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

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Humble yourselves before the Lord.

Daily thoughts from my Scripture reading.

Jam 4:6 — 10
But He gives greater grace. Therefore He says:
God resists the proud,
but gives grace to the humble.,
Therefore, submit to God. But resist the Devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, double-minded people! Be miserable and mourn and weep. Your laughter must change to mourning and your joy to sorrow. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.

This is so counter cultural. The world tells you that you need to build yourself up, and that if you listen to your heart whatever you want to do is fine. God says that we cannot build ourselves up and that we need to recognize our sin and humble ourselves before Him. Then our Identity can be remade by Him! Lord, I humble myself before you. You are the only one who is great, and I am nothing with you. Thank you for loving me and lifting me up, not for my own glory, but for yours! Please transform me so that my life reflects you more and more.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Good News: You Can Be Forgiven

Image result for crosses on hill

Twenty-five years ago, the president of the African nation of Rwanda, an ethnic Hutu, was killed in a plane crash. The Hutus were the majority group in the county, but the country had historically been run by the minority ethnic group, the Tutsis. Many Hutus blamed the Tutsis for the plane crash and went on a killing spree against them. After two months, more than 800,000 Tutsis had been killed, primarily by machetes and clubs. Unfortunately, the rest of the world failed to take action to stop the genocide. Eventually, a rebel Tutsi group retook the government and stopped the genocide.

This was not the first time such ethnic cleansing has happened, and unfortunately, it is not likely to be the last. What is unique in this instance though is the good news that followed the bad news. Instead of simply retaliating against their neighbors when they had the opportunity, the Tutsi leaders chose a path of reconciliation. Those who committed the horrible murders were sent to jail, but they were also given the opportunity to repent and ask forgiveness for their crimes. Many of those who lost family members have forgiven the murders of their family.

For instance, Tasian Nkundiye murdered his neighbor with a machete, but after serving an 8-year prison sentence, he now lives in the same neighborhood as Laurencia Makalemera, the widow of a man he murdered. He says of her, “I am very grateful to her. Ever since I apologized to her after prison life, confessing to my crimes and asking her for forgiveness, she has accepted me. I even leave my children with her when I am away.” What could have turned into a generations long feud between two people has been changed to a story of redemption and renewal because of forgiveness.

The Rwandans, both those who perpetrated the murders and the victims, benefited from the idea that sin can be forgiven. Since they have undertaken reconciliation the country has become a safer place, which in turn has lead to economic growth.

The idea of reconciliation and forgiveness came from and has been lead by Christians. As my article last week pointed out, the Bible tells us that everyone is a sinner and deserves punishment, so we all need forgiveness. But God loves us so much that He sent His son to die and take the punishment for us (Romans 5:8). He offers us forgiveness for our sins and promises that if we ask for forgiveness, He will give it (1 John 1:9). In other religions, you have to do good deeds to overcome your bad deeds, but you can never be sure you have done enough. In a secular worldview, you cannot overcome your bad deeds because your actions are simply a result of forces outside of your control. Jesus offers us a unique way out of sin and guilt, because he died in our place so that we can be forgiven and our relationship with God can be restored.

Furthermore, once you receive forgiveness, you can offer forgiveness to others because you have experienced the freedom that God's mercy provides (Ephesians 4:32). Forgiveness from God, from others, and towards others when they have wounded you, provides a path out of the trap into which sin leads us. Our relationship with God can be restored, and He then helps to restore our relationships with other people.

Therefore, if you are struggling with sin in your life right now or have long-term guilt over past sin, God has the best news for you. He wants to forgive you. He wants to restore you. You do not have to earn it, and in fact, you cannot ever do enough to earn it. Forgiveness is a gift from God, but you need to receive it. I encourage you to read and pray Psalm 51, and see that God desires to cleanse you and give you joy.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Good News: You are a Sinner

 Image result for repentance

Many young people have a fear that the future will be worse than the present, and many people are convinced things have gotten worse compared to the past. For instance, many of us live in fear of violent attack, and think that chance of getting attacked is higher now than in the past. A funny instance of this that I saw recently was a family that was building an off-grid home high up in the mountains of Idaho on a road so bad that for much of the year it is nearly impassable. The dad was still so worried about possible intruders that he was putting up multiple security cameras on his property and wanted to make sure that his guns were always ready to be used against possible human threats if necessary.

So is it true that life in the United States is actually more dangerous now than in the past, or have we perhaps been fooled into more fear by the 24-hour news cycle and the immediacy of internet news where we hear negative news all the time. Well, the Pew Research Center shows an interesting contrast between reality and perception. In the 25 year period from 1993-2017, both violent crime and property crime fell sharply, 49% and 50% respectively, in the United States. On the other hand, they report that in 18 of 22 Gallup polls during that same time period show that 6 in 10 people thought that crime had gone up from the previous year, even when it had actually dropped. There may be lots of reasons why crime has been dropping, and there is no guarantee that it will continue to drop, but some more good news is that some programs to help criminals stop from reoffending are fairly successful. For instance, several studies in the US and other countries have shown that if a prisoner participates in a faith-based program like ones run by Prison Fellowship, their likelihood of reoffending drop by at least 50%. One of the reasons that these programs work is that they teach the prisoner that change is possible, but one of the first steps in that process is recognizing their need to change.

