Sunday, August 29, 2010


How quickly the summer has flown. This morning was the last of our Breakfast Roundtables, a very special time of sharing and visioning that many have participated in this summer. Today, also, Pastor Brad completed his summer series on the life of David.

Brad opened the breakfast discussion with something that was passed on to him from this summer’s 125th Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Covenant Church in St. Paul earlier this summer. Peter Cha, an associate professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, gave a message about the questions college students are asking as pertains faith issues.

Forty years ago, Paul Little of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) recorded that the four most prevalent questions asked by college students in the modern era were these:
1. Is there a God?
2. Is Christ God?
3. Is the Bible reliable?
4. Is it full of errors?

In our own time Rick Richardson, an IVCF evangelism associate, has studied the recurring questions college students are asking in a post-modern era. They are these:
1. How can I trust the Church that has done such terrible things in the name of Jesus?
2. Does your religion help society, especially those who suffer and are marginalized?
3. Aren't you just another self-serving group?
4. Doesn't the Church justify and maintain racial and gender hierarchical structures in the society?

It was a thought provoking opening to our Roundtable discussion, and like all of our discussions this summer, mentally stimulating and challenging.

The discussion this morning centered on the importance of health and vitality in the church. Churches need to remain vital, which means that they must be in a constant state of renewal. “Churches need to invest in their own vitality,” Brad noted, which is not dependent on size, location or the age of the congregation.

Each of us has a personal responsibility in this regard.

After another good discussion, we moved upstairs to prepare ourselves for worship.

Brad welcomed us warmly and noted that today would be the last message on his summer series about the life of David. He said he would be talking about sin today. He noted that we are all sinners saved by grace, hence as we gather here we are forgiven people, not perfect people.

Announcements included the upcoming Harvest Fest to be held in two weeks at the Twig Town Hall. There are still some volunteers needed to help pull it all together. Also, there are some oranges left which can be given to your neighbors inviting them to our community event. Be sure to take an orange when you leave next week... and to share it.

Wednesday night Adventure Club is also in need of volunteers for the coming year. Please contact Brooke if you have a passion for working with the young people in our church.

Also, Brooke keeps a calendar of events so that we can coordinate our various activities. If you have something planned, notify Brooke so she can get it placed on the calendar.

And finally, Gail noted the the church rummage sale is just around the corner and we need a couple volunteers to help price things.

After a time of worship, offering, Scripture reading (Luke 14:1, 7-14) and prayer, Brad presented his sermon from the front of the sanctuary.


Today's message was drawn from the account of David and Bathsheba, as recorded in II Samuel 11 and 12. Brad opened by saying that if you are not struggling today, one day you will be struggling with sin. Whether it's a habit of cutting sarcasm or Internet porn, sin is damaging.

When we look at the story of David and Bathsheba, one wonders how a guy who was called "a man after God's own heart" and who loved God have behaved so badly. Brad showed us how this kind of thing happened in David's life and how it can happen to us.

Keep in mind that we are mistaken when we categorize sin into acceptable and unacceptable. All sin is sin in God's eyes.

The metaphor Brad use was of an intersection with a traffic light. Green means go, red means stop and yellow caution. The lights were red but David blew right through three of them. Here's the first.

