Sunday, January 27, 2013

Risk: Contemplating Evangelism

“Good morning! Yesterday we shared a wonderful men’s outing, ten of us driving down to Cabela’s, primarily for the enjoyment of talking on the way down and back. Today we will continue talking about risk. In the Old Testament, when God’s spirit was most active it was when people were stepping out and taking risks.”

Reminder about the congregational assessment going on with regards to the effectiveness of our ministry as a church. The church leaders are eager to get our feedback. If you can’t get online at home, we will be having an internet café after the service this week and the next two.

Reminder from Joanne about the “Secret Sisters”: The drawing of names will take place on February 10.

This morning Chuck, Ken and Darlene led us in worship, then sang It Took A Miracle as the tithes and offerings were received.

Risk: Contemplating Evangelism

Pastor Brad began by reading a few passages from Scripture beginning with
Luke 4:14-21 where Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit after being tested in the wilderness.

He then read Acts 4:31... “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken… and they spoke the word of God with boldness.”

Brad began by talking how he and Brooke came up here 9 years ago. They had been in Bloomington, where there were plenty of good churches and pastors. They wanted to move to a place where there were more unbelievers, someplace more abandoned. Much of rural America has seen a decline. They didn’t want to go to the Bible belt where people would show up… They wanted to be in a place where it would take God’s help to change the community. There are many people here who you recognize that it will take a miracle to be saved.

He reminded us that we need to remember who we were…. We were once a wreck ourselves.

Brad was expressing something that weighed on his heart. "I don’t want people to just show up to church and hear another sermon." Paul said, “I don’t want to preach a message based on human wisdom but rather a demonstration of the power of the spirit.”

In the story of Elijah on Mount Carmel we see the power of God demonstrated mightily. But was Brad was quick to point out that Elijah experienced God’s power when he put his neck on the line. The disciples experienced the same.

“I’ve experience God’s presence when I have been living by faith, taking risks and being uncomfortable,” he affirmed. "We all want to experience the Holy Spirit but need to remember why the Holy Spirit was given. (Acts 1:8) When people are living out the Great Commission is when people experience Him."

Luke 12:11 states, “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say." This may be one of our worries, but God will be present when you step out. God will give you the words. The Church started with uneducated common men who had courage and boldness. Many people hold back because they feel they don’t know enough. What’s needed is not more knowledge but boldness.

Francis Chan told a story about a megachurch that spent over a hundred thousand dollars a year on a Christmas program where they spent 15 hours a week rehearsing. Chan asked the pastor, “What if everyone here spent fifteen hours a week getting to know their neighbors.” The pastor replied, “They wouldn’t do that.” Too often people prefer getting in a costume and playing a role in a program, where it is safe.

Brad acknowledged that it can be difficult it to share the Gospel in a world where people don’t want to hear. He then related how lately he’s been knocking on doors and asking people how he can help.

More stories were shared of how God moves in surprising ways and we returned to Acts 4:31.

Brad made his appeal: "I would rather have something substantial come out of our worship than having us experience an earthquake in answer to our prayers. When I act in boldness, and when you act in boldness, this is when we experience God’s power."

Pastor Shannon affirmed that his hope is that some of us would just go for it… do something scary, both corporately and individually, "because this is when we experience the presence of God."

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Risk Management

It was twenty below on many thermometers around the region. That did not stop Pastor Shannon from greeting us warmly. "Good morning. How are you? I’m grateful you’re here. I’m going to talk today about risk management. We’ll be looking at the story of Peter when he stepped out of the boat. Do we have the faith to step out?"

1. Brad then drew attention to our bulletin insert. We’re trying to compile as broad of an email list as we can. Also, there is an insert about a Church Assessment Tool…. Go online beginning Friday, January 25, and tell us about your experiences in and priorities for our church. For those without internet access, we will be setting up an Internet Café here at the church for the next three Sundays. All answers will be strictly confidential. Paper copies of the survey will be available in the church office. This is an assessment of how you feel about the ministry and activities of our church. Last day to complete the survey will be February 10.

