Sunday, August 31, 2008


Pastor Shannon has returned from his vacation ready to complete the summer series of sermons he has assembled regarding five fruits of the Spirit and the lessons they teach about love, drawing upon the life of David to illustrate key principles. In the midst of a beautiful Labor Day weekend, the church was filled nearly to the brim.

Scripture readings today were from Exodus 3:1-15 and Romans 12.


Pastor Shannon opened by noting that there is, in Scripture, a distinction between kindness and goodness. He also pointed out that there are even different words used for goodness.

For example, Paul could have used the word kalos, which also means good in a different manner. Kalos refers to outward beauty, aesthetically pleasing to look at. For many, being out on a lake at sunrise casting for walleye, would encompass goodness of this sort.

Instead Paul used the word agathos, from which we get the modern name Agatha from. Agathos means moral goodness or integrity. Paul encourages us to increasingly express this kind of goodness.

Pastor Brad then offered this definition: “I choose to do the right things in my relationships with others.”

To illustrate the principle of goodness, Pastor Brad once again turned to the life of David. Today he shared with us an encounter he had with his friend Nathan as recorded in II Samuel 12.

We were reminded that before becoming king, David had endured much hardship at the hands of Saul during the fourteen years which passed between his initial anointing and becoming crowned king. Once, king, his life went on an upward trajectory with success after success. Chapters seven through ten in II Samuel find him doing well, winning battles, demonstrating goodness toward Mephibosheth, and winning more battles.

Pastor pointed out how Psalm 78:70-72 summarizes this part of his life.

70 He chose his servant David, and took him from the sheepfolds;
71 from tending the nursing ewes he brought him to be the shepherd of his people Jacob, of Israel, his inheritance.
72 With upright heart he tended them, and guided them with skillful hand.

David was at the apex of his success, leading his people with integrity, when became sidetracked. The incident occurred in II Samuel 11, which begins in the spring at a time when kings go off to war. Implied here is that David was in part distracted by remaining behind instead of leading his men.

Most of us a familiar with the story, but to re-cap. While David was walking on the rooftop of the palace, he saw a beautiful woman bathing. His heart was in the wrong place and his desires led him to meet with her. When she notified him that she was pregnant, he attempted to resolve the problem by bringing her husband Uriah home from the battlefield in the hopes that he would sleep with his wife and not find out later that the child was not his.

The scheme backfired, however, because Uriah was an upright man. He kept his integrity intact, and refused to enjoy the pleasures of his wife while his fellow soldiers were putting their lives on the line at the battlefront.

David sent him back to the front lines and devised Plan B. Essentially, he instructed Joab to put Uriah on the front, then withdraw the troops so as to leave him a sitting duck. The plan worked, Uriah was killed.

Pastor Shannon told how dangerous of a place it is when all is going for us. We are often even more susceptible to falling. But the harm done is even greater when we cover it up.

In chapter 12, David’s friend Nathan comes to see him. Nathan is a prophet who hears from God and also counsels David from time to time. In this story, Nathan was an “agathos” type of friend who did what was right even when it meant risking their friendship.

Nathan told David s story about a rich man who had plenty of sheep, but when a traveler passed through his town, the rich man killed a poor man’s only sheep, a sheep that had grown up with the family and was very dear. David became livid, outraged at what the rich man had done. Then Nathan exclaimed that David was that rich man. David’s heart was cut to the quick.

Pastor Shannon said that some of us are like Nathan. Someone in our lives needs to be confronted, and we need to be an agathos type of friend.

Some of you may be like David, with something hidden, and you have a pattern of covering it up. David’s response was godly, and significant. It is likewise instructive for us.

1) Admit it. (vs. 13) Make a clean admission of guilt.

2) Make it right. David went to God seeking to cease this pattern of wrongness. His heartfelt prayer is detailed in Psalm 51.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence

or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation

and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

3) Live the consequences with dignity. Just because David got his heart right with God did not mean everything was back to normal. Some of what David experienced caused great pain. The baby died. Later a daughter was abused by one of his sons. Another son put this son to death. Absalom later led a rebellion against his father’s kingdom. Later there was still another rebellion.

In short, a lot of the time things can never revert back to “how they were” but we can maintain dignity in the face of our changed circumstances. We can, like David, maintain a commitment to walk with God, no matter what.

In chapter 22, at the end of his life, David writes a song of praise to God. Bad things can happen, but this need not dampen our hearts. David was delighted with God, despite all he’d been through.

“Therefore I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations; I will sing praises to Your name.”

