Sunday, January 31, 2010

Carrying Out God's Mission

With Pastor Brad and his family away in Colorado at a mid-winter pastor's retreat, Chuck Vanderscheuren welcomed us today, noting that Brad is feeling re-energized and also will return with some stories to tell. Evidently, there was some high adventure in the Colorado Rockies this week.

There was an important announcement before the service began. The Sweetheart Banquet, with Chef Leonard, is just around the corner. Entertainment has been secured, a talented pianist and balloonist will be with us on February 13. By balloonist we mean hot air balloons in the skies above. Be sure to RSVP so Chef Leonard knows how much food to secure. It will be a memorable evening.

The quartet opened the service with a lengthy series of favorite songs including Heaven On My Mind, I Saw the Light, That Glory Bound Train and others.

The Scripture reading, after the offering, was from Psalms 71:1-6 and Luke 4:21-30. As children were dismissed to the nursery, we shared a time of prayer. There were many needs expressed. In times like these it is good to know our Lord has promised comfort as we we bring our concerns to Him.

In a somewhat unusual turn, we did not have a substitute pastor per se, but rather a guest speaker by DVD, Gary Walter, President of the Evangelical Covenant Church.

Carrying Out God's Mission
Mr. Walter began by sharing the story of Elijah from I Kings 18 just after his showdown with the 400 prophets of Baal. There had been a drought in Israel and Elijah prayed for rain. After the prayer he sent his right hand man to go look toward the sea. His servant saw nothing. A second and third and fourth time he prayed. On the seventh, his servant returned to say he saw a small cloud the size of a man's hand. Pastor Walter declared that in our own time, the Covenant Church might be a similar vessel... seemingly small and insignificant, but bringing showers to the spiritual drought in our generation.

We live in a postmodern era with people dissatisfied in their hearts, seeking answers. To the extent that we make Christ's priorities ours, we will make a difference here. We must make Christ's mission priorities our own.

How committed are you to God's mission to the world? We have the power to break the draught. His mission is the mission for which the church was birthed.

The centrality of the Word is a feature of the Covenant, and we humbly do our best to live it. The Bible is not a book of theological abstractions. Its mission, and ours, is to change lives. Mr. Walter outlined three aspects of this mission.

1) The Word became flesh
Our God is a seeking God, he said. God came to seek and to save the lost. God doesn't wait for us to find Him. We, too, are to be seeking the lost as well.

Greg Hawkins said that God comes seeking us with three messages: I know you, I love you and you were meant for this relationship.

Walter then told the story of his daughter's teddy bear WB. The bear was called WB because when she was little and was asked to name it, she called it White Bear. WB is no longer white, after more than two decades of love. WB has been sewed up a few times but is still part of her life. WB's value comes from being loved.

So with us. Our value comes from God loving us.

2) Jesus reached out for those at risk.
Jesus was all about the lost, the last and the least, Mr. Walter said. This is good news for the poor, the blind and the needy. Jesus identified with the poor and marginalized because He, too, was as such. In the end He was convicted of a crime He did not commit.

There is much in Scripture about God's concern for the marginalized, the orphan, the widow, the elderly, the broken. We cannot confess the centrality of the Word without embracing its major themes.

3) Reaches out to those who are culturally at odds.

The idea here is that the Gospel brings together divergent groups into God's family. The Apostle Paul noted that there were three primary fault lines amongst people; Class, Race and Gender. In the Gospel these barriers are erased, the walls that divide are knocked down. The Covenant says, "We're in it together."

We still have a long way to go. It is community the world longs for.

God is love. Seeking, healing, reconciling.

Art Greco once said, "Live a life worthy of those who have lived their lives for you."

What does all this mean to us? The Covenant Church was once the size of a man's hand. And today it is 800 churches... to carry God's mission to a hurting world.

Photo: New Life Covenant has two adult Sunday School classes which meet downstairs at 9:00 a.m. during the children's Sunday School hour.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Grace That Empowers

A dense snow was falling throughout the Northland today as we gathered for worship this morning. Pastor Shannon greeted us with a warm "Good morning."

