Sunday, January 26, 2014

I Stand Amazed

"Good morning. I'm delighted your here. Since the beginning of the year we've been talking about fresh starts and new beginnings," Pastor Brad said as he welcomed us. The message today would focus on the scripture The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."

1. If anyone has a used couch or chair that can be contributed for the youth group.
2. Wednesday the youth will be going to The Edge from 5:30 - 8:30. Meet at the church.
3. There will be a youth group Lock In at the church Feb. 21.

With a light snow falling outside Brad shared that he and Brooke are going on a snowmobile trip called New Frontier Expedition, which is also a fund raiser for the church. Brad will be on snowmobile beginning here and heading to Churchill, Manitoba, a portion of the journey on ungroomed terrain that will be navigated by GPS. Thus far $6300 has been raised in sponsorships, with a target of $12,000. His journey will begin right here at New Life and proceed to MacGregor, then to Bimidji. From there to Roseau, to Steinbach, to Brandon, to the middle of nowhere, to Snow Lake, Gillam, to Churchill. Brooke and the kids will drive to the end of all roads and meet Brad by means a train. For those of you online you can follow on Facebook and at

Darlene, Ken and Chuck led worship today, opening with "Little is much when God is in it."

After the offering, we had a prayer time for the many needs we share and lift to God.

I Stand Amazed

Brad began by citing the show Fear Factor, where people are paid money to face their greatest fears. What would you most fear? Eating bugs? Jumping out of airplanes blindfolded?

Many people have shared their fears in Brad's office, from aging to catastrophic illness to loss of a loved one.

One of Brad's fears is preaching about the Fear of the Lord. "I'd rather talk about the love of Jesus than the fear of the Lord. I would rather talk about 'perfect love casts out all fear' than 'the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.'"

Many verses say fear the Lord and others say "Don't be afraid" and "Fear not." So, how do we reconcile these seeming contradictions.

The word fear has several translations. One version is the idea of terror. The second notion of fear has to do with awe and reverence. I think this latter is the meaning of the word in Proverbs. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."

Several verses were then shared including Acts 9:31 which says, "Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers."

The writer of Hebrews wrote, "Worship with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire."

Think of the response of those who encountered God. The standard response is awe. Awe at the grandeur and otherness of God is a good thing. All too often we forget this. We forget the fear factor in our faith. When was the last time you sat in awe at something?

Brad shared anecdotes about the hush that came over people as they visited the ice caves in Cornucopia, gloriously more magnificent than people could imagination. Is that what God is for you? Glorious and magnificent beyond all you can imagine?

Earlier this week we had a wonderful funeral service in which we gave witness to the resurrection. At the end of the service, I thought, "Don't we worship a big God?"

All too often we get caught up in things like what we're planning for lunch or other little things and forget the reality of this big God, this living God. He is alive, and His mercy is vast. He is in relentless pursuit of people who are lost. And all too often we make Jesus small, a buddy who helps us, and forget the immensity and majesty of this God we worship.

Israel's concept of God was that He was holy. Holy doesn't mean purity at its core. It means "other." His name, Yahweh, was too sacred to even be spoken.

The reason people often cry when they experience God is that it seems too good to be true, this great and majestic God who created all is not indifferent but actually cares about you, personally. The reality is, it's too good not to be true.

Don't stand in awe of your problems as if they are what is big. God is so big your problems are as nothing. Stand in awe of God. God is big enough to handle your needs, both your inner and outer needs.

Cameras, phones and tech toys keep getting smaller. But as this happens, don't let your God shrink with them. Don't lose that sense of awe and wonder in His presence.

When you let God be God and allow Him to be big for you, you can begin to understand what Paul is saying when he writes in Romans 8:38-39 "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

God is big enough to handle whatever is going on in your life.
Prov 14:26 states, "Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge."

When you fear God, there is nothing to fear. This is the beginning of wisdom.

Brad shared additional verses here to serve as food for thought...

Prov 26:12
Do you see a person wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for them.

Prov 15:12
Mockers resent correction, so they avoid the wise.

Prov 15:33
Wisdom’s instruction is to fear the Lord, and humility comes before honor. 

