Sunday, March 27, 2011

Experiencing Peace from the One We Follow

Cold outside but sunny as we gathered for worship today. Brad's warm greeting included the introduction of today's theme: peace. "How do you sustain peace when things go wrong?" The Bible speaks of a peace that surpasses understanding.

Worship preceded announcements today. Chuck introduced the first song by commenting on the severe winds this week. There are times it is good to have a refuge, he said as he introduced the reading of a passage from Psalm 71 before the quartet sang "Through It All" and "You Raise Me Up."

Announcements included:
1) Covenant missionary to Mexico Carl Peterson will be here next Sunday, April 4. Please join us as during the Sunday school hour as well as the service to hear more about Covenant missions. 2) The next four weeks there will be meetings presenting findings of the building committee.
3) April 10 is our annual meeting. Please join us after the service. The reading of Romans 5:1-11 and a time of prayer preceded the message.

Experiencing Peace from the One We Follow

Brad began by citing a portion of Isaiah 2:4 which speaks of a coming time of peace to a nation at war. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. In ancient times the Hebrews had a word for peace which comes down to us to this day: Shalom. The word means more than peace, richer in substance. It includes the idea, "I wish there would be no conflict in your life and I wish there would be a spirit of well being and prosperity in your inner person. Shalom."

When people have lived in conflict, peace is good. In Isaiah 6 the coming Messiah is referred to as the Prince of Peace. When the angels announced the birth of Jesus they spoke of the peace He would bring. One of Jesus' most famous sayings was John 14:27, "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you." And in John 16:33 Jesus said, "I have told you these things so that you might have peace."

Paul's letters, too, make many references to God's kind of peace: Ephesians 2:14, Romans 5:1, Colossians 3:15 and II Thessalonians 3:16. It is God's preferred state for the world and for individuals, to have His peace rule and reign. International peace, interracial peace, intergenerational peace, interpersonal peace and internal soul level peace. This last would be the focus of Brad's sermon today.

There are many things that militate against our living with peace in our lives. Brad cited five of these "Peace Busters" this morning. 1) Sudden unexpected bad news. 2) Relational breakdowns. 3) Financial pressure. 4) Restlessness, remorse and shame when we cross moral boundaries. 5) Coming to terms with the knowledge that we are going to die.

God's preferred state for us is Shalom.

What do we do when peacebusters come crashing in? The Bible says we can live with peace. Here are four things we can do.

1) Call a time out In II Corinthians 10:5 Paul writes, “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Our thoughts are what lead us out of God’s peace. We tend to awfulize and catastrophize about things and it makes us nearly hysterical inside. Brad shared that the hardest part of leadership is leading ourselves. When things hit us out of the blue, we have to stop the negative momentum. We call a time out.

2) Focus mind on what we know to be true. I am a cherished child of the most high God. Tell yourself the truth. Do not get sidetracked. If God is for us, who can be against us? There are many, many promises like this one in Scripture.

3) Declare your faith in the power & goodness of God. How are you going to live each day? Brad says, “I am going to make a faith proclamation. God will be involved in this situation. Peace is directly linked to an attitude of faith-based optimism.

4) Action step. It may be a need to make reconciliation with someone you’re at odds with. Or ask forgiveness of someone you’ve hurt. It may be you need help bringing your finances under control and you need to cut up your credit cards. Or, you may simply need to confess your sins and get straight with God.

Brad’s summing up was with these words: “May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you. May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.”

This is what God wants for each of you.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Receiving Joy from the One We Follow

As usual, Brad welcomed us warmly this first day of spring and second Sunday in Lent. "Good morning. I'm grateful you're here." He reminded us that his theme these several weeks will be the fruit of the Spirit.

Announcements included mention that the first Sunday of each month we would be having cake to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and special events of the month. The third Sunday would be a potluck meal.

After Darlene's introit and a time of worship, Walt Cresman presented an update from the building committee. The next step is a needs assessment. The finance committee has completed its foundational work and the building committee will meet Monday evening to continue its efforts to move things forward.

Today's Scripture reading by Eli was from John 3:1-17, the story of Nicodemus. After a time of prayer and praise, Pastor Brad delivered today's message.