In his introductory remarks he noted that last week's message made the case, "I am because of grace." This morning, he said he planned to take this further. "We can, because of grace, live a life of victory and no longer be slaves to sin."

Today's announcements included:
1) We are taking an offering after the service for the needs in Haiti, to be forwarded through Covenant World Relief. Additional information on contributing can be found at For regular updates on this need, visit
2) The Sweetheart's Banquet is coming soon... a celebration of romantic love for young couples, old couples, even couples and odd couples. Singles are also welcome. Mark Saturday, February 13 on your calendar. Social hour begins at 6 p.m., the banquet at 7 and program at 8, with coffee and a dessert bar at 9. $9.00 per person. RSVP or sign up after the service these next couple weeks.
3) Gwen invited those who were interested to join them once more for another round of The Truth Project. The twelve week program was quite excellent, and the Cressman's are opening their home again on Sunday afternoons from 4:00-6:00 p.m. Joanne enthusiastically shared what this study of the Christian world view meant to her and encouraged others to attend.

After Darlene's introit, Brad and Darlene led us in a number of worship songs from the silver song book, The Song Goes On. After the offering, Scripture reading from John 17:6-19 and a time of prayer, Pastor Brad began his message.

Grace That Empowers

I can... because of grace.

Brad began with a story about Handly Page. Page was an early pioneer of British aviation. On one occasion, while on a solo test flight in a new cargo plane, a rat ran between his legs. This would have been disconcerting enough, but while in flight he could hear the rat gnawing on something, which turned out to be hydraulic lines that operated the landing gear. This being the days before autopilot, he felt helpless to do anything about it. (Stay tuned for the rest of the story... later.)

Brad read for us a portion of Romans 7 in which Paul details his struggle with sin. This passage from verses 13 to the end of the chapter is taken from The Message.

13I can already hear your next question: "Does that mean I can't even trust what is good [that is, the law]? Is good just as dangerous as evil?" No again! Sin simply did what sin is so famous for doing: using the good as a cover to tempt me to do what would finally destroy me. By hiding within God's good commandment, sin did far more mischief than it could ever have accomplished on its own.

14-16I can anticipate the response that is coming: "I know that all God's commands are spiritual, but I'm not. Isn't this also your experience?" Yes. I'm full of myself—after all, I've spent a long time in sin's prison. What I don't understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can't be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God's command is necessary.

17-20But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can't keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

21-23It happens so regularly that it's predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God's commands, but it's pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.

24I've tried everything and nothing helps. I'm at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn't that the real question?

25The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.

Paul states that the Law has shown me how crooked I am. "The law tells me what to do, and I even have the desire to do good, but can't do it."

Brad pointed out how Paul used the word "I" 21 times in this section of Romans. In great detail Paul writes about his inner tug of war. Ultimately, the battle is in the mind. Even though his inner being recognizes, and even appreciates what is good, Paul outlines how we are at war within ourselves. And after all these "I" statements, he cries out, "What a wretched man I am. Who will deliver me from this spin cycle of doing what I do not want to do?"

Thanks be to God there is a way to live free.

The answer is in chapter 8. Therefore... because of grace, "There is no condemnation." You are free.

So many Christians are living as if chained to sin. Paul says you are free.

At the end of the Civil War, despite being freed by the 13th amendment, some slaves remained as slaves. In some instances it was because they did not believe it. In other cases their masters repressed the truth.

Here is the truth. We don't have to "try" to be children of God. When we are in Christ, we are children of God.

Once you are in Christ, you no longer wear those other labels. You know how it is where you label yourself alcoholic, bulimic, whatever. No, the only labels that stick for us are Forgiven and Child of God. Realize who you are in Christ, and relax in this truth. Christ living in me is my only hope of living in glory.

Brad shared a powerful analogy. The law of gravity is a reality that affects everything. When we get into an airplane and leave the ground, however, we defy gravity. The law of gravity has no effect on us. On the other hand, if we step out of the plane we're instantly back under the power of gravity. So it is that in Christ we defy the law of sin and death.

The battle is in the mind and Satan's primary weapon is lies. Freedom comes through truth. Hence Jesus' prayer in John 17:15-17...

15My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17Sanctify[a] them by the truth; your word is truth.

