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.

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


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.

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.


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.

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.

~ 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.

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.