Worship in silence can be moving

I knew today would be difficult. Sunday is my favorite day of the week. Today, I was dreading it.For those of you who know me, I love to sing. Not just to sing, but sing in worship of a Holy God. I really don’t enjoy it otherwise.

But, today was different. Today, I would be worshiping God WITHOUT singing, without talking, without verbally praying and even without whispering. I would be confessing sin, adoring God and praising whoGod is without a voice of any kind.

This is the second time in my life I’ve done this. But, it was a totally different response from my first. 16 years ago I went through a similar situation where I lost my voice and couldn’t participate in worship, but the whole time I kept feeling sorry for myself. Each second was focused on, “What if I never sing again? Will I ever be able to talk with a clear voice? What would happen to my career? God, I don’t understand.”

Today, I only asked that question once. And, the reply I heard was, “Greg, it’s NOT your voice. I gave it to you. I’m the one using it. I’m the one who gave you the idea to sing. I’m the one who gave you that gift. And, I’m the one who CAN and did take it away.” That’s when I said, “You’re right — who am I to say ANYTHING.” So, I spent the remainder of my time in church marveling at how incredible it is that I have a relationship with God at all.

The songs that were selected were ordained by God (as they are every Sunday). But, I sensed they were for me today. Each one made me turn to Christ. Each one reassured me that everything was okay because God is in TOTAL control. He’s not depending and waiting on me. He’s not putting his trust in a doctor’s ability to treat me. In fact, He’s ordained everything.

Then Bible study hour came and I think I may understand why trials come in people’s lives. Let me give you my perspective.

In 2 Peter 1:10 is says, “Therefore, be even more diligent to make your calling (salvation) sure.” In 2 Corinthians 13:5 is says, “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith.” While may say it’s a ‘sin’ to question your faith, the New Testament talks about it more than once. It looks like a command to me. The problem for me is, I really don’t WANT to. I don’t want to test my faith and force myself to question the foundation on which I stand. If I don’t want to, wouldn’t you think God is going to do something to FORCE me to do it?

I think so. I think because I like my comfortable world, God shakes it. He wants to see what I’m made of. He wants to test my faith, I’M suppose to be “diligent in making my calling sure.” He wants me to examine myself as to whether I’m in the faith. When He rocks our world with life changing moments we will either fall on our face before HIM (if we’re in the faith), or we’ll cry out with disgust to Him for making our lives miserable. He wants these moments to be precious times we won’t forget because they’re life changing.

When my friend Dan Cummings was struggling with cancer, I couldn’t understand how he could say his cancer was a blessing from God. I just couldn’t wrap my arms around that. NOW I CAN. I finally see that in Dan’s cancer, he was forced to be closer to God than he’d ever been. He understood that this was a test from God, not to be a mean God, but to put Dan in a position of total reliance on Him.

While my voice problem isn’t ANYTHING like cancer, my lack of voice could have a devastating effect on my career. But, for the first time I can honestly say — “this IS a blessing from God.” If it weren’t for my lack of voice, I wouldn’t have been able to witness one of the most incredible worship services ever. While I shed lots of tears, they weren’t self pity tears. They were tears of utter joy that God loves me so much. Why?  It’s only because of His Amazing Grace.

That’s not to say I won’t get frustrated. I’m human. But, now I understand what’s going on.

A tribute to Dan Cummings

“We’re beggars who happened to have found bread” is a quote I remember vividly sitting under the teaching of Dan Cummings. As I looked at Dan for the first time I thought, “Wow, he’s small.”  Then after listening to him for the first time I thought, “Dan, I want MORE…give me more.”

We moved to West Michigan from East Michigan. I had never heard Grace preached like Dan preached. Deep inside I knew what I believed, but

Pastor Dan Cummings

Pastor Dan Cummings

was never able to verbalize it. Then I heard Dan preach the Gospel as I have heard no other preach. It was a breath of fresh air. Knowing that God had forgiven my sins completely and that He CHOSE me before the foundation of the world to be His.  That there was absolutely NOTHING this dead person could do to save himself. ‘But God, being rich in mercy…’ It was an unbelievable thing to process. How could he love me and want me to be His so badly? And, more importantly, what was I doing in return for this gratitude.