This is the word of the Lord.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Can Captives Be Set Free?

On a cool, but pleasant, August morning we gathered for worship with our pastor absent, on vacation. Chuck Vanderscheuren welcomed us this morning. Darlene was also out of town and Ed Newman filled in on piano. After opening announcements, the Trio led us in worship.

Joanne read today’s Scriptures:
Isaiah 51:1-6
Romans 12:1-8

After a time of giving praise for answered prayers, and hearing of other needs in our extended family, we turned our attention to hearing Leonard preach to us from the Scriptures.

Can Captives Be Set Free?

Leonard Armstrong opened by noting that the writings of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel are often overlooked today, but their words are very important, and highly relevant to us in the 21st century. The focus of today’s message is a passage from Isaiah 49:22-26, culminating in the following words:

24 Can plunder be taken from warriors,
or captives rescued from the fierce?
25 But this is what the LORD says:
"Yes, captives will be taken from warriors,
and plunder retrieved from the fierce;
I will contend with those who contend with you,
and your children I will save.

By expanding on the context for these questions, Leonard unveiled their significance for us today.

In ancient times, the peoples of Israel existed as a relatively minor force in the midst of larger political powers. Palestine was a small strip of land that happened to fall along the trade routes between the Fertile Crescent where the Babylonian empire was situated was and Egypt.

At a certain point in Israel’s history, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon smashed the nation of Israel. The Temple was utterly destroyed, and the peoples were taken away as captives back to Babylon.

This style of destruction served a purpose. The state was dismantled, the economy quashed. By removing anyone who could be a potential leader, and by taking the skilled people away, the captured territories would be prevented from rising up in revolt and from creating resistance.

Hence, Isaiah’s words… "Can plunder be taken from warriors or captives rescued from the fierce?" The Babylonians had plundered Israel. And they were the fiercest peoples on earth. It was an apparently hopeless situation. The Babylonians had the best weapons, most powerful army. In addition to its mighty power it was considered the capital of science and learning.

According to Herodotus, often referred to as the father of history, the city of Babylon was an impregnable fortress city with walls 300 feet tall and eighty feet wide that chariots could ride atop of. To make matters even more challenging for attackers, the city was surrounded by a moat fed by the river Euphrates. There was no way even a well equipped army could rescue the captives from Babylon.

Yet, In Isaiah 44:24 -45:3 we read about a man whom God had anointed, chosen before birth, for this very purpose. Not a Jew, but in a very real sense a type of messiah, a Persian king named Cyrus achieved the impossible. Initially ruler of a small nation he gradually increased his power by conquering increasingly larger nation states. It came about that he set his sights on Babylon, the ultimate conquest.

As noted, this seemed an impossible task. Yet by manipulating the waterways, the army of Cyrus achieved a stunning victory, in part because the king and armies of Babylon were overly confident in their defenses, moat and walls.

Thus, at the end of II Chronicles 36 we read:

22 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing:
23 "This is what Cyrus king of Persia says:
'The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Anyone of his people among you—may the LORD his God be with him, and let him go up.'"

How does this all apply to us today? In Isaiah 49:5-7 we see a passage referencing the Messiah, formed in the womb to be the Redeemer for Israel. Cyrus was a type of the Messiah, but in Jesus we see the true Messiah who has come to set captives free as noted in this significant passage, Isaiah 61:1.

1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners…

Today you may be a captive or know someone who is a captive. You may be a Christian but have been re-captured by chains that hold you back. Captive to unforgiveness. Captive to materialism. Captive to a wrong lifestyle. Captive to addictions. Or captive to a self-righteous attitude.

We were all slaves once. We were captives set free. Paul writes to the Galatians saying do not return to your captivity.

Isaiah asked, "Can plunder be taken from warriors, or captives rescued from the fierce?"

The answer is yes. The plunder can be taken. Yes, this is what the Lord says.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


Another beautiful weekend here in the Northland with the church extra full this morning as a result of the Armstrong family reunion.

Sept 6: A bonfire and pot luck dinner will include games at the Borndal’s home, 4214 Midway Road. A good time for fellowship as we kick off the Fall schedule.
Sept 14: Hymn Sing at the Newman’s, also pot luck. Stay tuned for details.
An Adventure Club Meeting will be held at 6:00 Aug. 24. Adventure Club was the wonderful Wednesday evening program for late pre-schoolers to sixth graders. The meeting will be to help start the planning process for an early October launch.

