Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Message of Jesus

Brilliant sunlight on a crisp winter morn... blue skies and warm hearts. Pastor Brad Shannon, smiling and effervescent, welcomes us and says "I'm grateful you're here to worship today."

Darlene, Chuck and Ken led us in worship today, opening the service with "Mary Did You Know?" This was followed by a trio of Christmas hymns. The offering taken, we moved into a time of prayer and thanksgiving. Brad began by expressing special thanks for Darlene's contributions toward making this season especially special during this Advent season, and we all added an amen to that with applause.

The Message of Jesus

Brad began by noting that Christmas is a season, not just a day. Even though the world is broken Jesus is working every day. The Message of Christmas, the story of God breaking into our world, is not just a Bible message but is a story from history.

After reading Matthew 1:18-24 Brad pointed out that these "places" mentioned in the Bible are places that are still here today. The place where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan River that Israel crossed to enter the land... all these were places. The stories took place in the real world.

Joseph and Mary were poor, but it's noteworthy that people who are poor are more dependent on God. Joseph's roots were Bethlehem, the City of David.

Brad went on to describe the birth of Jesus, in a stable. It was a truly inauspicious beginning. And the first people told about it was the shepherds. Their message: "Do not be afraid...."

In various ways Brad returned to the challenges of life, the stresses in the midst of the season. And how Jesus came to give us peace.

After the angels shared the message of peace and joy with the shepherds, the shepherds ran into town and shared what they had heard. All who heard them were astonished. (When was the last time people were astonished by shepherds?)

Jesus is the peace-giver and peace-maker.

What's out responsibility in this crazy messed up world today? As receivers of God's peace it's our responsibility to become peace givers. To become self-less servants.

Jesus' life one of continuous giving, of being poured out. Even on the cross, the Lord's life was not taken, but rather, He gave His life.

As I die to myself, something new can be born.

Brad ended by asking that in 2016 we enter our relationships as circumstances as peace-givers. Be open to helping give hope to those who have lost hope. Be open to allowing God to show up in your lives in amazing ways. Allow your hearts to return to this very unlikely event, the unlikely place, where everything starts. He came to make peace, to bring peace to a troubled world.

"My peace I leave with you," Jesus said.

In closing we sang, "Hark the Herald Angels Sing."


Sunday, December 20, 2015

Prince of Peace

Brad welcomed us gently and indicated that today he would be talking about Jesus the Prince of Peace in a continuation of the Names of Jesus series he has been speaking on during Advent.

Pastor Brad reminded us that the Christmas Eve service will be this coming Thursday at 4:00 p.m. Darlene then played a beautiful medley featuring Crown Him With Many Crowns and O Holy Night. Brad and Darlene sang a moving rendition of Silent Night, and asked the congregation to sing with them for a portion. The fourth Advent candle was lit..

A couple of the children played songs on the piano as the offering was taken, and then we shared a time of prayer.

Prince of Peace

Brad asked how many people have finished their Christmas shopping? How many re-gifted a gift?

He acknowledged some of the stresses associated with Christmas, including all the chaos of getting ready, or the empty chairs where a missing loved on once sat.

After reading the passage in Isaiah 9:6 we turned to the Christmas story as told by Luke.

10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
~Luke 2:10-14

Jesus was called the Prince of Peace, but this Christmas event was not peaceful. Mary had to explain to the neighbors that she was pregnant by God. And then she had to ride to Bethlehem on a donkey. And give birth in a stall because there was no room in the inn. And she gave birth with no medical care or pain medicine.

Today we live in a world with many things that steal our peace. Financial stress. Emotional upheavals. Work stress. Personal conflicts with others, including loved ones....

Brad noted that God can give us a supernatural peace within the storms of our lives, whatever form they take. The peace of Jesus invades your innermost being as a settled conviction that all things are in God's hands, including your life. Regardless of what is going on in your life you can trust the competence of God in all things.

"Peace I leave with you," Jesus said. "My peace I give you. Don't let your hearts be troubled." Our peace comes through the Prince of Peace.

Worry is something many of us experience, but there is something you can do about it. When you worry, take it as a signal to invite Jesus in.

Brad cited 1 John 4:18.  "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear."

When children are growing up they need two things. They need a secure place, a shelter of love, but also they need to have freedom to explore and even opportunities for risk-taking opportunity.

But we've all seen how when young children are approached by strangers in public places they run quickly to the place where they feel secure, behind mom or dad's leg, and they hold on. As adults we also can do this, running to Jesus to regain our security.

This verse from John is showing us that our security in Christ gives us the confidence and strength to face the risks. His perfect love casts out fear. His Spirit gives us strength. As David wrote, "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil. Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me."

Sometimes we worry alone when we can call a friend to pray with us. Music also brings comfort. Whatever the situation, run to Him.

Brad then explained that the goal of our lives is not simply peace. We have been bought with a price... for a purpose. Embracing God's call on our lives is also essential. When Moses died, Joshua was told to cross the Jordan and possess the Promised Land. Like Joshua, we have a purpose. Getting rid of the negative things that sap up and drag us down is only half of the battle. Once we are settled with God, we must embrace the call.

Brad illustrated this by telling about a "ropes course" that he was involved in setting up at camp. A ropes course is a challenging personal and team development exercise in which people are high up and have to use a belay for safety. At the center of this activity is the need for, and development of, trust.

Emotionally we tend to not trust the safety equipment, even though initially we tell ourselves that we do trust it. Fear takes hold the higher off the ground one gets, until we're forced to act on what we say we believe. Trusting is more than mental assent, and we live into it.

Brad stated that trusting God to meet our needs is similar. Stepping out in faith can initially be scary, but God is trustworthy.

This message is important, Brad said, because you only go through life once. We can choose to worry or embrace the peace that comes through knowing Christ. 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Everlasting Father

Wet and dreary outside, warm and bright in the sanctuary. "Good morning! The Lord be with you," Pastor Brad said to begin our service. "I'm grateful you're here today."

The themes Brad has been speaking on during this Advent season revolve around the Names of Jesus, our Wonderful Counselor, the Prince of Peace. Today we will look at another of God's names, Everlasting Father.

Announcements
1. This afternoon is the Christmas Program & Dinner. Everyone is welcome. 4:00 p.m.
2. A sign-up sheet will be passed around during the service for gifts for a needy family we have adopted.

Darlene opened our time of worship with a melodious "Hark the Herald." The congregation sang O How Shall I Receive You and the Brad & Darlene sang a duet about Mary's prayer for strength to fulfill her calling in the challenging role for which she had been chosen. After singing O Come All Ye Faithful as a congregation, John and Kristina lit the Candle of Joy, the third candle of the Advent Wreath.

The children came forward and Susan Jessico led a children's time with a lesson about community and how when everyone pitches in, it makes everything easier. A time of prayer then preceded the message.



Everlasting Father

Brad began with a story about a young marine in the 1950s who was stationed in San Diego. This young man's father, who had been a mortician and politician in a small town in Indiana, was also an alcoholic who ran around on his wife and eventually just left her with three young kids.

