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.

~ 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.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Psalm 27

The new building is progressing nicely.
A dreary, drizzly day outside, but energy is abundant and invigorating here in the sanctuary as we await the start of another service. As people enter the building Pastor Brad Shannon welcomes various members of our church family and greets newcomers. At a certain point in time, he moves to the front of the sanctuary calls us in to begin, tipping his hand that today he will be talking about Psalm 27 and addressing the theme of anxiety.

Gail: We're having a fund-raiser right after church today... A+ hot dogs, cole slaw, and ice cream sundaes.
Brooke:  Sunday school begins September 14 this year. We're seeking volunteers in various capacities... also need help with the nursery, which is for children 1-4.

Ed filled in on piano accompaniment for our worship as Darlene was at a retreat this weekend. After the offering we had a time of prayer, lifting up the needs in our church family while also giving thanks for God's blessings.

"God, it's such a privilege to see You show up in so many ways." ~Pastor Brad

Psalm 27

Brad began by reading this Psalm of David in its entirety. He then began talking about how frequently anxiety is an issue in so many lives. "I talk to many people and anxiety or worry is a major issue. Someone wrote that two thirds of all medical visits are related to stresses caused by worry."

He invited us to turn to our neighbor and ask, "When you worry, what is it that you worry about?"

In Psalm 27 David's lament is that he is surrounded, besieged. How many of you feel surrounded, with no way out?

In verse ten David states that even if his family gives up on him, God will not. For most people family relationships can be a primary source of stress in many lives.

The sources of stress are many. But in the midst of all David says there is also a source of strength. "Though I be surrounded, though I be on the edge of being destroyed, I will not fear, for the Lord is with me." (paraphrase)

Brad's message today centered on verse four which he broke into three components.

One thing I ask from the Lord, 
this only do I seek: 
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord 
all the days of my life, 
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord 
and to seek him in his temple.

First, what does it mean to dwell in the house of the Lord? It means to live with the ongoing reality of God's presence. It is a discipline we commit to, to remember He is ever present in our lives, a reality that is affirmed throughout Scripture.

The second segment is "to gaze on the beauty of the Lord." What does it mean to gaze? Make God the object of your gaze. Turn your worry into worship. Every other object of our gaze is shifting sand.

Brad noted that one frequent cause of anxiety is our feeling that we need to be in control. It upends us when we are challenged in that, that we do not always have the ability to control events in our lives. He illustrated this with the image of a bowler's animated gyrations to make the ball do what he wants after letting it go, even tilting as if the whole earth could be shifted to push the ball back where he wanted it.

Finally David says he will seek God in His temple. I can try to control my life, or I can submit to His lordship. Will we trust God and His wisdom? We seek Him in His word.

Brad shared a Henri Nouwen a story about how trapeze artists work in tandem, with a catcher and thrower. The thrower must not reach or grab, but must trust the catcher. So it is that we be still and trust our catcher, that we trust God.

Brad concluded with the story of how Horatio Spafford came to write "It Is Well With My Soul." Spafford wrote this remarkable hymn after a series of traumatic events. First, he lost his only son to scarlet fever. Then he experienced economic ruin due to the Great Chicago Fire. He had planned to go with his family to Europe but there were business matters he had to attend to so he sent his family on ahead and he would meet them later. Tragically, there was a shipwreck and his four daughters were lost at sea. His wife sent the heartbreaking message from abroad, "Saved alone." As Spafford crossed the Atlantic to be with his grieving wife, he passed the region where the shipwreck took his daughters and felt inspired to write these words:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

We closed singing our usual benediction, "The Lord bless you and keep you..."

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Psalm 73

Despite a chilly autumn-like morning, Pastor Brad welcomed us warmly. He noted that today's message would be on Psalm 73.

1. There will be a picnic next Sunday and a fund raiser at the Town Hall.
2. Walt gave us an update on the new building. The walls are up. Great weather all week and a lot done. If you go to the site to see what is happening, please be sure to put on a hardhat for safety reasons.

The trio led us in worship this morning beginning with One Scarred Hand. (thank you, Ken, Chuck and Darlene.) We then joined them  in "Worthy of Worship" plus several additional songs from the blue hymnal.

During the offering the trio gave us "I Believe In Miracles" with its summing up, "I believe in miracles for I believe in God."

There are heart-breaking prayer needs in our church family and other needs we lifted up this morning.

Psalm 73

How many of you have ever experienced a spiritual low? Not just a garden variety spiritual low, but a much more profound, dark brooding questioning sense... A spiritual low where you've got serious questions for God.

Verse 2: But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold.

Verse three explains how this came about. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

This is something that didn't just pop up. It's been a gnawing issue for some time. The writer states how unfair it is, as if to say, "I've followed you all my life and yet my life is a burden, and these wicked people over here live carefree lives with success in everything they do, and don't seem to have any penalties for their behavior.

Verse 13 sums it up: Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence.

It happens in real life that we're tempted to see things this way when bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people.

Asaph is about ready to throw in the towel regarding his faith. He is frustrated by the unfairness of it all, and the futility of being a good person when people who don't play by God's rules seem to have everything go their way.

Verse 17 becomes a turning point, though, as he has an insight in God's sanctuary (a church service), gaining a new perspective: ...till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.
18 Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin.

Brad illustrated what slippery ground is with an anecdote from his trip to the Arctic. While on his snowmobile those 1500 miles he did fine, didn't get hurt. But while walking to a building in Churchill his feet flew out from under him on a sheet of ice, and it hurt. Fortunately it wasn't more serious, but slippery ground is dangerous ground.

