Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Family Matter

Rosie Peterson
The grey skies couldn't dampen the enthusiasm that seemed present in the sanctuary as we gathered for worship this morning. Pastor Brad welcomed us warmly, and said he would be talking about family business and unity in the church. The thoughts he wanted to share today had to do with small groups and the way it helps foster church unity.

1. Next week we will be worshiping at Walt and Gwen's... Bring a lawn chair and expect to stay for a pot luck afterwards.
2. Fall kickoff we will be worshiping at the Town Hall. It will be something of a tailgate party as this is also the opening weekend for NFL football.
3. Progress is being made across the street.... Check it out after the service.

Darlene ushered into worship after our traditional greeting.... a beautiful piece of music, sensitively rendered.

Bruce and Rosie Peterson, who have spent their lifetime in ministry at Covenant Pines Bible Camp in McGregor. Rosie was invited forward to lead us in some songs. She shared how she remembered Brad coming to camp when he was in second grade. Rosie's enthusiasm was energizing as she led us in a number of songs from the silver songbook. "Music does something to the soul," she shared, pointing out a number of written passages we'd likely never noticed before.

Steve Allison was a guest at our church this morning and was invited to make a presentation for the Covenant Trust Company. Steve reminded us that the Bible has a lot to say about "our stuff." The trust company is designed to help people manage their resources and make important financial decisions.

Following the offering and a time of prayer Pastor Brad began his message.

A Family Matter

Psalm 133
A song of ascents. Of David.

1 How good and pleasant it is
when God’s people live together in unity!

2 It is like precious oil poured on the head,
running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard,
down on the collar of his robe.
3 It is as if the dew of Hermon
were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the Lord bestows his blessing,
even life forevermore.

Brad began by reading Psalm 133, pointing out that David was the author of the small psalm with wide applications. David seems to be saying, "How can I communicate how good unity is? Each image in the psalm is designed to convey this message as regards how good unity is.

Paul, too, in his letter to the Ephesians, also cites the value of unity, and how we need to preserve it once we have it.

As Brad reflected on his life this week, and perhaps because Rosie and Bruce were here, he said, "Most of the best things I've learned about church I learned at camp." Here were five lessons he wished us to take to heart this morning.

1) Encouragement 
The encouragement that took place occurred because they were a community together. The things they shared in prayer time would lead to friends inquiring about your concerns later. "How's your dad doing?" showed that you weren't carrying this weight alone.

2) Good Speakers
There were lots of good speakers at camp, with a lot of interaction afterwards. Small group dialogue was invaluable as you wrestled with the practical issues of working out what your heard and applying it to real life.

3) Confession of Sin
This happens when you have established trust, the essential ingredient in relational glue.

4) Accountability
Having people whom we can be accountable to will help keep us moving on the right track.

5) Value of Small Groups
Being part of a small group is something that is helpful on many levels. It is especially helpful for those times when we need help discerning God's direction for our lives.

If you're willing, begin by getting together with other couples and getting to know one another on deeper levels. We need a relational glue beyond being Sunday acquaintances.


Look for dramatic, visible changes in the weeks ahead. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Message from Guest Speaker Josh Rude on the Wedding at Cana

This week's progress across the street. 
The forecast is for unseasonably cold weather this coming week, but we're braced for it. Meantime, today it's a sunny morning here in the Northland and we're gathered for worship at New Life Covenant Church outside Twig. Chuck Vanderscheuren welcomed us, noting that the Shannons are up at Lake Vermillion having a family reunion.

Josh Rude has served in the Covenant Church in Sarnia, Ontarion just across from Detroit.

~ Janzen's party is next week. Come hungry.
~ We'll be singing at Viewcrest on Tuesday.
~ Council meeting will be Tuesday.
~ Thank you to those who donated blood. Each pint saves three lives.

Chuck shared a bit about nicknames inspired by Daily Bread. One woman used to fly at night and was nicknamed Fly By Night. Another friend was nicknamed Fats because he always rode a Fat Boy motorcycle. All this as lead-in to the nicknames for God.... our Mighty God, our God Who Provides and our Strong Tower, the Lord our Righteousness... and Jehovah Shalom, the God of Peace.

The trio then led us into a time of worship singing from the new Lillenas song booklets. During the offering they sang the upbeat classic "Are You Washed in the Blood of the Lamb?" followed by a time of prayer.

Chuck introduced Josh Rude who now lives in this area.

The Wedding at Cana

My name is Josh Rude. I grew up in Crookston, Minn. Went to Bible camps in the region, then seminary. After four years in Canada they have returned to Minnesota.

He began by reading about Jesus at the wedding in John 2.

What does it take to amaze you? What makes your jaw drop?

Weddings are pretty impressive engagements. People gather, friends and family, and a sense of what God is doing bringing these two people together.

The ceremony often usually has a few hiccups, but we do our best to eliminate as many as possible.

First Rule: No attempts at humor by best man.
Second: Bathroom breaks before the service.
Third: Are the rings where they are supposed to be?
Fourth: Use short sentences to keep it simple.

This wedding in John 2 had a major hiccup. In those days the wedding was a week long event, celebrating the joining of two families. In the midst of the banquet the wine ran out.

