Sunday, February 24, 2013

Wrestling With God

As is his custom, Pastor Brad enjoys tipping his hand with regard to his theme during his welcome message. After a warm greeting he added today, "We have a seeking God who seeks us out and who longs to give us healing…. A new name, a new identity with new values and a new mission."

1. "Forget Winter" Potluck Picnic Party, March 9, 5-8 p.m. with BBQ Food, games, and prizes. Wear summer attire. Bathing suits O.K.
2. Girls Art Club starts today… ages 9-14… the fourth Sunday every month after church.
3. A new baby has been born to Jake and Leanne. Anyone who wishes to help make a meal contact Brooke.
4. New members class started today… not too late to join. Contact Pastor Brad.

The kids percussion choir opened the service with Heaven On My Mind and I’ll Fly Away. Chuck, Ken and Darlene then sang Rise Again by Dallas Holme. During the offering they also shared another special song from the Seventies, He Died On The Cross (For You and Me).

Joel Osterlund of Covenant Park Bible Camp shared with us some thoughts about youth camp and its value in so many lives, a place where many find Christ for the first time and many more grow in their faith as they learn about who God is. Joel reminded us that there is day-camp for very young, mini-camps for slightly older young people and the week-long experience which is most common. A video titled Search and Rescue was shared to help us see some of what Covenant Park Bible Camp is about.

Joel not only made an appeal for summer staff if anyone is interested or volunteer adults with medical experience. Cheryl Borndal stood and mentioned that this Friday is the deadline for the cheapest rate for summer camp.

Our prayer needs vary, but we are all needy. Brad prayed for our broken relationships, for those bound by addictions and those suffering with medical issues.  

Wrestling With God

Brad introduced his message by reading the story of Jacob wrestling with the angel that begins at Genesis 32:22.

And then he began with a personal story. Shortly after he and Brooke were married they were moving into a new place and Brad had it in mind to place a tea-leaf plate on a certain spot on the wall. After negotiating a bit on the matter it became a point of contention and at the end of their dispute the reality set in that he simply wanted his own way.

Too often, when things go bad it is because we want our own way more than anything else. We connive and coerce to get the tea-leaf plates where we want them, to have things the way we want them to be.

Often we use language games to get our way in ways that do not look so self-serving. When Jacob was young, he connived to get a blessing from his father. In Jacob’s family this phrase had a significant meaning. His grandfather Abraham had received a blessing from God, and knew his father valued it.

Jacob's name meant heel-grabber. He was born along with a twin brother, the second of the two. As his life unfolded he lived the very way he was named. To get the blessing he sacrificed all the close relationships that were important to him in order to obtain this.

At the core of our lives we are the same, we want our own way. “What must I do to be saved?” is a question so many ask… We want our way even when it comes to God’s blessing.

Jacob deceived his father to get the blessing and yet after he got it he was still not satisfied. The blessing was not a story of rest and blessedness. His whole story has striving at its core.

As he returns back to his homeland years later he has an encounter. “A man wrestled with him until daybreak.” It’s a sketchy story, but we do get a few details that tell us something. First, they wrestle all night. At daybreak the man says he must go. Finally, the man asks Jacob’s name. And the man gives Jacob, the heel-grabbing conniver, a new name. “You shall be called Israel.”

The story suggests that to encounter God, to wrestle with God gives us a new identity but it does not leave us unscathed. Jacob is changed, and scarred. Touched on the hip he walked with a limp from then on.

No one could change Jacob’s identity except God. Jacob asks what the man’s name is, and the man says, “Why do you ask my name?’

Like Jacob, you and I are desperately in need of a blessing, a new set of values. Who can change us at such a fundamental level? Only God.

When you wrestle with God He will stay with you all night long. God alone can change your name, your fundamental identity.

This story says to us, “Wrestle with God.” He is a God who longs to encounter us, to be found, to bring us a new blessing. The New Testament states that in our weakness God’s power is made perfect. Wrestle with courageous honesty. You will not find the blessing in a job, in money, in other people.

Open yourself to receive the blessing of Jesus Christ that only God can give.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Are You Ready?

Paula Saxin greeted us this morning and Darlene ushered us into worship on this, Women’s Ministry Sunday. Brad, who just returned from a Covenant conference in San Diego, stood and shared a few announcements.

1. Wednesday is Ash Wednesday and will begin with a meal at 6:15 p.m. and service at 7:00 p.m.
2. Today is the last day of the assessment. Please complete it if you have not yet filled it out.
3. Women interested in being part of the Secret Sister sharing should contact Joanne.
4. There would be a pot luck meal after the service today, all invited.

Several women of the church led us in worship followed by the offering. The children were invited to the front for a puppet show, a Ruth Anne and Pearl production starring Fluffy and Scruffy. Message: people give things to show their love, and God showed His love for us by giving His Son.

Ruth Anne remained at the front and read Matthew 25:14-30 and Genesis 45:4-9.

Gwen led our prayer time as we brought a variety of needs to the Lord. Carol then joined Gwen to sing a duet. His Name Is Wonderful that spilled into a melodious medley that included Something About That Name and Blessed Be the Name.

Brooke then introduced our guest speaker, Lora Kesselhon.

Are You Ready?

Kesselhon's cheerful disposition and manner gave no indication whatsoever of the experiences she underwent and was about to relate to us, a totally gripping re-telling of her incredible journey.

Lora began by sharing how she bought her husband a wedding gift when they were married in the late 90's. It was a picture of a boat titled Through The Storm. Subtitled, “…you do not walk alone…” Then she began to share with us the biggest storm of her life up to this point.

In 2008 she was driving to the store with her daughter and things got weird. It felt like everything was moving really slowly. She pulled over and walked around the store till she felt o.k. A little later her hand started moving on its own, and then her head. After the initial incident she was led to believe it was blood sugar related. But then she later learned it was seizures and after a trip to the Mayo Clinic MRI she discovered she had three abnormalities on her brain.

Because it was a weekend, she had to wait till Monday for the next step but on Sunday evening her whole body had a seizure and she was taken to the emergency room. Eventually she suffered partial paralysis on her left side and more tests were done.

It turned out she had CNS, a rare form of cancer that attacked the central nervous system. Because she was pregnant with her third daughter, there was nothing they had to offer as a solution. The various departments of the clinic were at odds as regard what to do.

What it boiled down to was this: she and her husband had to decide whether to save the child or the mother. It was a horrible place to be, but it was made clear to her that the child would die if they did chemo and she would die if they did not. She already had two daughters who she could not imagine leaving without a mom, but her unborn child also had a right to the life ahead of her. The chemo required was the kind that is used for first term abortions.

Lora and her husband, as they discussed the decision, both recognized that God’s hand had been at work for a year in advance, helping prepare all the physical needs and take care of the responsibilities they were forced to let go of for a season. In the end they never blamed God. Doctors were crying as they did their best to help, and the Kesselhon's were comforting them. Miraculously, despite the onslaught she was at peace.

She thought of Joseph and how he recognized God’s hand in his circumstances for a higher purpose. Lora said she and Ryan, her husband, cried out to God and God heard. The very next doctor came with an unusual experimental alternative course of treatment.

After her daughter Ruth was born at 2 pounds, 12 ounces they did seven rounds of chemo followed by a stem cell transplant of her own stem cells, “which I didn’t even know was possible.” In the end she was cancer free.

Kesselhon circled back to her original theme. "Are you ready? The more you know Jesus, the more you’ll have faith to trust Him. It doesn’t take a storm to start the process. When storms come you can come out of the storm blessed instead of bitter."


What has God entrusted you with? For those of you in the storm now, you are weak but know He is strong.

Wherever you are in relation to the storms of life… Be faithful in small things and He will entrust you with greater things, and then you will always be ready.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Let Justice Roll Down

Good morning! I’m grateful you’re here. We’re going to continue talking about risk. Today we are going to look at compassion, mercy and justice.

Next week: Covenant Women’s Sunday with special speaker Lora Kesselhorn. An old fashioned all-church potluck dinner will follow the service. Bring your favorite dish.