What the Psalmist spells out is that we must be very careful about envying those who are far from God. We don't see the whole picture. At least not God's perspective. We need to be reminded of their final end, and that there is an alternate destiny for the righteous.

If you're one who is on slippery ground, doubting God's goodness, you can make a choice to move up to higher, solid ground in Christ.

In Psalm 73 Asaph says he's making his choice to put all his eggs in one basket, in God's basket, for as Billy Graham was fond of saying, "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul."

Brad underscored the location of Asaph's insight. It took place in the house of God.

He then closed with Jesus' words in Mark 10:29-30:

29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.

Whatever sacrifice you make for the sake of the Gospel is worth it.

* * * *
A quick peek at the peak of the new building....

Sunday, August 10, 2014

A Tree or Chaff

After welcoming us, Brad shared about how special last week's service was at Gwen and Walt's. A beautiful time on the lake with a service there and a day of fellowship. Today we would be looking at Psalm 1, which has a message all of us need to consider.

1. Gail shared that on the 24th we will have a picnic following the service.
2. Walt shared an update on the building. The well has been dug, the foundation laid and power brought in. Many people have donated services, and this week the walls will go up. Financially the project is on track. It's a very exciting time.

A Tree or Chaff

Pastor Brad began by having us read Psalm 1, a wisdom psalm.

The psalmist presents a set of images to convey a truth. Some people are like trees, planted by streams of water. Its leaves don't whither. And it will bear fruit.

He then contrasts this tree with chaff, a bi-product of harvesting. Chaff has no value. It is dead, so it needs to be separated from that which does have value.

The psalmist then points to an either/or. Your life is either becoming a tree or chaff. But the choice is yours.

If you want to become a tree, he says there are places you should not be going to and people who you may not want to be involved with.

I Corinthians 10:23 states, “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive.  In other words, our faith is not a set of rules.

But even though we have this freedom, there are some things that are not beneficial. Paul says that even though it is legal to do some things, it may not be beneficial.

Hanging out in a bar, watching television... this may not be sin, but does it bring you closer to God? Does God seem more alive when you are doing many of the things you do?

Verse 2, "But those who delight in the law of the Lord and meditate on His law day and night..." This is how you will become a tree.

Brad summarized in this manner: If you live your life in a place of spiritual drift where you get up and go through the motions of your day, this environment will deaden your life. This culture will lead you to a life of chaff unless you live with intentionality.

What would it look like as a church if we said, "No more chaff. I'm going to make decisions that make me a tree."

What if we found creative ways to get God's word into us, that would transform us into life-giving trees. I worry that we don't find the time, make the time to get God's word into us.

In closing Brad sang "I Want to Walk As a Child of the Light."The congregation joined in on the final verse.

* * * *
Here are some photos showing our current building project status:

It's starting to look real. Stay tuned.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Psalm 34

This week our service was held at Walt & Gwen Cressman’s home on Grand Lake. A gorgeous morning had been awaiting us here as everyone began assembling in lawn chairs of various configurations. It was nice to have some of the neighbors join us for worship including Martha Westlund who will be turning 99 in October.

Brad welcomed us with his usual enthusiasm, reminding us of how many times this (having the service at Walt & Gewn's) has been attempted but thwarted by weather. The stillness of the air helped the sound to carry wonderfully.

1. It was an awesome week on the building site, with the plumbing roughed in and prep for the next round of concrete. It’s an exciting time with many people contributing their time and experience. Please keep praying for the building committee and the vitality committee.
2. There will be a double header Tuesday at 6 and 7 and also on Thursday for the church softball team.

The trio got our blood flowing by opening with Heaven On My Mind. The electric keyboards sounded grand. They followed with Master of the Wind before leading us in worship.

There were several prayer requests and as well as things to praise God for, including the beauty of the day.

Psalm 34

It’s a familiar psalm, and one that Brad says he loves, as do many others. There are many familiar passages including “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” But this passage is not isolated. A later verse speaks to our wonderful provision for forgiveness through the Gospel.

And then there is Verse 18… The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and He saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Life has many incredibly hard things, so as much as I'd like to just talk about verse 8, we need to remember "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."

And then there are verses 12-15… straight talk from David. “Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days… keep your tongue from evil.” Stop slandering. Stop gossiping. Don’t yell and scream at each other. Don’t tell lies. Walk away from evil. Seek peace and pursue it.

What would our community look like if each of us found a way to be peacemakers?

I want to preach about verse 8 but I don’t know how to talk about that without addressing verses 4-7.

4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me; 
 he delivered me from all my fears. 
5 Those who look to him are radiant; 
 their faces are never covered with shame. 
6 This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; 
 he saved him out of all his troubles. 
7 The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, 
 and he delivers them.

God not only frees us from sin, but also from our shame. What is it in your life that causes you shame? Sometimes it is from something that happened to you and you didn’t have anything to do with. It could be a broken marriage. It could be being betrayed by someone you trusted.

And then there are verses 1-3.

1 I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. 
2 I will glory in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. 
3 Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.

A spirit of gratitude is central to healthy life. God wants to hear your voice. No one can sing your praises for you.

Let the afflicted hear and rejoice.

Finally … the verse I want us to consider. “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Our God is really, really a good God. When we taste God’s goodness, we suddenly have a bond with all others who have tasted and appreciated God’s character and nature and goodness. God even takes the evil one’s intentions and turns it around for our good.

Our God is good.

At this point we celebrated the Lord’s Supper. … followed by a time of fellowship over food and and an afternoon fun -- near, on and in the lake.