left the PCUSA and its board members have come into the EPC as mission agencies of the EPC.

It was sad to part from the many, many new friends and contacts with pastors and elders from all over the nation.  It was significant that we couldn't tell who was a pastor or an elder unless you read the fine print on the nametag.  We worked together instead of as two separate groups of teaching elder and ruling elder.

I am driving friends to the airport and now I am headed to Colorado Springs to spend 4 days at the Air Force Academy Econolodge.  I expect the atmosphere to be different there and hope they are not WILD.  In that case I will spend as much time on trails hiking Pike's Peak as I can.  And I hope the bears don't get me.