Sunday, September 29, 2013

Call On My Name

Pastor Brad Shannon welcomed us warmly on this bright autumn day with the colors beginning to burst. In welcoming us he said today's theme would focus on the difference between hoping for something and hoping in Someone.

1) For the next 3 days we need people who can stand watch over the burning of the log piles across the street where the new church is to be built. Please contact Bob Winship if you can help in any way. Responsibilities are minimal. We just need someone present.
2) Family Nights begin this Wednesday. Leonard will be making meals as we meet for Bible study and  activities for youth. 6:00-7:30
3) We're having friendship dinners the next three months. Sign up sheet is in the back of the sanctuary. Once a month dinners with other members and friends of our church family to help strengthen ties and get to know one another.
4) Next Saturday is our church bazaar at Twig Town Hall from 9 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Volunteers are always helpful for setting up or cleaning up.
5) Matt Danielski shared that because scrap yard prices are up, he is helping to gather scrap metal to raise money for the new building. If you have scrap metal or old vehicles you wish to donate, please contact Matt to make arrangements.

Chuck opened the service by reading a portion of Psalm 103 and then sang Dallas Holm's I'll Rise Again with Ken and Darlene. After the offering, prayers and a time of worship Brad took the pulpit to talk about hope.

Call On My Name
In the days of Samuel, Israel was in an ongoing conflict with the Philistines. After one of Israel's defeats the leaders decided to improve their odds of victory by carrying the Ark of the Covenant into battle with them. Their erroneous idea was that God would not allow the Ark to be captured because it was the symbol of God's presence with Israel.

Brad used this story from I Samuel 5 to illustrate the manner in which we often have a false basis for hope and that ultimately this kind of hope almost always disappoints. Perhaps it is our hope to have a cancer test come up negative or for a job interview to work out. Sometimes these things fall our way, but sometimes they don't. Then what?

Israel hoped to win the battle but instead lost the ark.

The Philistines were beside themselves at this turn of events, for they believed -- again falsely -- that capturing the ark proved that their god Dagon was stronger than the God if Israel. In the aftermath of battle they placed the ark of God inside the temple of Dagon in Ashdod. But the next day the statue of Dagon was fallen on its face, as if worshiping the Ark. The Philistines propped up the statue of their god but during the night Dagon not only had fallen toward the Ark, his hands and head had broken off.

The Philistines became frightened by these things and sent the ark of God to Gath, another Philistine city. When the people there had an outbreak of tumors and people of all ages were dying, they moved the ark of God yet again, this time to Ekron. Again, people began to die and those who did not developed ugly tumors. Ultimately the leaders decided the ark of God needed to be returned to Israel.

Brad used this story to talk about three-day stories. The Bible is full of such stories. In the capture of the ark by the Philistines we see the pattern. First day: the ark is captured. It is a day of sorrow, loss of hope and despair. There is no answer as to how or why this was allowed to happen. The second act in the three-day story is a time of uncertainty, ambiguity. The day after the ark was captured we find Dagon fallen on his face before the ark. What next?

On day three we see God's vindication. Not only is Dagon, the statue, knocked over yet again, he is broken in pieces.

Examples of this pattern abound. From the story of Joseph, to Esther, to Jonah and elsewhere we see it repeated. Hosea 6:1-2 spells it out like this...

1 “Come, let us return to the Lord.
He has torn us to pieces
but he will heal us;
he has injured us
but he will bind up our wounds.
2 After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will restore us,
that we may live in his presence.

Pastor Brad then compared Jesus to the ark of God, who "became flesh and tabernacled among us." Jesus was not, during His lifetime, "God in a box" who could be manipulated to benefit people with an agenda, and today He is the same Jesus. Not a token to be carried around in our pocket for good luck, but a living God....

At the end of His time on earth He still would not be what the Pharisees or the Romans or the Zealots... and as a result He was nailed to a cross. That was day one of the three-day story. The Messiah was unexpectedly defeated, whipped, beaten, stripped, publicly humiliated and crucified. The second day was that uncertain, ambiguous period. Roman guards had been posted and a rock rolled in front of the tomb. But then there was day three, God's day. Who could have expected this?

You never know what might happen on a third day. When we're in the uncertain second day of confusion and ambiguity, we can't look at circumstances for our hope. God is our hope, and He alone will never disappoint.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Loving One Another

"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God." ~I John 4:7

1) There will be a Church Bazaar/White Elephant Sale with lunch on October 5
2) Girl's Art Club will begin next Sunday for girls 9-15. Adult women welcome.
3) There will be a baby shower for Megan in a couple weeks.

Pastor Brad opened the service stating that we would be doing a heart check today. How receptive are our hearts to God?

Loving One Another

Brad began by reading I John 2:13-27. He then shared some stats about our physical hearts. A human heart first begins beating 22 days after conception. Throughout our lives the heart pumps 14,000 pints of blood a day. Many other heart facts were shared. And the beat goes on, throughout our lives.

Then he shifted to talking about our spiritual hearts. As Proverbs 4:23 states, "Above all else, guard your heart for everything you do flows from it."

What is the condition of your heart? Brad asked that the way physicians check the condition of our physical hearts is to put them under stress.

It is the natural tendency of our heart to deceive ourselves. We can sometimes confuse sentimental emotions with religious feeling. We like to make ourselves appear better than we are.

But for real heart healing we need to bring our hearts to God. And here's what heals: when we find out who we are. John explains. "See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are." (I John 3:1)

The manner in which God heals is spelled out in Ezekiel: "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." (Ezek. 36:26)

As noted earlier stress is what makes our physical hearts longer. The same program works to make our spiritual hearts stronger. And God's way to stress us is by bringing others into our lives. And loving these other people is what we're called to do. John explains this further... "Let us not love only in words, but in deeds..." and further, "If you don't love the people you can see, how can you say you love God whom you can't see?"

When Jesus walked with His disciples he emphasized this important imperative: "A new commandment I give to you, love one another. Brad stated, "If you want to see what love looks like, look at the cross."

Church is not about programs. It's about your hearts. Here is a checklist of questions Brad concluded with some diagnostics designed to tell us a little about ourselves.

Do I really believe, do I really believe that Jesus is it.
Do I really believe that it's true that He is the atoning sacrifice for sins for the whole world, that there is no way to God other than Him?
Do I carry a burden for people who don't know Him?
Who am I praying for regularly who doesn't know God?
Am I deliberately getting close to people who don't know God?
Am I helping them to take the next step?
Am I growing in my ability to share my faith?
Am I getting bolder at taking risks?
Am I working at getting better telling my story in helping steer conversations in a spiritual direction?

"He who does not love does not know God, for God is love." ~I John 4:8

Sunday, September 15, 2013


The first week of Sunday School drew a healthy turnout. The adult class is watching segments of a video series on Christian Atheism, about people who "believe in God but live as if He doesn't exist." Pastor Brad led a discussion, exploring aspects of the ideas that there are different levels of knowing God.

Sunday School for all ages begins at 9:00 a.m. and the worship service resumes at our regular 10:15 a..m. hour. After greeting us, Brad stated that he would be talking about community, and the importance of being connected.

Announcements began with a thank you letter from Cindy Anderson, who now has a new set of lungs and moving into a healthy full recovery. The letter included a reminder to live each day as if it were your last. An insert in the bulletin noted that Girls Art Club will be starting up again soon. One a month Susie Newman will be leading art projects for all girls ages 9-15. Adult women are welcome as well. The art club will be held on the last Sunday of each month (Sept. 29th this month.) Contact Susie if you are interested so she can bring enough materials for everyone. Bring a bag lunch.

After the offering was taken and a time of prayer, Chuck shared from his heart and sang a duet with Darlene before leading us in songs from the silver song book.


Brad's message today focused on demonstrating that community is at the heart of what we believe. He began by reading from Mark 1:14-20. It is the beginning of Jesus' ministry, a journey that leads to the cross. The first task that he undertakes is to gather his team, a community of followers. When Jesus ascended after His resurrection, he did not leave assets or buildings, only His circle of friends.

Christianity is not a self-study initiative. It is a community who of people, intersecting circles of commitment and intimacy. To illustrate, Brad had us picture what happens at a bonfire when you roll a log out of the fire. It usually goes out.  The writer of Hebrews stated that we are not to forsake meeting together.

Community helps prevent spiritual drift. Proverbs 27:17 states, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." Jesus never talked about going to church. He called people to community.

Christian community is the one place where it's safe to take off our masks. In Paradise, before the fall, Adam and Eve "were naked and not ashamed." After the fall, Adam's guilt and shame led him to hide from God. It is our tendency to hide from one another that needs to be dispensed with. James 5:16 says that we need to become more transparent: "Confess your sins to one another." The reason is that you can only be loved to the extent that you are known. You can only be fully loved when you're full known. This kind of depth takes time.

Community is the place where we learn to love as Jesus loves. In His last hours with the disciples, Jesus repeatedly told them to love one another. (John 13:35, John 15:12 and 17)

Community is not easy. When you read the list of disciples you find some interesting backgrounds. One of these called ones was Simon the Zealot. A Zealot was the modern equivalent of a terrorist. The zealots were politically motivated Jews in Jesus' day who by a hatred of Roman occupation of Palestine which they found incompatible with monotheism. They had even taken an oath to kill anyone working in concert with Rome, which would include people like Matthew who was a tax collector. There economic differences between some of the other disciples. But in Jesus' circle none of these differences were to make any difference at all in the new community.

Pastor Brad concluded by encouraging us to take further steps to strengthening our community by signing up for a series of "Friendship Dinners" that we'll be having over the coming months. All who sign up will be grouped in sets of eight, so we can get to know one another in a more intimate setting... our homes.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Rally Day / Harvest Fest

This Sunday we gathered at the Twig Town Hall rather than our sanctuary and celebrated the new year with a festival aimed at making us feel we're not really Minnesotans. Criss-crossed surfboards, and all manner of banners designed to make us feel we were in Hawaii or on a southern beach. Alas, it was chilly and despite the Hawaiian leis it wasn't hard to remember that we were in Minnesota. Nevertheless, Pastor Brad greeted us with joyous warmth. Autumn is a time for re-gathering and re-focusing, and today's message would be a clarification of what Jesus was inviting us into.

The informal service out in the open air began with a pair of announcements. First, Gail shared that the fish and chips fund raiser brought in $1200 thanks to Gordy's Hi Hat. Darlene then shared that the Women's Bible Study would begin this Tuesday at 10:00 a.m.

The Sermon
Pastor Brad began by reading from the latter portion of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 7:13-27. Being that this was the opening of NFL Football weekend, he used sports stars to illustrate a point. There are many athletes whom we admire, but how many are there whom we'd be willing to follow?

Brad shared instances in the New Testament where there were many crowds drawn to Jesus, and many who admired him, but at the point of decision only a few walked with Him to the end.

Several stories illustrate the way that Jesus used to challenge people to cross the line and become more than admirers. In John 3 Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night. He admired Jesus, but had to meet with Him in secret because he couldn't afford to be identified with Him. He had a reputation to maintain, wanted to maintain His stature.

The rich young ruler had a different issue. Jesus confronted him as well, at his point of weakness. "Are you going to follow Me or simply admire Me?" Jesus asked.

In the passage from Matthew 7 Jesus notes that there is a narrow way and a broad way. Only the narrow way leads to life. The broad way is the way of this world, and they who go that way only drift.

At this point Brad put in a word for the upcoming Adult Sunday School theme for this fall, "The Christian Atheist."

Many times people justify their distance from Jesus by focusing on other Christians' failings. But the issue is not a question of others living their faith. Jesus only puts the question to each of us. Where do you stand?

Is Jesus Christ your Master?

Brad stated that he would rather be part of a smaller, devoted community than to a large one that is simply drifting.

He then shared the Charles Blondin story. Blondin was a tightrope walker and showman who drew crowds by various stunts on the tightrope in the 19th century, one of them being the attraction of an enormous crowd to see him walk across Niagara Falls. After performing a variety of stunts he took a wheelbarrow and asked the crowd who was willing to sit in the wheelbarrow as he crossed the great falls. The number of volunteers for this exhibition proved far smaller than the number of admirers.

Jesus wasn't trying to impress crowds. His miracles may have attracted crowds and created buzz, but He had a more important agenda. He was asking us to get in the wheelbarrow, to trust him with our very lives. He wanted us to put everything -- our sins, our past, our future, our all -- into that wheelbarrow.

Brad's message was equally heartfelt and very challenging. We were each given a deeper understanding of what Jesus was calling us to.

* * * *
The photos here offer a glimpse of this special kickoff to a new season.

Sunday, September 1, 2013


“Good morning!” Pastor Brad shouted as he invited us to take our seats and prepare for worship. Brad began by saying Happy Birthday to Rick, and then a few words about today's message. "I’m going to preach on the first message Jesus gave after He ascended."

Announcements included the following:
1. Next week is our Fall Kickoff. We will worship at 10:15 at the Town Hall in Twig. Leonard will be cooking…. I hope you will make time in your schedule to join us….
2. Our Sunday School teachers are in place for the new year. We hope you will join us for the Sunday school hour that precedes worship beginning the 15th.
3. Mae announced that the books are in for our women’s Bible study….
4. The Church Bazaar is October 5. A beautiful quilt was displayed which will be raffled during the event.
Next week there will be a meeting after church next week to begin planning for the Bazaar.
5. Brooke announced a baby shower for Megan on Oct. 6. She is expecting to deliver Oct 18.
6. There will be a Women’s Retreat Sept 13-15.
7. Nursery needs volunteers …. Please sign up

Ed opened the service by singing O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go. The congregation sang together I Surrender All, then greeted one another before getting seated. Brad reminded us again that the church is a community, not an institution.

A time of prayer followed as we lifted up the many needs in our church family.

Drake led us in a few more songs beginning with Blessed Assurance.

Pastor Shannon began by reading Acts 2:36-41. Peter is preaching on the Day of Pentecost with the surprising outcome that 3000 were added to their number that day. This were many of the most devoted Jews, having made the trek from far away places (some). It could have gone differently. They could have stoned Peter just as they mob called out for his Lord to be crucified. But instead, the Holy Spirit moved with power and the people were convicted of their sins.

Brad talked briefly about how we are often self-deceived regarding our self-assessments. We have a hard time grasping where we are really at in many regards. He shared how he thought he was a pretty good skier, until he faced the slopes of Jackson Hole in Colorado. He thought he was a pretty talented volley ball player, till he came up against a real pro who showed what a novice he was. Until we have something to measure ourselves against we are clueless about our real skill level.

This tendency toward self-deception carries into all of life. We deceive ourselves by failing to compare against the true standard of a holy God. How would your life grade out against that standard.

In Peter's sermon that day, the day the church was born, he stated, "Your actions led to the crucifixion of the best man who ever lived." The crowd was cut to the heart when he finished, because "when the Holy Spirit comes He will convict people of sin.

Brad explained how conviction is different from some other typical responses of being found out. Conviction by the Holy Spirit is not the same as fear of punishment. Nor is it the same as embarrassment for having been found out or caught. Conviction is what happens "when I finally become aware of the kind of person I really am." It is painful, very painful, but good.

Our capacity to recognize moral truth is what makes us human. Without the Holy Spirit, we do not have an accurate assessment of who we are. In the ultimate scheme of things it doesn't matter what people think of me but what God thinks.

Who are you going to trust?

At this point we entered into communion.