Wednesday, January 1, 2025

Welcome, Purpose, and Links

Hello,

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.

2017

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, Marriagebuilders.com 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.

Friday, October 26, 2018

What can you give a Pastor's Kid?

Here is a quote from Barnabas Piper's book "The Pastor's Kid" (he is John Piper's son) about being a pastor's kid. I put this out there for my kids, but also because I was a PK as well so I experienced some of these same things. "Very few people in the church would vocalize their assumptions about the PK or even cognitively recognize that they hold them, but they are present. For example, some people assume all is well, that the PK has it all together. They’re usually wrong; remember, PKs are as human as everyone else. Others are intimidated by the PK: he must know more Bible verses, be wiser, and have a secure line to God’s office in heaven. Nope, not usually. And then there’s the family assumption: the PK has a pastor for a dad, and his mom leads the women’s, children’s, hospitality, shut-in, quilt-making, and baking ministries, so what could a normal old congregant offer him? False assumption. The normal congregant can offer something powerful to a PK, usually many things.

PKs want to be known, not just known of. We want to be in relationships that cut through the facades and fronts and unearth the insecurities and needs. We long for those friends and mentors who will willfully set aside all they think they know of us as PKs and get to know us as people. These friends will engage our passions, our interests, our fears, our confusions. Throughout my life since high school, I have had these friends. They are the ones who will call me out on a lie or grapple with sins alongside me or forgive when I sin against them. They pay no mind whatsoever to who my father is and instead look straight into my life and see me. They are the ones who have been there for my worst days and helped me come through them. They know me. PKs struggle, and if all we have are people around us who know of us, we bottle those struggles inside and the pressure builds. Being known is a release, a way to pour out our problems and be helped, supported, corrected, taught, and simply known."

Thursday, October 18, 2018

My Privilege

Here is a post that I wrote on Micah's CaringBridge page on this day 6 years ago.

My privilege

I count it the greatest privilege to have been blessed by the Lord to be Micah's Dad on this earth for the last 12 years. It was also my great privilege to walk with him through all of the illnesses through the years, especially the last 6 months. Finally, it was a tremendous privilege to be by his side when he went to be with Jesus.

I love my boy, and I love Jesus.

Here is what I wrote early this morning in my personal journal:

"Sitting at the bedside of my dying son at 3:48 in the morning. Weeping like crazy. Bertrand Russell once said that “no one can sit at the bedside of dying child and believe in God.” Well, I beg to differ. My faith is the thing that strengthens me. How else can I make it through? We cannot do anything else. This fire drains away everything else. Nothing else satisfies my soul. I would love to save my son. I would easily give my life for his, but God has not chosen that path for us. He has chosen a vale of tears, but He will walk through it with me."

Jesus walks with us, and now Micah is walking with Jesus.

Micah is now with Jesus. Here is one of my favorite memories of him.


Piano Playing

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Are you loved?

The last in my series of article on depression and suicide written for the Oakland Independent in July 2018.

In an article earlier this month, I told the story of my depression and near suicide in my young adult life. I stood at the top of a cliff in the Black Hills and nearly jumped, and I believe if not for one factor, I would have jumped. That one factor was that I knew my parents loved me and that it would hurt greatly if I jumped. Later in the year, as I was still very depressed and suicidal, my dad called me and said, "Mike if you need to, you can just drop everything and come home." In that moment, I realized that my Dad loved me not because of what I did or did not do, but simply because I was his son. I did not have to earn his love!


That fact that I knew someone loved me unconditionally was a huge factor in helping me decide not to commit suicide and in gave me a safe place to go to work through my depression. The feeling of being alone and unloved is one of the primary causes of depression. I frequently meet people who are almost completely alone in the world. They have lost connection with family, they have no friends, and often their primary or only contact with the outside world is an electronic screen. The breakdown of family and social structures along with the isolating influence of electronics has created a situation for many people where they feel no love from anyone. Perhaps you have felt this way. Maybe you have been in a situation where you think that if you left town or died, no one would care.

