Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Holy Spirit & the Miraculous

A few important announcements should be noted here. The first is that Vacation Bible School will be held this year at the Twig Town Hall. One of the reasons for doing it there is so there can be a large area for playing outdoor games. The current plan is for VBS to take place the week of June 14th-18th from 9:30a.m.-12:00p.m. Volunteers are needed to sign up in various areas. If most volunteers could better do it another week the week stated could be changed.

Mother’s Day is coming up on May 9th and the church men are again planning to make and serve breakfast that day.

This Wednesday will be the last day of Adventure Club and everyone is invited to come to see the art that has been done over the past year and eat a meal together. This will begin at 5:30, which includes joining the opening time and hearing the kids sing.

Today’s sermon used as a text 1 Corinthians 12 and was about the Holy Spirit and the Miraculous. The purpose of the Holy Spirit is to bring unity, but often church teachings on the Holy Spirit have caused divisions.

What is the role of the Holy Spirit? Has the time of extraordinary manifestations passed away? Is that era done? No! Read 1 Corinthians 12:7-11. Various manifestations are said to be given for the common good. For example, prophesy, which is sometimes thought of as predictions of the future is actually a gift given to help a group of people in the church to address a difficult situation as it should be addressed. Did miraculous gifts cease in the first century? There is not good Biblical evidence to support that idea. The Holy Spirit is free to work in amazing ways.

A story was told about Tony Campolo who went to speak at a Pentecostal chapel service.

"There’s a Pentecostal college near Eastern College where I teach. I’m not Pentecostal, but I talk fast so that they think I’m speaking in tongues, so it works out alright. One day, they invited me to speak at a chapel service, I like speaking there because they’re dynamic, happy people, and I enjoy being with them. Just before I spoke, 8 guys took me into a back room of the chapel, and got me down on my knees. Then they laid their hands on my head and prayed for me. That’s good, I can use all the prayer I can get. There was only one problem -- these guys prayed a long time. That’s usually okay too, but the longer they prayed, the more tired they got, and the more they leaned on my head, and I want to tell you when 8 guys are leaning on your head it doesn’t feel so good. One guy wasn’t even praying for me, instead he went on and on praying for some guy named Charlie Stolzis. 'Dear Lord,' he shouted, 'You know Charlie Stolzis, he lives in that silver trailer down the road about a mile, you know the trailer Lord, just down the road on the right hand side.'

"I felt like saying 'Knock it off, fella, what do you think God’s doing, saying ‘what is that address again?’ Anyway, he went on and on and on. 'Lord, Charlie told me this morning he’s decided to leave his wife and three kids. He told me he’s walking out on his family. Lord, step in, do something, bring the people in that family together again.' All this time I’m kneeling there with eight guys leaning on my head, asking myself, when is this guy going to knock it off so I can get these Pentecostal preachers off my head. But he went on and on and on about Charlie Stolzis leaving his wife and kids, giving God constant reminders that he lived in a silver trailer about a mile down the road on the right hand side.

"Finally the prayers were over, and I went into the pulpit and preached. After I finished, I got into my car, drove down the Pennsylvania Turnpike and headed for home. Now, as I drove onto the turnpike, I noticed a hitchhiker. I know you’re not supposed to pick them up, but I’m a preacher, and whenever I can get anybody locked in as a captive audience, I do it. So I stopped, and picked him up. We drove a few minutes and I said 'Hi, my name is Tony Campolo, what’s yours?' He said, 'My name is Charlie Stolzis.'

"I couldn’t believe it. I got off the turn pike at the next exit and started heading back. He got a bit uneasy with that and after a few minutes he said, 'Hey mister, where are you taking me?' I said, 'I’m taking you home.' He narrowed his eyes and asked why, I said, 'Cause you just left your wife and three kids right?' That blew him away. 'Ya, ya, that’s right,' he said, with shock written all over his face. He plastered himself against the door and never took his eyes off me. I drove off the turn pike at the next exit, then I really did him in as I drove right to his silver trailer.

"When I pulled up, his eyes seemed to bulge as he asked, 'How did you know that I lived here?' I said, 'God told me.' I believe God did tell me. We got out of the car and I ordered him to get in that trailer. Half shaking, he answers, “Right mister, sure sure, I’m going.' When he opened the door, his wife exclaimed, 'You’re back!' He whispered in her ear and the more he talked, the bigger her eyes got. Then I said with real authority, 'The two of you sit down, and I’m going to talk and the two of you are going to listen.' Man did they listen. I mean, I was like E.F. Hutton. That day I led those two young people to Jesus Christ, and today that guy is a preacher of the gospel in California.”

Is the work of special manifestations of the Holy Spirit over in our day? No! The Holy Spirit is alive and well and at work in people’s lives.

The work of the Holy Spirit is not ever done in order to call attention to Himself. It is not spectacular for the point of being spectacular. Suppose one church becomes a giving church and dramatically helps the poor in its area. Another church practices levitation. Which one will people flock to see? Which one is truly doing the work of God’s Spirit?

What about tongues? Some churches teach that those who use tongues are at best, deluded, and at worst are demonic.

The Holy Spirit does not always manifest itself the same way through history. Some people teach that there are two separate events, salvation and the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and that the sign of the baptism is speaking in tongues. But God does not give salvation on one hand and withhold the Holy Spirit on the other hand, He gives us the Holy Spirit when we come to Him. Is speaking in tongues the litmus test of salvation or of having received the Holy Spirit? In the Old Testament story of the Tower of Babel the people had gathered together to try to build a tower but God frustrated their attempts by mixing their languages so that they could not understand each other. In the book of Acts during Pentecost many people who had been scattered and could not communicate were now speaking each other’s language and could understand each other. What was wrong at Babel was made right at Pentecost.

People sometimes have a divisive and arrogant spirit re: the spiritual gifts. What was meant to unite is now a cause of division in the church. In the end of the chapter 12 and into chapter 13 Paul addresses this issue. He says that not all have the various gifts but we should eagerly desire the greater gifts. The in chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians which is a very popular text read at weddings, he tells us what the litmus test for knowing whether or not a person has the Holy Spirit. LOVE. Love is the measure of true spirituality. The Pharisees were very religious and had lots of knowledge of scripture, but were lacking in love. The evidence is never spectacular gifts. If you are a Christ follower the fruit of the Spirit will be growing in you.

Why do we not have more miracles in our day? Why do some people get healed, at times even those who do not follow God’s ways, and others die young who have prayed for healing? We do not know. But God cannot be coerced by human techniques. It is never because we have not prayed enough or believed enough or have not discovered the right technique. Our job is just to pray and ask. There is no magic formula to manipulate God into doing what I want Him to do.

However, any real movement in our lives toward holiness and better living choices IS the work of the Holy Spirit.

Use your knowledge to serve, not to impress. Don’t measure or gauge the work of the Holy Spirit in superficial measures.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Something's Fishy

Today's greeting included a reference to today's lectionary text from John 21, a resurrection passage also about fishing. "I'm glad you're here," Brad said.

After the introit and worship, Keith from the Gideons Bible Society shared a couple letters from people whose lives had been transformed by Bibles left in hotel rooms.

Because it is getting late on a Monday evening, your faithful scribe will cut straight to the message...

Something's Fishy

Life has challenges. It's not "if" but "when"... and how will you deal with them when they come?

How many of you have ever said, deep down inside, "I just didn't think it would turn out this way? And the waves of discouragement and disappointment begin to bury your heart and your spirit... "I'm such a failure, such a loser."

If discouragement and failure don't get us, then the distractions of cash and comfort can be equally effective to get us off task.

So what's going on in this text?

It takes place after the resurrection. It seems that not knowing what else to do, Peter suggests that they go fishing. That is, to go back to what they were familiar with before they left everything to follow Jesus.

But these were the men in whom Jesus had entrusted the future of the church. These were men whom He had personally trained, for three years, for a purpose.

It is easy to put yourself inside Peter's head. "I didn't think it was going to end up this way," he could have easily been thinking. So, they headed off to go fishing. It had been his career, and for the time being maybe he could get back to it.

It wasn't as easy as he remembered, though. They fished all night, and caught nothing. This was not cane pole and bobber fishing. These were men lifting wet, heavy nets, and a night of fruitless efforts only compounded their discouragement.

The story echoed another familiar memory. They'd been down this path before, a night of frustration. Then this man Jesus said, "Try casting on the other side of the boat," and there were so many fish they couldn't even lift them in. It was Peter's call to follow, and in John 21 we have an exact repeat, designed by the Lord to bring back to mind that incident. Perhaps that's what you need, too... to remember that moment when you first met Christ.

What's changed from that moment to today? Have the needs of people in our world changed? Has Jesus changed? Or have you changed?

The details are very specific. 153 large fish.

Peter leaped from the boat into the water and swam to shore, and found Jesus there with a charcoal fire already burning. Brad suggested that the burning charcoal may have served to trigger yet another memory in Peter's mind, his denial of any association with Christ on the night He was betrayed.

Jesus then took Peter aside and asked, "Do you love me?" What He was saying, "I desperately need you. Do you love me or not?" In essence, when you go off mission, you end up with empty nets.

Brad quickly undercut any assumption that this was a "God wants you rich" message. But God does want us to stay on task. Jesus asked Peter, "Do you love me more than these (fish)?" What are the fish in your lives?

Are you on task? Or is there a sign on the door of your heart that reads, "Gone Fishin'?"

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sharing Your Story

"Take a hike, take a ride, take a bus, take a cab, take a break, take a message, take a letter, take a hint, take a bite, take a bow..." Your faithful blogger decided to take a different approach by sharing the opening lines of today's sermon. Take it from me, it was another excellent message. (Thank you, Brad.) If you weren't here today, take your time, read and reflect on what has been captured here.

On a sunny Northland Sunday morning, Pastor Brad welcomed us warmly, as is his custom. He reminded us that Easter is a season, not a day on the calendar. We're reminded at this time of year that we have a living hope. It's a broken world but evil doesn't have to win. We have a living God who continues to actively meet needs.

After giving an overview of the themes of his Lenten sermons, Brad tipped his hand to today's message: God designed us to share our stories.


1. Please pass your Secret Sister forms to Brad or Joanne by next week
2. Through April we're collecting items for the Bethany Crisis Shelter. See the information below on this blog.
3. Pam also shared that the first bike has been purchased for the Congo missionaries.

The quintet -- Ken, Eli, Dale, Chuck and Darlene -- sang for us and then led us in worship. This was followed by the induction of new members.

The Scripture readings this morning were from Acts 5:27-32 and John 20:19-31, read by Leonard. This was followed by our prayer time where we brought up the many needs we share. Brad then took the pulpit to deliver the message.

Sharing Your Story

"Take a hike, take a ride, take a bus,..." Brad produced a seemingly endless uses of the word "take" to set up his message today. Many were especially humorous, especially with his comical intonations... "Take two aspirin and call me in the morning... take your hat off, take your coat off, take your shoes off, sit a spell, you all come back you hear?"

There are thousands of uses for the word "take" but his favorite, he said, was the subject of today's message, the story where Jesus told a man to "take up your mat and walk." Why didn't Jesus just say, "Get up and walk" and skip this part about taking up his mat? Brad stated that this man's mat and his story were intertwined. And when Jesus comes to us, it isn't just to heal but to have our story go with us. "Let the story of your life spill over into others."

We all have experiences that we tell stories about. "If I catch a big fish, you're going to hear about it." So it is when we encounter Christ. It is a spiritual awakening, not just a religious experience. This man was crippled, and many of us have been crippled by addictions, habits, pain, paralyzed by fear, stuck in the past. Jesus frees us, heals us and gives us the power to walk in a new direction. But He also wants us to share our story.

God wants to recycle us, and use us for good. Take up your mat and walk.

Brad has three prayers which he prays over his sermons every week. He shared those with us as the basis for today's message.

1) That God would get your attention.

Brad likes hotels because of the friendly wake up call, which is a gentler than a harsh alarm clock. We need those wake up calls and it is better if we listen and respond to it. God is talking to us. Brad said he believes God prefers the gentle wake up call. But sometimes we ignore it, and He has to use pain to get our attention. As it is written in Proverbs 20:30, "Blows and wounds cleanse away evil, and beatings purge the inmost being."

Most of us are familiar with the story of the Prodigal Son. Brad said he was inwardly moved that the father let the son go. It's a hard thing to do. The son ended up stuck in the spin cycle of self-destructive behavior till he came to his senses, face down in pig slop. It's here that he finally hears his wake up call and returns home.

Brad cited the Apostle Paul's tough love as revealed in a letter to the Corinthians. (II Cor. 7:9) where Paul expresses that he is not glad that they were hurt, but that the pain resulted in their repenting and changing their ways.

2) That we'd learn to depend on God every day the rest of our lives.

Jeremiah 13:23 says, "Can the leopard change his spots?" God alone has the power to change us. Can you imagine the leopard waking up one morning and saying, "I think I'll go plaid today." So it is with ourselves, long accustomed to sin and selfish ways. God alone is able to change us, and He changes us from within. It's not a behavior modification program, it's a work of the Holy Spirit.

At this point Brad shared Micah 6:8, act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God. "This is the way I want to live my life. I've been praying that we'd do these three things, every day."

3) That you'd move beyond just focusing on your own recovery.

Allow God to use your life and your story to help others. It was noted that we can replace self-centered destructive behavior with self-centered recovery. This is a recovery that is incomplete. Brad shared that our healing is directly related to stepping outside ourselves and thinking of others, sharing our story with others and encouraging them. You don't have to wait until you are completely well for God to use you.

If we cooperate with the Spirit, He will recycle us. We are God's masterpiece, and even though we have been marred by sin, God is in the restoration business. "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (II Cor. 5:17) And right after this Paul states that we have a new purpose as well, to be Christ's ambassadors, carrying forward the message of reconciliation and hope.

You never know how God will use your life, but if you look at the Bible and history, you see that God has always used ordinary people, broken people. "I'm convinced that there is no more effective healer than a wounded healer."

"God uses our past pain to pour hope into other peoples' lives. God never wastes hurt. So take up your mat and walk."

Saturday, April 10, 2010

April Collections for Bethany Crisis Nursery

Throughout the month of April, New Life Covenant is collecting supplies such as diapers, wipes, blankets, etc. to donate to the Bethany Crisis Nursery in Duluth. The Crisis Nursery is a 24-hour family support service that includes a crisis line, emergency daycare and overnight care.

Parents need support to be effective caregivers and provide a safe and nurturing environment for children to grow into healthy adults. Parents who are dealing with emergencies or crises such as sudden illness, housing problems, divorce or separation, or financial strains, may need time alone to resolve the crisis.

Parents facing a crisis or needing help managing their children can contact the nursery for help. A child's parent or legal guardian can request emergency day and night care for up to three days by calling their local Crisis Nursery. Trained staff can also provide referrals, counseling and support, as well as supplies in emergency situations. Children from 0–12 years of age are eligible for Crisis Nursery care.

Your supplies can be brought to the church and placed in the marked basket in the narthex at the back of the sanctuary during the month of April. Thank you!