The service opened with a medley by the quartet this morning, “I Love to Tell the Story” and “Marvelous Grace of Our Loving Lord.” That Glory Bound Train was one of the many other songs they gave us today. Hearts were especially touched by “I Thanks God for the Lighthouse” with Ken’s heartfelt solo, “If it wasn’t for the lighthouse, where would this ship be?” … a truth that touches all of us.

Today’s readings: Genesis 45:1-15 and Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32

Pastor Shannon began with a recap of the series he has been preaching this summer, What Does It Really Mean To Love?

Based on the fruit of the Spirit, the first sermon was about having no strings attached. The next about patience, and taking a long time to get hot. Thermometers and backpacks were used to illustrate. Kindness was last week’s theme. And each is tied to examples from the life of David, a man after God’s own heart.

This week we’re looking at gentleness, and learning how to handle other people with care.

Brad told a story about recently shouting at some kids who were throwing rocks. His tone was probably harsh and could have accomplished the same with less of an edge. This led into the message.

The Greek word for gentleness that Paul used was “praus”, which mean to approach with calm, It conveys the notion of thoughtfulness and being considerate. In other words, think before you speak.

We are not always sensitive to how we come across. In speaking we need to be sensitive to our tone of voice.

He also pointed out the need to be considerate of others’ situations before we speak. We are not talking into a vacuum. Sometimes people are hurting, and we barge ahead without consideration.

The word is also used in reference to a medication. Here, Brad read for us a list of side effects for a high blood pressure medication. Our words will have a more helpful impact if they do not also carry negative side effects.

Brad also pointed out that gentleness likewise applies to leaders. Leadership does not have to mean “Type A” personalities that steamroll everyone. Jesus was a great lead, and likewise gentle. “A bruised reed He will not break” wrote Isaiah of the Messiah. God chooses to be gentle with us.

The definition, then, for gentleness is, “Thoughtful, calm and considerate in my dealings with others.”

I Samuel 25 is the story of David’s dealings with Nabal. After Samuel died and David was still on the run from Saul with his 600 mighty men, he sends emissaries to Nabal, a wealthy man who happened also to be surly, rude, ill-humored and cruel. The man, whose name incidentally means “Fool,” treated David’s men harshly and refused to allow them to have anything to eat. His remarks were insulting and David’s men reported everything back to David.

David’s response was to send two thirds of his fighting men to slaughter Nabal and all of his men servants.

Fortunately, Nabal had a wise and beautiful wife who interceded on Nabal’s behalf. Abigail’s appeal did not fall on deaf ears. He ended up thanking her for keeping him from acting rashly, and he thanked God for having taken this risk to make appeal on behalf of her husband.

When Abigail told her husband everything that had happened, including the near calamity and how he had been spared, his heart gave out. Ten days later he died.

Nabal is an example of how not to treat people. Gentleness means handling people with care. Gentleness is also an outward expression of the inward changes in our hearts when God gets hold of us on the inside.

David, despite his momentary lapse (intending to teach Nabal a lesson by slaughtering him), was open to hearing what Abigail had to say. The result was an opportunity to honor God.

Other concepts we draw from the story that Brad brought forward include:

1) Admit what you did to cause a situation and ask for forgiveness. Nabal did not. David did this many times.

2) Identify with the other person’s struggle.

3) Be an approachable person.

In the end, there was a payoff. David got food for his men, was prevented from doing wrong, and like many fairy tales, got the girl. For after Nabal died, his wife went to be David’s wife. She showed herself to be a great woman in her having taken quick action on her undeserving husband’s behalf. Many lives were spared and God was ultimately honored.

Gentleness is a virtue.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

What If Jesus Lived In My Neighborhood

The sun shone brilliant from a faultless sky as we gathered this Sunday for worship at New Life Covenant. Pastor Shannon welcomed us with informality and warmth, stating that today’s theme was to be on Kindness, the third in a series of messages about what it means to love others.

Key announcements:
1. The outdoor service scheduled for August 31 has been temporarily postponed.
2. Sunday School will begin soon, but we’re still in need of teachers.
3. Pam Johnson is helping organize the collecting of school supplies for needy families.
4. There will be a “hymn sing” and pot luck dinner at the Newman’s on September 14. Newman’s will provide the meat.

Today’s Scripture readings:
Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28
Romans 10:5-15

What If Jesus Lived In My Neighborhood

The Bible says we exist for others. As we mature in Christ, and the fruits of our relationship with Christ will mature in us, we’ll be increasingly growing in acts of kindness. If you’re not growing in kindness, then it should cause us to question our union with Christ, for kindness is a fruit of the Spirit.

The word for kindness in Scripture is chrestotes, which not only refers to our external behavior, but also incorporates the the idea of something inside us that is flowing out through our behavior.

Pastor Shannon pointed out that many external acts of kindness are driven by wrong motives. Biblical kindness is uncontaminated by internal selfish motives. In Ephesians 4:32 we see that Christ’s kindness toward us, an undeserved favor from God, is to be a pattern we exhibit toward others. In addition, our kind actions are to be motivated by a moral rightness.

The definition of Biblical kindness then is: “I show kindness to others because Christ showed kindness to me, and it’s the right thing to do.”

Using this as a springboard, we returned to Old Testament stories from the life of David to illustrate this additional facet of love.

In I Samuel 20:14-16 we see David’s covenant commitment to his friend Jonathan. In review, we note that many years pass before David, who had been anointed for kingship at age 16, can assume the throne as king of Israel at age thirty.

All this is a setup to paint the backdrop for the story of Mephibosheth in II Samuel in chapter nine.

2 Samuel 9
David and Mephibosheth

1 David asked, "Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan's sake?"
2 Now there was a servant of Saul's household named Ziba. They called him to appear before David, and the king said to him, "Are you Ziba?" "Your servant," he replied.
3 The king asked, "Is there no one still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show God's kindness?" Ziba answered the king, "There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in both feet."
4 "Where is he?" the king asked. Ziba answered, "He is at the house of Makir son of Ammiel in Lo Debar."
5 So King David had him brought from Lo Debar, from the house of Makir son of Ammiel.
6 When Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, he bowed down to pay him honor. David said, "Mephibosheth!" "Your servant," he replied.
7 "Don't be afraid," David said to him, "for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table."
8 Mephibosheth bowed down and said, "What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?"
9 Then the king summoned Ziba, Saul's servant, and said to him, "I have given your master's grandson everything that belonged to Saul and his family. 10 You and your sons and your servants are to farm the land for him and bring in the crops, so that your master's grandson may be provided for. And Mephibosheth, grandson of your master, will always eat at my table." (Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants.)
11 Then Ziba said to the king, "Your servant will do whatever my lord the king commands his servant to do." So Mephibosheth ate at David's [
a] table like one of the king's sons.
12 Mephibosheth had a young son named Mica, and all the members of Ziba's household were servants of Mephibosheth. 13 And Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, because he always ate at the king's table, and he was crippled in both feet.

Pastor Shannon drew our attention to several highlights from this passage. First, that David initiated the act of kindness (vs. 3). So, too, Christ pursued us, even while we were running from Him. Christ’s kindness, as was David’s here, is proactive and intentional.
Next, it is noteworthy that Mephibosheth was unworthy of this kindness. He had been hiding out in a place called Lo Debar, which means “place of no pasture.” He was lame and useless. David’s kindness was shown while expecting nothing in return. Mephibosheth had nothing to give in return anyways. David was aware of this.

So it is that we are to extend our own kindness to those who are undeserving, far from God and have nothing they can give back in return.

Biblically, our kindness flows out of our commitment to show devotion to Christ. It’s not based on how we feel at this moment or that, but is a commitment based on the reality of his kindness toward us.

In David’s case, kindness was exhibited in three ways. First, he saw to it that Mephibosheth’s daily needs were met. Second, Mephibosheth received his inheritance. And most significantly, third, Mephibosheth was given a seat at the king’s table.

In other words, I am to give my best, not leftovers.

Later in his life, there had been a rebellion in the kingdom. David learned that Mephibosheth had purportedly betrayed the king, revealing the truth that sometimes kindness backfires and is not always rewarded with reciprocity. Nevertheless, we are to show kindness anyways. David did not abandon his commitments.

In a re-statement of the original definition, Pastor Shannon once again said, ““I show kindness to others because Christ showed kindness to me, and it’s the right thing to do.” He then expressed his own gratitude for our capacity for God, and encouraged us to do still more. Christ has offered each of us a seat at His banquet table.

In closing he asked who our own Mephibosheths were. Think about it… and show kindness.

Sunday, August 3, 2008


As a reminder of the greatness of the God we serve, in his opening greeting Pastor Shannon made note that the God in whose name we have gathered is the one who flung the universe into existence ex nihilo, which is to say He created everything out of nothing.

Before being ushered into worship by the quartet, there were several announcements including:
1. Sunday School will commence on September 14. There is still a need for three teachers including upper elementary thru high school.
2. An Adventure Club planning meeting will be held this coming Wednesday at the church.
3. The August 31 worship service will be held on Grand Lake at the home of Walt & Gwen Cressman, 4815 Kroll Road.