The best way to recognize counterfeit money is to study real money. And the best way to recognize Satan's lies is to study the revealed truth of God's Word.

Paul writes a little further on that when we set our minds on the things above, the result is life and peace. Yes, we can live in victory, because of grace. "Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world." And He begins to change us from the inside out.

So we return to Handly Page's predicament. He was flying at about 10,000 feet and heard that rat gnawing on the hydraulic lines. He tried throwing things back there, but to no avail. Then he remembered a lesson from science class that rats need more oxygen than humans do, so he pulled back and set the plane on a new course, climbing higher... and higher, till he didn't hear the sound any more. When he later landed, they found a dead rat in the cargo area.

When sin is gnawing at your life, climb higher into God's word. Be a student of the Word and internalize God's truth, God's promises of freedom, hope, strength, life and His all-sufficiency. Climb higher. Climb into the truth and you will find His grace sufficient for all our needs.

After the service we had a congregational meeting to discuss whether to pursue the possibility of making Caribou Lake school our future home. There was a good open discussion and it was agreed to look into it further, but with care and proper due diligence, and to keep praying for wisdom for our leaders in all these matters.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Amazing Grace

Sunday morning and our Sunday School programs kicked into gear again for 2010. Classes for all ages start at 9:00 a.m. in case you lost track over the holidays.

Pastor Shannon welcomed us warmly with his usual good cheer. He then briefly introduced his new theme for the next several weeks: grace. He noted that when we first encounter God's grace it really is amazing grace. But over time, we get accustomed to it and even take it for granted. With heart overflowing he affirmed, "Shouldn't it always be amazing grace?

During the announcements Leonard noted that the Sweetheart Banquet will be on Feburary 13th this year. Be sure to mark your calendars.

Darlene's introit was followed by a time of worship led by Brad, Pearl and Ellie.

Duayne Anderson then read to the children a book by Max Lucado called You Are Special. The story affirms that our worth comes not from the opinions of others but from our Maker.

After the Scripture reading from Romans 5:6-8 we had a time of prayer for the many needs in our church family as well as those in Haiti at this time. If you are desirous to contribute to Haitian relief efforts, a special offering basket will be available for this purpose after the service to be used for Covenant World Relief.

Amazing Grace
There is no where a more comprehensive look at grace than in the Book of Romans, Brad noted, and so for the next few weeks we will take up this theme and this book, focusing primarily on chapters 5, 6, 7 and 8. He encouraged us to read these chapter during this time we're studying them.

"I am because of grace," Brad stated. This is the truth. It's the only reason.
Someone said justice is getting what we deserve. Mercy is getting what we don't deserve. And grace is receiving what we could never ever deserve. It is something amazing, and Brad said never ceases to be amazed by the truth "that God would save a wretch like me."

Brad hasn't always felt this way. He grew up going to church and sometimes "played church" and didn't really know about friendship with God. But as a pastor he has grown in his understanding of God's grace, and how this grace is extended to everybody.

He told us about a place called Prince Albert, a dirty city in central Canada with the reputation of being a Little Chicago. "I called it the city of grace, because where sin abounds grace abounds that much more," he said. It reminded him of the parable Jesus told about a man who upon finding a treasure buried in a field goes and sells everything he had to buy this field. That's the way these people embraced God when they experienced His grace. It was like the greatest thing ever, like they had finally hit the jackpot.

In his travels and experiences in various places, Brad discovered how multicolored and multifaceted God's grace really is. "I am, you are, because of grace."

Before getting to the heart of Romans, Brad felt it needful to review the beginnings of this significant book. Chapter one lays out the realities of how much we are in a pretty rough state, not only in our behaviors but also our ideas, ultimately cutting God out of our lives. In chapter two, Paul talks about how religious attempts to keep all the rules always fall short, or end up in a self-righteousness that is little more than filthy rags. Chapter three leads to the conclusion that we are all under the power of sin. There is no one who does good, not even one.

In Ephesians Paul goes so far as to say that we were dead in our sins, cut off from God altogether. Brad described death with amusing images. No matter how you dress it up, death is death and isn't ever the same as life. Take a flower that's been cut off from the stem and you have... a dead flower. You can try to save it by sticking it in soil, or duct taping it back in place, but the flower is not going to live again.