Spiritual Drift
II Samuel 11 begins with the first clue. It was the spring, a time when kings go off to war, but "David remained in Jerusalem." Here was the leader of Israel not being where he was supposed to be.
There are a variety of reasons we sometimes don't follow the rules. It may be we think they no longer apply to us. We know that we should follow the rules, but when push comes to shove we often slip because we don't trust that God has our best interests in mind. Brad had us jump over to II Samuel 12:7-8 where we see how God wants to give us even more than we could imagine.
Playing God
One evening while David was walking on the roof of his palace he saw a beautiful woman named Bathsheba bathing on her roof. David, who was married, ignored any warning lights and sent someone to find out more about her. The man came back stating she was married to Uriah the Hittite and the daughter of Eliam. None of this hindered David who then sent messengers to get her. David disregarded the warning light and proceeded to sleep with her.
This sending is typical of people who play God, treating others as pawns in the service of their own needs. But we're not God, nor are we in control of all the variables. There are always consequences for sin. In this case, Bathsheba becomes pregnant.
David had two choices at this point: (A) Cover up... and thus perpetuate the problem. Or (B) Confess and repent, which is the path to restoration.
In verse 6 David does more sending, this time having Uriah retrieved from the battlefront, in the hopes that he will solve the pregnancy problem by sleeping with his wife. But Uriah is a man of integrity. Instead of going to his wife, he stays at the palace, sleeping with the servants. David attempts then to get Uriah drunk and send him back to his wife but Uriah, even when drunk, continues to behave honorably, stating that as long as the armies of Israel are sleeping in tents and open fields, he will not go home and sleep in his bed.
So David becomes cold, calculating, and let's Uriah return to the front, but gives orders to Joab that will ensure that Uriah dies in battle. David's heart has become cold.
Brad made the point here that David thought his biggest danger was getting caught. But there is a bigger danger, and that is not getting caught. The biggest danger, when we have sin in our lives, is getting away with it.
The Last Crossroads
Up till now David has done all the sending. But in chapter 12, God sends the prophet Nathan to confront David. Nathan, who is confronting a man who just killed someone to cover his tracks, uses a parable to get David's attention. The story riles David's righteous indignation. Then comes the twist, and God's voice broke through.
This is the last crossroads. God's judgment is next. "Some of you have gone down the road of sin for so long that you don't even know what the truth is," Brad said. "Listen to God. He wants to bless."
It's important that we get this right. Confession and repentance is the door to restoration and life.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

That I May Have a Harvest Among You

It was a somewhat unusual service this morning. Saturday night word went out via the prayer chain that Pastor Brad was on his way to the hospital, most likely appendix related. Those of us who gathered at the Breakfast Roundtable learned that Pastor was heading into surgery. By the end of our discussion on the question, "Do I believe God's best blessings are before us or behind us?" we learned that Brad's surgery was already complete, went well and he was in recovery.

Chuck Vanderscheuren stepped into Brad's shoes to lead the service. Darlene was also out today and Ed Newman filled in on piano. Chuck greeted us, and began with announcements which included the following:
1. The Harvest Festival at Twig Town Hall is coming soon. There will be a whole host of activities on September 12 from 8:00 a.m. till 2:30 with a worship service sandwiched in the middle. Hot air balloon rides will begin early, but there will be plenty more, including food, games, art, and a treasure hunt.
2. Volunteers are still needed for the rummage sale.
3. JoAnn Winship talked about Christ formation in our Christian education program and additional programs that are being discussed by our leadership team. There may still be a need for teachers and assistants.

As an introit Ed played Majesty in Spanish on the piano, pronounced Majastad. Chuck led the congregation in a number of hymns, which was followed by an offering and a time of prayer.

That I May Have a Harvest Among You

Chuck began by talking about how sometimes we feel helpless, perhaps like a car spinning on an icy road out of control. He shared a humorous letter written by Eric Borndal from camp to his parents when he was very young. The food and accommodations were so awful he thought he was going to die. Chuck remembered the first day of kindergarten being that way for some kids who cried because they had to leave their parents and come to school.

With this we began a short study of Romans 1:1-17.

Paul begins his letter to the Romans with a little information about himself. This is a letter to the church of Rome, a church which he has never seen, a church which he was not involved in founding, like many of the others he wrote letters to. In the opening he makes reference to his new birth, and his status, "a bondservant of the Jesus Christ."

Chuck described what a bondservant is. In ancient times when a slave has completed his service and is released, he could stay on as a permanent servant/slave to the master. The man would place his ear on the master's door and have it pierced, making him legal property of the master.

Paul was also an apostle, a calling not a job one obtains through ambitious maneuvering. He notes that he has been set aside for the Gospel.
After going through Paul's resume, Chuck asked what our spiritual resume would look like.

