Wednesday, January 1, 2025

Welcome, Purpose, and Links


My name is Mike Sechler. I am currently the pastor at Oakland Evangelical Free Church, and this blog is a place for me to set down some of my thoughts about life, scripture, church life, discipleship and whatever else comes into my mind at the moment. A number of my posts are articles that I have written in the past or that I have just written for the local paper or for my church.

I hope you find them enjoyable and edifying.

Along with this blog, I also have a blog where I review and recommend various resources including books, movies, websites, podcasts, and all sorts of other media.

I am also keeping a record of all the sermon recordings, so if you are interested in listening to them here are the links.


Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Who needs to get the log out?

Image result for log in your eye

Traci and I were once on a long trip between relatives on Easter Sunday, when our kids were little. We stopped at a nearly empty restaurant (Taco Johns I think) for a meal and let our kids run get a little exercise by running around a little bit after having been cooped for the last several hours. The only other family had been sitting on the other side of the restaurant and left a few minutes later. As the woman of the family left the restaurant, she shouted back at us that we had the worst behaved kids she had ever seen, and then she quickly exited. 

Now, how effective do you think that was at getting Traci and I to change our parenting style? Did she have our best or our kids best in mind as she did that? Do you think we felt lovingly corrected? If you were challenged on some "sin" of yours by a stranger, how would that make you feel? Would you listen or put much stock in what they said? Would you perhaps react defensively and begin to argue about your own righteousness or try to figure out a sin of theirs?

Recently, I heard two people in a conflict like this. One person felt it was their responsibility to point out something wrong in the other person, but similar to our case above the manner in which it was delivered did not feel loving. Shockingly, the one being corrected did not take it well and got upset in response! As I reflected on it, I realized that I have been the person on both sides of this type of unloving correction.

Now as a Christian it is not wrong to go to a brother or sister in the Lord and point out some flaw, and we are commanded in Matthew 18:15-18 that if someone has sinned against us we must go to them to point their sin. James 5:19-20 tells us that by correcting someone who is in error, we can be part of saving their soul from death. Furthermore, anytime we share the full gospel, it becomes necessary to tell people that God says that are sinners. 

Therefore, we know that correcting someone is not in and of itself wrong, but how and why we do it make a huge difference in how the corrections will be received.  Matthew 7:1-5 challenges us to examine our motives if we desire to help someone else through critique. Here Jesus points out that we cannot help someone else with some minor character flaw (a speck in their eye) if we ourselves have major character flaws (a log in our eye.) 

If I see something wrong in the world or in another person that I think needs to be corrected, the first step for me should be to begin examining myself. If I have major issues in my life, then the other person and everyone else will clearly see my hypocrisy for telling someone else to correct their lives while I am not even willing to examine myself let alone change. It will be clear that my motive for challenging you is not to help you, but rather to tear you down, probably to make myself feel better in comparison. 

If you are the type of person who sees injustice in the world and sin in other people that needs to be corrected, God may have given that to you as a way to help others. On the other hand, He may have also given that impulse to you as a challenge for you to humble yourself and repent, so that you will be able to go to others in love. Jesus at times was very harsh in His criticisms, but he also wept in love over the sin of his people. He also welcomed anyone into his company who came humbly themselves from the prostitute to the Pharisee.

Jesus came to change the world, and he uses us as agents of change. Let him change you first so that when you go to into the world your encouragement and challenges will be seen as acts of love, not hypocrisy.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Real love is messy.

So as a Christian and as a Pastor, I often come into contact with people at very hard times of their lives or when they are messed up in some way or another. Here are just a few of the problems of people with who I have dealt in the last few years:

  • Abuse (both those who are doing the abuse and the abused children themselves). Physical and emotional.
  • Affairs
  • Neglected children (both those who are doing the neglect and the neglected children themselves)
  • Divorce
  • Property crime
  • Chronic lying
  • Many and varied psychological diagnoses from depression to bi-polar to schizophrenia.
  • Addiction to substances of all types and sexual additions of various kinds.
  • Eating disorders and cutting
  • Homelessness
  • Hunger
  • Suicide
  • Homicide
Beyond these "big" visible types of problems, almost everyone who comes to church is broken in some way or another, including me. Many people have learned to hide their brokenness, but as God deals with them it often comes out.

Furthermore, some of us in church are just plain weird. We might be extreme extroverts (like me) or we might be introverts. Some are on the autism scale, some have Down's syndrome, some like rock music, some like organ music, and some people like the Green Bay Packers.

My point is that if we are going to do ministry like Jesus and do the ministry of Jesus and become more like Him, then we are going to have to learn to love people broken, weird, messed up people. Furthermore, the more you minister to these oddballs, the more you realize that you are one of them! You see Jesus died not come to minister to the health, but the sick. He did not come to die for the good people, but the damned people. He did not come to have a party with those who were already his friends, rather he came to be killed by his enemies, so he could make his enemies his friends. 

Yes, he came to transform us, so that we can live more like him, in the way he created us, but we are all still in the process. If we are to see his kingdom grow we are going to still be reaching out and loving all kinds of different people.

