Pressing Forward


MESSAGE. In Philippians 3:14 the apostle Paul set for himself a goal! “I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus.” Philippians‬ ‭3:14‬ ‭MSG‬‬ He pressed forward in search for his goal — he pressed toward the mark of the high calling in Jesus! He had a clear direction of where he was going and he was focused on the Lord! How much more should we!

By setting a goal, we are making a decision to act. We are providing ourselves a map and depending on the Lord to be our compass — to provide the direction He wants us to go! A goal is more than a dream — it’s a dream acted upon. It’s not saying “oh, I wish I could” — it’s declaring what we want to do for the Lord– it’s a declaration of faith!

Let’s make our lives interesting — let’s set for ourselves a goal for 2018! Let’s make a clear declaration of faith, saying “This is what I am going to do for the Lord and then press forward!” Will it be studying God’s Word daily? Attending Wednesday night prayer meetings? Visiting the elderly of my church? Getting to know the sixty new members who joined our church in 2017? Press forward!  I can’t wait to see where the Lord will take us!

Happy New Year!

MINISTRY. It’s been pretty quiet around the church this week. The school is on Christmas break. Many families are traveling. However, I was glad to see a good turn out for our Wednesday night prayer meeting. There was a lot of signing and praying for our church and the community around us. This church can definitely be called a House of Prayer.

If you missed the prayer meeting this week there will be plenty of opportunities next week. We’ll start the new year with a Week of Prayer. Tuesday through Saturday there will be study and prayer sessions daily at 8 am and at 7 pm. I’d like to encourage you to attend either in the morning or in the evening. The topic of our study and prayer will be the High Priestly ministry of our Savior in the heavenly sanctuary. Jesus is interceding for us each one of us daily. There is comfort and encouragement in this message. I hope I’ll see many of you participate in the Week of Prayer meetings.

Closer to the end of the Week of Prayer we’ll have an Agape Feast. It will take place at 7 pm on Friday night, January 5th. This will be a time of celebration with lots of music, communion and supper.

Molly and Philip Recchia got a very special Christmas present. Here is what Molly wrote on her Facebook page on December 25th: “We welcomed Emily Jo Recchia into the world today! We were truly blessed with the best Christmas present ever! She is tiny but mighty at 5 lbs, 10 oz & 19.25 in. We are both doing well. Thank you for all the prayers and support we have received!”

Congratulatuons, Molly and Philip. We are sincerely happy for you.

This Sabbath morning we are welcoming six new members who chose to join the Ooltewah SDA church family. They are:

1. Linda Astacio and her mother Matilde Jimenez


Heidi Matthews


Katie Mayfield


Chrystique Neibauer


Jamie Barboza (no photo available at this time)

FROM MY HEART. Galena and I were blessed to have all four of our daughters, two sons-in-law, one boy friend, a grandson 👼 and my Mom come home for Christmas. Unfortunately our youngest Dasha and her boyfriend Eli did not make it in time for the family photo while our little grandson Pierce was awake. So, below is our picture missing two precious members of our family.



Pierce is only four months old but he was eager to help with my backyard work. He was not quite ready to split wood, but was definitely happy to pose for the Instagram picture 😄

Happy New Year! Wishing you many wonderful blessings from our Heavenly Father.

Joy to the World


MESSAGE. When Jesus came from heaven to earth in the form of a tiny, delicate baby, He fulfilled the promise of a savior. An atoning sacrifice to stand in our place; He who would forever change eternity. Thankfully, the story doesn’t end there – Jesus is coming again!

Psalm 98:4 declares, “Shout to the Lord, all the earth; break out in praise and sing for joy…Let the sea and everything in it shout his praise! Let the earth and all living things join in. Let the rivers clap their hands in glee! Let the hills sing out their songs of joy before the Lord, for he is coming to judge the earth (v.7-9).” Psalm 98 is the basis for the song Joy to the World. The songwriter Isaac Watts wanted to convey the true Christmas experience. Most people think of the song in terms of the birth of Christ. Notice though that as we sing the lyrics, never once do we sing about a baby, a manger, wise men, or a silent night. That’s because the true meaning of this famous song is about the second coming of Christ. And, nothing about the second half of the Christmas story will be silent! There will be shouts of joy, trumpets ringing, rivers clapping, and mountains singing! Everyone – everyone – will see and know that Christ is the final King.

