Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Joy of Christmas

"I'm grateful you're here today," Pastor Brad said as he welcomed us. He then asked the children if they are excited about Christmas coming, and used that to say we, too, should not lose this sense of excitement as adults. His message would be about experiencing Christmas, and life, like a child.

Announcements
No Sunday school next week.
Our Christmas Eve candlelight service will be at 4:00 p.m. Wednesday.

Darlene's dramatic medley of classics helped transition us to a time of worship led by the women's chorus after the lighting of the Advent candle by Walt & Gwen.

Callie Johnson played a song while the offering was taken.

A time of prayer and praise .was followed by the women's chorus singing a medley beginning with O Holy Night.

The Joy of Christmas

Brad opened his message by citing two aspects of Christmas that stand out for him. On the one hand there is such a joy about Christmas, the wonder of what God has done for us and the whole Christmas story. On the other hand there is so much brokenness and hatred in many families and that causes untold pain, and it pains him as well to see the things people are going through.

This morning, however, Brad wanted to underscore the importance of re-experiencing Christmas like a child.

In Matthew 19:14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” And then he noted that Jesus said unless we become like little children we shall not see the kingdom of God..

Kids have mastered the art of living in the present, in the now. "Yesterday's history, tomorrow's a mystery, and the present is a gift." God gives us each day as a gift. Unwrap it. "This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it."

Sometimes we don't appreciate our day today because we're thinking about elsewhere. Or we're unhappy with our lives because we wish we had someone else's life.

Today is a gift, and like kids ripping open Christmas presents we can unwrap our days with excitement.

He shared an example of kids in Third World for whom even the smallest gift is received with enthusiasm.

Don't miss the moments in your life. You used to be thrilled by the beauty of a sunrise or sunset. In so many other ways we begin to take the moments for granted that we once appreciated.

Brad cited the manner in which his kids dance while the credits roll at the end of movies. Then he shared the way Mary burst into song when God's favor was bestowed on her.

I want to be like that. I never want to quit singing, because God has given us an incredible gift. And all He longs for is for us to unwrap it.

God's greatest desire is that we would embrace the gift, and grow up to be His children.

Matthew 1:23  "The virgin will be with a child... and they will call Him Emmanuel, God with us."

Brad shared a Chuck Colson story about one occasion when he was delivering gifts to the family of a man who was in prison. He asked the boy what his name was, and he said, "Emmanuel." Chuck told the boy that the meaning of his name was, "God is with us." The boy got so excited and ran to his mom saying, "Mom, God is with us!"

God is with us, and He is the only hope of the world. This hope is ours as a gift, by faith in the risen Christ.

God longs for us to embrace the gift. Maybe today is your day to unwrap it.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Thoughts On Mary

A warm misty morning here in rural Northern Minnesota as we gather to celebrate the third Sunday of Advent. Pastor Brad prepares to welcome us with his usual warmth. "Good morning! I am grateful you're here today. Last week I talked about light. Today I would like to talk about Mary and what the circumstances of her life were like.

Announcements
4 pm this afternoon is the Christmas program.
No Sunday School next week.
Christmas coffee at Brooke Shannon's on Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. All ladies invited.
Wednesday family nights discontinued till January.
Christmas Eve service at 4 p.m.
Cheryl brought up the family we're supporting as a church, the sign-up sheet is in the back.
Wednesday is a work day again, hanging sheetrock.

Darlene ushered us into worship with variations on "What Child Is This?" and "Fairest Lord Jesus."

A reading by Kelly Smith preceded the lighting of the Advent candle by Curt and Melissa Fernandez.

We sang "O Come All Ye Faithful" and "Away in the Manger" to keep us in the spirit of the season. Then we turned to the Lord in prayer on behalf of the needs of the church family and community.

Brad read the story of the birth of Jesus, and invited parents to share their children's birth stories with their children. Celebrate the miracle of your own lives... followed by Ed Newman singing the traditional version of "What Child Is This?"

Thoughts On Mary

Brad began by sharing how he's been thinking about the Nativity scenes and how all the faces seem calm on all seems peaceful. Even the baby doesn't seem colicky. Sometimes our own troubles seem so immense and complicated so that we can hardly relate to these images of peace and sweetness.

Throughout history paintings of Mary show a tranquil face. But these images don't really reflect the hardships the real mother of Jesus endured over the course of a lifetime. Brad wanted us to understand the realities of Mary's life.

In the first chapter of the book of Luke, we meet Mary as she is being singled out by the angel Gabriel. She would soon be carrying a child, God's child, she is told. This is not something she wanted for herself, and it troubled her. Even more troubling was that she would have to tell Joseph that she was pregnant and persuade him that she had not been unfaithful.

Despite all this, her response is significant: "I am the Lord's servant. May it be according to your will."

In other words, she knew that she would have to give up her own agenda for her future. A peaceful life would not be hers because she was going to have an easy life.

Brad  shared a little historical background here. As a result of certain events, Julius Caesar was the first Caesar to be declared "God." His son, Caesar Augustus, was thus the "son of God." Caesar Augustus is the founder of the Pax Romana, which resulted in an international highway system and a reign of peace, which became a means by which the early church was able to spread the Gospel throughout the known world.

A historical sidenote was given to provide context for Luke's story of the birth of Jesus as recounted in Luke 2.

The message proclaimed to Mary, Zachariah and the shepherds was this: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When they bring Jesus to the Temple to dedicate their infant to the Lord, Simeon lifts up this baby, and says, "This is what I have waited my whole life for." He then speaks to Mary, “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Mary hid these things in her heart. As she did with other events including the time Jesus and the family visited the Temple at Passover when He was twelve, an especially significant event that signified a change in her relationship with her son.

Brad went on to cite various passages and instances in the Gospel where things are said and done that cause pain to Mary's heart.

The prayer Mary prayed when the story begins is the same prayer that Jesus prays when He is dying on the cross... "Not My will but Thine be done."

At the cross Mary understood what Simeon meant when He said, "A sword will pierce your heart." Even there at the cross Jesus thought not of His own needs but expressed His concern for His mother by instructing John, the beloved disciple, to take care of his mother.

Brad closed by saying, "I don't know your circumstances... but there is no peace that will last except the peace that comes through Jesus."