Beginning in verse 8, Paul shares his sentiments toward the church in Rome, how he is grateful for them and longs to see them. Paul's aim in coming to Rome was mutual encouragement as they each shared their gifts.

In verse 16 Paul declares that through preaching the Gospel, the power of God is unleashed, and in the God's salvation the character of God is revealed.

This letter was written at a time when Paul was dreaming about the possibilities of the Gospel when he comes soon to Rome. When was the last time you dreamed about seeing God's power released here? The best is yet to come.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Our Breakfast Roundtable meetings continue to produce thought provoking conversations. The first question we explored today was this one: What are the normal and natural ways people come to Christ, grow in Christ, indentify & deploy their spiritual gifts.

We explored the role of preaching in developing faith, the role of community, the role of children's ministies. Brad shared the difference between the Believe-->Behave-->Belong model of church as opposed to creating a sense of Belonging first. This concept intrigued us and led to further discussion on what a church is and can be. As regards our own church family, we were asked the question, "Do I feel confident inviting my friends to church?"

Brad noted that there's a characteristic of our church that he has noticed... our resistance to being formulaic. A perceptive observation.

The Service
Our weather this past week has been unusually hot, but what a change in the weather since last night. The autumn breezes blew in with a vengeance, disrupting plans for an outdoor gathering at Cresman's after the service. The announcements began, then, with a reminder to this effect, that our potluck would be here in the fellowship area downstairs. Alas.

Other announcements after the opening greeting by Pastor Brad included:
1. The Harvest Festival at Twig Town Hall is coming soon. September 12 we will be meeting and sharing ourselves with the local community.
2. There will be a council meeting Tuesday.
3. Volunteers are still needed for the rummage sale.
4. Sue Deloach is seeking volunteers who can serve as judges and helpers this coming weekend for the National Bible Bee. Judging involves listening to children relate Scripture to life. The event is Sept. 28.
5. Joanne mentioned the need for Sunday School teachers, as the Fall season is coming soon.
6. There will be an open house this Thursday from 5:00-8:00 p.m. at the Hallfrish's new home on Orange Street, courtesy Modest Home Makeover. Check out the new digs and enjoy a meal to boot.

Today's introit and worship was followed up with special music by Dan Moore who contributed a number of short God-honoring songs, during the offering and preceding the sermon. The Scripture reading today was from Hebrews 11:29-12:2.


"I think one of the most amazing moments in the development of a human being is when he or she utters that first words. Parents wait for the those words with baited breath." Mothers hope to hear "mama" and fathers "dada". The next word, though, is not so thrilling. "No!"

Many psychologists will say this is a necessary stage in a child's development, though most who say this have never had a small child of their own. But it happens, around this time, that kids pick up another word that they use a lot. "Mine!" Some people say this to their graves. My room, my toys, my games, my food, my time. It's on their checkbooks and their house and car and on their time.

Ultimately the day will come when each of us will come face to face with God and say one of two words, mine or yours. God will accept either but the choice is ours. The consequences are eternal.

Today's message focused on the champion of saying "Yours" to God. A close inspection of the record shows that on many occasions David indeed messed up royally. But one thing he got right, David had a generous heart. David loved to give, loved to share.

What does a generous heart look like? Today's message explored this theme by citing several in David's later life.

1) Moved more by needs of others than by one's own discontent.
I Samuel 30 deals with the story we heard last week about how the Amalekites came and destroyed their village while David and his army were away on a raiding mission. David and his men are led to pursue the Amalekites, but having already fought a long day's work the hard march proves too demanding for about 200 of the men who are utterly fatigued. David has them watch the supplies while they continue the chase, ultimately wiping out the Amalekites and retrieving their wives and children along with the other goods that had been absconded.

When David's army is reunited, many of those who had gone the extra mile were annoyed with those who had pooped out and claimed the plunder as theirs. David, however, reveals his generous heart by having everything shared with everyone. David's gratitude to God is central to David's generosity. His automatic response when it came to finances was to call to mind how gracious and generous God had been to him, and to be the same toward others.