Receiving Joy from the One We Follow

Brad began by sharing some humorous examples from a word game in which you take a common word, change one letter to make an alternate word and give it a definition. For example, change one vowel from intoxication and you have intaxication, the euphoria of getting a tax refund which lasts until you realize it was your money to begin with. Or Beezelbug, which is Satan in the form of a mosquito that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out. Or Karmageddon, a New Age term which is like when everybody is sending off these really bad vibes, and then the earth explodes and its a serious bummer.

This last word became the start point for today's message. "You know, it seems to me there's a lot of stressed out, angry, grim-faced people experiencing a kind of karmageddon in their lives these days. Everything's going bad and feels like it's falling apart," he began.

Yet, in the midst of all this stress and anger, the New Testament says an amazing thing. Paul wrote to the Philippians, "Always be joyful... and again, I say rejoice." Brad said it was one of his favorite verses, and a verse his dad lived out.

How can I be full of joy all the time? Is this possible in a broken world like ours? It's challenging to stay on the upbeat side of life when facing challenging circumstances. Or when there's friction in your family. Or when surrounded by difficult people.

The author of these words was well acquainted with challenging circumstances and difficult people. Five times he'd been whipped to within an inch of his life. Several times he'd been imprisoned, three times beaten with rods, stoned once, shipwrecked three times and on one of those occasions spent a night and a day in the open sea. He knew hunger and hardship throughout his ministry, survived assassination plots and knew what it was like to be cold and naked. Yet he could say unflinchingly, "Rejoice always."

Brad paused to remind us that this message is not directed to those many Americans who suffer from clinical depression caused by physiological chemical imbalances that result in socially disabling mood disorders.

Many people think that happiness is a beach in Florida. Brad stated that the happiest place in the universe is the place where God is. That's because God Himself is full of joy. He is not dour, nor should He be viewed as a cosmic party pooper.

Yet many people have a distorted view of God as a spoilsport because of the Christians they have encountered in many of the churches they have been in. Hence, Billy Joel sings, "I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints."

The Bible presents a different image of God, and today's sermon presented the case for a joyful creator. Brad shared with us a passage about God's joyfulness from Dallas Willard's The Divine Conspiracy.

Joy is God's basic essence. It is who He is. Joylessness, Brad said, is a sin because it is acting as if God is not right there with you.

In John 15 Jesus' friends became depressed when He told them He was leaving. He said, "I told you this... so that your joy may be full."

There are more than a hundred verses in the Old Testament and more than a hundred-fifty in the New about joy. God's kind of joy is far deeper than a good belly laugh after a funny joke.

Joyful people know they are deeply loved. The joyless are often people who don't know they're loved.

In Acts chapter 8, when the Ethiopian was baptized, the Bible says "from that point on he went on his way rejoicing." He knew he was loved by God. Highly loved people are highly joyful.

It says of Jesus that "for the joy set before Him endured the cross." That joy set before Him was you. He went to that cross out of love for you.

And the follow up: "Love others as I have loved you." No matter what's going on inside, look beyond your cross. David went through hard things, too, but penned, "I know the Lords is always with me."

What are the roadblocks in your life that keep you from experiencing joy? I want you to know that you are deeply loved.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Learning To Love

This morning's greeting included a reminder that this was the first Sunday in Lent, a time of reflection as we move through the weeks toward Easter. "How am I doing as a follower of Jesus?" Pastor Brad's focus these weeks of Lent would upon the fruit that should be growing in us as we walk with Jesus.

1. The council will be meeting Tuesday evening.
2. Carl Peterson, a Covenant missionary serving in Mexico, will be here the first Sunday in April.
3. April 10 we will have our Annual Meeting.
4. April 9 there will be a pancake breakfast 8-noon at St. Benedict's Church as a fund raiser for cancer research.

Darlene and the quartet opened the service with a rendition of the song Praise His Name. They proceeded to lead us in a period of worship. The offering was taken while the quartet sang about God being with us not only in the good times but also in the hard. "The God of the day is still God of the night."

The reading of Matthew 4:1-11 and a time of prayer preceded the sermon.

Learning to Love from the One We Follow

Brad began by by reading a section of I Corinthians 13 beginning at verse 4. He would return to this passage twice more in today's message.