Wine was a symbol of abundance, a sign of hospitality and gladness. But whether it was poor planning or something else, the party would be ending much too soon. But Jesus, in making wine, shows that grace is abundant.  He didn't just talk about grace. He showed what grace looks like.

His mother comes to Jesus and says, "They have no more wine." The Minnesota way of making a request without being too direct or demanding.

Mary, who knows Jesus is God, says to the servants, "Do whatever He tells you to do." And they did.

Jesus says to His mom, "My hour is not yet come." He's not talking about time... He's referring to His moment in history. But the moment unfolds.

There are six stone jars not being used over in the corner, and He tells the servants to fill them with water. This is six thirty gallon jars, and maybe overkill for this party, but again a symbol of God's abundance. They bring a cup to the master of the banquet, who marvels. "Usually the best is brought out first. You saved it till now. How did this happen?" The servant points to the man over there who came with his mom.

Josh shared a story about a woman in Ecuador whom he met on a mission trip. Her name was Mercedes, and she didn't speak English or Spanish, so all they could do was smile at each other as they worked alongside one another, she smiling with half her teeth missing, but still cheerful.

One the of major milestones for girls in Mexico is their Quinceanera. The Quinceanera is a ceremony celebrating their fifteenth birthday, quince being the Spanish word for 15 and is sometimes called the fiesta de quince anos (fifteen years) marking the transition from girlhood to womanhood.  Josh's story was about a woman named Mercedes who showed him the meaning of grace and abundance by sharing her communion glass-sized "toast" with him after he inadvertently drank his goblet sized juice instead of waiting for the proper moment. His mistake was graciously and abundantly "covered over" when she shared.

The experience touched him, even if inadequately conveyed by this scribe's efforts to tell it. But the point was clear:  God is pouring Himself out all around us. May we have the perspective to see that as He, smiling, pours out His abundance.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Significant Moments

The summer sun is shining. During the wee morning hours thunderstorms rolled over the region, but the clouds appear to be dissipating, at least for the moment as we gather on the Fourth of July weekend.

"I've been thinking about special moments, unique moments like the signing of the Declaration of Independence. This is a unique time in the life of our church with the first evidence of what's to come being the bell tower awaiting in a pole barn at Chuck Vanderscheuren's home.

Need people to sign up for the coffee time.

Chuck opened the worship with a passage from Romans. "You are not under the law, but under grace." Darlene, Ken and Chuck then sang a medley about grace, marvelous grace.

A time of worship was followed by a time of prayer.

Significant Moments

On July 4 at 8:30 in the evening as my kids have never been out in the boat as it was getting dark. We were fishing and I threw a yellow Hula Popper into the water. Suddenly a huge owl flies out of the woods directly toward us. Instead of flying up over us it flew down to the water, grabbing that Hula Popper. The line whizzed as the bird flew back toward the woods... Fortunately, he dropped it rather than getting hooked.

Think back about a moment that changed you. A first day of school or moving away to college or a chance encounter that led to marriage. Our lives are shaped by significant moments, and the choices we make. Sometimes these moments sneak up on us. Sometimes it is a tragedy that strikes and changes your life forever.

One thing to remember: God is always in the moments.

What is God doing in this moment? What is God up to? How do we respond?

Brad led us to Mark 1:14 "After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God."

John the Baptist was a somebody at the time. John was the man, the "best hope" for Israel. And when he was put in prison, a dark moment for God's chosen people, this is when Jesus stepped in. In verse 15, Mark writes “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

There are two kinds of time. Chronos... chronological, passing, moment by moment, measured on a clock. But in this section Mark uses the other word when he writes, "The time has come." Kairos, not chronos. The Greek word means "opportune time" or "fitting season." It speaks of a moment of redemptive interruption. A significant moment. A new possibility.

Some of you in your lives may feel stuck, in a situation or a pattern. But guess what, you are not stuck. God is in the moment, therefore it is a moment filled with possibility.

The question is, how do we respond?

The way to respond is to repent and believe. Something needs to change and Jesus has to be trusted.

The challenges aren't external. They are internal. The question is not "What is my strategy to get out?" Rather, it is "What kind of person do I want to be?"

At the end of the day the only thing we can really control is what kind of people we want to be in Jesus. The key moments are not about our competence, but about our character.

In addition to "Repent and believe," He said, "The kingdom of God has come near." The kingdom up there has come down here to earth.

Our calling is to connect, grow and become. That's the mission we hold in common.

Will God continue to be faithful as we stick to the mission? Absolutely.

Is there any obstacle to keep us from connecting to that mission? Not if we continue to trust in Jesus.

New Life Covenant Church is approaching sixty years. But though many things have changed, some things continue to remain the same. God is calling us to trust Him, to love people, to live generously, to take bold risks for the kingdom, and then to imagine 60 years from now your grandkids' grandkids gathered together celebrating (probably in some way by then that none of us will like.)

The one thing that matters is that Jesus is Lord, and that He has forgiven our sins, conquered death and one day is coming back. Until then, we have nothing to fear. God is in this moment, and all the moments of our lives.

At this we celebrated the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper.
* * * *
Here's status of the building across the street as of July 6. Stay tuned!