Sunday, February 22, 2015


The message this morning is titled Self-Examination, which is something many of us do when the temps drop to near thirty below zero like today. We ask ourselves why we are living here in Northern Minnesota. Nevertheless Pastor Brad Shannon greeted us warmly to call our service to order. 

Wednesday was Ash Wednesday, ushering in a season of repentance and renewal as we look toward Easter. One of the challenges in life is that in our efforts to overcome sin we learn how powerless we are. At an unimaginable cost to Himself, our Lord's grace and mercy have been showered upon us.

~ If you are interested in becoming a member, we'll be having a Membership class soon. Contact Pastor Brad.
~ Wednesday and Thursday will be another pair of work days at the church. Much progress has been made.
~ Tuesday afternoon there will be several from our church family singing at the Wesley Residence nursing home at 2:00 p.m. Contact Chuck or Darlene if you would like to join them.

Chuck opened the service by reading from Jeremiah 9:23-24.

“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom 
or the strong boast of their strength 
or the rich boast of their riches, 
but let the one who boasts boast about this: 
that they have the understanding to know me, 
that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,
 justice and righteousness on earth, 
for in these I delight,” declares the Lord.

The trio sang a new song to usher us into worship. Brad then prayed and the trio sang When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder before we sang a number of songs together. They also sang a Dallas Holm song during the offering.


Brad began by reading Romans 7:15-25

15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Brad noted that this is a message that springboards off the Ash Wednesday message.

Brad asked, "Why is sin so devastating?" Harry Eliason answered, "It separates us from God."

Pastor Brad then pointed out that sin is the only thing that can destroy us from the inside out. Sin is the one thing that can destroy what is eternal.

Psalm 24:3-4a states
Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? 
Who may stand in his holy place? 
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart...

There are actually laws in this country about cleaning hands, but how do we gain a pure heart?

In Genesis 3 we see how it happened with Adam and Eve.

What Brad points out is the manner in which the serpent deceived Eve, by misrepresenting God so that they question His character.

Temptation is not sin, but when we are tempted Brad says we need to invite God into the situation. That was the big failure of Adam and Eve.

God's concern for us is that we develop character. In the Garden of Eden the first couple did not have character, rather they were innocent. Character is develped when we are tested and make choices ourselves.

In verse 8 it states that they attempted to hide from God after this violation, eating the fruit fo the forbidden tree. God says, "Where are you?" Adam answers, "I heard you, I was afraid and I hid." Not exactly a lie but not coming clean.

God asks a more direct question, "Did you eat from the tree?" Adam blames Eve and actually blames God for having made her.

When confronted, Eve blames the serpent.

In verse 21 God made garments of skin to cover their nakedness. What's interesting that this is the first time blood was shed, a foreshadowing of the sacrifice that would be needed later to atone for sin, the sacrifice of the Lamb of God.

Brad moved on to the story of Cain and Abel, another early story of failure. Once again a situation emerges and God asks a pointed question to help Cain understand what is going on. "Sin is crouching at your door." Cain doesn't like it, ignores the warning, then takes his brother's life.

Now to us. Confession and repentance are a necessary part of the Christian community. Today we need people in our lives with whom we can be transparent and accountable.

Galatians 6:1 states, Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.

Cain and Abel is not a Sunday school story. It addresses the radical nature of sin in our world. And how much pain and tragedy that occurs in this broken world of ours which occurs in secret.

The Good News is that at the center of the Bible is the Cross of Jesus. For God so loved the world...

What is it that you need to confess to God?

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sold Out

Last week Joel Osterlund, director of Covenant Park Bible Camp, shared about happenings at Covenant Park and preach a sermon on Living Water based on the story from John's gospel chapter four. It included insights about the importance of water, and the special significance of God's living water which Jesus has made available to any and all.

* * * *

The temperatures plunged this weekend but a special Valentine's dinner warmed a lot of hearts last night, and music of love warmed the sanctuary.

Brad welcomed us with his usual cheer. "Good morning! I'm grateful you're here." He then explained how comforting it is to hear sermons about how committed God is to us, but every once in a while we need to be reminded of our own need to be committed to Him. "What does whole-hearted devotion to Christ look like? This will be our theme today."

Our Ash Wednesday Service will begin with a soup and sandwich dinner at 6:15 followed by worship at 7:00 p.m.

After the introit, Eric Johnson from the Amundson Education Center in Alaska helped lead a time of worship accompanied by Pastor Brad.  Eric ministers to Native youth, there, teaching Christian community and discipleship.

The offering taken we turned to the Lord in prayer.

Sold Out

What are our expectations for people who are Christ followers? Is it to give when you feel generous, attend services once in a while, avoid the scandal-causing sins? Is this what it means to be a Christian?

Being a Christian is not a half-hearted commitment. No Super Bowl coach says to his players, "OK, I want you to be sure to show up at the game and give at least 75%." No, Pro football coaches expect a partial commitment when a championship is on the line.

Today's sermon was a tale of two kings.

II Chronicles 22 begins with the story of Ahaziah who was 22 years old when he became king. He only served a a short time, and it was not whole-heartedly.

In contrast, Brad told stories about David who is dscribed in Acts 13:22 as "A man after God's own heart.' David was not perfect, but he had a heart for God.

First, you see it in his servanthood. Many examples shared. David did not finesse his commitments. If you are a follower of Jesus you will serve.

Second was his commitment to worship. There are a lot of people who say "I love Jesus, but I just don't want to go to church." David throughout the Psalms expressed his wholehearted devotion to God. David danced before the Lord with all his might.

Brad noted that there's really no such thing as an uncommitted person. We're all committed to something. It may be an addiction or it may be the couch in front of the TV.

Michal, David's first wife, understood from watching her father Saul what half-hearted devotion looked like. So it is that our children see what level of commitment we ourselves are making. They understand what we are committed to not by our words but by our actions.

Third, whole-heartedness includes our attitude and relationship to material things. Stories told about how David had opportunities to shirk his need to sacrifice, but he refused to give to God something that did not cost him something.

David gave willingly, and generously. He was sold out.

[Brad made several additional points but my computer crashed and they were not saved.]

At the conclusion of the message Brad set forth a set of questions to challenge us about our level of commitment. If you're really honest, what are you committed to? What do you dream about? What makes you get all fired up when it's threatened or absent from you? Where is your heart? If it's not God, if it's not wholehearted devotion to God, will you confess it right now? 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

New Building Update

Next Sunday after the service we will be meeting after the service to get an update on the building project across the road. Here are some of photos to document where things are at as of two weeks ago.

Finding Rest

NOTE: Your faithful blogger prepared this blog entry from last week, but forgot to post it. The message is still valid.

"Good morning!" Brad exclaimed. "I hope that as we meet today I hope you find rest for your souls."

~Pam noted that on February 8 we will be having a meeting after the service to discuss the capital campaign and update on the building
~Walt also gave an update on the progress being made. Volunteers are being invited to paint on Wednesday and Thursday. He also mentioned that the workers would benefit from a small fridge being donated if you have one not in use.
~Cheryl jumped to the front to share about camp, that it is time to think about registration. March 1 is the first discount deadline, in which you get a $50 discount. For those who can't afford camp, God has consistently provided in year's past as we prayer and support.
~Valentine's Day dinner will be... On Valentine's Day, a great meal provided by Chef Micah and Chef Leonard. Sign up before we're filled... only 100 will be served, $10 per person.
~A women's conference is coming to Duluth February 6 & 7 at Living Word. Details on the blue flyer in the back of the church sanctuary.

Darlene ushered us into worship with a beautiful rendition of "How Great Is Our God."

Brad read to us from Jesus' words "Come to Me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Then we sang together "Lord I Need You" and "How Great Thou Art."

After a time of prayer... Brad began leading today's message.

Finding Rest

How many of you observe Sabbath religiously? How many of you observe Sabbath once a month? Is anyone willing to share an experience about Sabbath growing up? Paula shared an experience of Sabbath with her grandparents who were Seventh Day Adventists. Mae shared a story of her parents who were farmers.

Brad picked up a large rock that he had under the altar, and held it as a metaphor for the burdens he carries. He shared some of the burdens he carries and asked us to share our burdens.

The Sabbath is a gift, and has to do with finding a way to lay this down.

