Sunday, October 27, 2013

For Me, Belonging is a Family Matter

Pastor Brad Shannon welcomed us with his usual warmth and tipped his hand on today's theme by talking about the importance of family, and that this is not just a cliche, but something real in our church family.

A eew baby is here with us today, born Wednesday to Megan and Drake… Elanor Sophia… 8 lb 4 oz
Cheryl… asked us to support KICY, a radio station in Nome, Alaska that reaches outlying regions of Western Alaska and the far eastern parts of Russia across the Bering Strait.
Campbell’s soup Can labels coming soon, to raise money for Covenant World Relief
Samaritan’s Purse, November 20 … shoeboxes of goods for needy areas in Operation Christmas Child

The trio opened with "All Is Well" and then led us in a number of songs from the silver songbook.

John Vanderscheuren, a graduate of Teen Challenge, was invited to share his testimony. He began by stating he was an addict for 12-13 years. Much of his life he thought he wasn't good enough for God or his family. He shared  Philippians 1:6... "Be confident of this, that He who has begun a good work in you will carry it to completion on the day of Christ Jesus." God has been with him these past two years as he moves into a new life in Christ.

Prayer requests were shared, several of them related to people with cancer. There were also praises for good things God has done.

For Me, Belonging is a Family Matter

Pastor Brad opened by reading Psalm 71:17, 18
Since my youth, God, you have taught me,
and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.
Even when I am old and gray,
do not forsake me, my God,
till I declare your power to the next generation,
your mighty acts to all who are to come.

We have a huge responsibility to pass down the faith to the next generation. Brad shared that families are the way in which God connected people... beginning with the manner in which babies come into the world and the miracle of the first smile and how when the infant wraps its arms around our necks we learn why arms and hands were created.

Children, when done right, learn that they are loved and they are prized. Grownups learn that when they give they also receive. They will all learn by experience what grace is.

The whole idea of family is an expression of the love and care and grace of God. Families were created to express the character of God. The family is expected to mirror the ultimate reality of the universe. It is not just a biological mechanism to procreate. It is intended to be a manifestation of His kingdom.

The second critical moment in the history of the family was when the first family allowed sin enter into their relationship, recorded in Genesis 3. When God confronted Adam did he take the blame? No, he blamed the woman, and blamed God for giving that woman to him.

Genesis is a book full of family stories. Not a history of great nations and palaces. It's a series of stories about dysfunctional families. Cain and Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Esau, Jospeh and his brothers....  This is just the first book of the Bible.

There has never been a Golden Age of the Family.... Yet in the midst of these messed up families God is active.

The church is not made up of families who have it all together who smugly congratulate one another for their righteousness. Rather, it is a collection of families who come together with their neediness.

Brad proceeded to detail by name the reality of family life for us here in our church... Brad chose to read a list of family problems within our midst, affecting our homes or the homes we grew up in from children who wrestled with spiritual doubts, or insecurity or peer rejection or low self esteem or drinking problems or an abortion or angry, bitter words got spoken regularly, or where parents felt like financial failures, or kids plagued by anxiety or stress, or married couples who have not slept together in years and nobody knows, or young people who feel like losers or families rocked by unfaitflulness or sexual addiction, or people who are single and wonder if they will ever fit in or be wanted.... The list was detailed and went on for some length of time. Then Brad had everyone stand up who had any of these issues in their families or the families they grew up in. His point was made that we are a family of people with pain, not people who have it all together. He said, "You will notice that I am standing also."

There are three critical moments in our family history. Grace came first. Then sin enters. The third critical moment is Hope, and the name of that hope is Jesus. Everything hinges on Jesus.

There is a story in Scripture where Jesus is teaching and someone says, "Your mother and brothers are here." Jesus replies, "Whoever does God's will is my sister or brother or mother." Jesus started a new definition for family that transcends culture, skin color, gender and everything else.

He said to this new family, "Love one another as I have loved you." You do that for each other. Become brothers and sisters.

As we walk through this world we continually brush up against people of incalculable worth. You have never looked on a person for whom Jesus did not die.

Brad concluded with Psalm 27:10 "Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me."

Jesus has started a new family and it is here.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Believe It Or Not

"Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.' ~ Psalm 51:12 

Today is the 22nd Sunday after Pentecost. A light snow is falling outside as Darlene warms the sanctuary with a medley of classic hymns including This Is My Story. The growing volume of chatter in the narthex adds additional warmth to the atmosphere inside the church as friends and church family share stories of the week behind and plans for the week ahead. Into the cacophony of sound Pastor Brad takes his place at the front and lifts his voice with boisterous cheer, "Good morning. Merry Christmas." Laughter. "I'm grateful you're here today..."

In Sunday School we had a good class as the sermon will continue on this theme of what it means to say "I believe." How do we grow in our relationship to Christ.

1. The friendship dinner sign-up sheet is being passed around the sanctuary and we'll be connected to other couples with groups of six or eight who will have dinners together
2. Cheryl shared that there will be a number of opportunities to give  in the coming months. We're not trying to bombard you but it's our turn to give and we want you to be aware of opportunities. Operation Christmas Child will be next Wednesday.
3. Paula shared that we are having a jacket drive for needy people at the CHUM Walk-In Center.
4. Susie shared that Girls Art Club will be next Sunday.