First you experience humility. And then you experience glory.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Make Me Whole

"Our lives are acts of worship," Brad said as he welcomed us. "We'll be talking about new beginnings. I've been thinking about this verse, 'Pray without ceasing.' What is God doing when we pray, and especially don't get what we feel we need."

Cheryl shared how we're collecting quarters from our kids during Sunday school which will be used to help feed needy children at one of our local schools. She also shared a mission trip opportunity. Talk to Rick or Cheryl for details.

The last announcement was with regard to the passing of Susie Newman's father, WW2 veteran Wilmer A. Wagner, this past Thursday. The funeral will be held here at the church Monday. Visitation at 1:30 and funeral at 2:30. Thank you to those who have helped with meals or who will be bringing bars and cookies tomorrow. Brad led us in a moment of silence to honor him.

Drake led us in worship, then an offering taken we moved to a prayer time.

Ellie had her baby this week. Your faithful blogger failed to catch all the details, but she was about 19.5 inches long and healthy. Suite.

Make Me Whole

Today's theme is unanswered prayer. It's a topic that has hit every one of us. What does it mean that God is faithful in the midst of your spouse leaving you? Or when your child has a diagnosis that won't go away?

When asked what my biggest motivation for prayer is, my response is, "Answered prayer."

Brad shared examples, ending with this one many of us have experienced: "When I get distressed and pray and have peace."

Unanswered prayer is one of those things, however, that demotivates us as regards prayer. Sometimes justice doesn't prevail. Sometimes people don't get healed. Today I want to talk about the ache and agony that happens when prayers aren't answered.

1. Sometimes I am praying and the request may be off, so that when we don't get an answer God is actually saying "No" to this. Brad gave an example from the mountaintop transfiguration. Another time James and John sent their mom to request that Jesus would have her boys sit on His left and right hand when He takes His throne. Moses, Jeremiah, Elijah got so discouraged that they asked God to take their lives. God did not answer this prayer.

Garth Brooks had a #1 hit song called Unanswered Prayer. 'Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers." God always reserves the right to say no.

There are many kinds of power and humans have always found a way to abuse those powers. Prayer would be no different.

2. Too often we think prayers will be more effective with a magic phrase ("in Jesus' name") or some other kind of formula. Prayer is not incantation. It is dialogue with a very, very wise person.

3. All too often people make this request: "Lord, change him." Or, "Lord, change her." Relational brokenness is one of the biggest blockages to our prayers. "Whenever you stand praying, forgive." Jesus taught us that our own hardness of heart toward another can hinder our prayers. (Mark 11:25)

4. Sometimes unanswered prayer is simply a matter of the timing that being off. God doesn't say no. He says not yet.

Abraham was 99 before he saw the fulfillment of having offspring.
Israel waited 40 years in the wilderness.
Joseph had to wait years in prison for a dream to be fulfilled.
David waited years to see the temple built...
Israel waited centuries for their Messiah.

"They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength." ~Isaiah 40:31 KJV

We don't like to wait. We get foot-stomping impatient because our computer takes too long to boot.

Parents need to model patience in so many ways. We dislike waiting, but God is patient and if we are to be like Jesus we must be patient. Deferred gratification is a piece of this. Unfortunately we are all in such a hurry that we don't like to wait.

God is never late, but He is rarely early. God's main will for your life that you become the kind of person that He can empower to do whatever you want to do.

Brad shared how when he was young he would pray, "God, what do you want me to do with my life." But God waited for Brad to choose.

If we only do what we're told, we never learn to make a decision on our own. We never grow up. We never develop character. What I was doing was trying to avoid the responsibility or anxiety of making a choice. God knew I would grow more by seeking counsel, figuring things out rather than getting a note from heaven telling me what to do.

5. Sometimes something is wrong in me that keeps God at arm's length. God wants us to deal with this, to get right first. Brad told a story and confessed of a situation in which "my prayer was like an elephant in the prayer room because my mind was mis-focused on my own junk."

"If you close your ear to the cry of the poor you will cry out and not be heard." ~Proverbs 21:13

Paul had a thorn in the flesh that he wanted removed, and God said, "No, Paul, this will keep you humble and more useful."