MINISTRY. OAKS Christmas Program was a wonderful experience for the hundreds of OAKS students’ family members and friends who gathered at the CA auditorium last Monday night. I was absolutely impressed with the quality of their music. Their performance was outstanding. Thank you, OAKS students, staff, and teachers.

Newborn Bissell baby. Congratulations to Rebekah and Darin Bissell with the birth of their fourth baby! Jonah Lucas Bissell, born Friday 12-15-17 at 5:16 pm, 7 lb 8 oz. What a blessing!

PRAYERS. Please uplift in your prayers Janelle and Jason Smith. Janelle’s mother Cindy Cole fell asleep in the Lord last Sunday. But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.” 2 Thessalonians 4:13-14

Happy Sabbath. I plan on having a joyous worship experience with y’all tomorrow morning.

Merry Christmas.


Seeking Jesus


MESSAGE. “This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:12. On the night of Jesus’ birth the shepherds left everything behind and went on a mission of finding Jesus. They did not wait till morning. Everything else became insignificant to them. Seeking Jesus became their priority. Later on when Jesus started His ministry he asked two of his disciples, “What are you seeking?” (John 1:38) The same question applies to us today- what is the purpose of your life? Are you seeking a better job? Better pay? Recognition of your achievements? I hope you are seeking meaning and purpose in your life through Jesus. Start looking for Jesus today. All the other pieces of your life will fit in where they belong if you find Jesus – the centerpiece.

MINISTRY. Wasn’t it fun to see so much snow last weekend? It looked absolutely beautiful around our house. I was concerned that the snow might affect our Sabbath morning services, but from what I heard both services were well attended and pastor Matthew had an incredible message. I wish I could have been in church that morning, but my Mom’s hospitalization with pneumonia kept us busy attending to her needs. I sincerely appreciate your prayers for her. She is out of the hospital, still very weak, but we are glad that she is in our home where we can keep an eye on her.

Monday night’s OAKS Board meeting was the shortest I ever attended 🙂 We barely had a quorum. This was certainly disappointing as Shelly had to present important Action Plan items to the Board. It was agreed that we will call a special Board meeting on January 4 to vote on these important decisions. At that meeting I learned that OAKS is back at 127 students! Praise God! Also OAKS students’ academic achievements are higher than at any other school of the Georgia-Cumberland Conference. Another great reason to be grateful to God for our school principal, staff and teachers.

On Tuesday I had a wonderful time visiting many of our elderly members. But before my rounds I had a great time spending an hour in prayer with our prayer warriors. Several of our elders attended that prayer session also. Let me remind you that our prayer warriors meet at 8 am on Tuesdays and Thursdays. You will surely be blessed by joining this group.

Mary Beth Morgan looked very hopeful. She is ready to go home. If everything goes according to plan she may actually be out of LifeCare in Ooltewah by the middle of next week. Jerry Lastine is still in medical rehab. He is grateful for your cards, prayers and visits. Bill Brown sounded very optimistic after a major surgery on his leg. He is at home and Sue is his best nurse.

Many church elders joined the Wednesday night prayer meeting. The whole hour was dedicated to prayers for our church ministries and for our ill church members. Pastor Matthew was one of those hit pretty hard by the cold virus. Praying for you, Matthew.

Thursday morning I had a good time with many area pastors at Garden Plaza for the monthly East Hamilton Ministerial Association meeting. This time our group joined Garden Plaza residents for their breakfast. After the breakfast our “choir” sang them Christmas Carols. I could see a heavenly light brightening the faces of these sweet elderly people.

That same day the Season of Change Ministry welcomed 65 ladies to their December get together event. Thank you, Lupina and your awesome team, for showing the true spirit of Christ to these dear souls.