After Darlene's introit she sang a duet with Brad, the first verse of "This Is My Father's World." The women of the church sang the second, and then all together on the third. Brad then committed the service to God.

Chuck brought Madison Johnson up to the front to sing for us... Beginning with the verses from the Sermon on the Mount, "You are the light of the world..."  The song, familiar to many of us from our own childhood, Let the Sunshine In.

A time of prayer followed, along with praise for God's work in our lives.

Believe It Or Not

Imagine two people standing, affirming the same statement. One is humble, truthful and everyone wants to be around that person. The other has the same beliefs. This second though is judgmental, angry, critical, and no one wants to be around this person.

Ephesian 2:8   "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God..."   If faith is so important, how can two people have the same faith but be so different?

Three kinds of convictions.  Public convictions that we state, but may not line up with what we really believe. The story of Herod stating he wanted to find the Christ child so he could worship him was an example of this.

A second kind is private convictions that we believe we believe but then when push comes to shove prove to be fickle.

The third type of convictions: those that our actions reveal about us. Example of gravity. We act consistently with what we believe here, because we act as if gravity were true.

What would our lives look like if an impartial entity watched everything we did for a year and drew up our personal creed based on our actual behavior?

The heart is deceitful and depravity is wrapped around it very deeply.

When Jesus came, was He concerned about what we say we believe? Or was He more concerned with the deeper core convictions we have. To be impacted by Jesus it will change the things that we do.

Jesus lived completely consistent in what he believed and spoke and how He behaved.

Disciples began with faith in Jesus, then had the faith of Jesus, and as they walked in His way developed their thinking to be Jesus in their way of thinking and behaving.

What people do with their lives will show what we believe in that innermost self.

What Jesus wants to change in us is not what we say. It's not what we say that Jesus is aiming for. He is aiming to change us in those deep places of the heart.

Here's the Path
Learn what Jesus taught. What are Jesus's ideas about how we should live our lives. In order for God to begin to change us, I will need trust Him.

In one of his books Henri Nouwen shared a story about watching trapeze artists. He went so far as to get to know them and became friends with them. He learned that what the flyers do is nothing other than trust. The flyer must trust with outstretched arms and wait. The catcher catches. And we, like the flyer, must trust that God will be there for us when we obey.

What are you being called to let go of? Anything that will get in the way of your relationship to God. Will you let it go?

Abraham is a great example of faith because he was told he will be father of a multitude, but he had to wait 24 years. Abraham didn't wait well, but in the end he gets caught by a God who does not and cannot fail. The flyer can do nothing, the catcher everything.

God is there saying, "Will you trust me? Will you do as I say?"

If you don't believe in Jesus, then what in the world are you waiting for? Let go... of your selfishness.... of your depravity... of your life. He will catch you.

Jesus believed that there was a catcher... and so do I.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Heart of the Matter

A splendid sunshine is spilling into the sanctuary this morning as Darlene plays a medley of songs on the keyboard, from Give Thanks to Jesus Name Above All Names. Pastor Brad energetically welcomed us with a hearty "Good morning. I'm grateful you're here today." In his welcome he shared about the building project progress.

"Last week we talked about worship. Today we're going to talk about the heart of the matter..."

Brad introduced some of the Shannon's friends, Rosie Peterson and her son Chris. They have been head of Covenant Pines Bible Camp for many years.

1. There is firewood across the street which can be taken
2. Council meeting Tuesday at 7:00
3. Sam, a Yorkshire Terrier, is in need of a new home. Contact Kelly Smith.
4. Bring aluminum cans and Matt will help recycle them for building funds.

Today's quartet was comprised of Chuck, Ken, Darlene and Patty who sang the beautiful In Christ Alone.

In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

If you know it not, I strongly encourage you to find this hymn and meditate upon its richness. During the offering they followed up with How Long Has It Been?

We shared our needs and lifted up our many needs in prayer, and the quartet returned to the front of the hall to sing one more... "Praise the Lord."

Praise the Lord
He can work with those who praise Him,
Praise the Lord
For our God inhabits praise,
Praise the Lord
For the chains that seem to bind you
Serve only to remind you that they drop powerless behind you
When you praise him

Joanne Winship read from the Scriptures with the young people scattered about around her. The reading was about how Jesus found His helpers.

Brad then did a drawing of Highway 53 and the various businesses along the way asking us what value each offered to the community. He ended by noting that the Good News of Jesus was not given to these businesses but to us, the church.

The Heart of the Matter

People have never really liked the tax people but in Jesus' day it was even worse. Though Matthew was an Israelite, he worked for Rome, the oppressor. They often siphoned off money for themselves, from their own countrymen. They were despised by the people. Rabbis wouldn't even look at one. They were worse than untouchables. Even the Romans disliked them because they were Jews. Their only friends were other tax collectors.

Matthew was a low level tax collector. He worked at a toll booth on the side of a road going to Galilee. He was often on the receiving end of verbal abuse for doing his job.