6. Sometimes people ask for good things who have good hearts, and yet the prayer is unanswered, and we don't know why. Brad said that is the hardest part of his job, when very hard things happen to good people and it seems God is silent.

"We know this place," Brad said emotionally. "I can't give you an explanation because sometimes no one has the answer."

The Good News, the Gospel, is ours because of an unanswered prayer. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed to His Father, "If at all possible, take this cup away from Me."  This unanswered prayer delivered the world from sin, and gave all of us an eternal hope. What if God had said yes when Jesus asked to be spared the cross, and there had been no death and no resurrection, no atoning blood spilled.

"I don't know why some prayers get a Yes and some get a No. I know the anguish of a No when you want a yes more than anything in the world. I don't know why. I only know that in the Cross God's "No' to His Son was turned into God's "Yes" to every human being who ever lived. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

New Beginnings

-30 on our thermometers today, not this.
"I’m grateful you’re here," Pastor said as he welcomed us this frigid Sunday morning. "Something I always liked when I was growing up was the beginning of the new school year because it was a fresh start. This, being a new year, is a good time to think about our own New Beginnings."

Announcements included the following.
Today is last day to sign up for our Friendship dinners. Lists are being assembled now.
Jan 18 there will be an inter-church Men's gathering at Clyde Iron, Iron Sharpening Iron
Building Committee will meet 6:30 this Thursday here at the church.

Drake led in worship this morning, also singing a special song during the offering.

New Beginnings 

All of us need the opportunity for a fresh start. From a very early age the most commonly expressed emotion is love. But there's another emotion that is fairly widespread and a closed second. That is regret.

Regret is the husband and wife heading for divorce court…
A man dying of emphysema regretting his first cigarette...
A man who has lost his wife and kids regretting his first drink...

One place to get a real fresh start is at the cross.

Regret is nothing new and the Bible has many stories on this theme. Peter's regret after boasting he would never deny Jesus. Esau's regret at having traded his birthright for a bowl of porridge. And David's regrets later in life after the assorted choices he made that included murder, hatred, adultery, and family estrangement.

This morning's sermon focused on family of David later in life when he was king and his children were grown.
Brad started at II Samuel 13, the story of Amnon and Tamar. Amnon, son of David, had become ill with lust for his half-sister Tamar.

Brad pointed out how David was clueless about things that were going on in his own family. His inattentiveness and inaction helped contribute to what happened next. A scheme was conceived and Amnon raped Tamar.

As happens in such situations, Amnon's twisted desires turned to intense hatred of the girl. Tamar tells her father David about the incident and moves away to live with her brother Absalom, waiting for her father to take action and address the wrong. Sadly, David does nothing.

When sin isn't dealt with it always leads to more damage.

Amnon was David's firstborn son and heir to the throne. He must have gotten the impression that he could do whatever he wanted. Absalom would have nothing of it and decides, “If my father is too gutless to address this thing, I will take matters into my own hands.” Absalom gets Amnon drunk and kills him. Absalom must flee and go into exile.

Eventually Absalom returned. David said he could go home, “But he cannot see my face.” 

Brad pointed out the contrast between David's cold-heartedness and the father in Jesus' story of the Prodigal Son, in which the father watched daily waiting with open arms for his son's return.

What a mess.

Over a period of time Absalom wins the hearts of the people by smooth talk, generosity and good deals. He then leads a revolt and David has to go into exile. Those loyal to the king find him and David's loyalists go back to do battle. The king himself is too old to fight, but he asks that Absalom be spared. It doesn't turn out that way, though.

When news comes that “the rebel is dead” David is bitterly pained. And he realizes all the ways he failed his child, all the words he never said, all the things he never said. “Oh Absalom… my son, my son… if only I had died instead of you."

Here's the point Brad is making here. If you don’t change the road you’re on it will lead to devastation. It's time for a new beginning. Maybe your new beginning is how you relate to your family. Maybe your new beginning has to do with how you handle money.

A new beginning is more than a new year resolution. It begins with repentance and renewal at the cross.

After the sermon we shared Communion.