Today’s Scriptures:
Genesis 32:22-31
Matthew 14:13-21

Pastor Brad began the sermon today with a story about a woman who went ballistic when the car in front of her stopped at a traffic light rather than speed through the intersection on the yellow. Rolling down her window she began screaming obscenities and carrying on to such an extent that the man in the vehicle behind her walked up and had her arrested, bringing her to the station to be locked up. When the police apologetically released her two hours later, they said that with her car all covered with Praise the Lord bumper stickers and various Christian messages, the officer simply assumed by her behavior that the car had been stolen.

Whether true or simply designed to make a point while making us chuckle, the story illustrates the point that with or without bumper stickers, people know who we are and out behavior will be held to a higher standard because of it.

The real point Pastor Brad noted was that the woman’s impatience created a problem for her. And our impatience can likewise cause problems for us.

The series we are on is How to Love People. This week’s message is on patience. In I Corinthians 13, the Love chapter, Paul shows patience to be a pre-eminent virtue part of what it means to love. “Love is patient…”

There are two Greek words used for patience in the New Testament. The first is makrothumeo. If you break this word into its component parts, the word makro means long and thumeo is the word from which we derive the word thermometer. It conveys the notion of taking a long time to overheat.

The second NT word for patience is hupomone. Pastor Brad had intended to bring a backpack filled with rocks to illustrate this second word. Hupo means “to remain under” and mone conveys the notion of pressure, so that the two words mean “to remain under the pressure.” We patiently endure not for the sake of suffering for its own sake, but because it is the right thing to do.

And with these words in mind, Brad presented us with this definition of patience: “I take a long time to overheat, and endure patiently the unavoidable pressures of life.”

With these ideas in hand, we revisited the Old Testament story of David and Saul again. Saul started well, but when he deviated from God’s program, and persisted in this pattern of disobedience, God removed His anointing. (I Samuel 15)

In I Samuel 16 David is anointed for kingship, but it will be fourteen years before he becomes king. Why the wait? David had things to learn about thermometers and backpacks.

Saul had not ceased to be a free agent. He made choices, and was disobedient. But God nevertheless used Saul to accomplish His purposes in David.

Brad then told the story of Joseph who was sold into slavery by his brothers. In spite of hardships, including years of imprisonment in Egypt, Joseph remained virtuous and trusted God. As it turns out circumstances resulted in the Pharaoh putting him in charge of the whole of Egypt. What a shock for his brothers when they go to Egypt for food due to the draught in their own homeland. These very brothers, who had sold Joseph into slavery and had forgotten him long ago, perhaps even believing him dead, expected him to put them to death. But Joseph wisely recognized “what you meant for evil, God meant for good.”

God is working out His purposes. In our own lives today, the disobedience and failings of others can work for good in our lives.

Returning to the story of Saul and David, the king even stooped so low as to use his own daughter as a lure in a scheme to get David killed. (vs 20) and when this has the undesired effect, he attempts to pin David to a wall with his spear.

But the character of David is revealed over and over again through circumstances. In chapter 24, while hiding out in a cave near Adullam, Saul enters that cave “to relieve himself.” It is an opportunity for David to eliminate his adversary. Instead, David cuts off a piece of Saul’s robe.

Two chapters later, David is handed another opportunity to slay the king while he sleeps. Abishai, David’s right hand man, says, “Surely God has delivered your enemy into your hands. I’ll pin him to the ground with one thrust of my spear.” But David takes offense at such actions saying, “Don’t destroy him. Who can lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed and be guiltless?... The Lord forbid that I should lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed.”

Instead, David removes the spear and water jug that had been near Saul’s head. From across the river he calls to Abner, head of the king’s guard, and notes that he has done this, demonstrating that he had the opportunity yet again to put to death the man who had been persistently pursuing him. Even Saul is moved by this, and the army retreats from the chase.

And so, in summing up, Pastor asks, “Who or what is your Saul right now? Who is it that is pushing your buttons, trying your patience, making things difficult for you?

Three points were made from these stories. First, the Lord may be using another person or circumstances to develop you for a higher level of leadership. In James 1:2-4 the writer states, “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” ~ The Message

Second, God does not want us to do anything wrong to relieve the pressure… that is, to remove the backpack of rocks. If you have to lie or cheat, this is not pleasing to God. God is asking you to stay till its purposes are fulfilled.

Third and finally, we can take much longer time to overheat when we trust God. When we trust Him, it enables us to be more patient because we know God is working out His plan for us, in us and through us.