Sunday, November 30, 2014


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.

~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.


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


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.


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?

~ 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


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.

~ 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.


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.