Mary's dangerous prayer is still changing the world.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

An Image To Reflect On

The sanctuary was lively this morning as we assembled for worship, Communion Sunday. "Good morning. Welcome to the second week of Advent," Pastor Brad said. "One of the images of Advent that is frequently associated with Light. What is the significance of Jesus being the light of the world? Christmas is a celebration of salvation, from our sin toward a purpose. I am genuinely grateful for what He has done.  Jesus said, 'I am the light of the world.'"

Announcements
Paula showed a beautiful quilt that has been donated, and opportunities are being sold to win this beautiful quilt and pillow. Money raised will go to the Building Fund.
Cheryl shared how our church adopts a family each year and this year we now have a family of six to give to.
Walt stated that Tuesday they would welcome volunteers to help hang drywall. There will be a budget meeting on Tuesday a.m. at 4 p.m.  Friday and Saturday will be work days as well.

Darlene ushered us into worship with a beautiful Christmas piece. Kelly then read a passage in preparation for lighting of the Advent candle. "Let God, not the world, be Lord of your minds."  The Borndal family lit this week's candle, after which the Ladies Chorus led us in a few hymns.

After the offering and a time of prayer, the women's chorale sang a special number.

An Image To Reflect On

Pastor Brad began by reading Isaiah 9:1-2.

Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past He humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future He will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—

The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.

The image of light and darkness is one of the strongest metaphors in the Bible. From the beginning to the end there are more than 200 references to light and darkness. He asked, "How is Jesus the light in your world? What does it mean?"

We see evidences of the darkness of the world nearly everywhere we look, from ISIS to other horrors in the news. Brad noted that we can't be smug about the darkness that is out there because when we're completely honest we know that there is darkness within us as well. We sometimes get used to this, though we shouldn't. God's aim is to overcome all darkness with light.

In John 3:19 Jesus says, "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil."

This darkness within us is called sin.

But there is power in the light. A ship lost on the high seas finds great comfort when the light of the lighthouse reaches it and directs it to a safe harbor. Lost hikers who survive the darkness of night are given renewed hope by the morning light. The light gives them hope of being rescued.

In John 12:46 Jesus states, "I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness." Jesus did not come into the world to get rich or be a celebrity. He came to bring light.

At Calvary He took the world's darkness upon Himself and in the resurrection overcame it. Jesus proved that he is able to deliver us from the darkness.

Jesus knows us like no other, and loves like no other. "I know all about your darkness and nothing you have done can make Me love you less or more.

You can choose to live in the light. And it is comforting to know that there is a light in the darkness.

* * * *
After the sermon we sang our way through Communion.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Patience

After a warm welcome Pastor Brad introduced the service by noting what his theme would be today. "Advent is a time of waiting. What are you waiting for? How does God meet us in our waiting?" He added that even in our times of waiting God is at work.

Brad had the kids come forward to help pass out tamarack branches which we were encouraged to take home and place in a glass of water. We'll report on what we saw happen Christmas eve.

Announcements
~Kurt shared that there will be an abbreviated lock-in Dec 13, 6 p.m. till midnight.
~Dec 17, parents are encouraged to come meet with the youth group.
~There's a pizzas and brats fund raiser at Adolph Store to raise money to send kids to CHIC.

Darlene played a beautiful medley of Christmas music to usher us into worship. The women's chorus led us in a pair of Christmas hymns followed by the taking of the offering and collection of the Covenant World Relief soup cans.

John Vanderscheuren lit the first Advent candle as Christina read a passage from the scriptures. After special music by the women's chorus Brad took the pulpit to deliver the message.

Patience

Brad first read from Isaiah 64:1-9.

He then asked who our favorite superhero was. When Brad was a kid Superman was his hero, and he wanted to be like him.

In Old Testament Israel they were looking for a superhero. Their Messiah was the one they longed for. Their expectation was for an anointed one, who would be a king.

The two things they expected of this hero were that he would defeat their enemies in battle, and he would restore worship in the temple.

The most prominent Messianic title was "Son of David." This was the expectation, that this Son of David would defeat the enemies of Israel. He would be King of the Jews.

When Herod became king he took steps to be identified with this Messiah-expectation. He defeated some enemies in battle. And he managed to acquire the title King of the Jews from the Roman authorities.

When Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, John said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. (John 1:29) This was a very different anointing from the anticipated anointing of a king.

What happens to a lamb of God? In Israel, every year at Passover a lamb was selected for sacrifice, a tradition going back to the days of this people's exile in Egypt and the deliverance wrought by Moses. The expectations of a messiah were tied to deliverance.

But Brad wasn't simply interested in telling us anecdotes from history. His aim was to bring it home to us.

Our problem is not a political problem. Israel's problem was not a Roman problem. Politics or violence will not solve the problem. Love, sacrifice and the way of the Cross are at the center of God's solution.

We all tend to set ourselves up as little messiahs. "I want to rule my world."

Brad interjected a lighter moment with a story about three men with a Messiah complex story. Their psychiatrist puts them in a room to see how they'll get along. The first makes some extravagant statement which leads the second to say, "Who told you that?" He says, "God did." The third replies, "I never told you that."

Jesus was and is the Messiah. He's the one we've been waiting for. But He's more than that. He's the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world.

Brad noted the passage in Exodus 12 where each household was to select a lamb as a sacrifice for Passover. It is on lamb selection day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem.

When they celebrated Passover they wanted God to do again what He had done when Moses led the historical exodus.

Brad then described Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem...  a near hysterical revelry by a crowd waving palm branches. These palm branches were symbolic of the Maccabean revolt that had occurred approximately 160 years earlier.

Waving of palm branches was a Messianic symbol gone wild.  People were dancing and cheering because they thought He was coming to give them what they want. They expected Jesus to lead a revolt and the Romans would get what was coming to them.

Jesus  "If you'd only known what would bring you peace." Jesus wept over Jerusalem's ignorance.

The cross is what happened to failed Messiahs. The people didn't understand that He came on a very different mission, to serve the world... not to lead armies to overthrow oppressive empires.

Brad noted how we all tend to filter our world through our own messiah-complex. Every human has suffered from a grandiosity-complex... except one. And He was the Messiah.

To the extent that I align myself with Him, I am on the right path.

Ultimately, Jesus puts the question to each of us as He did to His disciples in Matthew 16: "Who do you say that I am?"