Please don’t talk to others about what your thoughts and feelings are. We’d ilke you to not skew the results by unintentionally influencing others. We need to know where we’re at and how we can improve. Holy Cow Consulting will interpret our results and give us feedback on your feedback.

2. Men: Next Saturday will be our second annual trip to Cabela’s. Please let Brad know if you are interested so we can schedule vehicles.

3. Women’s group met yesterday and we’re going to do our Secret Sister exchange again, among other things.

The intro to worship by Darlene was a medley interweaving Open Our Eyes Lord and Be Thou My Vision. After the tithes and offerings we listened to the reading of John 2:1-11. Prayer needs were shared, and lifted up. Before the sermon Brad and Darlene sang a song called Blessing.

 I don’t think Jesus’ highest priority in life is our safety and comfort.

Brad began with a story of a pastor who got a hot air balloon ride for his wife as an anniversary present. He was thrilled, excited, but one more emotion he did not expect was fear. We had placed our lives on the competence and character of the pilot. He asked the man how he got into flying hot air balloons. “Well, dude, it’s like this…” The guy was an unemployed surfer who wasn’t sure he could land the balloon because he’d never been in this kind before.

Can we trust our pilot? Most people put their faith in faith, not in the pilot. We “try” to believe….

But faith is intimately related to risk… and the story for the sermon today comes from Matthew 14. Jesus comes walking on the water to the disciples who were in a boat, struggling to keep it afloat in the midst of a middle of the night storm. These were professional sailors who had a hard time in this night journey across a turbulent lake.

Jesus comes walking to them on the water and the disciples are afraid that it's a ghost. Peter exclaims, "LOrd' if it's You, tell me to come to you on the water." Jesus says, "Come," and Peter gets out of the boat… and falls. Did Peter fail?

All of us as Christ-followers are would-be water walkers. The boat is safe, the night is dark, the storm is raging… It’s called the culture we live in. If we get out of the boat, there’s a chance that you might sink. You might fail. Yet something within us calls us to leave the routine, the comfortable, to abandon ourselves to something greater.

Jesus says, “Have no fear. You can trust my character. You can place your life in My hands. Who is more powerful, the storm or Me?”

Peter says, “O.K. tell me where to go.”

And for a moment, Peter is actually walking on water. But suddenly, Peter realizes what he’s doing and loses heart.

There are many stories of famous failures. Jonas Salk failed 200 times at trying to make a vaccine for polio. “My family taught me not to use that word (Fail). I discovered 200 ways how not to make a polio vaccine.”

When Winston Churchill was held back a year in school he was later asked about this failure to pass a grade. He replied, “I didn’t fail. I was given a second chance to get it right.”

Did Peter fail? He sank. But he experienced something the other eleven did not. He momentarily walked on water, and learned something about Jesus that the others did not. A true disciple of Christ says, “It is my ultimate goal in life to live the way Jesus would live if He were in my body.”

Brad then shared the power of taking risks by telling the story of Rosa Parks, a seamstress who on December 1, 1955 refused to go to the back of a bus because a white person needed the seat, one of the most courageous acts in the twentieth century. The next Monday evening 10,000 followers of Christ met at the church to pray and ask God what to do next. This choise led to a revolution that was not easy, but it helped change the conscience of the nation.

I do not know if we can follow Christ without having a re-occurring encounter with fear. When called to get out of the boat we are asked only to take the next step. This was not the last time Peter experienced fear.

Every time you try something new, you will experience fear. Being a disciple means choosing fear and potential failure, embracing risk.

We are not called to be couch potatoes. The eleven other disciples were boat potatoes. Too many Christians are pew potatoes.

Stepping out to come here to New Life Covenant Church was, for Brad, a risky thing. His big fear was this: “What if I fail in front of everyone here?”

Peter stepped out of the boat. When he began to sink, Peter cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus is always adequate to save sinking people.

Interestingly, Peter’s courage, even though he failed, led the other disciples to worship the Lord. Other people see it when we step out.

Brad closed with a story of a man named Bob who stepped out of his own virtual boat and began praying for this African country, and the amazing consequences that followed.

If you get out of the boat, sometimes you will fail, but sometimes you will walk on water.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Risk Loving Like Jesus

"Good morning I’m going to talk about risk for the next few weeks. Premise: faith is inherently connected to risk, and risk is associated with fear. There are many places where God nudges us to take risks…" So began our service this morning with Pastor Shannon's welcome.

1. A shower would be held after the service to celebrate the gift of new life in two families, LeeAnn & Jake Vanderscheuren and Katie & Eric Borndal.
2. Council will meet Tuesday at its usual time.

Darlene, Ken and Chuck opened the worship time by singing “I Believe In Miracles.” After a time of worship the offering was taken while trio sang “Give Them All To Jesus... Shattered dreams, wounded hearts, broken toys... give them all to Jesus and he will turn your sorrow into joy."

Scripture: James 2:1-12

Risk Loving Like Jesus 

James is one of the most practical and direct books, so Brad began by inviting us to fasten our seat belts as he read for us two verses from today's Scripture reading.

The passage in James 2 begins with this straightforward statement: "My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism."

Want to know a secret? Nearly all of us have a list in our heads of who we like to be with and a list of    undesirables. We prefer to be around people of status or wealth and insulate ourselves from some. Others prefer to be around educated people. Some want to be around white collar people, and avoid blue collar. And vice versa. Then there’s thin and not so thin. And then skin color…

With God there is no partiality of any kind. It needs to be rooted out of our hearts and out of our church.You see it in Romans 2:11 also. "With God there is no partiality."

What is the origin of prejudice? It usually starts with parents. A second source of prejudice comes from peer groups. Once that poison of partiality is in the system, there is no human way to root it out.We need God's help.

When Jesus started his ministry He seized every opportunity to expose this.

In Mark 3 Jesus was in the synagogue on the Sabbath and the Pharisees had set up a sting operation, attempting to catch Jesus working on the Sabbath. In those days, the Pharisees had such a system of dos and don'ts over every aspect of the Law and especially around what you couldn't do on the Sabbath so when Jesus was speaking they had arranged for a man with a shriveled hand to be right there. Jesus sized up what is going on and got angry, grieved to His core at the hardness of heart in these religious people who would use this man's liability for their own ends. The tragic reality is they hated Him so much that right off they wanted to kill Him because this healing and He didn't pay homage to their rules.

On another occasion Jesus and the disciples were walking through Samaria and when they came to a well He sent the disciples on ahead into town. A Samaritan woman had come out to fetch water, a woman who good Jews would normally not talk to. Jesus didn't follow those conventions. He spoke with her, engaged her in conversation and changed her life. By his behavior Jesus was stating that this woman mattered and that women matter.

Religious leaders also disliked his Jesus’ choices of who to hang out with. In Luke 15 is sharing with tax collectors and sinners while Pharisees and teachers of the law muttered amongst themselves. Jesus knew what was annoying them and responded with three parables in a row: the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son. These people matter to God. That which is missing is valuable enough for an all out search.

In every case, retrieval brings rejoicing. “There is joy all across heaven when a single sinner repents.”

Then Pastor Brad stated "You have never looked into the eyes of a person who does not matter to God. Every single person your eyes fall upon matters to God. They are people for whom Christ died, they deserve your respect."

Jesus in his last hours, even as He hung on the cross, saw others in this way. One of the thieves nailed there that day who had wasted his life making wrong choices looked to Jesus, knowing he could never clean up his act now, wondered, "What if even someone like me mattered? After all I've done... "

And he asks, "Jesus, is there any chance you'd remember someone like me when you come into your kingdom?"

Jesus replied, "Today, you will be with me in Paradise."

Brad paraphrased, "In spite of all you've done, you still matter to Me. You've mattered to me since the day you were born. You mattered to Me when you were headed the wrong way.You mattered to Me when you did your first heist, when you were arrested the first time, when you got locked up the first time. ... on the basis of your humility and faith, I can say to you, 'Welcome home.'"

This is a love of a different kind.  It should melt your heart and change the way you look at other people. It should motivate us to reach out to those whom we've diminished, to be the first to say always, "You matter to God."