One day, as Jesus was passing Matthew's toll booth he said, "I want you to be my friend. I invite you to be part of my community, to be one of My students to learn from Me."  Matthew's response: he got up and followed Him.

In Jesus' community, everyone is welcome. Everyone is accepted. On this day, Matthew was blind-sided by grace.

After this happens he is a changed man with a new purpose and a new heart. But Matthew is only just begun. He thinks about the other tax collectors in his former circle and decides to throw a party for these other tax collectors. He believes in Jesus so much that Matthew is sure to show up.

As the dinner goes on, Matthew is thinking about how petty making money must have been. Matthew is thinking how cool it is to have brought these people he cared about and put them together with Jesus, just to see what would happen.

If I take a risk pointing someone to Jesus who will I know is with me there? Yes, the Holy Spirit. 

Brad illustrated this with a story about a 92-year-old woman who was being robbed at gunpoint in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart. He asked for her money as he pointed a gun at her. She didn't have much money but still said no, and added, "If you shoot me I will go to heaven and you will go to hell." The man broke down, convicted to his core, and ultimately was praying to God for forgiveness of his sins. When the transaction with heaven was completed, the woman gave him the ten dollars she had to help him begin a new life direction.

What's keeping me from doing what Matthew did, introducing people to Jesus?

There were pharisees there who questioned Jesus' presence there. "Why do you sit with tax collectors and sinners?"  The pharisees thought being spiritually mature meant distancing oneself from sinners. Jesus replied, "It is not the righteous but sinners who need forgiveness."

How can we get the people we care about in touch with Jesus? Ask the Lord to make it happen. We carry the Kingdom of God with us.

There is no greater adventure in life than bringing people to Jesus. This is not a program. It is simply you and me, a heart deal. When the fire burns brightly inside a church people are saying, "I will do anything." It's this kind of church that can accomplish anything.

The message was delivered with power. Thank you, Brad.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Make a Joyful Noise

Today was Communion Sunday and it seemed a very special service despite the weather. Pastor Brad seemed at the top of game with a sermon on worship that had energy and insights.

~ Brad thanked everyone who helped keep watch for this week's brush burn across the street. A second burn will begin tomorrow (Monday, the 8th) at 8:00 a.m. If you are able to keep watch, as it is required we have people on the grounds to satisfy fire marshall regulations, please notify the pastor or Chuck.
~ Paula said that the church is having a jacket drive to help those in need as we head into winter.
~ Paula also invited women and children (men are welcome, of course) to help make fleece blankets for the women's shelter
~ Yesterday's church bazaar at the town hall raised $2,214, in spite of the dismal weather.

Walt Cresman, chairman of the building committee, gave us an update. In the next few weeks we'll be seeing significant progress across the way, including grading and excavation, septic system installation and more. Walt shared how one of the keys to our being able to complete this project within our budget expectations is due to the volunteer assistance within our church family. By utilizing our skills and efforts we will be able to shave $300,000 off the costs such a building would produce if handled wholly by contractors. Thank you to all who have been helping and are able to help in the coming year.

After a time of worship, giving and prayer, Brad took the pulpit to deliver the message.

Make a Joyful Noise

Pastor Brad began by pointing to a passage from Psalm 98: Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises! (vs. 4)

He then shared a brief YouTube video that showed us what a joyful noise sounds like... a giggling, laughing baby.

Whoever thought of this sound. Where did it come from? This laughter... Whatever did this child do to contribute to this fun? So it is that our own experiences of joy are an undeserved gift.

It is in response to God's generous gift of love that we worship. Here are some reasons worship is good.

1) It takes our attention off ourselves.
Since World War 2 depression has gone up 1000%. It is an epidemic of our times. As a people we have lost a connection with something bigger than ourselves. We've been made to think about something bigger than our smallness.

Perhaps this is why we revel in sunsets and other things compellingly beautiful. Laughter and beauty say something about the character of God.

2) When we worship it produces a spirit of gratitude.
When I worship I remember all the good things God has done for me. Brad suggested we make a list of all the things we are grateful for.

3) God is bigger than our hardships.
In Habakkuk 3:17-18 we hear this response to life's hardships.

17 Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.

God is bigger than it all.

4) Worship connects us to others.
Brad pointed us to the famous celebration that occurred after Israel crossed the Red Sea and Miriam spontaneously grabbed a tambourine to celebrate God's deliverance... "the horse and rider have been thrown into the sea." Then he directed us to the three days of preparation Israel underwent to worship God at Mount Horeb. In each case it was the same God, but distinctively different styles of worship. "

It's not about style, it's about God. There are 41 Psalms that admonish us to "sing unto the Lord." When we worship together it builds a special bond. We are not alone in the world.

5) The Best Reason to Worship: What it does for somebody else.
That Somebody is God. God is a person. Like all persons {we were made in His image} God has feelings. God grieves. God feels delight. It gives God joy when we worship. Not because he has a need. He is self-sufficient. It's His desire to deliver us from ourselves.

After the message Ed Newman sang 'Be Still My Soul" and we celebrated the sacrament of communion.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Thought for the Day

To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless. 
 ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton