Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Wisdom of the King

After a warm greeting Pastor Brad explained the seasons of the church year – Lent, Pentecost, etc. -- and that this is Christ the King Sunday as we prepare for Advent.

The Inviting everyone to join us for informal adult Sunday school gatherings Dec 9 chili feed… Men as Peacemakers afternoon Dawn shared: Salvation Army adopt-a-family wish list is in the back of the sanctuary

The Scripture reading today was from John 18:33-37, a passage dense with profound insights, the encounter between Pilate and the Christ:

33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”
35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”
36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

After the worship time, Duayne Anderson shared with us some notes from this past week’s leadership meeting. He talked briefly about the work that is being done through the Covenant church around the world using the funds we generously give from our weekly offerings. Millions of dollars of free care has been provided for handicapped, medical care in the Congo, support for churches in 38 countries and more. Our church is part of something much larger than what we simply do here.

Our time of prayer made us aware again of the many needs in our church family as we lifted up them up.

The Wisdom of the King

Pastor Shannon gave himself a task this week: to find something to tell us to help us deal with the times we live in. In this case he chose as his source the wisdom of another man’s pen, a man named Agur. Agur was so wise that God chose to include some of his wisdom in the Scripture. Proverbs 30:24-28.

Instead of focusing on big leaders and big creatures, he chose small, unattractive creatures, modeling down, not up.

24 “Four things on earth are small,
yet they are extremely wise:
25 Ants are creatures of little strength,
yet they store up their food in the summer;
26 conies are creatures of little power,
yet they make their home in the crags;
27 locusts have no king,
yet they advance together in ranks;
28 a lizard can be caught with the hand,
yet it is found in kings’ palaces.

Some people live in the past, always thinking about what was, with regret or comfort. Some live in the present, their motto being "Now is the accepted time." Some live in the future. Like Annie they sing, "Tomorrow, tomorrow, there's always tomorrow"… or like Dorothy, "Somewhere over the rainbow..."

Ants work in summer to prepare for the winter that lies ahead.

Brad used the ant to remind us how important it is that that we be people of the Word. Proverbs, repeatedly reminds people to read and understand and know the word of God. Our lesson from the ant is this: Take advantage of the summer, because the winter lies ahead.

There are many ways we experience winter. Unexpected disease, children that reject us and our values, job loss... In a variety of ways we see winter coming, with its broken hopes, broken dreams and broken hearts.

We live in a culture with much winter. For many life itself is like Narnia when it was ruled by the White Witch, always winter and never Christmas.

Though ants have little strength they know they must use the summer to prepare for the winter than lies ahead. Message: We must be people of the Word in preparation for the winters that comes for all. It takes time to study the Bible… it is work, but it’s like taking vitamins. It is a daily regimen that strengthens us for life.

Conies are creatures of little power that make their home in the rocks. Coney is another name for the rock badger. They're grey, the color of rocks. When predators come, they hide in the rocks. They know where their security lies.

If you have the wisdom of a badger, you will know where your security is. It lies in a relationship to God. Knowledge about God is not the same thing as knowing God and having a relationship with Him. Knowing about the Bible does not mean we know God.

Two things of note regarding the coney:
1. He’s got sense enough to know his weaknesses
2. He’s got sense enough to know his strength

"The locusts have no king but they advance together in ranks."

A grasshopper by itself is not very formidable, but joined together they have power. A swarm of locusts did 500 million dollars damage on the plains at the beginning of the last century. When we think of swarms of locusts and Scripture, the word that comes to mind is plague.

The more positive reference to locusts applies to our relationship to the body of Christ, the community of believers. You can’t be a Christian alone. You must be with other Christians. Christians together have power.

When Jesus sent out His disciples he sent them out two by two, not alone. The apostle Paul made a mark on history but he did not do it alone. He was linked with many others.

The New Testament is filled with the message of community. We need others and they need us. If you just go to church and don’t get involved, you are not going to make it or make the difference God intended you to make.

We are the body of Christ. The Lord's prayer begins, "Our Father..." You can’t go it alone.

A lizard can be caught with a hand yet is found in king’s palaces."

Small, unattractive, yet in the presence of a king. It’s incongruous. The image of grace embedded in this.

Brad told a story about trying to remove a screw once, and how impossible it was until someone showed him that it was not a typical screw and had to be turned the opposite way of all the usual screws most of us use. “It took me 30 years to learn the way to turn a screw," Brad said, "and now they changed the rules?” It was a reverse screw.

Everything in culture is at odds with truth. In God's equation, the way up is down. The way to rule is to serve. God' way is to elect and use the ordinary, not the Donald Trumps of the world. The ordinary, the fallen the broken will one day live in the King’s palace.

Pastor Brad cited a passage from C.S. Lewis' essay The Weight of Glory to underscore that there are no ordinary Christians.

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which,if you say it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilites, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people.... People small, and frail and not particularly attractive will one day be in God’s palace."

Summing up...