The world we live in works differently. Accumulation, keeping up with the Joneses is the order of the day. "Don't play this game," Brad said. In God's economy the winner is not the one who collects the most goods, rather it is the one who gives the most.

2) Generous hearts look for opportunities to give.
II Samuel 24 has the lesson here. David wants to make a sacrifice to God after a devastating plague that has ravaged Israel. He has been instructed to go to the threshing floor of Araunah to make this sacrifice and Araunah offers to provide the oxen for the sacrifice. David, however, instead of allowing this insists that he pay for the oxen. His response is a model for all of us. "I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing."

Giving sets in motion a spiritual dynamic, Brad said. It not only impacts the giver, but also the recipient, as well as those who see it. Giving is a powerful act, because it is so contrary to human nature.

3) Generous hearts increasingly experience joy in giving
It was David who brought the ark back to Israel and brought about peace for Israel in the midst of her enemies. His earnest desire was to build a temple for the ark in Jerusalem. But God scratched this plan because David had too much blood on his hands. He had been a great warrior, but it would be his son Solomon who would build the temple. For David, the next best thing was to generously contribute to this end, and I Chronicles 29 tells the story.

With a joyful heart he declares the extent of what he desires to give from his personal coffers to build the temple. In verse 5 he asks, "Who of you will follow my example?" The leaders of the people responded not grudgingly but willingly. In verse 8 the people rejoiced in the generosity of their leaders.

"It's not my stuff," Brad said emphatically. All we have is from God, for God, and will return to God. What God is looking for in us is a willing spirit. God loves a cheerful giver, Paul wrote in the New Testament.

God has given His all for us. Now it is our turn.
What if.... What if we got so fired up that others saw it. We want a church that is stronger for the future so that our children will see what even we do not see.

After the service we shared a potluck meal with fresh brats, burgers and generous portions for everyone.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

In the Cave

Pastor Brad Shannon, in his opening greeting, again referenced our Breakfast Roundtables which have been taking place this summer before church. This morning we discussed the question, "What sin does our church need to repent of?" which resulted in many good insights to mull over. We analyzed what it means to be a community of believers, why we allow other priorities to dislodge God from first place, and other related topics. Ultimately, we agreed that it is possible we have been settling for 2nd best, out of convenience, rather than really giving our best.

Announcements this after the greeting included a reminder that we'd like to give water to runners at next Saturday's Twig 5K Run, along with invitations to our church. Contact Brad if you're planning to help.

Gail mentioned that volunteers are needed for the church rummage sale that is coming up in September. Joanne mentioned the need to teachers and other helpers for our Sunday School program, which will kick off on September 19. There will also be some special meetings to discuss how to make our youth programs more effective in Christian formation.

Darlene's introit, How Great Is Our God, hit the right notes in our hearts as she ushered us into worship today. After the singing of hymns, Ed Newman took the pulpit to share "a moment for mission."

Ed shared a story about Bob and Betty King, a couple from Texas whose generosity touched Ed & Susie's hearts when they were working at an orphanage in Mexico in 1980-81. In 1986 the Kings left their jobs and began an orphanage in Mexico near the border, which grew to three children's homes. A month ago, when Hurricane Alex slammed into Northern Mexico, there was much flooding with damage that included the orphanage. All mattresses and furniture had to be discarded, among other things. The website for these children's homes is:

For more information about the flood damage and how to help, visit

After the reading of Scripture (Ruth Anne read from Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16) and a time of prayer, Brad spoke the Word that was on his heart.

In the Cave

Brad began by noting that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who like Star Trek and those who don't. What he wanted to draw attention to was the slogan at the beginning of this popular show: "To boldly go where on man has gone before." It seemed to him that this desire to do and to be and to explore is something innate within us. But somewhere along the way in life, this boldness gets short circuited.