John 14:27 relates these words of Jesus: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."

How does this relate to Sabbath? Many of us havethis idea of rules and Sabbath is one of them. Jesus did not "do" the Sabbath, He was the Sabbath.

Genesis 2:1 is the first reference to resting on the seventh day.

God was not exhausted by the work of creation. God's rest was not from being weary after the work he'd done. Rather, when God began creation, it was creation out of chaos. Each day there was evening and morning for the first six days. Afterwords He could set about the business of blessing in the manner noted in Psalm 132: 13-18.

Though sin entered the world, there were promises of a liberation from its power.

Brad read Exodus 20:8-11  "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy..." in which even animals were to be included in Sabbath rest.

In Leviticus it's even extended to the land every seven years.

As we carry our burdens we're not fully present to others or able to love them

Hebrews 4 discusses this rest in even greater detail. When you let go of work, you can let go and allow God to bathe you in His love.

Brad shared about a prayer time in the wilderness and how his time alone transitioned from thinking about his many projects and thoughts, and slowly fell away to the recognition of how big God is and how small he was.

The point for us is to set aside time and take God at His word, and try to build Sabbath into the rhythm of your life. Let go of your burdens and let Him give you rest.

Chaplain Travis Kahlstorf Shares The Gospel

Pastor Brad has been in Colorado for a winter pastor's conference combined with a family vacation. Chaplain Travis Kahlstorf filled in today. Chuck welcomed us and gave us an update on Brad's trip, which included nearly losing a wheel because he forgot to tighten some lugnuts. He and the family will be back safely tomorrow evening.

~The Valentine's Dinner will be produced by Chef Leonard on Saturday, February 14. There's a sign-up sheet in the back, or RSVP by contacting Brad. "Chef Micah" now works at a couple restaurants and will not be available on this busiest of busy nights in the restaurant trade.
~Next Sunday there will be a special meeting after the service to provide an update on our church building project. After the meeting all the women will meet make Valentine's for the ministry. Bring a light lunch or appetizer. There will also be the Secret Sister reveal and selections for the upcoming year.
~For other activities scroll down to the calendar at the bottom of this blog.

We opened the service by singing As the Hart. Chuck then shared story of mud turtle up on a post, legs flailing... can see the lake, but can't get there. Sin is like that post that holds us away from the living waters and leaves us flailing in futility.

"Bless the Lord who reigns in beauty, bless the Lord who reigns with wisdom and with power..."

After an opening prayer, Darlene, Chuck and Ken then sang "All Is Well."

We sang a number of songs from the Silver Songbook today, and afterwards there was a lot of handshaking and welcoming. During the offering the trio sang Andrea Crouch's "The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power." And after a time of prayer Chuck introduced our speaker who is a chaplain at 16 race tracks.

Gospel Basics

In his introductory remarks Chaplain Travis shared a little about conducting services at the race tracks and opportunities to reach people who may never step foot inside a church.

Travis talked about the various Christmas movies and animated classics like Charlie Brown's Christmas Special and others. Each has a unique angle. Some, like Charlie Brown or the Claymation Christmas, emphasize the real Christmas story. Some are less connected to the meaning of the season.

He then commented on how Christmas church services are usually the most packed. But since the attendance before, afterward and throughout the year is less, Travis wondered how well many of these people really understand the meaning of Christmas.

Jeremiah 29:11-14 says,
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.[a] I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

God listens when we call. But sometimes we do not find him because, as it says in verse 13, we fail to seek Him with all our hearts.

He then shared the fundamentals of the Gospel, beginning with the acknowledgement that we are sinners. We cannot blame circumstances or others for our actions.

Second, recognize that Jesus died on the cross for you.

Third, repent of your sins. It's not enough to be sorry for our wrongs. We need to change our ways. To get right with God means I have to obey Him.

Fourth, receive Christ into your life. Jesus says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock."

Fifth, do it publicly. Matthew 10:33

Sixth, do it now. Isaiah 55:6

Travis grew up a Christian but did not always live it. Then one day God got hold of him, and he realized he couldn't sit on the fence.

Think about where your heart is today. Don't miss out on the free gift God has for you.