This young marine's life was one of confusion until it turned around in a major way after attending a revival meeting. Eventually this man had three sons who all came to follow Christ, one of them becoming a pastor. That pastor is Brad.

We all have memories of fathers, and they vary because despite good intentions fathers also can make mistakes. Not all our memories are the same. We can sometimes mistakenly project our image of our father onto our everlasting father. The truth is that our Heavenly Father is not just like our earthly fathers.

Maybe the words "I love you" never came from your father's mouth. The result for many people is that they keep trying to perform for their fathers, trying to "earn" his love, to hear those words that he is proud of us. And then we turn this attitude to God, trying to earn His love, to be worthy of His approval.

Some of us may have had angry dads who hurt us verbally, shredding our hearts.

Let's look at Psalm 103 where it tells what our Heavenly Father is really like:
The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.

And in another place it says, "Come to me you who are burdened and heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Rest.

God is not angry at you. He will not abuse you.

As it is written, "I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and give you hope."

God is love. He is on our side. He is compassionate and He cares for you. He is not angry with you. "And if that's all you get," Brad said, "I believe you're halfway home."

No matter how you mess up or how far you run, God's promise is this: "I will never leave you or forsake you." He's an Everlasting Father full of compassion.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Wonderful Counselor

Another sunny Sunday morning, with dazzling sunlight careening about the azure heavens, streaming with unhindered glory over the rolling snow-sprinkled countryside.... Pastor Brad warms to the moment, greeting us with his own generous warmth. It's the first Sunday in Advent, that time in which we prepare to greet the celebration of the Savior's birth.

Announcements
1. Brad shared a letter from someone who was so blessed by our Thanksgiving dinner. Brad thanked those who helped and also those who came yesterday to help decorate the sanctuary.
2. Next Saturday there is a sewing group meeting here to make mittens, hats and items for the needy as we get ready for winter.

The quartet opened the worship time with the Gaither's "He Touched Me."

Scott and Cheyenne went forward to light the first Advent candle. "People who have walked in darkness have seen a great light."

The quartet sang a message song about the God of the mountains who is also the God in the valley who is there when things go wrong. Trials and temptations test you, but God is with you. He will not forsake you. "The God of the day is the God of the night."

After several hymns an offering was taken was taken while the quartet sang the uplifting "Yes, I Am." Then our children collected the soup cans in which we collected our loose change for Covenant World Relief.

When we entered the sanctuary we noticed a baptismal font set on a pedestal in the front, indicating that we're dedicating an infant this morning. Bob and Ellie Rlients were here to baptize Selah Joy and Zoe Grace. The family came forward to share the moment and bear witness.

A time of prayer followed, leading us to the sermon.

Wonderful Counselor

First, Brad shared some of names of football players that were unusual or striking. Bronko Nagurski was one of these. Definitely sounds like a tough guy. And how about Webster Slaughter?

The text today was Isaiah 9:6, the section that talks about the names of Jesus, which corresponded to  tie that he wore today featuring the many Biblical names of our Lord including today's.

Brad then read from Hebrews 4 and how Jesus, our Wonderful Counselor, is there for us in our time of need. As we head into this Christmas season, Brad asks us where our need is. "Where is it that you are broken today?"

All too often we avoid facing our failures, or resist admitting we have needs. Sometimes we successfully hide it for a while, but it's there and others see it.

Where are you broken today? Where are you in need? Is it depression? Is it fear? Always worrying? Always living with a chronic sense of anxiety? Or maybe it's the stress of all your responsibilities? Or financial stress? Or maybe you're lonely?

Wherever it is that you are broken, there's a Wonderful Counselor who wants to meet you.

If you are going to seek healing from the Wonderful Counselor today, you need to be yourself, as you are. Honest.

Brad shared the pain in his heart for a friend who is an alcoholic. The man is not honest with himself, remains in denial that he has a problem.

From there he told the story of the woman at the well, (John 4) Because she was honest, Jesus was able to meet her, reveal Himself as the answer to her real need.

Sometimes we are afraid to be straight with Jesus, to even be blunt. But Jesus can handle it. The good news is that we have a Wonderful Counselor who wants us to be real with Him.

"Cast your cares upon the Lord." Be truthful with Jesus, and with yourself. If you do that, He will reveal Himself.

Another piece of advice Brad shared was that we can't be in a hurry with God. When we ask for something from Jesus we need to learn how to wait for His response. Prayer isn't a hit and run affair. We seek, and wait for Him to speak.

Mark 9:7 "Listen to Him."

God speaks through His Word. He also speaks through friends or a song on the radio or this message or through your circumstances. It's a noisy world, but we can learn to hear and recognize His voice.

When you identify your need and go to the Wonderful Counselor, and when He speaks, I want to encourage you to do what He says to do. He's the light of the world. He knows what is best for you.

One last story: about a guy who had everything and kept all the rules, who went to Jesus and said "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus told him what to do, but the man didn't do it and went away sad.

Are you willing to be obedient to what Jesus asks of you? If we don't do what He tells us to do, then we're just playing games. We need to do what Jesus tells us to do when He asks us to do it. When He speaks to us we need to follow where He leads.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Five Ws of Gratitude

Operation Shoebox gifts help needy all over the world.
Pastor Brad opened with this thought: Gratitude is something more than our circumstances. Gratefulness is a bi-product of walking with and being aware of God's presence.

Announcements
The Christmas program will be 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, December 13.
This coming Saturday we will be decorating the Christmas tree here. Join us at 9 for coffee and at ten we will decorate.together.
There will be a Thanksgiving dinner here at the church for if you have no where to go and Chef Leonard will look forward to service you. Call to give us a head count if you think you will join us.

Darlene played "Give Thanks" to usher us into worship, which was led by our youth today.

After the offering was taken, Bard invited members of the congregation to share things for which they are grateful. Many shared from the heart a whole range of matters, then we prayed.

The Five Ws of Gratitude

Instead of the who, what, when, where and why of story telling, Brad shared the Five Ws that make up that important attitude called Gratitude.

Who
Governor Bradford made the first Thanksgiving Proclamation. And every president since has issued this proclamation. But it's not just presidents proclaiming, rather many New Testament writers have instructed us to give thanks. This is God's idea.

What
What happened to Gratitude?  Romans 1:21 indicates that fallen man ceased being thankful.

21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

In a world where there is such brokenness as we've seen in Paris, it is difficult. But Psalm 42 shows that this is nothing new. The Psalmist writes, "My tears have been my food day and night." But when he did not feel like giving thanks, he chose to remember God's goodness  Remember who God is. Remember how He has showered us with goodness in various ways.

When we remember, we gain hope and strength.

Brad then shared that one of the things that has occurred in our day is a sense of entitlement. Somehow, people feel they deserve more. We've become spoiled. This attitude corrupts our gratitude.

