Sunday, April 26, 2009

Jesus Can Be Trusted

Pastor Brad just returned from several days in Chicago where he attended a Covenant leadership convention, the 125th anniversary of the Northwoods Conference. After a warm greeting on this dreary April day Brad made a comical remark about forgetting to shave, and briefly commented on his appreciation for the Covenant denomination which is both pietist and missional. The double pronged mandate for the Covenant is "deeper in Christ, further in mission." Or, to put it another way, living with God and for God.

Brad opened the announcements by mentioning our semi-annual meeting which would be after the service. Other announcements included:
1. The women's Bible study will meet next Saturday morning at 9:00 a.m. instead of the usual time. There will be two studies Saturday.
2. A planning meeting for Vacation Bible Study will be held at the church Tuesday evening at 6:30.
3. The Adventure Club and Art Show will be this Wednesday evening. The program begins at 5:30 with the kids singing songs upstairs. Leonard's Home Cooked Dinner will be served downstairs at 6 with Ed bringing the kids back upstairs for a time of interactive art at 6:15. Desserts will then be served downstairs at 6:45. The art and talents of the church will be displayed in the church basement.

This morning's worship was led by the trio of Ellie, Chuck and Darlene.

One of the tenets of the Covenant churches is the centrality of Scripture. For this reason we welcome representatives from the Gideons from time to time. This morning Dale Henry and Sandy who shared with us the role the Gideons have played in Bible distribution. This past year Gideons have placed 75 million Bibles or one every 2.5 seconds. 100% of all gifts given to the Gideons go to the printing and distribution of Bibles.

After the reading of Scriptures (Acts 3:12-19; Luke 24:26-48) and a time of prayer, Pastor Brad began his message, standing near to the congregation on the floor of the sanctuary.

Jesus Can Be Trusted
Brad opened by summarizing the 125th Conference Anniversary. Our ways of sharing the Gospel have changed. We used to wonder whether to wear robes or suits, and later a tie or no tie. But today, though our methods may have changed the mission and message remain the same.

The essence of the sermon revolved around the contrast between Saul and David. Saul had been anointed as Israel’s first king. He had significant attributes, but disqualified himself, not by his skills but by his character. The significant quality needed in church leadership is likewise not talent or skills, but character.

The word “great” is used three times in the Gospels. The first time is in Matthew 5:19... 19Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

This verse pertains to obedience, not achievement. Obedience means aligning our hearts and minds with the heart and mind of God.

Brad then told a story about how much he loved to waterski, having begun as early as age 5. The first lesson in waterskiing is this: when you fall, let go of the tow rope. In the Christian walk, an essential lesson is to let go of the things that drag us down.

The second time Jesus used the word great was in Matthew 18.

2He called a little child and had him stand among them. 3And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

The lesson here is plain. Humility is what makes us great. The humblest people in the community are our great ones.

Gary Walter, president of the Evangelical Covenant Church, told a story about a rooster that crowed each morning at dawn who eventually came to believe that it was his crowing that made the sun come up each day. Of course it is vain to think such things. When we ourselves do any crowing, our aim is not to draw attention to ourselves but to what God has done.

Brad spoke briefly about brokenness at this point. We live in a throwaway culture. People get broken, too, but God doesn’t throw us away. God way is redemptive. Our brokenness makes us humble and useful to God. Jesus Himself had His body broken for us. And David proclaimed that “a broken and contrite heart” is pleasing to God.

The third time Jesus comments on true greatness is in Matthew 20:26. The mother of James and John, a mother like our own, approaches Jesus with a request. She would like one of her boys to sit at Jesus' right or left hand when He becomes king. Jesus says, “Well, I’m not really in charge of the seating chart, but let me tell you about a principle.” The principle is servanthood.

The definition of servanthood is “seeking the advantage of another party.” This applies to whatever station in live you’re at, from CEO to janitor. You can never do big things for God unless you are willing to do little things for little people.

Here’s an eye opener. The Covenant church in India started with a person who babysat for a prostitute so she could go to work.

Now, for the quiz. Who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2008? Who won the Academy Award for best actress? Who won the indoor soccer league championship?

By way of contrast, name a person who helped you through a difficult time. Who taught you an important life lesson? Who made you feel special in life? These are legacy people who live on in us.

Boiled down to its essence, what God is looking for in you is a trajectory based on obedience, humility and servanthood. He is not expecting you to be a finished product. We are people in process. What’s growing in you? What is increasing?

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