The Christian faith provides the same good news that we all need to hear, namely that you are a sinner that needs to change and that you can change. Now I suspect that reading Romans 3:10, "There is none righteous, no not one," or Romans 3:23, "For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God," does not initially seem like good news to anyone, but in fact compared to the modern naturalistic view of man, it is good news. You see in the modern view of man, your problems are not primarily your fault. Your problems are the fault of where you were born, how you were raised, the color of your skin, the wiring of your brain, or any number of other factors outside of yourself. If you believe that, then you also have no real control of your own life, because you are simply a machine that is being driven by forces outside your control. The Christian claim on the other hand, while not denying outside influences, makes it clear that each individual also has the ability to make choices about what they do and how they think.

Therefore, by acknowledging that we are sinners, we are acknowledging that at least part and maybe most of our problems come from within ourselves. Understanding and admitting where the problem really lies is the first part of dealing with any problem. That is why both in the Prison Fellowship programs and substance abuse recovery programs, admitting that you have a problem is one the first steps to making positive change. Christianity does not claim that we can fix the sin problem on our own, but the Apostle Paul in laying out the whole good news in Romans does start by making it clear in chapters 1-3 that every one of us is a sinner that needs change. In future articles, I will explain even more of the good news, but if you want a sneak peek, I recommend reading chapters 4-8 of Romans for the best possible news in the universe! The good news is that you are a sinner, but that you do not have to stay trapped in sin.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Good News - You have a Creator




Recently, I have been seeing stories about teens and young adults who are so scared about the future that they do not even want to have kids, because they do not believe in a good future. We have the news at our fingertips all day long, and most of the news that is reported is bad, so many people live in fear. They are anxious about a climate disaster, mass shootings, the opioid epidemic, terrorist attacks, mass immigration, wars, an economic collapse, and political conflict. In the next month I want to present some good news about our world, but even better news about our God and what He has done, is doing, and will do.
Here is some good news about the world. Many people in the western world think that the economy is getting worse, but worldwide over the last 25 years, many, many people have come out of extreme poverty. Alexander Hammond writing at Humanprogress.org says, "In 1820, 94 percent of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty (less than $1.90 per day adjusted for purchasing power). In 1990 this figure was 34.8 percent, and in 2015, just 9.6 percent." Even in terms of raw numbers of people in extreme poverty he says, "Not only is the proportion of people in poverty at a record low, but, in spite of adding 2 billion to the planet’s population, the overall number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen too." I remember growing up and regularly hearing about mass starvation in many countries, and while this is still possible, over the couple of decades these types of events are becoming less and less common.

As a student of history, I know that we cannot count of things always getting better in this world, but as a Christian I know the good news that "The earth and everything in it, the world and its inhabitants, belong to the Lord; for He laid its foundation on the seas and established it on the rivers" from Psalm 24:1-2. God did not just make the world, but He also made me as Psalms 139:14 says, "I will praise You because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made." Furthermore, God did not just leave the world to drift, but is still involved in  the world, as the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 8:6, "yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist."

Finally, though the world is broken by sin, our ultimate hope is not in systems of this world, but rather that God will redeem and remake the world. As the promise in Rev 21:1, 3, 4 says "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea no longer existed. . . God’s dwelling is with humanity, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will no longer exist; grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer, because the previous things have passed away."

The good news for today is that the one true God is creator, sustainer, and redeemer of the world. That same God also created you, loves you personally, and wants to redeem you to be with Him for eternity. If you need hope for today, turn off the news and turn to your creator.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Family




This July, Sechler family had a great time on vacation to Glacier Park in Montana, and Banff Park in Alberta, Canada. When people have asked me what the best part of the vacation was, I reflected that of all the beautiful places we saw, the best part was still spending time with my family. Hiking a trail, Spending time around a fire, skipping rocks over a rushing river, canoeing on a mountain lake, playing a board game on a picnic table, and even listening to an audiobook while covering the many miles were all made better because we did them together. I love my family and I love spending time with them.

While gone though, I also missed my church family. Throughout the New Testament, family terms like brother, sister, and son are used of the church, and they are not used casually. In fact, we should see the church as an eternal family where we are all part of God's family. We should love, protect, forgive, fellowship, enjoy, and care for one another not just like some dysfunctional family, but rather as the best kind of family and an example for the world.

As Jesus tells us in John 13:34-35, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” 1 John 4:20-21 tells us,  "If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.  And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother."