This is hard!! I mean it is very hard! It is really messy.

Just today I saw a story of a man who intentionally ran a car into a group of people and got out and said "Thank you Jesus." Now this is not what Jesus wants any of us to do. We are not called to kill people in his name. We need to love and sacrifice for people, and be willing to die for them instead of kill them. On the other hand, it would not surprise me at all if this man actually had attended a church recently. Sometimes screwed up people are trying to get in touch with God, but they are still screwed up. Sometimes screwed up people lead churches and give people really bad and unChristian doctrine while in a church service. Both of these things were happening in the churches to whom Paul wrote, so why should it be different now.

Does this mean we should stop reaching out so that things are less messy? No, it means we need to get on our knees every day and pray for strength. Pray for transformation, so that Jesus will help clean up our mess. Pray that we will be able to love the unlovable with his unconditional love.

The gospel of Jesus Christ changes messy lives into abundant lives, but truly abundant lives overflow with the good news of the gospel into the lives of those around them. If you know Jesus, and if he is changing you, then you can and will love all the other messy people around you.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Learning from the Flood

Luke 12:31 - 32
But seek His kingdom, and these things will be provided for you. Don’t be afraid, little flock, because your Father delights to give you the kingdom.
Recently with all the flooding you may have seen many pictures and videos of all the destruction. Scenes of destroyed houses, roads and bridges washed away, dead livestock, burst grain bins, and fields full of debris are sad and can even lead to a sense of despair or hopelessness because the loss seems so overwhelming.
Rather than despair though, I want to encourage us to to use these hard moments to see what lessons God has for us.
The first lesson as you think about your personal losses or those of people who you know, is to take a moment and examine your own heart. While it is appropriate to feel sad over losing valuable things, if that sadness turns to despair and depression, it may well point to what you really consider valuable. Do you put your hope and trust in God or do you put your hope and trust in the things of this earth? If you lost everything, could you still have peace? What if Jesus asked you to give up everything? Could you do it? He did ask his disciples to do that, and if he is asking you to, could you ?  This may not mean you lose the use of things, but it might. Could you give away your house, your cars, your job, your electronics, your reputation, your everything if Jesus called you to do it? I have a friend going back to Cameroon, Africa and these are the very questions he is asking, because God has called him to a much more dangerous and much less prosperous place. Use this moment to consider if Jesus is really the most valuable thing in your heart.
Second, use this moment to look around you and be thankful for the blessings God has given you right now. One of the reasons that we sometimes get mad at God when He takes something away from us is that we have come to expect it rather than see the world and our very lives as a blessing from Him. Look at your family, your friends, your home, your food, the beauty of the earth, and rejoice in the abundance of God's goodness. Use this moment to thank God for the incredible blessings, both big and small. Start a list and write down one thankful item a day. Every single day you could find something for which to be thankful. If you do this, you will begin to praise the giver of the gifts and not just the gifts themselves.  God loves you and has already blessed you. Learn to praise Him on the sunny days and on the rainy days, in the days of drought, in the days of plenty, and in the days of flood. He is bigger than them all and any day with Him is better than any day with any other thing.
Psalm 84:10 Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Should you memorize scripture or treat others well?

Here is a meme I saw on Facebook today with my response.

Well, yes and no. Psalm 119:11 Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against God.

God's word helps us to define what love is. If we know the Bible and do not live it we are hypocrites, but if say we love God and do not know what He has said, we are not really following or loving God. Rather we end up making God in our own image and then do whatever we want, which often leads to justifying selfish and unloving behavior.

Matthew 22:37-40, He said the him, "You shall love the Lord your God will all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all you mind. This is great and first commandment. A second is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets." 

The great Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4-9 says,

Hear O Israel, The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, and with all of your soul, and with all of your might. And these word that I am commanding you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach diligently to your children, and you shall talk of them when you sit down, and as you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. They shall be a sign on your hands, and as a frontlet between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 say, "16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

Scripture itself teaches us that our very ability to treat others well is impacted by whether we encounter God through His Word. Now if it is just dead words or a club to beat others with then we are just Pharisees, who don't get the heart of the law. But I learned about that from the stories of Jesus in the Bible who had the harshest words for the legalists. I also learned about the sacrificial love of God, and how he calls us to become like Jesus and then shows us a picture of what that life looks like in the life and death of Jesus.

I learn about how God wants a relationship with me and that Jesus died to provide that way to have that relationship.

I learn that I am a sinner and that I am selfish and need to change, but that I can only do that with God's help.

So at the heart of what I am saying is, that it is not either learning scripture or treating people well, but rather a because you learned scripture and took it seriously, you know how to and are impowered to and want to treat others well.

The God of the universe has spoken and wants you to hear. Why would you not take time to listen? How could you not be transformed if you heard Him?

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Why I am still Happily Married after 21 Years.

Today is Traci and my 21st anniversary, and I can honestly say that we have a great marriage. I love her more now than at any point previously, and I anticipate loving her even more 21 years in the future if God allows us that much time together. Furthermore, I feel loved and respected by her. Simply put she is my best friend, and she loves me in spite of knowing me better than any other human on earth. 

