Wednesday, January 1, 2025
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.
Monday, July 12, 2021
To obey Jesus' command, we will have to be intentional and take the first step of smiling, saying hi, and even (I know this is radical in our smart phone age) start an in person conversation with our neighbors. We can show love in very practical and personal ways like helping someone with car trouble or who needs help lifting something heavy. We can listen and pray for them when we see their heart is heavy with sorrow. In many very practical ways, we can love the neighbors that God puts in front of us.
Thursday, July 1, 2021
In my last article, I pointed to Jesus's claim that loving God with all of our heart, soul, and mind is the most important commandment, but what does that look like in real life? Well another scripture points us to one way that people would know that we love God, 1 John 4:21 says, "And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother." So showing love for our brother is one primary way that you love God well. But then we have to ask, who is my brother?
Jesus gives us a more clear definition in John 13:34-35 saying, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Here we learned that our brothers are fellow disciples of Jesus, so we can show our love for God by loving fellow Christians.
Why does God highlight the importance of loving brothers and sisters in the Lord? Ultimately it is because when we become Christians we are adopted into a new eternal family of God, and these people who also know and love Jesus will spend eternity with us. If we cannot learn to love those people with whom we have an eternal connection, then how could we expect to love anyone else? Furthermore, because the offer of salvation is open to anyone, the family of God is going to include lots of different types of people, many of whom may not share our interests and some of whom may rub us the wrong way. Just like in a natural family, we need to learn to love those people regardless of our differences.
This starts in our local churches, where we should make sincere efforts to take care of one another, to reconcile disputes, and to reach out to new people who join us so that they can feel welcomed. But it goes beyond the local church and includes all believers. Locally in Oakland we had a wonderful fellowship of churches, where we often join together in joint ministries that highlight our unity in Christ.
We also show God's universal love by loving those Christians from all cultures from all around the world. The picture of all the peoples of the world worshipping around the throne of God in Revelation 7:9 is something that we can start to live out now by recognizing our kinship with and love for all peoples.
By loving all of God's people we learn to break down barriers in our hearts. We don't just love those people that are easy to love, rather we even learn to deepen our understanding of love by reaching out to those who are hard to love. Furthermore, by loving those who are different from us, we break down barriers between cultures and nations and show that God's love is for everyone.
Sometimes in the past the church has been known as a place of judgment and infighting. Rather than the world seeing a safe place where people can come and find love, they experience it as a harsh place. Therefore, if we can learn to love the whole family of God well, others outside of the family will desire to get to know Him and experience His love as well.
When Jesus was asked what the most important commandment was, he responded, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" Matthew 22:37. He was actually quoting part of the Shema, Deuteronomy 6:4-9, which is a famous passage memorized by and quoted by Jewish people throughout the ages. God puts loving Him above every other duty, including loving others. Jesus is helping us to know what is important, but I believe we should also understand why loving God should be the foundational principle upon which we build our lives. In our world we have lots of other people and things vying for our attention and love, such as our spouse, our children, our sports, our careers, our community, our political party, our hobbies, and our physical desires.
Now most of these things are good, and during regular times of life, some of them can even appear to provide our lives with enough to satisfy us. A great relationship with a spouse can provide deep joy and contentment. A ball team practicing hard and playing as a unit with a singular focus can be inspiring not only to those playing but the fans who follow them. Watching your children grow, accomplish new things, and then being released to become independent adults can alternate between exhilarating and terrifying (we are release another to college this year!). Finding a social cause to improve the world can bring incredible passion and meaning to our lives.
But as good as all of these things can be, they are insecure as a foundation upon which to build our lives. A great marriage can be taken away in a car wreck, a heart attack, or an emotional and spiritual crisis of your partner. You can do everything right, and they can still be taken away. Ball teams eventually break up and our bodies age to the point where we simply cannot do what we used to be able to do. Kids do become independent and sometimes go exactly the opposite way we had hoped for them. Careers become drudgery, politics disappoint, hobbies become obsessions, desires become addictions, and social causes fail to create the promised utopia. Everything in the universe including ourselves is temporal and fleeting.
God created all of these things including us, and He wants what is best for us. He wants our lives to have a purpose that outlasts the world, and that can only happen if we love the eternal God. Loving God first, helps us to order correctly all the other loves of our life. We can freely love our spouse and not cling to them expecting them to fulfill our every need. We can love our kids and release them to God's good care, understanding that He loves them more than we do. We can work for God's glory and give Him the credit for successes. We can play sports with passion while caring more about our own teammates and our opponents than the accolades that come with winning. Hobbies can be fun but not consuming. Desires can be enjoyed inside of boundaries that bring thanks to God for His goodness instead of regret because we have over indulged.
Do you love God more than all these other loves? How would you know? Christians should regularly examine our hearts to see if our love of God has grown cold and if other loves have begun to take priority. You can spend time building up your love of God in worship, prayer, Christian fellowship, reading the Bible, and by serving others. If you love God with all of heart, soul, and mind, then you will experience His unbelievable love for you, and you will learn to love the rest of His creation with that same kind of love.
Tuesday, June 15, 2021
Now on this last point, many modernists are not actually very honest in public, although a few of them, such as Sam Harris in this podcast, admit the consequences of their belief system. Previous generations of atheistic philosophers, such as Nietzsche and Russell, have admitted the consequences of this view of the reality mean that there are no metanarratives that explain and give meaning to the universe.