Ash Wednesday service will be February 13. We’ll share a soup supper at 6:15 p.m. with the service beginning at 7:00.

Brochures for Covenant Park Bible Camp 2013 are now available. See Cheryl Borndal for more information.

Today is Boy Scout Sunday and we had a pair of scouts hand out bulletins and take the offering today.

After announcements, a children’s percussion choir sang “He’s Still Working On Me.” Everyone smiled as we were invited to join in on the chorus. Fun, and a message, too.

Drake and Megan, who are now becoming a part of our faith community, sang a song for us and led us in a time of worship that felt like a gentle soothing spirit-wind today.The two were married three weeks ago and look forward to being part of our congregation.

Steve Borndal shared from his heart about what God has done, is doing and will be doing in his future. He recalled for us various points at which he gave his heart to Christ while a youth. Today he is in school and preparing for law enforcement. Learning how to balance work, school and relationships is part of his life. Looking forward to graduating in December this year and asked for prayer about where to pursue his career.

We then entered into a time of prayer, lifting up a variety of needs for members of the church family and their friends.

Let Justice Roll Down

The idea of compassion, mercy and justice lies at the heart of the message of the prophets. What word do you think of when you think of the prophets?

Brad said that he thinks of the word “cranky.” He then read a variety of passages that illustrate his point. By way of contrast, we ourselves like happy books in the same way we like comfort food. But there’s a reason 17 books of the Bible have been written by the prophets.

To illustrate the root of the prophets’ crankiness, he pointed out how a person with perfect pitch is more sensitive to off-key singing. So it is that the prophets are more sensitive to the world’s injustices and those who suffer because of it.

We don't really enjoy being uncomfortable and like the people of his own day the prophet Micah was aware of this in the people he served, hence he wrote... If a liar and deceiver comes and says, ‘I will prophesy for you plenty of wine and beer,’ that would be just the prophet for this people!

We prefer being comfortable. It’s like broken things around the house that we get used to and don’t notice any more… we fail to hear the cries of those who are wounded.

Old Testament scholar Abraham Heschel shared this observation, “The shallowness of our moral comprehension, the incapacity to sense the depth of misery caused by our own failures is a simple fact of fallen humanity, which no explanation can justify or hide, because events that horrified and appalled the prophets are everyday occurrences on our world, all around us and we don’t want to know and we don’t want to hear and we don’t want to see it."

How will this ever change? It starts when we take to heart the central passage from today's message, Micah 6:6-8.

“With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God." ~Micah 6:6-8

From the very beginning God has been very clear about this. We all know what it is like when we are personally treated unfairly. Micah is saying that we should be aware of how others feel from being victims of injustice. Do justice for others. Pay attention to injustice. And stand up for people who are being treated unfairly.

And then, to love kindness, the kind of steadfast love expressed in the Covenant.

God is calling us to love kindness, and to walk humbly before our God.

Brad then circled round to speak out in defense of the prophets' apparent crankiness. What burns most heatedly in a prophet is not anger but love, God's love for those who are hurting. 

C S Lewis once wrote, "Anger is the fluid that love bleeds when it gets cut." And God's anger is fierce when He sees injustice and greed and oppression, because God's love is fiercer still. A true prophet remembers that she or he, too, is one of the sinful people who helped mess up this world, and so the walk humbly.

Can you imagine what would happen if we made this the focus of our lives, to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly before our God?

When that happens—when people do justice and love kindness and walk humbly before the Lord our God—Micah says, in the magnificent last chapter, in the closing words to this book,

Nations will see and be ashamed,
deprived of all their power.
They will put their hands over their mouths
and their ears will become deaf.
17 They will lick dust like a snake,
like creatures that crawl on the ground.
They will come trembling out of their dens;
they will turn in fear to the Lord our God
and will be afraid of you.
18 Who is a God like you,
who pardons sin and forgives the transgression
of the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry forever
but delight to show mercy.
19 You will again have compassion on us;
you will tread our sins underfoot
and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.

At the end of the sermon we shared the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.