One of the things that often cripples us is discouragement. It might come from the loss of a job, the loss of a home, or the loss of one's family. In David's life, we find all this and more. He had been in the service of King Saul when he was driven away. He lost his home as he was now on the run. He lost his wife Michal, Saul's daughter, when she was given to another man in his stead. He lost his spiritual mentor Samuel a short time after and his best friend Jonathan.

David sought safety in Philistine territory, but even this had bad consequences and after escaping (by feigning insanity) he escaped to the cave of Adullam. Brad said that when everything is stripped away, this is where we end up... in the cave. It's a place where we wonder, "God, have you forgotten me?"

But Brad noted that God can do some of His best work in caves. By looking at David's life we learned four things that we can do when we find ourselves in the cave.

1) David talked openly with God

We know how David responded when he reached bottom because Brad had us turn to Psalm 142, A maskil of David when he was in the cave.

David communicated his pain to God. The pastor said that many people allow their pain to congeal into a low grade discouragement. "It sucks the life out of you," he said, adding that this is not from God. Tragically, some people live their whole lives that way. He told us that God's "complaint department" is always open to us.

2) David took action and did not dwell on it.

Circumstances were bad, even unfair. He had been anointed king, yet was running for his life. He had acted in all things from good motives, yet was being hunted down like an animal.

In I Samuel 30, a little later in the story, David and his band of misfit followers -- the distressed, disgruntled, indebted -- have managed to survive by raiding Philistine villages while living in a place called Ziklag. On one occasion, they returned from a raid to find their own village had been ransacked, pillaged and burned. All the women, children and elderly were taken as plunder.

David could have despaired. These people had rallied round him and his leadership led to this. But instead, David sought counsel from the Lord through Abiathar the priest. The Lord said to pursue them. "You will overtake them and succeed in the rescue."

Brad's point is that lamenting is O.K., but then there is a time for action.

3) David resisted temptation.

In I Samuel 24, when David and his men were hiding in the cave, on the run from Saul who was seeking to kill David, an amazing "coincidence" occurred. Saul went into the very cave where David and his men were hiding in order to relieve himself. David's men saw it as the Lord delivering Saul into his very hand.

David crept up in the darkness, getting so near that he was able to cut off a piece of the corner of Saul's robe. But he knew it would have been wrong to kill Saul in that manner. He recognized and acknowledged by example the principle, "touch not the Lord's anointed." He resisted the temptation to take a shortcut to the throne. He was even conscience stricken at cutting off a piece of Saul's robe.

Many of us can be tempted to take shortcuts to what we believe God has promised us, whether financial or in relationships. This is not God's way.
4) David found his ultimate refuge in God.
It's a theme repeated throughout the Psalms. "In You I find refuge," David says over and over again. We need to find strength in the knowledge that God is our refuge and we can trust Him.

"God is in the cave with you," Brad said as he led us into his powerful closing insight, because God knows all about caves.

Jesus, "the son of David", walked this same path of suffering. He lost his teaching job, lost His home, was taken from His friends who all abandoned Him, and was crucified alone. Amazingly, His life ended in a cave.... and on the third day, the world was shaken by His resurrection power. This is our God... Resurrection power. We are not abandoned in the cave.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

David Danced

Our Breakfast Roundtable discussions have been meaningful and rewarding. We invite you to join us for a free breakfast each week and some great discussion. Brad began by reading the poem, If God Should Go On Strike. Then Pam read from the book of Revelation 3:1-6. Today we explored the question, "What's the level of spiritual hunger in our church?"

The question brought out a lot of good discussion about where the church is at. We are certainly not a church in stagnation, but what we want or need to be is not entirely clear. What does a church look like that has spiritual hunger? What risks are we willing to take?

One person noted that he has seen spiritual hunger from the pulpit and in small group situations he has been in. Another noted that the people in our church seem to come on Sundays because they want to, not because the feel they "should."