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Thankfulness

It’s a misty morning in the Northland as we head toward the Advent season. Thanksgiving is this coming Thursday and our theme this morning corresponds with the occasion. Pastor Brad welcomed us with a heartfelt “Good morning!" and went on to highlight a key thought from his sermon. "Gratitude is a heart that is filled with recognition that all I have is a gift."

Announcements were many this morning.
Kurt shared that on Dec 12 & 19 parents and youth should all come and meet together.
Wednesday night Kids Club is suspended till after Christmas
Building update: Electricians and plumbers need to get the building heated before the next phase involving volunteers can begin, which will be hanging drywall.
Beginning next Sunday, kids of all ages will be practicing for the Christmas program during Sunday school hour.
Saturday the 29th we will be decorating the sanctuary and Christmas tree for the holidays.
Ruth Anne shared that we're looking for volunteers to bake Christmas cookies for inmates at the St. Louis County Jail. No nuts or coconuts. Sign up sheets in the narthex.

Last Thursday we had our wash day at the Washbucket. The church volunteers washed close to 500 loads of laundry. Washing often falls to the bottom of peoples’ priority lists and it is truly a gift for many needy people.

Our Covenant World Relief giving is this coming weekend. Bring your soup cans. Cheryl Borndal shared how moved she is by all the various ways our church is involved in giving.

We also blessed the Operation Christmas Boxes that were assembled last Wednesday night.

Verse for the Day
He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your resources and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for great generosity, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God” ~II Cor. 9:10,11

An offering was taken followed by a time of prayer before the sermon.

Thankfulness

Brad began by talking about things. We see things. Buy things. Insure things. Collect things. Own things. And the Bible has a lot to say about things.

Our things have a way of getting ahold of us. Even though they are inanimate they seem to have power.

One of the first words infants learn is “mine”… and it only grows from there. When we grow up we get a house that we fill with things. Then we need a bigger house to we can still more things. It’s almost as if we need a “things exorcism.”

Families fight over things more than nearly anything else. Prisons are full of people who committed crimes over things. Too often we tie our identity, success and who we are to our things.

Brad's passage today was the first half of I Chronicles 29. David is king of Israel at this time. At one time he had been just a shepherd. Now he is advanced in years, having accumulated many things, and much experience of God's mercy and goodness. One day he is in his palace and he realizes there is no house for God. At this point in time there is still only the Tabernacle, a tent of animal skins housing the Ark of the Covenant.

Within the Ark is the manna, signifying God's perpetual provision, as well as the Ten Commandments and Aaron's rod that budded.

David believed God should have a beautiful building to house God and honor Him, so he prays and asks God for permission to do this. But God says no, that David has been a man of war and his son Solomon should be the chosen one to build His house... ultimately the Temple of Israel. David accepts this and instead chooses to use all his resources to help build God’s house, even if he cannot do it himself

So I have provided for the house of my God, so far as I was able, the gold for the things of gold, the silver for the things of silver, and the bronze for the things of bronze, the iron for the things of iron, and wood for the things of wood, besides great quantities of onyx and stones for setting, antimony, colored stones, all sorts of precious stones, and marble. Moreover, in addition to all that I have provided for the holy house, I have a treasure of my own of gold and silver, and because of my devotion to the house of my God I give it to the house of my God...: (I Chronicles 29:2-3)

He has asked himself,  “How can I maximize my abilities to make this happen.” And then he turns to the people and issues a challenge: Who will willingly concentrate themselves to the Lord?

Notice the key word here: willingly. David did not force people to build it, as pharaohs had forced the masses to build the pyramids. David understood that things only mean something if they are given with a joyful heart. Meaningful giving is not coerced. The result here is an explosion of generosity. They gave willingly, and David also rejoiced greatly.

As an aside Brad noted that the heart of tithing is not about figuring out how little to give without making God mad. "Do I tithe on the gross or on the net?"

God's desire for us is to be joyful givers. I am so grateful for this community. I am so grateful that you want to give.

Here’s the core of the message.

People understood the difference between ownership and stewardship. And David praised the Lord thus: “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the … For everything in heaven and on earth is Yours.” That is the spirit of Thanksgiving.

Things are deceptive. Someone had them before me and someone will have them after me. I am just a steward, I am not the owner.

In verse 14 David exclaims, "But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly?" David had killed a man to have his wife, had made many mistakes. But God had gotten hold of his heart.

On another level, many of us tend to take credit for our achievements, that we have earned what we have. David could have said he deserved these things… he fought Goliath, led armies… But he knows that all he has is because of God. There’s no such thing as a self-made person. Things deceive into thinking we deserve what we have because we earned it. In reality all kinds of people and experiences have contributed to who we are and what we have gained.

David knew that the only reason he was living in a palace was because of God. In return he said, "I want to use my things to build YOUR kingdom, God, not my kingdom. How can I make sure that what I have is being used to make a difference in this world." And this was Brad's challenge to each of us.

After reminding us that the church is not just another organization, he moved to verse 18: "O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, our fathers, keep for ever such purposes and thoughts in the hearts of thy people, and direct their hearts toward Thee."

It’s not something we can do ourselves, but Jesus can change our hearts.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

God Looks at the Heart

"Good morning!" Pastor Brad welcomed us and then indicated that today's message was about this: What does it mean to be a good person?

Announcements
~ Thursday November 20 we will be at the Washbucket in West Duluth to do laundry for poor and needy in that community.
~ Wednesday we will be packing Operation Christmas Child boxes.
~ Walt came forward to share a few words about the building progress. It's quite evident that we're making progress across the street. The walls are framed and the next big project is hanging drywall. First, the electrician must get the building wired and the heat going so the mud and paint will dry once we start.
~ In two weeks we will have our first Christmas program practice.

Darlene ushered us into worship with a beautiful medley. Brad then led us as we sang contemporary versions of Amazing Grace, How Deep the Father's Love For Us and Take My Life. The offering was taken followed by a time of prayer.

God Looks At The Heart

Pastor Brad stated that his aim this morning is to attempt to get at the idea of what does Jesus want for us or from us. What does a good person look like in God's eyes.

The source passages are from the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 5 begins with the Beattitudes. Then Jesus talks about what we are to be like. "You are the salt of the earth..."

Then Jesus addresses the matter of sin from Matthew 5:21-30. If your eye violates the commandment, pluck it out. If your hand sins, cut it off.

Jesus isn't really proposing dismemberment as the path to holiness. What He is saying, first, is that sin is serious.

But the purpose of these hard words is to highlight something that was a problem in His day, the matter of how to be holy. How to be good. How to be pleasing to God.

The Pharisees valued the law, but they went through extreme contortions to use their willpower to be good. This carries over to what we have today where holiness is not a positive, but a life of avoiding the bad stuff. Don't do this, don't do that.

Jesus is saying God's plan for being a good person is not just sin avoidance. If the problem were that simple, we'd cut off hands, feet, eyes, tongue and just roll into heaven. This problem isn't the things we do. The problem is the heart. You can cut off everything and still have ugliness and bitterness in the center of your being. And what's inside of us will always leak out.

Our human condition is the problem. It's what comes out of us is what makes us unclean.

The community of faith is not a self-help group.

Brad then cited Mark 7:20-22: And He said, “What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.

The world is a mess because of the human heart. And there is no self-help that will fix this, as is underscored in Luke 6:43-45.

“For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good man out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure produces evil; for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

God is not some mean guy up there in the clouds trying to keep us from doing the things we want to do.  And what we need is not more willpower. What we need is to want something else more than we want sin. What we need is a new heart.

Holiness means that I become the kind of person who actually wants to to what is right. And to be honest, this is what our hearts want when the Holy Spirit enters us.

What God wants to do is change us within so that we naturally want to do what is right and good.

"Abide in Me," Jesus says.

God is not opposed to effort. He's opposed to earnings. That is, our deeds do not "earn" us salvation. By means of our efforts we can never attain what is required of us. Ultimately it all comes down to grace.

Brad then challenged us to focus on one thing. He chose to have us focus this week on controlling our tongues. "This week I want to challenge you not to say anything that is negative. No complaining. No whining. Not even in your body language."

He challenged us here to do this because he knows it is impossible.

* * * *
We closed the service with Hymn #296, All Praise To God Who Reigns Above.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Relax

Pastor Brad welcomed us warmly on this sunny wintry morning and stated that we will be looking at that portion of the Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus tells us not to worry.

Announcements
~ The Washbucket laundromat has been reserved for another community wash day. It was a great experience last year when members of New Life Covenant helped wash clothes for needy people in West Duluth. Last time we washed almost 300 loads. The date this year is November 20. We could use help with wash detergent if you want to bring some. Quarters always welcome.
~ Operation Christmas Child underway. Collecting goods for the showboxes we're packing for needy people in all parts of the world.  November 19 will be filling shoeboxes. Costs $7.00 per box for shipping.
~ Free Thanksgiving Dinner, featuring Leonard's cuisine.
~ Walt shared progress on the building progress. At least 16 helping yesterday with more than 100 hours in. Putting up walls and ceilings. Steeple now in place.

Brad introduced the trio by suggesting a name for this trio who has sung together for so long. His idea, The Pine Tones, as opposed to the Pine Cones. A fun moment as we transitioned into worship.

As we prepared to take the offering Brad stated the secret of joy is found in humility, service and generosity. The trio then sang "Come to the Waters."

Lillian Peterson is celebrating her 95th birthday from 1-4 at Viewcrest today.

Relax

It seems like people today are just so wound up. In the midst of this turbulence and uptightness,
Jesus can truly become a Non-Anxious Presence in all that takes place in this world.

Matthew 6:25-34 goes like this:
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Brad said children worry a lot, too. He thought about the things he worried about as a kid including grades, Dan Seibell the bully, getting into trouble. He used the think, “Won’t it be great when I grow up and I won’t have to worry any more?”

When Jesus gave this sermon, conditions were not good, especially compared to today. Plagues were a problem. Poverty was typical. Life was hard.

In our day, conditions are better. We're better educated, healthier, better resourced, cleaner. And yet depression anxiety has increased 10X over the past 20 years.

More money, health or success doesn’t free us from worry. The only way to live free from anxiety is to put your life in the hands of the Father.

We need to find a way to let it go.

Jesus said, “Look at the birds. They don’t store crops. They don’t harvest. Yet God feeds them.” “Look at the flowers of the field… they don’t spin or weave, yet they are better dressed than the very best-dressed of this world.”

Brad shared some of his experiences in Mexico and Ecuador. "What’s interesting is how much joy people in Mexico and Ecuador have even though they have so very little."

He related how Dave Abrahamson had had a stroke, but expressed such gratitude when he was eventually able to swallow again.

He then shared the story of the disciples in the boat when the storm arose. Panic set in, and these are pro fishermen long accustomed to life on the water. Where was Jesus? Sleeping. Completely at ease.
Jesus was a Non-Anxious Presence in their midst… Jesus is also in our midst.

We ourselves can be a non-anxious presence for others, giving comfort, hope and relief from anxiety.

There is a good God at work in our world. He is always there to catch us when we fall.

Jesus did not say, “If you follow Me you will not have problems.” In fact, you can almost count on it if you follow Christ.

Do not worry, because nothing that ultimately matters is at risk. Even death itself is not a thing to worry about.

As Paul wrote to the Phillippians, 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

The way to overcome anxiety is not to try harder. It’s to pray, and cast our concerns on outrvery big and capable God.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Generosity

"I'm grateful you're here to worship with us this morning," Pastor Brad began. "What would you like to be known for as a community? One of the things I'd like to be known for is generosity. When our name comes up -- New Life Covenant Church -- what is it that you would like people to say about us? Generosity is important not only because God was generous, but it says something about who we are as a people."

Announcements
1. First CHIC fundraiser will be the "Stockholders Dinner" November 2. Buy tickets in  the back of the church after the service.
2. Darlene is putting together a church choir. Practice will begin first week of November.
3. Work day yesterday was outstanding. The next two weeks are critical because there's a lot of labor needed to hang walls, etc. Wednesday and Thursday we'll need help, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. plus next Saturday. Thank you to all who have given time to help.
4. Next Sunday will be one of our semi-annual meetings after church.

Darlene's intro featured "As the Deer" and "Holy, Holy, Holy" in a medley of worshipful ascension, a nice entry into our corporate worship time.

There were some painful prayer needs lifted up, and some wonderful expressions of thanks given.

Generosity

Brad began by commenting on the show Storage Wars. People have storage lockers because they can't fit all their "stuff" in their houses. We accumulate stuff, but then have to maintain it, store it, figure out what to do with it.

We always say our material goods aren't important to us, yet there is an incredible pull to accumulate things.

Jesus said, "Beware, a person's life does not consist of how much stuff he has."

The parable is told about the man who had accumulated so much wealth he decided to build even bigger silos.... and God says, "You fool. Tonight your life will be taken from you."

He then read Acts 4:32-35.

Brad brought up a principle about how certain things that are good lead to other spin-ffs that are also good. Eating meals as a family together has other good consequences. Exercise also.

Generosity is this kind of activity. It leads us into other positive by-products. Relationship-building. Awareness of needs besides our own. And other good that comes of it.

The generosity of the early church was an entirely new thing. And it caught peoples' attention. The result was that they enjoyed the good favor of the people.

Jesus actually talked a lot about money. Of 30 parables that Jesus told, 19 were about money. Money tends to enslave us. It also skews the way we view others. We often measure people by how much money they have.

Do you think today we're more or less inclined toward materialism and consumerism than 2000 years ago? It's more. Based on the world we live in, money is a trap.

Generosity is the core of who we are. Life is not about our stuff. Yet our desires lean in that direction.

In the early church, the attitude was that "All I have is God's." It's not mine. The result is that when you do not "own" your things, you find what you really put your trust in.

The thing about generosity is that it strikes at the heart of our core sin. Adam and Eve's sin was a desire to own, to have, something that didn't belong to them.

The idea of owning more and more, and never being satisfied with what you have, is contagious.

Brad ended with this: "God so loved the world that He gave..." From beginning to end we see that our God is a generous, giving God.

SCENES FROM ACROSS THE STREET

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Parable of the Talents

A straight up blue sky and sunshine greeted us today, and Pastor Brad welcomed us with the same sonshine.

Announcements
Next Saturday will be another work day and we're looking for volunteers to help continue the work on the new building.

This summer 2015 our youth have an opportunity to go to CHIC, a Christ-centered youth gathering in Tennessee held every three years. Brooke shared a one minute clip that summarized some of what they will be experiencing. There will some fund raising events to help cover expenses for the dozen or so youth from our church who will be going next summer.

Stockholders Dinner, Saturday, November 1, 5-7 p.m.
Also, bring your shiny magazines to the church to discard instead of recycle center. This kind of paper can be redeemed for cash.


Chuck, Ken and Darlene led worship this morning. He noted that there will be a special children's church today during the service in which they would be sharing about Jonah. The song selection was heart-warming, concluding with "I'd Rather Have Jesus" which we sang during the offering.

After a corporate time of prayer and intercession, Brad led us and we concluded with the words that Jesus taught us.

Parable of the Talents

We began by hearing the reading of Matthew 25:14ff.

The story begins with a generous master who gives an immense gift. Brad explains that the "talent" is equivalent to 10,000 denarii. It's an unusually generous gift. But this is not a sermon about money. It's much more than that.

This parable raises the question, what are we supposed to do with these things that have been entrusted to us?

The point of the story is not that these people use these things for themselves, but asks them what they did with these things.

This great gift is given with no instructions. In other words, we are to take the initiative to figure out what to do with what we have been given.

In this story the first two servants are completely moved by what happened, and couldn't wait to do something with what they had been given. The third guy went away, dug a hole and buried it. The tragedy here is that he received this great gift, but from that day till the master returned his life was no different than before.

There's a difference between sins of commission and sins of omission. Since of commission are the things we do in violation of God's law. But sins of omission are equally culpable. The love we didn't share, the failure to encourage others, the failure to be grateful, the failure to help someone in need, the failure to be generous with our time or money.

In this story, there are two people who are overwhelmed with gratitude and their lives are never going to be the same.

What dream keeps you up at night? What dream do you dream of? It doesn't have to be something flashy. In fact, God is not flashy.

Another question: What's keeping you from being a good and faithful servant? In the story, the third man was afraid of failure so he hid it, and failed massively.

What do you want to hear at the end of your life?

The watching world doesn't care how good our worship services are. Rather, when we leave this place, will Jesus' name be lifted up? Will lonely people be visited? Will hungry people be fed?

If we use our gifts instead of burying them, we'll hear Him say those ever so powerful words, "Well done."

* * * *
A few photos showing this week's progress...

Surveying the parking lot.
The siding began going on this week.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Around and Around It Goes

Sunshine filled the sanctuary for today's service. Outside, blustery weather reminded us what season it is. Pastor Brad, as always, welcomed us warmly. "Good morning! I'm grateful you're here today. This morning I will be looking at a subject that is important, that we all face... that is decision making."

Darlene and Chuck were away this weekend, so Ed filled in on the accompaniment for our worship and the traveling music that accompanied taking of the offering.

After a time of prayer, the pastor delivered this important message.

Around and Around It Goes

Brad began by reading Galatian 6:7-8
Don’t be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life.

There is a law of consequences, and we ignore it to our own peril. Brad illustrated this with a story about riding down to the corner on an ATV with Brooke on a dirt bike to meet incoming relatives from out of town... knowing it is against the law

God is calling us to make better choices. The book of Judges became our lesson source.

Judges 1:5-7 tells a story about a king who had his thumbs and big toes cut off, As it turns out, he actually had done the same for 70 other kings whom he victimized in the same way and made them eat scraps from under his table.

In short, we reap what we sow. Justice doesn't go unaddressed, though it may seem so for a time.

If you ignore God, if you do what is wrong, if you sin... there are consequences.

Judges 2:11ff explains how the people of Israel stopped obeying God, and how God raised judges when they cried out to God. But when God delivered they got back into worse things. And a cycle begins and continues of peace leading to complacency about evil and each time they fall into the hands of their enemies, the cried out to the Lord again, and He raised up a deliverer.

Deliverance is followed by peace, but then they go back to their old ways, then suffering follows, and they cry out again to God. Some of these experiences are horrors.

For the duration of judges we read about this cycle of peace and followed by bad decisions, then judgment. The cycle repeats itself twelve times in this book. Sin followed by pain.

Ultimately, this verse sums up what was going on: "In those days there was no king in Israel. People did whatever they felt like doing." ~Judges 17:6

Sounds a lot like our world today.

What are you sowing right now that you don't want to reap in the future? Here are some questions to ask yourself.
If I am a parent am I sowing peace?
If I am dating am I sowing honor and maturity and sexual purity?
In my financial life and I sowing generosity and simplicity?
In my friendships am I sowing loyalty?
In my speech am I sowing truth?
In my habits am I sowing self-control?
In my family am I sowing compassion?

The book of Judges is about cycles that represent the cycles we all go through.
If you ask Jesus to be your savior, he will deliver us  from our own cycles of bondage.

After this, we transitioned into a celebration of the Lord's Supper.

Current status of our new building's interior.


Sunday, September 28, 2014

An Unchangeable Name

September 28. The 16th Sunday after Pentecost.

This week ranks as one of the most beautiful weekends of the year in terms of weather, and absolutely unparalleled as regards the brilliance of autumn color on the region's landscapes. Pastor Brad welcomed us with exuberance.

Announcements
Walt came forward to give a building update, beginning by thanking everyone who came to help. 65 gallons of primer and paint were applied. In addition to other tasks, we've saved over $4000 this week alone. No work projects this week, but thank you for all the hard work thus far.

Darlene ushered us into worship after our traditional greeting, playing "Thy Word is a Lamp Unto My Feet." Our songs included 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord), Lord I Need You and Bless His Holy Name.

Our prayer needs are many, but God is sufficient for our needs.

Revelations 3

Brad began by reading the letter to the church of Philadelphia which is found in the third chapter of the book of Revelation, Rev. 3:7-13.

One theme in this letter includes a new, permanent name that we will receive. Brad added a number of thoughts about the meaning of names, including one sibling in a divorced home who was told he had to choose which of his parents' names he would take.

Philadelphia was a city with an identity crisis, too, because it was on a faultline where volcanoes occurred and where different countries (now Rome) overran them and changed their name.

Jesus is essentially saying, if you are feeling a lack of rootedness and identity, I am changing all that. One day you will be residents in an eternal city that can never be shaken and you will have a name that I will give you.

The letter begins by saying these words come from one who is Holy and True. The transcendant one sees from a higher perspective. "I am truth. I am sovereign. And what I say you can rely on."

In this letter to the churches of Philadelphia we read, "I have placed before you an open door which no one can shut," which echoes Isaiah 22:22 "I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open."

The keys to the kingdom... Jesus opens doors, and closes them as well.

Many people say they want to find God's will for their lives. But God doesn't show us 20 years out. He is a light unto our paths... the next step is where He leads us, one step at a time... by His voice. "My sheep know My voice," Jesus stated in John 10.

What is God telling us for today?

If it is to forgive someone, the only true power we have to forgive comes from understanding we have been forgiven from a moral debt that is beyond our comprehension. But it may be many other kinds of words He has for us. As we listen to God's still small voice amazing things can happen.

Brad shared the story about how our church rallied around the need many street people have for clean clothes because they have neither a place nor the money to wash their clothes. It was a remarkable day with more than 300 people being served.

Philadelphia is a church for which Jesus had no rebuke. Instead He declares in verse 8, "I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name."

God sees our hearts and knows us. He wants to encourage us.

I think we'd be surprised to find out how much God can use us in the lives of other persons. You do not have to be big or impressive to be effective. You just have to follow His voice. And the key to our strength is this. He says,"I will be with you."

Stay positive. Stay hope-filled. Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.

Brad then read to us Romans 8:31-39, The Message version,
So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:

They kill us in cold blood because they hate you.
We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.

None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.

Jesus says, I will write my name on you.

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

* * * *
Most of the photos here are intended to help document the progress being made on our new building. This blog and the New Life Covenant Facebook Page will serve as a record of the events that have been happening during this time of transition.



Sunday, September 21, 2014

Heroes

A view from our sanctuary to the new construction.
An overcast sky has yielded to intermittent sunshine this morning, and by the end of the service the skies were bright. Yesterday's work day at the new building proved invigorating as there was a strong turnout to help with caulking, cleaning and other miscellaneous tasks. Everyone seemed energized by the opportunity to serve in this way.

Pastor Brad welcomed us warmly to worship today. The message is titled Heroes. Recent events reminded us that earthly heroes can let us down, but when we put our trust in God, He always comes through. God is ever faithful.

Announcement
We'd like to do lunches for the contractors once a week to show our appreciation for the people working on the new building. If you are able and interested, contact Nancy Vanderscheuren.

Chuck, Darlene and Ken led the worship today. Chuck began by telling us a story about a quadriplegic woman in Australia who after seventeen years had a longing to go surfing again sometime in her life. She achieved this by being duct-taped to another surfer whom she had to have complete trust in. In the same way we can fasten ourselves to the Holy Spirit and be taken places in life we never imagined.

After the offering we had a time of prayer and praise, culminating in the prayer Jesus taught us.

Heroes

Brad began by talking about Adrian Peterson, how he (Brad) had developed a narrative around Adrian Peterson which ultimately has been shown to be a false picture. "I came to realize that he was actually a stranger to me," Brad acknowledged, as are most celebrity heroes.

The first commandment states, "You shall have no other gods before Me."

He then went on to describe a spectacular and unexpected experience of northern lights that utterly moved him.

From here he shared a story about a man in our congregation who was in jail reading Romans 3 and how he was blindsided by the love and compassion of God, in the same way as those striking northern lights unexpectedly hit Brad that one night.

Brad's story moved to the manner in which he has seen lives changed, people who began to follow Christ who at one time had no concern for the poor and were suddenly becoming aware of this heart change within.

The first commandment states, "I am the Lord thy God. You shall have no other gods before Me."

It's straightforward and clear. God says if you honor Me as God I will honor you and bless you in return.

There are some people who wonder why God would demand such a thing. Does God have a fragile ego and needs to be worshiped exclusively? No, that is not it. The primary reason is because God knows that if you focus your affections elsewhere it will not come through for you.

Pastor Brad then read Psalm 115 to us. In our time of greatest need, turning to idols will not comfort us. Your idols are a waste of your time and your worship.

The true God will come through. He listens as we poor out our hearts to Him. And He has the power to change a life. Don't waste your worship on other things. Any other focus of your ultimate affection will disappoint you.

Stories are many where people order their lives around some other person or thing that ultimately failed them. Whether it be a spouse or job, the foundations are shaky if our house is not built on God.

When your world falls apart, God will come through for you.

Now, how do we make God first in our lives?

1. To honor God as God you have to acknowledge God's assessment of you, which is that you are sinful and so am I.  We start by recognizing we don't deserve it for God to come through for us.

This confession brings about forgiveness and is the first step to a right relationship with God.

2. The second step is simply obeying God. What is it that God wants of you? There is no such thing as honoring God as God without a level of commitment to obey Him.

Obedience is not just for pastors or the super-religious.

Some of us are lying to ourselves. The Bible says speak the truth to one another. Come clean in every area of your life. Stop sexual sin. Stop filthy language.

Over time, the one who obeys God experiences a clean conscience. And knows what it is to walk in the light.

Risks taken to honor God, God always honors those things in return.

We were reminded that there is a cost for choosing otherwise. You have one life to live, don't waste it.

Constantly take inventory to see what is competing with God's supremacy in your life. All too often we allow those second place idols to interfere, block the sun for a season. It's necessary that we monitor our affections. Pay close attention to what occupies your mind in your free time.

Don't toy with it or flirt with it Die to it.

Honor God as God and see what happens. See and experience His wisdom, compassion and transforming power.



Sunday, September 14, 2014

Psalm 112

"Blessed are those who fear the Lord,
 who find great delight in his commands." ~ Psalm 112:1

Though chilly weather brought frost this week, the warmth in our sanctuary emanated from all corners as Pastor Brad warmly welcomed us to worship today.

Announcement
Parent meeting next Sunday after church.

After a time of worship we took the offering but first Brad noted that we will be looking at Psalm 112, which ties to the notion of generosity, and the notion of choices.

Brad led us into prayer by asking if anyone wished to share something God had done for them this week. Pearl stood and shared how she felt God's presence all week since falling last week. She was grateful for our prayers, and no broken bones. Many other prayer needs were shared and lifted up.

Psalm 112

Like Psalm 1, this is a wisdom psalm. Two paths are laid out  side by side. In Psalm 1 you have a choice to be like a tree that bears fruit or

In this psalm there are seven benefits if you choose to fear the Lord and delight in His commandments, and one awful consequence of choosing wickedness.

Brad asked how many have been to the Grand Canyon? He shared with us the emotions he felt when he went there and saw it in person. Unbelievable. So much greater than he could have imagined. And so it is that God is vastly more than we can imagine or comprehend. If we saw Him face to face we would fall on our faces and cry out, "Holy, holy, holy."

Delighting in the law of the Lord is not trying to appease God by obeying rules, but it's a matter of trusting the architect of the universe and appreciating His expertise.

Here are the promises from the psalm:
Children will become mighty in the land
Wealth and riches
Good will come
No fear of bad news
Hearts secure, will never be shaken
Horn will be lifted up...

Now do all these things always happen to every follower?

Brad chose to illustrate the psalm by making a story about a character he called Ichabod whom he tells to read his Bible. Ichabod follows through and eventually reads Ephesians where he discovers a verse that says he should be working. So he gets a job, and reads further to Colossians 3:23 where it says work as unto the Lord. Because he takes this admonition to heart things go well for him...

As time goes on he reads Proverbs 3:9-10 which says "Honor the Lord with your wealth..."
and in Malachi 3:10 he reads that he should bring his firstfruits to the Lord... should tithe.

As he reads he comes to I Timothy 5:8 he realizes he needs to take care of his family.

As he reads on and keeps reading, he sooner or later will come to I John 3:17 which reminds him that he should take care of his family when they are in need.

Every day he keeps reading, and eventually comes to Proverbs 22:7 which notifies him that debt is bad, that the borrower is slave to the lender so he decides he wants to avoid debt.

Then he sees Proverbs 21:20 across the page and learns that with these blessings he has received he should set aside some and store up for the future.

Titus 1:7 admonishes him to avoid dishonest gain and to live a blameless life.

When he reaches Proverbs 13:22 he learns that a good person leaves an inheritance for his children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous.

At the end of his life, what does Ichabod say?

His horn would be lifted up. He was a person who delighted in the Lord. He won a victory over greed and consumerism. The wicked will see and gnash their teeth. They will groan because we have but one life and they wasted it.

Brad used this hypothetical man to make a point regarding the manner of blessings that accrue to those who follow Christ. "As your pastor I care deeply for you. I want good things for your kids. I don't  want you to get to the end of your life and regret what you didn't choose."

The Christian life of blessing begins with delighting in God and His Word. "God's ways are better than my ways and when I follow Him I will be blessed."


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Game Day

A beautiful morning in Twig, Minnesota. Blue skies, bright autumn sun, and a “tailgate-style” picnic planned for after the service. Since it’s NFL Sunday Opening Weekend, the congregation was invited to wear the colors of their favoriTe teams, and we see jerseys galore here, with a preponderance of Vikings and Packers colors.

Pastor Brad, football in hand, called us to assemble with high volume enthusiasm, opening with a Vince Lombardi anecdote about focus.

In the early days of the church the faithful met regularly and their focus was the resurrection of Jesus Christ . Today, after the service we’ll begin with a “holy huddle” then break for the tailgates.

Announcements
~ Our new steeple will be arriving tomorrow at the new church building and we need four or five volunteers to help this afternoon between 2 and 3 o’clock to help get equipment ready.
~ Walt shared that in about 3 weeks we’ll begin needing help with caulking and painting. The cost of the new building was reduced by $200,000 by investing our own sweat equity, so there will be work to do soon.

Darlene, who played a Korg electric keyboard this morning, shared that the Edgewood service we do the 2nd Tuesday each month will be at 3:30.

A time of worship, a time of giving and a time of prayer flowed into our message.

Four Things We Can Learn from Pro Football

Brad began by asking, "How many of you love football?" and "Why do you love football?"

Answers varied. I like their professionalism. I like their athleticism. It’s entertaining.

All this was designed to lay a foundation for Brad to share four character qualities necessary for achievement in football... and in life. Here are the qualities he highlighted.