Every good a perfect gift comes from our Father. What we need to do is turn our blessings into praise, for all we have is a gift from God.

Where
In Luke 11:11-18 Jesus showed mercy to ten lepers and healed them. But only one came back to say thank you.

Brad then asked, "Will you be that one who daily gives thanks to the one who gave you life? Will you be the one who gives thanks to the One who when you were a sinner sought and found you and saved you? Will you say thank you to those who have helped you in your life journey?"

When
When did it happen?  We take so much for granted. How could we allow this to happen?

Brad cited the Prodigal son who demanded his inheritance while he was still young. "I want it now," is a pervasive attitude in our culture today.

Waiting means that I don't get it now. We used to save money and buy things we wanted after we saved up for them. Today we don't want to defer gratification for anything.

Brad then noted the other brother in the story who also had a self-righteous attitude. "Hey, I was good, I deserve more."

Why
Brad ended by stating why gratitude is so important. Jesus touched, healed, shared, gave... and when we were lost, He found us and said, "I love you." And when you are in desperate need of grace, He says, "I love you." In a hundred ways Jesus says, "I love you."

In closing we sang together the song that began our service, "Give Thanks" after which we moved the chairs and set up the volley ball net for the first time in our new sanctuary.

* * * *


Hey, the new gym floor is installed... and there's volley ball!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Walking In The Light


A blue sky and sunshine lifts spirits on this lovely late autumn day. The floor is now in place in the church sanctuary, but not yet ready for use. This week the baseboards will be installed and next Sunday we will gather again in the main hall.

Announcements
~ Darlene is seeking to assemble a choir for the Christmas season.
~ This Wednesday is the last Family Night till the new year. This week they will be assembling shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child.
December 13 at 4:00 p.m.
~ Next week is last Sunday School so that the time can be used for practices for the Christmas program.
~ There is also a quilting/sewing group forming. See Amy.

The quartet led us in worship today. Chuck shared a few thoughts beforehand, ending with this pearl, "Our relationship with God is the foundation upon which everything else rests."

After several choruses an offering was taken and it was time for our annual puppet theater with. Ruthanne and Pearl. This week's theme was Gratefulness.... Two bears played a game in which they thought up things they were thankful for beginning with each letter of the alphabet.

We began our time of prayer by calling to mind the suffering taking place as a result of the tragic events in Paris this past week.

Walking In The Light

Do you believe that God directs your life?

Today's sermon was about Saul's conversion in Acts 9. But first, Brad told a little background about Saul's life. Saul was born in Tarsus, a top student who studied under a top teacher. The best of the best in his studies, and also a Pharisee who kept all the Pharisaical commandments that were added to the ten commandments. But he was also the worst of the worst, leading the charge against Christians, breaking up the believers and taking the lead in the stoning of Stephen.

Saul's track record was such that people likely thought he was the last person ever who would get saved. But sometimes what is happening on the inside is very different than what you think based on their external behavior and God is at work within.

In verse 3 Saul was breathing out murderous threats, but on the road to Damascus God brings him down.

In our lives, too, God makes the first move. Christ pursues us while we were yet sinners. Saul was persecuting Christians one minute and became a Christian in the next. In a moment, any person in this room (or reading this here online) can be changed by the power of God.

In verse 6 Saul is told, "Get up and go to the city and you will be told what to do."

It's one step at a time. Jesus didn't lay out Saul's life plan right off, but told him to obey one simple instruction.

God's Word is a lamp unto our feet, and the light shines ahead of us one step at a time. "Get up and go to the city," Jesus says, "and I will show you...." Sometimes we don't know what to do because we still haven't followed the last step.

Saul was blinded by the light, by the Lord, and had to be led to the city. He could not physically see, but for the first time he is dealing with Christ in a different sort of way.

Next, we are taken to the story of Ananias whom the Lord called out to in a vision. Ananias replied, "Yes, Lord." If we want to be used by God, this is the way to respond when He speaks to us.

God instructs him to go to a house on Straight Street and ask for a man named Saul. Ananias explains that this instruction doesn't make sense. This is a man who was coming to Damascus to kill Christians.

But the Lord affirms that this is what Ananias is to do. Sometimes what we are called to do may seem too crazy or insignificant, but we are to trust. We walk by faith.

We often think God wants extraordinary and important people like Saul to change the world, but God needs the ordinary Ananiases of the world who simply say "Yes, Lord."

So it is that Ananias obeys, and he goes to pray for Saul, and the scales fall from Saul's eyes. He is healed of his blindness and changes his name to Paul.

Brad said, "I believe that today can be a day where you also see again."

* * * *

Note: Feel far from God? Who moved?

Sunday, November 8, 2015

It's Undeniable

This morning we met for worship in The Fireside Room. The new floor has been laid in the sanctuary this week. After the traditional greeting, Brad reminded us of the value of being surrounded by friends and community. "We've been talking about how challenging and confusing life can be, however you don't have to understand everything to believe in something. In the midst of those questions and doubts, there are things that are undeniable. One of these for me is Psalm 19.

Announcements
If there are women interested in being part of a sewing or quilting club, a group will be meeting next Sunday right after worship to see what this might be.

Brad led our worship time with praise songs from the blue songbook.

Brooke stood and shared that it's that time of year when we begin seeding our soup cans for Covenant World Relief. Baskets with labels etc. were distributed so we can bring them home to collect coins in. Covenant World Relief is an arm of the Covenant Church dedicated to needs such as hunger and the current refugee problem. You can learn more and give at CovChurch.org/cwr.

After a time of prayer, Pastor Brad shared the message he had prepared.

It's Undeniable

"How many of you have ever had questions or doubts?"

A few hands were raised, so he asked again, and we all know this question applied to everyone.

There are all kinds of questions people have. "Pastor, how do you reconcile free will and predestination?" And, "How do you accept the authority of this book the Bible when it was written by men?"

Then there are all the questions that arise from what we read in the news. How could God let a nine-year-old boy be shot in an alley by gang members? How can a mother poison her own children?

The text today is from John 9.

Verse 1: As He went along, He saw a man blind from birth.

Then His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Jesus replied, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him."

In verse six Jesus spit into the dirt and made mud which He put on the man's eyes. The Jesus told him to go wash in the Pool of Siloam. From there, the man went home to tell his parents what happened. "I was blind and now I can see!"

The neighbors couldn't agree on whether this young man who now can see was the same one who had been blind from birth. It didn't make sense to them. How could this possibly have happened?

In verse 13 the Pharisees are now involved. The man who had been blind was brought to the religious leaders. The miracle is undeniable, but they have an alternative way of dismissing it. The healing took place on the Sabbath therefore, they said, the man who did it must be evil. God doesn't work this way, they insisted. What they Pharisees get hung up on is, that because they don't understand it, it must not be God.

The young guy explains once more what happened. They still didn't believe, so they asked for the parents to come in. The parents equivocate because they do not want to be excommunicated. So the young man is brought back again, and he admits that he does not know who the man was, but what he does know is that he was blind and now could see. This much was undeniable.