But now, we have been shown us a different way of being right with God. Grace through faith, trusting Jesus to take away our sins, declaring us not guilty. We have been justified, because of grace. Just as if I'd never sinned.

Our former identity was as sinners. In our new identity we are saints. This isn't something earned. It is a title for those who have been set aside for God.

"I know some of you are probably thinking that is not for me. I have gone too far." But Brad assured is that what we have done does not determine who we are. No one is too far gone to receive grace.

He reminded us of Rahab, a prostitute, who is cited in the famous "Heroes of Faith" passage of Hebrews 11. God's grace came to her while she was still a sinner, before Rahab went to rehab. She is mentioned several times in Scripture, and always as "Rahab the prostitute." Her faith and God's grace combined to change her life.

In point of fact, God used her significantly. She married an awesome person and raised an awesome son named Boaz, the same Boaz who we read about in the Book of Ruth in the Old Testament. She goes on to be listed in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1. Here is this painted woman whom God gave such dignity and honor. God's grace is truly amazing. Where man fails, God excels.

Listen to these Scripture references. Because of grace I am completely accepted by God. In fact, I am God's child. I have been justified, I am Christ's friend, I have been bought with a price, I am a member of Christ's body, I have direct access to God through the Holy Spirit. I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins, I am complete in Christ.... Because of grace I am totally secure, I am assured that God works all things for good, I am forever free from condemnation, I am confident I cannot be separated from the love of God and that God will finish the work He has started in me, I am a citizen of Heaven, I can find mercy and grace to help in time of need, I am born of God and the evil one cannot touch me. Because of grace I am deeply, deeply significant.

Check this out. God says I am the salt of the earth. And the light of the world. I'm a branch on the true vine. I am a temple of the living God, I am a minister of reconciliation for God. I am God's co-worker, I am seated with Christ in the heavenly realm, and God's workmanship created for good works. I may approach God with a freedom and confidence and I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Because of grace.

Remember this. You are not defined by what you do, but by His grace.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Considering the Cost

After a warm, hearty greeting Pastor Brad meandered into the topic for today. His theme last week is continuing for a few weeks more, he noted. "We talk about money because Jesus talks about money." He also pointed out that God doesn't need our money, but that something happens inside us as we give.

Announcements followed, including these:
1. Sunday School begins next week.
2. This Wednesday Adventure Club begins again for the new year, 5:30-7:00 p.m.
Junior and Senior High youth will meet from 6:00 - 8:00 p.m.
3. Men's breakfast is at L.A.'s on Thursday mornings at 7:00 a.m.

Brad also noted that it was Marlys's birthday (65 years) and it is the 57th anniversary of Chuck and Lois Vanderscheuren.

The Quartet opened the worship time with two wonderful numbers, The Midnight Cry and Praise the Lord. During the offertory they also sang another great song which included the lyrics, "God is good, He's good all the time."

During our prayer times it is often evident that there are many needs in our church family with cancer battles, surgeries and life passages. It is good that we can lift our concerns and burdens to the Lord in difficult times.

Today’s Scripture reading proved to be the intro and basis of today’s sermon. Brad read the following.

28"Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? 29For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, 30saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.'
31"Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. ~
Luke 14:28-33 (NIV)

Considering the Cost

Pastor Brad opened with comments about how we all have varying money management styles. Some people shop at Kohl’s, others are Wal-Mart shoppers. Some go to Target and others to boutique-type stores. Some pay cash, others use credit. Some are big tippers and then there are the pastors in the room… ;-0 Some carefully balance their checkbooks down to the penny and others just try to keep it close.

Some people have stock brokers and others go broke just fine without them. But whatever your style, this passage from Luke 14 is challenging. Brad compared it to a doctor with a large hypodermic needle who says, “Bend over… this is going to a hurt a little, but it’ll be good for you in the end.”

Before moving forward we got a quick recap of last week’s message about a man who was good at managing his money but gave no thought for God, seeking instead to find meaning in his possessions. He was good at financial management, poor at the management of eternal things. This week’s parable deals with improving the money management side of the equation.

