The morning began grey and cold, but the sun eventually emerged and though still chill outside we were welcomed warmly as Pastor Brad Shannon exclaimed, "Good morning!" He proceeded to note that it was the fifth Sunday in Lent, and our theme these past many weeks has been about discerning God's voice and learning to walk with Jesus every day.
There were a string of announcements including the following:
1. Following service the nominating committee will meet to discuss recommendations for leadership in the church.
2. At the end of April the church will have its annual meeting
3. New Membership meetings will be held and people interested in joining out church family should contact Brad for details.
4. Palm Sunday is next week and there will be a Good Friday service on April 6th and an Easter Breakfast here at the church followed by our traditional Easter egg hunt for the kids.
5. This Friday there will be an overnight event for youth…. Elsa said to come at 7:00 p.m. and bring snacks. (A $20 contribution was suggested for those for whom it is not a hardship.)
After annoncements we transitioned into the service with Brad's blessing, “The Lord be with you…”
“And also with you," the congregation affirmed.
Chuck Vanderscheuren read to us a passage from Romans 8. He prefaced it with comments about how he has been involved in visiting the prison and some homeless shelters lately and thinking about how kids are affected as he sees children visit their fathers and talk to them through a screen. “Even though I’m an ordinary guy, we serve an extraordinary God.”
It was a spot on intro to the song “Marvelous Grace… God’s grace… grace that will pardon and cleanse within… grace that is greater than all our sin,” by the quartet, beautiful as usual, tenderly singing of God’s grace.
Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace… freely bestowed on all who receive.
The quartet followed this with Heavenward Bound, their voices melodically blending and lifting us to worship, and then Come to the Waters, inviting us to join in on the chorus that so stirs us when fully grasped... “And I strove to remind you that for those tears I died.”
At the opening of the service Brad said we were grateful to have Joel Osterlund with us, director of Covenant Park Bible Camp. After the congregational songs were complete, he invited Joel to the pulpit.
Joel shared that he was here the first Sunday of the year, and happy to back with us. He's anticipating a very busy summer. He's served on summer staff in 1995 and 96 when he was at UMD and is happy to be back. He reminded us that New Life Covenant is one of the owners of the camp which consists of numerous buildings and dozens of acres near on a lake in Mahtowa. One goal of the camp is to help the member churches achieve their own missions and goals. Joel said he liked our mission, which is to connect, grow and become.
Osterlund also shared some of the significant impact of what has been happening there at the camp and asked us to pray and continue praying for the ministry there.
Like all ministries, volunteers help make it happen. "Whatever your skill, there’s a place for you." Financial support helps ministries to exist, too. He encouraged us to continue to use the camp, send kids to camp and tell people about the camp. The theme this summer: Power Up!
“And you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you…”
Ed Newman read John 12:20-33 for us. Afterwards, prayer requests were taken, and a time of intercession for the many needs in our church family.
Walk with the Lord
We have a God who does speak to us. He is not silent. He has a great adventure planned that is full of hope and a future for us. It’s not like a maze or so complicated we can’t hope to figure it out.
Pastor Shannon summed up the key points of recent messages in this series. Here's the basic principle: God is much more concerned about who we are than where we are going or what we do. It’s not like searching for a needle in a haystack. It’s about listening for His voice. As we learned from Joseph, we know God is always at work and will not bail out on us. But we also learned that God is never in a hurry. And we’ve learned that waiting is an active thing, not passive. Moment by moment surrender to His leadership of our lives.
Of course we can go wrong on both sides of the road. If you’re getting neurotic about every decision… relax. If you’re too laid back, you will also miss out on God’s best for your life.
Here's one last principle to help you, he said as we returned to Psalm 37:3-5. Trust, do good, delight yourself in the Lord, rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him
If you think God does NOT care about the desires of your heart, THAT is a lie. It’s the kind of lie that Satan, the deceiver, told Adam and Eve in the Garden…
God has plans for us. Good plans…
This verse in Psalm 37 assures us that if we make pursuing Him the supreme delight of our hearts, He will give us the desires of our hearts. "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart."
The Key Thought: If you are pursuing God’s person, then pursue the passions that are running deepest in your heart.
God stamped in us a passion that honors Him. But it's a bad thing to skip the “delight yourself in the Lord” and just pursue passions. You'll end up in the Mojave Desert without a compass. The key is to pursue wisely. When we sense it’s time to go in a direction, here are four principles to keep you on track.
1) Run your passions through the filter of His Word
Full of hope, real life studies, ability to discern right actions… Ps. 119: “By Your words I can see where I am going…” This is the inspired revelation of God. (The entirety of Psalm 119 is a worthwhile source of meditation.)
Psalm 19, too, has much to say on this subject, beginning with verses 7 and 8.
7 The law of the LORD is perfect,
refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of the LORD are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
If your passions match up with Word, this is an excellent beginning.
2) Through the presence of God’s Spirit
A person’s presence has an impact on us. Brad told a golfing story in which he and a friend were paired with another pair of golfers whom they didn't know. The one fellow cussed like a sailor after every smack of the ball. Brad didn't say a censoring word about it. But when they finished the third hole the one fellow asked what Brad and his friend did for a living. Brad said he was a pastor, and what a change came over the other golfer. After shanking his next shot, he bit his lip and simply said, "My, my, my."
Here's the point. The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, is with you. Do you live your life as if accompanied by the person of God? What if Jesus was on your foursome? What if Jesus was in your garage with you? What if Jesus came to your house and spent a day with you?
If you are a follower of Jesus, the Holy Spirit will take up residence in you…. God is paying attention, but speaks to us quietly, and guides us if we will listen.
3) The counsel of close friends
Proverbs 13:20 states, “Whoever walks with the wise will become wise.”
Who do you get advice from? Who do you listen to when you need counsel? Who are your close spiritual companions? “Close friendships in Christ have played a huge role in my life,” Brad said.
Some people play a roulette game with counselors. They go share their passion with one person, and when they don’t hear what they want to hear, they go to someone else, and then someone else till the can find somebody who says “That’s a good idea.”
I bounce off friends, ask them to pray, but still run it through filter of God’s word.
4) Convergence as a guiding factor
When you look back at your life you see that the combination of serendipitous events and opening doors leads to a single lane road that is clear. The convergence of various signals and paths is a serious clue.
Brad shared an example from American Idol where people get the door slammed in their faces yet they somehow imagine, delusionally, “I will not let this stop me.” They ignore all the signals, determined to get through.
But sometimes the door opens and it gets pretty exciting. Brad said that when he has this experience of opening doors and it is “right” it is always accompanied by peace. "Peace is not the absence of fear. It is a deep, abiding sense that you have in spite of the fears."
Isa. 30:21 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”
This is not some mystical experience that a few unusual people have.
Brad summarized his thoughts by noting that this Lenten series has had one aim, that of having our hearts right so we fall in love with God again. And to make Him the joy of our lives.
If you pursue His person, and start moving toward the passions He's put within you, you really could end up being the right person in the right place at the right time for His right purposes.
Have you become a follower of Jesus? Have you accepted His invitation to come? If not, maybe it is time…