He then talked about love. We talk about love, sing about love, think about love and we all want love in our lived. And he proceeded to tell us about the loves in his life, beginning with the girl he was in love with in fifth grade. She had braided pg tails down her back, "and I longed to pull them because I was in love with this girl. That's how boys showed affection in fifth grade.

Later in life his dating techniques improved. He described a movie date, and even a first kiss, and eventually the altar with this girl now a young woman.

Forrest Gump once said, "I may not be a smart man, but I know what love is."

Brad shared that there were several Greek words for love. He summed up Eros with this statement, "What can I get for me?" Phileo is the Greek word for friendship love, a word that is at the heart of the name Philadelphia, city of brotherly love. And then there is Agape, God's kind of love. He defined agape as that "in spite of how I feel or what you did, supernatural difference-making love." This is I Corinthians 13.

What Brad did next was share how he personalizes this passage. Instead of reading, "Love is patient, love is kind" Brad said he asks, "Am I patient? Am I kind?"

Love ought to be a priority in our lives and our highest goal. And he asked what has been growing in our lives these past ten years? Our bellies? Our foreheads? Or our hearts? A bigger heart is what matters.

"Now I am giving you a new commandment," Jesus said. "Love one another, as I have love you." The love He speaks of is sacrificial and unconditional.

Love is inclusive. Jesus was notorious for including those whom others had rejected, from lepers to prostitutes. Jesus considered everyone better than Himself. If all you do is love the lovable, why is this commendable? Everyone does that.

Love is approachable. Jesus was approachable. Even in the midst of a busy day, with crowds pressed around him, he had time to set a child on his knee.

Brad said it's his desire to always be approachable. He may not be available at all times, but he most assuredly strives to be constantly approachable. Husbands, are you approachable? Wives, are you approachable? As a manager do you lead by intimidation or are you approachable? Parents, would your children say you are approachable?

Another feature of Jesus' love was that He was not only approachable but He would touch the untouchable. Brad shared a story about a man dying of AIDS whose parents only concern was to make sure that no one knew the cause of his death, rather than to make sure that he knew he was loved. Some have said AIDS is God's curse on homosexuals, but Brad noted that others have wondered if AIDS might be God's test of how compassionate we will be.

Great need is a time of great opportunity. Mother Teresa observed, "We can do no great things, only small things with great love."

In I John 3 we read, "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers."

Brad wondered whether one reason we do not love more today is because we move too fast. Maybe the most loving thing we can do is slow down, to rest, replenish.

He said that even when our intentions are good, one of our biggest problems is that we use the wrong power source. There are two kinds of love... Brand X, which is feeling-based, sentiment driven, and then there is supernatural love.

Galatians 5:22-23 speaks of the fruit of the Spirit, beginning with love. God grows this love inside of us.

In this time of Lent, Brad urged us to use this time to get to know Jesus better. Love is the only thing that counts. Open yourself up to that.

In closing, Brad returned again to the passage from I Corinthians 13. He asked to read it differently this time, to personalize it.

I am patient, I am kind, I do not envy... When we think honestly on the meanings of these words, it's easy to see that we have a long way to go.


This morning's message was about love. Your faithful scribe will share notes about the service shortly in the next blog entry. But first, I wanted to share this song which I heard many years ago, sung by the Longenecker family at a missions conference in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania. The Longeneckers were home on furlough from service in Yemen.

Love Is Oneness

Love is oneness, oh how sweet
to obey this law;
The unlovely we may meet
need our love the more.
Make us one, oh Love, we plead
with men's sorrow and their need.

We are one in needing love
let us true love show;
Only Love's Son from above
makes our spirits grow.
Love us, this is our heart's need,
Let us love and live indeed.

We are also one in this
we must love or die;
Loving others is true bliss
self-love is a lie.
Love of self is inward strife,
love turned outward is true life.

Let us love and fruitful be
love is God's own breath.
Love will kindle love and see
new life born from death.
Nowhere is a heaven more sweet
than where loving spirits meet.