Four things on earth are very small, but if you could sit at their feet -- if you could find their feet -- you could learn some lessons. From the any you learn the value of knowing the times, knowing that today is summer and that winter is coming. From the coney you understand the need to know where your security is, that your security is in the Rock. From the locust you discover that your power is in community, rather than being a rugged individualist who foes it alone. If you have the perspective of a lizard, you see God’s incongruity. As you look at others you realize that these men and women with whom you share life here are destined to live in the presence of the King of Heaven.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Loud, almost boisterous chatter filled the sanctuary before the service today, no doubt due in part to the beautiful weather this weekend and the number of worshippers with us this morning. To bring us to order Pastor Brad stepped forward and declared, “I’m grateful to be here today.” With the approach of Thanksgiving he noted that “there is a specific kind of gratitude in Christianity.” And this would be our theme today.

~It's been a busy week. Brad noted that we had a funeral for Joe Stapleton Thursday, a witness to the resurrection…
~Bazaar/fundraiser for the building fund, raised over $2,300. Wednesday, meal at six and Christmas program practice.
~Last week filled boxes for Operation Christmas Child… The children carried armloads of boxes to the front of the sanctuary.
~We had become aware that our American flag had only 48 stars, which means it was older than 1959. The family of Brent Lee has donated new flags for the church which were installed this morning and dedicated.
~An insert in today's bulletin mentioned Thursday's Thanksgiving meal at the church for those who would like to enjoy the holiday with company or would like a place to go. Call the church to RSVP or if you need transportation. Walk-ins will be served.

Transition to worship, led by Chuck Vanderscheuren who began by commenting on some of the things we have been learning in our adult Sunday school Bible study, then sang Life’s Railway To Heaven with Ken and Darlene, followed by one of Elvis Presley’s favorite songs, Without Him.

During the offering, the trio sang “It’s a great, great morning, your first day in heaven…”


Brad began his message by citing several passages pertaining to thankfulness. In Thesalonians, Paul wrote, "Rejoice always… give thanks in all circumstances."

To the Ephesians Paul wrote, "Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Eph. 5:19,20)

To the Colossians he repeated three times, “and be thankful.”

Brad said he wanted to train us this Thanksgiving week. Normally he prefers we pay attention when he's preaching but today he invited us to let our minds drift, toward gratitude.

There are a lot of therapeutic benefits to gratitude, but Christian gratitude is more than that. Robert Roberts said there is a framework for gratitude. You can’t manufacture gratitude by willpower. It comes from a way of seeing the world.

"Bene" is the  first part of a number of key words pertaining to the development of a gratitude attitude.

Benefit… I must perceive it as a gift. As David wrote in Psalm 103…
2 Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

“forget not His benefits.” Too often we are blind to them.

Benefactor… One who does good. You not only must believe you are the beneficiary. The good things come from a benefactor who has good intentions toward you.

The writers of the Bible has

Don’t be deceived. Every good and perfect gift comes from above. (James)

Beneficiary... One who receives the good. You are the beneficiary of the benefits of God, who has your best interests at heart.

We must believe we are receiving something that we did not earn or merit. Humility is a critical factor in being grateful. We are not entitled to a good life. It is a gift.

As a sinful human race we often feel entitled. This is one reason we see such a proliferation of lawsuits when we don’t get what we think we deserve. Brad cited several examples. A few years ago the New York Giants were sued for passing out father’s day cards only to men.

Ingratitude is not just a psychological problem. Ingratitude is a sin, the hallmark of a life opposed to God. Every moment of life is a gift of grace. Grumbling is the quintessential character of a life of ingratitude. “Do not grumble as some of them did and were destroyed…” Israel in the wilderness.

Every devout Jew would pray the 18, the Eighteen Benedictions. Bene means Good, Diction is words… Good words. To bless. To thank God.

Blessed are you, Lord, who abundantly forgives. Blessed are you who sustains the living and raises the dead.

Gratitude doesn’t come when you get more stuff. It comes from seeing reality, that everything comes from God.

Every day devout rabbis and Jews would say the 18 Benedictions. Life with God is a life of giving thanks to Him.

When the disciples asked Jesus how do to pray, He gave them The Lord’s Prayer, which is actually a concise summary of the 18.

Gratitude was an important part of every aspect of life. A devout rabbi would say a man must not taste anything without blessing God for giving it. The principle: bless God for every gift. It is a misuse of the gift if we are not thankful for it.

Light is a gift. Rain is a gift. No occasion is too menial for giving thanks.

And significantly, we should thank God for people, both those we get along with easily and those who are hard to get along with.

The task is not to try to feel grateful, but to train ourselves to see the reality that we are living in God’s presence. It is not perfect people or circumstances that will enable us to be grateful. If we have to wait for perfect circumstances, we will be waiting a long way.

It is dangerous to be grateful only when good things come our way. Being transformed by God means being able to be grateful in all circumstances. Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you.

Humility is the real key to a grateful heart. At one time a prayer that acknowledged our unworthiness of God's blessings was common, but now it grates our modern sensibilities to say we a sinners and "unworthy of these multitude of benefits."

As you make your list of things that we are grateful for, above all, thank God for the gift of Jesus….