"It is undeniable to me that a young man was born, became a carpenter, lived and walked among us. It is undeniable that this man was hung on a cross and put to death. It is undeniable the people said they saw him resurrected. It is undeniable that all those who were closest to Jesus were changed by their experience of the resurrection and were willing to die for what they afterwards believed. And," Brad proclaimed, "it is undeniable that I was once blind but now see."

35 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

36 “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”

37 Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”

38 Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.


Sunday, October 25, 2015

Bartimaeus

Today is Youth Sunday, a new tradition which we'll be conducting on the fourth Sunday of each month here at New Life Covenant. There are a lot of moving parts to the program and a lot of energy in the room as the church family and friends assemble for worship on a crisp but sunny day.

Pastor Brad welcomed us warmly and stated that his only announcement was that we would be our semi-annual meeting

Brad had us stand as he read the Gospel text for today's message, the story of a blind man named Bartimaeus as recorded in Mark 10:46-52. Then Brad and Darlene shared a song as an intro to a period of worship.

The congregation joined in a pair of songs and the youth sang a special song, "I Am Yours and You Are Mine." The congregation joined in again with "Open the Eyes of My Heart."

A ten-year-old named Grace played "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" during the offering, which stirred a strong response from the congregation afterwards.

Brooke then invited our youth to come forward and get recognition. This summer they went to Hancock and selected their favorite fabrics, which were then sewn into pillow cases for pillows to be placed in the church youth room. We dedicated the new youth room and the youth in our church family.


Bartimaeus

Brad began by noting that this man, a blind beggar, was a man going through a difficult season. And so many of us here today are likewise going through a difficult season. It could be your work, or marriage, or finances or physical suffering or depression... So many ways hardship can hit us.

But here is the story of Bartimaeus. It begins with Bartimaeus sitting by the side of the road as a large crowd goes by. These are not perfect conditions for reaching out to Jesus. The crowd could have been in the thousands, though we don't really know. What we do know is that the beggar was needy and it was indeed a crowd.

Brad stated that no matter the circumstances, the time to call out is always right now. Conditions are never perfect and will not become more perfect later.

A second note extracted from this story came in verse 47. The beggar could not see Jesus, but he heard that He was near, and he began shouting, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me." He used what he had to reach out to Him. Concentrate on what you have.

Third, he played to an audience of one. He wasn't concerned with what others thought of him. The people around him rebuked him, but he shouted all the more. Don't worry what others think when calling out to God.

Sometimes when we're trusting or hoping or praying there are people who suck the faith out of you, people who tell us not to hope, that your prayers are useless.

Bartimaeus was alone, isolated, and others were saying just shut up. But he didn't listen to them.

Faith is sometimes embarrassing. Noah built a boat... and the neighbors made fun of him. But his trust was in God, and God had said to build an ark. He obeyed, and he was rewarded for his faith, along with his family.

God is alive, and He is active. And Jesus responds. Despite all the noise and chaos of the mob, Jesus hears the cry of this single blind beggar.

In verse 50 Bartimaeus throws his cloak aside to go to Jesus, and Brad suggests that the gospel writer did not put this detail in for no reason. Brad then asked what we have to throw aside. Is it pride? Bitterness? Whatever it is needs to be cast off.

In verse 51 Jesus asks what the man wanted. The blind man was honest and direct. "I want to see."

Jesus replied, "Your faith has healed you." And immediately he received his sight, whereupon he also began to follow Jesus.

* * * 
After the service we had a semi-annual meeting to address church business and approve the budget. 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Goodness


After welcoming us, Brad shared the theme that was discussed in Sunday School today, which served as preface for today's message. There's always going be a time when we sense God calling us to do something that demands a sacrifice from us. These are the moments that reveal where we stand with regard to our faith.

Announcements
Semi-annual meeting next week after the service.

Chuck Vanderscheuren began our transition to worship by telling how he had an opportunity to share his testimony in the courthouse this past week.  The worship team then sang several heart-warming songs as sunlight shimmered off the leaves outside. 'What a day, glorious day that will be."

While the tithes and offerings were taken Natalie Brewer shared one her gifts with us, as a dancer, followed by a boisterous applause.

Brooke shared a Mission Moment, essentially outlining a number of outreach actvities our church is involved with, both locally and abroad through Covenant World Relief, which you can follow on Facebook.

This was followed by a time of prayer, and then the message.

Goodness

Brad opened by having a volunteer read Luke 18:18-30, the story of the rich young ruler.

What is the opposite of Good? In Timothy there is an interesting passage that seems to contrast "loving what is good" with "lovers of self." The opposite of good is not necessarily the word bad, but when it comes to making a really good choice, self-interest may hinder us, even if it isn't a "bad" thing we are doing. Sometimes doing something that is good really can be "bad" if it keeps us from something essential.

The story in Luke begins with a conflict in views of the meaning of the word "good."

Jesus then outlines a list of the commandments, and this fellow actually says he kept them all, which may not be surprising in light of our natural tendency to see ourselves as better than we really are.

In Mark's version of the story, Jesus "looked at him and He loved him."

Goodness starts when God gets hold of the heart He is meeting with. Jesus knew exactly what this guy was missing. The young ruler kept the rules, but did God have his heart? His possessions possessed him. He had a self-serving bias that got in the way of what real goodness looks like.

This guy asked, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" Brad said it was the wrong question because an inheritance is a gift. It is not something you do or earn.

Once you receive His goodness, how do you grow it? You want to be part of a community that builds your soul. This is why Jesus Himself went to synagogue each week. You have to put yourself in an environment where God's goodness can be poured into you, whether small group or devotional community.

This kind of life may inconvenience you and Brad listed examples of ways that following Christ might result in our being inconvenienced. He noted that the end results may surprise us.

As it is written in Acts 20:35  "There is more happiness in giving than receiving."

And in Galatians 6:9  "Let us not become weary in doing good."

Brad closed with this familiar passage from Matthew 25

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

The kid who made fun of you at school? That's Jesus. The unwashed homeless person who smells like a mixture of urine and whisky, that's Jesus. The person dying alone in a nursing home. That's Jesus. That neighbor woman who lost the love of her life. That's Jesus. The person who walks in here asking questions, wondering if there's a God. That's Jesus. The dying, the crippled, the unwanted...

When we see the world as He sees, there is plenty of opportunity to do good, and be with Jesus.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

I Have Decided

The fall colors are beginning to peak and on a sunny morning like today the reds, oranges and yellows are especially vibrant. Brad welcomed us warmly, which happens no matter the weather.

Announcements
1. There is a shoe drive to collect shoes for the homeless, especially men's shoes of any size.
2. Brook has scheduled a cleaning day for Wednesday to organize the storage room.
3. New flooring will arrive before long, to be installed around the first week of November. It's possible things will be in disarray so that we may have to be creative about where we worship one or two weekends at that time.