1) Courage
Receivers who know when their going to get hit yet remain focused on catching the ball, or quarterbacks who are undistracted from their aim of reaching a receiver rather than play it safe to avoid being hit... It takes courage to be a pro football player.

In our day-to-day living we also have situations where we have to have courage to face challenges and not run from them, or to speak up when it is easier to keep quiet.

For this reason Paul wrote in II Timothy 1:7 "For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline." It takes courage to choose selflessness over greed. It takes courage to actually follow Christ, and to trust Him.

2) Discipline
The discipline it takes to be a professional athlete is remarkable. These men take hours and hours and hours to develop the strength and quickness they have cultivated.

Following Christ is also a discipline. Hebrews 12:11 states, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time but is painful… but later it yields rewards."

Discipline can be summed up in two words: Delayed Gratification. We choose pain in the now for the benefits (pleasure) later. Most people want discipline but don’t want to do what it takes.

Three words how to implement discipline: Advanced Decision Making

We choose in advance to commit to a plan, to wake up fifteen minutes earlier to read our Bibles, or schedule a date night with our spouse, to choose dealing with responsibilities instead of avoiding them.

3) Vision
Proverbs 29:18 says “Where there is no vision the people perish.”

Life is a continual series of struggles, pain and problems. A visionary is someone who can think of solutions to everyday problems that occur.

Vision is not just for great leaders or for artists, but is for everyday folks like you and me. All too often we have a major problem but instead of asking God for wisdom, or for intervention, we call several people to join our pity party.

James wrote, “If any of you lacks wisdom, ask God... and He will give it to you.” (James 1:5)

With humans this is impossible but with God all things are possible.

4) Endurance
Finally, there is endurance. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. The great football players -- players like Walter Payton and Adrian Peterson -- made personal sacrifices and are remembered for their discipline, courage and endurance.

"Sometimes I’m pushed to the wall," Brad confessed, but God is faithful and he knows he must endure.

This is a world with Instant Gratification as its message. People quit jobs, or TV sitcoms get resolution in thirty minutes… but life is more complicated and God’s way is not our way. Runners have to push through the wall of pain to achieve the gold. Athletes reach their last ounce strength and feel like they can’t go on, yet they push through.

Whether it is relationships, finances, or whatever your battle, God is calling you to courage, discipline, vision and endurance.

* * * *
After the message were began clearing the chairs for a time of communion. Unfortunately, Pearl fell and we had a delay. I mention this so that we would pray for her as she needed to be "carted off the field" and evaluated by medical professionals. If anyone hears how she is doing you may contact Ed so it gets posted here.

* * * *

The tailgate party / picnic potluck after the service was warm and very special. As you can see here...



And for the Vikings fans, today's victory on the road was a tasty dessert.

UPDATE
Pearl has no broken bones and is O.K.... just shaken.
Thank you for your prayers.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Greetings from Lillian


Lillian Peterson says "hi" and she'd love visitors from church. She misses coming. You can visit her at Viewcrest Nursing home in Piedmont, room 84.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Praise Him In HIs Sanctuary

Good morning! It's great to have you here today. This morning we'll be looking at the six verses of the last psalm of the Book of Psalms, a psalm about who we worship and why we worship.

Announcements
~ Progress is being made across the street.
~ Next week will be a time change, without Sunday School. Next Sunday will be Kickoff Sunday at the Twig Pavillion, a pot luck tailgate style service. There will also be a punt, pass and kick competition, and a touch football game for all ages.
~ Gail asked for volunteers to sign up for coffee and treats service for the next two months.

Chuck opened the worship time with remarks that included this question: "Is Jesus your first priority or last resort."

The offering taken, Brad took the pulpit to lead us in a time of prayer.

Praise Him In His Sanctuary

Pastor Brad began by reading Psalm 150.

It's only six verses, but has something to say to us about who we worship, where we should worship, how we worship, why we worship. It seems a simple psalm but there's more to it than it initially appears.

All of us worship. It is innate in who we are. We worship what is important to us.

Psalm 63 "I will praise you as long as I live."
Psalm 66 expresses a similar sentiment as do many others.

The first three words of this psalm begin, "Praise the Lord!" The focus is clear who we are supposed to be worshiping. Our gaze is not to be directed to lesser gods. He alone is worthy of our worship.

Brad reminded us of the Shema, a significant passage in for devout Jews, Deuteronomy 6:4-5

4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a] 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

The second half of Psalm 150:1 tells where to worship. It is a call to public worship. And something happens when we lift our voices together. It provides a collective lift.

There are all kinds of commands in Scripture, and one is the command to sing. Ephesians 5:19 says, "Speak to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs."

Brad related a story about how his church ministered to him through song when I first realized his father was soon going to die. They sang, meaningfully, "Great is Thy faithfulness... there is no shadow of turning with Thee..."

Worshiping God is just restricted to be inside a church. Sometimes it's when we're alone in the car.

Who we worship is a big God who has done big things. We get to sing of His acts of power, from creation to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

If your worship experience has grown flat, you might need to recall to mind who great and mighty is our God. His surpassing greatness refers to this... He is greater than everything. There is no comparison.

Brad shared a few stats about the size of the universe, and that Jesus holds it all in His hand. This God is real and His greatness surpasses everything.

Verse 3 details how to praise Him.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre, 
4 praise him with timbrel and dancing,
praise him with the strings and pipe, 
5 praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.

It's not about which style is best. Use whatever style you want, just praise the Lord. What style of worship is real worship? They all are... and the point is who this worship is for. It's for the King. The second most commanded thing in all of Scripture is to sing. We need to lift our voices together.

The last verse of this psalm is the last verse of all the Psalms. "Let everything that has breath praise the Lord."

Psalm 63 says, "My soul thirsts for you." Other verses express the same...

As we grow in our worship together may we be a singing, worshipping church, lifting our voices and giving God our best.

Sometimes when we're hurting, when we're drowning in sorrow, we may not feel in the mood to come to the house of worship. We want to withdraw, to hibernate. But something happens when come to this place and worship. Our souls need to drink deeply, and we need to do what we have been created to do. As we join together, the heaviness begins to lift...

When Paul and Silas were in prison, they sang praises to God... and the doors popped open. Great is His faithfulness.