Some of the discussion centered on evangelism. It was noted that there are countless needs and causes we could rally around, but evangelism is one role that can sometimes get neglected. Brad threw a seed though out to us suggesting that maybe it would be useful to have a goal, eleven new Christians in 2011. "Evangelism is not a sales pitch," he said. "It is a proclamation." Is the church willing to step up to the challenge?

Today's service began with a reiteration of the breakfast discussion theme. What's my level of hunger and thirst for God? In addition to inviting people to attend our Breakfast Roundtables, Brad mentioned the upcoming Harvest Festival, and also put out a request for volunteers to man the booth at the Twig 5K run in two weeks (August 14).

Other announcements included the need for volunteers for the 9/11 rummage sale at Twig Town Hall and a request for school supplies for the beginning of the new school year (for needy kids). Monday evening from 4:00-8:00 p.m. the new Five Guys hamburger joint will be donating a portion of all proceeds to the Modest Home Makeover project. Bring an appetite!

Darlene ushered us into worship with a special piece of music. Then Brad and Darlene led us in singing. After the offering, a Scripture reading (Col. 3:1-11) and a time of prayer, Brad took the pulpit and delivered his message.

David Danced

Brad opened with a fairy tale. "The frog said to the princess, 'I was once a handsome prince, until an evil witch put a spell on me. One kiss from you and I'll turn back into a handsome prince, and then we can marry, move into the castle, and you can prepare my meals, clean my clothes, bear my children and forever feel happy doing so.' That night the princess had frog legs for dinner."

The sermon today related to this humorous tale in that it involved royalty and relationships, though in this case it was a princess who had a king for lunch. The story appears in I Chronicles 15 with a concluding observation from the parallel account in II Samuel 6.

The story, which took place 1000 B.C., took place on the occasion of the return of the Ark of the Covenant to its rightful place in Jerusalem. This was the second attempt to bring the Ark back to Mount Zion, the first being marred by violations pertaining to the holy manner in which it was to be transported. The Ark -- a portable chest which carried a number of objects sacred to the people of Israel including the two tablets of stone and Aaron's rod which budded --was made of wood and overlaid with pure gold. Designed to reside in the Holy of Holies, it was a most sacred object, central to Hebrew worship.

David had issued a decree. The Ark was to be brought into Jerusalem, into the City of God, and thousands had gathered. The text states that David worshiped with exuberance. This was an occasion that caused his heart to swell with joy, and as he participated in the procession he danced with all his might.

Meanwhile, his wife Michal watched from a window. She not only didn't participate, she was found David's behavior an embarrassment. As the procession made its way through the street, with priests and ark carriers and musicians in their plain linen uniforms, one person there couldn't help but be noticed. He was all consumed in the moment, dancing, leaping and whirling, expressing everything within him to the glory of God. This was David, and Michal's thoughts ran along this line: "Doesn't he realize he looks ridiculous? He's making a fool out of himself."

Brad reminded us that Michal was Saul's daughter. Saul was the kind of guy who went so far as to build a monument to himself after one battle. Michal had pre-conceived ideas of what kingly behavior should look like and this was not it. As David danced wildly in the streets, the Scripture says, "She despised him in her heart."

For Michal, image is what was important. Because of this, she failed to see the beauty of David's heart. David's behavior was not an attempt to draw attention to himself. He was totally self-forgetting, lost in his rapturous passion for God. God is glorious, and David led by example as if to say, "This is how we show our love to God."

God is deserving of glory. And immediately after the Ark is returned, David offers up his Psalm of thanks, which you can read in I Chronicles 16.

The rest of the story can be found in II Samuel 6. "And Michal was barren the rest of her life." She played it safe, watched from a distance, and never understood what was happening. Brad said it is dangerous to be a religious spectator.

Somewhere within us there has to be a passion for God. This passion will motivate us to go outside our comfort zones. Christianity is not designed to only comfort us, but to lead us to serve others. We live to bring glory to God. It's not about bringing glory to me.

Our goal is that God would be glorified in every square inch of this planet, and in every square inch of our lives.

This closing thought was a very good way to enter into Communion.