The trio helped us transition to worship by singing, "Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place." The congregation joined to sing several songs and hymns before an offering was taken while the trio sang "Make Me A Servant."

A time of prayer preceded the message.

I Have Decided

We looked at the book of Nehemiah again this morning. Brad began by talking about the implications of Jesus' invitation: "Follow Me." Those two words have changed human history, globally and individually, by people who followed these two words, from the early disciples to the present.

Everything is wrapped up in those two words. "Follow Me."

When Jesus says that, He's really saying, "I just want you to trust Me in everything. I want you to obey Me fully. No exceptions." This is not a preference, but a commitment.

The reason Pastor Brad is here at New Life Covenant is summed up in this concise call to surrender. The ball is in our court, to decide. Following Jesus is a decision. It is intentional.

Which brings us back to Nehemiah. Last week we discussed how the people built the wall, but at this point they were still living in a land run by foreign authority. And the people gathered, seeking God's guidance. They looked to Ezra to read God's book to them. The people listened as Ezra read from the Torah from daybreak till noon. (Nehemiah 8)

Beginning with Genesis they learn how the world came into being, how the world became broken, how God had purposes, a mission and a people. Ezra continued to read about Moses, and the giving of the Law, and how people are supposed to live.

And as the story went on, they learned how much they had missed it, how generations lost their way, living shallow meaningless lives when they had been called to so much more, and they're hearts were broken, and they wept.

But the leaders said, "Wait, enough crying. Because God has a purpose for you." And then the significant words in verse 10: "Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength."

This is followed by more reading from the Book, and three further hours of worship, they confess their sins together and repented. Here's the culmination, in verse 38: “In view of all this, we are making a binding agreement, putting it in writing, and our leaders, our Levites and our priests are affixing their seals to it."

Our commitment is more important than anything. It is not legalistic. It is not self-righteous. It's something inside them. This day commitment becomes a turning point in the history of Israel.

Then one day Jesus comes. And He explains the meaning of all these things. And what He shows them and us is that the Laws of God are not intended to make us a group of people who keep a bunch of impossible rules, but rather people whose lives exhibit this from the heart.

This isn't something nebulous out there somewhere. This is practical in the moment, here and now. Love one another.

It's not about "I'll pray when I need something," or "I'll study God's word when it is convenient."

Jesus is able to help us become all He wants us to be. He is patient, and willing. And He calls you. He is Lord of all and He invites you...."Follow Me.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Steadfastness

Brad welcomed us and said we will be looking at lessons from Nehemiah and today we're examining persistence and steadfastness. When there's opposition to what we're trying to do, at what point do we call it quits?

Announcement
Gail thanked everyone who came to the fish fry yesterday, which raised almost a thousand dollars.

We sang songs from the blue hymnbook during our worship time this morning. An offering was taken and then we spent time in prayer for our various needs and the needs of others.

Steadfastness

Have you ever felt like giving up? We all know that we've given up on things, whether a diet or a dream. Today's message would be taken from Nehemiah. And the question is, when is the time to quit?

A couple weeks ago we saw how Nehemiah's heart was broken when he saw the walls broken down in Jerusalem and at great personal risk approached the king for permission to re-build Jerusalem. Today Pastor Brad talked about the opposition Nehemiah faced when he set about to undertake the work of re-building.

It begins in Nehemiah 2:10 almost at the very outset. Rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem was an undertaking Nehemiah didn't need to do, but he felt called to do this work. Upon his arrival in Jerusalem he evaluates the situation, examines the walls by night. Then he invites the people to join in the project. And the work is commenced.

But there is more opposition, verbal abuse and deceptive statements, that the king of Persia is going to be angry when he finds out what was going on.

In chapter 3 we see that people from every station in life pitch in to help with the project. No one is left on the sidelines. The buy-in is big time. Everyone is signed up. But Sanballat, who has been opposing this project, becomes even angrier and continues to ridicule the Jews who have begun the work.

When the project is halfway complete the opposition increases still more so that there are death threats against those who continue working. As if this weren't bad enough, there are some within their own group who start saying, "It's never going to work. We're never going to make it."

Nehemiah keeps praying. He sees that the threat to their success isn't just external, it's also internal. Nehemiah turns to the people and says, "Don't be afraid."

There's nothing flashy about perseverance. It's like offensive linemen in football. They just do their jobs because the work has to be done. The quarterbacks and running back might get the glory but those same men know that the linemen were essential to their success. It is a team effort.

Brad took Nehemiah's story and noted how it applies to us. When we're doing God's work, God's message to us is "Don't give up."

When is it time to quit? Not when it's hard. The time to quit is when the work is done.

God uses perseverance to make us grow. As Paul wrote to the Romans, perseverance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us. (Romans 5:4-5)

When is it time to quit? Jesus set the example for us. From the start of His life He met opposition. A king tried to kill Him after he was born. He made the religious leaders angry by things He taught. His hard sayings sometimes made crowds turn away. His friends ran away from Him in His time of need. One betrayed Him, another denied Him. Yet He continued, all the way to the cross where crowds jeered Him as the weight of the world's sins was laid upon His shoulders. Even there he could have called out to the angels to rescue Him but He remained till He poured out His blood whereupon He declared, "It is finished."

There's something in your life that isn't easy right now. God's work is never easy, but the message here is don't give up.

Perseverance isn't something I do alone. God has given us His Spirit to walk with us, beside us and in us, to accomplish the work He's called us to do.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Dedication of Our New Home: Greater Things Are Yet To Come



Today was an exciting day in the history of our church family as we gather to celebrate the dedication of our new building. Many new faces were present to share this special occasion with us as  Pastor Brad Shannon welcomed us warmly on this gorgeous early autumn morn..

Darlene played a fluid, gentle introit to usher into worship which began with s song titled "Holy Spirit."

Brad asked the building committee to come to the front and a small ceremony was held as they handed the keys to Leadership Chair Pam Johnson.

Jeff Burton of the Northwest Conference joined us for this special occasion and shared a few remarks before offering a prayer of dedication. There are many other celebrations taking place today but I drew the best one, he said.


"There's really in the building today a building within a building. In Ephesians Paul writes that the people of God are themselves a building, brought together to be a dwelling place for the work of the Holy Spirit, with Jesus Christ Himself the chief cornerstone." Jeff Burton said that the physical building  here was a symbol of the building of our faith and this "building within the building."

The quartet sang "Surely the Presence of the Lord is in this Place" while an offering was taken. This was followed by a time of prayer and praise, and special music, "Find Us Faithful" sung by the choir.

Greater Things Are Yet To Come

Brad began by noting he would be sharing from Ephesians 3:14-21.

What's important is not this building but our mission.

"For this reason -- because of the the matchless, sinless life of Jesus -- I kneel before the Father..."

To kneel was an act of surrender, a matter of humbling oneself. When you kneel, you're saying, "I'm not in control."

The United States may be a great nation but even the best minds here can't make the sun appear and make a beautiful day like this one on command. So often we think we're special. God is the one we're dependent on here.