I had so many questions about salvation. “If God chooses us, why do we need to do ANY evangelism? If He can choose people, why doesn’t He choose everyone?  If God is, “not willing that any should perish and that all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9) Do people really have a free will? All of these questions were answered by God’s Word with love and grace. I was truly amazed by his love for the Word and the answers he gave.

Today, I’m a man who LOVES the Gospel because it means so MUCH to me. I’m truly amazed at grace. I marvel that God chose me for “honorable use” (Romans 9:21). I certainly don’t understand why he chose ME? There are certainly other people who deserve it more. I’m just a beggar who found bread given to me by a merciful and loving God.

I sat under Dan’s teaching for just three short years. But, today I still consider him THE man who helped me understand my salvation and what Christ’s death on the cross accomplished for me.  HE’S the one God chose to share the truth of the Gospel at a pivotal point in my life. He was the man God used to help Grace Community Church to start being a church of Grace in our community. He was such a gifted communicator that even my young kids came home talking about the messages they heard each Sunday, not just once in a while. Each Sunday we sat riveted, wondering what new truth he would help us understand.

I loved his passionate plea for a church to be more like an AA meeting — “Hi, I’m Greg Yoder, I’m a sinner. I’ve been a sinner since birth…”  Instead of people in the pews putting on some kind of act, thinking they’ve got it altogether, when in reality we all fall short of God’s Holiness every day.  I remember when he actually did this in front of church and someone yelling from the back and said, “But, we love you Dan!”  Apart from Christ we can do absolutely NOTHING.  Even on our best day we’re smelly rags before God. “But, God….” We can’t help but love our sin, “But, God.”

If the world had more preachers like Dan Cummings, we’d have a lot less churches preaching ‘another Gospel, which really isn’t another Gospel’ (Galatians 1).

I wish I could write more about this man I called my captain. That comes from a movie both Dan and I enjoy, “Dead Poets Society.”  It’s a scene that reminds me of how many of us ‘reformers’ are viewed by those who claim Christ does some and we do something to earn our salvation.  Since Dan is the man who helped me understand truths of the Gospel, I’ve called him oh captain, my captain.

Oh, captain, my captain, a young pilgrim on his way to the City has arrived. Dan Cummings completed his journey Thursday February 5 at around 9:30pm at the age of 48 after suffering from cancer. He was a great fighter.

Here’s a quote from what Dan called HIS pastor, Jonathon Edwards:

“To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husband, wives, or children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows; but God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but streams. But God is the ocean.”

On Dan’s blog on January 19, he wrote: “Jonathan Edwards’ physicians’ note to Sarah captures what I want for my life in these days: “This afternoon [Mar 22, 1758], between two and three o’clock, it pleased God to let him sleep in that dear Lord Jesus….”

If you’d like to see Dan’s writings during his sickness, you can go here: http://5pointscc.org/dan/

If you want a sense of Dan’s passion for the Gospel, watch this from John Irvine’s wonderful tribute. 

Thank you Dan for being true to God’s Word, true to your faith in living and in dying.  Til we meet again oh captain, my captain.

Mourning in Dan’s loss, rejoicing in Dan’s gain,

Greg Yoder

Earthquake in Michigan?

Wow, it’s hard to believe it’s been a couple of months since I’ve posted anything on this blog. It’s not like nothing has been going on. It’s been very busy. But, today something TOTALLY unexpected happened.

You expect this kind of thing in California, but not in Michigan. My wife had just gotten up. I have a cold, so I rolled over to go back to sleep. I managed to that, but I was awoken by this strange shaking. My bed was shaking, the furniture in our bedroom was shaking, I thought, “what is she (my wife) doing to shake the whole room?” It stopped for a second, and then started again. Then I thought, “Hmmmm, I’m shaking too. Maybe I’m having a seizure?” Then I thought, wow, that’s some truck driving by. But, there wasn’t any truck. Than I thought, “maybe it’s an earthquake.”

Guess what? It was. I turned on the tv — to my surprise the anchor said, “If you felt something strange just moments ago, you’re not alone — we believe we experienced a small tremor or earthquake.”

Aha, I was right. That was the big news of the day. The epicenter was located in southern Illinois and was a 5.2 magnitude quake, so it wasn’t anything serious, but for people in the midwest — that’s serious.

When i got to work, Ruth Kramer didn’t feel it, but Laura Carlson did. She had a similar experience. She said, “It was either the rapture or an earthquake.” But, her roommate didn’t feel it, so she was wondering if it really happened.