Feb 1976

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Pastor Brad opened the service by reminding us that today is Transfiguration Sunday, the transition between the end of Epiphany and the beginning of Lent. We were reminded that there will be an Ash Wednesday service here midweek, with a soup and sandwich dinner (6:15 p.m.) preceding the service, which will include the imposition of ashes. It has historically been a very special time here at New Life and will undoubtedly be the same again this year.

Other announcements included a overnight youth event Friday, and the need for a substitute teacher for Joanne who will be away on April 3 and 10.

Darlene shared a lively introit today, and then Brad read a pair of passages to officially open the services. One was taken from II Corinthians and the other John 8:12 in which Jesus says, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

After a time of worship and the offering, Pam shared a moment for missions in which she talked about Covenant World Relief. Covenant World Relief is the humanitarian aid arm of the Evangelical Covenant Church. Funds donated to Covenant World Relief are used in two ways: first, for disaster relief and second, for transformational community development. For more information visit

Today's Scripture reading was from Matthew 6:25-34. After a time of prayer Shylee Smith blessed us with a special song, "Turn Up the Music." Pastor Brad stepped up to the pulpit.


What is the most repeated command in Scripture? Is it sexual integrity and the need to keep our hearts pure? Is it to love one another? Brad said it may come as a surprise but the most repeated command is, "Fear not." Stop worrying.

This is not to say that total absence of fear is good. Healthy fears keep us safe sometimes, but there are unhealthy fears which can become chronic, distorting our whole outlook on life.

Fear keeps people from trusting God and others. Fear can deceive us and keep us from faith.

Circumstances are not the cause of our problems, and many examples from the Bible can be cited to illustrate. For example, when Moses sent the twelve spies into Israel to scout out the land, ten saw trouble, two were commended for seeing the possibilities and opportunities. Likewise, when David brought supplies to the army of Israel on one occasion, they were all cowering in terror. David saw a different situation, grabbed his slingshot and slew the giant Goliath. In the New Testament we find Jesus and the disciples cross a lake in a boat when a storm comes up. These men were terrified out of their wits at the possibility that their lives were lost. Meanwhile, Jesus was asleep and completely at ease in the same boat.

The key to overcome worry is to adjust your mindset. Your perspective is the primary determinant. Perspective gives you the ability to sort what is important and what is not.

Often, when we read the words "fear not" in Scripture, they precede an action or step which God is calling someone to.... or calling a group of people to. By references to the new building project, it is likely that Brad had a specific application in mind here. Are we going to keep our fears in perspective or allow ourselves to be paralyzed by them.

There were five points the pastor made regarding fear and worry.

1) Chronic fear erodes self esteem.
People who take action experience growth and delight. When you avoid taking action because of worry, it hollows you out.

Not all situations are easy, but taking initiative will leave you affirmed inside because even if you fail you will know that you at least tried. Attempting something in the face of fear is an act of courage. If you wimp out, inside you will die a little more each time.

2) Growth involves risk.
Fear results in stagnation. When we allow fear to dictate our future, it will kill our future. Here Brad pointed out the building project across the road is an example where there is risk but also opportunity.

3) Living in fear sucks the joy out of life.
All too often our imaginations run to the negative side of things and we "catastrophize" things. (ednote: My psychologist brother calls it "awfulizing".) 90% of what we worry about does not come to pass.

4) It will lead to a mountain of regret.
Abraham left everything he was familiar with to go to an new place, a new life that was completely uncertain and unknown to him. Moses, too, had to leave the comfortable and step into the unknown. Daniel had to trust God as he stepped into a den of lions.

We can go for the comfortable, or step out and experience a God moment. No one in Scripture who trusted God ever regretted it. Some did say no to God, and He leaves the choices to us. The rich young ruler probably ended up regretting his choice by the time he was a rich old ruler. We'll never know God is trustworthy until we take a chance and trust Him.

5) There is a cost to anxiety.
Brad said he never thought he was a worrier until he had children. Parents need to be careful about transmitting their worries to their children.

Jesus had some advice for those who worry, this familiar passage from Matthew 6.
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Brad then reminded us of another familiar passage, Romans 8:31-38 which ends with the powerful promise, "Nothing can separate us from the love of God."

If that's really true, what's holding you back? Once you really grasp this truth, it will revolutionize your life.

We closed the service by celebrating the Lord's Supper.