How much control do we really have about the things in this world, including what others think about us here in this community. But unless you step out in faith you can't experience God's faithfulness.

God, how can I just trust you to make me the person you want me to be? The times of not knowing what an outcome will be are the best time to learn how to trust God.

God is not sweating bullets over the future of our world. God is faithful and we can trust Him, again and again.

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.

This is what I pray for more than anything else in this church, that the indwelling of Christ will fill you. And I believe this is real.

The word indwell that Paul uses means "to sit down and make his home."

I pray that we will be transformed that purifies us from sin and empowers us to fulfill His purposes. When it comes to power, think tanks and political powers pale in comparison to a changed life.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

How big is our God? What is He capable of?

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

We are ever measuring capabilities, but what God is able and willing to do is immeasurable. It cannot be measured. It's beyond all we can conceive or imagine.

"I don't want to be known as the rich church, or the poor church or the liberal church or the conservative church, or the smart church or the gifted church. We want to be known as a church that believes God can do immeasurably more, and we want to ask God for the power to do not only what's possible for us, but what's impossible."

Amen.

What follows are some photos from this special day.


It was indeed a magical day. To all who helped make it happen, thank you.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Finding Your Passion

Our Grand Opening will be next Sunday. Join us.
Today is Communion Sunday. Pastor Brad welcomed us with the exclamation, "This is the day the Lord has made..." Brad said that he was initiating a new series this time on Nehemiah and the first message in this series was a strong one.

Announcements
Chuck shared that his involvement with the Salvation Army has resulted in becoming aware of the need for shoes, especially men's shoes. Next week there will be a barrel in the back for those who want to bring a pair to donate.
Paula made a request for cookies for next week's Grand Opening during Rally Sunday.
Next week will include games, bouncy houses, and more. The service will be at 10:15 a.m.

The quartet sang a medley of Gaither-era favorites as a lead-in to worship followed by As the Deer and then we all together sang several more hymns.

After the offering was taken we shared a time of prayer and praise.

Finding Your Passion

Brad began by asking how many of us had a problem. He then said he believed that our lives can be defined by our biggest problem. What are you devoting yourself to try to solve in this world? Wealth? Fame? Security?

Jesus's disciples asked him, "What problem in your world would you call us to address?"

It's the heart of what is God's will in their lives. What is it that genuinely moves your heart?

This is what I see in Nehemiah. Brad had Leonard read Nehemiah 1:1-4.

Nehemiah, at the beginning of this story, was living in Susa of Persia, a superpower to which Israelites had been dispersed. But he is returning to Jerusalem and when he sees the walls of Jerusalem it breaks his heart. The broken walls show Israel's disgrace and vulnerability.

Allowing the grief to run deep into his bones he pours his heart out to God. (Nehemiah 1:5-11)

Nehemiah's prayer begins acknowledging the greatness of God, the God of heaven who is simultaneously here with us in this place. The prayer moves from the acknowledging of his brokenheartedness to the need to take action. "I have to do something about that wall."

Prayer is about "what God and I can do together." It's not just about telling God our problems.

Nehemiah comes to Jerusalem in the month of Kislev, but it's four months before he takes action. Nehemiah was cup bearer to the king, which included serving the king wine. His role also included being happy to serve the king. And for four months his heart was broken yet he did not show it until one day (chapter 2) he reveals what is in his heart.

Nehemiah asks for permission to go to Jerusalem to repair the wall. This is a risky request, but he is concerned more for the need than for himself. In addition he asks for safe conduct, a military escort. And furthermore, he requests timber and other materials. His vision for a renovated Jerusalem is bigger than his fear, though he is very much afraid.

These are not just stories. Nehemiah is walking with God, immersed in Scripture, and given the boldness he needed despite his fears.

In the end, Brad returned to his initial question: what is your problem? What breaks your heart? Because the walls of this world are broken. We hear it every day. The need is immense. Abortion, human trafficking, poverty, disease, human devastation.

Is the only reason I'm on this earth just to keep myself on this earth? To be more comfortable?

What's your problem? Do what Nehemiah did. Let the pain go deep. And then ask God what you can do to make a difference. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Testimonies

Chuck Vanderscheuren welcomed us this morning and noted that the Shannons are at camp this week on family vacation. Our service would be comprised of testimonies by three members of our congregation, John Peyto, Kelly Smith and Kristina Vanderscheuren. The service was quite special as we learned more about the moving, real life stories behind some of our members.

Announcements
The most important announcement had to do with the survey we're being asked to fill out at the bottom of our church website, NewLifeCov.net.

The intro to worship was by our quartet, which included a new face, singing Worthy of Worship. After a word of prayer we sang several songs from the blue songbook. The offering was taken and we entered into a time of prayer.

A passage of Scripture preceded each testimony, the first being I Peter 3:15.

John Peyton was asked a couple weeks ago to respond to the question "What has God done in my life?" He began his early childhood in Catholic school, and after plenty of misbehaving he was sent to public school. He continued this same path, hurt a lot of people and after a failed marriage and being inconsiderate toward others he began to experience a depression that indicated he needed to change his life. Eventually he returned to the church, a Methodist church, and began to see changes in his life and attitudes.

He shared how Nancy became part of his life, how God's hand brought them together.

John had 2 children by his first marriage, children whom he stayed in touch with as they grew. When his son was old enough he entered the navy, but after a year abroad he was killed overseas in a traffic accident. This hit John hard. Five years later he was diagnosed with stomach cancer. It was a time when only 12 of a hundred were surviving this kind of prognosis. He shared how God's mercy brought him through.

Nancy and John became very intentional about their faith and committed to helping others, both exhibiting a humble and genuine faith.

Kelly Smith shared what God is doing in her life, one with difficulties that have challenged their faith and their family. Kelly said she always felt growing up that she was called to be a mom. Her son was born with a disability and was told he would never walk on his own, never breathe on his own and never smile. He has lived to do all three, though not an easy road to get there.

They adopted a girl who was diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and she shared the host of issues they have had to deal with. She shared her hurt, fear, pain in a moving manner. The ongoing struggle with incident after incident, things never dreamed of, yet God is a God of hope. It's been hard on their marriage, hard on their children... but they are trusting God in the midst of it.

Pam read from II Timothy 1:5 as an intro to Kristina Vanderscheuren's story. Kristina grew up in the church, went to church with her dad. The services were long and boring. But she looked forward to going out to eat with her father afterwards and this was meaningful.

When her family moved to Ashland they were the only colored people in a white school. This led to her acting up and getting in trouble. When her father died early, she became angry at God and hating God. These were hard times.

One day she met a pastor who was very real and down to earth, and went to his church, and ultimately encountered God. After this she began going to church every Sunday and became hungry to do more. As a result of this she met John and has a beautiful child.

* * * *
It was a very special service as we got to see unvarnished some of the realities in some of the lives of our church family, and God's part in bringing people through. 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Kindness Isn't Rocket Science

"Good morning. I'm grateful you're here today." Brad welcomed us warmly and stated today's theme regarding kindness. We want to be a community that brings life through the things we say.