So our relationship with God should inspire us to love each other well, and if we are not loving each other well, then we are not loving God well. As the elders have considered how we as a church are called to make disciples in our area, we have discussed that loneliness and disconnectedness is one of the big areas of need in our area. If we can be a loving and welcoming family, we will help one another grow well, but we will also provide a welcoming family to many people who perhaps do not have that anywhere else in their lives.

My prayer is that you will feel loved in this church and that it will excite you to spend time with your eternal family, and that many other people will be welcomed into God's family through our church. I love you and it is a privilege to be part of this family.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Should Abortion Be Allowed for Rape?

Here is an exchange the recently took place on Facebook about the issue of abortion:

One person wrote: My mom had me at age 19. I was conceived before my parents were married...and I’m so thankful my mom chose to give me life! This why I’m pro-life...I wouldn’t be here without my Mom determination to keep me. It was hard for my parents going through college with a baby, and living paycheck to paycheck. I will be a VOICE for the unborn for the rest of my life. ✝️💓

Anotgher Person Responsed: At the age of 19, she was an adult, and could make that decision because your father also chose to stay and help her.

What about that poor 11 year old girl whom was raped? Delivering a child in a CHILD'S body could kill her. Should she be forced to carry said fetus.


So what about this argument? Should abortion be allowed because of the horrors of rape and the dangers of pregnancy to a young body?

First, we need to make the basic case for why abortion is immoral and should be illegal in normal circumstances. 

Here is the case as laid out by Scott Klussendorf of the Life Training Institute.

  • Premise #1: It is wrong to intentionally kill innocent human beings.
  • Premise #2: Abortion intentionally kills innocent human beings.
  • Therefore, conclusion: Abortion is morally wrong.
The key point in this argument is the value of the unborn child. If the unborn child is a unique human life, then he or she should be afforded the same right to live as all other humans. If the unborn is not a human life, then what is it? What exactly confers humanity on a child? When do we / should we get human rights and when can they be taken away?

The science is clear that a new human life starts at conception and that any other point along the way is simply arbitrary decision making. If human rights are only conferred on us when someone wants us or we provide some value to society, then they can be taken away arbitrarily too. Protecting the lives of the innocent and defenseless whether they are in the womb or out of the womb is really an act of protecting the right to life for everyone.
Therefore, when talking about the issue of conceptions by rape, we are still talking about the lives of two people, the woman and the child. If the child is a human then the fact of how it was conceived does not take away its humanity before or after it is born. If it is not human before birth because of the crime done in the act of conception then are those people that are now born but who were conceived by rape not human? Of course, they are human and should have all the rights given to other humans, and so should those babies not yet born no matter how they were conceived.

I know that the primary argument though is the physical and mental health of the woman, especially in this argument about a young girl. Now in the case of physical danger to a woman, whether younger or older, then most pro-life people make the case that sometimes an unborn baby has to be killed in order to save the life of the mother. The option here though is not between 2 people living and 1 person living. Rather, in the case of severe physical danger to the mother, you would have two people dying or you can have one live. In cases of severe hypertension, cancer in the mother, or in particular ectopic pregnancies these hard decisions of life or death sometimes become medically necessary to save the one life that can be saved.

On the issue of mental health, it is not at all clear that the mental health of woman is helped by abortion in the cases of rape. Sometimes, the grief and pain of an assault can be compounded with guilt about the abortion. Furthermore, in the cases of young victims, abortion can be and is used by abusers to cover up the abuse, and makes it possible for the abuse to continue without being found out. Abortions providers sometimes will not even report the possible abuse when an adult brings in a young minor for an abortion. Here are some examples of that.

So to sum up my points: 
  • Being conceived by rape does not take away someone's humanity.
  • Medical necessity to end a pregnancy is the exception written into all pro-life legislation and is a clear moral exception.
  • It is not at all clear that abortion would help the emotional and mental state of a raped woman, and in some cases may even be used by abusers to cover up their crimes so they can continue their abuse.
Finally, this is not just an academic exercise for me. I have two daughter, one of whom is 11. I get the emotion behind thinking about your kids hurting and wanting to help them, but I am convinced that abortions would hurt them more than help them.

Furthermore, I have even had to counsel a young woman with an ectopic pregnancy and help her understand why there was no possibility of having her baby live. She was devastated because even at that early stage her unborn baby was her child. Every mother I know who has lost a baby due to miscarriage has grieved over the loss of their child.

If you know of someone with an unplanned pregnancy of any type, I would and many pro-life people would love to help them. We would help them with prenatal care, care after their child is born, and even find someone to adopt their baby if that is what they want.

If you have had an abortion and have guilt, remember that God will forgive you. There is no sin that He cannot forgive. We (pro-life people) do not hate you, and neither does God. We desire for you to find peace with Him.