Sunday, October 28, 2007

A Service of Consecration to the Lord's Future

Our service was structured differently today. Rather than the usual format, we had different people from the congregation share different Biblical principles with hymns and prayers woven throughout.

JoAnn Winship shared with us Biblical Principle # 1: Moving forward into God's future begins with redemptive theology, repentance and prayer, rather than structures, strategies or systems. In Psalm 139:23-24 the psalmist begs God to search his heart and test his thoughts, show in what ways he has offended God and others, and lead him in the right path.

We prayed a prayer together for forgiveness and asked for God's help, grace and mercy. Following that, we sang a Fanny Crosby hymn, "I Am Thine O Lord." Incidentally, when I got home, I found my hymnbook on my kitchen counter open to the same hymn, and I enjoyed singing it again. "....but I long to rise in the arms of faith, and be closer drawn to Thee... Draw me nearer blessed Lord to Thy precious bleeding side."

Biblical Principle #2 was presented by Pam Johnson. Every church is in constant state of renewal, regardless of its current state of health. Isaiah 43:19 admonishes us to not dwell on the past, but to see the new things that God is doing today.

We then prayed together for eyes to see and ears to hear what God is doing, and to allow what breaks God's heart to break ours as well. As a continuation of that prayer, we sang "Open the eyes of my heart Lord, I want to see You." A couple of people then gave thanks for our pastor, and for this body of people who support one another.

The 3rd Biblical Principle given was that to move forward a church must be centered in the mission and the message that flows from the heart of Jesus, rather than just trying to do something, so as to keep from declining. Leonard Armstrong read from John 4:34-35, where Jesus said his food was to do the will of God. Leonard commented that rather than taking energy from us, doing God's work is a source of fuel for us. We prayed for courage to move out beyond the boxes that we live in, and to be salt and light to those in our community who do not have enough.

Nancy Vanderscheuren then shared with us the 4th Biblical Principle, that a church must invest in and take responsibility for joining with God in moving forward. Romans 12:1-2 tells us to present ourselves as a sacrifice to God. Nancy said that when we sacrifice the things that we love, we show that we love God more. We prayed together the well known and loved prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, "Lord make me an instrument of Thy peace..." We then sang a familiar song from childhood, "This Little light of Mine." Pastor Brad then suggested that we each ask God to confirm the best avenue of service for us, and to replenish our souls. Prayers were then given for various people who lead and serve in the church.

So what's the plan? WE are the plan!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Conscience and Calvary

A bad conscience is like a bad tooth, except that a bad tooth can be removed. Relief for the bad conscience requires a pilgrimmage to Calvary. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."
~ I John 1:9

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Unseen Footprints

During the opening announcements Pastor Shannon asked us all to stand for a moment of silence for Bonnie Finkbeiner who on October 16 continued the next part of her life in the presence of her Savior.

The Scripture readings today were from Jeremiah 31:27-34 and Luke 18:1-8.

The message, Unseen Footprints, was an exposition of Psalm 77.

Where does prayer begin? For the psalmist, it is not cozy comfort or ritual that produces our deepest prayers, rather it is pain.

Though the circumstances that initiated this psalm are not identified here in this passage, there are many sources of pain. In numerous psalms it is national calamity that crushes the spirit of the writer, causing him to cry out to God with groanings too deep for words. Other times it is personal circumstances. It might be the illness, or death, of a child. It might be heartbreak in relationships, or a broken marriage.

Prayer is born in the depths. In the first portion of this psalm, the writer cries out to God. “I stretched out my untiring hands”… as if drowning. “I was too troubled to speak,” he says. Like drowning, one is aware of his or her helplessness. In other places the psalmists compare their circumstances to being confined in a pit. This is the place where pain and prayer come together.

The second section of the psalm reveals the questions that emerge when it seems God is far off. Will the Lord reject us forever? Will He never show favor again? Has His unfailing love vanished forever? Has His promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has He in anger withheld His compassion?”

“Why are such questions in the Bible?” Pastor Shannon asked. In reply he noted that God is not far from us, but rather, He is near. But there is no path to Easter (& the Resurrection) but through Good Friday and the Cross.

The good news is that even when we can’t see Jesus, He can see us.

The psalmist’s anguished questioning is summed up with this specific thought: Has God’s right hand lost its grip?

The third section of Psalm 77 leads to the re-connection: Remember. Remember the good deeds of the Lord. Think about this, meditate on this. Let your thoughts dwell on this. God has been good to you. Remember all He has done. He has been faithful. When we remember, we re-connect.

The concluding portion of the psalm contains a very interesting statement. “His footprints were unseen.”

God may not be visible but he has always been present. He has always been at work.