Announcements

Tuesday council meeting will be Tuesday at 6:00 p.m.
September 13 is Rally Day, but we especially want to to celebrate a House Warming for the new church building.
Brooke shared that there is a survey on our church website. Go to newlifecov.net, scroll down and fill out the survey. Our aim is to have use this information in the new church directory. We also want to help everyone to connect with church ministries and our community.
Brooke then changed personalities to thank us on behalf of all who went to the MUUUCE Kids event. (MUUUCE stands for Most Unbelievable Ultimate Urban Camping Experience.)
Embridge Energy is donating five houses to Habitat for Humanity. They will need to be moved but are good homes for five needy families, If you know of a family in need, contact Norm.

After a time of worship an offering was taken, and we spent time in prayer.

Kindness Isn't Rocket Science

How do we give words of life to each other?

Brad shared several examples of how words can make a difference.

What if this coming week each time we interact with someone we would ask God to speak through us. It's sometimes amazing what words will come out.

Proverbs 18:21 says, "The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit."

Everyday in a thousand small little ways we use words. And every word carries a little bit of life, or death.

I want to build a culture here where marriages can flourish. The words we use in our marriages create life. "I will never stop loving you."

The life of the church doesn't start with programs. It's about what comes out of our mouths. Rejoice with those who rejoice. Bear one another's burdens.

Our tongue has the power of life and death.

Proverbs 10:14 states, "The wise store up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool invites ruin."

What you know about indicates what you care about. Whatever you care about, you're going to think about. Whatever you know about shows what you care about. How well do you know your spouse?

The reverse is also true. By getting to know more about someone will care more. When you learn about people, you care about them.

How we greet each other after being apart

Proverbs 12:18 says, "The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." It is important how we talk with one another.

Proverbs 15:4 states, "The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit."

Proverbs 18:2 has further advice, especially for married couples. "Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions."

Here's yet another: "Light in a messenger’s eyes brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones." (Proverbs 15:30)

Write down a quality that you find special about your spouse or good friend and then tell them about it. Practice saying thank you, too.

And never get tired of saying, "I love you."

The truth is, that's why we are on this planet.

Jesus said, "I must do the work of the one who sent me while it is day." In other ords, life is short. Now is the time to love, to act, to give. Your continuing debt to this world is to lvoe.

Don't end your life saying "I wish I had loved like I could have loved."

This week, ask God to speak through you.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Regarding Prayer

Today is the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost. During the sound check Pastor Brad's microphone was not working and he slipped to the back to find a fresh battery. The grey skies and technology failed to dampen the mood and two minutes later Brad re-emerged to welcome us warmly. "I'm grateful you'e here this morning. It's always good to see you."

"Worship is an act of participation. We come with our wills, minds. bodies and spirits to enter into worship together. Today is crowd participation day.... as we sing some wonderful hymns of the faith which we do not always sing...

Announcements
We have a Bloodmobile after church. Sign up after the service if you have not
Sign up sheet for after church for providing sweets and treats in future services.

We enjoyed a different kind of service this morning as various members of the congregation stood and shared prescribed readings from the hymnal interspersed with classic hymns, an offering and our times of prayer.

Regarding Prayer

Brad began by stating we'll be looking at Matthew 6. There's a cost to praying because it involves risk. Prayer involves risk. We risk being disappointed.

Prayer isn't easy to talk about because we've heard so many sermons growing up that make us feel guilty because we're not praying enough or not sure what to say or our minds wander or we have doubts about whether it is real. Does God even listen? If He cares, why haven't I seen it? Is it worth my time to pray? Is prayer a waste of time?

So many of us move prayer tot he margins of our lives, praying only when we're in a desperate straits.

If we look at the Bible it's a continuous story of people who walked and talked with God. Even Jesus, the one thing He did, no matter how busy, took time to pull away from the crowds to be alone with the Father. He called the Temple a house of prayer. Prayer mattered.

In the four Gospel, the one thing that is recorded in all four, is "Jesus, teach us to pray." They didn't say, "Teach us to heal," or "Teach us to preach." They said, "Teach us to pray."

Jesus taught them what has been called The Lord's Prayer, though it is really our prayer.

Matthew 6:5-15

Many of us have recited so many times we can say them without thinking, which is exactly the opposite of what Jesus wanted.

But Jesus said, "This is how you pray." Not "this is what you pray."

Even when we cry out, "God, why is this happening?" Even that is a kind of prayer.

1. Pray genuinely.
Don't worry about the words you are using. This is not a performance for others. Don't get hung up on using the right words.

Jesus didn't teach His followers to pray religiously. He asked them to pray authentically.

The way you get to meaningfully prayer is to start where you're at. Begin where you are and He will lead us into the broader things, to that which matters.

2. Remember who we're talking to.
Sometimes we speak conceptually about a God we suspect that we can't know personally. But Jesus says pray to our Father. The word reminds us that God is a being that can be known. You get to be a child again, a kid who can always approach his father and talk with him.

The word Father reminds us that we're not in control of the outcome when we pray. Too often we pray superstitiously, like it's some magic chant we have to say by rote.

3. We need to pray bigger.
Too often our prayers revolve around our small things, but Jesus teaches us to pray like this: "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as in heaven." Jesus teaches us to pray in significant ways. "Father, bring justice. Father, protect children. Father, end the violence, end the abuse."

When we pray bigger it puts thinigs back into a broader context. We need a kingdom-sized vision. We can't settle for anything less. We're called on to ask for more than we can even imagine.

4. We can't be afraid to ask.
Sometimes we censor our requests before asking because we think God doesn't care. But in Scripture we see Jacob asking God for blessing, and others made requests for themselves.

Do we get what we want? This doesn't happen because some prayers are at odds with each other.

But when something is really important, don't stop praying just because you fear being disappointed. Our faith means we have to be willing to keep asking.

Jesus taught us to do this. He tells the parable of the widow who keeps returning to the judge, asking and asking and asking. When the Son of Man returns will He find faith on earth? Ask, and keep asking. In another place He said, "You don't have because you don't ask."

Our prayers matter.

What really amazes is that how God does answer. Sometimes God shows up and in ways we never expected.

5. We need to be willing to wait on God.
He was teaching us to pause, to listen. We don't like to wait. We're in a hurry. Even when we pray, we finish and get up to get on with the next thing.

God's desire is that we wait, make space for God to speak back to us.

It happens all the time, we get impatient and fail to experience how God wants to answer us.

"Ask and you will receive," Jesus said.

Instead of trying to control the outcome, let God speak and act. Trust, have faith. Expect big things.

God is not asking you to pretend or use special language. God knows what's best for you. God is up to so much more than we can imagine.


Sunday, August 2, 2015

Following Jesus

Today was Communion Sunday
"This is the day that the Lord has made... let us rejoice and be glad in it."