Brad outlined some eye opening stats at this point. One Gallup poll noted that 64% of all couples argue over money. One quarter of all Baby Boomers have less than one thousand dollars in savings. The average young couple spends $1600 more than they make. The average college student carries three credit cards carrying a balance over $8,000. Kids are leaving college due to financial problems as much as bad grades.

In short, money management is an issue people are struggling with.

There are a number of causes of financial stress. Among them he cited the following.
1) Laziness. Proverbs 28:19 states, “He who works his land will have abundant food, but the one who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty."
2) Consumptive lifestyles. Our tendency to acquire beyond our means leaves us struggling to pay off debts we didn’t need in the first place. “Debt keeps you stuck in your future paying for your past.”
3) Hard knocks. Sometime setbacks are beyond one’s control. Lost jobs, health issues, an economic crash, bad business partners, a spouse who leaves…. All these things can put us in a hole and create stress fractures in our foundation.
4) Lack of a financial plan. The Wall Street Journal stated that 70% of all Americans live from paycheck to paycheck. It is amazing how many tens of thousands of dollars can go through our hands with little thought to a financial plan. Proverbs 21:5 notes that good planning and hard work lead to prosperity.

Today’s passage is about building a tower and making sure you can finish what you started before you begin. It is about planning, and Pastor Brad offered up a 10-10-80 plan. The first 10% of your income you use to honor God, meaning you bring your tithe to the Lord. The second 10% you save for the future, for yourself. Then you live joyfully on the other 80%.

The numeral 10 is an interesting number in Scripture, he noted. In Exodus we read about ten plagues that God sent on Egypt. Pharaoh was being tested, ultimately hardening his heart. The 10 Commandments test us in ten areas of obedience. How many times did God test Israel in the Wilderness? Ten. How many times did God test Jacob’s heart when he was working for Laban? Revelation 2:10 mentions ten days of testing. And the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25 is an illustration of testing their preparedness.

The principle of tithing is revealed in many places but spelled out especially in Malachi 3:10.

"Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.

One reason we tithe is that it is a way we show that everything we have is God’s. “Are we growing in our sense that everything we have belongs to God?” Brad asked.

Debt is a great burden for many people. Unfortunately, although many want to get out from under that burden, they don’t want to change their lifestyles. Here are some tips to help us move in the right direction in 2010, from debt to no debt… or at least less debt.

Debt is problem because generosity does not have to end at 10%. It’s very challenging to give generously when burdened in this way.

1) Learn how to live on less. Houses and cars are especially big budget busters.
2) Don’t purchase things when they are not on sale.
3) Track your expenditures for a month. See where it’s going and take control.

Brad asked more probing questions.

a) Am I trusting God as the owner of my possessions? All I have comes from God. We are stewards only. (Ps. 24:1) Ultimately we don’t need a miracle from God. We need God. What possesses you? God or money? Ownership belongs to God. We are simply his trusted managers.

b) Am I robbing God? If you have ever been the victim of a robbery you know what it feels like. God has blessed and blessed us. All He asks in return is a tithe.
c) Will I take action right now? Decisiveness is required.

If you do this, God promises, “I will open up the doors of Heaven.”

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Message and the Mission

Brrr, it has been a cold one this weekend. But the sanctuary was filled with warm hearted souls who braved the cold to be here for our first Sunday in 2010. Pastor Shannon greeted us with enthusiasm and took time to cover a few key announcements before inaugurating the worship service with his customary greeting, "The Lord be with you." He also indicated that the new series he is entering into this next few weeks will be lessons on money.

There will be no Sunday School or confirmation next week.

Darlene's introit was a spirited rendition of All Creatures of Our God and King, thoroughly appreciated. Chuck then led us in several hymns and songs as we joined in worship. After the offering, Ryan gave the Scripture reading from Isa 60:1-6 and Ephesians 3:1-12 and our sermon followed.

The Message and the Mission
Brad began by having Brooke project a new blue Mustang GT Coupe on the screen. "How do you like my new ride? It's got a little bling bling, doesn't it? 550 horsepower... 0-60 in a blinding 3.5 seconds, top speed 205 mph. Just what a pastor needs to unwind on a gentle Sunday afternoon." Tongue was firmly planted in cheek here as he described more details about this hot $175,000 car and warmed to his theme, our American "umption for consumption."