So did we just luck into a great marriage or do we have some secret that we can share? As someone who has the job of helping others with their marriages, I wanted to share three of the primary reasons we have a great marriage, and that you can do as well.

Love Jesus First

The first and most important reason that Traci and I have a great marriage is that we both put Jesus number one in our lives. Every morning I see her spending time in God's Word and prayer, and she regularly takes time out of the house to spend extended time with the Lord as well. I too spend time with Jesus daily, to seek His will for my life and marriage, and He gives me the strength to obey as well. Neither of us live perfect Christian lives, but because we know that Jesus still loves us, we also know that our identity is secure no matter how hard we fail or how bad the circumstances are in our lives.

When we fail each other, which inevitably we do, we can still go to Jesus to find comfort and forgiveness. Since we are not one another's little gods, we do not have to fill the void of meaning that only the true God can fill. Then whether we face financial trouble, loss of a job, conflict with friends, or even the loss of our son Micah, we still have someone solid on whom to lean. We each lean hard on Jesus, and He helps us be strong for each other. I cannot tell you how many times I have noticed that Traci is strong because of her relationship with Jesus, just when I am weakest, and by His grace He give me strength to help her as well.

Jesus also continues to challenge us to grow personally. I think I can say confidently that we both love Jesus more now than when we first got married, and because of that we are able to love each other and others people better. A relationship with Jesus makes us into better people!

It takes work!

The second reason that we have a great marriage is that we work on it. We started intentionally working our marriage even while dating. We studied a book on Finding the Love of Your Life, by Neal Clark Warren, the eventual founder of EHarmony. We also did premarital counseling before we got married to make sure that we began talking to one another about deep areas of relationship, such as how to handle money and how to raise kids.

We have continued to work on our marriage. We know that to keep love alive and to deepen it, we need to continue to romance one another. We date regularly (at least once a month), and on our dates, we ask one another date night questions like these. Every year we go to at least one retreat together, and/ or spend a couple days away together. We talk everyday about our lives and our plans. We also pray together every day - in 21 years we have probably missed less than 10 days of praying together. 

We also study material lots of material on marriage, and on being better husbands and wives. Books such as His Needs, Her Needs by Willard Harley, or his website, are great practical resources. Tim Keller's, Meaning of Marriage, Emerson Eggerich's, Love and Respect, or Francis Chan's, You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity, are also good reads. Even though we never have gone personally, I would also recommend Family Life's, Weekend to Remember retreats, because many couples that I know have been blessed by them. Another great relationship resource that we have taught is Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, and this material has been very good for our marriage and my life.

If you studied this material, started believing these truths, and put into practice the teachings, I can almost guarantee your marriage would get better, even if you already have a good marriage.

Believe in Marriage

The third main reason that Traci and I have a great marriage is that we started out and continue to believe in the goodness of marriage, and therefore we are committed to making it work. We believe that God made marriage for our good, the good of our kids, and even for the good of the world around us. On our wedding day, we committed to loving one another until death do us part, and we still try to live that out.

Furthermore, we have the added benefit of seeing this truth lived out in front us many times over. My parents have been married over 50 years, and they are a great example of people who love Jesus and each other. Traci's parents have been married over 40 years, and continue to love one another and their family well.

We have many other relatives family and friends who have been married 10, 20, 30, 40, and sometimes 50+ years. We also have many friends whose marriages have broken up, but because we can look to the success as our inspiration to continue on this journey together in the good times and the bad.

If you don't have positive examples in your life of long-term happy marriages, I would invite you to keep looking. When you find those couples who have endured through time, you will see the best examples of romantic love that no Hollywood romance can equal.

Whether you are married or not, I hope that our marriage can be an encouragement for you of what a great marriage can be. I am so blessed by God to experience one of His great blessings for me as I travel this life with Traci. I look forward to growing old with her, and I pray that with God's help we will love each other more and more each day. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry Christmas 2018: May you find Jesus.

Dear friends and family,

I pray that this Christmas you may find Jesus and be amazed, just like the shepherds did and were in Luke 2:16-20.

  • If you are poor in this world, may you find in Him a wealth that cannot be earned and that you cannot lose.
  • If you do not know Jesus at all, may you find Him for the first time, as the rest for your soul and the meaning for your life. May you also see Him in my life and the lives of other Christians as He works on us to make us more like Him.
  • If you are lonely, may you find Him as a friend who is always there. You are not alone! He says to those that know Him, "Behold I am with you even to the end of the age."
  • If you do know Jesus, but have not been spending time with Him, may you discover Him to be more interesting and satisfying than any distraction.
  • If you are sick and older or seeing your time on this earth coming to an end, may you find in Him hope for a better future because he the provides eternal life.
  • If you find great joy in your family this Christmas, may you find Him to be the better big Brother who welcomes you and your family to be part of a worldwide and eternal family.

Wherever you are in your journey of life, I pray that you will find Jesus and after the encounter, you will leave glorifying and praising God.