Brad ended by giving us two experiments to conduct.

Experiment 1: Write a gratitude letter to someone, telling why you are grateful to God for them. Make the letter count. Then meet with them, and read it to them face-to-face.

Experiment 2: Prayer your own 18 Benedictions…. If that is too many for starters, start with four. If you do this each day this week, you will have a Thanksgiving Day filled with thankfulness.

Each day is a gift.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

If You’re Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands

“Good morning!” In his intro remarks Pastor Brad stated that for four months he has been returning to a familiar text, I Corinthians 13. Today, he will be focusing on a little word in verse 6.

~ Wednesday evening we are packing boxes for Operation Christmas Child. Join us for a meal and help pack our boxes. Pick an age bracket and bring gifts. Financial donations are welcome to defray cost of shipping the boxes.
~ Gwen announced the Christmas program planned for this year, and on Wednesdays (after next week) there will be rehearsals here after the meals.
~ Friday, Nov. 16 will be our Fall Bazaar with Crafts and Bake Sale at the Swamp Sisters, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tell your friends.
~ Saturday, also at the Swamp Sisters, there will be a Ladies Pre-Holiday Brunch
~ Covenant World Relief soup can labels were handed out to raise money for a range needs. Covenant World Relief is the humanitarian aid ministry of the Evangelical Covenant Church
~ Leonard is once again making a Thanksgiving Dinner for those who have no place to go for Thanksgiving. We also sang “Happy Birthday for Paula whose birthday was this weekend.
~ Men as Peacemakers will be here in December to talk about domestic violence.

Joe Stapleton passed from our midst yesterday. He was ready and looking forward to be with the Lord, so we sang one of his favorite songs together to begin our worship: “Soon and Very Soon.”

An offering was taken and then the children dismissed for children’s church as Brad read to us from Mark 12:38-44, the story of the widow’s mite.

We prayed for needs both within our church family and in other places.

If You’re Happy and You Know It, 
Clap Your Hands

We've been hovering around I Corinthians 13 this year, and today Pastor Brad's message zeroes in on one particular phrase. Verse 6: Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.

In John’s first letter to the churches, the apostle writes:

9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

And a little further on John makes it clear that whereas God is invisible, He makes Himself known by our actions, specifically the love we show one another.

"I was trying to think back over my life," Brad said, "and I have never heard it quite applied this way. 'Since God has loved us, we should so love one another.'”

This passage says the invisible God is made visible through the love His people show to one another. His love for us prompts us to love others.

Brad shared a little background about the Amish to set up a story he was going to share. There are Amish communities in a number of areas around the country.  They came from Europe as part of a larger family called Mennonites. They are famous for their simple living, plain attire and reluctance to adapt with the times. It's as if they were determined to maintain a lifestyle from the 18th century.

On October 4, 2006, in the village of Nickel Mines in Lancaster County, Amish country, a man named Charles Carl Roberts went into the school with guns. After sending out the men and boys, he tied up ten young girls, firing 18 shots into their heads and then taking his own life. The response of the community shocked the media that covered the shooting. The response was forgiveness. Two of the elders from the community went to the shooters wife… told her he was forgiven, and they also helped with funeral expenses. Media did not understand the Amish response.

One scholar who knew the Amish explained it. "The Amish believe God told them to forgive. They acted on their belief. Their emotions would follow after.”

How do you do that? You just do it.

In I Corinthians 13 Paul wrote: Love does not delight in evil. 

He is talking about the delight some people have when other people do evil. Love is not happy when other people go wrong. This is the heart of gossip, isn’t it? We talk about other peoples’ failures. One reason we do this is that when we compare ourselves to others, it makes us feel better about ourselves.

A former prime minister of England once said, “The mistakes of the great are the consolation of fools.” Taking consolation in others’ failures is not loving. Yet this is so pervasive in our culture today. Rumors are the poison fruit of politics. This recent political campaign exemplifies how we focus on the failures of our leaders.

The Apostle Paul had ample opportunity to let his detractors get him distracted. Paul bore in his body the marks of many beatings, stonings and more. Ten years after he wrote I Corinthians he found himself writing letters to the churches he founded while in prison in Rome. In the first chapter of his letter to the Philippians he wrote about his chains, and his observations that some people who were preaching the gospel out of wrong motivations, some out of rivalry or selfish ambition. Notice that he doesn't focus on their malfeasance, rather he states, “But what does it matter, … in every way Christ is preached, and I rejoice.”

Can we rejoice when truth prevails? When truth advances wherever it is proclaimed.”

Brad concluded with an illustration of his point with. People like to show him photos of their grandchildren, and he enjoys the connections from this sharing. They love to show pictures. They usually beam with joy at how cute this one is and how this one is now in college and this one is a star in basketball. But sometimes their voices soften, and they say “Pastor, I’d appreciate you praying for my grandson Larry…”

Brad recognizes this reaction for what it is. Larry has made bad decisions, is not going the right path. But it's a reaction of love. They don't say mean things, rather they care and bear it. Love doesn’t delight when people go wrong.

But we’re gladdened by truth, wherever it is found.