Brad pointed out that 2005 was the first year Americans spent more than they make since the bottom of the Great Depression. In addition, despite our propensity for debt, we receive more than 3 billion credit card offers a year. Purportedly more people declared bankruptcy than graduated from college.

In short, the desire to acquire is wreaking havoc on our souls, which is why Jesus so frequently addresses this issue. 16 of His 38 parables deal with possessions and money. And the quantity of Bible verses dealing with finances is quite extensive. There are perhaps 500 verses dealing with prayer and 500 verses on the subject of faith, but over a thousand verses on money.

This week Brad focused on the parable in Luke 12 regarding a successful entrepreneur.

The Parable of the Rich Fool
13Someone in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me."
14Jesus replied, "Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?" 15Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."

16And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. 17He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.'

18"Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." '

20"But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'

21"This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God."

It's a familiar passage, but as usual Pastor Brad extracted new insights from it. The context is set out in verse one where Luke tells us that many thousands had gathered. This section opens with someone in the crowd shouting to Jesus to intervene in a matter regarding an inheritance. Brad quipped, "Where there's a will there's a relative."

Jesus went on to say be on your guard against greed. Life does not consist of the abundance of possessions we accumulate. He doesn't say possessions are bad in and of themselves, but Jesus indicates that you won't find life in them. Greed is not bad because of what a thing costs, but because of what it costs you. He then goes on to tell the story of a certain rich man who had awesome success in his business endeavors. (Brad told this story with his characteristically entertaining modernization to give it a present day relevance.)

The parable ends with God saying, "You fool!" But what was his fatal flaw. There were other wealthy people in Scripture whom God did not denounce. Men like Solomon and Abraham were favored with wealth. And was it bad to build bigger barns since his yields were more than he could properly store? Brad said no, this was not it.

The failure, Brad noted, was that the man had lived without thinking about God. Jesus did not criticize the wealth, but rather the absence of thought for God.

Brad highlighted three areas where we tend to use wealth incorrectly: to validate our self-worth, for a sense of security, and for satisfaction.

Many there are who validate themselves with bling, whether by having the latest iPod, or most fashionable car. They buy into the notion that unless I have this or that, I'm a nobody. If I'm going to be a somebody, I gotta have this. Money and things become a method for keeping score regarding our accomplishments.

How do we properly value ourselves then? Our value was affirmed at the Cross where God sent His son to die for you and me. Each of us is worth the death and blood of the Son of God. God established our value forever at Calvary on Good Friday. More money will never increase our worth.

Nor does money equate with security. In the end we all die. No amount of money can keep us from this ultimate fate.

Brad told a pair of pointed stories to illustrate this thought. Our security is in heaven. Thieves can steal our stuff, moths can eat our garments, but our giving has eternal value. The problem with this man in the parable is that he never stopped to ask, "How much can my wealth be leveraged to help others?"

The third shortcoming of wealth is that it really doesn't satisfy our souls. The Rolling Stones' "I Can't Get No Satisfaction" has been a theme in this country for more than four decades. Are affluent people really more satisfied? Look at Howard Hughes, the successful financier and businessman who lived many years as a recluse, paranoid about germs and disease, with needle marks in his arms and legs from addictions, rotting teeth, living in a self-made prison. Despite his wealth he never even had a proper will and died like a man in poverty.

Brad recalled for us the plane crash that killed JFK Jr., citing that it was probably caused by spacial disorientation where you can't tell whether you are climbing or plunging while in flight. Spacial disorientation is a confusion of the brain where you think you know where you are but you're not.

So it is with us that money and "things" can cause us to get spacial disorientation so we're flying upside down. Jesus' parable is intended to help us get right side up so we gain not only a sense of self-worth, but also our sense of security and satisfaction. Life does not consist of the abundance of possessions. Sometimes, we just need a little time and space to get re-calibrated.

After the message we shared in the celebration of Communion, proclaiming Jesus as our Lord, our self-worth, our security and our satisfaction.