Ooltewah Prison Ministry, led solely by Steven Bremner has witnessed many wonderful Christmas miracles. Steve sent me the following text message: ” I’m exhausted. The Lords blessing wore me out. We were only going to make 100 gift bags for the prisoners but have enough to make over 200. Little Debbie donated 2 cases of snacks, and given $200 store credit at another store. We made more, we gave more, and under budget. Praise the Lord for OAKS students who put the bags together. Please pray the Steps to Christ will be allowed in.”

Thank you, Steve, the the Ooltewah church Prison ministry.

Here is a message from Edymar Penagos: “Men, As I reflect on the last twelve months I am overwhelmed with appreciation for each and everyone of you. Your giving hearts and willingness to serve humble and inspire me and others around. You are men of valor, men of conviction, men of honor and most importantly, men of God. I can personally say that it has been such a blessing serving, learning, and growing spiritually with you. You have given in many ways and I humbly thank you below for a few of your blessings.

THANK YOU for building a handicap ramp; THANK YOU getting up early Sunday morning to cook and serve breakfast to your brothers; THANK YOU for leading and participating in the men’s Sabbath school class; THANK YOU for helping our widows; THANK YOU for feeding the less fortunate; THANK YOU for investing and protecting our kids; THANK YOU for being eager to not only serve our church family but for caring and serving the community around us. I can not say it enough, THANK YOU!

“To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy — to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power, and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.” Jude 1 17 24-25. With 2018 right around the corner, I can not wait to see what God has in store for His men.  Your brother in Christ,

Edymar Penagos

I want to thank you, church, for your contributions to the Christmas Benevolence Fund. We set the goal to raise $15,000 by the end of December. I pray that we reach this goal.

Please, don’t forget about the church Christmas party tomorrow night. It will be a great way to mingle with your brothers and sisters and to make new friends. Thank you, social committee, for your hard work.

See you tomorrow for 8:55 and 11:25 services. The Church Choir will sing for both services!!!


Jesus in Your Heart

ephesians-3-17MESSAGE. God wants to live inside you but often your life is filled with other things. The apostle Paul is praying about the believers so that Christ may dwell in their hearts (Ephesians 3:17). There was no room for Jesus in Bethlehem two thousand years ago. As we are preparing to celebrate Christmas this December I invite you to de-clutter your hearts. Make room for Jesus!

MINISTRY.  Congratulations to Janel and Geoffrey Jensen with the birth of Ava! Isn’t she adorable?



Congratulations also to Christina and Justine Stone with the birth Hudson Andrew! What a precious gift of heaven!


Our dear Mrs. Shirley Stevens fell asleep in the Lord on Monday morning. Friends are invited for visitation on Saturday afternoon from 4 to 7 pm at Heritage Funeral Home. Memorial service will take place on Sunday at 2 pm at the Ooltewah SDA church. Pastor Mike Pettengill will officiate at the service.

Christmas Special Offering. Every December, our church selects a project or church ministry to support with our annual Christmas Offering. Last year because of your support, over $50,000 was given to support the Josiah Restoration Project, making it possible to complete much needed repairs and renovations at OAKS.

This year’s Christmas Offering will support our Benevolence Fund. The goal for this year’s offering is $15,000. The Benevolence Fund is used to help people who are in dire need of assistance to pay for food, utility bills, gas, and medical expenses. With our financial support and prayers, many people who are struggling financially in our church and local community will be able to receive the support they desperately need.

Please mark your donation as “Christmas Benevolence Gift”.

On a personal note. Miracles do happen. I’ve witnessed many wonderful miracles of God’s grace in my life in the past. Another one happened last week. As some of you may know my “hero van” died after serving me for 17 years and carrying me on my pastoral duties for 305,000 miles (this makes over 12 times around the globe :-)! ). Every morning starting my van I was praising God as my little faith in this car was fading with every passing year. Two days after Thanksgiving my in-laws called and offered me a car! That’s right, for free! It is not new (2003 Nissan) but it has only 90,000 miles. What a miracle! What a blessing! I’m back on the road. 🙂

This morning our 3 month old grandson Pierce realized that digital communication is almost as good as real when his grandfather is 500 miles away. He was happily smiling at my every compliment over Facetime.



Happy Sabbath. See you tomorrow.