Well it did. So, this will be something I’ll remember for a long time.

Greg to Dallas with Orphan Outreach

Well, it’s another couple of days on the road. Sunday, January 27 I’ll be heading to Dallas, Texas. I’m a new board member for Orphan Outreach. We have our board meeting on Monday, January 28. I’m excited about joining this ministry.

I’ll also be traveling to visit with World Bible Translation Center and hopefully Buckner Orphan Care International.

I’ll be back in the office January 30.

Christmas Day at the Yoder’s

Another Christmas has come to a close. This was my 42 Christmas. This year was stoically different this year. The Yoder clan now only has two kids under eight. I no longer have any grandparents. My Mom and Dad are looking older. And now, my sisters and I are looking old.

This year it was a quick trip over to Davison, MI where my folks still live. In fact, they still live in the house I was born in — can you believe it? It was a little strange. Only half of my kids were there. Half of my younger sister’s kids were there. All of my older sister’s kids were there. But, everyone was think about those missing — Grandma and Grandpa Yoder. It was always a joy to see them.

My grandparents have always been my example. They were so forgiving, generous, loving, kind and so amusing. They loved to laugh and kid. They were a couple who demonstrated oneness. They were a wonderful couple. We all missed them this year — even though it wasn’t the first Christmas without them, but the most evident.

My daughter and of sister’s son got sick — we both left earlier than we wanted. There’s something to be said about being together as family — it just seems right and fun and relaxing. I wish we could do it more often.

It was a difficult day for my youngest daughter. She struggles with family events. We adopted her from Russia 5 years ago this week. She struggles with all kinds of emotions during these times. Because she was 3 1/2 she knows that five years ago her world was ‘rocked.’ We ripped her away from everything she knew (language, culture, friends) and brought her to a place unfamiliar. She doesn’t verbalize that to us, but her behavior is very difficult, but typical for children adopted at an older age. Pray for us and pray for her. She’s really struggling and so are we.

Well, all in all a good day — but a sobering day. A day I’m still very thankful. I wish I could understand how a God so Holy could send His best to die for someone so unworthy. I continue to be amazed at His Grace that He willingly gave to me. Initially, I didn’t ask for it. He moved to choose Him. That’s pretty amazing stuff.

Closer to Christmas

I love Christmas. I have since I was a little boy. When I was between 3 and 10 I believed in Santa Claus. My goal was to see him delivering gifts on Christmas Eve. My two sisters and I would devise a plan each year to try to either take a nap during the day see we could stay up to see him, or have one of us stand watch. If either of us saw him, we’d come running.

Unfortunately, none of us could: a. Stay awake that long. b. stay up (mom an dad ALWAYS made us go to bed). And, c. None of us deep down REALLY wanted to see Santa Claus — it was spoil the surprise.

But, I would go to bed with very few Christmas presents under the tree. Then, I would wake up at 2am or 3am and sneak out to the living room where there would be MANY more gifts under the tree. It always AMAZED me how many more gifts would just magically appear under the tree in just a few hours.

One year, I had a flashlight in my room and I would sneak out and play with the toys before everyone got up. I got a Lionel Train set one year. Another year I got an airplane that would REALLY go. It was electric…it could take-off, fly around and circles and land. It was cool. Another year I got a Virtibird helecopter toy. It was really cool.

I know many Christian families won’t let their kids believe in Santa Claus, our family does. It’s not the only thing we tell our daughter about. We STRESS the reason for Christmas is the birth of God’s Son, Jesus. We also tell her that without Jesus’ birth, we’d never have salvation. It’s the best gift of all.

Well, I’ve been enjoying listening to my favorite Christmas music: Perry Como – Home for the Holidays (1959), Maranatha Long Play Christmas, Steve Green – Joy to the World, Steven Amerson – Is There A Place, Damaris Carbaugh (especially the song, May God Give His Gift This Christmas). I’ve also been dreaming of a white Christmas. The weather’s predicting 8 inches tomorrow. We’ll see.

Merry Christmas!


Paterning my life for someone else

I’m 42 years old and I still struggle to pattern my life in a way that invites people to ask me why I’m different. I struggle to show unconditional love to people I love the most. All of this failure seems to have created difficulties with my grown kids, and I don’t want it to be the case with my daughter still living at home. It’s interesting how I can know God’s Word so well, and yet still express such disappointment with my kids.