God wants you to know that is not true! Jesus said, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). Jesus came to save you and me not just other people. He came because He loves us and wants us to be with Him forever! Maybe you think you are not good enough for God to love, but it does not matter how good or bad you are, because He loves unconditionally. "God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). God does not love you after you do something for Him or after you start to love Him. Rather He declares His love for you right now, wherever you are. He took the action necessary to show His love. The creator of the universe, who is always everywhere, all the time, loves you. You do not need to feel alone and unloved if you really believe that Jesus died to bring you back into relationship with your maker. If you believe that Jesus lived, died, and rose again because of His love for you and surrender your life to Him, then you can know that He is with you and that you are not alone. 

For those of us that have already experienced God's love and know that He has provided us with a family and friends who really care about us, then we have love to give away. He pours His love into us (Romans 5:5), and then we should pour His love on to others. All around us there are hurting, lonely, depressed people that need to know that they are loved. I encourage you to take the time to walk across the street to that elderly neighbor's house who you have not seen out much. Pay attention to the people in rental properties who often move so much that they do not form lasting friendships. Help them move in, invite them over for dinner, or plan fun events with other Christians and then invite the new neighbors too. Go visit the sick in the hospital and care centers. Showing Christ's love is simply a matter of helpful hands and listening ears. If we show His love in these practical ways, then it reveals that we truly know Jesus and His love (Matthew 25:31-40). 

I can tell you from real life experience on both sides of this coin that being shown love and giving love is the best thing in this life and the next (1 Corinthians 13:13). Know that God loves you and then show others that God loves them.

Do you have hope?

This is the third article in my series on depression and suicide written for the Oakland Independent newspaper in July 2018

If you grew up going to a church that sang hymns, you probably know that many of the hymns end with a picture of heaven. "Amazing Grace" says, "When we've been there ten thousand years bright shining as the sun, we've no less days to sing God's praise than when we'd first begun." "How Great Thou Art" ends with "When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart." When I minister at Oakland Heights, I always make sure to sing these last verses, because for most of the people in the service, heaven is becoming more and more real as their earthly life winds down, and those visions of heaven can bring hope and joy even when struggling with pain, grief, and loss of purpose on this earth.

Many people in the modern world do not have this hope. If you do not believe in God or are not sure if there is a God you cannot have this hope. If you think that maybe there is heaven after death, but that your place in heaven depends upon how good you are, then you can never be sure that you are good enough, so it is hard to have a sure hope.

Now when you are young, active, attractive, healthy, wealthy, in a great relationship, and things are going well, you probably are not worried about hope for the future because your present is fulfilling. But this present moment will not last. Trouble comes to us all. We get old and slow. Markets crash and people leave us or die. Pain, grief, loneliness or guilt sets in and can lead to full depression, and often when we are in the depths of despair there does not seem to be any hope for a better future. When things seem to have gone bad, we can begin to believe that it will never get better and give up on life.

Now the truth is that for most people in most circumstances, they can find help and still experience good things in this life. We can change our perspective, get some counseling, find good friends in church or other social organizations, ask forgiveness and restore relationships, start exercising, and do any number of things that bring us happiness again. On the other hand, if we have been hurt enough, even taking positive steps toward re-engaging the world may seem scary because what if we just lose everything again.

Here is where the Christian gospel helps me to have a new perspective that no circumstance can take away. 1 Peter 1:3-4 says, "He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you." I have a living hope for a good eternal future, not because of my own works, but because of what Jesus did for me. By receiving the gift of salvation from Jesus, my sins are forgiven and His resurrection proves that I will be raised to be with Him in heaven.

This hope does not just help me when thinking about eternal life, but even in the middle of the day to day struggles, I can know that no matter what, I still have a good future, so I can endure hardships for this short life. The Apostle Paul when talking about enduring, declared that "he could do all things through Christ who strengthens him" (Philippians 4:13). This was possible because he believed that "to live is Christ, but to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21).

God gave him a hope that pulled him through incredible persecution, and He will give you hope too if you will come to Him and put your trust in Jesus. So if you are feeling hopeless today, I encourage to read about Jesus in the gospels and read the books of 1 Peter and Philippians. There you will learn about a hope that no circumstances on this earth can take away.