Brad welcomed us warmly and our special guests Mark & Mary Lynn Rhoads, and the Hagens.

Announcement
Pray for our junior high kids who are going on a weeklong trek called M.U.U.U.C.E
Sept 13, Grand Opening / Open House here at our new church.
Seeking volunteers to help with church maintenance.
Bloodmobile next Sunday, Auguat 9.

The trio sang There Came A Man and then Heavenward Bound, another wonderful Gospel song after which we sang several songs as a congregation. During the offering we joined them in singing He's Everything To Me.

There were several prayer requests shared. After a time of prayer Brad read to us from Matthew 11:25-30.

Mark and Mary Lynn Rhoads, and Gwen led us in singing Trust and Obey before Brad introduced our guest speaker, Jeff Hagen who was visiting with his wife Sandy this morning.

Following Jesus

Pastor Hagen began by noting that he grew up a mile from Brad, and has followed our church community for some time through his friendship with the Cresman's. He spoke here a year ago across the road, and today gave a very solid message based on his own observations and life experiences. Here are some of the main points he made.

He started by saying that our new building is a new step, but what will make this new step effective begins with prayer. We need to pray for our pastor and for the church. "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord."

The word "spirit" in Hebrew means "wind." And in essence we are wind instruments, as His wind/spirit flows through us.

Jeff shared that he considered calling this message Learnings Under the Yoke of Christ. These are some lessons he's learned along the path of life.

1. The Christian faith starts with a call to follow Jesus.
Salvation is a gift that is given to us.

2. Life is messy. We're not in control.

3. We're called to seek His kingdom first, and He will be our provider.
To get out of the boat and come after Him is a challenge. Faith is not faith unless you get out of the boat.

4. There is a price to be paid for following Jesus.
Jeff cited Bonhoffer's book The Cost of Discipleship. He ended up dying from his conviction to follow Jesus.

Following Jesus starts with a call.

Romans 8:28 states that "All things work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose." God allowed evil men to crucify His son, yet this very act undid evil.

God calls us, and deposits a seed of the word of God into our hearts. He invites us to cultivate that seed.

This call is a revelation of Jesus. When Peter professed that Jesus was Messiah, Jesus noted that flesh and blood did not reveal this to Peter, but it was revealed by God. But this call is just a start point.

Life is about a total renovation of the heart. God says, "If you want to follow Me, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me." From the heart come the springs of life. Life is a constant lesson of learning to pick up the cross, and letting Him take control.

Finally, there's a price to be paid for following Christ.

The spirit of a man is the lamp of the Lord and he searches the depths of our being.

Jeff shared how money made him feel secure. Our security is not going to be found in money.

We need the willingness to go where God wants us to go. Are you willing to follow Jesus?

If we follow, He will transform us from a selfish person to someone who looks like Jesus from the inside out. To reveal the glory of God, we need to be willing to submit to His yoke. He will shape our heart to the image of His son.

At this, Gwen and the Rhoads' led us in "I Have Decided To Follow Jesus."

At this we celebrated the Sacrament of Communion.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Beautiful

Pastor Brad led worship today.
This has indeed been a beautiful summer, so the theme today certainly resonates with that. Brad welcomed us with his usual "I'm grateful you're here today." The message will be based on a familiar passage from Acts 3.

Announcements
Junior High kids will be taking a special trip to the MUUUCE Retreat August 6-8.
The Bloodmobile is coming. Call Ruth Anne for details.
Gordy & Becky are having a 50th anniversary next Sunday at Gethsemane Fellowship at 2:00 p.m.

Our worship began with Come Thou Fount and 10,000 Reasons. After we spent a few minutes greeting one another we sang Jesus Messiah and closed with Cornerstone.

The offering taken, Leonard was invited forward to read Acts 3:1-10 then we moved to a time of prayer and praise.

Beautiful

Just after Pentecost Peter and John were going to the Temple and had come to the gate called Beautiful where they found a man who could not walk, a man who had been lame from birth. A miracle takes place.

Brad pointed out that the miracle is told as an event in history, but notes that the Biblical writers are writing about something bigger. In our modern era people argue about whether such miracles really happened, but the meaning of this story is not about whether miracles happen or not.

First, miracle gives us a basis for hope. This miracle took place at the Temple. The Temple was the place where heaven and earth met. And it took place at the gate called Beautiful. This gate was wonderfully awe-inspiring, a work of art. Right next to this gate is a line of broken people.

Is this the way the world is supposed to work? If God is here is this the way the world is supposed to be? Where is God in all this brokenness?

Then and now, it is the same story. Marriages on the rocks, abused children, alcoholism, self-destructive behaviors... Where are the miracles?

So it was that Peter and John were going into the Temple and this man lame from birth, after an exchange with Peter, began walking, and leaping and praising God. What's significant here is not that he got up and began walking. The language echoes an Old Testament prophesy from Isaiah 35 which states, "Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped, then the lame will leap like a deer and the mute tongue shout for joy." When God comes back to restore the brokenness of this world, Isaiah says, these are the things you will see.

In other words, this man's healing was a sign. It was the fulfillment of Scripture, an affirmation that Jesus was who He said he was and the power of God has been released into the world in a new way.

It should be noted that Jesus' miracles were not like magic tricks designed to wow people. Rather, Jesus was all about healing suffering. The Lord's miracles were used to take broken things and make them right.

Jesus' miracles are about making things the way they were supposed to be. Illness and death and hatred and hunger are unnatural. Jesus's miracles are not a suspension of the natural order; they are a restoration of the natural order.

One day every wrong will be righted, one day every lame person will walk and leap and sing for joy. There will be no more death, there will be no more tears.

The miracle gives us hope and gives us power.

This miracle is similar to one in Mark 2 by Jesus, and another in Acts 14 by Paul. In each there is a person who can't walk. And then there is a healing. And then an explanation.

In each case, the explanation diverts away from the miracle and focuses on sin. In Mark, the story of the man lowered through the roof in which Jesus states, "Your sins are forgiven." Jesus is implying, "You think you need to be able to walk, but what you really need is deeper still and that needs to be addressed."

More than what you are asking for is spiritual healing. In each of these miracles there is a call for repentance that follows. We often think we know what we need, but what we really need is spiritual healing.

Too often what we want is relief from our suffering. But as bad as our suffering is, it is not our biggest problem. What we need is a right ordering of our heart. If you have that relationship with God, you will have the power to overcome whatever you are up against.

Brad went further. These people who did miracles were not just anyone. They were themselves people who were broken that God's life might move through us. It's the way of the cross. As Paul stated, "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me."

In the end, the purpose of life is not to our personal happiness or to achieve pleasure and avoid pain. It is to do the will of God come what may. Brad stated, "I pray for this for our church, for us to take up the cross and serve in His name... to be fishers of men, forgivers of wrongs and the lover of enemies... to care for widow and orphans, visit prisoners and minister to the poor and the hungry and the homeless... This is my hope for our church because I love Christ and you."