Like poet Francis Thomas’ “Hound of Heaven,” God will never stop pursuing us when we stray and will never forsake us. Like a good shepherd, God leads us to a land where there is no more sorrow, where we can bask forever in the presence of our loving God.

During the children's challenge, Pastor Shannon used blocks to illustrate the message from Psalm 127:1, "Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain."

Monday, October 15, 2007

God’s Daily Manna

Pastor Shannon returned this week saying, “If I could begin with a theme, it would be gratitude. I am grateful for you.”

The two texts that formed the basis for this Communion Sunday message were taken from the Old Testament book of Numbers, chapter 11:4-15, and from Luke 17:11-19. The foundational idea behind the message was the importance of recognizing who God is and what He has done.

Luke 17:11-19 tells the story of Jesus’ healing of ten lepers, but only one came back to thank Him.

Numbers 11:4-15 is an account of Moses’ meltdown during the Israelites’ wanderings in the desert. In this passage, Moses is harassed by the discontented rabble. The were weary of eating manna, the miraculous food that appeared each morning.

The rabble, whether in olden times or today, seems to be comprised of people with a low threshold of discomfort and a high propensity to complain. Another problem… the rabble never leave. They want to see you fail. They are so focused on the pastor or leader that they can’t see God.

The word “manna” means, literally, “What is it?” It is not an uncommon question.

“What is it that’s going on here?” and, to God, “What is it you have for me?”

The answer to these questions is found in the Gospel of John chapter six. The true manna from heaven is Jesus.

What is the Lord Jesus Christ doing today… in your life and in your church? This is the correct question. What counts is today. Some people are preoccupied with the future. Some are preoccupied with the past. But the only place where you find manna is now. The manna is only in the present.

In modern times, life goes very fast. The pace of life used to be much slower. Let’s not let the present slip away from us, or get so caught up in the past or future that we neglect this most important thing: today.

What is it that you will be about… in your life? In this church community?

Pastor Shannon closed by returning to his original theme of gratitude. “It breaks my heart that only one of the ten lepers came back and gave thanks.”

We proceeded, as a church family, to celebrate the Lord’s Supper.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Three Testimonies

Pastor Shannon was in Iowa this past weekend. In his stead we heard three testimonies from our church family.

Beth Skogen
“I was born Sept 14, 1939 in a logging camp. My mom was German, my dad Ojibwe.” Beth shared how she grew up in a 9’ x 12’ house, her parent with four children. When they moved from location to another the whole house, which was built on runners just for this purpose, was dragged by a Caterpillar to the new location.

Beth first heard of Jesus at age 6 when she was baptized. At age thirty, when she was married with two children, her husband’s mother died. It was the first time she had to deal with the death of someone close and significant. It caused a great upheaval in her heart and mind.

For several weeks she was weighed down by this. Then one day, while driving to work she began crying and couldn’t stop. She drove to a Lutheran church and went in, still bawling. She spoke with the pastor saying, “I need His peace.” The pastor replied, “Jesus already died for you,” and he gave her a Bible to read. She read it for two weeks till God’s truth broke through and “I got it.”

Eric Borndal
“I hate roller coasters,” he began. Eric shared how his life has itself been a roller coaster of highs and lows. Though he accepted Christ at age 12, he stated that a spiritual roller coaster is not a healthy thing.

On one occasion, while reading the book of Chronicles, he observed that when the kings of Israel followed God and obeyed, things were good, and that when they disobeyed and did not listen, things went badly. In his heart he said, “Don’t they get it?” In this manner the Holy Spirit gently pointed out this truth to his heart.

A meaningful verse for Eric is John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth and the life…” I AM the way is a now reality.

Eric said things are not always easy still, openly sharing some of his personal challenges from this past year. In closing he turned us toward God’s promise in Jeremiah 29:11. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Dorothy Thiry
Dorothy, who is 85 years old, began by sharing how twenty years ago she was not expected to live through the night.

Dorothy’s Christian walk began 75 years ago when she was going to church in Homestead and gave her life to Christ in Sunday School. She has seen God’s hand in her life ever since, including the choosing of her husband.

She and husband became “Winter Texans” after he retired. One morning in 1987 she woke with her feet paralyzed. The hospital said she had “French polio” which would go upward through her body. One day the doctors told her husband that he should spend the night in the hospital with her because she would not live till the next day. They stayed up nearly all night talking about the life they had shared.

But the Lord had different plans. The paralysis that went up her body bypassed her respiratory system. One night, while lying in her hospital bed, the devil was prancing back and forth across the bottom of her bed saying, “I’ve got you right where I want you.” She replied, “I’m with the Lord.” The devil promptly disappeared and has never been back.

She lost her husband Gayle years later, but God has been her comfort. This verse shared in closing: I Chronicles 16:9. “Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.”

“That is why I am still here,” she said, "to tell of God’s wonderful deeds."