I don’t know where they are spiritually. I pray that God takes each one and molds them into the person (or people) He wants them to be.

With my youngest daughter, I need incredible patience. She is the kind of person that will find what bothers you and continue doing it just to bother you. She doesn’t even seem to care much about punishment. She just wants to control every situtaion. We’re trying EVERYTHING to stop her from doing this.

Since my health turned south, God has reminded me that I need to do better. I can’t continue to think that everybody else is the problem. Perhaps, I’m the problem. Perhaps people are reacting my lack of love and for my lack of being a testimony of God’s love for us. I seem to take the sin my kids commit, personally. Why do I do that? Why do I take they’re rejection of the things of God personally. I guess I’m beginning to understand how God feels when His children sin against Him.

I’m praying that God will be me the ability to forgive people as He forgives me each time I commit sin against Him.

Giving Thanks

I doubt I’ll be posting anything tomorrow because we’ll be heading to church for our Thanksgiving service, but I wanted to take a moment to tell the world what I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving.

First, I’m thankful for God’s grace in my life. It’s incredibly humbling knowing that God is allowing me not only to be a part of his family, but being able to serve him. His grace has been even more evident through my illness, or whatever it is I’ve been dealing with lately. I realize that even though I was dealing with ‘shocks’ in my head and a little light headedness, there are so many other people dealing with things so much worse. I’m also thankful for His work in my life during this time. God’s brought to mind sin, selfishness and other issues that were preventing me from having a better relationship with Him. Pray for me that I’ll be able to win that constant battle against those things.

I’m also thankful for my family, my wife especially. I’m pretty fortunate the God has given her to to me. She’s stood beside me even though I’m not the most pleasant person to be around. Many times my work, selfishness and other things have upstaged her. While she’s been hurt, she’s stood by me.  I’m also thankful for my kids. Each of them have taught me more about myself. While all of them are FAR from perfect, they are committed to the family and that’s a good thing. However, I regret that none of them have much of a relationship with Christ. I’m making a concerted effort to pray for God’s work in their hearts. Anastsia is young. I’m praying God will move in her heart early. With her personality, I believe God has got some great plans for her.

I’m also fortunate to have a Mom and Dad who have always believed in me. I have never been a very confident person. I don’t know why, but I’ve always doubted myself. I’m sure they were wondering what would become of me, since I wasn’t very motivated in school. I really have to thank them for their prayers and unending support for my success. I surely didn’t earn it on my own.

I’m also thankful for my job. I love it. I love being able to literally tell the word what God is doing through His people. I’m a very fortunate person. I’ve also got a wonderful team. Everyone of them are committed to the cause of Christ and the cause of calling more Christians to get off the butts to do something. Too few believers are doing anything for the Gospel.

My church family has also been an incredible blessing. I’ve learned so much from so many people and I can’t imagine going into spiritual battle with any other group of people. We’re truly unified and it’s thrilling.

So, Thank you Lord for your incredible blessing in my life.

Back to the Hospital

After having a life of NEVER riding in an ambulance, I’ve now done it twice in less than a week. Yes, I had to go back to the hospital last night. I was sitting on my couch at around 9:30 when all of a sudden I started feeling those shocks in my head again.  This time it wasn’t just one shock — there were four or five right in a row — quickly accompanied by tingling in my left arm. My wife called our good friend who’s a nurse and  she told us to go to call 911.

So, I went back to the hospital. They did ANOTHER ct scan because the other one I had done was sent away to be read by another doctor. The second scan was done WITHOUT the contras, so they weren’t able to look the the blood vessels in the brain. But, the scan didn’t show any masses. But, it did show that I have a neck with arthritis in c-5 and c-6 that could be causing some of the pain.

There’s still nothing there to show WHY my head keeps doing what it’s doing.

It’s nearly 11am and I just got up. I’m getting a bit depressed about why this is happening. But, I am relieved that there doesn’t appear to be a tumor or anything serious like that. I would, however, like this to end.

I feel badly that my wife has to deal with this and to see the fear in my daughters eye last night was heartbreaking. I can only imagine what’s going through her mind these days.

I’m viewing this as a trial. God must be preparing me for something. Im still planning to read Romans today in The Message.